Lillian's Legacy
Lillian's Legacy
Marriage and Murder in Rural Iowa
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Lillian Chalman, a single mother of four children, is induced to marry Howard Randolph, a man she knows casually. Now in his middle years, Howard is intent on being a father and proposes marriage without the usual romance and courtship. Lillian is motivated by an opportunity for security for her children and a new family life in the luxurious home of a wealthy businessman. Lillian moves from her native Duluth to Guthrie Center, a small Iowa town where Howard is well known and widely despised for his ruthless business practices.

Lillian’s expectations of a secure family existence are shattered, as she becomes a battered wife trying to make a life for her children. After five years of unsuccessful efforts to salvage the marriage, Lillian files for separate maintenance and gains possession of the house, a monthly stipend, and custody of her minor children. Howard is enraged. Two swarthy men in a white Cadillac arrive in Guthrie Center and Lillian disappears. What follows shows the consequences of wife battering and the failings of the criminal justice system. That is Lillian’s Legacy.

Ruby and Floyd Krakau did not sleep much the night of Lillian's disappearance. Ruby had a "gut feeling," as she recalls, that Lillian would never be found alive, perhaps never found at all. She knew Lillian would have made every effort to fulfill her responsibilities at the Mother- Daughter Banquet the day before. She had a key to the church for that purpose. Perhaps, Ruby thought, Lillian had gone to the church early, before anyone else arrived, and something had happened to her at that time. Ruby had to find out for herself.

The Krakaus drove to the Lutheran Church to see if Ruby's hunch might be true. They found the door to the church locked, an unusual circumstance during daylight hours. Was it possible, they wondered, that Lillian's body might be locked inside? They went to the residence of Reverend Lutz seeking a church key, but he was not home.

In the immediate aftermath of Lillian's disappearance there was concern for anyone linked to her who could not be located quickly. The evening before Ann had such concerns about Wendy when she could not immediately find her. Now the Krakaus had similar concerns about the Reverend Lutz. But their more immediate concern was the possibility that Lillian's body might be found in the church. Ruby called the sheriffs office.

Roger Brown, one of Sheriff Peterson's two deputies, took Ruby's call and went immediately to the Lutheran Church, a drive of only a few minutes from the sheriff's office. Roger was joined by the Krakaus. Roger and Floyd forced the locked church door open and the three of them thoroughly searched the building. They found nothing. Their only gratification was learning a few minutes later, when he arrived at the church that Reverend Lutz had not also disappeared.

Lester Peterson would have gone to the church, but he could not get away from his office. There was much to be done and the phone was ringing, ringing, ringing. People who knew of Lillian's disappearance, and the number was growing rapidly, wanted to know if she had been found and, if not, what action Lester was taking. It was impossible for him to do much of anything with the phone constantly ringing. His normal manner was to try and ease the anxieties of people who called him with problems, and that would be the large majority of Lester's calls. He was used to telling people, "Don't worry, everything will be all right." Or perhaps, "Don't worry, I'll take care of everything." But in this situation Lester's normally soothing words did not work. They seemed hollow to him as well as to those on the telephone line. He needed to ease the growing tensions of the community. But what words could possible serve that purpose when the news was quickly spreading and anxieties were rising rapidly?

Carroll R. McKibbin, whose hometown in Iowa, is the setting for this book, is a professor emeritus now living in semiretirement with his wife, Lynn, in San Luis Obispo, California. As a full-time or visiting professor, Dr. McKibbin has held faculty positions at the University of Kansas, Drake University, the University of Nebraska, Cal Poly, Iowa State University, and the University of Pittsburgh. Professor McKibbin is the author of many journal articles and books, including Choices in American Government and In Pursuit of National Interests.


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