After acquittal, Marjorie Caldwell faced years of additional legal trouble

From 1993 to 2004, Marjorie Caldwell served 11 years of a 15-year prison sentence for arson.

Marjorie Caldwell and her defense attorney Ron Meshbesher walk into the Dakota County Courthouse during Caldwell's 1979 trial on charges alleging she killed her mother Elisabeth Congdon and her mother's night nurse at Glensheen mansion.
File / Duluth News Tribune

Editor's note: This story originally appeared in the June 25, 2017, edition of the News Tribune. It has been lightly edited for today's readers.

DULUTH โ€” Trouble continued to follow Marjorie Caldwell after her 1979 trial and acquittal for murder conspiracy in the slayings of her mother and her mother's nurse at Glensheen.

She parted ways with her second husband, Roger Caldwell, after the trials. Without divorcing Caldwell, she married Wallace Hagen in 1982 in North Dakota and was charged with bigamy a few months later.

In 1984, Marjorie was convicted of arson in the burning of the Mound, Minn., home she had just sold but remained an insurance beneficiary. She served 21 months.
In 1990, the Hagens moved to Ajo, Ariz. There she became a suspect in a rash of fires. In 1991, she was caught trying to set fire to a neighbor's house. She was charged with attempted arson and in a 1992 trial found guilty. Also that year, she pleaded no contest in connection with arson fires at an Ajo storage yard believed set for a fraudulent insurance claim.

In late 1992, before sentencing for arson, she was allowed 24 hours to transport her ailing husband from Tucson, Ariz., to their home in Ajo. Within hours of their return, Hagen was dead. Marjorie said they had a suicide pact, but she couldn't go through with her end of it. She was charged with murder in his death, but the charges were dropped. Although police suspected he had been gassed, tests showed he died of a drug overdose. They didn't think they could prove the death was murder.


Hagen's children would later allege, in a 1994 St. Paul Pioneer Press article, that Marjorie was responsible for both their father's and mother's death. Their mother โ€” Hagen's previous wife โ€” was in a nursing home in 1980 when she collapsed into a coma and died after Marjorie allegedly was seen feeding her something from a jar. A short time later, Wally Hagen moved in with Marjorie.

From 1993 to 2004, Marjorie served 11 years of a 15-year prison sentence for the arson fires in Ajo.

The police investigation quickly focused on Elisabeth's daughter by adoption, Marjorie Caldwell, 44, and Marjorie's husband, Roger, 43, in a murder-for-inheritance plot.

Since Marjorie's release from prison, she has lived in several senior residential communities in Tucson, where neighbors often had conflicts with her and her service dogs. She recently moved to a house.

"She lives in very nice properties," Gail Feichtinger, co-author of "Will to Murder: The True Story Behind the Crimes & Trials Surrounding the Glensheen Killings," who continues to keep track of Marjorie's whereabouts and crimes told the News Tribune in 2017.

In 2007, Marjorie was charged with fraud, theft, forgery and computer tampering after befriending a man in his 70s and becoming his power of attorney. She was accused of attempting to deposit his $11,181 inheritance into her account after he died. She had him cremated before police could determine a cause of death. In a 2009 plea agreement, she pleaded guilty to attempted forgery and was sentenced to three years of intensive probation.

In 2010, her attorney's court motion to remove her from intensive probation so she could get into an assisted living complex was denied. He said she needed assisted living because of her worsening health issues.

She never did move into assisted living and as of 2017, at 84, her health didn't seem as bad as her attorney had claimed, according to Feichtinger.

"People have seen her as recently as the last couple weeks, walking her dog without a walker," Feichtinger said at the time. "She's still doing crafts."


The case had all the ingredients of an old-fashioned whodunit โ€” wealth, greed, betrayal, even a mansion and a candlestick murder weapon.

While Marjorie stood to inherit millions after her mother's death, she actually got a pittance in comparison. A civil suit filed by five of her seven children in 1979 to disinherit their mother from her inheritance on the grounds she was involved in the murders was settled out of court in 1983. Marjorie ended up with about $40,000 a year from a Congdon trust plus Wallace Hagen's pension, according to Feichtinger.

"She got no bulk sum after the murders โ€” she basically lost it all," Feichtinger said.

Marjorie remains estranged from all but one of her seven children from her first marriage and has had no contact with the Congdon family since the murder case, Feichtinger said.

"In recent years, she has kept a surprisingly low profile," she said in 2017. "People do see her out and about. But she's not able to get around town like in the old days. Part of the reason is the woman who would drive her died a year ago."

So is she no longer a threat? Feichtinger wouldn't go that far, noting that Marjorie is no longer on probation and being supervised.

"People still won't talk to me on the record, because they're still afraid of retaliation," she said.

Candance Renalls is a retired Duluth News Tribune reporter and freelance writer.
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