From WHS Orange & Black, Nov. 30, 1973
45th anniversary of killing of WHS students at Iowa Park marked
Attack, rape inspiration for book ‘Gitchie Girl’
By Taylar Erickson
Nov. 17 marked the 45th anniversary of perhaps the worst tragedy to befall WHS students as four were murdered, including a ninth grader who was at that time a Patrick Henery student. What was then known as Washington Senior High School was a three-year high school.
Attacked and killed at Gitchie Manitou State Preserve in Lyon County, Iowa, were seniors Roger Essem and Stewart Baade, sophomore Michael Hadrath and ninth grader Dana Baade.
Eighth grader Sandra Cheskey was raped but survived the attack. Her testimony was instrumental in bringing the perpetrators to justice and was the inspiration for the book “Gitchie Girl.”
The group was at what was then known as the “beer hall,” the picnic shelter at the park, listening to music around a camp fire when they were attacked by men claiming to be narcotics agents. They were later identified by Cheskey as brothers Allen Fryer, 29; David Fryer, 24 and James Fryer, 21 of Sioux Falls.
Cheskey recently told KELO Television that the road to recovery has been a difficult one for her.
“I walked with my head down for 40 years and I blocked everything out,” Cheskey told KELO.
Since the publication of “Gitchie Girl” in 2016, she has found the courage to talk about the attack.
“You have to talk about it,” Cheskey said. “Don’t hold it in. I started doing some events. The outpouring of support from the public was amazing. I’ve had so many girls come up to me during these events and hug me and whisper, ‘I was raped and you’re my hero.’”
The picnic shelter at Gitchie Manitou still stands, but has been largely vandalized over the years. All three of the Fryer brothers were eventually sentenced to life without the possibility of parole and are serving their sentences at the Iowa State Penitentiary in Fort Madison, Iowa.