Elisabeth Congdon Murder: Where Are Roger Caldwell and Marjorie Congdon Now?

Image Credit: Kay/Find a Grave

In 1977, the luxurious 22-acre estate of the Congdons in Duluth, Minnesota, became the site of two tragic and brutal murders of millionaire Elisabeth Congdon and her caretaker Velma Pietila. Given the wealth of Elisabeth, the police had quite a few suspects in their list who could have had a motive for the killing. But when they dug deeper, the revelation of the truth shocked them, along with the victims’ close ones. Whether it is the events that led to the gruesome crime or the investigation that followed, every intricate detail is covered in ‘Evil Stepmothers: Death Becomes Her,’ which also includes exclusive interviews with the family and friends of Elisabeth to provide us with answers to all out questions related to the case.

Elisabeth Congdon Was Found Murdered Along With Her Caretaker

The wealthy Congdon family welcomed little Elisabeth Mannering Congdon on April 22, 1894, in Duluth, Minnesota. Raised under the umbrella of love and care of her parents, Chester Adgate Congdon and Clara Hesperia Bannister Congdon, Elisabeth lived a life of luxury from the very beginning. Out of all her siblings, which included Walter Bannister Congdon, Edward Chester Congdon, Marjorie Congdon Dudley, Helen Clara Congdon d’Autremont, John Congdon, and Robert Congdon, she was the youngest one. Growing up as a part of the Congdon family, which was considered one of the richest and most influential families in Minnesota, she lived in a 39-room mansion along Lake Superior in Duluth.

Image Credit: Murray Munro/Find a Grave

Elisabeth made a decision never to enter wedlock, but in 1932, she adopted her first daughter, Marjorie Mannering Congdon (originally named Jacqueline Barnes). Three years later, in 1935, she adopted her second daughter, Jennifer Susan Congdon. When she entered her 80s, Elisabeth’s health started deteriorating. After suffering from a stroke, she got paralyzed on one side and confined to a wheelchair, needing around-the-clock care from a caretaker.

On June 27, 1977, horror echoed on the premises of the Congdon household as the 83-year-old Elisabeth Congdon was found dead, along with her nurse, Velma Pietila, who had come out of retirement to fill in for the evening. As the police arrived at the scene and inspected the lifeless bodies of the two women, they learned that the millionaire elderly woman was suffocated with a satin pillow while her help had been beaten to death by a candelabra. Given the state of the messy bedroom and the missing jewelry box, the motive for the killing was believed to be robbery at first. Little did the detectives and the victim’s loved ones know that something way more sinister was at play.

A Close One of Elisabeth Congdon Killed Her For Her Wealth

After connecting the dots and interrogating Elisabeth Congdon’s family and friends, the investigators learned that due to her severe illness, her fortune, which was worth millions, was being held by a trust at the time of her demise. Meanwhile, Marjorie and her husband, Roger, were going through a rough patch financially, with their house foreclosed and cars repossessed. Interestingly, the adopted daughter was to inherit $8 million upon the death of Elisabeth. So, since Marjorie and Roger were desperate for money, the investigators suspected them to be persons of interest.

However, in 1970, after 19 years of marriage, Marjorie and Richard got divorced, mainly due to their massive financial debt. Five years later, in 1975, the former moved to Colorado to begin a new life, leaving her kids behind with Roger. To leave no stone unturned, she and her former husband, Roger, were brought in for questioning by the detectives. The mother of seven children had a concrete alibi for herself, as she was in Denver on the night of the murders. Moreover, the police got a search warrant for their house, where they ended up finding incriminating pieces of evidence, including a letter postmarked on the day of Elisabeth’s murder addressed to Roger containing a gold coin that belonged to Elisabeth.

As the envelope was found to have Roger’s thumbprint on it, the investigators had direct evidence connecting him to the crime. They even found a few pieces of jewelry that had been missing from Elisabeth’s bedroom. In light of all these pieces of evidence, Roger Caldwell was taken into custody for murder, but he claimed that he was innocent and being framed. The following day, Marjorie was arrested and charged with accessory to murder. To make matters worse for her, her children filed a lawsuit against her as they believed that she was responsible for their grandmother’s killing and should not receive any inheritance. While she did not get her hands on the $8 million, she did receive a particular sum of money each month.

Roger Died After His Release From Prison While Marjorie Leads a Private Life

On July 8, 1978, Roger stood trial for his charges related to Elisabeth’s murder. After he was found guilty of killing Elisabeth and her caretaker, he received two consecutive life imprisonment sentences. Later, taking the plea deal, he confessed to the murders and got out of prison after serving five years. However, having lived a life of freedom for a few years, he died by suicide on May 18, 1988. On the other hand, on July 21, 1979, Marjorie was found not guilty by the jury and was acquitted of the charges against her.

After getting acquitted, Marjorie had a run-in with the law yet again in the 1980s. After marrying her friend Helen’s husband, Wally, after her demise, she convinced him to sever ties with his kids and move to Ajo, Arizona, with her. While residing in the small town, she got involved in several cases of arson before she was caught red-handed by the police while she was trying to set ablaze her neighbor’s house. She was arrested and charged with several arsons across the town on March 24, 1991. After getting sentenced to 15 years in prison, she was allowed to have the last 24 hours of freedom to make necessary arrangements for her ailing husband.

While Marjorie was granted freedom for a day before she headed to prison, the police kept a close watch on her movements. When they decided to visit her house, they found her husband, Wally, dead in his bed. She claimed that he died by suicide and handed a suicide note written by him. However, the authorities took her into custody and charged her with the murder of her husband on October 29, 1992. Later, the prosecutors dropped the murder charges against her. After serving 11 out of the 15 years for the arson charges, she was released from prison in 2004.

However, after spending five years outside of prison, Marjorie was arrested again, this time for forgery and fraud. Although she was convicted, she was only given probation. As of 2017, she was an 84-year-old woman residing in Arizona. Living out her old days today, Marjorie seems to be busy as she successfully keeps her private life under wraps.

Read More: Andre Montgomery’s Murder: Where is Tim Norman Now?