By Tim and Becky Hattenburg
Above, Larry Kuntz as a toddler on his parents’ property in Montana. Larry’s parents, Mike and Frieda Kuntz, were murdered the day after Thanksgiving, 1937.
Tim and Becky Hattenburg have painstakingly researched the Kuntz story in their book, “Death Ride: A Little Boy’s Night of Terror,” now available at Amazon.com.
You never know what the person next door has been through. Such is the case for Spokane pharmacist, Larry Kuntz, whose harrowing tale, untold for decades, has been researched and recounted by local authors Tim and Becky Hattenburg.
“In the late afternoon of November 26, 1937, the Kuntz family – Mike, Frieda, and their son, five-year-old Larry – had just finished their evening dinner blessing. Suddenly, there was a knocking at the front door. When Mike opened it, he was instantly confronted by an enraged Frank Robideau, who shouldered his way into the kitchen with a gun in his hand,” writes Tony Bamonte, local historian and co-publisher of Death Ride: A Little Boy’s Night of Terror.
Frank Robideau was familiar to the Kuntz Family – he was young Larry’s best friend’s father. He ordered the family into their car, where they all drove to a deserted road in eastern Montana. After murdering Larry’s parents, Robideau beat Larry, nearly to death, and then drove the car to a grain elevator where he abandoned it.
Authors Tim and Becky Hattenburg have lived in Spokane Valley, Washington most of their 41 years of marriage. Tim was born in Spokane, and graduated from Central Valley High School. He majored in History and Education at Washington State University, and then taught and coached at North Pines Junior High School. Becky was raised on a wheat farm between Oakesdale and Garfield, Washington, and graduated from Oakesdale High School.
Larry Kuntz, whose story became a labor of love for Tim and Becky, grew up in the small town of Wheat Basin, Montana. The rural community was outraged by the murders of Larry’s parents, but they had no idea the atrocity was committed by one of their own community members. The murders were committed the Friday after Thanksgiving, 1937.
Wheat Basin used to be a town. But the weather, the bugs, and the evil that man can do all conspired to end its existence. The death of the town was gradual, but once a certain point was reached in size and population, it was inevitable.
“You have to meet Larry,” a mentor of Tim and Becky’s explained. “Larry has a story that needs to be told and you should be the one to tell it.”
In addition to researching the crime, investigation, and aftermath, Tim and Becky tell the amazing story of Larry Kuntz’s life and recovery. His childhood stripped of normalcy, Larry overcame years of nightmares and terrible memories to lead a life of integrity as a Spokane pharmacist for over fifty years.
“This is one of the most riveting and heartbreaking true-crime stories to come out of the Northwest,” writes Tony Bamonte. “It illustrates many of the hardships imposed on the masses by the Great Depression. Most important, the full story is finally being told seventy-seven years after it happened, as conveyed by the only survivor, Larry Kuntz, who is retired from a fifty-year career as a pharmacist.”
Articles written on the Kuntz murders generally focused on the investigative accounts and lacked an eye-witness perspective. Not until 2010, over seventy years after the crime, did an eye-witness step forward to fill in the gaps in the story. That eye-witness was none other than Larry Kuntz.
Beneathe the humor and genuine warmth of this retired pharmacist was a tragedy from his childhood that he had kept buried deep in his soul until about eight years ago. The first meeting between Larry and the Hattenburgs was as sad as it was wonderful. Larry didn’t think his story was special enough to have a book written about it, but was willing to try, as long as the truth was told.
Before they were married, Larry’s wife Janet, asked about his parents. He replied, “They were both murdered.” She then asked if he remembered it. “Like it happened yesterday,” he responded.
Pick up a copy of Death Ride: A Little Boy’s Night of Terror at Auntie’s Books or online at Amazon.com.