Friday, September 30, 2016

On This Date in Minnesota History: September 30

September 30, 1913 - The rumors had swirled around the North Minneapolis neighborhood for months. The local undertaker had heard them, so had the family doctor and the neighbors, who of course where the ones spreading the suspicions: a family who lived at 3206 Second Street North was dying because the mother and wife was poisoning them. But no one told the police.

It wasn’t until Patrolman Frank Brunskill overheard a conversation on a street car that referred to the mysterious deaths of children in the Leckwold home that the police began an investigation, which drew Brunskill closer to the trail of the family as the day went on. Finally convinced that he was on the right track, he called Patrolman Hanson to assist him and the two visited the Leckwold home. The woman’s confession soon followed.

Coerced by a man with whom she had been having an affair, Mrs. Ida Leckwold admitted to Minneapolis Police Chief Martinson and Hennepin County Attorney Robertson this evening to taking the life of one of her children and attempting to take the lives of another child and that of her husband.

She was arrested and held on a charge of murder, pending further investigation, as four of her other children have died under mysterious circumstances, very similar to the death of the one that brought about her arrest.

Godfrey Norman, was arrested later on information furnished by the woman and her husband. Norman was held under suspicion of being the ‘man in the case,’ although he denies vehemently that he is guilty of any crime. The husband is also being held as a witness.

Mrs. Leckwold is a woman of 32, who has been married for 13 years, and who is the mother of eight children, all but two of them having died under circumstances that seem to point to murder. She confessed to the murder of one of the children, but admitted when questioned by the police chief and the county attorney, that she had attempted that of another, Willie, who recovered.

Mrs. Ida Leckwold1

The girl that died, Viola, 9 years old, is said to have succumbed to fly poison administered by her mother. Dr. H. W. Allen, who was called in the last two cases, those of Viola and Walter Laurel, 11 months old, who died about six weeks ago, said this evening when he first called he found the children were not seriously ill.  He prescribed for them, but when he returned the next day he found, in each instance, that the child had died during the night. The cause of death was given as cholera morbus.

Mrs. Leckwold became hysterical when talking to the chief. She said she had become infatuated with a man who had demanded that she kill her children, and she had blindly followed his orders. Her husband corroborated her story, saying that he had been suspicious of her for a long time, but had not for a moment suspected that the death of their children had been caused by her.

“I felt ill myself at the same time that Willie and Viola were taken sick,” he said, “but not for a moment did I suspect that I had been poisoned, which I am firmly convinced of now. Willie and I both recovered, but poor Viola died. I cannot believe, even in the face of her own confession, that my wife is guilty of such a heinous crime.”

Besides Willie, who is 12 years old, Myrtle, 11 years old, also survives. The only ones left of a family of eight children; they are being cared for by neighbors. Those that have passed all died before they had reached the age of one year, with the exception of Viola.

When questioned by the county attorney and the chief of police, Mrs. Leckwold hysterically denied having caused the death of her other children, but it is said by the police that they died under nearly identical circumstances and it is their firm belief that the mother was responsible for their deaths.

A liquid poison, said to contain large quantities of arsenic, is said to have caused the deaths of the last two children. How the woman administered the poison is not known. So cleverly did she do her work that she deceived the family physician, who, in each case, issued a certificate of death caused by cholera-morbus or summer complaint. These certificates were accepted by the undertaker.

Moe and McNameee were the undertakers who had charge of the last two bodies, as well as that of Perry, who died two years ago. All are said to have died from the same cause. The undertakers said this evening that they had received the death certificates in regular form.


While the police had no positive evidence that the first four children met the same fate as the last two, they know that the cause of their deaths was identical in each case. It is probable that the bodies will be exhumed and investigations made.

Brunskill learned that when Walter died, Mrs. Leckwold ran from the house when she saw the doctor coming to make his morning call. She knew that the boy was dead, but was not present when the doctor found him so. She is said to have hidden in a lumber yard nearby until he had departed.

Mrs. Leckwold collapsed when she was taken into police headquarters and it was necessary to call the police surgeon to revive her. She was able to give her story to the chief clearly, although skirting the features connected with the death of the first four children. It is generally believed that the woman is mentally deranged.

The Minneapolis Morning Tribune
; “Mother Is Held for Murder of Two Children. ‘Eternal Triangle’ Is Held Responsible for Tragedy on North Side. Mrs. Ida Leckwold Arrested on Charge of Double Homicide. Godfrey Norman, ‘Man in the Case,’ Also Is Locked Up. Mysterious Deaths of Four Other children Being Investigated. Woman Is Said to Have Confessed—Man Denies Guilt.”; October 1, 1913; pp. 1-2.

1The Minneapolis Morning Tribune; Oct. 3, 1913; p.1.

21914 Minneapolis City Directory

Ida Leckwold claims husband beats her; says she was mentally affected by abuse and constant motherhood; see Oct. 5, 2016 blog.

Mrs. Ida Leckwold was indicted today on the charge of murder in the first degree for the murder of her daughter, Viola; see Oct. 7, 2016 blog.               __________________________________________________________

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