Halloween always brings out tales of ghostly sightings and disappearing apparitions of those that apparently died an untimely or unhappy death.
St Cloud State University (SCSU) is no different from any other older institution in that it has its own folklore regarding these stories. The heel clicks heard in Riverview Hall, the soldier dressed in an old uniform pacing the halls in the James W. Miller Learning Resources Center, and the apparent problem of SCSU finding good janitors, as one is rumored to haunt Lawrence Hall after killing two professors in the 1950s. Or is the story regarding the janitor actually about a young woman becoming pregnant by the janitor and deciding to hang herself in Shoemaker Hall – her body discovered by the janitorial Lothario? It can be hard to keep folklore straight sometimes.
But these ghastly tales that bring us fright aren’t really needed. Real life, it seems, is much more horrifying.
Homecoming is usually a time of school spirit, drunken revelry, and active socializing but for Charles LaTourelle, a 25-year-old former Marine and SCSU student, Homecoming was yet another reminder of how lonely and disconnected he was from the rest of society.
LaTourelle was an assistant manager at a pizza restaurant located on the lower level of the Newman Center on the SCSU campus in 1980. On the night of Oct. 26, LaTourelle, his roommate and another friend – perhaps in an attempt to lighten LaTourelle’s mood – started drinking beer and smoking marijuana. The group eventually found their way to the apartment of two female friends where the cohorts continued drinking, this time partaking in shots of whiskey.
According to court documents, LaTourelle was “shy and withdrawn at the women’s apartment, as he always was with women.” A psychiatrist later described LaTourelle’s behavior as “vicarious participation.” Meaning that even though he was “shy, lonely, and quiet while with people, being in a crowd made him feel ‘as if [he could] talk with them, really mingle with people; as if [he was] not so lonely.’”
After the makeshift party petered out, LaTourelle made his way to a few bars on his own, wanting to speak to women but never having the courage to do so. LaTourelle then began fantasizing about asking women to dance or have sex with him which eventually led, around closing time (12 a.m.), to LaTourelle fantasying specifically about Catherine John, a SCSU student, who was also an assistant manager at the same pizza restaurant LaTourelle worked at – someone that LaTourelle had fantasized about on previous occasions.
When the bar finally closed, LaTourelle began to debate with himself about whether or not he should go to the Newman Center to rape Catherine.
Whether he made that decision right there at the bar is unknown, but LaTourelle did travel to the Newman Center around 12:15 or 12:30 a.m., sat down in a chair in the reception area and promptly passed out. A byproduct of his earlier partying.
A few minutes passed, at which point he woke up and vomited. LaTourelle later said he thought about leaving but decided not to because he heard employees leaving for the night. He then went downstairs to the kitchen and heard Catherine on the phone. LaTourelle picked up an extension telephone and listened for a minute, concluding that Catherine was talking to her boyfriend.
At this point LaTourelle grabbed a knife from the restaurant’s kitchen, hid in an adjacent stage area, and waited for Catherine. For over 45 minutes LaTourelle waited, pondering over the merits of raping Catherine.
Catherine, finally deciding to head home, went down the stairs to presumably turn off the lights. LaTourelle would later tell a psychiatrist that he had decided he was just going to wait until Catherine left for the night and then he would also leave.
LaTourelle, not expecting Catherine to leave the pizza area via the stage area, was surprised when she came through to collect her coat. As she walked across the stage she saw LaTourelle standing there, knife in hand, and simply said “Hi, Chuck,” and continued walking passed LaTourelle.
Catherine had no reason to fear LaTourelle. They were co-workers and even part of the same managerial team. LaTourelle had shown no signs of affection, attention, or obsession toward Catherine before this night.
But as she passed her co-worker, he stabbed her.
And then he stabbed her again. And again. And again. Not until the 21st thrust of the knife was pulled away from Cathrine’s body did the stabbing stop.
LaTourelle, after checking to make sure Catherine was dead, unceremoniously removed her pants and underwear.
Catherine, covered in stab wounds and blood that had seeped out of her body and pooled around her, was then raped by LaTourelle.
This would be his first sexual experience with a woman, having not even hugged or touched a woman before the murder and rape of Catherine John.
After finishing, LaTourelle dragged Catherine’s lifeless body out of the building and over a fence and then threw her into the Mississippi River. He then gathered the clothing he had removed from her, put them in a flour sack and also threw them in the river.
LaTourelle, returning to the kitchen to clean his murder weapon and the crime scene, was seen by a baker who worked in the Newman Center. Fearing that the baker would report seeing him after Catherine’s body was discovered, LaTourelle called the police and confessed to the murder. He was later tried and convicted of murder in the second degree.
LaTourelle would later appeal his conviction, a case that made its way to the Minnesota Supreme Court.
According to psychiatrist Dr. Carl Malmquist, LaTourelle suffered from a condition called “Isolated Explosive Disorder” that “impaired his ability to resist killing Catherine.” This condition was brought about by a “repressed sexual conflict.” LaTourelle said that throughout his adolescence he fantasized about “grabbing a woman, pulling her to the ground, tying her up, and forcing her to have sex,” often the fantasy involved beating them as well.
This fantasy carried on through his service in the Marine Corps where LaTourelle said he drank heavily every night and would need to talk himself out of finding and raping a woman.
The court rejected this portion of the appeal.
LaTourelle is currently incarcerated at the Minnesota Correctional Facility – Lino Lakes. His next review hearing for parole is in 2019.
There’s always more to the story
In 1999, according to multiple news sources, while LaTourelle was serving his sentence for the murder of Catherine John, his lawyer contacted Ramsey County authorities and said LaTourelle wanted to talk.
LaTourelle then confessed to authorities that eight years before the murder of Catherine John, he shot and killed Phyliss Peppin, 26, on June 14, 1972, in her home while he was working as a newspaper boy. LaTourelle was 17 at the time.
LaTourelle said he was “obsessed” with Phyliss and broke into her house with the intent of raping her. After she tried to flee, he shot her in the back, stood over her, and then fired several more times.
The main and only suspect of the case, according to investigators, was Phyliss’ widower, Gilbert. 27 years after his wife was murdered, Gilbert’s name was finally cleared.
Ghost, Ghouls, and Goblins
People like to talk about super natural folklore around this time of year because every town has a haunted place or story. Locals tell the tale to other locals and visitors alike. Everyone is spooked. Time moves on.
Who doesn’t love a good spooky tale? Even better if it adds a bit of danger. But the only danger that tales of spirits truly entertain is the idea that those that are stricken with a brutal death are somehow trapped into reliving their tragedy and terrorizing the living with their eternal suffering. The moral lesson learned from these stories is to live a virtuous and cautious life, lest you be murdered and forced to haunt the world until the end of time.
We don’t need ghost, ghouls, and goblins to understand terror. It’s here. All around us. In newspapers, history books, and now the internet.
So during this time of revelry and fun, be safe. Be aware of your surroundings. Know who you’re with. The monsters are real.