We’re coming up on the 43rd anniversary of the 1973 Gitchie Manitou murders. On November 17, 1973, there was a brutal attack on a group of five teenagers at the Gitchie Manitou State Preserve in Lyon County, Iowa. Four of the teenagers were killed, and the fifth was raped.
The Gitchie Manitou nature preserve is located in the extreme northwest corner of the state, near the South Dakota border. The group of teens was from Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and their killers were also.
The murder victims were Roger Essem, Stewart Baade, Dana Baade, and Michael Hadrath. Sandra Cheskey was raped, a mere thirteen years old. She survived the attack, and her brave testimony was crucial in bringing the perpetrators to justice.
The Fryer Brothers, Allen, David and James, were the perpetrators. They had gone to the Gitchie Manitou State Preserve to poach deer. They encountered the group of teens singing around a campfire. After spying on the group, the brothers realized they had marijuana. They decided to take the marijuana from the kids by impersonating narcotics officers.
From a ridge overlooking the victims, the brothers opened fire on the group. Roger Essems was immediately killed, and Steward Baade was wounded. The rest of the teens ran for cover in the trees. When the brothers came looking for them, two of the kids confronted them, asking who they thought they were. The brothers said they were police officers. They were eventually brought to the perpetrators’ van, where Allen Fryer drove away with Sandra Cheskey, and James and David Fryer killed the remaining three teenagers who had survived the initial attack.
After holding her captive on a farm and brutally raping her, the brothers decided to let her go. After being let go, Sandra Cheskey drove around the countryside with Sheriff Craig Vinson looking for the farmhouse where she was held captive. She recognized the cabin, and it turned out to be owned by Allen Fryer’s employer. By luck or coincidence, Allen drove by the cabin while they were there. Allen Fryer was quickly pulled over and arrested, and David and James Fryer were arrested shortly after.
Due to Sandra Cheskey’s testimony, Allen Fryer was convicted of four counts of first degree murder and was sentenced to four consecutive life terms in prison. After Allen’s trial, he and his brother James escaped from the Lyon County jail, stole a vehicle and fled the state. They were apprehended in Gillette, Wyoming and came back to Iowa to face federal charges. Eventually David Fryer was found guilty of three charges of murder and one charge of manslaughter. James Fryer was found guilty of three charges of first degree murder and one charge of manslaughter. The three brothers were sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
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