Meeting John Senenfelder continued….

Harley said he and John were long time friends and he is reserved and quiet, and doesn’t like to talk. I asked if he would ask John S. if he would talk to me. Harley said he would, but seriously doubted he would, especially after the paper “fucked him over like they did.” I persisted and Harley said he would ask. Ron and I left thinking, well we had tried.

The next day, Harley called Ron who then called me. It seemed that at least John would meet with me but any talk about the past was off limits. Ron picked me up at the coffee shop and we felt some excitement, why I wasn’t sure. As we turned up the alley, we could see the garage was open and sure enough, Harley sat in one of the three chairs, and there was John Senenfelder, in his wheelchair, smoking a small cigar. I was nervous and so was he. We exchanged an awkward handshake and I pulled up a chair on his right side. Ron and Harley lit up and moved a few feet away. I tried my best to tell him as gently as I could that I was grateful he consented to meet me, and did not want to cause him pain. He nodded in silence and stared out into the alley as cars came by. It was certainly a busy alley. The sun shone on our faces as I outlined the book I was writing and just wanted some background on Ada. There had to be more than I had. What was she like as a wife? I tried to start a conversation but was going nowhere until I asked him if he was from Winona? John replied he was from Iowa. I told him I was in Iowa recently to visit some of my cousins for the first time. He seemed to perk up just a little under neath his shell and asked me where? I told him and we started to talk.

He came to Winona in the late 1960’s after a huge storm had knocked down a lot of trees. He got work cleaning up the town and stayed on. He eventually became a plumber and made “big money”, as he characterized it several times. I asked how he met Ada, and he softly replied it was “through friends”. I asked him to rate his marriage to her and he said there were many good times. I knew that Ada was married to Casmir Flak, and there was three children when he married her. I didn’t know how Casmir died so I asked him. He just said ” cancer”. I was encouraged now and asked what Ada was like? He glanced at me and said she liked to party a lot. At that point he thrust his arms down and wheeled away. I watched him as he went down the alley home. I had really talked to John Senenfelder. Harley said he had never seen him talk so much. Ron and I left there with me thinking I had done my share of harm to a man who seemed kind and gentle, though shielded. Something in me liked this man, a man convicted of molesting his step-daughter. Just before he took off, I sensed I was losing him, and asked if I would come back to see him again? He said yes.

to be continued…

This exchange is found in the book Murder and Deceit – the story of Jack Nissalke and available on Amazon.com.

Murder and Deceit

I wrote this book ten years ago but it needs a new read now in 2020. This is a true story and this man is still in prison, wrongfully convicted.

Murder and Deceit tells the story of Jack Nissalke, a Minnesota man wrongly convicted of murder. Ada Senenfelder was found dead in her home in Winona, Minnesota, in 1985. Dozens of witnesses and potential suspects were investigated and interrogated, but no one was ever charged with the crime. Flash forward 24 years later when Winona gets an ambitious new District Attorney named Chuck MacLean. MacLean decides to close the Senenfelder case once and for all. He offers a $50,000 reward for information about the cold case. Suddenly stories change, new denials are made, memories are hazy, and everyone has money on their mind. MacLean decides to charge Jack Nissalke with the long-ago crime, and wins a conviction after a bizarre trial that includes jury tampering, media tampering, and an incompetent defense.

This book is available on Amazon.com

The Relevancy of Writing Letters

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What a dynamic and exciting title. However, now that I have your attention, let me make a case for the antiquated and dying art of a real hand written letter, even in the internet-fueled age of 2014, soon to be 2015. 

This is written with the complete knowledge that not only do people not write letters, they rarely read anything longer than a text or an email. This treatise is not going to criticize any of the electronic forms of present day communication, only to make a compelling case for actually writing a letter. 

The above letter is from Abraham Lincoln explaining his views on slavery. It may be hard to read, but most of our hand writing today is pretty bad and just as hard to decipher, so we type one on Word and press print. However, there is something highly personal and intimate when someone writes you a letter. You feel their soul. 

I have a few stories of how powerful and life changing writing letters has been in my own life.  Growing up in a small town in Texas in a time when people wrote letters regularly made a deep impression on my outlook on how life occurs. My mother would read letters to us from aunts and family friends as we had dinner. There was no need to look up most addresses as she had them memorized. She would explain what they implied and gave us brief editorial comments on what she thought of their news. 

There was no need for me to ever write a letter as I did not know anyone my age who lived outside our little town, until one day when I was at the local library. To my knowledge, I was the only person in our family who ever entered the Denison Library. I loved to roam its aisles and see what I would discover. One day after school, when I was 12, I pulled a book down that was a guide about how to obtain autographs from famous people. Inside it contained the addresses of hundreds of folks and what to put in the letter asking for an autographed picture or just their signature. Instructions were firm to be sure and include that all important SASE (self-addressed stamped envelope) was in heavy bold type. This was fascinating to my young mind. Just to think, I only had to write a letter and mail it and the possibility of a famous person touching the letter and mailing something of theirs (their name) arriving in my mail box was too good to be true. As a test I found the address of the New York Yankees.

About a month later my SASE arrived with a picture signed by Mickey Mantle. I was delighted but upon closer inspection the famous signature looked like it had been made by a stamp. I devised a new plan and rode my bike to Main Street News where they sold black and white pictures of baseball players for about 75 cents. I bought every one that had a Yankee uniform. Over the next many months I received some of them back including Roger Maris and Whitey Ford. I branched out to the Dodgers and got a reply from Sandy Koufax. 

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By the time I was 14 I wrote a letter to President Lyndon Johnson asking him what the Viet Nam war was all about? Our antiquated maps in school did not have such a name and it took hours at the library to find out it used to be called French Indochina. I was amazed it was such a small country and could not understand why any war the USA was involved in there would last over a month. He did not write me back. The Pentagon did. When I came home from McDaniel Junior High School one day, there were 5 boxes addressed to me, and a letter from a 4 Star General. My parents were confused and a little upset that our house was getting mail from Washington DC. Such things were to feared and avoided at all cost, especially typed letters with heavy bond. However, the boxes contained books and pamphlets of war propaganda, that after reading them, I rejected such nonsense. My letter campaign soon ended when the next batch of mail arrived a month later. Over half of the folks I wrote to never responded so I had no idea who would write back. I arrived home to find my father had taken off work and was at the kitchen table with my mother. They nervously smoking cigarettes. On the table was 2 small boxes from the FBI. I was ordered to open them as they craned their necks to see what danger was inside. I showed them a large, framed picture of J. Edgar Hoover, signed to me, and several books detailing the Bureau’s history. Included was a letter to me urging me to consider and career there and a letter of recommendation from him if I chose to apply when I grew up. My parents were angry and firm: NO MORE LETTERS. I had learned at an early age the power of just writing a simple, hand crafted letter.

In my 20’s, when my sons were born, I was suffering from acute depression why my biological father was not in  my life and seemed to remain silent and a ghost to me. I wondered what was wrong with me? One of my aunts urged me to write him a letter and tell him how I felt. I did. I wrote him letters from 1979 until 2006. I would write every time those feelings returned and felt better after I mailed them. He never responded. His wife did in 2006 after he died. Those old scars were healed, finally after years of writing letters. I will never have many questions answered, but because of those letters, I have met my cousins and visited the state of Minnesota as well as my father’s home town. My oldest son took me to dozens of places there to gain knowledge of who he was and that helped me bury the past.

At the same time I was visiting Minnesota for the first time in 2009, I had become interested in Jack Nissalke, and his claim of being innocent of a cold case murder he had been recently convicted. John Jr. and I traveled to Winona, Minnesota, and then to Rush City to visit Jack. We amassed a ton of evidence and began to investigate the murder. I went back and looked through newspapers in the 1980’s and interviewed local people, until I was convinced he could not have committed this heinous crime. I wrote a book and have an active blog you will find under “My Other Blogs”. His appeal comes before the court again in a little over a week. Jack and I have corresponded frequently over the years. I have boxes that contain hundreds of his letters. Jack’s letter writing is now masterful after he was first trying to write the early ones. I have become to know him by these letters and every one makes me smile or cry. 

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Writing a letter is still relevant and has the power to move mountains. Try and you will have your own stories.

My Other Blogs

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I have been blogging for years and have others that I will share on this site.

Bucher And Son is the blog that I share with my youngest son, Josh Bucher. He and I collaborate quite often, and I also put a lot of poetry on this one.

https://bucherandson.wordpress.com/

Jack Nissalke Is Innocent is one of two blogs I write for people I know that have been wrongfully convicted. I wrote a book a few years ago about Jack, called “Murder And Deceit”.

http://jacknissalkeisinnocent.wordpress.com/

Ken Andersen Is Innocent is the second real life story about a man wrongfully convicted of murder.

http://kenandersenisinnocent.wordpress.com/

The Sundance Experience is a blog mainly about the show “Rectify”” on the Sundance Channel.

http://thesundanceexperience.wordpress.com/

Last one of the lineup is Greensmoke Poetry which is only poetry I have to offer.

http://greensmokepoetry.wordpress.com/