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July 6, 1977: Roger Caldwell charged with the murders at Glensheen

On this day in 1977, Roger Caldwell—husband of Marjorie Congdon LeRoy Caldwell—was arrested and charged with the murders of his mother-in-law, Elisabeth Congdon, and nurse Velma Pietila. The arrest was made by detectives Gary Waller and Jack Greene in the Methodist Hospital in Bloomington, Minnesota, close to where he and Marjorie had been staying in a Holiday Inn. Caldwell had become gravely ill earlier in the day, at breakfast in the hotel (investigators suspected that Marjorie had tried to poison Roger, who was taking the drug Antabuse to control his alcoholism, by secretly giving him alcohol; physicians also found high levels of Valium in his system). While he rested in the hospital, investigators confronted Marjorie in the hotel room and discovered a pantyhose container filled with jewelry stolen from Glensheen the night Congdon and Pietila were murdered. According to the book Will to Murder, Caldwell “looked up without surprise as the officers entered the room. He seemed to be in some kind of sedated trance. After being advised of his Miranda rights, Roger said smugly, his eyes still shut, ‘I understand my rights. I have nothing to say to you. My lawyer told me not to talk to the cops.’ Waller wasted no time responding. ‘You’re under arrest for two counts of murder in the deaths of Elisabeth Congdon and Velma Pietila.’ Roger slowly opened his eyes, shrugged his shoulders, and said, ‘Oh.’ He then gave Waller a bored look and added, ‘I want to call Marjorie.’ Roger’s response struck Waller as odd. Roger should have demanded to speak to his lawyer, not call his wife.” Review Will to Murder online for free, here.

Roger Caldwell’s 1977 mug shot, taken after he was arrested for the murders of Velma Pietila and Elisabeth Congdon. (Image: John DeSanto)

How innocuous are Duluth’s historic white-guy statues?

Note: This article was written by Zenith City Press publisher as a “Local View” for the Duluth News Tribune and was first published online on July 6, 2020, and in print on July 7, 2020.   I always enjoy reading my friend Jim Heffernan’s columns in the Duluth News Tribune, which often take me back…

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Lester Park Hotel

6003 London Road | Architect: Oliver Traphagen | Built: 1889 | Lost: 1897 In 1888 Duluth’s Lakeside Land Company, which developed Lakeside and Lester Park, advertised that it planned to build a “mammoth hotel” outfitted with “all the latest improvements.” Despite this announcement and architect Oliver Traphagen’s grand original design, the hotel was a rather plain, two-and-a-half story wood-frame…

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