Executive News Svc. APn 08/09 1136 Witch Tales Copyright, 1990. The Associated Press. All

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Executive News Svc. APn 08/09 1136 Witch Tales Copyright, 1990. The Associated Press. All rights reserved. BEULAH, N.D. (AP) -- Two men were charged with conspiring to murder a neighbor they thought was a witch, authorities say. Karina Singer, 61, said she had no idea some of her neighbors wrongly suspected she was a witch until two armed men were rrested on her farm last week. "I'm stunned my neighbors could believe these things when we've lived here 21 years," Mrs. Singer said. "And that instead of calling me to find out if they were true, circulating them around until they became like an atomic blast mushrooming out of the prairie." Jim Reppen, who works for a tire service company, and farmer Dean Unterseher were charged with conspiracy to commit murder. The charge carries a possible life term. Both were freed on $5,000 bond after their arrests by police officers acting on a tip. Mercer County State's Attorney Alan Duppler said rumors about Mrs. Singer have circulated in the county for years. This summer, they also included two visiting friends, he said. "There have been rumors flying around Mercer County that these three ladies are witches and they're sacrificing animals and doing general cult-type of things," Duppler said. The two arrested men, he said, apparently "decided they were going to go down and eliminate the problem." A search of the Singer farm uncovered nothing witch-like, Duppler said. Mrs. Singer said she did not know the two men, who authorities said hatched the alleged murder plot at a bar in nearby Hazen. Since the arrests, neighbors have told Mrs. Singer of hearing stories of firelight rites at the farm. What really has been going on, Mrs. Singer said, was a plan she developed with her late husband, John, to turn the farm into "a place of beauty and peace" that friends could visit for extended vacations. Her husband died of cancer in April. Last fall, the couple laid down two Indian "medicine wheels," or rock configurations "for the healing of the land." During the spring and summer, several old frame buildings were torn down, a pit was burned in the yard and a guest house was erected. But rumors circulated that the guest house was a church and that visitors were seen dancing around a pit fire. The "dancers," Mrs. Singer said, actually were workers from a Hazen construction company that tore down the buildings and put out grass fires started by sparks from the pit. All in all, she said, "it was probably too fast a change" for the neighbors.

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