Episode 218: Wolf Family Murders: Horror Show in North Dakota

This episode is brought to you by El Yucateco

On this episode of the Sofa King Podcast, we do some true crime and look into the horrible Wolf Family Murders. Jacob and Beata Wolf both moved to North Dakota in the early 1900s and started a family in 1905. They were a prosperous farming family blessed with six daughters. In a time of economic difficulties, they even made enough money to hire a neighbor as a farm hand. Their daughters ranged from 9 months old to 13 years, but on April 22, 1920, the entire family and their farm hand were all brutally murdered.

On April 24th, the neighbors noticed that the family had failed to bring in their laundry or their horses for two days, even though a storm came through. They tried to call the Wolfs, but their phone line was dead, so they drove over to investigate. When they parked, there was nobody around, and they heard the crying of their infant from inside the house. Eventually, they went into the house and found a bloody scene in the kitchen and a true horror show in the cellar.

The farm hand, Beata Wolf, and several of the daughters were all dead. And here’s where it gets brutal. They were killed either by shotgun blasts, hatchet injuries, or even the blunt end of the hatchet on the three year old.

From there, the neighbors found the father dead in the lawn and the two final daughters dead in a manure pile covered in hay. Most articles and sources out there lay the blame on a man named Henry Layer. He was a neighbor who apparently had an argument about an injured cow six months before the deaths. Meanwhile, Governor Lynn Frazier was in a political battle with Attorney General William Langer. Langer hired investigators to check into the murder, trying to find a suspect before the governor could act, so he’d have a political advantage in the governor’s race. So, investigators descended on the scene, though none of them had jurisdiction, and they had Henry Layer arrested for the crime.

However, Layer’s confession is made under incredible duress, and he asked several times for a juried trial but was refused. How did the investigators get Layer to confess to the Wolf Family Murders? What threats did they make to him, and did they in fact beat him while in jail? Why don’t Layer’s confession details line up with the forensic evidence? Why do many people think it took more than one killer to pull this off? What is Brad’s theory on who was behind the murders (and why does it make so much damned sense…)? Listen, laugh, learn.

Episode of Dark Matters with Cayleigh Elise that talks about the Wolf Family Murders: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-6gPFj1wobg

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