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1973 Gitchie Manitou Murders

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1973 Gitchie Manitou Murders

The 1973 Gitchie Manitou Murders involved an attack on a group of five teenagers at Gitchie Manitou State Preserve in Lyon County, Iowa. Four of the teenagers were killed and a fifth was raped. Allen, James, and David Fryer were later convicted of the crimes and sentenced to life in prison. The attack took place on November 17, 1973.



On the evening of November 17, 1973, five teenagers from Sioux Falls, South Dakota were attacked by a group of three brothers. Four of the teenagers were killed and one was raped. Those killed were Roger Essem (male, 17), Stewart Baade (male, 18), Dana Baade (male, 14), and Michael Hadrath (male, 15). Sandra Cheskey (female, 13) was raped, but survived the attack. Her testimony was instrumental in bringing the perpetrators to justice.

The perpetrators of this slaying were Allen Fryer (male, 29), David Fryer (male, 24), and James Fryer (male 21) of Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

The Murders

The Fryer brothers were in Gitchie Manitou State Preserve to poach deer and happened upon the victims sitting around a campfire, singing. David Fryer was sent to spy on the group and reported back to his brothers that the teenagers had marijuana. The brothers conferred and decided to take the victims' marijuana by impersonating narcotics officers. Testimony at the trial indicated that the Fryers apparently thought narcotics agents were allowed to indiscriminately kill drug users.

After getting shotguns from their truck, Allen, James, and David Fryer positioned themselves on a ridge overlooking the victims and opened fire. Roger Essem was killed immediately and Stewart Baade fell wounded. At this point, the remaining teenagers took cover in the trees.

The Fryers ordered the teenagers to come out of the trees, so Michael Hadrath and Sandra Cheskey emerged together and asked the Fryers who they thought they were. Allen Fryer then shot Hadrath in the arm and said that they were police officers. Hadrath and Cheskey fell to the ground, but were forced to get up by Allen Fryer who said they were playing dead.

Allen and David Fryer forced Dana Baade, Michael Hadrath, and Sandra Cheskey along a trail away from the campfire. Sandra Cheskey was tied up and placed in the victims' van. During this time, Stewart Baade was also brought back to the van from where he had been wounded.

Allen Fryer then drove away in the van with Sandra Cheskey, leaving Stewart Baade, Dana Baade, and Michael Hadrath standing near the road with James and David Fryer. After Allen left, James and David Fryer killed the three teenagers with shotguns. The bodies were discovered the next day by a couple from Sioux Falls who drove to the park while trying out their new car. Roger Essems' body wasn't discovered until the following day because it was left lying by the campfire, the site of the first encounter.

Allen Fryer told Sandra Cheskey that he was a police officer while they drove around, that he was "the boss", and that the other two would do as he instructed them. After a short time, James and David Fryer met them on the road in the pickup. Allen and Sandy got into the truck, and the group drove to a farm. At this point, James Fryer raped Sandra Cheskey. Early the next morning, Allen filled the vehicle's tank with gasoline from a large red fuel tank then drove Cheskey home, still under the pretense of being a police officer, saying that Sandra was "too young to get busted".

On November 29, 1973, Sandra Cheskey was accompanied by Craig Vinson (Lyon County, Iowa, Sheriff) as they drove around the countryside looking for the farm house where Sandy was held captive and raped. Near Hartford, South Dakota, she recognized the farmhouse by the large red fuel tank that stood next to the garage. The farm was owned by Allen Fryer's employer, a local farmer. By a strange twist of fate, Allen Fryer then drove by in the same blue pickup that was used the night of the murders. Sandy told Sheriff Vinson "That's him. That's the boss." Law enforcement quickly pulled the truck over and arrested Allen Fryer. David and James Fryer were also arrested shortly thereafter.


Allen Fryer's trial was held at the Lyon County Courthouse in Rock Rapids, Iowa. Sandra Cheskey's testimony was instrumental, as it comprised the bulk of evidence against the Fryer brothers. There were some issues at the trial involving confusion by Cheskey, most of which can be attributed to her age at the time (13). Allen Fryer was found guilty of four counts of first degree murder and was sentenced to four consecutive life terms in prison.

After Allen Fryer's trial, he and James Fryer escaped from the Lyon County jail, stole a vehicle, and fled the state. They were arrested in Gillette, Wyoming, and brought back to face federal charges.

David Fryer pleaded guilty to 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.

All three of the Fryer brothers were sentenced to life without the possibility of parole. They are all currently serving their sentences at the Iowa State Penitentiary in Fort Madison, Iowa.


1973 Gitchie Manitou Murders Wikipedia

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