On March 7 Nathaniel Thompson and his son, Robert, drove their team and wagon into Arlington, SD. Seeing the wagon arrive, several townsmen walked over to the Thompsons to visit. As the men got closer to the wagon they noticed Nathaniel and Robert were very dirty, disheveled, and crusted with dried blood.

One of the men noticed a large bloody bundle tied up in the back of the wagon. As he leaned over the side of the wagon to get a closer look, he suddenly realized it was a person. He shouted for the other men to come to the back of the wagon. The men began studying the bundle but couldn’t make out the features. The face was caked with blood, disfigured and swollen beyond recognition. Finally, the men realized it was a women; it was Mrs. Severina Thompson.

By then quite a crowd of men had accumulated outside the jail. Two of the men unloaded the woman from the back of the wagon, and carried her into the jail house. She was unconscious, half frozen, and dressed only in a man’s shirt. One of the men, still outside, ran for Marshal Crandall, who was elsewhere in town. When Crandall arrived Nathaniel and Robert told him that Severina was crazy and they wanted her committed. Crandall wasn’t sure what to do, but after seeing her condition he had no choice but to believe the story the two men told him; he incarcerated Severina and when she gained consciousness he charged her with insanity.

That afternoon a meeting of the Commissioners of Insanity was held and after careful examination of the evidence, and hearing Severina’s story, they decided that she was perfectly sane and they were more wondt to believe that Nathaniel, if anyone, was the insane person.

Severina’s Story

We may never know what set Nathaniel off that day but Severina’s 13 years of terror finally climaxed when torture eventually led to murder.

March 5. Severina, sick and recovering from her last beating, was slow at getting out of bed. She told Nathaniel her leg hurt and she didn’t feel steady enough to stand at the stove to make him breakfast. This didn’t sit well with Nathaniel. He was in one of those nasty moods that people get into after a night of heavy drinking. Nathaniel became so irritated with her chatter that he pushed her down onto the bed, jumped on top of her, and began pounding on her with his fists. Severina, already weak, tried to fight him off, but he was just too strong. In frenzy he ripped her bed clothes off and Severina began to scream.

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