Crime & Culture in the Twin Cities by Marcie R. Rendon
Updated: Mar 5
Ah – Boucheron – a crime-writer’s conference in Minneapolis formerly known in the late l990s as ‘Murderapolis’. Prior to those 1990s inner-city gang wars, St. Paul was a center of operation for white gangsters-John Dillinger, Babyface Nelson, Machine Gun Kelly. So much for Minnesota nice!
The Twin Cities – Minneapolis and St. Paul – have a rich and varied history of crime. The first person hanged in the state was Ann Bilansky who murdered her husband with arsenic-1860. Next was the mass hanging of 38 Dakota men in Mankato, MN. This was a crime against humanity rather than a criminal hanging. When you arrive by the airport, you will pass Fort Snelling where 1,600 Dakota men, women and children were interned in 1862. The KKK has had chapters in the state since the 1920s. Billy Glaze was a convicted serial killer of Native American women in 1985. He dumped bodies along the railroad tracks of what is now the Greenway bike-way in South Minneapolis. The Innocence Project found none of his DNA on any of the bodies but he died in prison before exoneration; an unsolved crime. Andrew Cunanan, serial killer of Versace, left a trail of bodies from California to Florida. He stopped in Minneapolis’ North Loop long enough to murder his former lover, David Madson. Someone could delve into the unsolved murder of a man in 2021 whose body parts were left strewn throughout the city; his head left on a park bench to look out over the Mississippi River. One can only presume he was left to admire the beauty of the surrounding natural scenery.
The Twin Cities is not all gore and crime. Along with the ‘Ah – yes – Minnesota nice’; the Twin Cities is as culturally rich as it is culturally diverse. Music. Theater. Art Galleries. Museums. Ethnic food at Mama Sheila’s House of Soul or Afro Deli and Grill. Lakota/indigenous food at Owamni four-star restaurant. Parks with lakes to walk, bike and/or skate around. Prince’s Paisley Park Chanhassen studio is open for tours. Birchbark Books, dreamchild of Pulitzer Prize author Louise Erdrich, is in the Kenwood Neighborhood. East Franklin Avenue is famously known as the Native American Corridor. You can grab a coffee at Pow wow Grounds while perusing the best of Native art in the All My Relations Gallery connected to the coffeeshop. George Floyd Square on 38th and Chicago is a street art memorial to the uprising that set our city on fire in May 2020. St. Paul has Penumbra Theater; the most prominent African-American theater in the country. Theater Mu, Pangea Theater and the Turtle Theater collective celebrate their respective cultural voices. Song, art, political activism, theater. Two cities made rich by the influx of culture from around the world.