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Insane Feign


In June of 1930, a residence near the small town of Omemee was burglarized. Although now a ghost town, Omemee was once a growing railroad community of over six hundred, “…conveniently situated at the junction of the Great Northern and [Northern] Soo…” railroad lines. Due to the town’s size, criminal matters were often turned over to Sheriff J. C. Miller of Bottineau.

Miller traveled to Omemee to investigate the burglary. Within days, he arrested Rudolph Bickert, a sixty-year old rambling man who had been in Bottineau County for only a short time. Bickert claimed that he came to the area for work, and that he had traveled all over the country pursuing employment. Omemee’s railroad location made it a frequent stop for vagrants riding the rails.

Sheriff Miller placed the suspect in the Bottineau County Jail to await trial, but after only a few days of confinement, the inmate began “…to act peculiarly. He attempted to gouge holes in the jail wall…” When his jailers asked why he continued to do so, Bickert replied that he was looking for a gang of counterfeiters that he believed to be living within the walls. Bickert also made other unusual remarks to the Sheriff and his deputies. His volatile behavior and failure to converse in a logical way led Sheriff Miller to sign an insanity complaint; shortly after, the County Insanity Board declared Bickert unfit for trial and directed that he be admitted to the State Hospital at Jamestown.

During the Board’s proceedings, the Sheriff sent Bickert’s fingerprints to the U.S. Bureau of Identification in Washington. In August, the Bureau replied, stating that Bickert was in fact a career criminal, having served prison terms in Kentucky, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Indiana, with stints in at least three different insane asylums. Armed with this information, the Sheriff requested that Bickert be returned to Bottineau on this date in 1930 to face prosecution on the burglary charge; given the inmate’s past, Miller believed Bickert was feigning insanity to avoid being charged as a habitual criminal in yet one more state.

Dakota Datebook written by Jayme L. Job


“Says Bickert Feigns Insanity to Escape Charge of Burglary”, The Bismarck Tribune. August 29th, 1930.

http://www.infomercantile.com/dakota_death_trip/Gang_of_Counterfeiters_1342041960.html (Dakota Death Trip blog posted by D. Dahlsad, The Bismarck Tribune, August 29, 1930).