On November 17, 1973, a group of five teenagers from Sioux Falls, South Dakota were assaulted at Gitchie Manitou State Preserve in Lyon County, Iowa. The four male teens were killed, and the remaining female teen was abducted and raped. The victims were 17-year-old Roger Essem, 18-year-old Stewart Baade, 15-year-old Dana Baade, 15-year-old Michael Hadrath, and 13-year-old Sandra Cheskey (surviving rape victim).
The four murder victims
The three brothers who committed the crime were also from nearby Sioux Falls, South Dakota. 29-year-old Allen Fryer, 24-year-old David Fryer, and 21-year-old James Fryer were out in Gitchie Manitou that night looking to poach deer when they came across the five teens huddled around a campfire. After watching the teens for a bit, they thought they were smoking marijuana and decided to take it for themselves. The brothers returned to their truck and retrieved their shotguns.
Instead of approaching the teens, the Fryers settled down on a close ridge overlooking the campfire and opened fire at them. Roger was murdered instantly. Stewart was wounded. The other three teenagers ran into the nearby tree line for cover.
The Fryers shouted for the remaining teens to come out from their hiding places. Dana walked out lonely. Michael and Sandra walked out together and asked the Fryers who they thought they were. Allen Fryer replied by shooting Michael in the arm and telling him they were narcotics officers. Michael and Sandra fell to the ground together, although she was not wounded. Allen kicked at them and told them there was no use playing dead.
He then ordered the three teens to walk up a trail leading away from the campfire. After a bit, he stopped them and spoke quietly to his brother David before leaving the teens alone with him. When he came back, Allen ordered the teens to continue along the trail. A quick time later, he told them to stop. He once again left them alone with David for a bit. When he came back, he moved them along the trail once again until they were near the road, ultimately stopping them and shouting “over here” to someone. James Fryer pulled up in the truck the brothers had driven to the park.
After a quick chat with James, Allen tied Sandra’s hands behind her back and put her in the truck before leaving her there while he and James returned to the trail. Moments later, Allen came back and started the truck to drive away. As they were leaving, Sandra saw Michael Hadrath, Dana Baade, and Stewart Baade, who had seemingly been brought from the campfire at some point while the others were on the trail. It was the final time she would see them alive as they remained there with James and David Fryer.
Once Allen and Sandra were gone, James and David Fryer shot all three of the teens and left them on the trail.
Allen Fryer drove Sandra around for a little while, pretending to be a police officer and notifying her that he was attempting to keep her out of hot water. He told her that he was the boss and that the other two would do whatever he said. Ultimately, he again met up with David and James on the road and got out to speak to them for a moment. Afterward, they all got back into the truck and went to an abandoned farm where James raped Sandra.
Early the following morning, Allen filled the pickup with gas from a large red fuel tank on the farm and drove Sandra home. He was still impersonating to be a police officer and told Sandra that she was “too young to get busted.”
The three corpses on the trail were found the next day by a couple from Sioux Falls, South Dakota, who had reached the park while out for a drive in the new car they had bought. Roger Essems’ body lay undiscovered until the next day because it was still back at the campfire site where he’d been shot.
Sandra proved to be an outstanding witness for the prosecution. She was composed and straightforward about what had happened with the shootings and her rape. Her memory of the details was very obvious and consistent throughout numerous interviews and a polygraph test.
Sandra Cheskey Chrans in 2019 (Photo Credit: Sioux City Journal)
On November 29, 1973, Sheriff Craig Vinson of the Lyon County Sheriff’s Office drove Sandra through the region where she’d told them she’d been taken in search of the farmhouse where she’d been held hostage and raped. As they drove, she identified the red fuel tank beside the garage of a farmhouse near Hartford, South Dakota. It was found that the farm belonged to a local farmer who employed Allen Fryer.
In a chance encounter, Allen Fryer drove right past the sheriff in the same blue pickup he and his brothers had used on the night of the killings. Sandy pointed him out at once. The sheriff radioed the truck description and location in and had it pulled over by other officers, who then apprehended Allen. Soon after that, both David and James were also apprehended.
When first interviewed by police, Allen claimed that it was Sandra’s friends who had fired at them and that they accidentally murdered someone. Finally, he confessed they’d shot the teens because they had been drinking and smoking marijuana and they’d wanted to steal it from them. David told a similar initial tale but finally caved and told the truth.
On November 30, 1973, Sandra Cheskey recognized both David and James Fryer from a lineup.
James Fryer took a different tactic than that of his brothers in his police interviews. He wasted no time blaming both of his siblings for everything. He substantiated that they’d found the teens smoking marijuana and that Allen had pretended they were narcotics officers but claimed that Sandra had been chuckling and having a good time with him and his brothers, even willingly having sex with him.
He insisted that it was his brothers who murdered all four of the boys. At the time, James was already serving time in the county prison but was enrolled in a work-release program. On the night of the killings, David Fryer had called the jail, pretending to be James’ boss. He told them he needed James to work an extra shift so that the three brothers could go out poaching that night.
Allen and David were moved from the Sioux Falls jail back to Lyon County jail, but James remained in Sioux Falls because he was still serving his jail verdict there. On December 1, 1973, the three brothers were arraigned and charged with four counts of murder. Bone was set at $400, 000 each.
On February 12, 1974, David Fryer pled guilty to three counts of first-degree murder and one charge of manslaughter. Allen had already admitted to the murder of Roger Essem, so the charge on that had been reduced for David and James. When convicted to life in jail without parole, David replied:
“No. If all my pleas fail, I’ll certainly write the governor and ask for the death penalty. I won’t live out my life in prison. Keeping me locked up for life can’t turn around what happened. It can’t bring those people back.”
That plan didn’t work out for him. In 2016, David asked the parole board to overturn the decision to reject parole, but his request was refuted after testimony was made by Sandra Cheskey and Mike Hadrath’s sister, Lynette.
Allen Fryer’s trial started in February 1974, after a psychiatric exam found him fit to stand trial. On May 20, 1974, he was found guilty on four counts of first-degree killing and punished to four consecutive life terms in prison. A month later, on June 18, 1974, after his brother James had been extradited to the Lion County Jail for his trial, the two brothers successfully fled, stole a vehicle, and fled the state. They were apprehended in Gillette, Wyoming, and brought back to face new federal charges.
James’ trial for the murders started on December 3, 1974, in Lyon County. A psychiatric exam revealed that James had an IQ of 85 and poorly controlled behavioral problems. On December 30, 1974, he was found guilty of three charges of first-degree murder and one charge of manslaughter. He was punished to live in jail without parole. The district attorney thought that since James was going away for life, there was no need to subject Sandra Cheskey to a rape trial, so those charges were never processed.
All three brothers made tried to appeal their convictions and failed. Allen is serving his life verdict at the Penitentiary in Anamosa, Iowa. David and James are serving their sentencings at the Fort Dodge Correctional Facility in Fort Dodge, Iowa. They will all die behind bars.
Source And Credit: Medium