Murder in the Mansion

Joe Kimball has kept his book about the Congdon murders updated throughout the years. Photo provided.

Joe Kimball has kept his book about the Congdon murders updated throughout the years. Photo provided.

After pulling over and using a pay phone to call the office, he found nobody had heard about the homicides yet.

“It really was just happening,” he said.

Kimball spent three summers covering the double homicide and two trials of those suspected to be involved in the murders, following the trials to several other cities. In the 1980s, after the Glensheen Historic Estate was reopened for tours, he found nobody would talk about the murders. This is when he decided to write the first version of his book, “Secrets of the Congdon Mansion: The Unofficial Guide to Glensheen and the Congdon Murders,” which he has kept updated ever since.

Kimball will visit the Austin Public Library at 7 p.m. Oct. 26 to discuss his book and answer questions about the murders which only someone who was there during the chaotic scene afterward can answer.

“I’m excited to do it, it should be fun,” Kimball said about coming to Austin.

As his wife Julie Kramer, a mystery novelist, grew up around the area, Kimball said he is excited to visit Austin again and see friends and family, as well as make new friends.

Kimball worked for the Star Tribune until 2007, and now works for MinnPost, a nonprofit online publication. He lives with his family in White Bear Lake. The Glensheen murders recently drew attention from a new musical “Glensheen,” which has been performed at the History Theatre in St. Paul. Kimball said the murders have always been subject for curiosity, and he said the musical was fairly good.

Joe Kimball reported on the Congdon family murders when they first happened in 1977. Photo provided.

Joe Kimball reported on the Congdon family murders when they first happened in 1977. Photo provided.

In his book, Kimball follows the murders along with the life of the adopted daughter Marjorie Congdon and her husband, Roger Caldwell, who were suspected of the murders. He updates the book every year or two whenever Marjorie — who was acquitted for the murders — does something interesting. Roger eventually confessed to both murders, took a plea deal and later committed suicide.

“I have a good alibi,” Joe laughed. “I was there that day, but I didn’t do it.”

While covering the murders for the paper he worked at, he wrote his book during his own time.

Kimball was excited to be invited to the Austin Public Library. He was contacted after someone in Austin saw him at a program in Rochester. Kimball has talked at other libraries and has been invited to Glensheen Mansion many times to talk about the case with people and sign books in the gift shop. Though he said tour guides still don’t talk about the murders much, tour guides are now allowed to give basic information on what happened.

Kimball said he could go on for hours about the Glensheen murders, and he hopes the Austin audience will walk away with more knowledge about the case.

“I hope that they will learn more about the case,” he said. “Particularly if they’ve been on the tour and felt that they hadn’t got the information that they really wanted about the case.”

“I try to as best I can humanize both Mrs. Congdon, who was killed, and the nurse who was killed,” he added. “And show that they were really tragic victims in this.”

He hopes people will start to understand the effects the murders had on both the Congdon family but also Duluth as a whole, as the family was pillars of the community for more than a century.

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