Duane Earl Pope

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Duane Earl Pope (born 1943) is a convicted murderer serving a life sentence for one of the bloodiest bank robberies in modern times, the 1965 robbery of the Farmers State Bank in Big Springs, Nebraska.

Pope grew up on a small, 160-acre (65 ha) farm outside Roxbury, Kansas, an unincorporated town in the northeast portion of McPherson County. He was one of eight children. Shy, quiet, and athletic as a child, Pope grew up with a fascination for guns and tractors, neither of which is particularly unusual for a farm boy.[1] He graduated in 1965 from McPherson College in McPherson, Kansas with a degree in industrial education, although he lacked the teaching component of that degree that would led him obtain a job teaching high school industrial arts.[1] He excelled in football but was a mediocre student.

Pope had the idea to rob the Big Springs bank while working in wheat fields there one summer while he was in college.[1] While in college, he bought several caterpillar tractor/bulldozers and was contemplating starting an excavation businesses but needed money for a trailer.[1] In preparation for the Big Springs robbery, he built handmade silencers for his pistols in the machine shops at his college and experimented with them in his family's barn. He also fashioned a breastplate out of a piece of a bulldozer blade. Two days after graduating from college, Pope borrowed fifty dollars from his father and said he was heading for Oklahoma to look for work. Instead, he went to Salina, Kansas, rented a new car, and drove to Nebraska. Late in the morning of June 4, 1965, after circling the bank and watching for the morning customers to leave, Pope conversed with a banker pretending to be a landowner seeking a loan. He then pulled out a Ruger .38 semiautomatic pistol and ordered the bank employees to fill his briefcase with cash. After getting what he could (about $1,600), Pope ordered the four bank workers to lie face down on the floor, where he shot them execution-style in the back and in the neck. Three of the victims, bank president Andreas (Andy) Kjeldgaard, 77, cashier Glenn Hendrickson, 59, and bookkeeper Lois Ann Hothan, 35, died instantly. The fourth, Franklin Kjeldgaard, 25, survived but was paralyzed for life.[2] (Franklin Kjeldgaard, who returned to work at the bank and served as president until 2004, when his family sold it, died July 6, 2012 at age 72.[3])

Pope made a circuitous exit from Big Springs, spotted by several witnesses. He tossed his gun and breastplate along the road; they were recovered by the FBI. He dropped some of the money off at his family home and returned the car to Hertz in Salina. He then traveled by bus and plane to Tijuana, Mexico, by way of Fort Worth and El Paso, Texas. While hiding in San Diego, Pope discovered that authorities had deduced he was the killer. Pope next went to Las Vegas, Nevada, where he gambled and enjoyed himself.[1] Pope appeared on the FBI 10 Most Wanted List for one day.[4] Upon reading an appeal for him to surrender issued by the president of his college, Pope flew to Kansas City, Missouri, where he turned himself in. He gave a 19-page confession to Kansas City police and was extradited to Nebraska.[1]

Pope was tried in 1965 in front of a jury in the U.S. District Court in Lincoln, Nebraska, and in 1970 in state court by a judge in Deuel County, Nebraska. Both times, he was found guilty and sentenced to death. His federal sentence was upheld by the Eighth Circuit in 1967, with Judge Harry Blackmun writing the court opinion. His sentence was commuted to life in prison by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1972 as part of the Furman v. Georgia package of cases that determined that the death penalty, as then practiced, was unconstitutional. As of 2014, Pope remains in USP Leavenworth. If he is ever granted federal parole, he will begin serving three life sentences in Nebraska.[1]

From 1978 to 1983, while incarcerated, Pope was married to a college girlfriend, Ramona Lowe.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Grove, Noel (2008). Anyone But Duane. AuthorHouse. ISBN 978-1-4389-0990-5. 
  2. ^ Graham, Frank (4 December 2008). "Big Springs bank robbery recounted in new book". North Platte Bulletin. Retrieved 26 July 2010. 
  3. ^ Obituary of Frank Martin Kjelldgaard, Tennant Funeral Home, http://www.tennantfuneralhomes.com/obituaries.asp?fname=Frank&mname=Martin&lname=Kjeldgaard
  4. ^ "Chronological Listing of The FBI’s "Ten Most Wanted Fugitives" March 14, 1950 - March 1, 2010". Retrieved 18 March 2012. 

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