On This Date In Twin Cities History - March 15, 1974
On this date in 1974, Eunice Kronholm is kidnapped by two masked men outside her home in Lino Lakes. Eunice was the wife of Gunnar E. Kronholm, President of Drovers State Bank in South St. Paul.
On the morning of the kidnapping, Mrs. Kronholm had been outside the family home scraping ice off her car’s windshield when she heard noises. Startled, she turned around to find two men in ski masks pointing a revolver at her. She was grabbed and wrestled into her own vehicle. Inside the car the abductors told her “Do what we tell you and you won’t get hurt.” She was blindfolded, her hands were tied and she was shoved down in the back seat.
Mr. Kronholm last saw his wife when he left their home at 7:30 AM that morning. Eunice had scheduled appointments at 8:15 and 2:00 that day and did not show up for either. Around 3:40 PM that day, Mr. Kronholm received a brief, vague phone call telling him, “We have your wife. Deliver all the money you can get to a station.”
On March 17th, two days after the kidnapping, a $200,000 ransom was dropped at a phone booth near a small shopping area at Lexington Ave and Highway 110 in Mendota Heights. The ransom drop, orchestrated the by the kidnappers, made stops in Crystal, Bloomington, Burnsville and Eagan before the final drop in Mendota Heights.
While working the case, the FBI identified one of the two kidnappers, James W. Johnson of Lakeville. They made the decision along with Mr. Kronholm, to arrest Johnson even though Mrs. Kronholm was still being help captive. Knowing that his accomplice was captured, the second kidnapper was convinced by Eunice Kronholm to release her. Finally, shortly after 5 PM on Monday, March 18, three days after the kidnapping, Mrs. Kronholm walked into a Burnsville grocery store wrapped in blanket and asked to use a phone. Then, in tears, she called home to say she was safe.
The second kidnapper, Frederick Henry Helberg of South St. Paul, was arrested three days later on March 21. A third suspect, Thomas Gary Hodgman, was arrested on March 25. About $190,000 of the ransom money was recovered.
The abduction of Eunice Kronholm was just one in a string of similar crimes committed nationwide in the aftermath of the February 1974 Patricia Hearst kidnapping