IAGenWeb Project - Allamakee co.
updated on 08/27/2012

"I killed her because she turned me down"

Murder in Dorchester

As recounted in newspapers around the state and the country


December 1921

No Clue to Awful Crime -- Teacher Beaten To Death

WAUKON, la. Dec 13—No clue to the murder of Miss Inga Magnusen, 23 year old school teacher who was strangled and beaten to death late yesterday afternoon at her school sixteen miles north of here had been discovered this morning', Mrs. Gunda Martindale, sheriff of Allamakee county says. Bloodhounds were taken to the scene of the crime during the morning. Mrs. Martindale, sheriff, has held this office since May 1 when her husband died and she was appointed to fill the unexpired term. Miss Magnusen was the daughter of M. M. Magnusen of Bee, Iowa, a settlement in the northern part of Allamakee County. She lived at home and when she failed to appear for supper late Monday afternoon a search was begun. Her body was found in the basement of the schoolhouse. The scene of the crime is a lonely spot and the nearest house is over a mile away. Posses were searching for the murderer who is believed to have escaped on a stolen horse.

No Clue to Slain Teacher's Murderer

Waukon, Iowa, Dec. 13 -- No clew (sic) to the murderer of Miss Edna Magneson, school teacher who was beaten to death late yesterday afternoon at her school near town, had been discovered this morning, Mrs. Gunda Martindale, sheriff of Allamakee county, says. Bloodhounds were taken to the scene of the crime during the morning. Mrs. Martindale has held the office since May 1, when her husband, incumbent of that office since Jan. 1, 1921, died, and she was appointed to fill the unexpired term.

Admits Killing Teacher Because She Jilted Him.

Waukon Ia. Dec. 14 -- Ernest Throst confessed today that he murdered Miss Ida Magnuson, pretty 24 year old school teacher, in her isolated country school house near Dorchester. "I killed her because she turned me down," Throst told Allamakee county authorities.

Killed Pretty Schoolma'am with a Club.

Waukon, Ia. Dec. 14 -- Earl Throst, 26, confessed early today that he killed Miss Edna Magnuson, pretty country school teacher at her lonely school house near Dorchester Monday afternoon. Being jilted by the twenty-two year old girl was given as the reason for the assault by the murderer in his confession to Mrs. Ganda Martindale, woman sheriff of Allamakee county. Throst was thaken to the county jail early today because of fear of attempted violence against him. A successful ruse by the "lady sheriff" in smuggling the prisoner into the jail past a mob of 500 last night was thought to have prevented mob violence. The weapon used by the murderer was a stick of stove wood, Throst said in his confession. Throst hid in the basement until all Miss Magnuson's pupils had gone home and then attacked her. She resisted and he hit her over the head with the club killing her almost instantly.

Throst was arrested as he was boarding a train at Postville following the quick work by bloodhounds that trailed the scent from the schoolhouse to the station. "I had been going with her for quite a while," Throst said, "and then Otto Beler talked her out of it. Of course he made it as bad for me as he could," he added. "If this thing had not happened we were to have been married next Saturday, December 17." He then cited recent instances wherein Miss Magnuson had intimated her ardor for him had cooled. "I could not sleep Sunday night and spent most of the night walking around the vicinity of Dorchester," the prisioner continued. "I went to the schoolhouse late Monday evening. The children had all gone home and Inga was alone. We quarreled in the school room. Then she went to the basement to fix the fire for the night and I followed and we quarreled again. I picked up a stick and struck her over the head and she turned around again and I hit her two or three times. then I left. She did not fight back.

Throst said he did not think Miss Magnuson was dead when he left her. the lid of a washboiler was used in taking down the confession, due to the absence of a table. throst placed it on his knees to sign the statement on it. Throst and Miss Magnuson attended the same school together as children. Later, Miss Magnuson was given a certificate to teach school. Her school was an isolated one and it was here that she was attacked and murdered Monday.

All northeast Iowa is aroused at the crime, which followed within twenty-four hours of the murder of Mr. and Mrs. Charles Von Brocklin of near Frankville. Elmer Brocklin, a brother of the dead man, is being held as a suspect in the county jail at Decorah.

Throst Pleads Guilty.

Waukon, Dec. 19 -- Earl Throst, confessed slayer of Inga Magnuson, 20 year old school teacher near Dorchester last Monday pleaded guilty to a charge of first degree murder before Judge Taylor in district court here this morning. He will be sentenced the latter part of the week.

Throst Must Hang For Crime.

Waukon, Ia., Dec. 27 -- Earl Throst who was sentenced yesterday to hang March 9, 1923 for the murder of Miss Inga Magnuson, Allamakee school teacher will be taken to the penitentiary at Ft. Madison tomorrow. He will be executed there.

Woman Sheriff to Spring Trap to Kill Slayer.

Waukon, Ia., Dec. 28 -- a woman's hand, it is expected, will spring the trap when Earl Throat, confessed slayer of pretty Inga Magnuson is hanged on March 9. Mrs. Gunda Martindale, sheriff of Allamakee county, is required by law to conduct the execution. "I have to spring the trap on Throat and I'll do my duty." Mrs. Martindale said today. Then Throat was captured after Miss Magnuson had been found slain in her lonely country school house, it was Mrs. Martindale's strategy that prevented the slayer being seized by an angry mob of farmers. The woman sheriff captured the slayer after an exciting pursuit by bloodhounds.

March 1923

Hanging Friday Tenth in Iowa
Dubuque was Scene of First Legal Execution.

Earl Throst will be hanged Friday at Ft. Madison for the Murder of Inga Magnussen.

Des Moines, March 6 -- When Sheriff Ben A. Davis springs the gallows trap which sends Earl Throst to his death in the Fort Madison prison year, Friday, March 9, it will be the tenth time in its history that the state of Iowa has exacted the death penalty for violation of its laws. Throst is scheduled to hang at 7:30 a.m., Friday, for the death of Inga Magnussen, pretty Alamakee county country school teacher, whom he murdered in the basement of her school house, near Dorchester, Dec. 12, 1921. Anger at her refusal to accept his attentions was given as the motive for the crime. Throst's execution will be the fourth that has taken place at Fort Madison in the last seven months, the other condemned men who paid the supreme penalty on the rough prison gallows in that time being Ira Pavey, Eugene Weeks and Orrie Cross.

Despite a number of recent hangings, the record of capital punishment in Iowa is tempered with leniency, history shows. At one period, from 1872 to 1878, the state had no capital punishment law, choosing rather to sentence its murderers to life imprisonment in the state penitentiary. It was on May 20, 1834, that the first recorded trial for murder in what is now known as the state of Iowa was held in the open air, beneath the wide spreading branches of a large elm tree in Dubuque, according to the account in The Annals of Iowa....

... Earl Throst will be the tenth man to be legally executed by the state. After Throst is taken to the gallows Friday, in case intervention does not save him, There will still be four men in the death cell at Fort Madison. These are William Olander, Fort Dodge, sentenced to death for the murder of Berthold Halfpap, grocer; Joe Williams, negro, Des Moines, convicted of the murder of Barbara Thorsdale, school teacher; Roy Maupin, negro, waiting death for the murder of Joe Hayes, Carney coal miner; and Archie Burris, negro, Ottumwa, convicted of the murder of Hattie Bates, a negress.

Slayer Demands Noose Be Right Around Neck; Ends Murderer's Feast.

Fort Madison, Ia., Mar. 9 -- The feat of the "merry murderers" came to an end here today when the body of Earle Throst, slayer of a school teacher, slid through the gallows trap with a dull thump in the Iowa State prison here. He died with artificial bravado after playing host at a banquet in the death house to four other amiable killers soon to follow him through the trap door. Throst criticized the methods of the hanging just before dying. He protested that the warden, T.P. Hallowell, had placed the noose on his chin, not under it. The warden obligingly adjusted it to suit the murderer. Immediately his body fell thru the platform of the gibbet, three medical students from the Iowa state university pounced upon it with stethescopes to listen to the gradually suspending heart action "for scientific study." They reported nothing unusual. Twelve minutes later Throst was pronounced dead. To the last Throst remained the stoic he had become in the last few weeks. He refused to make any statement whatsoever. When Rev. Dr. Erskine, of Plymouth Bretherns church, Des Moines, appeared, Throst said curtly he did not care to accept the church. However, he prayed with the clergyman, commenting that he had complete faith in his salvation. Sixty persons witnessed the execution in the damp of a chill March rain. There was no demonstration. Everything was done with precision. The body was sent back to Allamakee county for burial. Throst slew Igna Magnusson, pretty county teacher. Her father visited Throst in prison Thursday and was met with indifference when he told his daughter's slayer he forgave him. The murderer had refused to discuss the case in any way for weeks. He attracted attention by his gaiety and lack of fear. He was the merriest at his banquet last night. His guests shook hands rather stiffly just before he was led to his death today. The reaction of one, William Olander, who is awaiting the date for his execution for murdering Bethold Talspap, in Fort Dodge, was that he asked after the hanging to be baptized.

No change in the laws.

Des Moines -- There will be no change in capital punishment laws in the state of Iowa. Four members of the Iowa house of representatives: Lake and Forsling of Woodbury county, Blake of Fayette county and Potts of Lee county, returned Saturday after viewing the hanging of Earl Throst at the state prison, on Friday. They were unanimous in their opinion that capital punishment should not be abolished and that hanging was as human a method as could be devised.

Slayer of Houston County Girl Dies on Scaffold in Iowa, Calm and Unregretful.
Girl Rejected his Attentions

Fort Madison, Ia., March 9. (By The Associated Press) -- Calm and composed to the last, and without a word of regret on his lips for the crime he had committed, Earl Throst, young Allamakee county farmer, mounted the gallows in the prison yard here this morning with a steady stride and was hanged for the murder of Inga Magnusson, the country school teacher who "turned him down."

Sheriff Ben A. Davis of Allamakee county pulled the lever at exactly &:30 a.m. Throst indirectly confessed to the murder shortly before he was hanged this morning, according to prison officials. "Take this shirt and tear it up," Throst told a deputy sheriff, as he was dressing to go to the gallows. "But why should I tear up the shirt?" asked the deputy. "Because it is the shirt I wore the day I killed her," replied the condemned man.

Love Affair Denied.
Waukon, Ia., March 9 -- Earl Throst, 26 years old, who died on the gallows at the state penitentiary at Fort madison today, confessed to the murder of Miss Inga Magnusson, 22 year old Allamakee county schoool teacher, on Dec 12, 1921. Execution of sentence was delayed for more than a year to permit due consideration of all angles of the case. His victim resided at Bee, in Houston county, Minnesota, just across the state line from the Iowa rural school where she taught.

Another shadow than that of the gallows hung over Throst since he entered the prison late in 1921. In confessing to the murder he declared Miss Magnusson was his former fiancee and he killed her in a quarrel. Hero worship flourishes in the penitentiary, and Fort Madison inmates, who derived thrills from association with Orrie Cross and other darling gunmen who were put to death in recent years, have snubbed the young north Iowa farmer who killed his sweetheart "because she turned him down flat."

No love affair existed between Miss Magnusson and Throst, however an engagement ring presented to her by Otto Deters of Eitzen, minn., was on her finger when she was murdered, and they had chosen a day in February 1922, for their marriage.

Murder Most Brutal.
Prison officials say Throst has been a model prisoner. The crime for which Throst paid the supreme penalty was most brutal. Miss Magnusson's parents becamse alarmed when she failed to come home for the evening meal on Dec 12, 1921. Her father went to the schoolhouse, which stands in a desolate ravine a mile from the Magnusson home. The door was locked and he found, by peering through a window, that the schoolroom was in order. Believing that the girl had returned home by another route, Mr. Magnusson went to the house only to find that she had not appeared. Telephone calls to neighbors failed to throw any light on the mystery.

Accompanied by his son and several other men, Mr. Magnusson returned to the schoolhouse. They broke open the basement door and the father entered first. His daughter's hat was on the floor near the furnace. Then he found the girl. She was lying face downward behind a stone pillar in a dark corner. Her skull had been crushed. A piece of firewood, 30 inches long and 3 inches in diameter, wrapped in a blue bandanna handkerchief, was lying a few feet away. It was covered with blood.

Hounds Trail Slayer.
Bloodhounds, summoned from Waterloo, arrived early the next morning. After getting the scent from the club, one of the dogs led the way to Throst's home. Earl's parents were in Caledonia, Minn., and the door was forced open. The dog followed the trail through the rooms on the lower floor, went up the stairway, entered young Throst's bedroom and laid down on the bed. Bloodstained overalls and underclothing were found under the bed.

The dog then led the posse to two other houses where it was learned a pony and a saddle had been stolen in the night. Here the dog lost the trail. At Eitzen, Minn., the man hunters were informed that Throst had purchased overalls and a sheeplined coat at 10 o'clock the night before.

In the meantime, the superintendent of the county poor farm telephoned to Waukon the description of a certain "Whalen" who ate breakfast at the institution, declaring he was a horse buyer traveling to Missouri from Montana. His description tallied with throst's.

The net then spread over three counties. Descriptions of Throst were sent over all rural telephone lines and officials in nearby towns were instructed to watch for him. He was arrested that afternoon as he rode into Postville, 30 miles southwest of Waukon. After four hours of questioning in the county jail here, during which he denied knowledge of the murder, Throst confessed.

Gov. Kendall recently denied the appeal of L.L. Duxbury of Caledonia, attorney for Throst. The execution was the tenth hanging under the Iowa law.

One of Throst's Last Letters

James G. Sires, of Dorchester, sends us three letters he had received from Earl Throst this year, dated respectively January 12th, March 3rd and March 7th. All breathe the same religious spirit and show him to be quite a Bible student, especially that of January 12th, in which he quotes scripture ad infinitum in response to Mr. Sires' inquiry as to his hope in eternity. We make room for the last of his effusions, written after all hope of a commutation of sentence was gone:

Fort Madison, Iowa, March 7, 1923
Mr. James G. Sires, Dorchester, Iowa

Dear Brother in Christ:
I will now take the pleasure of writing you a few lines this evening, and trusting it will find you well. I suppose that you have learned by now that there is no possible chance for me any more and that I have only a few hours left to remain on this earth.

But listen, James, I know that I have made peace with God and that my sins are forgiven and I am saved, and I know that I am sure that I am going to Heaven and will be kindly received by my Heavenly Father.

I will close now and say the last good-bye. May God bless you for the cheery words which you have written me, James. I will now say good-bye to you and the same you may tell all of the Esteemed Neighbors of Camp 4585

I am, Yours Truly,
EARL THROST, No. 12,078


Allamakee county records show that Inga Magnusson was buried in the Waterloo Ridge cemetery, Waterloo twp., a few miles from Dorchester. She was born September 3, 1898 and died December 12, 1921. This photo of her gravestone was taken in August 2012 by Erin Wilker.

Inga Magnusson gravestone, Waterloo Ridge cemetery - photographed by Erin Wilker, August 2012

Translation of Inga's gravestone, by Errin Wilker:

In Memoriam

Inga Magnusson
Born on 3 Sept. 1898
Died on 12 Dec. 1921

You died a hero.
Blessed be your memory.


~sources: Decatur Review, Decatur, Illinois, December 13, 1921; Chronicle Telegram, Elyria, Ohio; issues of December 14 & 29, 1921 and March 9, 1923; the Iowa City Press Citizen, Iowa City, Johnson co., Iowa; issues of December 13, 14, 19 & 27, 1921; the Iowa Recorder, Greene, Butler co. Iowa; issues of March 7 & 14, 1923, the Winona Daily Republican, Winona, WI December 9, 1923 and a 1923 Allamakee county newspaper clipping

~items contributed by Sharyl Ferrall, Cindy Bray Lovell & Errin Wilker (James G. Sires was Errin's g-grandfather)


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