Transcript: 98. The Gitchie Manitou Campfire Killings | USA

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A group of teenage friends headed out of Sioux Falls on a cold fall night in November 1973. They headed for the Gitchie Manitou State Preserve, Lyon County, in the northwest corner of Iowa, on the South Dakota border.

It was what teens did back then, they headed into the park, and there were often parties with bonfires and sometimes alcohol. On this Saturday night, strangely enough, the park was quiet. When the group from Sioux Falls arrived in their blue van, they quickly found a quiet place where they could build their fire.

It was a dark night, with an ominous fog making it look rather spooky. But they weren’t scared, nothing bad ever happened out there. So as the fire grew and the flames danced on the logs, the warmth gave them comfort. Some of them found fallen tree trunks to sit on, others preferred to stand, staring into the fire.

The group around the fire were 17-year-old Roger Essem, who sat with his arm around his girlfriend, Sandra Chesky; Roger’s best friend Stewart played the guitar, and his younger brother Dana sang along. A neighbourhood friend, Mike Hadrath was, as usual, the life of the party, ready with a couple of jokes and laughs.

But this peaceful night out with friends was about to become a living nightmare. First, they heard something in the trees and dismissed it, thinking it was an animal. Stewart moved on to the next song, but then they heard another noise, the crackling sound, like someone was walking on dried twigs and leaves.

They looked at each other, unsure of what to do next. Roger called out:

“Who the hell are you? What are you doing here?”


After a while, they relaxed, as the noise seemed to have gone away. The fire was hungry for another log, so Roger kissed Sandra, got up and went over to a pile of wood to fetch a log. A clapping sound of a gunshot echoed through the quiet night, and Roger fell to the ground.

What followed in the isolated nature spot was something, straight out of a horror film. By the end of the night, there was only one survivor who was able to tell the gruesome truth of what happened in Gitchie Manitou on that icy November night in 1973.

17-year-old Roger Essem was a good-looking and likeable young man from Sioux Falls. He met a girl called Sandra Chesky at the concession stand at the Starlight drive-in movie theatre and couldn’t resist the temptation of asking for her number. She was flattered and was excited to see him again. They went on a couple of dates and enjoyed hanging out together. It was all very innocent, and Roger’s best friend, Stewart Baade [Bai-dee] always tagged along, as he was the one who had a car – a 1967 blue Chevvy van. Stew had worked hard at his part-time job to save up for his van, and he didn’t mind carting his friends around, it was all part of the fun.

Roger and Stewart went to Washington High School, but Sandra was only 13, so she wasn’t in high school yet. Sandra’s home life was a bit complicated. Her mother, Lola, had married a man who did not realise what he was signing up for when he agreed to be the stepfather of four kids. He eventually convinced Sandra’s mom to give the kids up to foster care when things got tough.

So Sandra moved around between foster homes and sporadically back to her mother’s home. Because of foster care, Sandra was used to being around older kids. She was also mature for her age, perhaps because of her home situation, so the age difference between her and Roger didn’t matter.

On the 17th of November Roger asked Sandra to join him, Stew, Stew’s 14-year-old brother Dana and their friend Mike, 15, for a night out in the Gitchie Manitou Preserve. Stew and Dana both loved music and spent a lot of time together, learning new songs and singing. Mike was a star athlete who also achieved well at his academic work. He knew his parents wouldn’t like the idea of him going into the park at night, so he told his mom that he was spending the night at Roger’s house down the road. His mom smiled as she saw him leave across the back yard, swinging on the clothing line as he went.

On that Saturday night, Sandra was staying at her family home. Her mom worked the night shift, and she knew her stepdad would only be too happy to have her out of the house. So when Stew’s van pulled up, she was ready to go. The group of teenagers drove off, into the night, talking and singing as they made their way to the park.

The plan was to find a quiet spot where they could build a fire and smoke a joint. Going to Gitchie Manitou was a common pastime for kids in the area – teenagers often had parties in the park, or sometimes just went to hang out next to a fire, like these kids from Sioux Falls on that fateful night.

It was about 9:30pm when Stew parked his van in the tall grass near a dilapidated 1930s stone shelter. The night was quieter than usual, there didn’t seem to be anyone else there. It was a cold and ominously foggy late-fall evening. They all bundled out of the car and walked along a narrow path, not far from the Big Sioux River. They found a clearing that was sheltered by a six-foot rockface on the one side and made the fire.

Stew played his guitar, songs like Smoke on the Water by Deep Purple and Led Zeppelin’s Stairway to Heaven… Roger sat with his arm around Sandra, the other boys stared at the flames, enjoying the warmth. They lit one joint, something that they had all pitched in for and drove around for hours to get their hands on. No one wanted to sell such a small amount of weed, but that’s all the group needed.

It was the perfect night for them, the freedom of the park, sharing music and laughter with friends… But it was all about to come crashing down. It was only about twenty minutes after they arrived when they heard something in the trees behind them.

“Did you hear that?”

…one of them asked. They decided it was probably a deer or a fox or something. They shrugged it off and carried on with their evening, enjoying the crackling sound of the fire. Then they heard it again. This time, it sounded more like footsteps. Was someone watching them? The thought creeped them out a little and Roger called out:

“Who the hell are you? What are you doing here?”

There was no reply, and the noise had stopped. Again, the teens felt it was most likely a frightened animal who had come closer to be near the warmth of the fire. Roger kissed Sandra and walked over to the stack of wood and grabbed a log to put on the fire. The sound of a gunshot ripped through the peaceful night, and a bullet hit Roger in the face. He fell to the ground and didn’t move.

The teens screamed in disbelief and shock. Then they saw two armed men on the quartzite ledge overlooking the campfire site. Before they could run away, another shot rang out, hitting Stew. He too dropped to the ground, screaming:

“I’ve been shot. It hurts. It hurts.”

Dana and Michael ran towards the trees to take cover. Mike saw Sandra, who had frozen in shock and did not move from the spot where she was when she saw Roger was shot. Michael ran to her, grabbed her arm and shouted:

“Move, move, move!”

The two attackers commanded them to come out. Mike and Sandra looked at each other, neither of them wanted to. The taller of the two men said that they were cops and that this was a drug-raid. He said that they could call him ‘The Boss’. Michael and Sandra didn’t want any more trouble and came out, shaking, fearing for their lives. Mike saw Roger still lying there, motionless. Steward was wailing, crying for help as he was in a lot of pain. Mike couldn’t help himself and asked:

“Why did you shoot them?”

The answered came by way of a gunshot. Mike was hit in the arm and fell down, Sandra also dropped to the ground instinctively, trying to protect herself. The Boss walked up to them and kicked Sandra, ordering both of them to get up. He said he knew they were playing dead and he wasn’t in the mood for games. The teens were absolutely terrified, paralyzed with fear. The other man, with pock scars on his face, realized that they thought they were going to die, because of what had happened to Roger, so he tried to calm them down and explained that their friend would be okay, seeing as he was only shot with a tranquillizer dart.

Mike’s arm was bleeding profusely, and he begged the men to call for an ambulance, but his request was ignored. They reminded the teens that they were narcotics officers and said they had to take them to the police station. At this point, a fearful Dana re-emerged from his hiding place.

The Boss ordered the three young teens to walk along a path through the woods, away from the campsite. Sandra supported Mike, who had trouble walking with his gunshot wound. Dana walked quietly behind them. Along the trail, the taller man told them to stop and went aside to have a short conversation with the other one. He left the group with the other man, whom he called Hatchet Face, and they all waited on the path for, what seemed like an eternity. When the man returned, he told them to keep walking. Once they reached the edge of the woods, a pickup pulled up, driven by a third man, the youngest of the three with the nickname Sneaky.

The Boss tied Sandra’s hands together and told her to get into the truck. Before she got in, she looked at Mike and Dana and said:

“Well, I guess I’ll see you at school.”

At this point, Sandra believed that Roger was unconscious, but alive, seeing as he had only been tranquillized. She thought they were all in trouble with the law, but knew it would blow over because the group only had one joint, each only had one or two puffs. At worst she imagined long afternoons in detention or something.

Sneaky went back to the campfire to fetch a severely injured Stewart and retrieve the drugs. He came back with Stew and the entirety of their stash: a small film canister with hardly anything in it, found in Stew’s pocket.

The Boss joined Sandra in the pickup. She begged him to take the ties off, as it was cutting into her wrists. He thought about it for a minute, then untied her hands and drove off. Hatchet Face and Sneaky told the three terrified teen boys to take them to their vehicle, and they started walking towards Stew’s van. As they drove past, Sandra saw Stew, Mike and Dana walking along the road, with the two captors behind them with guns. That was the last time she saw her friends alive.

Meanwhile, The Boss was driving aimlessly through the park with Sandra. They left the park and drove around the greater Sioux Falls area. At some point, they stopped for gas, and The Boss bought her a soft drink. Sandra never doubted for a second that the man she was with, was a law enforcement officer. He had told her that they would not charge her with possession of marijuana, seeing as she was “…way too young to get busted.” If Sandra had known that the others had been killed, or what horrendous fate awaited her, she would have made a run for it at the gas station, no question about it.

But she didn’t, she got back into the car with The Boss, and they drove off, circling aimlessly along country roads. Later on, they joined up with Hatchet Face and Sneaky again, and they went to an abandoned farmhouse where they stayed for a while.

Sandra stayed in the truck. After a while, Sneaky, the youngest of the men, got into the truck with her. He had a strange look on his face and started feeling her up. She was ordered to undress. Then, he assaulted her. Sandra tried her best to fend him off, but couldn’t. When he was done, he got out of the truck, pants still down, and The Boss got back in. Sandra was confused and furious and told The Boss that she was a virgin and that she was only 13 years old. He was visibly shocked to learn how young she really was and said:

“I’ll do what I can to get you out of this.”

He told the other two men that he would ‘take care’ of Sandra. After filling his truck with gas from a large red fuel tank next to the house, they left. At 5am, the man who called himself The Boss dropped Sandra near her home in the town of Tea, a short distance outside of Sioux Falls. He threatened to come for her and kill her if she told anyone what happened the night before. As an assurance of some kind, he took her number. He threatened that he was going to check in on her from time to time.

Sandra went inside her home, found her brother and told him everything. There was no way she would be able to sleep, so she decided to wait till 8am, so she could call Roger to hear if he made it home okay.

The dawn hours of the day dragged by as Sandra waited. As soon as the clock ticked over to 8am, she called Roger’s home. He wasn’t there. She called a friend of hers, and they hitchhiked to Sioux Falls together. She went to a payphone and called Roger’s home again. This time his brother told her that something terrible had happened, but wouldn’t tell her what. He asked where she was and went to pick her up.

On Sunday morning the 18th of November, a couple from Sioux Falls was driving through the Gitchie Manitou Park, giving their new car a run. Just off the road, among some low-growing weeds, they saw something strange. On closer inspection, they realised they were looking at the bodies of three young men: Stew, Mike and Dana.

Because Roger’s body was still at the campsite, he was only discovered the following day. When the police came to the scene, they called State authorities, as multiple teenage murders were not commonplace at all. They knew they had to ask for all the help they could get. At first glance, police thought that all three victims had been shot execution-style, as they had their hands above their heads like they were kneeling before they were shot. It did not take police long to identify the victims, as Stew had his driver’s license on him. Who would kill three, easy-going teenage kids in such a brutal and heartless way?

When she heard the news, Sandra immediately went to the police to tell them everything she knew. She was unemotional and factual about the rape, which made investigators wonder if she was telling the truth. She was sent for a medical examination, and the doctor confirmed that she had been sexually assaulted. After many hours of questioning and passing a lie detector test, investigators realised that the grisly tale she told them was actually accurate.

Sandra Chesky had an amazing memory and was able to give a detailed description of events. She told police that there were three attackers: The Boss, Hatchet Face and Sneaky. The Boss was undoubtedly the leader of the group, and she asked him what brand of cigarettes he smoked – it was Pall Mall. Then there was a man with pockmarks on his skin, which is probably why the others called him Hatchet Face. The third one, the man who raped her, was called Sneaky.

Sandra’s unbelievably detailed description of the inside of The Boss’ truck helped police to narrow down what make and model it was. She remembered the exact shape and opening mechanism of the glove compartment and told investigators what the dashboard looked like. It was consistent with that of a 1971 C10 Chevvy Pickup Truck. It was blue, and the windshield was cracked. Police released the information to all law enforcement agencies in the area.

The funerals for the young men who were killed were held on Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving – one memorial service after the next. Teenage classmates, parents, teachers all showed up, grieving the loss of four young lives lost. It was surreal that something like this could even happen, let alone in their hometown. Mike’s sister Lynette remembered this many years later:

“In Sioux Falls in 1973 stuff like that didn’t happen. We didn’t lock our doors. And to have something like that–a family member, it was just unbelievable.”

When four young people are executed in such a senseless fashion, it is big news. The story of the Manitou Gitchie Murders was widely publicised, in South Dakota where the teens were from, as well as in Iowa where they were killed. Police revealed that they had a surviving witness, but did not reveal Sandra’s name. She was in protective custody, away from her family, who were place in witness protection. Police appealed to the public for any information regarding the three men described by Sandra.

The coroner released information, stating that two of the teens were shot in the back, one was shot in the head, and the other one in the chest with one or more shotguns. Gun store owners came forward to report ammunition sales in the days leading up to the killings, but the bullets that were used, Smith and Wesson Double Aught Buckshot, were not sold locally. Police followed up anyway, as they could not risk a possible clue slipping through their fingers.

Within the first week of the investigation, Stew’s van was found at the international truck sales lot in Sioux Falls. Police processed it for fingerprints or other evidence, hoping it would point them to a suspect.

But they did not want to waste any time. There were three, reckless gunman on the loose, and they had to catch them before they did it again. The best bet in finding the killers was to continue working with the only surviving victim. They asked Sandra if she would be willing to go back to the murder scene in Gitchie Manitou and walk them through the sequence of events. Her first reaction was:

“Please No! Don’t make me go back to the park. I can draw you a map. I promise I can show you where everything happened.”

Eventually, investigators convinced her. They took her to the exact spot, and the whole interview was videotaped. Sandra was only wearing a thin jacket and was visibly shaking in the crisp autumn air, faced with the trauma of the memories. She spoke softly, telling them how things played out. Sandra showed them the rock ledge from where the shots were fired. She said only two of the men were there, The Boss and Hatchet Face. After the shots that killed Roger were fired, Hatchet Face stood up, so she assumed that he was the one who had shot her boyfriend.

She told police about how she, Mike and Dana ran for cover. She explained that they only came out because they believed that the men were police officers and did not want to get deeper into trouble than they already were.

Her evidence was invaluable to the investigation. Police knew the precise movements of everyone present at the crime scene, so they knew where to start looking for evidence.

Sandra also remembered that when The Boss told the teens they were cops, he even gave a badge number that was eight-hundred-and-something. This was significant because, in those days, narcotics officers’ three-digit badge numbers did, in fact, start with the number eight. Investigators had to consider the possibility that the killers could be police officers. If not, they knew that the number bore some significance that could lead them to the killers.

At the end of November, Sheriff Craig Vinson (a distant relative of Noel’s – haha) drove Sandy around the countryside, hoping she would be able to identify the farmhouse she was taken to. They drove around for many hours, over a couple of days. It was frustrating, as nothing looked like the right place. When they reached a property near Hartford, Sandra froze as she recognized the red fuel tank next to the house. She became anxious and shrieked for Sheriff Vinson to stop – it was the place, she was one hundred percent sure.

Coincidentally, while Sheriff Vinson and Sandra were inspecting the property, a blue pickup drove past. Sandra immediately recognized the driver as ‘The Boss’. The Sheriff alerted patrolling officers and a 29-year-old man called Allen Fryer was arrested a short time later. He was taken to the Sioux Falls Police Station at 7pm that same night.

The next day, on the 30th of November, Sandra identified Hatchet Face and Sneaky from a police lineup. They were Allen Fryer’s younger brothers, 24-year-old David and 21-year-old James.

The Fryer brothers grew up rough, and their dad called them his chore boys. They have all had brushes with the law, mainly on theft charges.

Allen was the most dominant, being the eldest. He worked as a farmhand who was responsible for taking care of livestock and machinery. He was married with a large family. He had a lower-than-average IQ of 87. The farm where they took Sandra on the night of the murders, belonged to his employer. Investigators found it interesting that Allen’s prisoner number was eight-twenty-one. They knew the badge number he used when he impersonated a police officer was significant, now they knew why.

The middle brother, David, had pockmarks on his face, hence the nickname Hatchet Face. More than one of the shotguns used in the murders was stolen by David Fryer. He occasionally worked as a construction truck driver, as did the youngest brother, James.

Growing up, James had severe behavioural issues. He spent most of his school years in special needs classrooms. With an IQ of 85, the youngest Fryer brother did not achieve much – other than becoming a thug from a young age. He stole his first car when he was only ten years old.

Investigators interrogated the Fryer brothers about the events of November 17th. Their version of events was different from Sandra’s. During his first interviews, Allen Fryer denied all knowledge of the Gitchie Manitou killings. However, after hours of interrogation, he admitted that he was in the Preserve that night. Fryer claimed that one of his brothers had ‘killed someone by accident’. He denied killing anyone himself.

He said that, along with his two brothers, he went to the Preserve that night too, hunting deer. They heard the group of teenagers singing and saw the light of the campfire. David then branched off from his brothers, to go and see what the teenagers were up to. When he came back, he told them that the teens had some weed. The brothers concocted a plan and decided they would pose as narcotics officers and confiscate the drugs, so they could use it later.

As they approached, the teenagers heard them but thought it could be a wild animal. A shooting ensued. The Fryer brothers found a vantage point from a hill nearby and returned fire.

Allen agreed to drive with investigators to show them the route he had driven with Sandra on that fateful night. When they returned to the station, investigators were told that Allen’s brother David, gave a slightly different version of events. Confronted with the story, Allen agreed that David’s version was the correct one.

David also said that the teens fired first and that they only acted in self-defence. After the shooting, he threw all the firearms – the ones they used, as well as the ones used by the teens – in a slew nearby. They did not report the shooting to police, as James was still in prison and would lose his release-privileges. On the day of the murder, James went home from jail on a Work Release Program. David called the prison, pretending to be James’ boss and said that he had to work another shift. James used the free time to go hunting in the Gitchie Manitou Preserve with his brothers.

David said that he and James marched Stew, Mike and Dana back to Stew’s van. They lined them up in front of the car, turned the headlights on bright and then shot them. David Fryer recalled what happened:

“Jim started the van. I got in the other side and he turned – backed up, turned it to the west which faced the boys and he stepped out and he shot Dana Baade first and the Stewart Baade and I shot Stewart Baade in the back once. I think he was already dead because Jim was shooting Double O buck and then he shot this Hadrath. He walked up and just kept shooting.”

After killing them, the Fryer brothers dragged the bodies, slightly out of sight, into the weeds. They dragged them by their arms, which explained the position the bodies were found: with their hands above their heads.

James blamed his brothers for the most part. He said that the teens were smoking weed and that his brother Allen pretended to be a cop. According to James, Sandra was laughing and having a good time, and the sex with himself was consensual.

Allen and David were taken to Lyon Country Jail in Iowa, while James remained in Sioux Falls where he was serving his previous sentence. Incidentally, Mike Hadrath’s brother Bill was in the same facility as James Fryer, serving an 18-month sentence for theft. Other prisoners sided with Bill, and decided that James had to pay for what he had done. One man threw a bucket of bleach into James’ face. It didn’t blind him, but prison authorities realised that James could not stay in the same prison any longer. He was transferred to a State Penitentiary for his own protection.

Sandra’s life would never be the same again. She was moved out of protective custody and struggled to return to the life of a normal 13-year-old girl. She was haunted by the events of that night, but the backlash was equally unforgiving. People wondered what a young girl of 13 was doing out in the park with boys with five years older than her, smoking weed. Others wondered if she was perhaps in on the plot to kill her friends. Terrible rumours were going around, implicating Sandra in the slaying of her boyfriend and his friends. Her classmates’ parents prevented their kids from associating with her, and eventually, when things got too bad, she dropped out of school. Forty years after the event, she still remembered what she went through at the time.

“Horrible… Ashamed and alone, I felt all of that.”

Sandra stayed with her mother and step-father and didn’t enter the foster system again. The Baade, Essem and Hadrath families were also supportive of her, and did not treat her like other did. In Sandra’s words:

“They wrapped me in their arms afterwards.”

Sandra, who became known as ‘The Gitchie Girl’, avoided the media at all costs. Because of her silence, reporters wondered if she knew more than she was letting on. She felt guilty, like the boys gave their lives to protect her somehow.

She was confused as to why Allen Fryer let her live, when he promised his brothers he would kill her. Police felt that driving around with her earlier in the evening, he saw her as a person, not as prey. When he realized how young she was, perhaps his father’s instincts kicked in – remember, he had a big family. Either way, Sandra was let to live a life in turmoil, crippled with guilt and sadness about the events that took place on that night.

The trials against the Fryer brothers began in early 1974 and went on for 18 months. The tricky part in all three trials was to establish a motive for the murders. If they wanted to take the drugs, they did not have to kill the teens. It is fair to assume that, faced by the three gun-wielding brothers, the teens would not have put up a fight. Especially if they were posing as law enforcement officers. Also, they only had one joint between five of them, it was hardly worth stealing, let alone killing someone over. Kevin Kunkel, a former law enforcement official familiar with the case, perhaps sums their motive up best, he said:

“These guys went pheasant hunting that day but didn’t get any pheasants. So they went deer hunting, but couldn’t find any deer. That’s when they decided to hunt the one thing they could find – humans.”

On the 12th of February 1974, David’ Hatchet Face’ Fryer pleaded guilty and said that he was the one who had killed Stewart Baade.

Sandra believed that David fired the first because she saw him stand up and lower his rifle after Roger Essem was killed. She had to admit later that it could have been either David or Allen who pulled the trigger, she could not say for sure. David’s defence tried to make the most of Sandra’s uncertainty, but their case was not strong enough to convince a jury of his innocence, or even to invoke reasonable doubt.

David Fryer was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. When his sentence was passed down, he replied by saying:

“If all my appeals fail, I’ll actually write the governor and ask for the death penalty. I won’t live out my life in jail. Keeping me locked up for life can’t turn around what happened. It can’t bring those people back.”

The trials of Allen and James followed. Allen’s psychologist report noted that he did not have a mental disorder, and he was fit to stand trial. The psychologist said that Allen was unable to empathize with others, he spoke about other crimes he had committed in the past with a sense of pride.

Sandra was the key witness at all three trials. She spoke quietly and was clearly nervous, but answered all questions. Her mother Lola sat close-by, supporting her daughter at every court hearing. At Allen Fryer’s trial, she said:

“I remember one thing that Allen said to me. He said, ‘You take the men out first, and the rest is easy to handle.”

And that’s what happened, the boys were killed in order of age: 18-year-olds Roger and Stew were first then 15-year-old Mike and finally 14-year-old Dana.

Allen’s defence team tried to confuse Sandra and pointed out inconsistencies in her statements. She amended her first statements, which police allowed her to do. She was only 13 at the time and in the shock of events, they understood that she might have gotten some facts wrong. Throughout the investigation, she was honest and brave and kept her nerve.

During the trials, it became evident that all three of the Fryer brothers were under the impression that narcotics officers were allowed to shoot and kill people using drugs. It was quite stunning to realize how twisted their reasoning was. Because they pretended to be narcotics officers, they felt entitled to kill the teens as part of their cover.

Allen Fryer was also sentenced to life in prison, without the possibility of parole. While Allen awaited sentencing, his brother James was extradited to Iowa from South Dakota, where he was serving his sentence for a previous conviction. In June 1974, Allen and James escaped from the Lyon County Jail, fleeing the state in a stolen vehicle. Police stayed at Sandra’s family home, to make sure that the two brothers didn’t come for her.

After a couple of weeks on the run, Allen and James were caught in Gilette, Wyoming and taken back to Iowa.

James was charged with four charges of murder. He did not seem remorseful at all. His defence blamed Allen and David for everything and said he did not fire one shot that night. On December 20th James Fryer was found guilty of the manslaughter of Roger Essem, and guilty of the first-degree murders of Stewart and Dana Baade and Mike Hadrath. Because James received the maximum penalty, the prosecutor decided NOT to charge him with Sandra’s rape, to spare her another emotionally charged trial.

All three brothers are currently still serving their sentences in the Iowa State Penitentiary in Fort Madison, Iowa.

Gitchie Manitou has become synonymous with the horror that occurred there. Ghost hunters visit the spot where the teens were killed and swear the place is haunted. YouTube videos of various thrill-seekers are posted often.

Sandra had witnessed her boyfriend’s cold-blooded murder, was raped and then accused of somehow being involved. She was labelled as a ‘bad girl’ who took drugs with older boys. Much was made of the marijuana, while in reality it was one joint, passed around the group. Despite all the criticism and disapproving looks around town, Sandra mustered up the strength to give police her full co-operation. She could feel their frustration when she didn’t know the names of the killers. The drives around the countryside, looking for the farmhouse seemed endless, torturous, but she never gave up looking, trying to find a clue.

Today Sandra is a mother and grandmother and no longer feels shame about what happened to her that night. She still loves in the Sioux Falls area. She remembers the slain boys, not as ghosts in a park, but rather, as they were. She asks that everyone do the same:

“These boys were the nicest, most respectable kids and we would’ve never done anything to bring this on… Instead of spray painting and thinking it’s so haunted and stuff, they will just say a prayer for the boys and remember them as the great people they were.”

If it wasn’t for the courage of a 13-year-old girl, who persevered despite the trauma she had suffered, this case could easily have gone unsolved.

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