Tricounty News

Recalling the Huling family horror


by Pat Garry, Staff writer

When I was handed this assignment, it was with great ambivalence that I accepted it. While human nature has a way of dwarfing original intentions, in the final analysis we are compelled to face and sometimes reluctantly, address reality. During this holiday season, it is imperative to address and recollect those dire events of Dec. 15, 1978, in nearby rural Clearwater. That was the tragic and terrifying night when a killer (Joseph Ture Jr.) scuttled through the Huling residence, methodically shooting and killing Alice Huling and her three children; Susan, 16; Wayne, 13; and Patti, 12. Another child, 11-year-old Billy, survived by huddling under his bed covers as two shotgun blasts narrowly missed his head.

Joseph Ture Jr. was accused of the shotgun killing of Alice Huling and three of her four children in their home. He is also serving a life sentence for the 1980 abduction, rape and murder of a 19-year-old West St. Paul waitress, plus a consecutive 30-year sentence for three Minneapolis rapes (1). Additionally, he was convicted of the 1979 murder of Afton, Minn., teenager Marlys Wohlenhaus.  While awaiting trial in the 1980 case, Ture allegedly told a fellow inmate that he killed Wohlenhaus, the Hulings and Melrose native Joanie Bierschbach (1). Ture’s attorney challenged the confession. Stearns
County Judge Richard Ahles ruled at the time that prosecutors could use the confession, several transcripts of law enforcement interviews and evidence taken from Ture’s car four days after the killings (1). His ultimate conviction and murder sentences will keep him imprisoned until at least 2025, when he will be 74.

Though originally I was skeptical about consenting to this obscure undertaking, in retrospect I am most gracious for the opportunity to speak to it. While it seems far too often that shocking and heinous onslaughts surface during the holidays, timing really is everything! Keeping the Christmas spirit glowing deep within is more than challenging, considering the country’s recent, senseless tragedies still so infant in our minds. And though it may be little consolation to those families directly affected by pointless heartbreaks, hopefully the magical season will provide closure and peace to same.

(1) Source: 2000 Online Edition WCCO-NewsRadio Mpls., MN.