Thursday, August 4, 2016

On This Date in Minnesota History: August 4

August 4, 1935 – The decomposing body of John D. “Jack” Kooser, a man well known to Mankato police as a hoodlum, bootlegger and racketeer and wanted there on  a charge of grand larceny, was found early this afternoon by a Washington County farmer in a rutted woodlot road approximately four miles from Stillwater. The head was no longer connected to the body, possibly due to the advanced decomposition. The condition of the body made identification difficult; however, a driver’s license card was found in his clothing with the name John D. Kooser.

Washington County1

Eventually, Kooser was officially identified by his teeth. Authorities believed he was one of two men who had attempted to rob two elderly farmers near Rochester the week before. 

At least a dozen shots were fired into the secluded home of the two elderly Witte brothers. William Witte shot back at the potential robbers with a shotgun after his brother Henry had been wounded by one of their bullets.

 Olmsted County2

Speeding away from the scene of the attempted robbery, the bandits crashed into a shallow ditch and then into a clay bank, wrecking their car, which they abandoned there with the interior stained with blood. The speedometer was locked at 50 miles-per-hour.

It was believed that Kooser was fatally hurt in the crash or killed outright in the high-speed crash, and that he was loaded into another car and hauled to the little-used country road near Stillwater and dumped.

When found, Kooser’s body had three broken ribs, a badly fractured leg and his scalp was badly torn. While no gunshot wounds were visible, Sheriff Cords stated that there may be some slugs in the remains, but difficult to see due to the state of the body.

The Washington County Coroner would later say that he was certain Kooser was not yet dead when he was dumped along the road where he was found, and that the appearance of the grass near the body indicated that he struggled and tossed in pain. The coroner’s verdict was that Kooser’s death was the result of injuries received in a car accident in Olmstead County.

The Mankato Free Press; “Body, Believed Kooser, Found in Woods. Driver’s License Proves Only Clue to Identify Man. Mankato Resident Believed to Have Been Shooting Victim. Sheriff Cords Goes to Aid Identification. Body Found on Back Road by Farmer North of Stillwater.”; Aug. 5, 1935; pp. 1 & 4.

The Mankato Free Press; “Kooser’s Car Found Abandoned Here. Gannon Believed to Have Left It Fleeing Police. Entire Northwest on Watch for Suspected Companion of Slain Man. Linked to Holdup Attempt at Rochester. Sheriff Cords Visits Stillwater and Positively Identifies Kooser’s Body.”; Aug. 6, 1935; pp. 1 & 4.

The Mankato Free Press; “Kooser Left To Die, Stillwater Coroner Testifies. Forsaken By Pals Before His Death, Doctor Declares. Grass Crushed Down, Other Evidences Bear Out This Theory. Verdict Death Due To Crash Injuries. Burial Occurred Here Late Yesterday; Services Held This Morning.”; Aug. 7, 1935; pp. 1 & 4.




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