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Iowa History Daily: November 17 - Gitchie Manitou Murders

Iowa History Daily: On November 17, 1973, one of the most infamous crimes in Iowa’s history occurred at Gitchie Manitou State Preserve. The perpetrators, three brothers, killed four while kidnapping and raping a fifth victim.

On the night in question, five teenagers from Sioux Falls ventured across the border into Lyon County for an evening around the campfire. Three brothers also arrived from Sioux Falls, hoping to illegally poach deer in the state preserve. When the Fryer brothers happened upon the soon-to-be victims they decided to rob them after smelling marijuana emanating from around the campfire.

Allen, David, and James Fryer approached the group while posing as narcotics agents, and opened fire from a nearby ridge, killing Roger Essem (17) and wounding Stewart Baade (18). After the other teens ran for cover in the woods, the Fryer brothers demanded they return. The brothers then forced Dana Baade (14), Michael Hadrath (15), Stewart Baade, and Sandra Cheskey (13) to hike away from the site of the initial attack.

The brothers tied up the thirteen-year old Sandra Cheesky and put her in their van. Allen Fryer drove away with Sandra in tow, while the other two brothers murdered Stewart, Dana, and Michael. Continuing the impersonation of law enforcement officers, Allen took Sandra to a nearby farm where the other two brothers met back up with him. James raped Sandra, and the following day the brothers dropped her back at home and told her she was “too young to get busted.”

A couple visiting the preserve found the three bodies along the roadside the following day, while it took investigators an additional day to find the body of Roger at the initial site of violence. Sandra Cheskey’s testimony proved vital in the subsequent court cases. David Fryer was convicted first, to a sentence of life in prison without parole. Allen Fryer was convicted to four consecutive life sentences. Before James went to trial, he and Allen escaped from Lyon County Jail although authorities caught the brothers and brought them back to face federal charges. Also convicted to life in prison, all three brothers still sit behind bars in Iowa correctional facilities today. #IowaOTD #IowaHistoryCalendar #IowaHistoryDaily


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