November 12, 1933
It was Sunday, and much like every other Sunday, Mrs. Annie Dutcheshen got her children ready and took them to visit her parents, Annie and Metro Zurawell, on their farm about five and a half miles south of Veregin, Saskatchewan.
A gruesome sight awaited them. The farmyard was eerily quiet on their arrival and when Mrs. Dutcheshen entered the small farmhouse she found her parents dead, lying on the floor in the kitchen. Metro was on his back, shot in the head and chest, Annie was face down and seemed to have made an effort to get to the door before she died from her own gunshot wound to the chest. The house had been ransacked, including a trunk in the bedroom, and someone had attempted to set the house on fire. The bed was burnt, coal oil from a lamp having been used as an accelerant, but the fire had burned itself out instead of consuming the house as planned. The bed was still smouldering when Mrs. Dutcheshen and her kids arrived.
The motivation appeared to have been robbery. Annie Zurawell’s daughter from a previous marriage told police that the couple kept about $300 in the bedroom trunk, but after a search of the home the only money found was about eighty cents.
A coroner’s inquest was held and on November 29, 1933, the jury brought in a verdict of murder by wounds from a shotgun in the hands of a person or persons unknown, on the night of November 11, 1933.
At the inquest, Steve Dutcheshen, the 21-year-old grand-nephew of the Zurawells, testified that on November 8th or 9th he’d been at Mike Kindiak’s house and Mike had given him an agreement to read over. The agreement was between Mike Kindiak, his wife Irene, who was one of the Zurawell’s daughters, and Metro Zurawell. The agreement, made in 1930, transferred a quarter of land to the Kindiaks in return for them giving 1/3 of the crop to Metro each year for as long as he lived. Steve stated that Mike Kindiak had told him that if Metro Zurawell didn’t have his copy of the agreement he wouldn’t be able to collect his share, and if Steve was willing to steal the paper, he’d pay him $25 for it. Irene added that the paper would either be in the old house or in a trunk in the new house. Steve testified that he’d refused the offer, and when Mike Kindiak took the stand he denied having ever made it in the first place.
As for other suspects, Mike Dutcheshen testified that he’d picked up a stranger on his way to Verigin on that fateful Sunday the 12th, when he was driving to notify the police, but it wasn’t mentioned in his two previous statements. There were also two men reportedly seen tramping from home to home in the area, looking for marriageable women in the days leading up to the murders. They were reported as wanted for questioning but it’s unclear whether the RCMP ever tracked them down, or the supposed man Mike Dutcheshen had given a ride to. They did, however, bring in Pete Papyrka, a local man who’d worked for the Zurawell’s and was found with a decent amount of money on him, but he had an alibi.
Complicating matters further, there’d also been a recent string of robberies in the district. Two or three farmers known to have money had been held up.
There were three clues found in the home. Two spent shells were catalogued on the scene, as well a man’s thumbprint on the lamp chimney in the bedroom. They believed that whoever lit the bed on fire had removed the lamp’s chimney to do so and left the thumbprint behind. They fingerprinted every person in the district, including the investigating police force, but no match was found. They sent the print to the FBI in the United States and the fingerprint section in Ottawa, to be compared against every fingerprint on file, but still no match. An enormous search for the murder weapon was undertaken, but after searching the countryside and comparing the spent shells to every rifle and shotgun in the area, no match was found and the search turned up nothing.
Unfazed, the police investigated the actions and whereabouts of hundreds of people, everyone known to have passed through or worked in the area, even going so far as to track down people who had moved back to Poland, but still no solid leads were found.
The newspapers kept the story alive, publishing updates every few years until 1948, when fifteen years had past without any new leads or clues. Despite the dogged pursuit, the murders were never solved and the slayer of Annie and Metro Zurawell was never revealed. Was it planned? Opportunistic? Was it connected to the string of robberies in the district or the agreement between Mike Kindiak and Metro Zurawell? We’ll never know, but that is the story of the unsolved murder of Annie and Metro Zurawell.
Information for this post came from the following editions of the Saskatoon Star-Phoenix and the Regina Leader-Post: Nov 13, 1933, Nov 15 1933, Nov 17, 1933, Nov 30, 1933, April 13, 1938, Nov 16, 1943, Sep 11, 1945, and Nov 23, 1948
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