New book unearths old mysteries about Gallatin County serial killer

Jake Iverson

Missouri Headwaters State Park near Three Forks is one of those Montana places that feels almost holy. It’s been a meeting place for thousands of years. It’s impossible to visit and not feel the weight of the many generations that came before.

It’s also been the place of unspeakable horror. In June of 1973, David Meirhofer slit open a tent where 7-year-old Susan Jaeger was sleeping with her family while they were camped at the Headwaters campground. Meirhofer kidnapped the girl and killed her shortly afterwards, disposing of her body in an abandoned ranch in the Horseshoe Hills, near his home of Manhattan, a small town outside Bozeman.

The FBI used clues found at the crime scenes and Meirhofer’s taunting phone calls to create a psychological profile of him, the Bureau’s first attempt at something that is now common practice.

After a manhunt that stretched for over a year, Meirhofer was finally arrested by the FBI and the Gallatin County Sheriff’s Department on Sept. 28, 1974. He confessed to three more murders, those of Sandra Smallegan, 19, Bernard Poelman, 13 and Michael Raney, 12. The day after his arrest and confession, Meirhofer hung himself in the Gallatin County

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