Convict Confesses to Murder | Prairie Public Broadcasting

Convict Confesses to Murder

Jun 7, 2019

About this time in 1949, North Dakotans were learning that a man doing time for forgery in Michigan had confessed to killing two people in North Dakota. One of his victims was shot in a beauty salon in Jamestown, and the other was a man named James Woods.

In his confession, 29-year-old John Crockard, said he and Woods used to run drugs into North Dakota from Canada, and had even robbed a bank. He said Woods had gotten friendly with a Jamestown hairdresser named Margaret Roeszler.

Crockard became concerned when Woods told Roeszler about the bank robbery and the narcotics. He went into a lavatory and shot up while deciding what to do. He then went to the beauty parlor saying he planned to take her along with them – but instead, he shot her.

Crockard said he was too “hopped up” to remember whether he used his own .32 or Wood’s .38. When asked how many shots he fired, he answered, “I don’t know. I was excited – it could have been sixty or could have been one.”

He said he found his way back to the car and left town with Woods. He gave Woods some drops that knocked him out, then stopped outside Jamestown where he stabbed Woods to death. He said he buried Woods, the guns, and the knife in a roadbed that was about to be paved.

In Fargo, Crockard checked into a hotel and overheard some railroad men discussing the Jamestown murder of Rosezler. He sold the car, chose a name from the phone book, and started forging checks.  He next traveled to Bismarck, where he said he tried to get caught for the forgeries, and he was. After serving time in North Dakota, he was handed over to Michigan authorities.

Crockard confessed to all this in 1949 – he said he had found the Lord. It was on this date that Stutsman County officials interviewed him, and concluded that Crockard made it all up, since almost nothing checked out. Crockard couldn’t remember Margaret Roeszler’s name, the brand of gun, or the kind of car he drove. Nor could he account for where or when he sold the car. When asked what Woods looked like, he said, “I think he had dark hair and thin long arms.”

The detectives were fans of pulp fiction, and in a surprising twist, they discovered a recent Dick Tracy story that may have inspired Crockard’s fantasy. The bad guys had to get rid of a dead body, and chose a roadbed ready for the cement.

Dakota Datebook written by Merry Helm