Slaying 1933 Minnesota families are still unresolved

Alvira Lundeen Johnson and her seven children died on 10 April, 1933, according to a simple flat graves grave at the First City of Lutheran Cemetery, 55 miles north of St Paul.

Her grisly death certificate, dated 11 April 1933, says that the 29-year-old was "burned over recognition" and found it in the accumulated ruins of his farmhouse 4 miles north-east of Harris. The Chisago County Press reported that her body was located near the 4 month old jazz of Joe – the youngest. Only Harold, the oldest of his five boys and two girls, was only 10.

More than 85 years later, Alvira's great nephew insists that the day-time discrepancy between the gravestone and the death certificate was not very similar.

"I think her family, who probably ordered the marker, was making a statement that they were killed on the 10th day before the house was flooded early in the 11th day," says Richfield author, Brian Johnson.

A new 120 page of Johnson's book – "Murder in Chisago County" – which affected the man and father Albin Johnson, who was accused of killing his family before fleeing during the Storm .

Fourteen years older than his wife, Albin was 43 years old as a great man – 6-foot-3, 240 pounds – and a great drinker during the false era of prohibitions. When authorities failed to find any of its remains in the burnt house, manhun walked north to Canada – where Albin worked three years in Saskatchewan logging camps.

Six months after the fire, Albin's big jury showed the deaths. The charges were filed in absentia as it is called because it went into disrepair – well.

Albin's relatives accused the botching authorities of the investigation, claiming Albin died in the fire. "The view is more traditional than that Johnson just fell," writes Brian Johnson, whose grandmother was Alvira's sister.

Brian Johnson, 55, has spent more than 20 years as a staff writer at Finance & Commerce – Minnesota's daily business newspaper. In his new book, he combines a journalistic balance with his personal connections to the case. He gives Albin defenders a voice, claiming that he died in the fire or that he took his own life. However, the author also plays a role as a relative of the victims, recalling youth visits to the family graves.

"I wanted to increase the historical record and keep the family's memory alive," he said in an interview. He started writing a novel at first, but “I couldn't do anything as strong as the true story about Albin Johnson's case.

"More than twenty-eight years after the mysterious blame, the Harris fire of 1933 is still in his head," he writes. "Sometimes the facts surrounding the mystery bounce through my head as the silver orb in a pelican machine. At other times, they pound like a pile driver."

In detail, he sets out a hint after a hint – explaining how Albin's father had just evicted the family. He revealed newspaper accounts where one of the first neighbors on the fire at 3:30 am noticed that there were automatic tracks in the snow from the house to the highway. They were promptly 'written off' when other vehicles were poured into the farmyard.

While grand jury records disappeared, then – Chisago County Solicitor S. Bernard Wennerberg said that two pistols and rifles received in the rubble rubble could have been a murder weapon. Other theories with Albin give the family poisoning.

If the fire started in the kitchen stove, experts say that some of the victims would wake up by the smell of smoke. However, all eight were found to be in sleeping positions – convincing authorities that they were dead when the fire started.

The kerosene can then be found in the office of the Sheriff's county of Chicago in the 1960s and found on Johnson's farm after the 1933 fire.

Brian Johnson raises the situation in the context of the Depression and gangster, pointing out that Albin could be hidden in a clean view as countless hobos and wanderers were crossing the country on highways and trains looking for work. Meanwhile, the enforcement of non-sophisticated law with Bonnie Parker, Clyde Barrow and other gangsters in 1933.

Ruins of Alvira Johnson and her seven children – Harold, 10; Clifford, 9; Kenneth, 7; Dorothy, 5; Bernice, 4; Lester, 2, and James, 4 months – were placed in one copying box. However, the bones of an inquest were not examined by the jury and the remains of Albin were not determined.

"No one has a guess about what really happened," says Brian Johnson, as he suspects that the mystery will never be solved.

"It seems that facts show that Albin Johnson took his family out and killed him," the author writes. "The family had just started on the farm … It was very coincidence that the house had just gone up in flames at that moment of despair."

Brown Curt's stories about the history of Minnesota appear every Sunday. Readers can send ideas and suggestions to him at mnhistory@startribune.com. His latest book looks at Minnesota Minnesota, when the flu, the war and the fires came together: http://strib.mn/MN1918.

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