PEARL LAKE - August 18th, 1967 – Hoskins Family Murders

“Five members of a rural family died here early today in their blazing home while the father was lashed spread-eagled and wounded between two clothesline poles.” – St. Cloud Daily Times, 18 August 1967

The Hoskins family, David and Loretta and their 4 children, lived on a farm in Pearl Lake, MN. According to David Hoskins, on August 18th, 1967, he and his wife were watching a late night movie on tv when they heard a car door slam outside. David went outside to investigate and was grabbed by 4-5 large men who told him they wanted to play soldier. They shot David twice, once in the abdomen and once in the chest and shot his wife on the couch in the living room. Then they tied David to the clothesline and wrapped a towel they took from the clothesline around his head. After that they started the house, barn and garage on fire. His 4 children were asleep in the house.

Seven teenagers, four girls and three boys ranging in age from 15-19, saw the flames and rushed to the scene at about 12:30am. There they found Hoskins bleeding and yelling for help from the clotheslines. They cut him down and rushed him to Barney Mueller’s store in Pearl Lake where they called an ambulance and the Sheriff's   Department.

“Hoskins Admits Shooting Wife, Fatal Fire” – St. Cloud Daily Times, 19 August 1967

The very next day the front page headlines state that Hoskins admitted shooting his wife, turning the gun on himself in an attempt to blame the incident on “intruders”, and setting fire to their Pearl Lake home where his wife and four children died. He signed a statement saying that he shot his wife with a .22 rifle and then started the fires to avoid detection. But Sheriff Lahr said Hoskins was remorseful, claiming that he had not intended the burning deaths of his children. “Hoskins stated that after wounding himself with the death weapon and setting the fires he also tied himself to an outdoor clothes line pole and only then realized that his children were in the burning home.” Lahr said Hoskins claims “he attempted to free himself and save the children but became entangled and could not free himself”.

The case went to trial. Hoskins lawyers tried to get a change of venue because they said that everyone in Central Minnesota would have already heard about the case and they wanted a fair and impartial jury. After some arguing and an intervention by the Minnesota Supreme Court, the case was moved to St. Paul. On April 3rd, 1968, Hoskins was convicted of second degree murder in the deaths of his wife and four children and sentenced to 40 years in Stillwater State Prison.

Thanks to Sarah Warmka and the Stearns History Museum for their help with our series, “This Date In Central Minnesota History” on WJON.