Madame de Mule
Wednesday, July 18, 2012
There have been several historical murders in North Dakota that have captured the attention of the media and the sympathy of the people. One of these is the Wolf family murder near Turtle Lake in April, 1920.
In early May, Henry Layer confessed to killing the seven members of the Jacob Wolf family, along with their chore boy. Layer claimed there had been difficulties between himself and Jacob Wolf for some time, and that the tragic act had stemmed from an injury one of Wolf’s dogs had done to one of Layer’s cows.
Layer’s trial was quick; the Bismarck Tribune reported: “At no time during the brief trial or the trip to Bismarck did the slayer express the slightest concern over the eight persons he murdered exactly three weeks ago. Given every opportunity to change his plea or repudiate his confession, and warned by Judge Nuessle of the seriousness of the charge to which he confessed and later plead guilty, Layer stoically refused the services of a lawyer and only asked …’let it be over with as fast as possible.’”
Layer was given a life sentence, but not everyone believed the case to be clear-cut. Around this date in 1920, Layer’s friends took up a cry for another hearing, proclaiming him to be innocent.
At the same time, Madame de Mules, a St. Paul clairvoyant, sought the $1,000 reward that had been offered by Governor Frazier for the capture of the Wolf family murderer. Mules visited North Dakota in this quest, accompanied by G. W. King, a St. Paul detective who had been engaged by the Attorney General’s office to help find the culprit. He had gone to Madame de Mule for help on several cases in St. Paul, and had consulted her again regarding the Wolf family murders. As the paper reported, “The Madame, using her powers to see the unseen, soon had a mental picture of the whole crime, which included Layer. Then King went back to Turtle Lake and he gave information to the local officers, who made the arrest and obtained the confession, which Layer now is trying to repudiate. Therefore, the Madame deserves the reward, she says. And she is going to get it, if she can.”
She also claimed a different reason for the murder, and that there was another person, but she didn’t make much headway in gaining the reward. A few weeks later, it was reported that the governor’s reward was never paid.
Dakota Datebook written by Sarah Walker
The Bismarck Tribune, July 21, 1920, p1
The Bismarck Tribune, July 20, 1920, p1
The Bismarck Tribune, August 4, 1920, p6
The Bismarck Tribune, May 13, 1920, p1