Former West Fargo School District instructor, Robert Dodge, presently residing in Singapore, is back in the area for a two-month promotional book tour as the author of his latest work "Prairie Murders."
The work is a true crime piece about the murders of Pollie Johnson, Dixie Olson and Billy Wolf, all with West Fargo ties, and the pursuing investigation also involving a number of individuals with West Fargo connections.
Dodge became familiar with West Fargo when he began teaching in the community in 1969 after earning a bachelor's degree in history from NDSU in 1967 followed by a brief tour in the army. He went on to earn a masters degree in education from NDSU in 1973 and continued to teach in West Fargo until 1979. After leaving West Fargo, Dodge taught at the American Community School of London and most recently Singapore American School from 1983 to 2006, retiring at that time. He is also the author of "The Strategist," a book about his friend Thomas Schelling, the 2005 Nobel Laureate in Economics; and is currently working on a third book.
During his teaching years in West Fargo - active in the community, and as an instructor of Johnson, Wolf, and two of the informants who helped solve two of the murders - Dodge witnessed firsthand the havoc these crimes caused the community.
Johnson, a cheerleader and gymnast at West Fargo High School, was the victim of a 1976 murder in her secluded home on the Sheyenne River. Olson, a 29-year-old mother, was found dead in her West Fargo home six months later. While the first two murders were still under heavy investigation, the body of another West Fargo High School student, Billy Wolf, was recovered from the Red River. Today, these incidents are still some of the highest profile murders the area has ever seen. The story of the murders, investigations, legal proceedings and the affect on the community are revealed in Dodge's new book, uncovering a number of things that have never been revealed to the public.
Dodge began writing "Prairie Murders" after reading John Grisham's "An Innocent Man." The book sparked a memory of when he taught a unit on law at Singapore American School. "The students always enjoyed hearing my stories about the murders in West Fargo," Dodge said. "I thought there could be an underlying theme of social chance, and in my 30 years overseas I have always enjoyed telling people about North Dakota, 'the nexus of the universe,' as one of my friends mockingly says of my descriptions."
Those wishing to hear more about what went into the composition of "Prairie Murders" can do so by visiting the West Fargo Public Library, Dodge's first stop on his promotional tour, on Tuesday, Sept. 1, at 7 p.m., where he will be hosting an open forum and book signing., followed by a Thursday, Sept. 3, appearance at 7 p.m. at the Fargo Public Library. In addition to signing books Dodge will also discuss his North Dakota heritage, his relation to the case, and how he went about gathering material for the book. The West Fargo Library is located at 109 3rd St. E., in the Lodoen Community Center, while the Fargo Library is located at 102 3rd St. N.