Flashback Friday: Virginia Piper abduction captivates Minnesota, nation nearly 5 decades ago

Updated: July 26, 2019 03:29 PM

Almost five decades ago, one of Minnesota's most remembered crimes took place. 

On July 27,1972, two armed men walked into the Orono home of socialite Virginia Piper and walked out of the home with Piper handcuffed and blindfolded, according to the Minnesota Historical Society. 


The kidnappers left behind a note demanding $1 million.

"This was a huge deal," William Swanson, the author of a book about the kidnapping, told KSTP in 2014. "This as the story that was on the evening news, it was on the front page of not only the Twin Cities paper, but papers all over the country." 

The Historical Society said despite the FBI's objections, her husband, Bobby Piper, drove with 50,000 $20 bills to a bar near downtown Minneapolis. Bobby Piper then went into the bar, following instructions, and made a phone call. While inside the bar, the ransom money was taken from the car he left in the lot. 

The next morning, an unidentified person called a local preacher and told them the location where Virginia Piper could be located, according to the Historical Society. Three hours later the call was made, she was found physically unharmed in Jay Cooke State Park. 

On July 11, 1977, 16 days before the expiration of the five-year statute of limitations for kidnapping, Kenneth Callahan and Donald Larson were arrested in connection to the incident. 

"The FBI really wanted a conviction on this case and really put out a full-court press," Swanson said. 

In November of 1977, the two were found guilty. However, in January 1979, the Eighth Court of Appeals overturned their convictions. 

A second trial took place in December 1979, where the two were acquitted. 

When speaking about the whole saga with KSTP in 2014, Swanson said, "If you saw it in a movie, you wouldn't believe it. It would just defy explanation."

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