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Hotel History Includes 2 Slayings

The Indianapolis Star,
Sunday, November 7, 1971, Section B, page 9
Article: Mel Foor
© The Indianapolis Star, All Rights Reserved
Contributed by: Darlene Anderson

Gruesome murders twice disrupted the 67 year old, para-political history of the razed Claypool Hotel, first in 1943 and again in 1954.

The Claypool, situated at the downtown corner of Washington and Illinois streets, was the gathering place for state and national politicians, and housed both Democratic and Republican state headquarters.

During the site’s illustrious history, Abraham Lincoln spoke there (then the Bates House) on Feb. 11, 1861, en route to assume the Presidency.

Who would think a place with so much hustle and bustle could be the scene for infamous murder and quiet death?

THE RIDINGS and Poore, murders, though both described as sex – inspired crimes, bore little in common except they were committed in the Claypool Hotel.

The most renowned of the two slaying victims was Dorothy Poore, an 18 year old graduate of Clinton High School. Her nearly nude, badly decomposed body was found Sunday morning, July 18, 1954, stuffed in a dresser drawer in Room 665.

Police believed Dorothy had been lured the previous Thursday to the Claypool with the promise of a job and then suffocated with a pillow.

There was a suspect from the beginning but, with a trail well covered, existing information about the killer lead police nowhere.

DETECTIVES had a description of the man who occupied the room where Miss Poore was found; they even had a name and address, Jack O’Shea of New York City, but both proved false.

It wasn’t until Charles G. Griffo, then a reporter for The Indianapolis Star, discovered a small, green hotel blotter that police got a definite clue to the murderer’s true identity.

Police had searched the city and followed leads to other Midwest cities in a blind attempt to find the “sex-sadist, Jekyll-Hyde” phantom. But the blotter found by Griffo, now assistant managing editor and Sunday editor of The Star, aroused the interest of police and hotel workers in the dual personality theory.

Griffo conceived the idea that the man who registered as “Jack O’Shea” at the Claypool also had registered under his right name at another hotel.

Through this it was discovered the registration in the Kirkwood Hotel of Victor Lively, who used a fictitious New York City address only slightly different than that used by “Jack O’Shea” at the Claypool.

AN ALL-POINTS police alarm was put out Thursday night, July 22, 1954, about a week after the slaying, for Victor Hale Lively, 32, a native of Beaumont, Tex.

Lively, alias Jack O’Shea, was arrested in the St. Louis area and returned to Indianapolis for trial and conviction of first-degree murder. He was sentenced to life in prision.

Meanwhile, the body of Miss Poore was interred at Clinton in the midst of deep sorrow and regret by her family and friends.

Dorothy Poore was graduated from high school the spring she was murdered brutally.

ACCORDING to her mother, Mrs. Hazel Poore, and grandmother, Mrs. Lilly Dancy, with whom she lived, Dorothy had gone to Indianapolis to seek work. The pretty, ambitious girl was described as “wonderful” by her wards, and Clinton residents and her teachers considered her “lovely” and an “outstanding student.”

During World War II, when Dorothy Poore was still a vibrant, giggly child with (hopeless) dreams of someday being a woman, the first of the two murders at the Claypool took place.

WAC Cpl. Maoma Ridings, 32 year old daughter of prominent Georgia family, was murdered Aug. 28, 1943, in Room 729.

The war had brought disorder and violence to Indianapolis, then teeming with persons in military and those who came to the city to help in the factories. The city, typical of most American cities at that time, was busy but weary of the war.

CPL. RIDINGS, a tall, shapely and attractive woman, had been physiotherapist for President Franklin D. Roosevelt in her hometown of Warm Springs before the war.

On the day she died, Maoma was stationed at Camp Atterbury, Indiana, and just had arrived in Indianapolis by bus on a weekend pass.

After leaving the bus depot on her way to the Claypool, she stopped at a liquor store and bought a fifth of whisky. From there she went directly to her room in an isolated part of the 7th floor, a corner room flanked by two stairways.

The bottle of whisky proved to be the weapon which slashed her to death a few hours later.

At 5:30 p.m. Cpl. Ridings called room service for soft drinks and ice. A bellboy came within 10 minutes and, he told police, a woman dressed in black was lying on the bed smoking a cigarette. He said he saw no uniform.

AFTER a “casual” glance at the woman, the bellboy took a 25 cent tip from the dresser, thanked her and left.

Between 6:15 and 6:30 p.m. there was another order for ice from Room 729. Another bell hop answering the call found no woman in black but heard a feminine voice from the bathroom tell him to put the ice on the dresser and take a quarter for his trouble. He took the coin, called out his thanks and left.

Meanwhile Cpl. Emanuel Fisher, also stationed at Camp Atterbury, arrived at the Claypool and called the room from the lobby but no one answered. Believing she was out of her room temporarily, Cpl. Fisher left the hotel.

A hotel housekeeper knocked on the door of the murder room at 8 p.m. and called, “Linen for 729.” There was no answer and she opened the door to find the pretty WAC corporal on the floor near the bed in a pool of blook -- a quarter was found next to the body in the pool of blood.

MAOMA was dressed in her slip, a regulation WAC shirty, skirt and stockings. She apparently had been killed while dressing after her bath. The lower section of her slip was wound around her waist and the medical examiner discovered she just had experienced physical intimacy. But authorities could not determine if it was rape.

The death blow with the whiskey bottle had caught her just over the left eye, though the body had been slashed again and again, severing the jugular vein and leaving gashes on her wrists and other parts of her neck.

The housekeeper called the switchboard operator. Three Army Air Corps officers were nearby and heard. They rushed to the room and found the body still warm. But it was 22 minutes before the city police were notified.

At 8:40 p.m., Cpl. Fisher again called Room 729, a detective answered and, he told police later, he hung up because a man answered.

BESIDES the quarter found in the pool of blood, another 18 cents was found -- the only money remaining in the room.

The investigation came to a total standstill due to the military interference and the late call to city police. Many clues were lost in the confusion immediately preceding the murder.

Cpl. Emanuel Fisher was questioned, as was the hotel help, but all leads led nowhere.

The “woman in black” remains a mystery and the murder remains unsolved.


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