Homicide In A Small Town. Do You Remember The Lana Harding Murder?
I grew up on a farm in Choteau, and a good share of my relatives on my dad's side live in Conrad, Dupuyer, Bynum and Pendroy. There was 1 murder that I heard about off and on my entire childhood, the murder of Lana Harding by Duncan McKenzie. Considering it happened right around Conrad, I'm not surprised this came up so much.
I was only 6 at the time of her murder. As a child, much was kept from us, but we heard enough to surmise that it was an absolutely scary and horrific way to die. It wasn't until I was in my early teens that my parents gave me the details.
Now I'll give them to you as I remember them along with help from Newspapers.com who got their information from The Great Falls Tribune.
Lana Harding, 23, a beloved school teacher at the one room schoolhouse, Pioneer Elementary School near Conrad. It was her first teaching job.
Early in the morning of January 21, 1974, Duncan McKenzie kidnapped, tortured, raped and murdered Lana Harding.
Residents first became concerned when parents were dropping their children off at school and the doors were locked, which never happened. Parents checked the teacherage, and the doors were locked there, as well. They looked around and couldn't find Harding anywhere or any sign that she was there at all, until a student found one of her shoes in the driveway.
How They Caught McKenzie
It's not really clear what lead the police in Conrad to McKenzie, but I did find he was a suspect in the death of Debra Prety, a teenager from Coeur d'Alene, while he was on parole for attacking a different woman. The murder of Harding happened about 3 months after the death of Prety.
McKenzie was convicted of deliberate homicide, aggravated kidnapping and sexual intercourse without consent. He was sentenced to death by lethal injection. He was on death row in Deer Lodge from May 1975 until May of 1995. He was executed on May 10, 1995 for his crimes.
My parents and other people their age in the Conrad area still talk about this gruesome murder to this day. There were a lot more details given to me by my parents and cousins. There are 2 reasons I didn't put them in the article. First, the details are SO HORRIFIC that I really don't want to do that to someone because I know how it affected me. I don't think the story is any worse without them. Second, I think over the years details are skewed and exaggerated and the actual details are gruesome enough for a compelling story.
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