Sunday, February 26, 2017

The Street Gutter Corpse: Clifford M. Hicks, Attorney at Law

A young 28 year old attorney, with a sordid past, and questionable friends, was murdered in the spring of 1927. The assailants were found, after the police put just about every thug through the interrogation grind.

Clifford Hicks, partner of the firm Major, Hicks and Turner, of St. Louis, Missouri, had been found on a lonely roadside just outside the city limits. Judge Sam Hogdon rode his horse on early Sunday morning, along Watson Road, where he spotted the body laying face up.  It had been riddled with bullets. He contacted the coroner and the deputies arrived shortly to identify the deceased as Clifford Hicks. He had been shot six times and the only items on his body were a watch and some letters and papers. Nearby residents were questioned, and they reported hearing gun shots around 9:30 p.m. on Saturday. A pair of women's gloves were found about 100 feet away from the body.  Mud on the gloves matched the type of mud on the shoes of the corpse.

free images.google.com, Insurance Policy


 Clifford and his brother, Glenn, were partners in an insurance brokerage business.  Glenn was mentioned as the beneficiary in several life insurance policies on his brother, Clifford.  With all the totals of the policies gathered, Glenn was expected to reap over 365 thousand dollars upon the death of his brother.  Some of the policies taken out in 1923 went through beneficiary changes from the original script, all naming Glenn as the beneficiary.  Glenn Hicks, along with two others, Harry Bostleman and William Davis,  both ex cons, were arrested for the murder of Clifford Hicks.

free images.google.com

Clifford Hicks reported that he had been held up and robbed of $5,200 on April 29th, just two days before he was found murdered. The day that Hicks was killed, he had updated his will naming his brother Glenn the executor of his estate without bond and sole beneficiary. Mrs. Hicks told of her husband's nervous ways since he had been robbed.  He sat at home in the dark every evening after the robbery, telling her that "these guys are after me", often with tears in his eyes.  Mrs. Hicks was an expectant mother, so her husband did not want to alarm her by telling her any more about his fears. She said that he had taken a pistol with him when he went to Sunday school, which scared her.  He told her that he felt he needed it for protection. He told his wife that he had been repeatedly threatened. They had made plans to go to the Ozarks to get away for a few days.  However, that trip never happened.  He went to his office on Saturday in the morning, and that was the last time she had seen him. Mrs. Hicks could not believe that her husband's younger brother would murder her husband. Glenn told her that $200 thousand dollars of insurance was to be put in a trust for her by him.  He said that he could handle the money much better than she could.  Sure.

 The office secretary and stenographer, Miss Ida Sinnwell, was questioned by the police.  Clifford Hicks seemed to be looking over his shoulder a lot, and he told her that he might be killed by gangsters one day. She said that on the Sunday morning of the murder, Glenn Hicks phoned her to come to the insurance office. At about 7:30 a.m., he told her that Clifford had been found dead. The body had not been found until around 9:00 a.m. Sunday morning. Glenn could not explain how he knew his brother was dead before the body had been discovered.

On that Sunday morning, Glenn Hicks had entered into his brother's office when he met with Miss Sinnwell. He had taken, destroyed and burned a number of papers from the office files. After being arrested, he told the police, "I know it looks bad for me, I guess I am in for it now". No kidding.  He handed a farewell letter supposedly written by Clifford to his widow.  His note contained information that he had been threatened three times. Mrs. Hicks and her sister were together when Glenn Hicks and Davis came to her home to give her the note, saying that Clifford told him to give it to her in the event that he was reported missing or found dead.  He and Davis stayed at the Hicks home until 2:00 a.m., then left for the office, with plans to take some of Clifford's papers. It was reported that Clifford also left farewell letters addressed to his law associate, and his bank president.  The contents of these notes were not disclosed to the public. The bank president, Mr. Crain, was told by Glenn Hicks that his brother had completed a list of pall bearers to be attending his funeral. What?

free images.google.com


Police probed into the background of Clifford Hicks.  Apparently he had been involved with William Davis, who had stolen railroad bonds in Ohio, and proceeded to sell them with the help of Hicks, who was using an assumed name.When it comes to the street robbery of Mr. Hicks, he was carrying over $5,000, said that he was on his way to make a deposit, and was accosted by two men, he could not identify.  He said at one time that the money belonged to the trust company, and he filed for reimbursement of the cash from the insurance company.  Yet, he told another officer that the money belonged to himself, not the trust company.

Mr. Hicks had heavy financial debts. He apparently booked two hotel rooms on that Saturday at different hotels in the city, and registered under false names.  Records showed that he made numerous telephone calls from both rooms. He had an appointment to meet with Mr. Crain at the Page Bank, but did not show up.  Instead he was seen lunching with a woman at the Elks Club, a woman with no identity.  The waiter from the club said they stayed at the venue from 12:30 until about 2:30.  He said the woman was about 35, dressed in black and had brown hair. Hicks had his briefcase open on the table and was showing this woman a life insurance policy. He got up from the table to phone his wife, he planned to come home for dinner that evening.  But he returned to the Elks Club after a brief walk, about 6:30 p.m. and remained there talking with the mystery woman until about 8:30 p.m. The Club employees said they saw them leave together at that time.

Clifford Hicks was a director of the Page Bank until April 20th, when the bank was held up.  He resigned because he said the robbery looked strange. He was badly in need of cash.  He first said the $5200 taken from him was his own, and not insured.  Late he said that it belonged to the St. Louis Finance Corporation.  He was treasurer of this entity, and put in an insurance claim on the money. The claims agent had many questions, and Hicks was evasive with his answers.

Glenn Hicks, the younger brother, said he was at his own home entertaining a Sunday school group until about 9:30 p.m. on that Saturday night.  He took a phone call from his brother's wife who was worried about Clifford, who had not come home for dinner.  Glenn headed over to his brother's home about 10:00 p.m.

The sister of Mrs. Hicks, Anne Betts Walton, told police that Mr. and Mrs Hicks were dinner guests at her home on Thursday evening before his death.  He was acting very nervous, pulling down the window shades in her home and telling of being threatened.  They went for a drive, with Clifford driving Anne's car.  He was acting as if someone was following them while he drove, and tried to speed up to evade anyone tailing them.

In mid May of 1927, a brunette woman and a known gangster friend of Glenn Hicks were taken into custody for questioning.  Neither were identified by the police, and no report was divulged from their interrogation.

In June of 1927, many insurance companies charged fraud in the case of Clifford Hicks and his many life insurance policies.  Petitions charged that policies were obtained fraudulently by concealing that he was engaged in questionable, irregular and illegal business practices.  He was also found to be misappropriating his own funds belonging to others, and he engaged in businesses with felons and lawbreakers. He procured insurance upon his own life from many companies in large sums, and could not have been able to meet the premium payments with the known legitimate source of income.

So, what was the REAL story of Clifford Hicks?  You tell me.





Friday, January 20, 2017

Stella Christoff : Murder With A Smile

Here is a cheery little story about a teenager in downstate Illinois, Madison County....Edwardsville, to be exact.


images.google.com, free images

Mr. Nelson Voss, a USPS mail carrier was murdered...his body found in Silver Creek, just outside of Edwardsville.  He had been shot.  On July 13, 1933, a farmer was making a tour of the pasture area to check fencing conditions since his cattle had managed to slip through and off of his property.  While walking past the creek side where a small bridge made a crossing at a lonely, secluded, seldom traveled road, the farmer made the shocking discovery.  He had toured the area once in the morning, but upon his second time that day, about noon, the body was more visible.

Voss was last seen delivering mail at a small farm just a half mile from the place where his body was found in the creek.  He was a young 25 year old substitute mail carrier.  A full life ahead of him. An area farmer said he was cutting hay when he saw Voss stop at his mailbox at the end of the drive.  He just delivered the mail and moved on, just like any other work day. The farmer stated that he did observe an automobile pass down the road at about 10 a.m. that morning, but did not notice any other vehicles, other than the  Voss car.  Residents of the area noticed that their mail had not been delivered on July 13th, which was unusual as the day passed.  Voss used his own automobile to  deliver letters.  He was known to be fairly prompt with his deliveries each day, and the rural residents had grown used to his schedule.

Officials were summoned to the scene as the news of the found body spread through the county.  The Coroner determined the cause of death as a gunshot wound. Mr. Voss had been shot in the back, near the shoulder blade area. In his pockets only 8 dollars were found.  Nothing seemed to have been taken from his clothing.  Detectives and local police scoured the area to look for clues as to what may have taken place at the site.  Empty shells from a .22 caliber rifle and a shotgun shell were found. Mr Voss owned a shotgun, but the Sheriff said he did not believe it had been fired recently after a careful examination of the gun. A pocketknife was also found at the scene, and was handed over to the Sheriff after a quick examination by the Coroner. It showed signs of having been sharpened many times, but was very dull at this examination.  It seemed to be a very cheaply made knife, probably costing less than a dollar.  The handle was of plastic, black and yellow in color. Members of the Voss family were shown the knife, and none of them had seen this knife previously, so it probably did not belong to Mr. Voss.

The Coroner and the Sheriff with detectives came up with a scenario as to what had happened on that morning in July.  If they were to believe that the knife and guns were involved, there must have been three men involved in the murder.  After examining the car belonging to Mr. Voss, they assumed that the murders were laying in wait for the postman.  They must have parked their car on the bridge, not allowing Mr. Voss to cross, and perhaps surrounding his car, forcing him to exit and become their victim.  Detectives examined the mail that was still in the Voss car.  The letters were filed in order of delivery, and no sign of torn or empty envelopes were found.  Perhaps it was a robbery of the mailman hoping to steal money from the mail, but again, they really had no confidence in that theory. Residents of the area were asked to keep track of expected mail and report when and if something expected did not arrive that month. The right side door was left open on the Voss car, with no sign of damage from a forced entry. A shotgun with shells were found on the front seat.

Persons from all over the township were curious about the murdered man.  They crowded in their cars with friends and neighbors to get a closer look at the site where Mr. Voss had been found.  Some had traveled over 10 miles, and nearby farmers walked or rode their horses and mules to get a first hand experience of the area.  They had their own theories about how Mr. Voss met his end. Everyone agreed that the perpetrators must have been very familiar with the secluded area.

After returning to the idea of checking on missing mail, it was determined that the postage stamp and coin change pouch was missing from the satchel the belonged to Voss.  Also, two packages were missing, according to the mail inventory of Voss's deliveries to be made that day.  The local Postmaster was instrumental at supplying necessary records to support this information.

A man who boarded in a shed on the Christoff farm had a trunk. Frank Stroak said that it was seldom opened in his room.  Upon opening it one day in late July, he and a cousin of the Christoff family  found the packages and the missing stamp and coin pouch.  He said that two local girls were seen playing in and around this trunk in the past weeks. So, the conclusion was that the girls must have placed the items in this trunk.  The girls were rounded up and questioned.  They were sisters, Stella and Sophia Christoff.  Their father, brother and cousin were jailed as the coroner was still putting this case together. The girls denied having taken the packages and pouch from the slain mail carrier.

Stella, age 17, finally admitted that she had shot Nelson Voss in the back.  She and her sister were roaming the area of the creek, hunting for squirrels.  She said that Nelson Voss saw them walking near the road and pulled his car off to the side.  The girls were each carrying a gun.  Stella had the 12 gauge shotgun and little Sophia carried a .22 caliber rifle.  Stella said that Voss approached them and said he wanted to show the girls the right way to shoot squirrels.  Stella said she told the mail carrier to keep away and get back into his car.  They did not want his help. She continued her story, stating that Voss grabbed her arm, and told little Sophia to go home.  Voss then tried to force himself on Stella, squeezing her body and attempting to kiss her.  After he let her go, he started toward Sophia.  Stella said she shot Voss in the back, fearing that he might try to overtake her younger sister.  She said that he tumbled to the ground, rolling toward the edge of the creek. She confessed that she took the rifle from Sophia and shot him again as he lay still.  She had her brother's knife with her, and said that she had dropped it on the ground before leaving the area. Sophia, giggling, confirmed the story.  There seemed no remorse from either girl.  The other members of the Christoff family were released from custody. Young Sophia did not actually shoot Voss, and she was released due to her young age.  The Sheriff had his case. A warrant charging murder was issued against Stella Christoff. She was held at the Edwardsville jail.

Fast forward to November of 1933, where the murder trial of Stella Christoff is scheduled for the Edwardsville Circuit Court.  Prior to her court date, Stella seemed very confident.  She laughed and joked with reporters who were able to visit and interview her. She told them that she could not understand why she was being jailed.  In her opinion, she did nothing wrong. Photographers were able to take photos of her, and she loved the attention.  They posted their photos in the St. Louis Star Times, among other publications, and gave her the headline, She Faces Murder Charge With A Smile. After 4 months in jail, her appearance began to change.  She no longer had her tanned skin and bumps and bruises from working on her father's farm.  Her hands were well manicured and her nails were polished.  Her hair was regularly washed and curled.  The jail matrons seemed to really like Stella so they afforded her the luxury of being well taken care of.

Stella had a famous cellmate.  Lillian Chessen, known for having been involved in the August Luer kidnapping case, was jailed at the Edwardsville center while she awaited her trial and eventual conviction.  She look a special interest in Stella, and often made suggestions to the jail matrons as to how the "doll"up the young inmate. Stella also gained 15 pounds while she was incarcerated.  She was eating so much better than she ever had while living on the family farm.  She was rosy cheeked and very, very pretty. She had taken a real interest in working jigsaw puzzles, and often asked for new ones to work on while she waited for her trial date.
images.google.com, free images


On Monday, November 13, 1933, the trial began.  The jury was selected and the State Attorney announced that it was going for the death penalty in this murder case. Of course, Stella appeared in a beautiful fashion of a blue dress, bows, hat and high heeled suede shoes with stockings.  Her hair was bobbed and curled under her hat. She wore a bit of makeup and her fingernails were painted pink. On November 14th, in late afternoon, the case was given to the jury.  Stella had held the shotgun that she used to kill Voss for all to see in the courtroom.  She stood up, and at the urging of the defense attorneys, she held the gun exactly as she remembered...but this time she pointed the muzzle at the jury members.  Yikes!  She said she didn't want to kill him, but she just wanted to get away from him before he could hurt her or her sister. She told the court full of spectators that she wasn't really sorry, but wished she had not done it, now that she had to spend the last 4 months in jail.

The prosecutors were curious if she would tell the same story as she had in the past.  She seemed to stick to the same tale, where Voss said he wanted to show the girls how to shoot squirrels.  She refused his help and asked him to leave, when he approached her and tried to force himself on her.  This time she said she slapped him.  When she said he had started for her sister, she shot him.

Sophia, the young sister, was asked why she didn't tell anyone about the murder.  She said  that she and Stella had agreed that they needed to keep quiet about the whole thing. Sophia admitted that she was the one that took the parcels from Nelson Voss.  They were in his car.  She went on to say that she opened the packages at home and found some clothing articles, which she buried in a field on their farm.  She was afraid that someone would recognize the items, so she buried them.

 The prosecutors said they thought that Voss was murdered because the girls were robbing the mail carrier of his parcels. He continued to say that Mr. Voss, a young mail carrier on duty that one fateful day offered to help the girls.  They were afraid of him, probably did not like him, and had plenty of opportunity to run from him.  Instead, they killed him in cold blood and have no regrets.

Stella spent the next day sitting on a couch in her jail cell, munching on candies and apples while the jury hashed over the case.  She seemed stoic and not worried that she could be handed the death penalty. As November 15th came to a close, the jury still had no verdict ....until... 5 p.m.

On November 16, the jury entered their decision.  Stella Christoff was convicted of manslaughter, which carries a sentence of one to fourteen years.    She was taken back to her cell, and she told the matron that she did not understand what it meant to be convicted of manslaughter.  They told her that with good behavior, she would probably be released.  She smiled and said she could be good for a year.
images.google.com, free images

The jurors were not going to discuss their deliberations.  The defense attorney said he would move for a new trial.  Meanwhile, Stella, still smiling, was taken to the Women's State Prison in Dwight, Illinois.

In 1937, Stella was denied parole by the State Board of Pardons.  The members declared that the theft of the mail packages from the car of the slain mail carrier, Nelson Voss, was enough to deny her parole.  They suggested another 5 years of incarceration. Stella remained an ideal prisoner at Dwight.
A portion of the contents of  the mail packages was recovered from the Christoff farm.

Stella remained in the prison through 1940, at the age of 23, as a single, white, female.

She married Sterling Hogue, who passed away in 1978. Stella passed away on 13 June 2001 at the age of 85.  She is laid to rest at Sunset Hill Cemetery in Glen Carbon, Illinois.

Newspaper stories can be found about this murder case on various websites.
















Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Pearl Elliott : The Mob Madam

Have you ever heard of Pearl Elliott?  You might be more familiar with her buddies, John Dillinger and Harry Pierpont, notorious for shenanigans during the 1920s through the 1930s era.

Pearl Elliott, images.google.com
Pearl hailed from Indiana.  She was married three times.  I wonder why?  She was a nice sort of lady, well, except for being a "frequent flyer" on the local police blotters.

You see, Pearl became a Madam (do you really use a capital M when spelling that word?).  I suppose it was to "make ends meet".....well, I guess I should not use THAT phrase.....  let's just say she needed to earn a living.  It was the Depression Era. She also rented rooms to a few of her friends that needed places to stay, before and after they robbed banks and carried on in other activities considered illegal. She started harboring fugitives in 1925 when Pierpont completed a bank heist and needed a place to lay low.

Kokomo was her hometown when she tried her skills at this business. Her home was raided in 1929, but the judge dismissed the case in the city court. There were other raids and arrests from 1930 to 1932. Sometimes she pleaded "guilty" to charges of brothel management, if it appeared that she had no other choice.  But then, some of those in the ranks of the police and fire departments were frequent visitors to her establishment, so she got some friendly help in dismissing some charges along the way.  They provided protection for her and her girls when some paying visitors were disorderly and caused trouble.  How nice to have armed men outside the house when she needed them.

Pearl's husband, "Dewey" Elliott, was on friendly terms with Pierpont and Dillinger. He suggested that Pearl become the treasurer for the Dillinger group of thugs.  Evidently, she did a good job.  Pierpont aided Dillinger in his escape from  jail.  Pearl was not seen in the Kokomo area after the jail break.  Seems unusual, so she must have had a hand in it. She found herself on the Chicago Police Department's Most Wanted List, with an order of "shoot to kill" since she was considered a dangerous partner of John Dillinger and Harry Pierpont, and she was known to harbor them and their gang members in her "Rooms For Rent" establishments.

When Dillinger escaped from the Crown Point, Indiana jail, he found refuge in an apartment in Chicago, where the rent had been paid two weeks in advance....by Pearl Elliott. She hid out there with Dillinger and Joe Burns, a member of the gang.

Dillinger met his end in front of the Chicago Biograph Theatre, gunned down in a hail of bullets in July of 1934, orchestrated by Melvis Purvis, FBI.   Harry Pierpont was sent to the electric chair while at the Ohio Penitentiary the same year in October.

Pearl Elliott, among other women noted for their participation in the career of John Dillinger, was seen at his funeral in Mooresville, Indiana.  She paid her respect for her friend, noting that he never let her down, and she had to be there to see him once more.

On August 10, 1935, Pearl McDonald Elliott was pronounced deceased after her battle with a carcinoma at the age of 47.  She was laid to rest with the McDonald family in Greenlawn Cemetery in Clinton County, Indiana. http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GSln=elliott&GSiman=1&GScid=226628&GRid=28777548&

Friday, December 9, 2016

You Can't Blame the Beer Hops : Lemp Family Triumph and Tragedy

How many families have your researched having a constant history of suicide?  The Lemp family had it's share, that is for sure.

The Lemp family moved from Germany to the United States.  They started their own brewing company along the banks of the great river city, St. Louis, in 1840, after having dabbled in the grocery store business. Adam Lemp distilled vinegar and brewed beer for customers.The beer brewing became so popular that he scrapped the grocery business.  He focused solely on beer brewing and established his company, which was named Western Brewery. Adam Lemp passed away in 1862, and William, his son, inherited the business. William Lemp, who was only 12 years old when he came to America. became a naturalized citizen in 1841.  He graduated from St. Louis University and started his own brewing company, which eventually merged with his deceased father's brewery.  He named this the William J. Lemp Brewing Company. The company incorporated in 1892.

William served in the Missouri Union troops during the Civil War, and became a member of the GAR.  He and his family were becoming very well respected as he rose to the ranks of the elite class. Lemp had invested interests in many breweries, mostly in the southern states of Texas, Arkansas and Louisiana.

The Lemp family life seemed perfect.  William and his bride, Julia, raised a family of four daughters and five sons.  Life seemed to be great.  He renamed his company as Lemp, and built a rather nice house not far from the cool caves where he brewed his product.  There supposedly was an underground tunnel connecting the Lemp home to the Lemp cave brewery. Eventually, Lemp's Falstaff Beer outsold the Budweiser product for quite some time.

beer bottles, free images.google.com


William was getting along in age by the turn of the century, so he decided to go into partial retirement and travel with his wife.  He appointed his sons as custodians of the business.  Of the five sons, Frederick seemed to be the favorite.  However, Fred wasn't feeling so well, so he left for California to attend to this health, when he died suddenly of heart failure in December of 1901 at the age of 28.

Mr. and Mrs. Lemp took the loss very hard, although William seemed to bear the most grief.  Not more than three years after the passing of his son, he learned that his old friend, Frederick Pabst, of Milwaukee, had passed away.  William Lemp seemed to be filled with unending grief.  Frederick Pabst was the father-in-law of William's daughter, Hilda.  William could not take any more of his depressed life, so he took his life by shooting himself in the head in the bedroom of his home.  His wife, Julia, passed away two years later, in 1906, It was said that she, also, suffered from bouts of deep depression since the suicide of her husband.

Lemp Brewing, Falstaff Beer Logo, free images.google.com


The brewing business was passed onto William Lemp, Jr.  He established the offices of the company in the family home.  He is credited with naming the premier product, Falstaff, William Jr., known as Billy, married in 1899.  His wife, Lillian, was of the aristocrat status, and she insisted on wearing the color of lavender everyday, all day.  This marriage was doomed.  He didn't like her having a different carriage for every day of the week, and her use of profane language.  She charged that he brought women to their home and beat her, threatening her life with a revolver. Lillian was granted a divorce in 1909, and gained full custody of their son.  She did not feel satisfied with alimony of $6,000/yr., and eventually took her case to the state supreme court, and was awarded a lump some of $100,000.00.  Cha Ching! She never remarried, and continued to wear lavender every day.


Billy's younger sister, Elsa, was also in a very unhappy marriage.  She was granted a divorce from her husband, Thomas Wright, in 1919.  They remarried in 1920....WHAT? One week after their second wedding day, she seemed to be dealing with depression, which was a family affliction.  She was having one particularly bad evening, so she excused herself to her bedroom overnight.  The next morning a loud sound was heard coming from her room.  Elsa was found deceased, having shot herself in the heart.

Prohibition did not make things very good for the Lemp brewing family.  They tried to brew some non-alcoholic beverages, but sales were very low. Family members quarreled over what to do with the company.  Billy did not want to update to modern brewing standards.  He preferred to brew with old traditional ways.  Eventually, the brewery was closed.  The buildings were sold.  Billy became overcome with depression, just like his father and sister.  He shot himself in the heart while sitting in the business offices of their Lemp family home in December of 1922.

Lemp Brewing Company cave where brewing took place, free images.google com


William Lemp, III, tried to revive the Lemp Brewing Company after the repeal of Prohibition.  For a while it seemed that partnering with another  company in the early 1930s was a good idea.  He had relocated to Illinois on the east side of the Mississippi.  Unfortunately, his company went bankrupt..  In 1943, the disappointed man died of a massive heart attack.  He was only 43 years old.

Charles Lemp, son of William Lemp, Sr., brother of Billy Lemp, had once been president of the brewery.  But in 1911 he withdrew from the business and went into a banking career. He was never married, and became a reclusive person, moving back into the Lemp home.  In 1949, at the age of 77, he, too, shot himself in the head. He had pre-arranged for his funeral and left a note requesting cremation, having his ashes spread over his farm.

Lemp family mausoleum, Bellfontaine Cemetery, free images,google.com
The Lemp family has a large mausoleum in Bellefontaine Cemetery, in St. Louis.  It is among the largest ever built there.  It was constructed by William Lemp, Sr., after the death of his beloved son, Frederick, in 1901.  Thirteen members of the Lemp family are interred here. There are no living family with the Lemp name.  It is said that the Lemp family home, now a restaurant venue, is haunted.

Lemp Mansion, free images.google.com


I wonder, how many of the Lemp family are still hanging around the house?

Friday, December 2, 2016

A Christmas Ogre : He Deserts His Family and Takes a Young Bride

What a guy!  This story is about a rather Scrooge-like scumbag.  He was the father of twelve children.  He left his family, yes, at Christmastime.  Why?  No, he was not depressed.  No, he was not penniless, unable to deliver a wonderful, light-hearted holiday to his family.  He just left them all, without a note.  You see, he found a young 16-year old to take as his bride.

free images Scrooge
 Michael Boland lived in St. Louis, Missouri.  Married, father of a large brood, and according to some, a nice neighbor, was missing from his family in late December of 1889.  He was found in Arkansas on December 27th, celebrating a honeymoon with his new, under-aged bride.

Boland, a laborer by trade, left St. Louis in October of 1889 to work on the levee in Bright Star, Arkansas.  Mrs. Boland reported that she ceased to receive any letters from him after he had been gone about 10 days.  She had received a letter from someone claiming to be a "Sheriff Brown".  The letter told of an incident where Mr. Boland had gotten himself into a skirmish with others while on the Arkansas River, and he died from his wounds.  Mr. Boland did have a life insurance policy, with a value of $150.00.  His wife placed a claim for death benefits, as she had a house full of children to feed and care for.

Here is where the story gets good.  The Prudential Insurance Company proceeded to investigate the death of Mr. Boland when they had received the claim from the Mrs.  Another letter was found, once again written by someone claiming to be "Sheriff Brown".  It stated that Mr. Boland was on a skiff on the river, when he was knocked into the river, floating downstream until he was picked up by a steamboat crew, who then transported him to New Orleans.  According to the letter, he was last seen laying in a hospital there.

Following the trail, the insurance investigators contacted the New Orleans officials, who reviewed their maritime records, and found that no such person was transported on a steamboat, and no injured passenger was taken to a hospital there.

Mrs. Boland, needing some closure and some money for support, asked the St. Louis Police Department for some help in locating her husband and finding out what happened to him.
Upon arriving in Bright Star, Arkansas, the police detectives found Mr. Boland, alive and well.  He had never left Bright Star, and had never been involved in a skirmish, nor was he ever tossed off a skiff on the river.

Mr. Boland was found snuggling with his new, much younger bride.  Well, HO HO HO.  Mrs. Boland was notified of what the police had uncovered....her husband was a rat fink.  She proceeded to sue for divorce, and the courts prepared charges against Mr. Boland for bigamy.

I guess we can assume he got coal in his stocking that year!


Saturday, October 29, 2016

Mystery Murderer : The Torso Killer of Cleveland

For this Halloween Weekend, I  bring forward a story of unsolved murders, just so that you will have trouble sleeping this weekend...Bha  hah  ha  hah  ha!

You have heard of Elliot Ness...the FBI agent who, with the help of his posse, finally brought down Alphonse Capone.  It took a charge of tax evasion, but whatever worked, he took it.

In later days, Mr. Ness was working in Cleveland, Ohio.  There was a serial killer, leaving torsos around. At least 12 dismembered bodies were recovered. It all started with the lower half of a woman's torso that washed up on the shore of Lake Erie in 1934. This body, plus all the following dismembered bodies were completely drained of blood.

Doctor Francis Sweeney was thought to be the murderer, but it could not be proven.
He hung around a local funeral home...what a creep.  He also spent quite some time behind the walls of mental institutions.  It is said that he wrote postcards and letters to Elliott Ness and J. Edgar Hoover....taunting them about the murders that had not been solved. Dr. Sweeney was a veteran of World War I, where he was busy preforming amputations and general medical duties.  When questioned by polygraph, he failed....but that could not be used against him.  I think it just raised more suspicion. He committed himself to institutional care, and later died in a veterans home.

Death masks of some victims,
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cleveland_Torso_Murderer


There were reportedly 12 to 20 bodies believed to be involved with this unknown murderer from 1935-1938. Only three of the victims could be positively identified.  They were considered drifters, part of the working poor of the area.  Decapitation was to cause of death for almost half of the persons.

Where were the bodies, or rather, torsos found?  A number of places were mentioned in an article found in Wikipedia ...lake shore, railroad boxcar, swamps, ...

Elliott Ness was the Public Safety Director of Cleveland, according to many articles.  He was really stumped with these cases.

There have been some books written about this horrible circumstance in Cleveland, here are some that I found :

In the Wake of the Butcher, by James Jessen Badal, 2001 Kent State University Press

Butcher's Dozen, by Max Allen Collins, 1988 Bantam Books

Nemisis: The Final Case of Elliot Ness, by William Burnhardt

A map showing the locations of each victim's remains can be found on  Google, searching "Cleveland Torso Murders Map".

Get a good night's sleep...if you can.  This guy may still be out there somewhere, in the dark, outside your door, waiting to catch you off guard.


Sunday, October 9, 2016

Chester Gets The Chair : The Murder of Grace Brown

Oh, How lovely is Love......until someone gets an itch to leave....and it starts to get ugly...VERY ugly.

This is the case of Miss Grace Brown who was beat on the head with a tennis racket, then dumped into the lake.  Yes, her lover did it.  He ran off into the woods so that he could meet up with "the other woman".  What a guy!

Miss Brown was expecting a child, belonging to Mr. Chester Gillette.  He never denied that he was the father. But, you see, he had another woman on the side, or rather, Grace was the woman on the side....Chester was supposed to marry another woman.  He just used Grace for his days of lust.

Chester invited young Grace to accompany him on a romantic boat ride on Big Moose Lake, located in the Adirondacks on a lovely day in July of 1906. They said that he had a tennis racket with him, although that was never proven.  He drifted out to a lonely, secluded area of the lake.  Then, he beat her about the head and dumped her into the water where she lost her life, and that of the child she was carrying.  A tennis racket was found floating in the water near the area where her body was found.

Young Chester arrived in the New York area from Seattle Washington around 1904.  He was to join his uncle in the shirt manufacturing business. Supposedly he was very good looking, had plenty of money to spend and was quite a hit with all of the young single ladies of the area. Why he even taught Sunday school classes!  What a perfect catch for any young lass.

Young, 20 year old, Grace Brown, worked in the shirt factory belonging to the Gillette family.  Chester spied her right away, and she was quite smitten with him.  He gave her what seemed to be constant attention, and she gave him her full trust.

In the summer of 1906, Grace abruptly left her position at the factory.  With no explanation to her friends, she left everyone wondering what she was up to. Her parents noticed that something was different about her.  When they noticed that she had frequent correspondence with the young Gillette, they started to ask questions.  She broke the news....she was engaged to be married to Chester, or so she thought.  She began to sew herself a new wardrobe.

One day, Grace went back to the shirt factory, but not to work there.  She met with Chester.  He announced to everyone that he was going on a very short vacation in the mountain region.  Grace went ahead of him to meet up with him at the hotel, reported to be named the Glenmore Hotel.
Two days later, her body was found on the shore of Big Moose Lake, by fishermen.   The boat was found upturned, floating in the hidden cove area.

Big Moose Lake, New York, www.images.google.com



After questioning many of the people of the lake area, it was determined that Grace had been accompanied by a young man, whose description fit Chester Gillette. He was found sitting in front of a nearby summer resort hotel.  When approached by the police, he did not seem surprised at all about the finding of Grace's body.  He explained that his hat fell into the water, and when he went to reach for it, the boat had overturned and Grace went into the water.  He said he lost site of her  and swam to the shore. He was asked why he had not tried to save her or report the accident.  It was time to change his explanation. He said Grace was distraught and jumped into the water voluntarily. They handed him his tennis racket splotched with blood.  He had no explanation for that.

After his days in court, Chester was found guilty on December 6, 1906.  He was to be sentenced to death, by the electric chair, in January of 1906.  However, a stay was granted on an appeal filed in October of 1907. The Court of Appeals proved to be an unreliable deal for him, as they decided to uphold the original case findings of his responsibility for the death of young Grace.

The Glenmore Hotel, www.images.google.com


The Prosecution set about to bury Gillette with the many damning letters that Grace had written to him. She wrote that she was concerned about him neglecting her of late. He was asked when he first learned of her pregnancy.  Chester replied that he could not remember. It was revealed that he had not paid his hotel bill while staying at the nearby hotel where he had registered under the name of Charles Gordon, and that his bank account seemed to be depleted. Apparently, he had not paid for the boat that he rented either.  When questioned about these unpaid costs, he shrugged his shoulders, stating that he didn't seem worried about that.

Other evidence that seemed to "screw" Chester :
 -he had carried a photo of Miss Harriet Benedict, a young, lovely woman who worked at the shirt factory.
-Chester said he wanted to protect young Grace from gossip, so he registered under the assumed name of Mr. Gordon and wife.
-Although it was a hot day in July, Chester brought along an overcoat, umbrella and a tennis racket with him on the boat ride with Grace.  These were very odd things to take on that day when there was not a cloud in the sky. He claimed to have left them on the shore before boarding the boat.
- A guest at the hotel swore that he had introduced himself as Carl Graham and his companion, Grace.
-He also claimed to have bathed and changed his complete set of clothing after having walked through the woods, and sat on the porch of the hotel to read a book, never thinking to stop to report the accident on the lake.
-He changed his story, and said that he and Grace were reaching for water lilies when she jumped into the water.
-He sent a message to Cortland, where the shirt factory was, to ask for $5 to be sent back to him to pay for his room and board
-Two young women testified that they had an engagement to meet with Chester at Seventh Lake on the evening that Grace had died.
-Letters from Grace to Chester were read before the courtroom, with statements from Grace that she was afraid that Chester would not come to her in her  condition, and she was in a depressed mood.
-Frances Brown, sister of Grace, testified that Grace confided that she had high hopes that she would be married to Chester during their "Vacation" together.

In February of 1908, it was decided that Chester Gillette was indeed guilty of the murder of Miss Grace Brown and her unborn child. The sentence was due to be carried out in the week of March 30, 1908.

On March 30, 1908, Chester was lead to the electric chair, Auburn prison, He was interred the next day at Soule Cemetery, with members of his family present.  A number of persons who were curious watched from a distance. The grave is unmarked.

Grace M. Brown was buried in Valley View Cemetery, Chenango County, New York. It is said by visitors that she haunts the lake area to this day.

The story of this horrible murder at Moose Lake inspired the novel "An American Tragedy" by Theodore Dreiser. and the Academy Award winning movie "A Place in the Sun".

The reports of this case can be found in newspaper archives across the nation and internationally.