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Dennis Craig Jurgens
December 6 1961 – April 11 1965
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Born on December 6, 1961 as Dennis Craig Pucket, Dennis would later be adopted by a family where he suffered abuse and eventually died at the hands of his adoptive mother.

Harold and Lois Jurgens, who lived in White Bear Lake, Minnesota, adopted Dennis and his name officially became Dennis Craig Jurgens. The biological parents of Dennis were Jerry Sherwood and her boyfriend, both teenagers. Though she didn't want to, Jerry placed her baby up for adoption, trusting that the system would take care of him. The system failed Dennis.

Lois Jurgens had problems with depression and had spent some time in a psychiatric institution. With an obsessive compulsive personality, Lois had an uncontrollable need to be in absolute control of everything in her life. The house needed to be spotless at all times, the garden needed to be tended to and her life needed to appear perfect to everyone around her. To Lois, social status was everything.

Lois was unable to get pregnant and felt this to be a failure on her part, this drove her crazy because it showed that she was less than perfect. After she was forbidden to adopt due to her history of mental illness, Harold and Lois WERE able to go through a private adoption and into their lives came a child named Robert. Robert was the perfect addition to the family since he was able to learn early on not to make a mess or get in his mother way at all. The positive way the adoption of Robert went, caused authorities to think that maybe the Lois would be able to handle more children.

At a little over the age of one year old, Dennis was taken from the foster home he had been loved and cared for in and placed in the home of the Jurgens family with hopes of them adopting him. An immediate dislike of Dennis was apparent due to the fact that Dennis was a normal toddler who got into things and made messes. Harold brought this up and told her that maybe they should not adopt Dennis after all. Lois thought that if she gave Dennis back, she would be seen in a bad light and not be able to adopt any other children. Harold gave in to her, it would be a big mistake.

Just a few months after he first went to live with the Jurgens family, Dennis was taken to the hospital with first and second degree burns on his genitals. The burns, Lois would say, had been an accident and the hospital accepted her explanation and didn't report them. Shortly after that, the process of adopting Dennis was finished. This would prove to be a huge mistake on the part of the authorities who allowed it to happen.

Within her circle of family, friends and neighbors, Lois was very well know to be an angry woman with a short temper. The abuse of Dennis was far beyond anything they had seen before. The punishment that Lois gave out to Dennis for any number of reasons, was said by her to have been "God's work". She was trying to make Dennis perfect in every way. It's shocking to learn that Harold Jergens KNEW about the abuse and just stood by and did NOTHING to help. Though he never abused Dennis the way that Lois did, he certainly was an accomplice because he never stopped it.

Dennis suffered on a daily basis at the hands of Lois who made him eat any food he didn't like, by putting spicy horseradish on it. Lois would also cut off his oxygen supply which would cause him to vomit, this would make Lois so angry that she would make him eat his own vomit. Making Dennis go without food was another way Lois abused him. Even though the doctor had told Lois that his weight was fine, Lois called him "sloppy fat" as his nickname and often wouldn't let him eat, trying to get him to lose weight. In two and a half years, Dennis only gained three pounds.

Lois became angry when Dennis would wet his diaper more often than she thought he should and she decided that in order to stop that, she should place a clothespin on the end of his penis. Lois would tie Dennis to the bed at night and also to the toilet in order to force him to use the toilet instead of his diaper. Quite often when Dennis reached the age of two, he was seen in sunglasses which were to hide the black eyes he was given by Lois. Lois insisted that Dennis was a "bad child" and never apologized to anyone for how she treated him. Lois said that she was as devout Catholic and that she needed to make sure Dennis grew up right. Dennis was forced to kneel on a broomstick for long periods of time until he could recited the Rosary and pray in the "proper" way. 

The Jurgens family appeared to be normal, church going people with the perfect life. The house was always perfect, the yard was always perfect and their life, from the outsiders view, seemed to be perfect as well. There were family members, friends and neighbors who knew the truth. None of these people reported the wrong doing for fear of what Lois would do to them. In the past, Lois had threatened to kill certain members of her family if they didn't mind their own business. Medical professionals, teachers and others were not required to report abuse at that time and no one did.

On April 11, 1965 Robert Jurgens, who was five at that time, witnessed his mothers abuse of his brother Dennis, for the last time. On the night of his death, Lois was in an extremely bad mood due to flooding which was filling up the basement with water. Dennis died that evening of Peritonitis due to a perforation of his small bowel. Though the specific cause of that fatal blow is not known, it is known that it was Lois who had given it to Dennis.

The Coroner found that in addition to the Peritonitis, starvation, scarring and bite marks on his genitals, Dennis had old bruises, new bruises and he also had lacerations all over his body. Robert had been a witness to all of the abuse Dennis had suffered, as a child, only five years old, himself, there was nothing he knew to do, as an adult, he would testify against his mother in her trial.

There was a thorough investigation into the death of Dennis, however, at that time, the mid 1960's, child abuse was not something that was thought of as it is today. There was overwhelming evidence to show that Lois had been the one to kill Dennis, however, since it would have been hard to prove, the death was listed as "deferred". Some people believed that the brother of Lois, Jerome Zerwas, who was a Police lieutenant, destroyed evidence that would have helped convict Lois.

Though Lois got away with the murder of Dennis, not being charged at that time, Robert was removed from the Jurgens home and went to live with his paternal Grandmother. Robert stayed with her for a little over five years. At that time, Lois was trying to regain custody of him. Robert was taken to the hospital and admitted with Pneumonia. While in the hospital, there was fire at his grandmothers home, which killed her. Suspicion fell on Lois having set the fire since Lois has threatened to burn the homes of others.

Robert was returned to the home of his adoptive parents and somehow Lois and Harold were eventually allowed to adopt four more children, who were siblings. Lois was even more unable to control her rage and because of this, she and Harold took their five adopted children and moved to Stillwater, Minnesota. It was rumored that this was an attempt to get away from the stories about her murdering Dennis.

Lois would be placed in a psychiatric facility again, though not before she was able to abuse the other children. Beatings were a regular thing as well as slamming their heads into nails in the wall, making them stand barefoot in the snow and much worse. Robert and his four adoptive siblings were able to run away one day and received help from neighbors. The children were able to convince authorities that they were being abused and at that time, all five were taken out of the custody of the Jurgens. Harold and Lois were informed they would NEVER be permitted to adopt any additional children and they would also not be able to foster.

Jerry Sherwood, the biological mother of Dennis, tried to find him in the early 1980. At this time, she was in late 30's. Jerry assumed that at this time in his life, Dennis would be a young adult. Having had four more children with the biological father of Dennis, she hoped that he would want to meet his siblings. When her search for Dennis ended in her finding out he had died, she did some checking and made a phone call to Lois wanting to find out what had happened. Lois was nice to Jerry at first and told her she would send her some things that had belonged to Dennis. When she never received the items, Jerry called back and found out that the Jurgens had changed their number and it now unlisted. 

Suspicious of this, Jerry decided to do some further investigating. Jerry found the death certificate of Dennis and it still said that his death was deferred, which meant the case was still open. Jerry contacted the White Bear Lake, Minnesota Police Department and the media. Since the case was still open, that meant someone could still be charged with his murder.

On October 12, 1986, the St. Paul Pioneer Press ran a first page story all about the investigation. Harold and Lois were not mentioned in the story, however, people suspected that the people who were being spoken about were them. Jerry kept on investigating and this kept the story in the news and out in the public.

The arraignment of Lois Jurgens, who was then in 60's, was a happy day for Jerry Sherwood. With the testimony of Robert came the prosecution of Lois Jurgens for third degree murder. The case involving Dennis has since been considered a landmark in the history of child abuse law.

Aided by the testimony of the Jurgens’ other adopted son, Robert, the prosecution saw Lois Jurgens (now in her 60's), convicted of murder in the third degree and sent to prison. The investigation, trial, and conviction of Lois Jurgens are considered landmarks in the history of child abuse law.

Lois Jergens served ONLY eight years of the original sentence, before she was released for good behavior. Lois lives in Stillwater, Minnesota as a widow. Harold Jurgens died in the year 2000. There was suspicion at the time of his death that Lois has poisoned him. An investigation ruled that theory out.

How could someone who had killed their child and abused all of the children in her care, be considered for early release on something called good behavior? People who abuse and kill children should spend the rest of their lives in prison!

A movie was made about this story, called: "A Child Lost Forever".

Dennis is buried in Saint Marys of the Lake Cemetery in White Bear Lake, Ramsey County, Minnesota.


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UPDATE:

On November 17, 2011, I received a post to my guest book from a woman claiming to be the cousin of Dennis.
She asked that I tell their side of the story, this woman left no e-mail address for me to reply to her, I will post what
she said here and hopefully she will contact me with an e-mail address:

I am writing on behalf of Dennis Jurgens, my adopted cousin who perished at the hands of my Mother's sister - Lois Jurgens.

I know for certain my parents Richard and Donna Norton, along with my Uncle Lloyd and Aunt Donna Zerwas, did everything they could to get the system to pay attention to the abuse Dennis was being subjected to.
 

Their attempt to save Dennis fell on deaf ears. No matter how hard they tried they could get no one in the system to listen. Rather, the efforts to save Dennis only infuriated Lois. In retaliation, Lois Jurgens attempted to start our house on fire in the early morning hours. Lois - in an attempt to 'punish' my parents, also tried, on more than one occasion, to abduct me when I was just a small child.

I know for certain my parents had everything to do with getting Robert taken away from Lois and that they hired an attorney in an attempt to block the adoption of the four children Lois and Harold adopted from Kentucky five years after Dennis's death. The system failed over and over again. It didn't help the family clergy wrote a glowing recommendation letter for the Jurgens's to be able to adopt again - even though he knew about what had happened to Dennis.

What is written makes it look as though no one cared about Dennis or the other children adopted by Lois Jurgens. That could not be further from the truth, I know my parents cared and fought for Dennis and to stop the Jurgen's from adopting again. It has to be acknowledged my parents had the strength and courage to speak out about the abuse in the Jurgen's home. The problem was - no one listened. Social services, law enforcement, the judicial system all let this beautiful child die. My parents fought for them at the risk of their own family.

My heart breaks knowing so many children suffered at the hands of this woman and by the complete disregard of Harold. Please give credit to those who have the courage to speak out, even when no one is listening.

Pamela Docken
For information about how to report child abuse, please click the link below and you will be taken to a page that has an alphabetical, state by state listing of how to report child abuse for which state you are looking for and for some other countries.


Call this number to report child abuse ANY WHERE in the United States!
1-800-4-A-Child  1-800-422-4453