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Murderer wants out of prison

BISMARCK - On July 11, 1976, banker Wade Zick and his wife, Ellen, were abducted from their house in their pajamas, forced to take money from the bank vault and gunned down near an abandoned gravel pit.


BISMARCK - On July 11, 1976, banker Wade Zick and his wife, Ellen, were abducted from their house in their pajamas, forced to take money from the bank vault and gunned down near an abandoned gravel pit.

The robbery and double murder shocked people in the quiet south-central North Dakota town of Zeeland. Three of their own were sentenced to life in prison after pleading guilty to robbery and murder.

Brothers David and Sebastian "Butch" Feist had moved to Zeeland from California that year to live with their uncle. David was 21 and Sebastian was 18. Gregory Huber, also 18, was a local boy whose Sunday school teacher was Ellen Zick.

Sebastian Feist has now served 32 years in prison, and he thinks that's long enough.

Feist filed a handwritten petition in federal court last week, saying he was promised that he would be released from prison in April 2006.


He acknowledged that his situation is complicated by the fact that he escaped once and was later caught, but said that was supposed to delay the release date by only one year.

"Sebastian Joseph Feist, a mere 18 years old, was sentenced to life on October 4, 1976, for the tragic events that occurred during a bank robbery," the petition said. "The judge at the time assured Feist that he would serve no more than 10 years, which seem conceivable, as counsel explained, since parole was in effect at the time."

Congress eliminated parole from the federal system in 1992. Feist said the U.S. Parole Commission, which no longer exists, made a mistake by not setting his release date. That means U.S. District Judge Daniel Hovland could do so, he wrote.

Hovland has ordered the government to respond to Feist's petition by the end of June.

"I'm not sure all of what he's claiming, but we will be working on a response," said Assistant U.S. Attorney Clare Hochhalter.

Officials at the U.S. Penitentiary in Florence, Colo., didn't respond last week to a request to interview Feist. His court-appointed lawyer at the time he was sentenced, Kent Higgins, died in 1996.

Jim Hill began his legal career as an assistant U.S. attorney in Bismarck one week before the Zicks were murdered. Hill prosecuted the case - and never forgot it.

"I remember the case vividly," said Hill, 58, now in private practice in Bismarck. "It was a shock to the innocence of rural North Dakota."


Authorities said the plan to rob and kill the Zicks was devised by David Feist.

"They were pretty rough," Shannon Schweigert, a Zeeland native who now lives in Fargo, said of the Feist brothers.

Huber was believed to have helped gain entrance into the home by asking the Zicks if he could use their phone.

David Feist killed Wade Zick with a shotgun and Sebastian Feist killed Ellen Zick with a .22-caliber rifle, Hill said.

The robbers got away with about $3,500 from the Zeeland branch of the McIntosh County Bank, including several marked bills that were planted by Wade Zick.

"The marked money was of great assistance," Hill said. "He led us to his killers."

The three suspects fled on a circuitous route through the western United States.

They were eventually arrested in Blaine, Wash., near the Canadian border, several days after the robbery.


"The thing I remember is the fear that so many people had at that time, especially not knowing where they were," said Cameron Dockter, a high school student in Zeeland at the time.

"If they were capable of doing that, what was next?"

Hill said U.S. District Judge Bruce Van Sickle, who died last year, was disgusted at the heinous nature of the crime.

"Judge Van Sickle was always very compassionate when it came to sentencing. He was always looking for ways to be innovative," Hill said.

"But this was one time when he said he would have called for the death penalty if he could have."

Dockter would like to see Hovland turn down Feist's appeal.

"This isn't something I've ever thought about, but I don't think he should get out," said Dockter, now an elementary school teacher in Fargo.

Huber filed an appeal in 1995, saying his court-appointed lawyer was related to the victims.


Like Sebastian Feist, Huber said he was promised a 30-year sentence if he pleaded guilty. U.S. Magistrate Judge Karen Klein rejected the appeal.

Details of the cases of Huber and David Feist are not known. U.S. Bureau of Prison records show a Gregory Gene Huber, 50, was released from the federal system Sept. 13, 2007.

A David Anthony Feist, 53, is listed as an inmate in an Otisville, N.Y., prison, with a projected release date of July 14, 2008.

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