These tragic news items explain how the altercation & subsequent shooting took place--the details and the forthcoming conviction....

The death of Delbert Church at the hands of Otto Zeglin.

Delbert Church
Born: 31 Jan 1885
Died: 15 Jan 1910
Buried: Lincoln Twp Cemetery, Plymouth Co. IA

Otto Zeglin, age 45....sentenced and served from Oct. 9, 1910 - paroled on 3/27/1914.  

Otto remained with his wife & raised a family in Woodbury Co. Iowa…..Otto’s wife was Emma (Roepke) Zeglin. 
Otto Zeglin
Born 1864
Died 1931
Buried: Climbing Hill, Woodbury Co. IA

Yester Year Stories, Backed with Today's Research


LeMars Globe-Post, January 20, 1910



Testimony of Eyewitnesses to Shooting of Dell Church Puts Zeglin In Unfavorable Light


At the inquest which was held on Monday at the scene of the late murder tragedy in Lincoln township, over the dead body of Delbert Church, the following verdict was returned:

We, the said jurors upon our oaths do say, after having heard the evidence and examined said body, we find that the deceased came to his death by a gunshot wound, inflicted by a shot fired by Otto Ziegling [sic Zeglin].

~J. J. Nash, William Langle, N. Soule.

The inquest which was conducted by Coroner Beely and County Attorney Keenan, who accompanied by Sheriff Arendt, drove out to the Zeglin home on Monday. The testimony of the three witnesses to the shooting affray: Niels Hansen, Zeglin’s hired man; Anthony Friedman, who worked for Roepke and Court Church, the younger brother of the two Churches, was practically the same, each one of them relating in a straight forward manner the incidents previous to the shooting which eventually resulted in the tragic death of the elder Church. Elmer Church is at St. Joseph’s hospital in Sioux City, badly wounded in the left arm but will recover.

The testimony of Hansen, Friedman and Court Church, taken before Coroner Beely was as follows:

Niels Hansen is my name and I am 24 years old, reside in Lincoln township and I work for Otto Zeglin. We were at Fred Roepke’s place early in the evening of January 15. Four of the party engaged in a card game – Anthony Friedman, Otto Zeglin and Elmer and Delbert Church. There was some misunderstanding as to the number of cards held by Zeglin and Elmer and Delbert Church said some angry words. Later the Church boys went to hitch up their team in front of Zeglin’s house. Zeglin called to them, but I don’t know what was said. Elmer and Delbert Church walked up to the porch and Zeglin shot at Delbert and killed him, he then shot at Elmer.

My name is Anthony Friedman. I am 25 years old, reside in Lincoln township and by occupation am a farm hand. I was at the Fred Roepke’s place on the evening of the 15th of January, 1910. I took part in the card game referred to by Mr. Hansen and the trouble between the two Church boys and Otto Zeglin occurred as related. After this trouble they all spoke friendly to each other and I knew of no hard trouble existing. About a half an hour after this trouble, Delbert, Elmer and Court Church, Mr. Hansen and myself went over to Zeglin’s to hitch up their team. When were were hitching them up very close to Zeglin’s house, I saw Zeglin fire a shot at Delbert Church, also saw Elmer run to save his brother and Zeglin shot him. Delbert died instantly.

My name is Court Church and I reside in Lincoln township, and am by occupation a farm hand. I am a brother of Delbert Church, and was with Elmer and Delbert at the Roepke house on Saturday evening of the 15th January, 1910. My two brothers and Otto Zeglin had some trouble in a card game they were playing. About a half an hour after this trouble we were about to start home. Anthony Friedman, Niels Hansen and we three boys were hitching up our team in front of Otto Zeglin’s house. While hitching up, I heard Zeglin say something to my brothers, but I don’t know what it was. Right after this, I saw Zeglin shoot my brother Delbert and also saw him shoot Elmer. Delbert died instantly, my brother was shot in the arm.

When seen by a Sioux City reporter Monday, Elmer Church doubted the advisability of relenting any thing about the shooting as he had not yet seen the Sheriff. “It all resulted from a little chewing match,” he said, “nobody even thought of anything so serious as this happening. I have had worse squabbles than that many times before, but no one went crazy like Zeglin did Saturday night.”

Elmer Church formerly lived in Lincoln township. Several years ago he went to Canada where he purchased a farm and prospered. Two weeks ago Saturday night he arrived in LeMars with his young wife and drove to the home of his brother Delbert for a visit. Not long after arriving Church met Zeglin, whom he has known for years and a friendly greeting took place between the men. Zeglin, giving Church a hearty handshake and expressing pleasure at seeing his friend again.

It developed that on Saturday evening the three Church brothers went to the Roepke home for a visit. Roepke owns the farm and with him lives his mother, his sister and Anthony Friedman, the hired man, who were all in the house with the Churches arrived. Roepke got out his phonograph and the party were sitting listening to the music when Zeglin came in. Elmer Church says he thinks that he was drunk, but he is not sure. At any rate Zeglin began created a disturbance according to the story told by Church and the music was drowned out and phonograph laid aside. A deck of cards were procured and the two older Churches, Friedman and Zeglin began a game.

It was not long before a quarrel originated between Zeglin and Delbert Church, and Elmer interfered when his older brother was preparing to strike Zeglin. “We are guests at a friend’s house,” said Elmer, “and we don’t want to get mixed up in any row here.” But Zeglin would not quit and told them if they wanted to fight to go out in the road and not make a disturbance in the house. My brother jumped up and started outdoors. Then Zeglin turned to me and wanted me to fight. I pushed him out of the door. He then went over to his house, which is only a few feet from Roepkes. A little later my brother and I started for the barn to get our teams and go home. I don’t know whether my brother went to the porch at the Zeglin house or not. The first I knew was when I heard loud words. Zeglin appeared in the doorway of his home with a shot gun and ordered everybody off the place. Just then his hired man Hansen, appeared around the corner of the house. Zeglin turned the gun on him and he cried, “don’t shoot, this is Niels.” Zeglin then turned like a flash and fired point blank at my brother, who was standing a few feet away. I ran and picked up Delbert in my arms. Just as I straightened up Zeglin emptied the other barrel of the gun at me.”

Elmer Church was wearing a heavy fur overcoat, which was almost new. When Zeglin fired at him he was facing half way from him. The first shot from the gun which was heavily loaded tore the fur to shreds, clear across the shoulders and back and entered the left arm just below the elbow filling it with shot. Delbert Church was killed almost instantly and the wounded brother was carried into the Roepke house. Dr. Wright, of Kingsley, was called and cared for the injured man, later removing him to the hospital.

Zeglin remains in custody in the county jail. His case will be regularly brought before the grand jury for indictment next week, and there is a probability of the case being tried before court adjourns for the term.

The funeral of Delbert Church was held from the home in Lincoln township yesterday afternoon at 1 o’clock and was very largely attended by the friends and relatives of the deceased. Rev. Marth of the Lutheran Church conducted the funeral services and the remains were laid to rest in the Lincoln township cemetery.

Alton Democrat, January 22, 1910

Otto Zeigling [sic Zeglin] shot and killed Dell Church near Neptune in Plymouth county last Saturday night. They had all been at a neighbors and had quarreled and Church and his brothers followed Zeglin home, where he opened fire on them. The brother was also shot through the arm. All are men of families and well-to-do farmers.

LeMars Semi-Weekly Sentinel
October 4, 1910

It Is Thought That a Jury in the Case Will Be Secured by Noon Today When Opening Statements Will Be Made by Counsel.

The court room was crowded yesterday afternoon at the opening of the case of the State of Iowa against Otto Zeglin, charged with murder. It is many years since there was a murder trial in Plymouth county. Judge Hutchinson was later on account of delayed train and did not arrive in LeMars from his home in Alton until nearly noon and the case was not called until half past one when the petit jurors drawn for the term made their appearance. With brief formality the trial was put under way, the prosecuting attorney briefly stating the matter of the crime, the place and the name of the defendant. County Attorney Keenan was not present at the opening of the case. His partner, I. J. McDuffie and Pat Farrell taking up the work of the examining jurors.  J. U. Sammis appears  in the case for the defendant, and today will be assisted in the conduct of the case by another noted criminal lawyer, Dan H. Sullivan of Sioux City.  Mr. Sullivan was retained by Zeglin’s brother to assist Mr. Sammis in the case and no stone will be left unturned in making a defense for the alleged murderer by his relatives and friends.  The county attorney assisted by two well known legal luminaries will leave no effort undone to secure a conviction against the man accused of shooting and killing Delbert Church on the night of January 15 last.

Twenty-six talesmen were examined yesterday afternoon and it was remarked by some in court that not the name of a man resident in LeMars was drawn. All the jurors examined so far are farmers. Ten pre-emptory challenges are allowed by the defendant and the state in a murder trial where the penalty is capital punishment and when court adjourned yesterday at twenty minutes to five, the state had used four and the defense three of its pre-emptory challenges. A number of jurors were excused for cause. 

The regular panel comprised fifty-two men this term and it is though a jury can be secured from this venire without calling a special venire.

According to the examination of jurors yesterday, it is figured twelve men can be secured by noon today to go in the box and give Otto Zeglin a fair trial on the merits of the case.

Otto Zeglin, who has been in jail for nine months, showed the effects of his long confinement. He has a prison color and has lost the ruddy look of health he had when first incarcerated. Since being in jail his fair curly beard has been shaved off and he has lost flesh. His wife with the babe, born to them since he was imprisoned, was in court and sat near her husband and his attorneys.

LeMars Semi-Weekly Sentinel
October 7, 1910

Slayer of Delbert Church is Sentenced to Eight Years of Hard Labor in the Penitentiary at Anamosa by Judge Hutchinson in District Court.

The Zeglin murder trial came to an abrupt termination in the district court on Tuesday after all day on Monday and part of Tuesday morning had been spent in securing a jury to try the case.

Zeglin, by his attorney J. U. Sammis, withdrew his plea of not guilty and entered a plea of guilty of manslaughter which was accepted, and asked that he be sentenced at once waiving any rights. The court acceded to his request and he was sentenced to eight years at hard labor in the penitentiary at Anamosa. The sudden ending of this case, which has attained some celebrity, came as a surprise as it was thought a hard fight would be put up the defendant for his liberty.

The crime for which Zeglin was on trial and to which he entered his confession of guilt, was committed Saturday evening January 15, at the Zeglin home, sixteen miles south and one mile east of LeMars. Zeglin and family lived on the Fred Roepke farm in a house just a few rods from that occupied by Roepke and his mother.  Dell and Elmer Church were neighbors.  On the evening in question the Church brothers, Zeglin and Fred Roepke had engaged in a game of cards at the Roepke home. There was a quarrel and Zeglin went home. Later when the Churches were hitching up to go home, the quarrel was resumed. Zeglin was standing on the porch of his house with his shot gun in his hands, and when both Dell and Elmer Church approached him he opened fire.  Dell Church was instantly killed and Elmer Church was badly wounded in the arm.  Sheriff Arendt was at once notified and at four o’clock in the morning reached, in company with Deputy Sheriff Raven, the Zeglin place over drifted winter roads and placed Zeglin under arrest and brought him to jail in LeMars, where he has been confined for eight and a half months awaiting trial.

County Attorney J. T. Keenan, I. J. McDuffie and Pat Farrell appeared to prosecute and Sammis & Bradley of LeMars and D. H. Sullivan of Sioux City, were retained by the defense.  Thirty-three men out of the jury of fifty-six were drawn before a jury was secured. The jury as empanelled was as follows:  F. M. Faber, Remsen; J. P. Schroeder, Marion; Geo. Kress Jr., Liberty; August Kreber, Meadow; John G. Miller, Johnson; H. A. Ludwig, Washington; E. Mann, Johnson; H. E. Codd, Plymouth; John E. Koch, Preston; A. J. Dirks, Grant; H. J. Johnson, Hancock; John Stabe, Lincoln.
After a jury had been secured the attorneys for the defense asked for a recess and when court reassembled Mr. Sammis arose and formally withdrew the plea of not guilty and substituted a plea of guilty of manslaughter and Mr. McDuffie said the plea was satisfactory to the relatives of the dead man, who did not seek vengeance and were not vindictive and were satisfied to have the ends of justice carried out in this manner.

The judge pronounced sentence without any remarks under the indeterminate sentence law.  Zeglin may be paroled anytime after serving a year of the sentence, depending on good conduct. 

IAGenWeb 2017