Fifteen Year Old Lad Of Ocheyedan Shoots Father In Bed Sunday

Sibley Gazette - March 11, 1920


Carl Jess Kills His Father



    I usually get up and build fires.  My grandmother was not up this morning when I got up.  I got my own breakfast and eat alone as my grandmother does not eat breakfast.

    My father was awake when I went to bed last night.  After I went to bed I planned and thought I would get up in the morning before he would, come down and start fire and come back up and if my father was awake that I would go back down.  I planned to get up and get rifle and shoot him.  I planned to shoot him twice.

    When I woke up this morning I remembered and decided to do as I planned last night.   When I got the gun I started down as though I was going downstairs and then stopped and looked at him and his eyes were closed.  Then I shot him.  When I came downstairs after shooting him first time I was scared.  I did not see any blood and did not see him move.  I then went out and did some chores and left gun in pantry.  While out at barn before I got chores done I came in to see about fires and got gun to put back in room and when I got to head of stairs I looked at him.  He was groaning so I wasn't sure he was dead.  Then I went out and got another bullet and shot him again.

    When I shot him the first time I knew I hit him because he kind of jerked and groaned. 

    I felt if he were dead that I wouldn't be bossed around so much. 

    My grandmother is very hard of hearing.

    I looked at the gun last night and saw that it was loaded."

    Among the witnesses examined were Chris Wassman, A. D. Fritz, F. J. Boyd, Dr. L. G. Lass, Dr. W. E. Ely, Frank Hromatko, and Willie Hromatko all of whom were called to the home soon after the homicide.

    Frank Hromatko who lives within a half block of the Jess home, told of Carl coming after him Sunday morning and telling him that his father was kicked by a horse and was bleeding badly.  How he found the man in bed dead.  Carl said he had been kicked Saturday night and he didn't send for a doctor because he seemed to be alright.

    In telling Willie Hromatko what had happened, he broke down and cried.

    Mr. Fritz told of walking part way home with deceased Saturday evening.  About 9 o'clock Sunday morning he saw Carl Jess sitting by the stove and asked him where his pa was.  He said, "up stairs."  Mr. Fritz told of going upstairs and finding the man dead.  He said to Carl, "How was pa killed."  Carl said "Pa came into the barn, slipped and fell and I guess he grabbed the horses by the back leg and the horse kicked him.  I was upon the wagon throwing down straw when I heard a noise and went into the barn and found pa laying there; I took hold of pa, lifted him up and helped him upstairs about 8 o'clock Saturday night.

    The funeral was held yesterday from the home of deceased and was largely attended.  Rev. Fiene conducted the services.

    Interment was made in the Ocheyedan cemetery.

    Claus Jess Jr was born in Germany, April 24, 1867 and died March 7, 1920.  With his parents he came to Osceola county in 1973 homesteading a farm south of Ocheyedan.  His wife passed away about ten years ago.  He leaves a son, mother, aged 86 and a half brother, Claus Peters of Sabula, Iowa to mourn his loss. 

Testimony of Carl Jess

    Carl Jess being first duly sworn testified as follows:

    "That he is 15 years of age, a son of Claus Jess; that his mother has been dead since he was a baby, 2 or 3 years old; that he had been going to school.  Last time I saw my father alive was at 6 a. m. this Sunday morning when I got up.  I slept with him all night.  I got up at 6 o'clock this morning built a fire went out to milk and then went up stairs in northwest room and got my rifle was loaded when I got it and after I shot my father first time, I went back to the northwest room and got another bullet and shot him again.  When I shot him I think he was awake, but his eyes were closed.  After I shot him first I came down stairs and then went back again and shot him the second time.  I didn't know where I hit him the first shot.  I did not see any blood fly.  I didn't go up the second time for about 10 or 15 minutes after the first time.  This gun is the one I used.  It is a 32 caliber single shot rifle.  He did not bleed until after second shot, I wiped up some blood off the floor.  After I shot him the second time I did not stop to look at him.  I then put gun in pantry.  I put gun in pantry because I was afraid to go upstairs again.  I took the shells and threw them in the snow.

    My father got kicked last night and I helped him to undress and to bed.  This happened about 8 p. m. I went to bed about 8:30 and slept with him all night.  I planned this whole thing out before I went to sleep.  I planned to shoot him in the morning and then tell that the horse kicked and killed him. 

    I don't know why I shot him a second time, but I wanted to make sure that I had killed him.  I thought of killing my father for a year.  I slept with my father because there was no other place to sleep.  There was another bed, but I didn't want to sleep alone.  I killed him because I wanted to.  I killed him because he whipped me, abused me, made me work, and wouldn't give me any money for two or three years.  He whipped me pretty near every day; he whipped me for the last time yesterday.  He would whip me with stick, blacksnake, buggy whip, etc.

    I loaded the gun the second time after I went up stairs.  I shot him the second time because I wanted to.  When I shot him the second time he was in same position as first time.  The gun shoots true.  I tried to hit him in the head.  I did not aim it.  I glanced along the barrel a little.  I got front sight on his head.  I aimed it a little but I did not put it right up to shoulder.  I got the sights up a little.

    After I shot him the second time I went over to Hromatko's.  Then I came back and went upstairs and wiped some blood off the floor and off his face.  I then went to the barn.

    I planned in bed last night to shoot my father this morning.  I did not load rifle for first shot.  My father loaded it a month ago, but I knew it was loaded when I went to bed. 

    I knew my father had sold his farm, but did not know what he got for it or what he did with it.  He had made me hate him.  If I had it to do over again I wouldn't have killed him.  I wish I had him back now.

    I spend quite a little money up town.  My grandmother would give me money every week, more than 25 cents a week.  After I shot my father I went over and took 5 cents out of my father's pocket-book which he kept in the pantry cupboard.  This was this noon some time.  I wanted some of this property myself and I wanted about half of it, but never asked my father for it.


Bound Over To Grand Jury


Coroners Inquest Held Sunday.

Funeral Yesterday.  Slept With

Father Night of Homicide.


    Carl Jess, fifteen year old lad of Ocheyedan, shot his father Claus Jess Jr. early Sunday morning with a .32 caliber rifle.  The revolting crime was committed while the elder Jess was asleep in bed.  Carl having slept with his father the last night of his life.

    Carl claims his father mistreated him and did not give him money.

    According to the evidence submitted at the coroner's inquest, Carl arose before 7:00 o'clock Sunday morning intending to shoot his father.  Noticing that his father's eyes were not closed he went to the kitchen and built the fire.  He then returned to his father's room with a 32 caliber rifle, shooting him in the side of the head.  After committing the rash deed, he went out to the barn to do the chores.  Returning to the house, and noting that his father was groaning, he reloaded the rifle, shooting his father the second time.  The whole transaction was said to be most deliberate and had been premeditated for some time past.  The boy's grandmother, 87 years old, lived with the father and son, but being had of hearing, knew nothing of what happened.

    After shooting his father the second time, Carl went and told Frank Hromatko that his father had been kicked by a horse and was bleeding badly.  The young man seems to be indifferent to the awfulness of the crime committed.  Only once or twice has he shown any evidence of remorse.  At the coroner's inquest held Sunday afternoon he made a frank and full confession to the crime.  Constable Chris Wassman brought him to Sibley Monday.  He appeared in court with his attorney L. A. Dwinell, waived examination and was bound over to the grand jury by Justice Glover and is now in the custody of Sheriff Gill.  He was greatly dissatisfied that he was not permitted to return home in order to take care of his chores.

    Before the coroner's jury, Carl said he was dissatisfied with the amount of money he was receiving; of money he was receiving and thought he should have half of his father's property, valued at from $100,000 to $150,000.

    County Coroner Winkler deputized Dr. Padgham to hold the inquest.  O. J. Frey, H. Henderson, and Lee Poole were sworn in as jurymen.  County Attorney Butler assisted the Coroner in the investigation.  The jury returned the following verdict:

    "Said jurors upon their oath do say that the said Claus Jess came to his death in his own home in Ocheyedan, Iowa on March 7, 1920 at or about the hour of 7 o'clock a. m. as a result of two rifle bullets entering his brain and said bullets fired from a 32 caliber rifle held in the hands of Carl Jess, his son."

O. J. Frey

H. H. Henderson

Lee Poole






























Carl Jess Adjudged Insane

Sibley Gazette - April 22, 1920

   Saturday the day before the killing of his father, Carl said his father told him to clean the barns and haul out manure.  Instead he played around in the snow all forenoon.  His father was provoked and struck him.  He cleaned out the barn in the afternoon, had supper and went to bed, having no further altercation with his father.  Said he had been thinking about getting rid of his father for over a year, because he wanted to get rid of the lickings.  Would have rid himself of his father, but said he felt sorry for him.  Had thought of poisoning him, but did not know what to give him.  Never thought of Rough on Rats. 

    Said he first thought of using a rifle while sleeping with his father Saturday night.  Would not kill his father if he had it to do over again, because of all the fuss they are making over it.

    Carl said he did not run away because he had no money and that he never fought his father.  he was frightened after he had killed his father, and therefore, told about the horse kicking him.  Said he was not angry with the teacher who licked him, that he deserved it.

    Dr. Donohue said that Fred Grabow, an uncle of the boy, has been in the Cherokee hospital for some years.  For three years he has been a mute-refusing to say a word-entertains a delusion of some kind.  He is a degenerate of moderate degree.  Carl is a logical result of ancestry.

    Dr. Donohue told of applying the tests of the Yerkes-Bridges System.  The twenty tests on Carl gave him a total percentage of 66 when a normal person of his age should test not less than 86.  His test was that of a child of 11 years of age.  He applied the tests on different days and he failed on same tests on both occasions.

    Carl was about as accountable as a child of 11 years of age, an adult would have run away, but he did not know enough to get way.

    He could not distinguish the difference between a short and long line, between the weight of two cubes of same size and was a total failure on the ideas of charity, obedience or justice.

    Dr. Donohue claimed the boy was mentally deficient and feeble minded from birth.  He should be restrained of his liberty and placed in some institution for the feeble minded.


    Dr. DeBey of Orange City, was the only expert witness for the state.  He claimed the boy was mentally deficient.

    A number of witnesses from Ocheyedan were examined, among them were Lee Poole, W. H. Doerr, Mr. and Mrs. J. R. Williams, Frank Hromatko, Mrs. Mary Randall, P. F. Mackel, Rev. E. Fiene, August Arend, August Polenske and Wm. Hromatko.

    The state's evidence showed how Carl apparently acted like other boys.  He attended church and Sunday School; run the farm tractor and farm machinery; performed ordinary farm work; how he sold milk and collected the money for his own use.  He would buy his shoes and pay for them.  Merchants testified that he would average $1.50 for candy, ice cream, etc., a week; that he would go hunting and fishing; run his father's auto; had a bicycle, sled, baseball outfit, etc., such as the average boy possess. 

    The testimony was concluded at 5 o'clock Tuesday evening, the case going to the jury at 6 o'clock, following counsel's closing arguments.


commendably.  It is probably the first murder case in the county's history which was tried solely be local legal talent.  It was fully demonstrated that outside counsel was not needed in cases of the most vital importance.  The interests of the state as well as the defense were ably represented.      

    Attorneys B. F. butler and E. H. Koopman appeared for the state, while Attorney's L. A. Dwinell and I. R. Meltzer represented the defendant, Carl Jess.

    During the entire trail Carl Jess sat in a chair, apparently oblivious of what was going on.  He sat with his head in his hands or with his eyes cast downward.  At times he was fast asleep.


    The jury in the case of Carl Jess, charged with the murder of his father, Claus Jess Jr., on the 7th of March, was empanelled Monday afternoon, at 5 o'clock.  Judge Hutchinson directed that the question of the sanity of the accused must be tried previous to that of the indictment, as the issue of insanity had been raised.  Following the statements of counsel witnesses for the defense were examined, showing that the young man had insane relatives, and that his grandfather on his maternal side was afflicted with alcoholism.

    F. H. W. Kruger of Alpha, Minn., an uncle, told of the boy's relatives who were insane.  Fred Grabow, an uncle of the boy, is now in an insane asylum.

    Dr. Lass of Ocheyedan was called to the home soon after the shooting affair, told of circumstances of same and gave the results of an examination of the accused. 

    Chris Wassmann, who arrested the young man, and Sheriff Gill told of their relations with the boy and his general demeanor, disinterested mannerisms, etc., concerning the affair.

    Scott D. Tift, John Gress and Mrs. J. Grabow, all testified that John Grabow, the grandfather of Carl, was afflicted with alcoholism, many times drunk and abusive.

    Dr. Padgham of Ocheyedan, who conducted the coroner's inquest, gave evidence as to the boy's confession on that occasion and the care taken in making him understand the seriousness of same.

    Prof. Butson, superintendent of the Ocheyedan schools and Miss Froke, Carl's teacher, told of the incorrigibility of the young man.  How he had been whipped several weeks after Christmas; that he was mischievous and absent about forty days each year, always having excuses.


    Dr. Geo. Donohue, superintendent of the Cherokee Hospital, and Dr. W. P. Crumbacker, superintendent of the Independence Hospital, presented evidence as to their findings in several examinations of Carl Jess, covering a period of three days last week.  The results of their findings were practically identical.  They regarded him as being mentally deficient, having the mind of a child of 11 years of age, according to their tests and examinations.

    Dr. Donohue spent considerable time with the boy Thursday and Saturday.  He talked to him about his work, his play and difficulties with his father.  Said, he went hunting and fishing some; did not play baseball or football.  Said his father licked him continually; used a buggy ship or stick.  He could not work to suit his father.


Jury Return Verdict Adjudging

Boy Mentally Incompetent.


Will Be Sent To Institution


Judge Hutchinson Takes

Case Under Advisement. 

Jury Deliberated Sixteen Hours. 

Receive Additional Instructions.


The Jury

M. Pettijohn, Harris farmer

M. F. Taylor, Sibley surveyor

August Scharlipp, Sibley section Foreman

George H. Mohr, Sibley salesman

Edwin Loerts, Sibley farmer

J. C. Frey, Harris farmer

J. E. Vande Putten, Ashton farmer

Chris Schutte, Sibley carpenter

Matt W. Ellerbroek, Sibley merchant

John Stallman, Ashton merchant

Albert Klosterman, Ashton farmer

J. F. Sellers, Sibley manufacturer


    After considering the case of Carl Jess sixteen hours, the jury returned a verdict yesterday morning adjudging Carl Jess Insane when he murdered his father the 7th day of March.  The case was given to the jury at 6 o'clock Tuesday evening.  The jury took a number of ballots during the night, but were unable to arrive at any decision up to 3 o'clock yesterday morning when they retired for the night.  It is rumored that a number of ballots resulted 6 to 6 and others 5 to 7 in favor of the insanity charge.

    At 8:30 yesterday morning they were called into the court room when the judge gave them additional instructions emphasizing the fact that they, the jury, must solely pass on the question of sanity.  If they find the evidence of the experts proved partial insanity, they must return a verdict of insanity.  The jury returned to the jury room and in a half hour returned a verdict for insanity or mental deficiency. 




Carl Jess


    The court will probably send Carl Jess to some institution for the feeble minded.

    The jury having found that the accused was insane March 7, 1920, at the time the crime was committed, he cannot be brought to trial again on the indictment as charged.

    The closing arguments of the attorneys were concise, conclusive and masterly efforts.  Both the attorneys for the state and the defense acquitted themselves 




































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