David G. Meirhofer (June 8, 1949 – September
29, 1974) was an American serial killer who committed four murders in
rural Montana between 1966 and 1974 - three of them children.
time, the Federal Bureau of Investigation was developing a new method
of tracking killers called offender profiling, and Meirhofer was the
first serial killer to be caught using the technique. Offender
profiling is a method used to learn clues about the characteristics of
an unknown killer from evidence at the scene of the crime.
Among Meirhofer's victims was seven-year-old Susan
Jaeger, who was taken from her tent at night during a family camping
trip. He left no ransom request and no physical evidence. However, the
offender profiling technique, which was first used in this case, was
employed about a year after the kidnapping. The technique led
investigators to suspect that the kidnapper was a young, white male
who killed for sexual gratification and may have kept body parts of
victims as "souvenirs". Further, they believed that the killer may
have been arrested for other crimes.
Meirhofer was 23 years old at the time and
suspected in another murder. He denied the charges. Meirhofer placed a
telephone call to Marietta Jaeger, the mother of Susan Jaeger, exactly
a year after the kidnapping, and she obtained enough information to
help the FBI track him down.
Meirhofer had killed Suzie Jaeger, two boys, and a
woman. In September 1974, he confessed to having kidnapped the woman,
Sandra Dykman Smallegan, in her sleep during February of that same
year. Smallegan had once dated Meirhofer, but had ended the
On September 29, 1974, Meirhofer committed suicide
by hanging himself in jail, hours after confessing to the murders.
Sandra Smallegan, 19.
Bernard Poelman, 13.
Michael Raney, 12.
Susan Jaeger, 7.
items belonging to 1974 murder victim found in Manhattan
Sullivan - BozemanDailyChronicle.com
October 12, 2005
A 31-year-old murder case has been reopened
following the discovery of personal items belonging to the victm
A driver's license, wallet and notebook belonging
to Sandra Dykman Smallegan, who was murdered in 1974, were recovered
Monday when construction workers renovating a garage on East Main
Street in Manhattan found the items hidden in a wall.
The case has been reopened to process the evidence.
Betty Dykman, Smallegan's mother, said Wednesday it
was surprising to learn of her daughter's missing belongings.
"It brings the memories and the whole thing back,"
But it doesn't bring her closure.
"I don't know that there's any real closure ever,"
Dykman said. "She's gone. She was a wonderful, wonderful daughter and
I still miss her."
Manhattan native David Meirhofer confessed in
September 1974 to having killed Smallegan, 19, and three other people
in Manhattan and Three Forks.
Meirhofer might have owned the building where the
items were found, Sheriff Jim Cashell said.
"Who would have thought there was more stuff in a
wall?" Dykman said. "It's kind of amazing. What were the chances of
that wall coming out?"
Meirhofer told police after his arrest that he
kidnapped Smallegan while she slept in February 1974. He dated her
once, but she later refused his advances.
He told police he tied her up and sealed her mouth
with tape, then began putting her clothes in the car. He said
Smallegan must have died because she couldn't breathe through the
Meirhofer took her body to the Lockhart ranch, hid
her car in a barn and sliced her body into separate parts. He then
burned her remains in a fire.
Four hours after confessing, Meirhofer tied a bath
towel to his cell bars in Gallatin County's jail and hanged himself.
"It happened a long time ago, and I went through a
lot of hard times," Dykman said. "I've just been with this for such a
Detectives will process the evidence, document and
photograph all of Smallegan's belongings, Cashell said. They don't
expect to find anything suspicious that will change the belief that
Meirhofer killed her.
"This was totally unexpected," Cashell said. "It's
somewhat sad that it's got to get reopened."
The Manhattan Police Department worked with the
sheriff's office to gather the evidence from the garage.
Smallegan's items will be returned to her mother
"I'll keep them. I want them," Dykman said.