It was early on a Monday morning, Feb. 2, 1953, when Donald Krasean heard a knock on his farmhouse door. Opening it, he was greeted by a draft of cold February air and the face of his neighbor, 25-year-old Arthur Melichar.
Melichar had driven over to ask for a barrel of fuel oil, a request that Krasean thought strange since Melichar’s mother, Mary, had requested a 5-gallon can of fuel oil the night before. That wasn’t all that was strange, however, as in Melichar’s hand was a shotgun.
Krasean did not have a spare barrel, but did have some spare fuel oil and told Melichar that he’d put another 5 gallons in a can for him. Seemingly satisfied, Melichar left the Krasean farm only to return shortly after.
“I want to talk to you alone,” shouted Melichar as he burst through the door and grabbed Krasean by the neck. Krasean could see that the young man was agitated and did as he said, leading Melichar into another room of the house. The young man confessed to Krasean that he’d just killed his mother and brother, and that he was having trouble at the farm but didn’t want to leave on account of the animals.
The conversation was bizarre, to say the least, and ended with a disconcerted Melichar driving back home. Krasean phoned the police.
At the same time Melichar was leaving the Krasean farm, Carl Baumetz was driving down the road in a cattle truck. He’d just picked up a load of livestock from another farm east of the Melichars and on the same road. Arthur spotted the truck, slid his car sideways and formed a roadblock that also stopped a young motorist, 16-year-old Rodney Mosel.
Mosel was described as one of a kind — the type of kid with a mischievous smile and a twinkle in his eye. People also said he was kind-hearted, so it was not unusual that he stopped and got out of his car to see if Melichar needed help.
On the other side of Melichar’s car, Baumetz brought his truck to a halt. Melichar stepped out of his car and asked Baumetz if he needed help. Before he could answer, Melichar began shooting and hit Baumetz three times.
Baumetz escaped his truck, and both he and Mosel began running toward the George Benjamin farm to escape with Melichar in tow, firing at the two as he chased them down the Benjamin driveway.
Benjamin let the two into his home, where young Mosel was losing blood fast from a gunshot wound that hit his heart. Benjamin quickly dialed an ambulance to come to the victims’ aid.
Melichar jumped into Baumetz’s cattle truck and drove it back to his farm, where law enforcement eventually caught up to him. Melichar made a stand for one hour but was eventually captured and sent to McLeod County Jail, where he was kept under close supervision.
Melichar’s mental state was in question as investigators began to inquire as to what happened. They found Melichar’s home to be a peculiar place. It was home to Melichar, his mother Mary and disabled brother, Sanford.
Investigators learned that Mary was concerned for Arthur’s well-being, and she had witnessed him going into “spells” where he withdrew into his own world. It was also discovered that just two months prior, Mary tried to have Arthur committed to an asylum.
Though he talked little when questioned, Arthur eventually claimed that he was kept under Mary’s thumb, that she didn’t allow him to be with girls, that she didn’t allow him to leave the farm, and when he did, it was because he had snuck out.
He claimed that he shot his mother after she threatened to sell the cattle. He said he shot his disabled brother because he didn’t want Sanford to have to just lie in his bed alone. He fired at Baumetz because he feared he was coming to take the cattle away. When asked why he shot Mosel, Melichar coldly replied, “Anybody could get shot.”
The decision was made that Arthur Melichar was not fit for trial, that he was criminally insane due to being a paranoid psychotic — the type who feels that plots are always going against them. He was admitted to the state hospital for the criminally insane in St. Peter.
Baumetz, though wounded, lived. Mary and Sanford Melichar did not. Perhaps the saddest point in the episode was the death of Mosel, whose friend wrote a poem in remembrance:
The poem I write in memory of the wildest guy I know. He couldn’t sit still for a minute, and would not be told what to do. In school he had his troubles, but he always stuck up for his right. Some people would try to fool him, but Rodney could always see light. Whenever Rodney was serious, you knew trouble was by; but often he was smiling, and you never knew just why. His smile made everyone happy, even his frown was gay; but if his eyes were on fire, you had better get out of his way. To be a friend of Rodney’s, you had to be lots of fun; but if you were nice to others, his heart was easily won. His clowning was full of fun, his jokes were always clever; but now our Rodney is a memory, and his antics gone forever. A pal if ever could find one. A gift that God could send. We’ll always remember Rodney, as a friend until the end.