SIOUX CITY -- Even though it happened more than 45 years ago, Phil Hamman of Sioux City still gets chills thinking about the grisly murders that occurred at Gitchie Manitou State Preserve in Lyon County, Iowa, on Nov. 17, 1973.
On that fateful night, his childhood friend Mike Hadrath, 15, was one of the victims shot to death in the nature preserve, northwest of Granite, Iowa, and southeast of Sioux Falls. He also knew Roger Essem, 17, and brothers Stewart Baade, 17, and Dana Baade, 14, who were also killed by Allen, David and James Fryer in what Hamman characterized as a scene right out of a horror movie.
Hamman, a Sioux Falls native, also knew Sandra Cheskey, then 13, who was raped by the Fryer boys but became the lone survivor of what many people still remember as the "Gitchie Manitou Murders."
"I remember it because the victims were kids that I grew up with," Hamman, who is now an East High School language arts co-teacher, explained. "The reason other people remember is because of the violent nature of the crime."
"These things aren't supposed to happen in the heartland," he added. "When it does happen, people will remember."
In 2016, Hamman teamed with his wife, educator Sandy Hamman, in writing "Gitchie Girl" -- a best-selling nonfiction book that documents the crime as well as the subsequent trial that convicted the Fryer brothers.
More important, the Hammans' book gave Cheskey a chance to set the record straight five decades after the crimes were committed.
"The Fryer boys were all given life sentences in prison," Hamman said. "In some ways, (Cheskey), a victim, also felt like she was given a life sentence."
The Hammans revisit the story in the recently released "Gitchie Girl Uncovered," which goes into more detail about the elite team of investigators who caught the killers, In addition, the Hammans followed up with family members of the slain boys as well as offering an update on Cheskey, who is now a 58-year-old grandmother.
Why did you want to revisit the Gitchie Manitou Murders?
"Because there were so many of the stories that we left out of the initial book. We wanted to get into the minds of the investigators and really focus on the hours leading up to the crimes."
I know you've called the murders something out of a horror movie. But in other ways, this case is also a morality tale, right?
"Certainly. A lot of people remember it involved a bunch of teenagers who were out doing something bad. That wasn't the case here. These kids were acting like teenagers. They just had the misfortune of being in the wrong place at the wrong time."
Plus it was Sandra Cheskey, the sole survivor, who suffered largely in silence.
"That's right. Being called the nickname 'Gitchie Girl' made her suffer over and over again. It was terrible. Given the time, she was offered no therapy. A person who survived an attack or, in Sandra's case, a brutal rape, was expected to get over it."
Thank goodness things are different nowadays. How is Sandra doing?
"She's much better. Sandra has even done publicity for both our new book and the previous one. With the first 'Gitchie Girl' book, Sandra wanted to share the truth of her experience with her family. The second book gives her the opportunity to get past the pain."
"Gitchie Girl Uncovered" by Phil and Sandy Hamman is available at Drilling Pharmacy, the Morningside Fareway, area bookstores and online book retailers like Amazon.com.