Saturday, March 26, 2016

Happy and Blessed Easter

This weekend is no time to read about unfortunate personal events.  Have a very blessed weekend.

Friday, March 18, 2016

The Coca Cola Heir's Butler Did It

The young couple, Joe Cruz and Gladys Frix, planned a date to meet up with her cousin and a group of friends in Atlanta in the afternoon of January 18th.  They had lunch and shared a lively conversation.  Joe and Gladys bid farewell to the group, with Gladys stating that they would meet up with the group later at the same street corner.  But that was not the plan that Joe had for the evening. The couple sped away in his automobile.  The fateful evening had only just begun.

Joe Cruz was 30, and was employed as a butler to  Asa G. Candler, Jr., heir to the Coca Cola empire.  Asa's father was the founder of the soft drink company. Born in Manila, Cruz traveled to the United States to seek his fortune.  He had developed a talent as an amateur magician, and he performed in many small venues....until Candler saw him, that is.  Candler had an interest in magic and was very intrigued by Joe's magic act.  He introduced himself after a performance and talked with Cruz awhile, finding that Cruz was hardly making enough money to pay his bills.  Candler asked Cruz if he was interested in becoming his butler.  He also wanted Cruz to teach him some of those slight-of-hand tricks that he enjoyed so much.  Cruz cheerfully accepted the position and moved into the Candler estate.  He lived there for about eight years.

Gladys Frix attended a magic show with her friends one weekend, and caught the eye of the magician, Joe Cruz.  She smiled at him and liked his performance...and his smile.  They met after the show was over and talked for hours.  She told him where she lived  and he planned to visit her.

Mr and Mrs Frix were not very happy with Joe Cruz as a suitor for their daughter.  After all, she was only 19, and employed as a stenographer.  They felt that he was not the sort of man that they had envisioned as a mate for Gladys.  After several unfriendly discussions, they asked that Joe refrain from coming to their home, and furthermore, they asked that the couple break off their relationship.

After six months of hiding their meetings, Joe and Gladys planned to stand up to her parents.  She, however, was afraid of what might happen and told Joe that she was really frightened.  He knew that there was only one way that they could be together....forever and ever.

Springfield Republican, 19 January 1931, page 3,

It was early in the morning on the 19th of January, 1931.  The gardener at the Candler estate began his chores for the day when he happened upon the car belonging to Cruz.  He thought he saw someone in the car, so he approached it, thinking Joe had awakened early that morning.  The horror that he found could not have been more frightening.  The couple were seated in the car, Gladys sitting on the lap of Joe....both of them dead and covered with their blood.

The gardener ran to the house and awakened Mr. Candler.  They phoned the police department and the officers swarmed the estate within the hour.  Upon approaching the bodies, it was clear that Gladys had been shot in the stomach and Joe was shot in the head.  A pearl-handled pistol lay on the front seat of the car, the obvious weapon used in this gruesome scene.

Augusta Chronicle, 19 January 1931, Section A, page 1,

Asa Candler identified the pistol as being his own.  He told the police chief that he did not know that Joe Cruz had taken his gun.  There was a note laying on the chest of Joe's body.  It was written in his handwriting.  After reviewing the note, the police released the script to the press.  The note mentioned that the couple had been distraught over the disapproval of Gladys' parents.  They knew no other way that they could be together.  Ending their lives was the only way that they would forever be bound.

The police asked to inspect the room where Cruz had stayed in the Candler estate.  In his room they found a child sized slate on which Cruz had written, " This is my last trick, and I hope you'll enjoy the performance".

The coroner performed the autopsy later that day, finding that he believed that Cruz shot Gladys first, and then himself.  The note found on his body appeared to written only in his handwriting, and that Gladys had not written on the paper.  The coroner statement concluded that Gladys had no intention of ending her life.  They placed the blame solely on Joe Cruz.....The Butler Did It.

More articles about this horrible event can be found in various newspapers.  Might I suggest :

Friday, March 11, 2016

The Dead Can't Testify : Nightclub Owner Goes Free

In the St. Louis Municipal Courts Building, a scuffle broke out in the crowded hallway.  Tony Sansone, Jr. and two others were arrested under general peace disturbance charges.

Mr. Sansone, a Deputy Constable and owner of the La Vida nightclub, located at 521 Washington Avenue, carried a pistol into the court building....I guess there were no metal detectors at the courthouse doors in January of 1935.  Sansone was at the court building to answer to illegal liquor sales charges.   Sansone had failed to obtain the proper licenses for selling liquor. He stated that as he stood at the Police Court entrance, two men known as James Capasso and Tony Busalacki, approached him and began to beat him.  They had unfinished business from a quarrel that they had the evening before.

In an effort to defend himself, Sansone withdrew his pistol from under his coat and hit Busalacki over the head with it.  The crowded corridor was soon emptied as the persons there began to swarm to the doors in order to get out of the way of swinging fists. Sansone was treated for bruises at the nearby hospital, while Busalacki suffered a laceration on his scalp.

The case of Tony Sansone had two continuances, before both parties were fined $200, and appealed.  The court case was carried on the docket eight times before sustaining the fine. On June 27, 1935, a new trial was granted.

Fast forward to August 1935, on the fifteenth court setting for this case, the general peace disturbance charges against Sansone are dropped.  Tony Busalacki, the witness expected to testify again Sansone was no longer alive.  How fortunate for Sansone.  In July, Busalacki was killed in the neighboring county of St. Charles. He had been shot by a member of his own extortion accident.  OOPS!

 St. Louis Post-Dispatch13 Jul 1935, SatMain Edition,

Busalacki and his extortion chumps were trying to collect a large amount of money from a fellow who had a farm in St. Charles County, just across the river from St. Louis.  While running away from the sheriff, one of the gang mistook Busalacki for a county deputy, and he was shot dead.

Judge Schmitt realized that the chief witness against Tony Sansone, Jr. was Tony Busalacki.  The prosecutors could not make a case against Sansone without the testimony of the dead man. Sansone was released from the court as a free man, thankful for the death of his adversary.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Murder of Sarah Harriet McDaniel : County Prosecutor Escapes the Gallows

Oscar McDaniel excelled at his job.  He was a very respected prosecutor in Buchanan County, Missouri.  Well known for putting away all the "bad guys", the community could count on him to get the job done, and make the St. Joseph area a safe place to live and raise a family.

However, in July of 1916 all of  that changed. McDaniel received a telephone call very late in the evening.  The strange voice on the other end said that Oscar's brother was in  a saloon in the downtown area of St. Joseph.  They said he had better come to fetch him before this drunken patron starts some trouble.  Oscar went to the saloon, only to find that the warning was untrue.  He returned to his home on South 20th Street, parking in the street.  As soon as he started to exit the car, gunshots rang out.  An assailant, hidden behind a large tree, began to shoot at McDaniel.  At least five shots were heard by neighbors.  The dark figure ran off and McDaniel was not hurt.  He ran into his home to check on his wife and three children, Oscar Jr., Helen, and Marion  He shouted his wife's name, but got no response.  Upstairs in the bedroom, he found his wife, Sarah Harriet, laying on the floor in a pool of blood. Her head was crushed, and she was unconscious,  Apparently she had been beaten with a blunt instrument. Her diamond ring and a few nice trinkets were missing.  The children were asleep, and left unharmed.
The Bismarck Tribune (Bismarck, North Dakota) · Fri, Jul 21, 1916 · First Edition · Page 1

Oscar called the St. Joseph Police Department to report the incident and ask for assistance with his wife.  Police immediately brought blood hounds to the residence to begin tracking the whereabouts of the assailant who had run away into the dark night.  Since McDaniel was a shrewd prosecutor, responsible for putting away all sorts of thugs from the courts, the suspect list was rather long. The hounds led the  police to a rooming house.  Police took five men into custody there and they were held pending the investigation of this ghastly murder.  The landlady reported that she had seen a dark, shadowy figure run from the house sometime after the crime was reported.

Mrs. McDaniel was transported to the hospital, where she died about six hours later.  Nothing could be done for her.  An autopsy was performed by the coroner.  Cause of death : Homicide.

The state police departments of Kansas and Missouri combined forces to solve the murder of Sarah Harriet McDaniel.  They began to focus their attention on a convicted burglar that had recently been placed in the asylum for the criminally insane.  At his sentencing, he warned Prosecutor McDaniel, "Death, hell and destruction shall be visited on you!".  This man had escaped from prison just days before the murder of Mrs. McDaniel.  He had written a letter to McDaniel, repeating his threat. McDaniel was not upset by the letter, because as a very competent prosecutor, he had received hundreds of such threats for the past two years.  No one had actually carried out their threats.  Many of the threats mentioned that he had better not try to run for re-election.

In September, the murder had still not been solved, and the community began to get restless.  They wanted someone to pay for the death of this dear lady.  Suspicions fell upon Oscar McDaniel, himself.  He was held in the St. Joseph Police department, having been charged with the murder. McDaniel began to laugh at the police and the absurd charges, but he respectfully walked the two miles to the county prison. He requested, and was granted, the permission to buy some cigars on his way to prison.

A special prosecutor asked that a grand jury be called to review the case against McDaniel, although he admitted that he had never questioned him about the murder of his wife.  Tongues began to wag about rumors that Sarah had asked Oscar for a divorce, and being upset by the request, he beat his wife to death. McDaniel asked for a swift trial, as he wanted to focus on his upcoming re-election.  He was a candidate on the Democratic ticket for November of that year.

In October, Bart Lockwood was assigned to prosecute Oscar McDaniel.  The two men had been close friends, having studied law together.  This case was bound to break that friendship.  Lockwood reviewed the evidence that piled up, seeming to indicate that Oscar really did murder his young wife.  He had tears in his eyes when he went before the court and summarized the evidence links that seemed to tighten around his old friend.

The Chillicothe Constitution-Tribune (Chillicothe, Missouri) · Fri, Nov 24, 1916 · Page 10

In late November, the prosecutor began to wrap up his case.  But he had a bombshell of a witness that had been called to testify. Miss Aileen Moss, sister of the slain Sarah , aka, Harriet, was asked to tell what she knew about the home life of Mr. and Mrs. McDaniel.  Miss Moss was a well known school teacher and resided with the McDaniels at the time of the murder.  She said she had heard her sister say "No, no no," and then let out a moan the night of her demise.  She also stated that just a week after her sister's death, McDaniel asked her if she thought the young child, Helen, would be better off forgetting her mother entirely.  She said she was shocked at his inquiry, and replied to him that the children should never forget their mother. Lockwood wanted to admit testimony from Aileen regarding McDaniel's association with other women, but the court would not allow it.The last of her testimony included her remembrance of a certain evening when Oscar and his wife were to attend a dinner at the home of an acquaintance.  Mrs. McDaniel refused to attend, and Oscar showed his superior authority and attending by himself.

Louis Gabbert, attorney for Oscar McDaniel was surprised by the lack of real evidence against his client.  He had expected to be confronted by many more witnesses by the prosecution.  He said he did not expect much proof against McDaniel, but he certainly expected more of a showing of evidence than what had been presented.

On December 5th, Oscar D. McDaniel was acquitted of the murder of his wife.  The jury took only one hour and thirty minutes to make their decision.  Five ballots had been taken before the jury could come to an agreement.  The following day, McDaniel could be found seated in his office, resuming his position as county prosecutor.  He said he would devote his time to discover the slayer of his wife.  He would, however, continue his career and take on the criminal cases on the docket, one of which was a case where a man had beat his wife to death.  He vowed that his career would not get in the way of trying to solve his wife's murder case.

McDaniel was asked if he had any evidence or information as to the identity of the murderer of his wife.  He was guarded in his remark, saying that there had been a member of a crook gang that had infested that part of the state and had received a threat in the previous year that they were out to get McDaniel and blow his family to hell.

Meanwhile, Sarah Harriet Moss McDaniel had been laid to rest in Mount Mora Cemetery. Her official cause of death was ruled a homicide.....blunt instrument to the head.

What happened to Oscar and his children?  Well, he found love again.  Oscar and Zora Lee Cook, later known as Cora, were married in July of 1917. He was still registered as an attorney in 1918, as stated on his WWI draft card.  But by mid 1920, he and Cora had moved to Felix Street in St. Joseph, Missouri.  He had become a carpenter by then, and had put his law degree away in a drawer.

Go ahead and research the information about Oscar and his attempt to solve the murder of his wife, Sarah Harriet McDaniel.  I know what happened, but it's more fun if you look for the results yourself.

May I suggest using :