The History of True Crime in the Mid West is a fictional novel written by Barton Brixby containing accounts of stories of true crime in the midwest region of the United States, some of which are featured in the TV series.
THE EVENTS DEPICTED IN THIS BOOK TOOK PLACE IN MINNESOTA, WISCONSIN, IOWA, NEBRASKA, AND NORTH AND SOUTH DAKOTA FROM 1825 TO THE PRESENT. AT THE REQUEST OF THE SURVIVORS, THE NAMES HAVE BEEN CHANGED. OUT OF RESPECT FOR THE DEAD, THE REST HAS BEEN TOLD EXACTLY AS IT OCCURRED.
LUVERNE, MINNESOTA - 1979
THE WAFFLE HUT MASSACRE
And so we come to perhaps the bloodiest chapter in the long and violent history of the midwest region. And here I'm speaking of Luverne, Minnesota, 1979, commonly referred to by lay people as the "Massacre at Sioux Falls." Readers will note that I have chosen to file this case as a Minnesota crime, even though most of the murders took place in North and South Dakota. But I believe the key to understanding this complex and nuanced crime is to look at the butcher and small town beautician as its center. Ed and Peggy Blumquist were just twenty nine years old on the night their whole lives changed foever.
Both were born and raised in Luverne, a town just three thousand people, Ed to a Frank Blumquist, a shoe salesman, and Peggy to a Nora Knutson, a single mother, who died of breast cancer when Peggy was only ten. Young Peggy was sent to live on a farm with her Aunt Agnes, a widow, and grew up tilling the soil, the only child for miles around. In the spring of 1970, she met Ed in high school. At first, she dated his best friend, Tim, who left high school and joined the army during the Vietnam war. Tim was killed in 1973 in an army basic training exercise. Ed comforted Peggy in the months after Tim's death, and the two began a romance a year later, though most of the old timers spoke to recall Ed wooing Peggy unsuccessfully at first, but all agree she warmed to him eventually.
Childless, the couple lived in Ed's childhood home, and the night in question, Peggy was driving home from work when her life and the life of a notorious criminal intersecting in the most unexpected way. But I'm getting ahead of myself, for our story truly begings in Fargo, North Dakota a few days earlier. This is when Rye Gerhardt,the last born son of the Gerhardt family crime syndicate (see Chapter 12, Fargo North Dakota - 1971) hatched a plan with a local typewriter merchant named Skip Sprang to corner market on a new line of electric typewriters which were just hitting the market. Mr. Sprang, the owner of Carriage Typewriters, had fallen on hard times, his assets frozen weeks earlier by Judge Irma Mundt, chief ... the Fargo Municipal Court over an outstanding sum of $11,321.
Timing is everything, and the fact that Rye had murdered Judge Mundt and two others at the Waffle Hut then disappeared, just two days before the first emmasaries from Kansas City arrived in North Dakota, created confusion in the Gerhardt ranks. Confusion that Dodd Gerhardt -- on his quest to wrest the throne from his own mother -- exploited to his own benefit, or so he thought. By creating the illusion that Kansas City had killed Rye in a failed attempt to capture him, and that Ed Blumquist was not a simple small town butcher, but instead a contract killer hired by Kansas City, Dodd made sure that his mother wouldn't back down from the war she had started with a far larger criminal empire.
In the weeks that followed there were mass casualties on both sides. Kansas City made the first move, ambushing Otto Gerhardt and his men was they took Otto to the doctor. In all, two men and a nurse were killed in the parking lot of the medical center. Otto, though he suffered frostbite in two places on his face, was spared as a message to the family matriarch -- we can get to you whenever we want.
Her offer of compromise rejected, and humilitated, Floyd was left with no choice, but to declare war on Kansas City. The very next day, Joe Bulo -- Kansas City's front man in the northern push, was ambushed on a hunting boondoggle with a local zoning commissioner. In all, some twelve Kansas City shooters were killed, before the notorious Kitchen brothers turned the table on the Gerhardt men and executed all but one of the war party. But then, in the waining hour of the morning, the tables were turned yet again, as O'Hanzee Dent executed one of the brothers and left the other with a concussion, before tracking and killing Jue Bulo. Bulo's head was delivered in a hat box to the Pearl Hotel, where Kansas City lieutenant Mike Milligan was arriving.
After fleeing the cabin, he moved west on foot, making his way back to the Rushmore convenience store, back to the lone clerk who had re-paid Hanzee's kindness of letting him live, by turning him into the police. Did Hanzee go back for revenge? Or was the clerk's death a by-product of the need for medical supplies? Whatever the cause and effect, Hanzee executed the clerk, shooting them from a distance of fifty yards, through the shots plate glass window as the clerk dialed frantically for help. Once inside, Hanzee dressed his wound with rubbing alchohol and used Superglue to seal it shut. He then stole the clerk's car and drove east, retracing his steps towards the cabin.
He found a blind spot in the woods, just off the main road and waited, guessing that the police would move Ed and Peggy Blumquist to a second location. The audacity of the move -- to lay low, wait and then follow the police convoy to the Motor Motel -- is probably the reason Hanzee succeeded. What police officer would suspect that the suspect they were hunted was actually hunting them?
Hanzee followed the convoy to the motel, hiding his car and taking up a watchman's post on a neighboring rooftop. When the police officers had moved in, hiding their cars around back, Hanzee walked to a phone booth and called home. He told Floyd Gerhardt that he had found Dodd, but rather than tell her the trush -- that her son was dead by his own hand -- the Indian told her that he was alive and well and being held by Kansas City. Luverne had been a trap. The butcher had killed Dodd's men and taken him hostage, and now they were holding him at the Motor Motel, expecting to end this once and for all.
But, said her native man, if we strike tonight while they're sleeping, we can rescue Dodd and wipe them out in one fell swoop. How did he know that the matriarch would come herself? What did he say to make her throw caution to the wind and lead her family's final charge off the cliff of history? Perhaps he played to her vanity. Perhaps he inferred that war was men's work, challenging her -- however subtly -- to prove her worth.
Whatever the cause, Floyd, Bear and the remaining Gerhardt crew set out that very hour on a rendezvous with destiny. They met the native man on a deserted South Dakota street in the witching hour. At this point, most of the policemen were asleep, with the exception of a three man (and one woman) poker game going on in room 13 downstairs. The officers from North and South Dakota, played Texas Hold em and drank beer, never suspecting that an army of Gerhardt shooters was outside.
And so it was that the Gerhardt's native man lured the surviving members of the family to Sioux Falls in South Dakota. Historians of the region have long debated his motives. Yes, he had killed the oldest son, Dodd, in cold blood. But that, it could be argued was a crime of passion, executed in the head of the moment. The dog that kicked one time too often. But once Dodd was dead, it could be argued, he was a free man. Why did he choose to stay and fight, rather than flee and begin again? And when did he hatch the plan to trap and execute the remaining family members?