True Murders #1 - Christopher Marmalate


Christopher Marmalate, aka "The Foot Farmer" (b. 1916 – d. 1951) murdered fifteen young men between the ages of 16 and 25 over a single summer in 1951. Marmalate lived in a small two-room house with no plumbing or electricity at the edge of a piece of public wasteground outside Spirit Lake, Iowa, USA.

Christopher Marmalate served in WWII in the Pacific and was several times disciplined for assault and drunkenness. He was discharged four months before the end of the war after his parents, along with two younger sisters, died when a tornado struck their Iowa home, leaving as the only survivor Christopher's young brother, Paul Marmalate. In April 1949, Paul Marmalate was killed by a train. The wheels of the train parsed Paul's body into 7 separate pieces. Christopher identified Paul's body after it had been discovered by a group of teenagers. The remains were cremated.

In mid-May 1951, 20 year old bachelor Sam Knauss was reported missing, after he failed to report to his job as a delivery truck driver for five days in a row and family members found his house abandoned. Sam Knauss had been last seen at an after-hours bar on the outskirts of Sioux City by bookstore owner Morgan Krieger, a bar Christopher Marmalate was known to have occasionally visited.

Marmalate dispatched his victims by gunshot, usually with a single shot to the head. Although in at least three of the victims, multiple gunshot wounds to the back and torso indicate the victim attempted to flee or evade dying.

Spirit Lake, Iowa aerial survey

After shooting the victims, he severed their feet at the ankle joints. Initially he used a newly purchased hacksaw, but by the end of the summer a heavy axe was employed. Marmalate then buried the severed feet in holes carefully plotted in a circle around his house.

Though there was no way to absolutely match up every severed foot with its owner, it is believed that Sam Knauss's feet were the first to be buried, in a line 24 feet away from Christopher Marmalate's front door.

All Christopher Marmalate's victims were from the Sioux City, Iowa area. The feet of each man were buried, within hours of their owner's murder, exactly 24 feet away from the killer's front door. The number 24 was somehow significant to Marmalate, as revealed by the many diagrams and maps of the area he drew and which were found strewn around his dwelling - marked with the number 24, or multiples of it, accompanied by arrows and cryptic symbols.

Marmalate died of a self administered gunshot wound – fired from the same WWI issue Colt revolver he had used to kill his victims. Police arrived to find the body lying in a shallow, hastily dug trench after receiving an anonymous tip about the murders. It’s almost certain the tip was a call from Marmalate himself.

Over 100 maps and diagrams, drawn in pencil on cardboard and scrap paper, were retrieved from the Marmalate House. These are currently held by the State Historical Society Of Iowa. The Society's museum has an extensive collection of material about the "Foot Farmer" killings.