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The Culprit:
Henry Brand, CEO of Mansow Agro-Chemical Company

The Solution:

Each of the suspects had enough motive to be guilty of the crime, but after interrogating the other two suspects and uncovering more and more information, the private investigator group hired by local law enforcement surmised that Farmer Evan Schultz and the newly-(re)widowed Anita Carlson both had strong enough alibis to rule them out as murderers.

How?

Evan Schultz hated Farmer Mike, it’s true, but his off-color comment about Mike’s station being lower than the mud under his pigs was less a threat about killing him by swine stampede and more about the higher regard he held his porky pets in over his successful neighbor. He wouldn’t have used his favored animals as a means to murder, especially not his mortal enemy, Farmer Mike Carlson. Also, everyone in town, including the police and lawmakers, understood that Evan’s hatred inherently resulted from Mike’s better crop yield. A perfect soybean pod would not have been found to originate in Evan’s fields…the green pod was a plant (pun intended). After exhibiting morbid horror at the knowledge of Mike’s demise (probably because he knew he’d be found suspicious of the killing), he was ruled out and let go.

Anita Carlson was found both guilty and innocent, though for different charges. She was indeed guilty of infidelity with the new farmhand. The townsfolk understood that not wearing a wedding band was cause for concern, and they weren’t wrong. She’d been engaging in extramarital activities for a couple of weeks while her husband diligently kept their farm, and even the town, safe from financial ruin. What they didn’t know was that the farmhand was hired by Brand to woo the easily-flattered young wife of Mansow’s only roadblock to complete agricultural dominance, making her susceptible to blackmail. It was during one of these trysts that the farmhand quickly pocketed Anita’s wedding band for “insurance” purposes later for his then-employer. As soon as he handed off the ring, he was never seen or heard from again.

What Anita was NOT guilty of, though, was murder. In fact, what most people saw as a handshake in a business transaction was, in fact, a handshake of gratitude to her candid informant, Waldo Vera. According to the late farmer’s wife, the young assistant to the tyrannical Mr. Brand had overheard a phone conversation between his employer and who could only be his hired farmhand spy. The parts of the conversation he could make sense of painted a picture of utter annihilation for Farmer Mike, as well as Anita. In their meeting at the Register of Deeds’ office, Waldo unveiled a plan Mr. Brand had in place…a plan to swap out the contract that Anita had been pressuring Mike to sign for weeks with another “legal” document that would ensure that Mansow would not only acquire the Carlson’s land, but also would dictate that they’d be left penniless and destitute. Still young enough to see good in people, Mr. Vera turned in his resignation and made haste to meet Mrs. Carlson in hopes of swaying her from signing the bogus documents. Anita agreed, and both left feeling all the lighter for it.
However, the ever-vigilant Mr. Brand suspected his assistant of ruining his plan, and after Waldo’s meet up with Anita, had him ghosted by some of his goons. An ongoing search is in place to find the body of Mr. Waldo Vera.

The only course of action left to take was for Henry Brand to get his own hands dirty, something no one would likely expect. He drove out to the farm of Mike Carlson, found him alone in his soybean field, and struck him with the blade of a nearby shovel. Seeing the blunt force trauma upon the beloved cropper’s head, he sought a way to remedy his rash blunder…and remembered the fair, which was sure to have some kind of hooved animal. Before leaving with the body, he scooped up a pod or two of soybeans, remembering the ongoing feud between Mike and his neighbor. Upon reaching the pig pen at the fair under cover of darkness, he quickly planted the soybean pod in plain sight, thought better of it, and added the swiped diamond ring of the now-dead farmer’s wife to the mud under the hooves of the swine around him. Bending beneath the weight of the taller man he’d disposed of, he slipped and righted himself before becoming muddied, but not before his prized fountain pen fell in the grime at his feet. With no light to aid him, he quickly dumped the body on top of said pen, turned, and fled.

Authorities finally caught up with him halfway to New York…he was driving his personal vehicle (a far cry from a plane ride to Kansas City). Upon finding a bloody shovel in his trunk, he was apprehended and faces charges of theft, blackmail, two counts of murder in the first degree, and several other minor charges, including vandalism and terrorizing pigs (yes that IS a crime in Blackville).

GREAT WORK, DETECTIVES! Stand by…another mystery will soon come our way!