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July 8, 1978: Roger Caldwell convicted for the killings at Glensheen

On this day in 1978, after two-and-a-half days of deliberation, a jury in Brainerd, Minnesota, found Roger Sipe Caldwell guilty of the murders of Elisabeth Congdon and Velma Pietila at Glensheen, the historic Congdon Estate, on June 27, 1977. When the jury foreman read the first count, on the murder of Elisabeth Congdon, Caldwell leaned forward, looked at the jury box and firmly said in a low voice, “You’re wrong.” It was the first time he had spoken during his trial. Prosecutor John DeSanto, still jubilant from winning his first murder case yet exhausted at the thought of what lay ahead—the prosecution of Marjorie Caldwell—headed back to Duluth to attend the sixtieth birthday party of Duluth entrepreneur Jeno Paulucci, a friend of his parents. When DeSanto and his fiancé Lana walked into the ballroom of the Hotel Duluth, conversation ceased and everyone—including then sitting vice president Walter Mondale—stood up and applauded DeSanto. Marjorie was acquitted—DeSanto’s only loss in a career that saw over thirty murder trials—which led to Caldwell’s release after confessing to the crimes. He committed suicide a few years later, leaving a note that said in part “I didn’t kill those girls.” Learn more about the murders and trials here.

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