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The story of an 11-year-old convicted murderer and the flaws in the case against him

River to River, hosted by Ben Kieffer

Wesley Elkins entered Anamosa State Penitentiary at 4'8" and 75 pounds. He was six years younger than the next youngest inmate. The 11-year-old would spend the next 12 years in prison for the 1889 murder of his father, John, and stepmother, Hattie.

River to River host Ben Kieffer is joined by authors and husband-and-wife duo Tom Wolf and Patricia Bryan to discuss their book The Plea, in which they explore this early case of horrific youth violence and the legal, social and political environment in Iowa that surrounded it.


  • Patricia Bryan, University of North Carolina Chapel Hill professor of law, author
  • Thomas Wolf, freelance writer, author
Ben Kieffer is the host of IPR's River to River
Dani Gehr is a producer for River to River and Talk of Iowa. Dani came to Iowa from her hometown in the northwest suburbs of Chicago to attend Iowa State University, where she received a bachelor’s degree in journalism, international studies and French. Before coming to IPR, Dani covered local government in Story County for the Ames Tribune and Des Moines Register.