Chronology of Events


Thursday, April 15 – Mr. and Mrs. Jacob Wolf celebrate their birthdays on the same date. Jacob is 41 and Beata is 35.

Wednesday, April 21 – Jacob Wolf arranges to borrow his neighbor’s drill press and will pick it up on Thursday.  He never does.

Thursday, April 22 – Jacob Wolf, his wife Beata, five of their six daughters and the hired boy are murdered at the family farm three miles north of Turtle Lake.  Investigators estimate the murders were done sometime late in the morning.

Saturday, April 24 – One of Wolf’s neighbors, concerned that he hadn’t seen his neighbor since Thursday morning, checks on the family and finds seven members of the Wolf family and their hired boy dead.  The only survivor is the eight-month old baby girl.

Sunday, April 25 – McLean County coroner conducts the inquest at the farm while the county sheriff and others begin their investigation. Hundreds of neighbors visit the farm during the day.

Tuesday, April 27 – Attorney General William (Bill) Langer, the county sheriff, the Bismarck chief of police and the McLean County state’s attorney interview one of their prime suspects on his farm just over two miles from the Wolf farm.

Wednesday, April 28 – The funeral for all eight victims is held at the Wolf family farm. All are buried in a single grave in the Turtle Lake Cemetery three miles south of the farm.

Thursday, April 29 – The investigators interview their prime suspect again and get a signed affidavit. They spend the next week getting sworn statements from other farm neighbors.

Thursday, May 6 – A public auction is held at the Wolf family farm.

Tuesday, May 11 – The Bismarck police chief returns to Turtle Lake after being gone over the weekend. He joins a couple of others in arresting the prime suspect at his home that afternoon.

Wednesday, May 12 – The suspect remains in his cell in the county jail until he is brought in for interrogation at 8 o’clock in the evening.

Thursday, May 13 – In the early morning hours, the suspect signs a confession to all eight murders. Later in the morning he appears before a magistrate and then before the district court judge where he enters a guilty plea, refuses counsel and is sentenced to life in the state penitentiary in Bismarck. He arrives there later that afternoon to begin his life sentence.

Sunday, May 16 – The convicted man’s wife and two of her brothers try to visit him at the penitentiary. One of her brothers says in a sworn statement that an attendant told them that the prisoner “was not in a condition to be seen.”

Sunday, May 23 – The convicted man’s older brother visits him in the penitentiary.

Sunday, May 30 – When the convicted man’s wife and her two brothers are allowed to see him for the first time, he tells them he is innocent and describes the manner in which he had been compelled to sign what was supposed to be his confession for the crime.

About three weeks later (around June 21) – One of the wife’s brothers and three other friends meet with Governor Frazier to discuss the convicted man’s imprisonment and to seek information about how to go about obtaining a trial for him.

About the middle of August – Three of the convicted man’s brothers-in-law and four other friends of his meet again with Governor Frazier for the same purpose as before.

Wednesday, Nov. 17 – The convicted man’s two lawyers from Carrington file a motion in district court in Bismarck asking for a change of plea an a jury trial. Some new evidence is discovered on the Wolf farm only days before the motion is filed.

Saturday, Nov. 27 – The district court judge who had pronounced the original sentence hears oral arguments concerning the convicted man’s petition.


Friday, Jan. 28 – The judge denies the Layer’s petition for a change of plea and a jury trial.

Thursday, Feb. 24 – The Bismarck Tribune reports that the new attorney general, William Lemke, has his men making mysterious trips to the Turtle Lake area, that they may be taking some further action, and that they are operating independent of the authorities in McLean County.

Saturday, July 2 – Layer’s lawyers file the appellant’s brief for an appeal with the North Dakota Supreme Court. New attorney general Lemke files the respondent’s brief and the new McLean County states attorney, and his assistant, the former state’s attorney.

Monday, August 29 – The North Dakota Supreme Court announces that it has agreed to hear Layer’s appeal.

Thursday, October 6 – Supreme Court votes unanimously to refuse his appeal.  Justice Richard Grace writes the court’s opinion.

Monday, October 17 – Governor Frazier pays the state’s $1,000 reward in the Wolf murder case to the Bismarck chief of police.

Friday, October 28 – Governor Frazier, Attorney General Lemke and Agriculture Commissioner Hagan are recalled by voters in the first successful gubernatorial recall election in the nation’s history. 


Lynn Frazier is elected to the U.S. Senate on the NPL-Republication ticket.  Serves until he is defeated in the 1940 election by William Langer.

Judge William Nuessele is elected to the North Dakota Supreme Court at the age of 44, filling the seat vacated by Justice Richard Grace, who wrote the court’s opinion in the man’s appeal.  Nuessele serves on the court until 1950.


Saturday, March 21 – Henry Layer dies in the penitentiary infirmary at 3:10 a.m. from complications following surgery for appendicitis ten days earlier at St. Alexius Hospital in Bismarck.



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