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The story of an 11-year-old convicted murderer and a Dubuque woman's involvement in the dawn of the CIA

River to River, hosted by Ben Kieffer

On this episode of River to River we listen back to a couple of favorite book interviews from 2022.

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.

Later in the episode, Kieffer talks with New York Times-bestselling author Nathalia Holt about her latest work, Wise Gals: The Spice Who Built the CIA and Changed the Future of Espionage. The book tells the true story of Dubuque native Jane Burrell, who was the first Central Intelligence Agency officer to die in service in 1948, along with four other female agents who were critical in helping build the CIA out of World War II.


  • Patricia Bryan, University of North Carolina Chapel Hill professor of law, author
  • Thomas Wolf, freelance writer, author
  • Nathalia Holt, author

These interviews were originally produced on 9-8-22 and 9-12-22

Ben Kieffer is the host of IPR's River to River
Samantha McIntosh is a talk show producer at Iowa Public Radio. Prior to IPR, Samantha worked as a reporter for radio stations in southeast and west central Iowa under M&H Broadcasting, and before that she was a weekend music host for GO 96.3 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
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.