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Today in Horror History

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Anniversaries of horrific events from history, including true crime, executions, disasters, and riots.
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2021-09-15

September 14, 1911nLondon, EnglandnEliza Mary Barrow (49, pictured) dies of arsenic poisoning after weeks of illnessnnBarrow was financially comfortable and “owned considerable property” when she met insurance superintendent Frederick Henry Seddon. The pair made a business agreement in which she would transfer the lease of her pub to Seddon, and in exchange he would pay Barrow £50 a year (about £3,900 in today’s economy). Barrow also transferred £1,520 (about £120,000 today) in stocks to Seddon, and in return he was to pay her £3 2s (about £250 today) a week. As another part of the arrangement, Barrow moved into the Seddon home in July of 1910 to live rent-free. nnIn August of 1911, Seddon sent Barrow’s daughter to purchase flypaper for him. Barrow became seriously ill the next day. The illness lasted for several weeks and on September 13, when Barrow believed she would not recover, she had a new will drafted. The document was written by Seddon and witnessed by his family, and named him as the executor of Barrow’s estate. She died the following day.nnSeddon reported Barrow’s death to a doctor who wrote the death certificate without examining the body. The cause of death was attributed to enteritis (inflammation of the intestine). Seddon then opted to have Barrow buried in an unmarked grave following a pauper’s funeral, despite Barrow having a family burial vault. nnThe sudden funeral, and the exclusion of Barrow’s family during the process, aroused suspicion. Her body was exhumed on November 15, and testing showed she had died of arsenic poisoning. Seddon and his wife were arrested and charged with Barrow’s murder; Mrs. Seddon was later acquitted. nnThe Crown called Barrow’s 10-year-old ward Ernest Grant to the stand, who explained to the court he often slept in Barrow’s room. On the night of her death, Seddon had entered Barrow’s room and told Grant to sleep in his own room that night, ostensibly to allow Barrow to rest. Grant further testified he had watched Seddon and his wife giving Barrow “medicine.” For the defense, Seddon told the jury Barrows had placed arsenic-based flypaper in water to distill the poison and kill the flies in her room, and suggested she had purposefully ingested the arsenic water. nnThe jury was not swayed to Seddon’s suggestion at the conclusion of the 9-day trial, and he was convicted of murder. Mr. Justice Bucknill reportedly wept as he handed Seddon the death sentence, as both the judge and Seddon were Freemasons. “From what you have said I know we both belong to one brotherhood,” Bucknill told the defendant. “It is all the more painful to me to say what I am saying, but our brotherhood does not encourage crime. On the contrary, it condemns it. I pray you make your peace with the Great Architect of the Universe. Seek mercy, pray for it, ask for it.”nnSeddon was executed at the age of 40 on April 18, 1912. He professed his innocence until his death.nnSources:nFrederick Seddon. Murder UK. Accessed: September 14, 2021. https://murderuk.com/one_off_Frederick_Seddon.html nStorey, Neil R. The Little Book of Murder. The History Press, 2013 n“Dooms A Brother Mason.” The Washington Post. March 15, 1912n“The Arsenic Poisoning Case.” The Times [London, England]. March 4, 1912n“The Arsenic Poisoning Case.” The Times [London, England]. February 28, 1912n“Alleged Poisoning.” The Sydney Morning Herald. February 5, 1912n“Murder Charge In North London.” The Manchester Guardian. December 6, 1911

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2021-09-14

September 13, 1918nRaleigh, North CarolinanBaxter Cain (31) is executed for the murder of a co-worker to fund his prosethetic legnnCain had commissioned an artificial leg, half of which he had paid for in advance. He was informed that, if he did not pay the remainder of the balance within a few days, the cork limb would be returned to the manufacturer. According to the prosecution, Cain was unable to immediately pay the $50 (about $1,000 in today’s economy) balance and had become desperate. nnCain requested a substitute for his August 25, 1917 shift to have his prosthetic fitted, and his foreman gave the shift to Abel Harris (30). Harris was ambushed and attacked while he was working as a watchman in the trolley barn. The prosecution suggested Cain beat Harris with an iron trolley switch key (a heavy tool used to change trolley rails) in a grim mimicry of the Biblical Cain and Abel, and stabbed him 17 times in the face and neck. There was evidence Harris fought back against his attacker, and “that he put up quite a struggle.” Cain then emptied the trolley barn’s safe of cash and receipts, hoping Harris’ murder would be attributed to a robbery. An audit of the register later showed $78.20 had been stolen. nnCain used the cash from the safe to pay for his prosthetic leg, using 19 $1 bills and $31 in assorted silver coins. One of the bills Cain had used, however, had a distinctive mark which a conductor immediately recognized as a bill he had taken from a passenger hours before Harris’ murder. nnCain’s attorney argued his “diminutive” client would unlikely be able to over-power a “well built and strong man” such as Harris, and noted the signs of struggle at the scene showed Harris had actively defended himself. The circumstantial evidence against Cain, however, was strong and he was convicted of Harris’ murder. He maintained his innocence until his death in the electric chair on September 13, 1918. nnSources:nHearn, Daniel Allen. Legal Executions in North Carolina and South Carolina: A Comprehensive Registry, 1866-1962. Jefferson: McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers, 2015 n“Baxter Cain Hobbles Down Death Lane On One Foot And Crutch.” Greensboro Daily News. September 14, 1918 (image source, via Newspapers.com)n“Cain Denied Guilty To His Preacher.” Salisbury Evening Post. September 14, 1918 n“Baxter Cain Murder Case Is Argued Before Supreme Ct.” Salisbury Evening Post. May 8, 1918nState v. Cain. Supreme Court of North Carolina. May 1, 1918. 95 S.E. 930. Archived: https://casetext.com/case/state-v-cain-72 n“Baxter Cain Held In Harris Murder.” Salisbury Evening Post. August 31, 1917n“Night Watchman Murdered. It Seems That Cain Killed Abel.” The Carolina Watchman [Salisbury, North Carolina]. August 29, 1917n“Negro Watchman At Salisbury Murdered.” Greensboro Daily News. August 26, 1917

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2021-09-13

September 12, 1857nWestwood-common, Shropshire, EnglandnWilliam Davies (35) murders his romantic partner Ann “Nancy” Morgan (65)nnMorgan, who also used the last name Evans after a previous common-law relationship, had invited Davies to move into her home about 12 months before her murder. Due to the substantial age gap between the parties, rumors began to circulate in town regarding the couple’s intentions toward the other. Morgan was financially comfortable due to her career selling potions and reading fortunes, and residents suspected Davies had hoped to be the beneficiary of Morgan’s inheritance when she died. Supporting this theory, Davies remarked during his arrest that he expected to receive £600-700 (about £70,000 to £80,000 in today’s economy) upon Morgan’s death. Others suspected Morgan was a witch — due in part to her profession — and had concocted a brew to bewitch Davies to keep him under her control. nnOn September 12, Morgan sent Davies with some money to purchase meat from the market. Davies stopped at a pub along the way where he spent some of his time — and Morgan’s money. When Davies took longer than Morgan had expected, she left her cottage in search of the man. The couple found each other about 400 yards from Morgan’s home and argued, though they were able to calm their tempers over tea. Davies then announced his decision to leave Morgan’s home and began to pack his belongings, which renewed and escalated the previous argument.nnMorgan’s 10-year-old great-nephew overheard a “strange noise” coming from inside the house, followed by three screams. The boy then watched Davies leave the home with blood on his face and smock. The child informed his brother, who in turn notified the neighbors. Morgan’s body was found on the floor of her home, with several wounds to her face and neck as well as a wound to her left wrist above her thumb. One of the injuries to her neck had cut into her carotid artery while another severed it completely. An opened and bloody clasp knife or pocketknife, which Davies had purchased days before, was found nearby and presumed to be the murder weapon.nnDavies was quickly tracked and arrested. “Is she dead?” Davies asked. When the officer responded Morgan was, Davies replied, “Oh Lord, I did not think it was quite so bad as that!” Later in the conversation Davies also commented, “I did love that old woman.”nnDavies’ lawyer claimed Morgan “had a very strong body and a very abusive tongue,” and argued her death had been in self-defense. This belief was echoed by some contemporary reports by writers who sided with Davies, portraying him as the victim of witchcraft. As The Huddersfield Advertiser reported, Morgan “assumed to exercise supernatural powers, and uttered those incantations, which to us would seem to be nothing but incoherent jargon, but to the prisoner would appear to be the very words of fate, and in that moment, without thought or reason, he might have struck her the fatal blow.”nnUltimately, Davies was convicted of murder and condemned to death. He was soon granted a respite and sentenced to penal servitude for life. nnSources:nLyon, Samantha. A Grim Almanac of Shropshire. The History Press, 2014 nLiverpool Mercury. April 3, 1858. 4:1n“Extraordinary Case Of Murder.” The Huddersfield Chronicle. March 27, 1858n“Spirit Of The Press.” The Hampshire Advertiser. March 27, 1858n“The Recent Murder in Shropshire.” The Morning Chronicle [London, England]. September 30, 1857 (image source, via Newspapers.com)n“The Murder At Wenlock.” The Morning Chronicle [London, England]. September 19, 1857n“Shocking Murder At Wenlock, Shropshire.” The Standard [London, England]. September 16, 1857

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2021-09-12

September 11, 1979nSt. Joseph, MissourinMicki Jo West (19, pictured) disappears nnWest was last seen as she left her home around 6 am to attend her shift at St. Joseph State Hospital. She would typically walk 3 blocks to the bus, but on that morning she did not board the vehicle. West was not seen again. nnWest was known to carry a hammer in her purse for self defense after an alleged threat made by Marvin Lee Irvin. Irvin was married to West’s best friend, who was also her husband’s sister. West had encouraged her sister-in-law to divorce Irvin which had reportedly infuriated the man, prompting West to arm herself with the hammer and for her sister-in-law to flee to a motel in Kansas. nnDuring the course of the investigation, police spoke with West’s sister-in-law who immediately suspected Irvin. She gave authorities permission to search their home, though nothing of note was found. Irvin was brought in for questioning, offered an alibi, and passed a polygraph test. With no evidence against him, Irvin was released. Police later admitted they had not searched his car during the investigation, however. nn“We are just kind of at a dead end,” Police Chief Robert Hayes told the press when leads in West’s case became more scarce. “We have nothing to indicate foul play, and we have nothing to indicate she ran away.”nnIrvin was arrested in connection with two other missing women — Patricia Diane Rose (31) and Crystal Lynn Simmons (33) — in 1990. Due to the similar circumstances in the cases, he was also suspected once again for having a role in West’s disappearance. Irvin pleaded guilty to first-degree murder for Rose and Simmons’ cases, and agreed to plead guilty to second-degree murder in West’s case under the condition the prosecution not seek the death penalty with the first-degree charges. nnIrvin recounted the murders in a 45-minute confession after the acceptance of his pleas. With a “calm” voice, Irvin described approaching West while she was waiting at the bus stop. West threw her hammer at him, and Irvin beat her to learn his wife’s whereabouts. According to his confession, Irvin put West into his car and drove her to a nearby hospital to treat the injuries he had inflicted, but claimed West called his son (her nephew) a “Black bastard.” This comment angered Irvin and he stabbed West 4 times in the chest with a knife he had concealed under his car seat. (West’s father publicly voiced his doubt with the detail of his daughter calling Irvin’s son a derogatory term. “She would never call that little boy a bastard,” the father told the press. “She thought the world of that little boy.”)nnIrvin next drove to a farm near his childhood home in Highland, Kansas about 28 miles (45 km) from St. Joseph. “I took Miss West out and walked her to the cornfield,” Irvin explained to the court. “I made her walk inside it and then shot her twice in the head with a 12-gauge shotgun.” Irvin then buried West’s body in the cornfield. nnIrvin went on to describe the murders of Rose and Simmons. He had noticed Rose unconscious at a bar on September 1, 1990. He returned to the bar near closing time to purchase beer and claimed when he went back to his car Rose was sitting inside, having mistaken it for her boyfriend’s vehicle. Rose and Irvin agreed to drive together and drink beer, eventually making their way to the interstate at which point Rose suggested going back to St. Joseph to buy drugs. This suggestion angered Irvin which in turn angered Rose, who began to complain about the issues she was experiencing with her boyfriend. “It was like she thought I was him,” Irvin stated.nnIrvin beat Rose until she was unconscious and he presumed she was dead, then drove to the farm in Highland where he had killed and buried West. Once Rose had regained consciousness, “I had her walk out into the cornfield and then beat her with a four-way tire iron until she was dead.”nnIrvin met Crystal Lynn Simmons at a tavern on October 30, 1990, and the pair agreed to buy some beer and go driving together. While on a back road, Simmons found an address book in Irvin’s glove box which contained his own address and phone number. Simmons said she was going to visit Irvin’s home which upset him. She continued to “tease” him about visiting before pretending she was going to hit him with a claw hammer she found in Irvin’s truck. Irvin hit Simmons in the face in response. nnIrvin feared Simmons would report him for assault, which would be a violation of his parole for a previous assault conviction in Iowa. He decided to drive to the Highland farm where “I struck her repeatedly about the head with the hammer.” Simmons’ autopsy noted she had been killed by at least 18 blows to her head with a blunt object. nnA decade after West’s murder, Irvin was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. “It’s been a long 12 years,” West’s father told reporters after the sentencing hearing. “But at least it’s over now.”nnThe bodies of Rose and Simmons were found after Irvin provided authorities with the location of the cornfield. West’s body, however, was not found during the search. nnSources:nIrvin, Marvin L. DOC ID: 182047. Missouri Department Of Corrections Offender Search. Accessed: September 11, 2021. https://web.mo.gov/doc/offSearchWeb/offenderInfoAction.do nCase File 2212DFMO. The Doe Network. Accessed: September 11, 2021. http://www.doenetwork.org/cases/2212dfmo.html nPruitt, Sharon Lynn. “‘It’s Not Fair That He Gets To Live’: Family Of Missing Woman Recalls Killer’s Twisted Murders.” Oxygen. September 17, 2020. Accessed: September 11, 2021. https://www.oxygen.com/buried-in-the-backyard/crime-news/micki-jo-west-case-family-killer-marvin-irvin-hunt-body?amp (image source)nMicki Jo West. The Charley Project. October 12, 2004. Updated: December 17, 2013. Accessed: September 11, 2021. https://charleyproject.org/case/micki-jo-west nSheehan, Mark. “Irvin pleads guilty to murders of 3 women, gets life in prison.” St. Joseph News-Press/Gazette. October 4, 1991nSheehan, Mark. “Irvin told his story calmly.” St. Joseph News-Press/Gazette. October 4, 1991nSheehan, Mark. “Irvin’s sister offers link to murders.” St. Joseph News-Press/Gazette. December 15, 1990nWalter, Evan. “Man held in alleged homicide.” St. Joseph News-Press/Gazette. November 9, 1990n“St. Joseph Woman, 20, Missing.” The Kansas City Star. December 23, 1979n“Police seek information on missing woman, 19.” St. Joseph News-Press. September 13, 1979

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2021-09-11

September 10, 1961nGravesend, EnglandnLilian Edmeades and Malcolm Johnson (both 16) are killed while walking together; Edmeades is also mutilated after her murdernnEdmeades and Johnson had been dating and would regularly attend church together. They were last seen leaving the service at around 8 pm on September 10, and told friends they were planning to walk along the promenade. nnPolice were alerted at 10 pm when the teens had not returned home. “When he was not home by 10, we became worried because he has never been late before,” Johnson’s mother told the press. “We reported it to the police and also found that Lilian had not been home either.” A search was organized, and Edmeades’ body was found on September 11 at 10:29 am. She was found floating in the river facedown and was nude, with her clothing scattered on the bank of the Thames. Johnson’s body was found later, about 100 yards away from Edmeades’.nnAt 10:30 am — almost the same moment Edmeades’ body was found — a man walked into the office of the Daily Mirror while carrying a parcel wrapped in newspaper under his arm. He signed in at reception, writing his name as Edwin David Sims and adding he was there for “confidential business” with crime editor Tom Tullett. nn“I have killed a man and a woman — teenagers, I think,” Sims told Tullett. To prove his claim, he produced two watches along with Johnson’s wallet. He also placed the newspaper-wrapped parcel on the desk. Contained inside were body parts belonging to Edmeades. (Contemporary news reports were vague about the contents, though The Who’s Who of British Crime in the Twentieth Century stated the parcel contained Edmeades’ severed breasts.) The police were immediately notified. nnSims confessed to the police that he had attacked the couple as they walked together but had initially intended to only startle them. “I killed them on impulse,” he claimed. “Impulse is a funny thing.” According to the confession, Sims threatened the teens with a sawed-off shotgun, tied both up, strangled them, and stripped the clothing from their bodies. nnDespite confessing to the killings, Sims pleaded not guilty to “murder in the course or furtherance of theft,” a charge which could have carried a death sentence. Dr. F. Brisby, the principal medical officer of Brixton Prison, testified in Sims’ defense. As The Guardian reported, Brisby testified Sims “was, and has been for some time, a grossly perverted sexual psychopath.” The jury seemed inclined to agree with Brisby and found Sims guilty of manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility. He was sentenced to 21 years which was served in the high-security psychiatric facility Broadmoor Special Hospital.nnSources:nMorris, Jim. The Who’s Who Of British Crime in the Twentieth Century. Amberly Publishing, 2015n“21 Years For Manslaughter.” The Guardian [London, England]. November 30, 1961n“‘I strangled two teenagers on impulse’ — Story.” Evening Standard [London, England]. October 10, 1961 (image source, via Newspapers.com)n“His Business Is Murder.” The Scranton Times. September 13, 1961n“Naked Teenager Found Strangled.” Evening Standard [London, England]. September 11, 1961

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2021-09-10

September 9, 1917nNew York, New YorknThe New York Times publishes a review of Jap (short for Jasper) Herron, a story supposedly written by Mark Twain through the use of a ouija boardnnSix years after his death, Samuel Clemens (known by his pen name of Mark Twain) supposedly communicated from the great beyond to write one final book. The result was Jap Herron, a novella written using the combined efforts of Emily Grant Hutchings, her husband, and Lola V. Hays. During the process, Hays’ hands were on the ouija board’s planchette, and Hutchings would dictate the words to her husband who transcribed them in shorthand. nnHutchings told reporters the literal ghost-writer had difficulty with the lack of punctuation on the ouija board. The Hutchingses accommodated the late author by first painting an apostrophe near the edge of the board. The group was reportedly “startled” when the spirit spelled out, “I am afraid of slipping off and going overboard every time I go after that thing.” The mark was erased and moved to the middle of the board and, during the next session, the ghost seemingly appreciated the new placement by remarking, “That’s better.”nnThe 50,000-word novella was prefaced by a 20,000-word introduction which explained “how the message was received from Mark Twain.” The story itself was set in a small Missouri town and centered around the titular Jasper Herron, whose younger sister couldn’t pronounce his name and called him “Jap” instead.nnReports of the book were first mentioned in July of 1916 and earned a small amount of interest, with some articles noting the setting of the book was reminiscent of Mark Twain’s previous works like Tom Sawyer. It was usually not mentioned that Hutchings had lived in Clemens’ childhood home of Hannibal, Missouri, and would have had extensive knowledge of the location Clemens drew from for his books. nnThe book gained national recognition after The New York Times published their review on September 9, 1917. The review itself was less than flattering, however, concluding: “The humor impresses as a feeble attempt at imitation and, while there is now and then a strong sure touch of pathos or a swift and true revelation of human nature, the ‘sob stuff’ that oozes through many of the scenes, and the overdrawn emotions are too much for credulity. If this is the best that ‘Mark Twain’ can do by reaching across the barrier, the army of admirers that his works have won for him will all hope that he will hereafter respect that boundary.” Regardless of The Times’ heavy-handed critique, the review significantly helped increase the popularity of the novella. nnSoon Clara Clemens — Samuel’s daughter — sought to sue Hutchings over the use of her father’s name in connection with the book and/or copyright infringement. The Clemens estate doubted the book had been written by Clemens’ ghost but, if it had been, the estate would hold the rights to it and Clemens’ former publisher (Harper & Brothers) had the sole rights to publish Mark Twain’s works. The more Hutchings and her publisher tried to defend the work as being a genuine creation of the late author, the more they bolstered the estate’s rights to his apparent intellectual property. Before the suit went to trial, Hutchings and her publisher agreed to recall and destroy all copies of the novella which had not already been sold. nnFor those interested in reading “sob stuff” and “overdrawn emotions” ostensibly written by a ghost, a digitized version of the book can be read for free through Google Books: https://books.google.com/books/about/Jap_Herron.html?id=bPcdAAAAMAAJ&printsec=frontcover&source=kp_read_button&hl=en&newbks=1&newbks_redir=0&gboemv=1nnSources:nHiggins, Parker. “How Mark Twain’s ghost almost set off the copyright battle of the century.” Splinter. March 2, 2016. Accessed: September 9, 2021. https://splinternews.com/how-mark-twains-ghost-almost-set-off-the-copyright-batt-1793855099 n“Lawsuit To Test Right Of Spirit To Use Name.” Oakland Tribune. August 11, 1918n“Latest Words of Fiction.” The New York Times. September 9, 1917nHutchings, Emily Grant. “A “Spirit Novel” from Mark Twain?” San Francisco Chronicle. August 26, 1917 (image source, Newspapers.com)n““Patience Worth” To Have Rival; Novel On Press.” St. Louis Post-Dispatch. July 29, 1916

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2021-09-09

September 8, 1921nChicago, Illinois nCar dealers Carl Ausmus (24) and Bernard J. Dougherty (39) are murdered by Harvey Church (20) to steal a carnnAusmus and Dougherty worked at the Packard Motor Car Company when Church visited the dealership to buy a Twin Six. Church asked Dougherty to drive him to the bank in the new vehicle to obtain a certified check to pay for it. Due to the dealership regulations, Dougherty was to be accompanied by another employee — Ausmus — for safety, and another Packard employee was to follow the group to drive Dougherty and Ausmus back to the dealership. nnThe driver of the second car waited for the group outside the bank but eventually grew impatient. He entered the building but did not see Dougherty, then returned to his car. Tied to the steering wheel was a note, in Dougherty’s writing, which instructed him to return to the dealership. Neither Dougherty nor Ausmus were seen alive again. nnThe following day, Dougherty’s body was found in the Desplaines River. He had handcuffs attached to one wrist and a rope around his throat. He had a deep cut to his neck which left his head barely attached, and showed signs of a severe beating, including his jaw being broken on both sides as well as extensive bruising to his entire body.nnA blood-stained hat bearing Ausmus’ initials was found at the scene. Authorities detonated dynamite in the river with the intention of dislodging his body if it was in the water. The effort was in vain.nnChurch became the immediate suspect as he was the last person to be seen with the victims and was conspicuously missing. He was arrested in Adams, Wisconsin about 220 miles (355km) away, driving the Twin Six. Meanwhile, Church’s home was searched. Investigators found blood on the basement walls, a baseball bat covered in blood stains and human hair, and a broken, bloody hatchet. nnIt was suspected Ausmus’ missing body was buried at Church’s home and the grounds were prodded extensively in search of loose soil. After hours of work, one detective noticed a corner of the garage’s dirt floor was slightly sunken. Ausmus’ body was then recovered from its shallow grave. nnChurch was confronted with the evidence found at his home and immediately confessed. “I did not intend to kill him at first,” Church stated. “Things moved too fast for me. I wanted the car. Dougherty came to the house. I did not have the money. I invited him to the cellar. I covered him with the revolver and snapped the handcuffs on him. Then something came over me, I don’t know what. I hit him with the ball bat. Then I just went nutty, I guess. I grabbed the axe and cut his throat and pounded him again and again. Then Ausmus came. I hit him too and he died. I left the bodies and took mother for a ride.” nnChurch further explained that Ausmus was still alive when he was buried in the garage floor. Ausmus’ neck had been broken which had left him paralyzed but alive. Church hastily scooped out the dirt from the floor, then stamped and kicked Ausmus into the hole. This claim was verified by Ausmus’ autopsy. nnChurch’s statements varied with each retelling. He initially claimed he acted alone, then named accomplices, then backtracked to again claim he had committed the murders by himself. Church also claimed at one point he had wanted to “show off” his new car to his friends in his hometown, then changed the motive to insist an unidentified man had called him 10 days before the killings, demanding Church bring him an automobile and threatening to kill Church’s parents if he failed. nnChurch was quickly convicted of murder and sentenced to death. He spent the days leading to his execution in a severely reserved state, remaining on his cot with his eyes closed and not speaking for 40 days in what doctors described as “self-imposed hypnotic catalepsy.” Church was visited by his parents on the eve of his execution and, after the elder Churches pleaded with their son for some time, he spoke to his mother. “I am sorry for what I did. I want forgiveness. I want someone to pray for me. I want a minister.” Church then returned to his catatonic state. nn“Harvey was hanged slumped in a chair,” the Sunday News reported, “chin on his breast, eyes closed. He was positively unconscious before they put the rope around his neck. He had committed mental suicide, the doctors said, and whether it was through fear of what was to come or remorse for what had gone before, Justice was satisfied.” nnPictured: Harvey Church (left) and Carl AusmusnnSources:nHearn, Daniel Allen. Legal Executions in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky and Missouri. Jefferson: McFarland & Company, Inc., 2016 n“When Justice Triumphed.” Sunday News [New York, New York]. November 22, 1924n“Church’s Parents Visit Him In Cell.” Lawrence Daily Journal-World. March 3, 1922n“Chief Figures In Chicago’s Famous Auto Murder Plot.” Fort Worth Star-Telegram. September 16, 1921 (image source, via Newspapers.com)n“Chicago Officials Seeking Third Man As Accomplice Of Church In Garage Crime.” Fort Worth Star-Telegram. September 16, 1921n“Hunting Victims of Auto Thief.” The Watchman and Southron [Sumter, South Carolina]. September 14, 1921n“Youth’s Admission Of Double Murder Is Disbelieved.” The Gazette [Montreal, Quebec]. September 12, 1921n“Did Carl Ausmus Meet Foul Play?” The Daily Pantagraph [Bloomington, Illinois]. September 10, 1921

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2021-09-08

September 7, 1982nNear Craig, AlaskanA flaming fishing boat is spotted off the coast; investigations will later reveal the 8 occupants (including 2 children) of the boat had been murdered before the fire was startednnThe Investor — a 58-foot or 17-meter fishing boat — was found burning off the coast. Firefighters combating the blaze found the bodies of 4 people in the boat’s sleeping quarters, later identified as the owner and skipper Mark Coulthurst (28), his wife Irene (28), their 5-year-old daughter Kimberly, and another adult. The fire rekindled itself several times during the firefighting effort and required two days of extinguishing before investigators could board the Investor. nnOthers were known to have been on the boat with the Coulthursts, including Mark’s cousin Michael Steward (19) who also worked on the Investor as a deckhand, crew members Jerome Keown (19), Dean Moon (19), and Chris Heyman (18), and the Coulthursts’ 4-year-old son John. Charred, fragmented remains of adults (specially, bones, teeth, and a torso) found on board were presumed to be from Keown, Moon, and Heyman. John’s body was never recovered, and it was suspected his body had been completely consumed by the fire. nnAutopsies revealed Mark and Irene had been shot several times in the head; the condition of the other bodies prevented the medical examiner from determining if they had been shot as well, however. It was also determined the victims had died before the fire was started.nnWitnesses reported watching a person leaving the Investor on a skiff immediately after the fire was started, and other witnesses reported seeing a man on board the boat on September 5, the presumed date the victims were killed. Some of these witnesses believed the man they saw was John Kenneth Peel (22), a former crew member of the Investor. However, as Craig’s mayor later told the press, “There were probably 500 guys in town at that time that looked just like [Peel].” nnBetween the witnesses placing Peel at the scene, Peel failing a polygraph test, and his acquaintances informing authorities Mark Coulthurst had fired Peel for allegations of drinking and drug use, Peel was arrested. He was charged with 8 counts of murder and 1 count of arson. nnThe prosecution contended Peel had been enraged over being fired the year before, shot everyone on the Investor, and set fire to the craft to conceal the crime. The defense suggested a hired killer could have been responsible or that one of the crew members had been the perpetrator, pointing to the fact the bodies of the crew were nearly completely destroyed and could not be positively identified nor could the remains even confidently be counted as three people. nnAfter hearing over 150 witnesses testify, Peel’s 6-month, $2 million trial ended in August 1986 with a deadlocked jury. His second trial began in January of 1988. After 3 months of testimony and 4 days of deliberation, the trial ended with Peel’s acquittal. He later filed a civil suit for false imprisonment in 1990. Though Peel initially sought $177 million, he settled for $900,000 in 1997.nnThe case remains unsolved. nnSources:nOakley, Ben. 1982: 365 Days of True Crime, Cold Case Murder, and Serial Killers. Twelvetrees Publishing, 2021 n“Professional Killer Or Panicked Amateur?” Leland E. Hale. February 5, 2000. Accessed: September 7, 2021. https://www.lelandhale.com/wordpress/professional-killer-panicked-amateur/ (image source)nBovsun, Mara. “Justice Story: Massacre on a fishing boat — and there was never a conviction.” Daily News. March 31, 2019. Accessed: September 7, 2021. https://www.nydailynews.com/news/crime/ny-justice-story-investor-boat-killings-20190331-y333ejn4qjd5vnhf33wzxg4jiy-story.html n“New trial needed in grisly killings.” The Whitehorse Star. September 2, 1986n“Deadlocked jury forces mistrial in Peel case.” The Spokesman-Review [Spokane, Washington]. August 29, 1986n“Man held in 8 slayings on fishing boat in 1982.” Detroit Free Press. September 11, 1984n“Alaska mystery of the Investor.” Nanaimo Daily Free Press. September 20, 1982nFoote, Jennifer. “Police identify a fourth body in Alaska ship fire.” The San Francisco Examiner. September 15, 1982

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2021-09-07

September 6, 1911nMadison, Wisconsinn7-year-old Annie Lemberger is killed by either her neighbor, her father, or some unknown personnnAnnie was last seen at 10 pm on September 5 when her mother put the 7-year-old to bed in the room Annie shared with her 9- and 6-year-old brothers. At 6 am the following morning, Magdalena found her daughter’s bed empty and ran to two of her neighbors — Mrs. Wunderl and John A. Johnson — for help. Johnson helped organize a search while the Lembergers notified police. nnMagdalena explained to police that she had put Annie to bed, went about the task of ensuring all the doors and windows of the home were locked, and went to bed. She also reported that all the doors and windows were still secured in the morning, except the window above Annie’s cot which had been broken. Glass was found on the ground beneath the window, along with shoe impressions which had apparently been made by a man. nnAnnie’s body was found three days after her disappearance in nearby Lake Monona. Her autopsy showed she had been struck behind her left ear and she had been strangled. The absence of water in her lungs indicated Annie had been killed before she was thrown into the lake.nnAttention was immediately drawn to one of the Lembergers’ neighbors, John “Dogskin” Johnson, who exhibited suspicious mannerism during the investigation. Police pointed to Johnson’s prior convictions, the fact that he had been awake early on the day Annie was discovered missing, he had shown a keen interest in the search, had followed closely behind the searchers who were using bloodhounds to search for Annie, and had “made a nuisance of himself at the undertaking establishment and hung around until the Coroner became suspicious.” nnJohnson was arrested three days after Annie’s body was recovered. He would later explain that a detective questioned him for hours, and he had maintained his innocence during the majority of interrogation. It wasn’t until the detective claimed a vengeful mob had gathered outside the building that Johnson confessed to Annie’s murder. Johnson had previously witnessed a lynching and, fearing a similar fate, confessed to ensure law enforcement would protect him. nnJohnson’s trial “did not last over a half an hour,” according to The American Star, and he was sentenced to life imprisonment. He also retracted his confession just before he entered the prison gates to begin serving his life term. nnA decade later, a lawyer approached Johnson in an attempt to appeal his case. “[The lawyer] basically bribed a woman to come forward and accuse Annie Lemberger’s own father of murder,” historian Mark Gajewski alleged. One of Magdalena’s friends, Mae Sorenson, testified she had visited Mrs. Lemberger to comfort her on the morning of Annie’s disappearance. She found Magdalena burning Annie’s blood-stained nightgown in the kitchen stove while weeping. Magdalena fainted during the process and when she regained consciousness she cried, “Martin, Martin, why did you do it?”nnSorenson further testified she had heard details of the killing from one of Annie’s brothers during her funeral. Supposedly, Annie had woken during the night and went to the kitchen for a glass of water. Her father Martin was heavily intoxicated and asked Annie to fetch him a fire poker. When Annie could not find the poker, Martin flew into a “drunk-craze wrath” and hit Annie behind the ear with a beer bottle. Annie fell against the stove and then to the floor, apparently unconscious. Martin picked his daughter up and placed her in her cot where her mother found her a few minutes later, dead. Annie’s parents concealed her body in a tub in the cellar until they hired a man to carry her body to the lake where she was later found. The man Sorenson named as the accomplice had died a few years before her testimony and was therefore unable to corroborate her claims. Sorenson further claimed she had not come forward with the information sooner because Martin had threatened to choke her if she spoke of the matter with anyone.nnDue to Sorenson’s testimony, Johnson was granted his pardon in 1922. He was also given $5,000 (about $80,000 in today’s economy) in 1929 in compensation for his imprisonment. Martin Lemberger was arrested for manslaughter based upon Sorenson’s testimony but could not be prosecuted as the statute of limitations for manslaughter had expired. nnIn 1933, Sorenson and the Lembergers were questioned by “crime expert” Professor Leonarde Keeler who used a machine described as a “scientific truth test,” to establish the validity of their statements. The testing was conducted in a hotel, and each participant was questioned for 2 hours with frequent breaks. The testing involved Keeler asking several innocuous questions about fishing or what the participant had eaten for breakfast, suddenly followed with direct questions such as “Did you kill Annie?” The Lembergers’ results indicated they had not been deceitful in their answers regarding their daughter’s murder while Sorenson’s answers suggested deceit. nnAnnie Lemberger’s murder remains officially unsolved. nnSources:nMartin Lemberger. Find a Grave. Accessed: September 6, 2021. https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/21484153/martin-lemberger n“Cold Case Wisconsin: Who killed little Annie Lemberger.” Channel 3000. November 20, 2013. Updated: May 24, 2021. Accessed: September 6, 2021. https://www.channel3000.com/cold-case-wisconsin-who-killed-little-annie-lemberger/ nRams land, Katherine. Beating the Devil’s Game: A History of Forensic Science and Criminal Investigation. New York: Berkeley Books, 2007nArcher, S. D. “A Police Stunt that Thwarted Justice.” St. Louis Post-Dispatch. September 5, 1937n“Use Lie Detector in 20-Yr. Old Lemberger Mystery.” The Capital Times [Madison, Wisconsin]. July 16, 1933n“Seek Compensation For Prison Years.” The Lincoln Evening Journal. May 16, 1929n“Convicted Slayer Free; Victim’s Father Blamed.” The News-Sentinel [Fort Wayne, Indiana]. February 17, 1922n“Confesses He Killed Girl.” The American Star [Tuscumbia, Alabama]. September 1911n“Brute Confesses To Slaying Child.” Wood County Reporter [Grand Rapids, Wisconsin]. September 21, 1911 (image source, via Newspapers.com)

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