Johnson, Tupa headline

This bold headline in the Oct. 5, 1934, issue of the Hutchinson Leader proclaimed the murder of Frank Micka nine years earlier solved.

Editor’s note: This is Part III in a series about the murder of Frank Micka.

Albert Tupa lived on and worked at the Micka farm north of Hutchinson. On Oct. 13, 1925, the farm’s owner, Frank Micka, was brutally murdered in cold blood and his possessions stolen.

With few clues and no leads, what happened that night turned into a mystery. It seemed that the murderer (or murderers) were going to get away. One of the last people to ever see Micka alive was Tupa, who explained to authorities that on that day, Micka left the farm and headed into Hutchinson.

The case remained unsolved for nearly a decade until a confession was made by one of the Micka farmhands, John Johnson, who was being held in jail for another brutal crime. As it turned out, however, Johnson did not act alone.

Johnson and his accomplice knew their victim well. Micka was a respected businessman and always carried a lot of cash. A plan was hatched to murder Micka, steal his possessions, and then hide the evidence. They believed the plan was foolproof. After all, who would expect the two men employed by Micka, especially since one of them was Tupa.

Following Johnson’s confession, authorities immediately arrested Tupa and brought him to McLeod County Jail. There, Tupa confessed to his part in the crime, his story matching that of Johnson. Both men admitted the murder was deliberately planned.

On Oct. 13, the three men worked together in a cornfield. Tupa went home at 6 p.m., but Johnson remained hidden in the cornfield. When Micka left the cornfield at dusk, Johnson snuck up behind him and shot him with a double-barreled shotgun.

Earlier that day, a crew of carpenters were on the farm erecting a hog shed. Tupa and Johnson assumed Micka would have a large sum of cash on him to pay the carpenters. Johnson confessed that he was disgusted to only find $15 in Micka’s wallet.

Johnson headed back to Tupa and reported what had happened. The two headed out to the scene of the crime to clean up. They first loaded Micka’s body into a car and drove to Lake Hook, where they threw the body in a ditch and did their best to cover it with brush. They then returned to the crime scene with a large quantity of kerosene. They poured the fuel on the ground over the blood and set fire to it. They then took a plow and turned over the earth in that spot to obliterate any evidence left.

Both men faced life in prison for their deed. On Oct. 4, 1934, Tupa attempted suicide by hanging himself in his cell and nearly succeeded if not for the gurgling sounds that alerted his jailers. While Tupa awaited his trial, Johnson was given a life sentence.

The trial of Tupa was slated for November 1934. Though he initially confessed to the crime, he entered a plea of not guilty. Johnson was one of the first to testify in the case. He recounted the plan he and Tupa concocted and the actions that followed. The two men who later arrested Tupa also testified, recounting the man’s confession that he gave on the way to the county jail.

Tupa entered the stand and claimed that he did not remember making any confession, and that he was severely ill on the day he was arrested. He even went so far as to say that Sherriff Beihoffer drugged him with white pills. Though he refused to admit guilt in the planning of the crime, Tupa did agree that he played a role in aiding Johnson with disposing of the body.

The jury deliberated for over 24 hours. Then, on a Friday afternoon in November, the jury assembled in front of the court and gave a verdict of “not guilty.” Prosecuters immediately charged Tupa with being an accessory to the crime. For this Tupa plead guilty and was sentenced to one to five years in Stillwater Prison. Johnson would serve a life sentence, however.

The case of Frank Micka’s murder was finally over. Both men served their sentence, yet it is unclear as to what happened to them afterward. It’s a likely possibility that Johnson never walked again as a free man. For Micka, his family could now put the horrible killing of their loved one behind them. For Mcleod County, people could rest easy knowing the case had been solved.

Brian Haines is executive director of the McLeod County Historical Society and Museum, 380 School Road N.W., Hutchinson. The museum is open 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday through Friday, 1-4 p.m. Saturday and by appointment. Admission is free. For more information, call the museum at 320-587-2109.