Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Story of Colin and JoAnn Thatcher

Colin Thatcher

Colin Thatcher was born in Toronto, Canada, on August 25, 1938. He was the only child of Peggy and Wilbert Ross Thatcher, a manager of his familys hardware business in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan. The couple had been married just seven months before their sons birth. When Colin was 1 year old, the Thatchers returned to Moose Jaw  in Canada to begin a new life. They moved to a house only several kilometers outside the city of Regina and approximately one hundred kilometers from the boarder of the state of Montana.

While growing up, the young boy was often pampered by his mother, but treated harshly and, at times, cruelly by his dominating father. Many who knew Colin thought of him as an awkward child who was frequently getting into trouble. Siggins describes an incident when Colin was 7 years old when he spit in a neighbors face after the woman told him how nice he looked. The neighbor described the boy as a brat, but also felt sorry for him because he was desperate for attention.

During Colins youth, his father Ross began a career in politics working his way up from a position as one of the youngest alderman in Moose Jaw  history to the secretary-treasurer of the Moose Jaw Young Liberal Association. In 1941, Ross Thatcher then joined the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation and two years later he was elected president. When Colin was 6, his ambitious father was elected to Parliament.

During Rosss 12-year career as a member of Parliament, he traveled frequently and rarely saw his wife and son back in Moose Jaw. With his fathers lengthy absences, the growing boy became emotionally detached from his father. The relationship between Colin and Ross became at best strained, further facilitated by Rosss harsh behavior toward his son. According to Garrett and Lesley Wilsons book Deny, Deny, Deny, a friend of Rosss remembered one account of his unusual cruelty toward his son. The friend stated that he witnessed Ross asking Colin repeatedly, who is your daddy? continually denying that he was the boys father. The cruel joke reduced the boy to tears.    

Ross simply had no patience for his son and saw him as a disgrace to the family name. He frequently abused Colin verbally both in private and in public. Often times Colin was greatly humiliated by the constant criticism, which caused his self-esteem to steadily diminish and his behavior to worsen. Many of Colins friends ostracized him because he seemed to be different from other boys. Siggins states that some of Colins schoolmates and teachers viewed him as undisciplined, arrogant and wild, often bragging about his fathers position as a community leader.

During Colins teenage years, Ross sold the family hardware business and began to acquire land in order to raise cattle. He bought a farm near Tuxford and then purchased more than 300 acres of land in the Caron area, during the 1950s. On both farms, Ross raised cattle and was so successful that by the early 1960s the land in Caron, known as the Thatcher Hereford Ranch, grew to more than 3,000 acres.

Colin took a great interest in his fathers cattle business and spent much of his free time at the Thatcher ranch. However, to his fathers dismay, the boy did little of the work expected of him, which caused a further rift in their relationship. According to Siggins, the tensions grew so high that the two argued most of the time they spent together. At one point, Colin was so enraged at his fathers constant condemnation that he threatened to harm him with a pitchfork, causing the old man to run to his car for fear of his life.

In the early 1950s Colin attended Central  High School where he was considered to be a bright student, but remained unpopular with the students. He often displayed pompous behavior and at times bullied the other kids. He was even involved in several schoolyard scuffles that further damaged his reputation and ostracized him from schoolmates.

Colins unruly behavior made it difficult for him to meet and date other girls, for few wanted to get involved with such an unsavory character. However, he did manage to date one girl in his last year of school. Unfortunately, the relationship was short-lived because Colin displayed obsessive behavior toward the girl that frightened her away.

Colin graduated from high school in 1956 and shortly thereafter was accepted to the University  of Saskatchewan, where he remained for one year. After receiving low marks, he decided to try to complete his education in the United States. In 1957, Colin enrolled in classes at Iowa State University, where he believed his chances of completing a degree were better than at his home university.

During his first year, Colin remained mostly to himself, showing no interest in extracurricular activities. He focused primarily on his agricultural studies, in which he specialized in animal husbandry. In his second year, Colin joined the Alpha Tau Omega fraternity. It was at this time that Colin became a little more socially active, taking part as a fraternity pledge trainer and in intramural sports.

In the spring of 1960, Colin noticed a beautiful girl walking on campus. He asked his friend who the girl was and he learned that her name was JoAnn Geiger. Colin was able to set up a date with her and one night went to pick her up at her sorority house. To his surprise, the woman named JoAnn Geiger with whom he was set up with was not the same woman he had previously seen walking on campus. However, he accepted the mistake and dated the attractive woman anyway.

The two continued to date even after Colins graduation in 1960. Together they made several visits to Colins hometown of Moose Jaw  to visit and help out on the ranch. During one of their visits, Colin was thrown from a horse and temporarily lost the use of one of his arms. Realizing that he would be of little use on the ranch, he and JoAnn decided to return to Iowa, where Colin enrolled into a masters course in animal husbandry at Iowa State University.

The two were inseparable and Colin appeared to be devoted to JoAnn. In May 1961 JoAnn graduated summa cum laude and had enough credits to earn a teaching certificate, which she hoped would assist her in obtaining a job in teaching. That same summer and on JoAnns 22nd birthday, Colin proposed, and JoAnn accepted.

Following the engagement, Colin remained in Iowa  to finish his masters degree and JoAnn moved to Moose Jaw to establish a home and career. She rented an apartment and worked as a teacher in home economics at a local high school. It was a job that she had little interest in but she knew she had to pursue some career following her graduation. At the time, there were few jobs available for women in Moose Jaw that required the high level of education she had acquired.

Colin eventually joined JoAnn in Moose Jaw  after his graduation and immediately began to work at his fathers ranch. He was thankful to have made almost a full recovery from his injuries so that he could devote most of his time to the ranch activities. He and JoAnn planned to remain in Moose Jaw following their wedding.

Finally, on August 12, 1962, Colin and JoAnn were married in Ames, Iowa. Shortly thereafter, the couple returned to Moose Jaw  and moved into the same building where JoAnn had previously resided before Colins return from Iowa State University. The two looked forward to a wonderful future together.

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