Feats of Jealousy
Thursday, December 15, 2005
Residents in Mercer County were mystified by the death of a popular young rancher north of Beulah on November 3, 1916. At around noon, John Maier found his brother, Carl*, lying beside a public road between their farm and Beulah. Powder burns on Carl’s skin and clothing showed he’d been shot point blank, “once under his left arm and again in the chest, at the spot where the first bullet came out.” In the hospital he regained consciousness only long enough to say he was shot with his own 30-30 rifle by a man riding a white horse.
A large posse fanned out across the countryside in search of the shooter. A farmer south of Beulah said he saw a man swimming his horse across the river that day. John Albers, Carl’s brother-in-law, called for the arrest of two men seen near the Maier farmstead that day – one was on a bay, the other was on a black, and with them was a black dog with a white ring around its neck. Late that night, a posse reported they’d found a man on horseback and pursued him, but they lost him when he turned into some brush.
Maier died around midnight. He was buried in Hanover, where his mother lived. Carl’s 19 year-old fiancé, Rebecca Henke, also lived in Hanover. One article reported Carl “was building a bungalow in Beulah and expected to take his bride there shortly.”
In the following days and weeks, the newspapers could do nothing more than report the slayer was still at large, and no motive for the crime had been found. One story read, “Clue after clue has been traced without success. The sheriff and his deputies have about given up in despair. The late Carl Maier was one of the best known and highly respected residents of this village.”
Among the suspects investigated was John Maier, the brother who found Carl on the road after he’d been shot. Adding suspicions about him was a very poorly spelled letter sent to him from Zap on November 29th. It read, “Dear Sir. John, I will drop you a few lines. You shot your brother Carl. I seaned it and if you will give me $300 I will ceap still. You put the money on the telephone post two miles north from Beulah. Just first post west from corner on the school house about December 6. Be quick or I do som ting.” The sheriff set a trap for the would-be blackmailer, but he never showed.
Some contended Carl killed himself. Although his wounds indicated this was nearly impossible, suicide was the only scenario that offered a real motive. Found in his pocket that day was a letter from Rebecca saying their engagement was off. She had found another man. The “other man” was identified and questioned, but was soon dismissed as a possible suspect.
More than a month after Carl’s death, Attorney General Linde directed States Attorney John Cass to exhume Maier’s body so the bullet wounds could be re-evaluated. This was done and, on December 14th, Maier’s body was examined before a packed house on stage at The Fotoplay movie theater in Hazen.
A decision was finally reached on this date in 1916. Carl Maier committed suicide in a fit of jealousy. It was proposed he could have held the rifle perpendicular to his body and fired – and the second shot could have fired as he fell to the ground.
Rebecca was overcome with grief, saying Carl would have known she wasn’t serious, or she would have returned his ring. She wrote the letter in a fit of jealousy after learning Carl had recently written to a former sweetheart. Rebecca stated if he hadn’t gotten murdered, he would have “come to her at once,” because it had worked before.
(*also spelled Karl)
Source: Bismarck Daily Tribune. Nov 4, 5, 23, 1916; Dec 9, 11, 14 & 15, 1916.
Dakota Datebook written by Merry Helm