David G. Meirhofer


David G. Meirhofer

Classification: Serial killer
Characteristics: Juvenile - Kidnapping - Dismemberment
Number of victims: 4
Date of murder: 1966 - 1974
Date of arrest: September 27, 1974
Date of birth: June 8, 1949
Victim profile: Sandra Smallegan, 19 / Bernard Poelman, 13 / Michael Raney, 12 / Susan Jaeger, 7
Method of murder: ???
Location: Manhattan and Three Forks, Montana, USA
Status: Committed suicide by hanging himself in jail on September 29, 1974

David G. Meirhofer (June 8, 1949 – September 29, 1974) was an American serial killer who committed four murders in rural Montana between 1966 and 1974 - three of them children.

At the time, the Federal Bureau of Investigation was developing a new method of tracking killers called offender profiling, and Meirhofer was the first serial killer to be caught using the technique. Offender profiling is a method used to learn clues about the characteristics of an unknown killer from evidence at the scene of the crime.


Among Meirhofer's victims was seven-year-old Susan Jaeger, who was taken from her tent at night during a family camping trip. He left no ransom request and no physical evidence. However, the offender profiling technique, which was first used in this case, was employed about a year after the kidnapping. The technique led investigators to suspect that the kidnapper was a young, white male who killed for sexual gratification and may have kept body parts of victims as "souvenirs". Further, they believed that the killer may have been arrested for other crimes.

Meirhofer was 23 years old at the time and suspected in another murder. He denied the charges. Meirhofer placed a telephone call to Marietta Jaeger, the mother of Susan Jaeger, exactly a year after the kidnapping, and she obtained enough information to help the FBI track him down.

Meirhofer had killed Suzie Jaeger, two boys, and a woman. In September 1974, he confessed to having kidnapped the woman, Sandra Dykman Smallegan, in her sleep during February of that same year. Smallegan had once dated Meirhofer, but had ended the relationship.

On September 29, 1974, Meirhofer committed suicide by hanging himself in jail, hours after confessing to the murders.


Sandra Smallegan, 19.

Bernard Poelman, 13.

Michael Raney, 12.

Susan Jaeger, 7.

Personal items belonging to 1974 murder victim found in Manhattan

October 12, 2005

A 31-year-old murder case has been reopened following the discovery of personal items belonging to the victm Wednesday.

A driver's license, wallet and notebook belonging to Sandra Dykman Smallegan, who was murdered in 1974, were recovered Monday when construction workers renovating a garage on East Main Street in Manhattan found the items hidden in a wall.

The case has been reopened to process the evidence.

Betty Dykman, Smallegan's mother, said Wednesday it was surprising to learn of her daughter's missing belongings.

"It brings the memories and the whole thing back," she said.

But it doesn't bring her closure.

"I don't know that there's any real closure ever," Dykman said. "She's gone. She was a wonderful, wonderful daughter and I still miss her."

Manhattan native David Meirhofer confessed in September 1974 to having killed Smallegan, 19, and three other people in Manhattan and Three Forks.

Meirhofer might have owned the building where the items were found, Sheriff Jim Cashell said.

"Who would have thought there was more stuff in a wall?" Dykman said. "It's kind of amazing. What were the chances of that wall coming out?"

Meirhofer told police after his arrest that he kidnapped Smallegan while she slept in February 1974. He dated her once, but she later refused his advances.

He told police he tied her up and sealed her mouth with tape, then began putting her clothes in the car. He said Smallegan must have died because she couldn't breathe through the tape.

Meirhofer took her body to the Lockhart ranch, hid her car in a barn and sliced her body into separate parts. He then burned her remains in a fire.

Four hours after confessing, Meirhofer tied a bath towel to his cell bars in Gallatin County's jail and hanged himself.

"It happened a long time ago, and I went through a lot of hard times," Dykman said. "I've just been with this for such a long time."

Detectives will process the evidence, document and photograph all of Smallegan's belongings, Cashell said. They don't expect to find anything suspicious that will change the belief that Meirhofer killed her.

"This was totally unexpected," Cashell said. "It's somewhat sad that it's got to get reopened."

The Manhattan Police Department worked with the sheriff's office to gather the evidence from the garage.

Smallegan's items will be returned to her mother soon.

"I'll keep them. I want them," Dykman said.