More on the Mathis murders

The triple murders at the Mathis farm in rural Mount Vernon happened 30 years ago today.

That grim anniversary provided a hook for us to take a fresh look at the most well-known unsolved homicides in the area. At least officially unsolved; the law enforcement community felt that the right man was arrested and charged.

But John Wayne Mathis, now 60 years old, was found not guilty by a Yankton County jury in May 1982, so he was free and could never be tried again.

However, Mathis’ life has not been very successful since the deaths of his wife and two oldest sons. He owned and operated a thriving hog operation then and farmed land near his place.

Mathis has never remarried, has been ostracized by the people of his community and now works for a neighboring farm operation. For a man found not guilty, he has paid a price for the killings that occurred at his home.

I was an SDSU senior when the killings and trial took place and recall it all, with many of the details lodged in my memory. A lot of people have told me they also remember it vividly.

Here’s the story. Feel free to share your memories and views on it and the case.

4 thoughts on “More on the Mathis murders

  1. I saw your reference to the anniversary of the Mathis deaths. I remember while I was working at The Daily Republic after the trial had taken place. Dave Kranz went to Yankton to cover the trial and left me in charge of the newsroom.
    Anyhow, after the trial was over, John came into the newsroom with the baby and went to visit with Kranz. The little one kept trying to pull newspapers off Dave’s huge pile of newspapers. Seeing what was happening, I went into Dave’s office and asked John if it would be OK if I help the little one while he talked with Dave.
    He said it was OK and when he left Dave was so relieved. the child was starting to pull newspapers from his pile on the case and trial.
    Takes me back a long time ago. Lyle Swenson was sheriff and Doug Kirkus was his main deputy.
    Thanks for the memories on that case.
    Diane Rietman

  2. I would like to know Duane’s opinion as to why, if his Dad is so innocent, his Dad wasn’t more severely wounded. With the rest of the family dead an unknown assailant had plenty of time to kill John too.

  3. Was senior in high school in 1981-82 and my class did attend one day of the trial. Never understood all the holes in the investigation. Why has this case never been solved?

  4. This really bother me, I have been reading all these stories an articals that are being posted, I am a close personal friend of John W. Mathis. He has the biggest heart I have ever seen in my life, he is a great man, friend and father. He has never hurt or kept any of this from me, I have 5 children of my own an he has been nothing but the best 2 and for them. He is still really hurting this bothers him more than any of u know… so like Duane said don’t judge a book by the cover believe it or not its so much more 2 him than u guys will ever know…… an who blames him for being a loner look at the horrible things people have said about him,,, when we are in public 2gether I see the way you people stare at him an look at him… don’t be so quick 2 judge cause at the end of the cross road we all must me judged by our heavenly father we will have 2 answer 2 GOD for our judgement an harsh thought….. I love JOHN W. MATHIS thank you for being the best friend an God father I have ever ben blessed 2 have in my life……..

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