Marjorie Congdon Hagen, the rich adopted daughter who was the alleged mastermind behind the Glensheen Mansion murders, is the subject of an all-new Evil Stepmothers.
Investigation Discovery’s Evil Stepmothers highlights terrifying stories of murder with a stepmother as its central theme. In the episode titled “Death Becomes Her,” expect to hear from the stepchildren of Marjorie Congdon, police detectives who are familiar with the Duluth, Minnesota, crime, and crime experts who will discuss the story.
Marjorie Congdon was accused of plotting the death of her wealthy mother, Elisabeth Congdon, and nurse Velma Pietila, who were found dead at the Congdon estate almost 40 years ago. The man who actually committed the murder was Roger Caldwell, the second husband of Elisabeth Congdon’s adopted daughter, Marjorie, according to MinnPost.
Congdon Mansion Murders of 1977
The tragic story goes all the way back to July 1977. That’s when someone found the bodies of 83-year-old Elisabeth Congdon, a millionairess, and 65-year-old Velma Pietila, her nurse, in the second-floor bedroom at the Glensheen Mansion. When detectives arrived at the scene located at 3300 London Road in Duluth, Minnesota, they found the older woman dead in her bed. She had been smothered to death with a pink satin pillow case. In an old newspaper from the 1970s, it was speculated that the elderly woman also had a heart attack during the struggle, and there were bruises and abrasions found on her face.
The body of the younger woman was found in a pool of blood on the staircase. An autopsy report shows that she was most likely thrown down the flight of stairs before she was beaten to death with a brass candlestick holder, judging by the many skull fractures that had been found on the victim’s head. Velma Pietila shouldn’t have been there, since she had already resigned from the job months earlier. She was at the lakeside mansion that fateful day to fill in for another night nurse.
Detectives originally thought the crime was a robbery, since an empty jewelry box was found and one of the cars was missing. However, an in-depth investigation of the family members led detectives to 43-year-old Roger Caldwell, Marjorie Congdon’s husband. A check into the couple’s finances indicated that they were having money problems. Roger Caldwell and Marjorie Congdon were arrested and charged with murder. Caldwell was sentenced to time in prison, but Marjorie was found not guilty.
After the Murders — Deaths Continued
In the years since the murders, Marjorie Congdon, who is also known as Marjorie C. LeRoy, Marjorie Caldwell, and Marjorie Hagen, has been in and out of prison due to arson and insurance fraud. The aging woman has also been linked to several other mysterious deaths, one involving some poisoned marmalade. As for Caldwell, he was eventually released from prison but committed suicide in 1988. In an eerie twist, Roger Caldwell’s daughter, Christy O’Neill, was accused of smothering her 65-year-old mother, Martha Lowe Burns, to death and then packing her body in salt. That incident happened at 6751 S. Albion Way in Colorado. Detectives found the woman’s body in the basement inside of a makeshift coffin.
The Denver Post describes the finding like this.
“The box was covered with a blanket and adorned with a large funeral spray of roses. There were traces of burned incense and candles were burning at each end of the makeshift casket. Along the side sat a teddy bear. ‘It looks like a homemade body preparation,’ Sheriff Pat Sullivan said when he visited the scene. ‘The body was wrapped (in cloth) and packed in salt.'”
Christy O’Neill allegedly killed her mother after dreaming that she was about to smother her with a pillow. O’Neill was found dead from an apparent suicide — just like her father. You can see a picture of the home here. It has had several occupants over the years. It makes one wonder if they know the home’s history.
The Congdons made their money in the mining, banking, and lumber business. The Congdon mansion was so magnificent that it was once the site of a Hollywood movie starring Patty Duke in 1971. History Theatre provides the following information about the home.
“Clarence Johnston designed Glensheen, built as the family home of Chester Congdon. The estate sits currently on 7.6 acres of waterfront property on Lake Superior in Duluth, MN. The home has 39 rooms and is built in the Jacobean architectural tradition, inspired by the grand homes in England. The interiors were designed by William French and the formal terraced garden and English style landscape designed by the Charles Wellford Leavitt firm out of New York. Construction began in 1905, and completed in 1908.”
Today, the estate is the site of many tours. However, guests are advised not to ask about the great Congdon tragedy or any ghosts that have been rumored to haunt the place. To watch tonight’s Evil Stepmothers, tune into Investigation Discovery (ID) at 10/9 p.m. central. Read our other stories about Evil Stepmothers — sexy seductress Sharon Nelson and the tragic story of the boy who dug his own grave, Chris Hobson.
[Photo by AP Images]