Stolen From the Garden: The Kidnapping of Virginia Piper

Stolen From the Garden: The Kidnapping of Virginia Piper

William Swanson

Language: English

Pages: 280

ISBN: 0873519930

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


On a July afternoon in 1972, two masked men waving guns abducted forty-nine-year-old Virginia Piper from the garden of her lakeside home in Orono, Minnesota. After her husband, a prominent investment banker, paid a $1 million ransom, an anonymous caller directed the FBI to a thickly wooded section of a northern Minnesota state park. There, two days after her nightmare began, Ginny Piper––chained to a tree, filthy and exhausted, but physically unharmed––awaited her rescuers. 
 
The intensely private couple lived through a media firestorm. Both Bobby and Ginny Piper herself—naturally reserved and surprisingly composed in the aftermath of her ordeal—were subject to FBI scrutiny in the largest kidnap-for-ransom case in bureau annals. When two career criminals were finally indicted five years after the abduction, the Pipers again took center stage in two long trials before a jury’s verdict made headlines across the nation. 
 
Drawing on closely held government documents and exclusive interviews with family members, investigators, suspects, lawyers, and others intimately connected to the case, William Swanson provides the first comprehensive account of the sensational Piper kidnapping and its long, eventful aftermath––and makes a case for the most plausible explanation for what really happened on that July afternoon. 

William Swanson is the author of Dial M: The Murder of Carol Thompson and Black White Blue: The Assassination of Patrolman Sackett. 

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cigarette, she sees his hands, now ungloved. She sees that he is a white man or maybe an American Indian, and he wears a watch—white numbers on a black face, with a black band—on his left wrist. Sometime after that, she turns—so tired she is not thinking—and sees him whole, his left profile anyway, for a second or two. He is wearing what looks like a woman’s nylon stocking, at least the toe end of it, not the elaborate hooded mask he wore to the house yesterday. The stocking is knotted on top

lift it.” What ran through your mind during the ordeal? “Well, we were scared to death, and we just hoped to God we were going to get her home. I mean, there really just wasn’t another thing on our minds. Just what can we do to get her home. And what are our chances.” Ginny tells them that when she was finally left alone on Friday night, “I decided that I must not panic, that I must not give up … And the only way I thought I could get out was to uproot the tree and fell it and lug the chain

feeling the heat. “Not only is it receiving gibes from other law-enforcement officers, some who think the FBI has bungled the investigation, but there is a time limit.” The federal statute of limitations for kidnapping is five years, which, Gibson notes, is now down to four.3 Though repeatedly assured that the investigators are making progress, Ginny and Bobby are increasingly skeptical about a criminal-justice system they have had no reason, until her kidnapping, to be part of or, for that

the car stopped. He knows that she felt most desperate when “Alabama” left her alone on Friday night. All she knew for certain in those few hours of her deepest despair was that she was by herself in those dark woods, and she envisioned a hiker months or years later happening upon her bones in the brush. Then she spoke with her mother—to hear Ginny tell it, Grandma Lewis was as redoubtable a person dead as she had been alive—and rallied. She told herself that she was somehow going to make it out

[Falch] again …” Larson does not say that he was insane, as Meshbesher argued during the Pine City trial. In fact, he makes no attempt to excuse himself—“I’m guilty of that, I’m not lying”—though he tells Harry with murky jailhouse logic that he should have been charged with either second-degree murder or manslaughter. Now, he says, he is regularly denied parole for the Pine County murders because of the Piper accusations, even though he was ultimately acquitted of that crime. A few days

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