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Patricide by Poison


A century ago on this date, the Fargo Forum reported a sensational story out of Minot concerning an apparent case of patricide. Charles Moline had confessed to the murder of his father, Frank Moline, both of Pierce County. Mr. Moline's death, less than a week earlier, was initially believed to be caused by heart failure, but an investigation launched by Sheriff Erickson led to more sinister findings.

The Moline family owned a farm near Barton, North Dakota. But after a divorce, the father, Frank, began to court another woman and eventually decided to remarry. His ex-wife, along with his son, feared that a marriage would mean Frank's wealth would be left to his new wife, leaving the pair without a cent. Hearing news of the engagement and forthcoming marriage, the mother and son hatched a plot to murder both Mr. Moline and his new fiancé.

On January 21st, twenty-three year old Charles Moline rode with his father into the town of Barton for supplies. While his father ran errands, Charles purchased ten cents worth of strychnine from the local drug store, and mixed it into a bottle of whiskey. When they later joined up, Charles offered his father some of the whiskey, which he gratefully accepted. Then the pair began the four-mile trek back to Mr. Moline's farmhouse. Somewhere between Barton and the farm, however, Mr. Moline passed away, and Charles left him along the roadside. He went home and removed the harnesses from the horses and fetched a wagon to collect his father's body. News of the death was reported to the local authorities, and an inquest was held the following day. It was believed by the coroner that Mr. Moline had died of natural causes, specifically of heart failure, but Sheriff Erickson overheard some remarks from the family that troubled him.

Erickson's subsequent investigation culminated in the younger Moline's confession. He was immediately charged in his father's death, and his mother faced charges as an accessory to the murder. The son also stated that he had planned to kill his father's fiancé, but did not succeed. News of the brutal murder shocked Pierce County residents, and was considered "the most brutal...ever brought to light in northwestern North Dakota."

Dakota Datebook written by Jayme L. Job


The Fargo Forum and Daily Republican. Thursday (Evening ed.), January 27, 1910: p.1.