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June 24, 1977: Marjorie Congdon Caldwell has her “will” notarized

On this day in 1977, former Duluthian Marjorie Caldwell received $3,000 for pawning jewelry and then had a hand-written “will” notarized. The will gave her second husband Roger Caldwell her share of her grandfather Chester Congdon’s estate upon the death of his daughter Elisabeth, Marjorie’s adoptive mother—regardless of divorce or her children. It was dated June 24, three days before Elisabeth and nurse Velma Pietila were found dead inside Glensheen, the Congdon estate in Duluth. The document read: “I, Marjorie Caldwell do on this day of June twenty fourth, nineteen hundred and seventy seven give and bequeath to my husband Roger Sipe Caldwell all the cash benefits due to and or accruing to me from the Chester A. Congdon trust that must disperse all principal to the children of his heirs within three calendar years from the date of death of the last surviving child of his, namely, Elisabeth Mannering Congdon. This bequest is made as a deed of gift with no restrictions as to use, or any restrictions accruing from a state of divorce, separation, my death or any other conditions or restrictions. I do this with the full knowledge that this document is irrevocable under any circumstances or for any reasons whatsoever and that said document shall be binding also upon my executors, heirs or beneficiaries.” The “will” meant Roger could look forward to about a $2.5 million cut of his wife’s estimated  $8.2 million inheritance. In July Roger was arrested for the murders of both women. At Caldwell’s trial, prosecutor John DeSanto would refer to the document as a “murder contract.” Learn more about the murders and Marjorie’s career as an arsonist in Will to Murder, the “definitive book about the Congdon-Pietila murders,” which you can preview here.

The will of Marjorie Congdon Caldwell, dated June 24, 1977—three days before her mother was slain. (Image: Zenith City Press)