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Woman Who Killed Adopted Son Released After Eight Years in Prison

June 6, 1995 GMT

SHAKOPEE, Minn. (AP) _ A mother who covered up the beating death of her adopted son for two decades was released from prison today after serving eight years for the crime.

Lois Jurgens had been sentenced to up to 25 years for the 1965 slaying of 3-year-old Dennis Jurgens. And her release only angered the natural mother whose search for her child led to the discovery of the crime.

``May God strike her dead, that’s what I have to say to Lois Jurgens,″ Jerry Sherwood said. ``I prayed for eight years that she’d die in there. It’s kind of hard to believe.″

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``How can you take a baby’s life like that and beat it for two years and then walk free?″ she said. ``There is no justice. None.″

Jurgens, now 69, was convicted of third-degree murder in 1987 in what at the time was the oldest homicide to go to trial in Minnesota.

Her secret was revealed after Sherwood began searching for the son she gave up for adoption and learned in 1983 that he had died of a bowel injury. Sherwood became suspicious and persuaded authorities to investigate.

Prosecutors contended little Dennis died after numerous beatings and abuse, which including making the child eat food covered with horseradish and tying him spread-eagle in his crib.

Clayton Robinson Jr., a former prosecutor in the case, told KARE-TV of Minneapolis that Jurgens should not yet be released.

``You have to understand this child is only 3 1/2 years old ... and virtually every day Lois Jurgens had him he was a victim of some kind of physical or mental abuse, and I don’t think eight years was quite enough to compensate society for the act she committed,″ Robinson said.

Doug Thomson, who defended Jurgens, said his client did not get out early. The child’s death occurred before there were state-mandated sentencing guidelines, and Thomson argued that she should have served less time.

``If she had been convicted of this in 1965 she probably would have done about three years,″ Thomson said. ``She did a lot more than she should have.″

He said Jurgens maintains her innocence.

The case drew widespread publicity and was the subject of a book and a made-for-television movie.