David Meirhofer

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David Meirhofer
David Gail Meirhofer

(1949-06-08)June 8, 1949
DiedSeptember 29, 1974(1974-09-29) (aged 25)
Cause of deathSuicide by hanging
Span of crimes
CountryUnited States
Date apprehended

David G. Meirhofer (June 8, 1949 – September 29, 1974) was an American serial killer who committed four murders in rural Montana between 1967 and 1974 — three of them children.

At the time of the crimes committed by Meirhofer, the FBI had actively been in the process of refining a method of psychologically profiling criminal offenders,[2] and Meirhofer would be the first serial killer to be actively investigated using this technique.[3]

Offender profiling is now a contemporary method used to discover clues pertaining to the characteristics of an unknown offender from evidence at the scene of the crime, and to psychologically profile the perpetrator concerned.[4]


Among Meirhofer's victims was seven-year-old Susan Jaeger, who was taken from her tent at night during a family camping trip.[5] He left no ransom request[6] and no physical evidence.[7] However, the offender profiling technique, which was first used in this case,[3] 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". Furthermore, they believed that the killer may have been arrested for other crimes.[8]

Meirhofer was 23 years old at the time and suspected in another murder. He denied the charges.[8] 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.[9]

Meirhofer had killed Suzie Jaeger, two boys, and a woman.[7] In September 1974, he confessed to having kidnapped the woman, Sandra Dykman Smallegan, in her sleep during February of that same year.[1] Smallegan had once dated Meirhofer, but had ended the relationship.[1]


On September 29, 1974, Meirhofer committed suicide by hanging himself in his cell in the Gallatin County, Montana, jail, four hours after confessing to the murders.[1]


  • Bernard L. Poelman, age 13, on March 19, 1967, in Gallatin County, Montana.[10]
  • Michael E. Raney, age 12, on May 7, 1968, in Gallatin County, Montana.[11]
  • Susan Jaeger, age 7, on June 25, 1973, in Gallatin County, Montana.[12][13]
  • Sandra D. Smallegan, age 19, on February 10, 1974, in Gallatin County, Montana.[14][15]

Media Presentations[edit]


Susan Jaeger's mother, Marietta Jaeger, wrote a book about Susan's kidnapping and murder, titled "The Lost Child", published: June 1983.[16][17]

Television shows[edit]

The short-lived ABC docudrama series "FBI: The Untold Stories" re-enacts Susan Jaeger's kidnapping and the FBI investigation in search of her kidnapper, aired: October 1991.[18]

External video
The FBI Files: Dark Woods at dailymotion

The police and FBI investigation into the abduction and murder of Susan Jaeger was portrayed in the May 27, 2003 episode of the television docudrama series "The FBI Files" entitled Dark Woods. In the episode, the name David Meirhofer was changed to David Masterson.[19]

In September 2013, the Investigation Discovery series "20/20 on ID" aired, The Power of Forgiveness (S3 E5). Marietta Jaeger shares her emotional pain after receiving a call, that lasted an hour, from Meirhofer on the one year anniversary of her daughter's abduction and how the call aided in law enforcement's capture of Meirhofer.[20][21]

See also[edit]

  • Terry Langford was an American killer executed in Montana (1998).
  • Wayne Nance was a suspected American serial killer native to Montana.


  1. ^ a b c d Sullivan, Ted. October 12, 2005. Personal Items Belonging to 1974 Murder Victim Found in Manhattan (Mont). Bozeman Daily Chronicle. Retrieved 2011-12-12.
  2. ^ Whoever Fights Monsters: My Twenty Years Tracking Serial Killers for the FBI ISBN 978-0-67171-561-8 pp. 213-214
  3. ^ a b "David Meirhofer Serial Killer - Video Dailymotion". Discovery Channel. Dailymotion. 26 March 2015. Retrieved 9 February 2017.
  4. ^ Claridge, Jack. "Criminal Profiling & Its Use in Crime Solving". Explore Forensics. Retrieved 30 June 2014.
  5. ^ SHAY, BECKY (12 October 2005). "Items owned by '74 murder victim found". The Billings Gazette. Retrieved 9 February 2017.
  6. ^ The History Channel Classroom Study Guides: Meirhofer Retrieved on June 28, 2007. Archived March 14, 2006, at the Wayback Machine
  7. ^ a b Ramsland, Katherine. "Criminal Profiling: Part 1: History and Method, Chpt 5: The BSU". CourtTV Crime Library (2007). TBS, Inc. Retrieved 2011-12-12.
  8. ^ a b Garrido Genoves, Vincente. 2007. El perfil Criminologico como un tecnico forense[permanent dead link] (in Spanish). University of Valencia. Retrieved on June 30, 2007.[dead link]
  9. ^ Forgiving.org. 2005. An account of the experience of Marietta Jaeger, the mother of Susan Jaeger. Retrieved on June 30, 2007. Archived September 28, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
  10. ^ Montana State Death Index 1960-1969 – P at rootsweb.ancestry.com. Retrieved 2011-12-12.
  11. ^ Montana State Death Index 1960-1969 – R at rootsweb.ancestry.com. Retrieved 2011-12-12.
  12. ^ "Kidnapping suspect is arrested" (PDF). FARMINGTON, MI: Farmington Observer & Eccentric. 30 September 1974. Archived from the original (PDF) on 12 June 2012. Retrieved 9 February 2017.
  13. ^ Associated Press, October 2, 1974. "Transcript of Confession Portrays a 'Mindless Monster'", The Argus-Press, BOZEMAN, MT. Retrieved 2011-12-12.
  14. ^ Montana State Death Index 1970-1979 – S at rootsweb.ancestry.com. Retrieved 2011-12-12.
  15. ^ Huff, David. September 23, 2008. "Her Name was Siobhan" TrueCrimeReport.com. Retrieved 2011-12-12.
  16. ^ JAEGER, MARIETTA (1 June 1983). The Lost Child. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan Publishing House. pp. 1–121. ISBN 9780310458111. Retrieved 31 March 2018. Depicts the kidnapping of a seven-year-old girl and discusses the lesson of faith and forgiveness that the mother learned from the experience
  17. ^ JAEGER, MARIETTA (1983). The Lost Child | Softcover. Basingstoke: HarperCollins Distribution Services. pp. 1–121. ISBN 9780720805543. Retrieved 31 March 2018.
  18. ^ Kanter, Donna (3 October 1991). "The Meirhofer Case". imdb.com. IMDb.com, Inc. Retrieved 31 March 2018.
  19. ^ "The FBI Files: Dark Woods". TV.com. CBS Interactive Inc. Retrieved 31 March 2018. A young girl was abducted from a state park while camping with her family. Later, a kidnapper made multiple telephone calls to the victim's mother.
  20. ^ "20/20 on ID | The Power of Forgiveness Season 3, Episode 5 | DIRECTV". directv.com. AT&T Intellectual Property. Retrieved 31 March 2018. A year after a girl is kidnapped, her abductor calls the girl's mother.
  21. ^ "20/20 on ID - The Power of Forgiveness - S3.E5". GoWatchIt. Plexus Entertainment, LLC. Archived from the original on 31 March 2018. Retrieved 31 March 2018.

Cited works and further reading[edit]

  • Douglas, John; Olshaker, Mark (1997). Journey Into Darkness: The FBI's Premier Investigator Penetrates the Minds and Motives of the Most Terrifying Serial Killers. Pocket Books. ISBN 978-1-439-19981-7
  • Jacobs, Don E. (2011). Analyzing Criminal Minds: Forensic Investigative Science for the 21st Century. Santa Barbara: Praeger Press. pp. 163–165. ISBN 978-0-313-39699-1.
  • Ressler, Robert (1993). Whoever Fights Monsters: My Twenty Years Tracking Serial Killers for the FBI. United States: Simon & Schuster. pp. 213–217. ISBN 978-0-67171-561-8.
  • Wilson, Colin; Seaman, Donald (2011) [1990]. The Serial Killers: A Study in the Psychology of Violence. London: Virgin Books Ltd. pp. 87–90. ISBN 978-0-75351-321-7.

External links[edit]