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Mock Trial: History behind the case

The case being tried by the Woodbury High School and other Minnesota Bar Association Mock Trial teams across the state, State of Minnesota vs. Jack/Jackie Peifer, is based on a 1933 kidnapping case.

In 1933 Jack Peifer was a known gangster who made his home and business in St. Paul where he ran a speakeasy, a casino and hotel called the Hollyhocks.

The Hollyhocks, located at what is now 1590 S. Mississippi Blvd., was well known to law enforcement for selling alcohol and running an illegal gambling establishment.

During the peak of criminal activities in the 1930s, gangs began kidnapping wealthy people across the country in order to collect large ransoms.

In June 1933, the Barker-Kipnis gang, accompanied by Jack Peifer, arranged for the kidnapping of William Hamm Jr.,the president and founder of the Hamm’s Brewery in St. Paul. While walking home during lunch on June 15, 1933, Hamm was placed into a car and kidnapped.

Hamm was transported to Bensonville, Ill.

A total of three ransom notes, demanding $100,000, were sent to a contact at the Hamm’s Brewery.

The Hamm family agreed to pay the ransom. Hamm was released near Wyoming, Minn.

The investigation into Hamm’s kidnapping first led law enforcement to Roger Touhy, a gangster from Chicago.

However, law enforcement were led to Peifer after his fingerprint was lifted from one of the ransom notes.

Ultimately a jury convicted Peifer of kidnapping.

While serving his sentence, Peifer committed suicide in his jail cell.

Information courtesy of the Minnesota Bar Association’s Mock Trial case materials

Amber Kispert-Smith

Amber Kispert-Smith has been the schools and Afton reporter at the Woodbury Bulletin since 2008. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota. She previously worked as a reporter for Press Publications in White Bear Lake.

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