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Southwest Minnesotans Remember Ruthton Killings

November 18, 2003, 9:45 PM by Anna Peters

Southwest Minnesotans Remember Ruthton Killings

As some farmers sit wondering how they're going to make it, now is not as bad as the farm crisis of the 80's. It scarred one tiny town in a much different way. Ruthton, Minnesota was thrust into the national spotlight when two bankers were ambushed outside a rural home. The search for suspects stretched as far away as Texas. It's been 20 years since the Ruthton murders, but the crime is still on people's minds.

A lot of people in Southwest Minnesota will never forget where they were when they heard what happened outside this empty farm house.

"I'm sure everybody's got a little feeling of apprehension you know," says a Ruthton resident in 1983.

On September 29, 1983, two bankers came here to meet a potential buyer. Instead, they were met by Jim Jenkins and his son Steven, the family they'd repossessed the property from three years earlier. And, the Jenkins were there for revenge. They shot and killed both men.

Two decades later, the for sale sign is gone and the house has a new coat of paint. But when they drive by the house, people still think of the murders.

"It always happens some other place, not here," says Roy Yonker.

"It was scary for everybody. You feel bad for everybody," says Caroline Baartman.

"When they weren't found that's when I think everybody was pretty worried," says Brian Baartman who was 10 years old at the time.

For four days, fear spread through the town of Ruthton and the manhunt spread to Texas.

They let school out. The kids all went home. The bank was closed. Total confusion, everybody was scared. Nobody knew for sure what was going on. It was a horrible feeling," says Caroline Baartman.

Brian Baartman was 10 years old at the time. He still remembers looking for the suspect's white truck. "It was pretty scary for a kid."

And it was surprising for people who knew the Jenkins. Roy Yonker drove Steven Jenkins' school bus. "He'd get on the bus and just sit there. He wouldn't bother anybody," he says.

Now, that quiet boy sits in a prison cell. His father Jim killed himself when they were caught in Texas. It all put this southwest Minnesota community back at ease.

"It was pretty crazy for little Ruthton," says Brian Baartman.

"You know, since then there's been peace and quiet and everything is fine," says Caroline Baartman.

Steven Jenkins was adopted by his attorney. His last name is now Anderson. He's still in prison, serving a life sentence, and is 38 years old now.

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