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OBITUARIES : Roger Caldwell; Murder Figure in 1977 : Suicide Notes Claimed Innocence, Blamed Problems on Notoriety

May 21, 1988|From Times Wire Services

MINNEAPOLIS — Roger Caldwell, who confessed to the sensational 1977 murders of Duluth heiress Elisabeth Congdon and her nurse, apparently committed suicide this week in his hometown of Latrobe, Pa., officials said Thursday.

Caldwell, 54, slit both wrists and bled to death on his living room floor late Tuesday or early Wednesday, according to Westmoreland County Deputy Coroner Joseph Musgrove.

Musgrove said Caldwell left three suicide notes. The St. Paul, Minn., Pioneer Press Dispatch reported that one of the notes said he was innocent of the murders.

The newspaper also cited unidentified sources who said Caldwell recently complained of being unable to get a job in his hometown, and of being haunted by notoriety from the murders.

Caldwell was found guilty of murdering Congdon, 83, and Velma Pietila, 67, and was sentenced to two life terms in prison. Soon after, his wife, Marjorie, was charged with helping plan the murders. She was found innocent in 1979 and evidence submitted during her trial led the state Supreme Court to give Caldwell a new trial.

Rather than risk losing the case in another trial, however, prosecutors let Caldwell plead guilty to second-degree murder and he was sentenced to time served, or five years.

Prosecutors and police had contended that the slayings were part of a plot by the Caldwells to kill her adoptive mother and collect an inheritance of about $8 million.

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