October 2, 1931
Harvey, North Dakota
Sophia Everlein-Bentz is killed by her husband Jacob Bentz

Sophia (45) and Jacob (49) had both recently lost their first spouses to illness, and it was suspected Jacob convinced Sophia to marry him — despite the pair knowing each other for a brief time — to have access to the $75,000 (approximately $1.25 million today) left to Sophia by her late husband. Her prenuptial agreement, however, stipulated Jacob would receive little payment if he survived her.

At approximately 1 a.m., either while Sophia was sleeping or preparing for bed, Jacob struck her twice in the head with a hammer. Jacob later claimed in court the attack followed a disagreement of an unspecified matter. “I love her yet,” Jacob told the judge. “I lost my head when we argued. I intended to kill myself too.”

Jacob believed he had killed his wife, though a postmortem examination suggested Sophia was still alive but unconscious after the hammer attack. Jacob then cleaned the bedroom of blood and gathered bloody clothing. At around 5 a.m., Jacob called an insurance salesman to request a $5,000 (approximately $84,000 today) accident policy on both himself and his wife. After he hung up with the insurance company, Jacob loaded Sophia’s body as well as any bloody clothing into the family automobile.

Once Jacob had driven a few miles, he pushed the car from a ledge. It fell 10 feet (3 meters) into a ditch and, according to Jacob, caught on fire upon impact. Investigators later found evidence the car had been set on fire purposefully, however. Jacob then visited a nearby farm where he claimed he and his wife had been in an accident and, while he was unharmed, he was unable to save his wife from the burning vehicle. The accident theory was initially taken at face value.

Sophia’s adult daughters visited their mother’s home and, suspicious of the circumstances of her death, investigated Sophia’s room. There, they found blood spots, a hammer, and a dish which was used to hold water as Jacob cleaned the scene. Both the hammer and dish were stained with blood and contained bits of hair. Sophia’s daughters brought the new evidence to police which directly led to Jacob’s confession to the murder on October 5.

Jacob pleaded guilty to Sophia’s murder and was sentenced to life imprisonment. He died in prison in 1944.

The home Jacob and Sophia shared was later torn down; the Harvey Public Library now stands in its place. Reportedly, the library is haunted by Sophia’s ghost who is deemed responsible for keys and books which go missing only to mysteriously reappear. Sophia is also said to be the cause of flickering lights throughout the building, a phenomenon electricians have been unable to correct. The otherworldly activities are said to become more frequent during the month of October, the month in which Sophia was killed.

Photograph of Jacob Bentz via Find a Grave. Newspaper clipping: The Bismarck Tribune. October 6, 1931

Sources:
“Jacob Bentz.” Find a Grave. Accessed: October 2, 2019. https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/33419196/jacob-bentz
Gerard, Ashton. “Ghost stories of North Dakota.” Minot Daily News. October 22, 2017. https://www.minotdailynews.com/news/local-news/2017/10/ghost-stories-of-north-dakota/
Blue Star, Dayanara. Real Ghost Stories. 2016
“Harvey, N.D., library haunted? Library workers wonder.” Grand Forks Herald. October 30, 2009. https://www.grandforksherald.com/news/2111894-harvey-nd-library-haunted-library-workers-wonder
Donovan, Lauren. “Believe it or not: Stories about North Dakota.” The Bismarck Tribune. October 19, 1999
“Confesses Hammer Murder.” Bismarck Tribune. October 6, 1931
“Confesses to Wife Murder.” The Bismarck Tribune. October 5, 1931
“Three Persons Are Victims of Fatal Mishaps in State.” The Bismarck Tribune. October 3, 1931

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