New Book About Gruesome Killer in Montana is Nightmare Fuel
On a summer night in July 1973, a 7-year old girl named Susie Jaeger disappeared while camping with her family at Headwaters State Park. Her siblings were inside the tent when she was taken, but none of them saw or heard anything.
Susie Jaeger's murder was one of several that occurred between Bozeman and Three Forks from 1967 through 1974.
In 1967, a young boy died from a single gunshot wound while climbing the Nixon Bridge just north of the small town of Manhattan, west of Bozeman. Authorities launched an investigation and later determined that it was most likely a stray bullet from a property owner in the area that was out target shooting. Back then, that sort of thing was fairly common.
The two murders mentioned above and others are detailed in a new nonfiction novel titled Shadow Man, by author Ron Franscell.
As a resident of Manhattan, I was shocked when I first heard about the gruesome murders and a serial killer that graduated from Manhattan High School in 1967. I was intrigued by the story, so I went out a bought a copy of the book. The murders led to an FBI manhunt in Gallatin County and also documents the first time that the FBI used the method of psychologically profiling criminal offenders, a method still used today.
While searching through the hills north of Manhattan, law enforcement officers discovered a site where bodies had been dismembered and burned at the abandoned, Lockhart Ranch.
After investigating many suspects, authorities arrested 25-year-old Manhattan resident David Meirhofer in 1974. When he was arrested, he was paraded down Main St. in Bozeman by authorities and FBI agents.
David Meirhofer later confessed to the murders of 7-year-old Susie Jaeger and 19-year-old Sandra Dykman Smallegan, who had gone missing after a night out drinking at the American Legion in Manhattan in February of 1974. The bodies of Jaeger and Smallegan were determined to be those found at the ranch north of Manhattan.
Meirhofer was also linked to the murders of 13-year-old Bernard L. Poelman and 12-year-old Michael E. Raney but was never convicted.
Unfortunately, Meirhofer was only charged with the murders he confessed to in Gallatin County, although authorities believed that he was responsible for several other murders as well. Shortly after confessing to the murders, he hung himself with a towel in the Gallatin County Jail.
Again, as a resident of Manhattan, I had never heard any mention of this story and the details are horrifying and fascinating at the same time.