On the night of January 26th, 1992 we can presume that most of the 200 residents in Menoken, North Dakota were sleeping. It’s a small farming town just east of Bismarck. No one had any idea that 15-year-old Michael David Neugebauer was murdering his four family members.
A news story from this date in 1992 details the story of his escape and arrest.
Neugebauer had gone into a rampage. He would later claim that he only remembered killing his father, but realized he had also killed his mother, sister and little brother. After the murders, he left town with his girlfriend, Jackie Heib, who didn’t know about the murders until they reached a hotel in Wisconsin. When he told her, he pinned her to the bed, and she said, “And I’m next?” He reportedly said yes.
Heib was frightened, but not knowing what else to do, she traveled with Neugebauer all the way to a motel in Florida. Police were tipped to the car with North Dakota license plates, and they raided the room at three in the morning. The two teens tried to escape, but were quickly captured. Jackie Heib was moved to a shelter for runaways while Neugebauer awaited extradition.
Clearly, Michael’s acts were horrific, but like many things in life, they did not occur in a vacuum. According to Jackie Heib, Michael’s impulse to use violence stemmed from his father. She said Michael’s father had abused him often, threatened her with a hammer, and once ran over her dog and made Michael clean it up. Heib says she tried to report this to authorities, but her cries for help landed on deaf ears. She said she convinced Michael to go to a domestic abuse center in Bismarck, but once his father found out, he became angry and it set off a string of abuses. The day of the murder apparently began as an argument between father and son.
The prosecutor didn’t believe the claims of abuse, noting that Michael had told different versions of the story, and that the allegations of abuse could not be substantiated. Nor did abuse explain why Michael would kill his little brother.
Still, the haunting question remains: did reports get ignored that could have prevented the tragedy?
Michael Neugebauer has served his time in several states, and was returned to the penitentiary in Bismarck in 2016. He’ll soon be eligible for parole.
Dakota Datebook written by Lucid Thomas