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Lois Jurgens (b. 1925) was subject of one of the most unusual child murder cases in history in Minnesotamarker. She was the adoptive mother of six children in the 1960s and 1970s, and brutally abused them all, killing one of them, three-year-old Dennis Jurgens, in 1965.

Early life

Jurgens was one of 16 children. Her brother, Jerome Zerwas, was the police lieutenant of the town of White Bear Lake, Minnesotamarker, where she lived at the time. There was testimony from other officers that he impeded the investigation into the child's death. No prosecution was taken at that time.


In the early 1980s, Dennis' birth mother, Jerry Sherwood, looked for Dennis, only to find out he died in 1965. After seeing newspaper reports about the death, she was convinced that he had been beaten to death, and demanded the case re-opened. In 1987, Jurgens was finally convicted for the murder of her adopted child, and was paroled in 1995. The case is described in detail in Barry Siegel's true-crime novel, A Death in White Bear Lake. There was a television movie broadcast in 1992 on NBC entitled A Child Lost Forever that told the story from the perspective of Jerry Sherwood (played by Beverly D'Angelo), and a theatre piece, The Jurgens File, by playwright Brian Vinero that told the story from the persepctive of the community was developed at New York Citymarker's 78th Street Theatre Lab in 2005.

In 2000, she was initially suspected of poisoning her husband, Harold. However, he was in failing health and his autopsy results did not indicate poisoning. There was also talk years earlier of her having started the fire at her in-laws' home which killed her mother in law, with whom she never got along.

Later life

Lois Jurgens served eight years of her sentence and is now living as a widow in Stillwater, Minnesotamarker.

See also


  • A Death in White Bear Lake by Barry Siegel. Published by Bantam Books, 1990.
  • Star Tribune article "Jurgens Seeks Seclusion After Release From Prison," published June 7 1995, Metro Section Page 1B.
  • Various other articles from the Star Tribune running between May and June 1987, including "Jurgens Found Sane, Sent to Prison," "Brother Tells of Dennis Jurgens' Beatings," "Jurgens Trial Inspires Birth Mother's Mission" and "Jurgens Relatives Testify She Abused Adopted Son"
  • Twin Cities Magazine article "A Mother's Love, Jerry Sherwood in Her Own Words" February 1988 edition.
  • Los Angeles Times article "Child Murder: A Town Confronts Its Past," part of a series entitled "Death of a Child, Justice Delayed" by Barry Siegel.
  • 60 Minutes piece "No One Saved Dennis" reported by Diane Sawyer, 1988.

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