February 27, 1978: Roger Caldwell enters a plea of “not guilty” for the killings at Glensheen

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

On this day in Duluth in 1978, Roger Caldwell entered a plea of “not guilty” for the charges of killing Elisabeth Congdon and Velma Pietila at Glensheen, the historic Congdon estate at 3300 London Road, in June, 1977. Caldwell, a native of LaTrobe, Pennsylvania, was the second husband of Marjorie Congdon, the elder adopted daughter of Elisabeth Congdon. Caldwell had been arrested in a hospital room, where he landed after he had likely been poisoned by Marjorie (she had attempted to poison her mother a few years earlier). Earlier police had found Marjorie in a Bloomington hotel room with a plastic L’eggs pantyhose container filled with jewelry that had been stolen from Glensheen the night of the murder. Caldwell was tried, found guilty, and sent to prison. While he was incarcerated, Marjorie stood trial and was found not guilty. Local authorities then made an odd deal with Caldwell: tell us the whole truth and you get off with time served. Caldwell then confessed to the crimes but insisted Marjorie was innocent. He walked free and returned to LaTrobe. Marjorie never rewarded his loyalty. She likely murdered her friend Helen Hagen, then married Hagen’s widower and became a serial arsonist. Caldwell committed suicide in 1988. In his suicide note he claimed he never killed anyone. To learn the complete story behind the 1977 killings at Glensheen, preview Will to Murder, here.

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