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Justice for Marlys

Justice for Marlys: A Family’s Twenty Year Search for a Killer

John S. Munday
Copyright Date: 2004
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 208
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  • Book Info
    Justice for Marlys
    Book Description:

    At once a gripping story and an in-depth look at the grief of losing a child, Justice for Marlys relates the true account of a serial killer, Joseph Ture Jr., who brutally murdered Marlys Wohlenhaus in her own home. John S. Munday recounts how Marlys’s case was solved through the efforts of the victim’s tenacious family, supportive news media, and persistent investigators.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-9662-8
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Part I. Murder

    • 1 A Place in the Country
      (pp. 3-11)

      In may 1979, Marlys Ann Wohlenhaus lived in Afton, Minnesota, with her mother, Fran, and her sixteen-year-old sister, Lynn. Marlys radiated graceful energy; she was lively and animated like a floating butterfly. Pretty like her mother yet more petite, maybe an inch or so over five feet tall, she weighed about one hundred pounds. Marlys wore her shoulder-length sandy blond hair parted in the middle. She almost always had a smile on her face and would often say, “If you see someone without a smile, give them yours.”

      Marlys enjoyed casual time with her friends. She made plans for a...

    • 2 A Butterfly Is Crushed
      (pp. 12-19)

      Two days later, May 8 began as a normal day for Marlys. She said good-bye to Fran and petted Patience when she let the Saint Bernard back in the house. Marlys drove her 1978 white Datsun B-210 coupe—a red bandanna tied to the rearview mirror—down the driveway, waved to the other Saint Bernards in the kennels. She drove past the pole barn, the playhouse, and the plot where the old dogs were buried, on by the neighbor’s house and the school bus shelter, out the driveway onto Trading Post Trail, three-tenths of a mile.

      The few weeks left...

    • 3 A Long Way to Fall
      (pp. 20-27)

      At first, the constant contact with doctors and our prayers for Marlys took precedence over our personal needs. Fran fainted several times and received medical assistance in one of the rooms in the emergency complex. Fran’s son, Ray, arrived, bringing Greg from the airport. Marlys remained in surgery. The family didn’t get a full report on her condition for a long time. Calls were made to relatives, and arrangements were being made for travel to Minnesota. The group grew quiet, deep in suspense, hoping and praying for a medical miracle to save Marlys’s life.

      Finally Marlys came out of surgery,...

    • 4 The Investigation Begins
      (pp. 28-37)

      Just before 4:00 p.m. on the day of the murder, not long after the ambulance and the rescue workers left the house, Robert Ellert received a call while he was driving his unmarked squad car. The dispatcher told him to go to Fran’s house. In the Washington County sheriff’s department since 1971, Ellert had been promoted to the position of investigator. In addition to having primary responsibility for the northern part of the county, not including Afton, he also handled crime scene analysis in the entire county. When he arrived at the house, he spoke with Deputy Don Schoenberger. Deputy...

    • 5 Killing Chickens Wasn’t Enough
      (pp. 38-46)

      Though we didn’t know it then, the man Fran feared and desperately sought for murdering Marlys lived only a few towns away and occasionally came through Afton. Joe Ture worked in St. Paul and its suburbs as an auto mechanic, drifting from one job to another. Nothing would have happened to Marlys if police had made the right decisions back in December 1978.

      Ture also spent time north and west of the Twin Cities. Clearwater, Minnesota, is a small community outside St. Cloud, mostly farms and country homes. When Alice Huling divorced her husband, she moved from suburban St. Cloud...

    • 6 God, Why Are You Punishing Me?
      (pp. 47-56)

      During the first few weeks after the murder, the investigators continued to focus on local suspects. Detective Richter took Marlys’s friends Becky and Denise in a squad car to a hill overlooking Fran’s home. Richter scared them to try to get the girls to tell him about Marlys’s boyfriends. He also asked them about Greg’s relationship with Marlys and Fran.

      When he was contacted by Richter, Greg signed a release for the telephone records of the body shop. Several of Greg’s telephone calls to Fran were recorded by a deputy. Greg filed a claim for victim assistance, and for the...

    • 7 The Crime Spree Continues
      (pp. 57-66)

      Donette rico had moved to an apartment in the Minneapolis suburb of Hopkins at the age of seventeen. She told her friends she was smart enough to live on her own. She maintained passing grades at St. Louis Park High School and mostly stayed out of trouble. On October 29, 1979, Donette went to look for her boyfriend, Lee. A rusty red van with an odd-shaped back window pulled up alongside her as she walked through downtown Hopkins. “Wanna ride?” the driver, Joe Ture, asked.

      “No thanks,” Donette said, not wanting to be distracted from her mission of finding Lee....

  5. Part II. Grief

    • 8 The First Exile
      (pp. 69-79)

      I continued to work in the patent law department of a major corporation in Minneapolis. Management gave me more understanding, even compassion, than anyone might have expected from the corporate world. There was nothing wrong with the work or the job. One day, however, I brought home news of a position within the company opening up in Philadelphia. “There’s an opportunity to move,” I said.

      At first Fran said she couldn’t leave Marlys behind, even in the grave. Then she began to talk about her fears. “I go out of my way so I won’t drive past the body shop,”...

    • 9 Out of His Own Mouth
      (pp. 80-92)

      The investigation into Diane Edwards’s abduction and murder began immediately, based in Sherburne County because Minnesota law gives jurisdiction to the county where a crime is committed. Dr. McGee felt certain that Diane Edwards had been killed at the scene, after being raped and beaten. Chief Deputy David Hofstad coordinated the efforts of his Sherburne County deputies with help from both the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension and the West St. Paul police investigators. At first there were no suspects, and none of the crime scene analysis yielded any clues.

      When West St. Paul Detective Jeffrey Batzel reported for duty...

    • 10 If I Can’t Have Marlys Back
      (pp. 93-102)

      If it wasn’t this person, a murderer convicted of killing Diane Edwards, a serial killer perhaps, then who was it? Was Marlys the victim of a random act of violence? While Fran and I couldn’t be certain, it seemed to me unlikely that someone seeking to commit a random crime of violence would drive along a gravel road in a country residential area, enter a three-tenths-mile-long driveway, go past a house at the fork in the driveway, go past a kennel of Saint Bernards, and enter a house where a Saint Bernard roamed loose to murder someone he or she...

  6. Part III. Reviving the Investigation

    • 11 Seeking Justice Now
      (pp. 105-114)

      “I made a call,” Fran said, “to the Washington County sheriff’s office this morning.” We were having breakfast coffee on the deck in Ocean City. “Wasted a call, I should say. I asked what they had done lately, and he just talked about not having time to work on leads.”

      “You’d think they’d find the time,” I answered, stating the obvious, “after fourteen years.” We had settled into the town house, continued the life of exile. We were facing southwest, watching the water as birds circled and boats made their way to and from. The slosh of the waves and...

    • 12 Beginning to Participate
      (pp. 115-125)

      Fran felt like she was waiting for santa claus, full of expectations, anticipating the arrival of Special Agent Everett Doolittle from Minnesota. When he introduced himself, he laughingly stroked his short gray beard and pointed to his receding hairline, saying, “I wear this because I’m losing the hair on top.” The three of us settled into the breakfast room, at the large gray table where Doolittle could spread out his files, make notes, “do my thing,” as he said. “All I do is work on cold cases, ones that weren’t solved initially and ended up on a shelf.”

      “Our case...

    • 13 48 Hours, Finally
      (pp. 126-134)

      Our list of questions had grown considerably by the time we met with Special Agent Doolittle during that week of travels in the valley. “Who haven’t you cleared?” I asked. “Who have you cleared?” Fran asked, knowing the list would be shorter.

      Doolittle briefly went through a list of ten suspects, with details on those he still had questions about. Jerry LaPlante, the boy Marlys had been dating, had given a bad interview, so Doolittle wanted to talk to him again. Tom Cartony’s story about being in another state didn’t completely check out. Former boyfriend Jeff Sullivan’s statement that he...

    • 14 Who Was Watching
      (pp. 135-145)

      On august 12, 1996, a CBS crew arrived at our house in Pennsylvania to interview Fran for the48 Hoursfall season premier show. Erin Moriarity, the reporter who would interview Fran, listened to her talk about Marlys, asking questions, forming the dialogue in her mind. The camera crew went about their work of setting up, taking directions from producer Loen Kelly. All of them were gentle with Fran, realizing their questions would probe emotional wounds. We could see that Moriarity understood Fran’s feelings. This professional team worked together—performed, really—setting everything up for later editing. During a moment...

    • 15 Did You Know the Wohlenhaus Girl?
      (pp. 146-154)

      Fran kept in touch with the prosecutors during 1997 while they built their case. They believed Ture raped and killed girls who reminded him of his first great but unrequited love, who had jilted him and had a child by another man. We were told that Ture assaulted her in 1976, putting a knife to her throat. They also told us about a woman who aborted Ture’s child after he beat her and punched her in her stomach. Other conversations with the team working the case gave us additional bits and pieces of what seemed to be a growing pile...

  7. Part IV. Justice

    • 16 In the Presence of Evil
      (pp. 157-167)

      One morning Fran woke up feeling sad about losing Marlys—and angry at Jim Wohlenhaus for leaving her in 1965, putting her on the path that led to her living in the house where Marlys died. As I got out of bed, Fran said, “If only I had not tried to be strong, I could have given up and gone back home to Virginia when Jim left me.”

      When we talked more at breakfast, Fran looked at me accusingly. “You know,” she said, “you offered some sympathy this morning, then kissed me and left me crying as you went off...

    • 17 Sick and Tired of Bad News
      (pp. 168-177)

      The hearings in stillwater, minnesota, in April and June 1998 helped us to understand how many victims had not had closure—a word often used but seldom understood. A guilty verdict concludes the case but does not bring back a murder victim. We had heard testimony that tied Joe Ture to the murders of Joan Bierschbach and of Alice Huling and three of her children, with evidence only the murderer would know. We had met the parents of Diane Edwards, of whose murder Ture had been convicted. All of these families shared with us the tragedy of the death of...

    • 18 A Courthouse, Not a Hall of Justice
      (pp. 178-185)

      We were rewalking the path of 1979, and in spite of all our experience with other bereaved parents, even though we thought we knew what to expect, we almost couldn’t listen to the horrible words or weigh the ugly evidence. We retreated to the safety of the motor home. We wrote e-mail updates to friends, apologizing for the morbid messages as we sent them.

      We barely had strength to go to dinner. Finally we found a comfortable restaurant, ordered good food, drank a glass of wine. When we returned to the motor home, a reply to one e-mail message said,...

    • 19 What Is Our Reply to Evil?
      (pp. 186-190)

      When the jury began their deliberations on Tuesday afternoon, we wandered home, then went to dinner with some of the investigators, now friends. Even though they too were anxious, they helped us to relax, change the subject, talk about their lives for a while. During dinner our ears strained to hear the telephone ring, to have someone say we needed to be at court for a verdict.

      Wednesday brought more waiting, and then the thank-you party, a quiet gathering of so many we wanted, even needed, to have with us. Lynn and Ray brought Fran a statue of an angel,...

  8. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 191-193)
  9. Back Matter
    (pp. 194-194)