Duane Earl Pope

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Duane Earl Pope (born February 8, 1943)[1] 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, in which three people were murdered and one left severely injured.

Duane Earl Pope in 2016

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, he grew up with a fascination for guns and tractors.[2]

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 have led him obtain a job teaching high school industrial arts. He had the idea to rob the Big Springs bank while working in wheat fields there one summer while he was in college. In college, he bought several caterpillar tractor/bulldozers and was contemplating starting an excavation businesses but needed money for a trailer.[2]

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.[3] Franklin Kjeldgaard, who returned to work at the bank and served as president until 2004, when his family sold it, died July 6, 2012, aged 72.[4]

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. In San Diego, California, Pope discovered that authorities had deduced his identity. He next went to Las Vegas, Nevada, where he gambled and enjoyed himself.[2]

Pope appeared on the FBI 10 Most Wanted List for one day.[5] 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.[2]

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. Pope remained at USP Leavenworth (Register Number: 85021-132) until July 1, 2016. On that date, aged 73, he was granted federal parole and then transported to Nebraska to begin serving three life sentences handed down in 1970 by the State of Nebraska.[2]

From 1978-83, while incarcerated, Pope was married to a college girlfriend, Ramona Lowe.[2]


  1. ^ Pope profile, Nebraska Department of Correctional Services website; accessed October 8, 2016.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Grove, Noel (2008). Anyone But Duane. AuthorHouse. ISBN 978-1-4389-0990-5. 
  3. ^ Graham, Frank (December 4, 2008). "Big Springs bank robbery recounted in new book". North Platte Bulletin. Retrieved July 26, 2010. 
  4. ^ [1][dead link]
  5. ^ "Images of Duane Earl Pope". Fbi.gov. Retrieved October 8, 2016. 

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