In early 1960, after longing for children and unable to have her own, Lois & Harold Jurgens applied to adopt. The county offered her a 2-yr-old boy and turned him down for being too old. A chance encounter they jumped on and called their attorney and just like that they became parents to a baby boy born on 6-22-1960. Four days later he was in the arms of the Jurgenses. In honor of Harold's father, they named the baby Robert. They were looked down upon by welfare due to not having things done OFFICIALLY. The welfare dept. approved after they found out - after the fact. In 1961, even though they already had Robert, Lois & Harold still felt incomplete.
When the Jurgens' finances had qualified them to adopt again, Harold was 40 & Lois was 36 - almost too old to adopt. On Christmas 1961, they applied again seeking to adopt a second. After the initial housing inspection from the agency, the Jurgens' passed w/ only two specifics. They wanted a child under a year old and they wanted a Catholic.
On Dec. 6, 1961, an 8 1/2 baby boy was born w/o complications. The father, Dennis McIntyre, was 19. The mother, Jerry Ann Puckett was 17 and both were unmarried. Jerry named the boy Dennis Craig Puckett. Jerry was Protestant. She was planning on joining the Roman Catholic faith, that's why 9 days later, she asked Dennis be baptized as a Catholic. Jerry's residence, when it wasn't at the Sauk Centre Reform School, was at the Twin Cities. So her and Dennis' fate rested on the welfare dept. Jerry really wanted to keep the baby, but her own situation made that highly unlikely to be a caretaker. After some reluctance, she consented that on 12-15, Dennis was put into foster care straight from the hospital and terminated her parental rights. So it was then officially noted on 11-2-62, that Dennis Puckett was then placed in the home of Harold & Lois Jurgens.
Throughout the pre-placement, Lois spoke to officials "We're rather disappointed at the child's age" considering that by this time Dennis was well into a happy, healthy, joyous and no trouble for anyone 1-yr-old. Even at first lance, Lois stated "Dennis didn't seem very well behaved". Comparing him to Robert, saying that "Robert was leaving things alone by age 1." After meeting Dennis and a quick test drive, Lois just never seemed to respond to Dennis at all. Lois didn't really want to take Dennis but she felt that if she didn't take him, she wouldn't get another chance to adopt a child w/ their specifications. (Sort of - if we don't take him, we may not get another chance for a kid). Officials realized that Lois NEVER ONCE even touched Dennis. When the social worker called, Lois wasn't all too happy. She wasn't HONESTLY wanting Dennis in the first place AT ALL!
|Dennis & Robert|
On 12-7-62, in the early afternoon, Dennis arrived for the first time at the Jurgens' home. He was exactly 1-yr and 1-day-old. Five days later, Lois was having a hard time w/ Dennis and his being so energetic and Robert being jealous. While she wouldn't give in to Dennis after his adjusting, but Dennis didn't get any training or was even given a chance to prove that he could be a good boy. After being asked if she was going to actually keep Dennis, "she didn't know" was her laughing reply. The differences w/ Robert and Dennis were: Robert was put somewhere - he stayed as told; Dennis was always running around like a normal boy - never one to sit still.
On 12-27, Harold signed the official placement papers since Lois was out sick. Lois was pleased and happy. Others seen an amazing change in her. As the placement became official, Lois was more casual and relaxed. She no longer prepared for Social Services or complained about Dennis.
When Lois would take Dennis to the doctor's, he weighed 23 LBS. While some seen very bad burns on him "from hot water", other nurses caring for Dennis couldn't help but notice bruises all over his body. When Dennis was to be treated for the burns, he had to be eased into treatment twice a day. He needed skin graphing for the burns. He was in no pain and was a well-adjusted, happy child. He was not scared nor did he cry. Three weeks later, Dennis was happy at home. He continued to blossom and speak clear sentences, happy and friendly.On Feb. 11, 1964, the adoption was COMPLETELY FINALIZED.
At family gatherings, Robert was quiet/shy. Everyone would offer him candy & cookies, but he refused. Dennis would take it and get in trouble. Whenever Dennis showed any interest in a good time, he would get yelled at and in trouble for it. At a funeral for Lois' sister, Barbara, Dennis & Robert recited for 20 minutes w/o forgetting the rosary. Relatives watched and were astonished/appreciative. At the service, they wondered why Dennis was wearing sunglasses inside the mortuary. Even thru reciting the rosary, the sunglasses were to cover Dennis' eyes.
On Palm Sunday (4-11-65), Officer Robert VanderWyst responded to a radio call in his car to 2148 S. Gardenette Dr. of a D.O.A. small child. VanderWyst knew exactly who's home he was heading to. Lois' brother was the #2 man on the police force. Dr. Roy Peterson was already there, he knew Robert VanderWyst due to being his doctor. Harold Jurgens' called Dr. Peterson a little after 9:00A, saying he feared his son was dying. By the time authorities arrived, Dennis was dead. He died around 9:30A. VanderWyst noticed the Jurgens' showing distraught for Dennis - but NO tears. Talking to Harold & Lois, they told the same story. Dennis had been suffering from a bad cold. The day before Dennis had slipped on the bathroom floor near the basement, striking his head on the bathroom tile. Lois called to say Dennis was sick and Harold returned home that night. After checking on Dennis several times, Harold took him to the bathroom and sat him on the toilet. Dennis was fine, talking normally, even noticing that his dad's watch was broken. When Lois went to check on Dennis again after his being back in bed, he was gurgling and gasping for breath. After calling the doctor, Lois/Harold kept going over the same points over/over again. Only once did the story vary. Dennis had also fallen down the basement stairs during the past week and struck the back of his head. He also slipped near the bathroom and fell down the stairs. The other boy, Robert, had been sitting w/ them in the living room and running about - perfectly fine. VanderWyst's car radio went off at 11:04 A.M. A Car was blocking the driveway at 823 Fifth Street by the time officers reached the house, the mysterious car drove away and went back to the Jurgenses.
After reaching the residence, the coroner's investigator and the ambulance driver arrived together. They arrived in Dennis' room. Dennis was lying on his back in the crib w/ his arms stretched alongside his body. His hands and forearms reached 8" off the mattress. Bed covers were pulled below to his armpits that obscured the lower parts of his body. VanderWyst could see a good number of black/blue spots on his face, head & arms. On Dennis' face alone, it was counted at least a dozen bruises; large and small. BIG abrasions covering his forehead and his nose was blood-red and peeling.
When Dennis was to be carried out of the house, VanderWyst found it odd that within an EXACT 2-hr span, a body doesn't just get stiff. When investigators looked at the bod, they were wondering "What was the cause of death?" The doctor couldn't comprehend anyone torturing a kid. But they do know that Dennis' death didn't come from natural causes. After he left the Jurgenses home, word spread from home-to-home there had been a death. They said it was from a fall down the basement stairs. Neighbors began to question what they seen and were quite disturbed by it.
VanderWyst noted that Dennis had a small bruise like a scrape mark the size of a nickel on his forehead and a red mark on his nose. When Dennis' body was being taken for an autopsy, after removing his clothes, they could see EVERY virtual mark all over hi body. Outside of the marks/bruises, Dennis was also found to be SEVERELY malnourished. ABSOLUTELY NO fat on him at all. How could that be? Every kid has some fat on them in various degrees - Not Dennis. During the internal autopsy, Dr. Woodburn found a perforation in Dennis' small bowel, which led to a fifth of a quart of infectious, fecal matter to flow into his abdominal cavity. During this time, more signs formed of what were classic signs of peritonitis. Dennis died most likely after an extended period of agonizing pain. The job of a pathologist was to determine the cause of death. The coroner was to determine how it happened.
Harold explained that Dennis was the sort of individual who was insensitive to pain and therefore didn't complain or tell others he was hurt. Harold rambled in w/ his questions, stating that Dennis always has constipation problems and that he didn't seem to know how to force bowels from his rectum to explain the impactments. Harold's explanation for the bruises & marks on Dennis' "area" were from standing in the bath and turning on the hot water - which scolded him. Dennis was treated for the injuries, but the wounds opened up again - he explained. He stated that "Dennis ate good. He just didn't know how to eat properly and didn't know how to chew. Sometimes swallowing food w/o chewing" Harold stated that he was gone/out of town when the fall down the stairs to Dennis' death occurred. A lot of injuries & accidents occurred when Harold was out-of-town, leaving Lois responsible and lying about the how? After the news of Dennis' death, it transformed Dr. Peterson, it was like a switch turned. He became guarded and uncomfortable, no longer wanting to talk.
Dr. Peterson would lie to authorities about the bruises, stating he didn't remember. After the detectives questioned Lois' family, many years later sticking to their stories, they stalked out the Jurgens' home. The following Monday, Det. VanderWyst & Korolchuk began a series of interviews w/ the Jurgens' neighbors and relatives. The interviews were going NOWHERE, stating they didn't see the Jurgens' very much or that they didn't observe any bruises. Even the talkative neighbors proved to be no help. Mid-morning that Tuesday, there was a funeral held for Dennis Jurgens. The days following newspaper, "The St. Paul Dispatch" featured a story of Dennis' death and some realized that the story and the facts didn't match.
In preparing for Dennis' funeral, Jim Honsa, who helped the Jurgens' prepare, was very troubled by what he seen. He seen Harold & Lois showing ABSOLUTELY NO emotion for Dennis' demise/funeral. It was as if they were drugged. They didn't even respond to a "no" from the moment they walked in. They stood for a few minutes at Dennis' body then walked away - they didn't seem to care WHATSOEVER!! Jim ended up preparing EVERY SINGLE VESTIGE of Dennis' funeral. The first time someone outside of Lois' family seen Dennis, they expected a newborn. The second time they seen Dennis over at the Zerwas home, Lois had him on the floor, trying to get him to walk and Dennis would collapse into a crawl. Lois would pick him up and slap his butt. It was a battle royal for 15 minutes. Finally Lois was yanking Dennis up by the arm and delivering hard blows by the arm/w open hands. NO ONE was doing anything about it. Some watched, some ignored but Dennis was both willful and spirited. One was what she did to Dennis, the other was her manner. Lois seemed to hate Dennis She demeaned him and tore him down all the time.
At the mortuary, everyone gathered and whispered that "Lois killed him". She expected to see people crying, but seen Lois working the crowd, everyone was excited and buzzing w/ talking. Barbara seen many of the bruises that the mortician couldn't hide, including a big one on his forehead, another on his right temple, one on his cheek, one on the side of his nose. A crown of white roses sat on Dennis' head, more so to cover those bruises. Others that noticed looked into his casket and had one thought: "This boy had been murdered".
Lois' explanation at the funeral for everything was that the police had abused him after taking him away. When detectives knocked on the Jurgens' door, there was an order to remove Robert. Officers could hear, not see Lois. After a few words, Lois stated to get clothes for him. Harold turned back to the officers and stated "They must have beat him up at the morgue. Dennis sure didn't have all those bruises when he left here". After Robert was handed to detectives, no one was crying, yelling or showing any emotion. The whole situation was surprisingly odd. After they were off work, detectives felt sure this woman killed her boy. When Robert was admitted on Good Friday at 11:00p, social services found Robert unnaturally uninterested in religion for a5-yr-old boy. Robert told one caseworker that Dennis died of hunger.
Pathologist Tom Votel had seen this before. He knew/understood this was an abused child. Votel decided he wanted to wait on the police to resolve their issues before he ruled on the cause of death on Dennis Jurgens. His death certificate was being waited on until they got more information. They were still waiting on the information 2 yrs. later in 1967. Battered child syndrome was just getting written about and NOT being a concept recognized in a court of law. The state did have good evidence, but NOT substantial enough to hold in a courtroom.
After all of the events that already happened surrounding the Jurgenses, a hearing was held in the Ramsey Co. Courthouse. As the case unfolded, it was to determine the neglect/custody of Robert. But, most of the testimony focused primarily on Dennis. On the witness stand, others remarked of what they seen Lois do over time. From bruises, to shoving horseradish in his mouth, to his sickly appearance. Even after Dennis choked on the force-fed food, he vomited and Lois would force-feed the vomit back to him. After that, they talked of Dennis' potty training. When Dennis would have trouble passing a stool, she used a finger in his rectum. Then she LITERALLY fed him his stool. Asst. District Atty. on this case, Portisky, the Jurgens' family doctor testified on behalf of the Jurgenses. When it was finally Lois' turn to testify, cross-examination tried to direct questions solely onto Dennis, but prosecution tried to object at any opening. With one question, Portisky had Lois in an inescapable box. When it was getting to the point of why Dennis, not Robert, then they pulled the Fifth Amendment privilege. Because the case was to be featuring Robert's custody, NOBODY gave a shit about the abuse Dennis suffered and what led to his death. It was more of a worry of whether Robert was safe w/ the Jurgenses. They had enough evidence, but as they stated "this is not what this case is about". In the end, the judge ruled that the Jurgenses' "are very honorable people of very good intentions", finding that the neglect didn't exist. Upon further evaluations, the hearing adorned.
But being a juvenile case closed proceeding, the newspaper never followed on the two brief reports following Dennis' death. The local White Bear Press never reported his death at all. After it was decided by officials that their would be no "official" prosecution of the Jurgenses into Dennis death, that very day, May 11TH, the word "deferred" was written in the space originally assigned for cause of death on Dennis' death certificate w/ a signature. Publicly speaking the word homicide was never used.
The people that testified against Lois began receiving threatening phone calls, often in the middle of the night. Later they claimed that Lois was the caller. The calls continued until they had to consult an attorney. Sitting in a doctor's office, Lois denied everything. She was adamant that she didn't kill Dennis. She'd punish him, but he died after falling down the stairs. Lois' responses were flat w/ no grief/guilt. After fighting the welfare dept(s) legal custody of Robert, a scheduled hearing for six months down the road. The chief of psychiatry, Dr. Richard Teeter, studied the by now voluminous Jurgens file and couldn't provide a written recommendation. After discussing it at great length, the Jurgenses appeared every 6 months while Robert remained in the custody of Ramsey CO. living w/ relatives and visiting on Sundays.
On several occasions, in '59 & 1960, a pediatrician and a psychiatrist would both wonder how/why people would do this in subject to beaten babies. As it happens, Dennis' death and the puzzled wrestling by lawyer and doctors in Judge Gingold's courtroom, were events that unfolded just as this revolution was coming to life. The state legislature, sitting in St. Paul, adopted Minnesota's pioneering statute on 5-25-65, six weeks after Dennis' death.
When Robert went to stay w/ the Welsches family on Lois side, they did see a young, polite little buy. But they also seen Robert at age 7 so afraid and withdrawn. It was as if Robert was afraid of doing something wrong. Robert LITERALLY had to be taught how to be a kid. Ex. - get muddy. if you make a mess, it's an accident. He was being taught to be a kid and not so woundly rigid. Although Robert showed nervousness, he loved it when the Welsch family included him as their kid. When trying to get Robert to speak gingerly about Dennis, he seemed scared/afraid of what he was supposed to say. When a new social worker began to handle the Jurgens case, obviously she wanted to see the file, at first after reading EVERYTHING prior to this coming into her lap, she was OUTRAGED. She called the offices of Ramsey CO. to read the entire Jurgens file, she was told by the office that they "couldn't find the file, it's been lost". That made her blood rise in her face and angry all at once. "How could the county atty not have the file?" How could this lady not be prosecuted in Dennis' death?
As the days/weeks passed, 2 police sargents that lived near each other on occasion talked about the Jurgens' investigation and be disturbed by the talk. Looking at this case as just gossip. After continuously arguing that there wasn't enough evidence to prosecute Lois, detectives kept the file locked in a drawer, pulling it out from time-to-time. Then in 1968, the file disappeared from a locked drawer.While some never stopped wondering, everyone was in a wonder years later.
In Sept. 1969, just as the Ramsey CO. child abuse team was springing to life, the judge closed the Jurgens file for good. That month, Robert was returned to the Jurgenses. That was something the judge wrestled w/ forever, never finding a satisfactory answer. When Robert was initially in foster care, he was 7, now he's 9. His return didn't provide Lois peace or grace. On 3-5-1970, one week after a follow-up evaluation, the judge officially ordered dismissal of the case almost 5 years to the day Dennis died, the repercussions of Palm Sunday seemed to still grow.
When Harold/Lois filled out adoption papers again, believing this agency they picked would be more receptive, filling out the normal paperwork, they stated they had adopted before only once to Robert. They made no reference to Dennis. On their application - he didn't exist. When crosschecking the information to see if the state had record of this family, only one inquiry came back positive, so was someone not mentioned on any present adoption forms - a small boy named Dennis. Harold/Lois explained that "b/c of past experiences, they were aware of how social agencies used information against you". After awhile & routine, 4 children w/ the last name Howton from Kentucky were placed into Harold/Lois' care.
From what I read, it seemed like these were Lois' dream children, listening and dong as told. When rehearsing their talents, Lois wanted them to excel. If they messed up, they had extra practice, almost bringing them to tears. After the case was closed, the Howton children tried their might and found their was no pleasing Lois. She would display the abuse that Dennis had suffered firsthand. Robert received some of the abuse, but not as much as the Howton's. While Lois was yanking on Robert's ears, he replied to her "Is this what you did to Dennis?" The Howton children from Kentucky hardly knew what Robert was talking about. Once so ebullient, all four Howton children and Robert now felt filled w/ fear & pain all the time.
When asked about the stories of abuse, Lois instead talked of all things she & Harold did for the kids. After visiting Lois, social worker, Carol, went to visit Robert. She found him exceptionally serious and responsile for a 15-yr-old. The original foster mother, Cherie Colling, went to visit at the Jurgenses and felt shocked by what she had seen. These four kids, once so loving and open now seemed like frightened animals fighting for survival. The same attorney that Harold/Lois used prior in Dennis' death, feared a contested hearing might re-open the 1965 death of Dennis Jurgens. A decision for these children to be removed was ordered. A half-year later, on 3-19-76, the judge permanently terminated the Jurgenses parental rights. Not long after this case in point, the bubble had burst for the citizens/families in White Bear Lake, more and more families were reported.
After the many events that changed her life in the Sauk Centre Home School For Girls, Jerry Ann Puckett - Sherwood endured abused from 2 different stepmothers. In her early teens, she was openly rebellious, defying her parents, skipping school, sassing everyone.When she was 13, after shoplifting and running away one weekend, her parents hauled her into court and declared her incorrigible & placed her in a foster home. After bouncing through a few/fleeing, the court committed her to the girls school. After multiple releases & returns, Sauk Centre was getting to be like home to Jerry. She'd learned how to deal w/ it.
After she was sent to a foster family in St. Cloud, she met Dennis McIntyre. Three months after they began dating, Jerry, 16 at the time, invited Dennis over when her foster parents weren't home. After being harped at by her foster parents for having sex, Jerry fled again and was hauled back to Sauk Centre.This time time she was 2 months pregnant.
After awhile, Jerry was pregnant again by Dennis McIntyre. This time, her daughter, Misty, was born. Jerry refused to sign any pares and both mother/child were eventually placed in a foster home. On 6-22-63, Jerry married Dennis McIntyre. They had 3 more children following Misty; 2 girls and a boy, Dennis II. They were divorced in 1970. After that she worked odd jobs to support her kids. Jerry remarried to a company superintendent, Richard Sherwood, but divorced in 1976.
One morning after another passing birthday left her w/ a depression, Jerry contacted the Scott CO. Welfare Dept. After being told by the dept "They'd do what they could" a letter arrived six weeks later informing her that Dennis died of peritonitis on April 11, 1965. She had prepared for Dennis to maybe reject her, but not this. After gathering herself, Jerry managed to get some facts. Dennis' burial site and his adopted last name: Jurgens. When a friend and her went to White Bear to find Dennis' grave and no luck, they checked w/ the mortuary where they kept the records. When she asked for the info that she needed, they knew right away what she was talking about. They were more willing to bring out old files/registers. After she found what she was seeking, a newspaper clipping was faded w/ Dennis death information. Jerry exploded! When they officially found Dennis' grave site, she didn't know it, but Jerry was received help at his grave by one of Lois' brothers. After asking him about the numerous bruises/injuries, he turned and walked away.
Jerry began working & plotting her strategy. After she went back to the welfare dept., she had more feeling in her speaking. "The system took my kid away from me cause they said I couldn't take care if him and gave him to someone who said could and he's dead now. And my own children that I did take care of are alive. And I want to know if you're going to do anything about the one who isn't?" Then she dialed directory and received the Jurgenses number in White Bear Lake. Within minutes Jerry was dialing.
After talking w/ Lois, who was pleasant/polite, she found out about Dennis as a little boy and his life. Lois explained that Dennis' death was mystifying. She didn't know where the bruises came from. Jerry asked for a photo of Dennis in the baptismal slip she'd bought, along w/ the slip itself. After she gave Lois her info, she felt calmer than she had in awhile. Six weeks later, NOTHING arrived. When she tried to call Lois back, in vain, the Jurgenses number changed w/o a new listing.
Four/five years passed after Jerry decided there was nothing more she could do. Five 1/2 years now, Jerry gathered for another try. She sent her son, Dennis Craig, to the library to scour newspaper articles while her daughter, Rhonda, was sent to get Dennis' death certificate. She noticed Dennis' death certificate wasn't complete. Under the "mode of death" portion, it was written as "deferred", which was written in sometimes as a temporary solution.Considering how long this document was - that's a hell of a long temporary.
In September 1986, Jerry was calling the 'St. Paul Pioneer Press' after visiting the medical examiner's office. After the doors to this case swung wide open. The medical examiner knew full well what happened to Dennis., so did others. When reporters began calling Lois, who by this point was more obsessed w/ religion and letting it take over her. Robert by this time had grown up to become a policeman. After his own hang-ups, Robert, in 1986, was married w/ a son. Robert entrusted his son's care into his parents from time/time. The longest was six weeks, while he and his wife were moving.
After a 4-day weekend and prepping, the new attorney, Clayton, was ready. When Clayton seen the pictures/evidence of what this woman did, she needed to be prosecuted. After discussing it in a meeting, Clayton arranged for Ray Sharp, a St. Paul attorney, to protect Jerry. As rapidly that White Bear detectives were working, news organizations (from TV News-to-newspapers) were covering the case. Jerry began to call/complain of why weren't the other Jurgenses' adopted children interviewed? When Robert was talking to his mom on the phone, he tried to pry details of Dennis' death and the actual events. Lois tried to change things around. Hearing Lois' version after all this time, she had NO remorse. When Robert dug deeper, she wanted to go elsewhere in the conversation. After Robert got on the phone w/ his dad joining in, Harold tried to hang up as quick as he could. Afterwards Robert placed a collect call to the White Bear Police Station and detailed his entire conversation w/ his mother. Going over the details, Robert understood the way he was treated as a kid as compared to Dennis. Robert began piecing the details of what TRULY happened that day.
Feeling conflicted about this case, a relative of Lois', June, was afraid of Lois but she had to speak to the detectives, but only what she knew and nothing more. Harold had said stating that he wasn't home when Dennis died. Along w/ this tale, Harold told of proof that put Lois alone w/ Dennis on the weekend that he died. The problem now was how could Dennis be talking normally on the toilet and shortly after he was dead? Det. Ron Meehan went to talk to Dr. Roy Peterson that treated Dennis for the burns he'd had when Lois scolded him w/ hot water. He recalled what occurred to Dennis as a result. Dennis was the talk of the hospital for the burns on his body and the fact that Lois didn't have any. When Det. Meehan spoke to Peterson, he didn't recall giving much thought to the cause of death.
When detectives were questioning Dr. Peterson, at first she, would speak questions w/o giving much of a chance to answer. After this case was re-opened, when Dr. McGee examined the file, he changed the status from 'Deferred' to homicide. Robert knew and felt who killed Dennis. Lois & Harold instructed Robert NOT to talk. What was there to hide? After Robert began to talk w/ Ron Meehan, White Bear PD, stating "if this case went to court, he would testify" They thought Robert's talking opened ALOT of doors.
After doing ALOT of thinking, Robert had heard lots of rumors surrounding his mother. Even though he loved his parents and had their loyalty; he still felt he had a duty, not as a son, but as a citizen and human being. He spoke softly to the White Bear detectives about what he knew happened to Dennis. Speaking freely, Robert spoke of the different treatments Robert & Dennis received. The incident that had led to Dennis' death - the events that occurred on 4-11-65. EVERYTHING in that house concerning Dennis, he testified to. Confessing that his mother was the one that killed Dennis Jurgens.
In 1986, an assistant atty for 10 years, Mindy Elledge became known for her sharp tongue & intensity. In Oct., the D.A. handed this case to her. She was a good & experienced criminal lawyer dealing w/ child abuse cases. She was sensitive and this case, Dennis' case, meant ALOT to her. She grew up in foster care and was adopted and placed into a good home. After Mindy met Jerry Sherwood for the first time, Jerry couldn't stop crying. Clayton Robinson, Jr. was an attorney that knew Jerry from a bar one night and Jerry joined his table. She mentioned that she had a boy who was adopted out and died. When he read the newspaper w/ this case, he knew it was Jerry and Jerry knew she could trust him.
Jerry spoke bluntly that she didn't like Mindy. She didn't trust her and didn't think the woman could do a good job. The system wronged Jerry before and she wasn't letting it happen again. The news media was her ally. Clayton tried to inform Jerry that the present county attorneys are not the same people who failed in 1965. She was getting angrier in her efforts. In a meeting on 11-20-86, it was said someone would be taken off this case b/c Jerry didn't feel comfortable w/ her on it, but she trusted Clayton. Soon she pulled out Dr. Woodburn's autopsy report and pictures of Dennis' dead body and for the first time he seen what TRULY happened to Dennis body to determine his death. NOW, he seen what Dennis went through before he was killed.
After Dr. Peterson's visit, detectives had found plenty of relatives willing/eager to talk. From 1987, a new generation of family from Lois; side were calling the police station regularly w/ stories to tell. They had HORRIBLE stories w/ a common thread. Why was Lois allowed to adopt? In time, Ron & Greg heard of a Thanksgiving Day 1963, when Lois force-fed Dennis his own vomit LITERALLY! Everyone knew that Lois was guilty and that she had murdered Dennis. When Dennis was being babysat for a week in 1964, Lois brought over junior baby food, even though Dennis had a full set of teeth. But they never gave him that food or followed any of Lois' plans. He sat and ate w/ the family w/ whatever their meals were. He ate/enjoyed his food. He was a happy go-lucky affectionate, laughing little boy. He played w/ everyone . The only thing wrong w/ Dennis was the bruises left on him. Lois had even tied Dennis to his bed at night lying spread-eagle in his crib. All throughout the interviews, detectives kept wondering why? Why wouldn't anyone rescue Dennis?
At 7:00A on Oct. 9TH, Detectives arrived to serve grand jury subpoenas and court orders for both Harold & Lois. Years later, when it was time for Dennis' body to be exhumed, his bruises were still visible. During the autopsy, they found after almost 22 yrs infectious fecal matter that flowed to Dennis' body causing death.
Two weeks prior to a new court date, Ron Meehan was contacted by Jerome Zerwas, upset about some of the stuff in the newspapers, stating he covered up the case in 1965. He gave a name and number to verify. There were those that testified to the fact that Jerome Zerwas stated "he would do anything that he could do to help his sister, Lois" When Harold was questioned on the stand about Lois and the date of what happened, he could NOT say yes/no. Harold also stated he didn't know why transcripts for the juvenile custody hearing were ordered if they got Robert back. In the end, the grand jury sought to indict Lois Jurgens. Aware this case was coming ahead, radio & TV news stared to pick up the case.
The next morning the courtroom filled w/ reporters and photographers. Lois finally appeared in courtroom 1415 w/ Harold fulfilling the look of a child abuser. Then seated four rows to the front was Jerry Sherwood. She turned looking at Lois and their eyes met. They each had different reasons, but they both had a look of hatred in their eyes. Lois stood charged w/ one count of 2ND Degree Murder and 2 counts of 3RD Degree Murder, as per the statutes of 1965. With all of the counts that Lois plead "Not Guilty", Jerry began to sob. Lois was then set at $25,000 bail. Jerry did feel a little weight lifting, even though there was still to be a trial.
What really just blew a whole in the defense strategy was the devastating pictures of Dennis' body. The defense still tried to claim that this all happened from falling down the stairs. A month after the trial began, a full 3-pg. story in People Magazine told of Jerry Sherwood and this trial. It even told of how this whole thing began by a call to Lois in 1980 detailing what kind of boy Dennis was and what resulted.
After a Washington asst clerk decided to empty a long forgotten evidence cabinet, she came across a bulky file labeled 'State ex rel Jurgens V. Bol', which contained all of the missing evidence they had needed for trial was found. On a late Friday afternoon, after closing time, they peeked through this new-found evidence after arriving at the Washington CO Courthouse. Every single piece of missing information from the past was all in this bulky package. When Ron Meehan contacted someone from his past, Lois' unmarried sister, Beverly, she spilled many stories that confirmed all the statements from Lois' family; from the bruises & more. She had lied about her statements in the past when covering for Lois, but was ready for confess the truth today.
The trial officially began in May 1987 w/ Dennis in 3 shots. - 1. smiling, fat-cheeked & full of sparkle 2. Dennis in knee pants, sitting w/ Robert and holding a ball bigger than himself 3. Dennis lying on the coroner's table on Palm Sunday 1965, battered, his arms raised & his face in pain. With time, Lois proceeded to the courtroom like a queen entering. After many witnesses on the stand, Lois showed no emotion. Except for one time, her sister-in-law, Donna Zerwas, in testimony, Lois pursed her lips in objection. Others testified to bruises on Dennis seen through a crown as a cover-up. After someone on the stand seen an autopsy photo of Dennis, they were shocked that it was him. One-by-one relatives/associates testified for the prosecution against Lois.
The next thing he remembers is a man w/ a black medical bag and police officers. The courtroom at this point was frozen silent. Robert was asked why he was testifying after all this time? He responded that he kind of owed it to Dennis to do so. Lois showed no emotion throughout Robert's testimony. Then coming testimony from Michael McGee, the medical examiner, stating that the nature of Dennis' injuries came directly from battered child's syndrome. There were those that stated Dennis being in the bathroom and his state had gone to a point where he was in cardiovascular collapse and in the process of losing consciousnesses. The medical examiner stated when the photos of Dennis were taken on Pam Sunday suggested that he had been dead for approx. 8 hours. The legacy of State V. Loss they didn't need a witness or a confession. Jurors were more willing to infer what they would not have believed.
After the prosecution rested, the defense seen no point to call a load of people in Lois' defense. The only witness of hope they had was Harold. If he took the blame for Lois, reasonable doubt would be place on her. The 1965 testimony blocked any chance Harold had to save his wife. After Harold not testifying, all that was left was closing arguments. The judge ruled that deliberations be statutes as they existed in 1965. The entire jury found no reason to pardon Lois w/ a Not Guilty verdict. The jury itself only took 3hrs. to decide. Lois was found NOT GUILTY TO murder in the 2ND Degree. BUT, was found GUILTY of murder in the 3RD Degree. After the verdict, Jerry collapsed into her daughters arms, while everyone else cheered the verdict.
The judge ruled an indeterminate period ranging up to 25yrs, the penalty specified under 1965 law. Lois was sentenced to the Women's Correctional Facility in Shakopee. When Jerry spoke to a reporter about the verdict, she stated, "Twenty five years. Dennis would be twenty-five years old in December and she got 25 years".
Since the trial ended, Ron & Greg received mention in Minnesota. The story got national coverage. In February 1988, Twin Cities Magazine did a 9-page cover story w/ Jerry Sherwood on her story and what she went through. In 1988, Minnesota courts upheld Lois' conviction by 2-to-1 making multiple reference to this case s "State V. Loss", the Supreme Courts recognized of Battered Child Syndrome. In April 1988, the Jurgens case became a feature story in the 'Los Angeles Times'. Some sought it as a "never could happen to me deal". Some time after the trial and everything, people throughout the town still felt a haunting that this truly happened. Some felt like failures due to feeling responsible. "Even though people may seem nice on paper, they may not be so." Feeling guilty as though they allowed this to happen.
In 1992 A made-for-TV movie was made based on both Jerry's story and this case called, 'A Child Lost Forever' w/ the remarkable Beverly D'Angelo as Jerry Sherwood and Judith Ivey as Lois Jurgens