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Pressroom Podcast: Glensheen murders prosecutor John DeSanto

Then-St. Louis County chief prosecutor John DeSanto carries cases of documents to court at the Crow Wing County Courthouse in Brainerd, Minn., in June 1978 during the trial of Roger Caldwell. Caldwell was charged with murder in the deaths of Elisabeth Congdon and Velma Pietila at Glensheen Mansion in Duluth in 1977. (News Tribune file photo)1 / 3
Minnesota 6th Judicial District Judge John DeSanto retired in September 2015 after a long legal career in the Northland. DeSanto spent many years as a prosecutor in St. Louis County. (2015 file / News Tribune)2 / 3
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He was just 30 years old and only four years out of law school when Duluth heiress Elisabeth Congdon was discovered smothered to death in her bed at Glensheen Mansion, her night nurse Velma Pietila fatally beaten with a candlestick.

Forty years later, then chief prosecutor John DeSanto joins this week’s Pressroom Podcast to share his firsthand experience with Duluth’s most well-known murder case.

“The day of June 27, 1977, Monday. I remember it like it was yesterday,” DeSanto, a now semi-retired senior judge who had a 35 year career in the St. Louis County Attorney’s Office, said.

Since that night and the trials that followed, DeSanto has written a book about the case and given many presentations to the public. In this podcast, he describes what he thinks happened the night of the murders and how not a day goes by that he doesn’t think about the “two beautiful, wonderful citizens of Duluth, Elisabeth Congdon and Velma Pietila.”

What we are into this week: The Hunt for Vulcan by Thomas Levenson, Netflix original series “Glow”, WWII books, and grandkids.

Tune in every week to hear Duluth News Tribune reporters Brady Slater, Christa Lawler and Tom Olsen talk about current Duluth and Northland happenings. You can email us at, call our podcast line at 218-382-NEWS or follow us on Facebook.

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