William Swanson on the 1972 unsolved kidnapping of Virginia Piper

'Stolen From the Garden'
'Stolen From the Garden' by William Swanson
Book cover courtesy of publisher

It's been called the nation's most successful kidnapping. On a July afternoon in 1972, Virginia Piper was taken from her home in Orono, Minnesota by gunmen who demanded $1 million in ransom.

In a new book, "Stolen From the Garden," William Swanson tells the story of what happened, the media storm that followed and the trial of two men.

More from MinnPost:

"I've always been interested in crime and police work. These stories are portals into worlds I'm not a part of, filled with fascinating characters. Those small-time criminals, just guys who stole stuff -- or hoods, as we used to call them -- are really quite intriguing," says Swanson. "Sometimes sympathetic, sometimes frightening. If they got caught and went to prison, they'd get into a whole separate world of criminal society. They'd make friends with other criminals, and then go to court and call their friends liars -- I just find all that so fascinating, and this story is filled with those kind of guys," says Swanson.

The victims were just as interesting. "I grew up in blue collar South Minneapolis, so the Wayzata country club world was pretty exotic to me. You might as well have been talking about the Kennedy compound," says Swanson. "And in terms of this crime, you're talking about extremely large amounts of money, which adds to the boldness of the crime."

Swanson joins The Daily Circuit to talk about the case.

The book launch is Thursday October 16, 2014 at Excelsior Bay Books, 7 p.m.

Before you keep reading ...

MPR News is made by Members. Gifts from individuals fuel the programs that you and your neighbors rely on. Donate today to power news, analysis, and community conversations for all.