Letter from the Publisher

Mansions, Money and Murder

On June 27, 1977, I was 14 and living in rural Wisconsin some 66 miles south of Duluth. That morning, my clock radio aired a special news report about a double homicide at Glensheen mansion. Heiress Elisabeth Congdon had been murdered and her night nurse, Velma Pietila, bludgeoned to death.

I became riveted by the crime and followed the two subsequent trials with keen interest. While attending the University of Minnesota–Duluth, I toured the estate several times and recall that questions about the murders were considered off-limits by Glensheen staff. I would stray from the group to roam the mansion, exploring the scene of the crime.

Our feature, “Murder At Glensheen” written by Joe Kimball and illustrated by Anthony Peruzzo, is the incredible tale of the most infamous murder case in Minnesota history. In 1977, Kimball was a rookie reporter for the Minneapolis Tribune and was sent to Duluth to cover the crimes from day one. Since then, he has reported on every aspect of this ongoing story.

As part of our coverage, we also conducted an exclusive interview with the good guys from
the case: chief prosecutor John DeSanto and lead investigator Gary Waller. Over the past five years, I’ve become friendly with DeSanto, who went on to become a state judge. As he told me, this was “the most complex, difficult circumstantial case with so many different kinds of evidence — some of which I’ve never dealt with before or since.”

What happened 40 years ago remains unsolved. Here, we offer an accurate historical account of the events as told by those closest to them. We also present alternative theories to let you, the reader, decide for yourself what actually took place. The eccentric characters involved are as fascinating as the crime itself. Glensheen has been the subject of numerous books and, most recently, a hit musical (see “It’s Showtime” on page 60). The star of the show? Marjorie Congdon LeRoy Caldwell Hagen, who resides in Tucson, Arizona, and turns 85 this summer. (She declined our interview requests.)

Welcome to the summer issue of Artful Living, which celebrates adventure. In our pages you’ll find a tour of Lochmoor estate, a Glensheen sister property sitting along Lake Superior’s shore that has been lovingly restored by owners Lee and Penny Anderson. And our story “Anchors Aweigh” offers a first-person account of traversing the Great Lakes on a mighty freighter.
Consider making the trip to the charming port city of Duluth this season to tour Glensheen mansion. Trust us: You will not be disappointed.


Frank Roffers
Publisher + Editor-In-Chief

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