Gunther & Bereth Delmoe
Not all stories of lives led have happy endings. This is one such account. We know little of the lives of G. O. Delemoe and his mother Berrie other than the events which occurred during their final week. Those events we will recount here.
Our story begins on February 2, 1887, but we will start on the morning of February 4th. G. O. Delemoe had moved into the county some 11 years earlier and purchased a half section of improved land (nearly all of it mortgaged) some four miles north of Sioux Falls. On the morning of the 4th Capt. Jeffers acting as an agent for Citizen’s bank went to the farm to collect some payment on money due. Upon arrival, he met Mr. Delemoe and asked if he was ready to make a payment, which he refused to do. Capt. Jeffers then asked to see the property that was mortgaged. Delemoe went into his barn and told Jeffers he could not come in. He soon reappeared with a pistol in his hand and after making some exclamations in Norwegian put the pistol to his forehead and pulled the trigger before Jeffers could reach him. He fell dead on the spot. It seemed his financial affairs had gone bad and he was having trouble with a neighbor’s family. There were also reports he had grown intimate with another man’s wife. All of these events had unbalanced him and led to the final shot. Jeffers quickly returned to town to inform authorities and collect a coroner’s jury all of whom returned to the farm that afternoon. Little did he know this was not the end of the story.
Upon returning that afternoon the coroner’s jury discovered to their surprise that Delemoe’s 90-year-old mother, Berrie, was bedridden in the house and gravely ill. They quickly became suspicious her symptoms were not naturally occurring but rather the result of poisoning. The old lady’s condition rapidly deteriorated and she died about 6:30 that evening. The coroner and jury returned to Sioux Falls where he summoned another jury for the second inquest.
The next morning Coroner Roberts assembled his second jury. It consisted of J. F. Hummel, Andrew Thompson, and A. T. Moe. They left for the Delemoe residence at 1 o’clock. Accompanying them was Dr. Morgan who was to make a post mortem examination and the undertaker, C. V. Booth. Upon completion of their investigation, they returned to town to await the results of Dr. Morgan’s examination.
The following day, February 7th Dr. Morgan released his findings, and as suspected Berrie J. Delemoe had been poisoned with strychnine administered by her son’s hand. Later that morning C. V. Booth left to bring the bodies to town and the interment took place at 2 o’clock that afternoon at Mt. Pleasant Cemetery, the funeral having been conducted at the house.
Mr. Delemoe apparently had the murder and suicide in mind for several days as on February 2nd he had deeded all his property to the housekeeper who had been living with them – under what circumstances we will not here speculate. Upon further investigation by Dr. Roberts, it was found that Delemoe was a defaulter of $850. It seems that he was treasurer of Mapleton township and $850 of the township’s funds in his care could not be accounted for. It was further discovered there were claims against the estate aggregating over $8,000 and the transferring of the property to the housekeeper was made with the intent of defrauding the creditors.
Mr. Delemoe and his mother lie buried in Block 46, Lot 3 of the Cemetery. Their graves are unmarked.