North Dakota’s Most Infamous Murder Case Unraveled: REWIND! True Life Crime

TURTLE LAKE, ND ( We have a look back at the worst murder case in North Dakota history with Vernon Keel. Keel has written a novel about the murder of 8 people at the Jacob Wolf farm in 1920.
Neil Berg here with the burn keel the former head of the journalism department at the University of North Dakota who has a novel about the worst murder case in North Dakota history thanks for joining me my pleasure al thank you now the name of your book is the murdered family it’s about it’s kind of unparalleled to the worst murder case in North Dakota history eight people murdered at a farmstead near Turtle Lake North Dakota in April of 1920 for those who don’t know where Turtle Lake is it’s about 48 miles north of Bismarck first learn to set this up for folks you could give a description of what happened that day in April yeah it was a Thursday late in the morning Thursday April 22nd and late in the morning somebody came on to the farm home of Jacob wolf and murdered him and his wife be at a five of their six daughters and the hired boy I take a poll Ferg and the only survivor was the eight month old baby Emma who I grew up knowing has a friend of my mother’s and mother of some kids that I drew growing up in Turtle Lake and about three weeks after the murders exactly three weeks after to the day a neighbor farmer Henry and lair signed a confession to all eight murderers now there was some discussion that that may have been a forced confession because politicians there was an election coming up and they were one of the resolution to this quickly well yeah that’s true i kneeled as a matter of fact the denominating conventions for the three parties never said that the Democrat Republican also the nonpartisan League at that time there was no they were they were coming up in three weeks and Bill Langer who was the Attorney General which make him his chief law enforcement officer in the state he was ready for the Republican nomination for governor so he really wanted to get this this thing solved because solved quickly and one of the things that he told the chief of police in Bismarck who by the way he he was able to get to it help him with this investigation he told him that the only way to get a quick in quick succession so the only way to get a conviction is to get a quick confession and Henry lair said that he was beaten and forced to sign the confession and and that’s the reason that he signed it but from the beginning he denied his guilt in and said that the confession really was was was beaten out of him so to speak at what and what happened to him – II end up dying in prison or now he was sentenced to life in prison as a matter of fact he he every signed a confession he refused the right to counsel and he refused the jury trial and what he said afterwards about that was that the investigators who were interrogating him told him that there was an angry lynch mob outside and the only and the safest place for him and tell this thing die down would be in the State Penitentiary where he could file for a change plea in a jury trial which would she never which he never got ok so you’ve written a novel about all that how does that work I was instructed well it’s actually I wrote it it says historical fiction and that’s the question I’m often asked you know I my background is in law and I’ve done a lot of legal research and I’ve done a lot of historical research and people ask me why didn’t I do this as non-fiction and I and one of the answers was because I think the main reason was that I felt that by writing it with fiction I could fill in some of the blanks and I could bring some life to the characters and it you know I knew the victims the children at least only as names on grave markers in the local cemetery and I thought by writing it as fiction I would be able to try to bring bring these characters back to life so to speak a bit about write what life really was like an interesting story if folks want to read your book the murdered family how do they get a get a hold of it it’s available online through the various booksellers it’s available in bookstores in North Dakota I’m sure and and that’s pretty much where you can where you can find it and yeah that’s that’s that’s it okay all right thanks for talking to me today my pleasure Neil and good luck


  1. Eight coffins were lined up in a row on the Wolf farm – two large coffins for the father and mother at one end, then five smaller ones for their five daughters, and a larger one again for the boy that got killed with them.

  2. i have a theory on what truely happened but cant find what i need . how would i get info on stefferud and aster bro at that timr? i believe layer was framed . ibelieve the brothers and piareand stefferud where involved. i think they came in by lake in boat.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *