Butler County, Kansas

DETECTIVE SLAIN IN BATTLE WITH HOBO ON FRISCO

Shooting Affray Follows A Futile Attempt To Eject Tramps From Train

Roy Cunningham of Springfield, Mo., Frisco detective, was shot and killed early Saturday, by a hobo on a train running west out of Beaumont. A man who claimed to be from Aberdeen, S. D., was held, charged with the crime. He denies the charge.

An inquest was being held in Augusta Saturday afternoon. Coroner Turner and Sheriff Purcell went to Augusta early Saturday morning. County Attorney Steiger followed later.

A gang of tramps had been ejected from the train at Beaumont, but five of them had succeeded in climbing into a box car as the train was pulling out. Three detectives got in with them. An argument started about the closing of a door and the shooting followed.

The man accused of the crime leaped from the train, which did not stop until it reached Augusta. There one of the detectives secured a motor car and with the section foreman went back to look for the fugitive. They found a man in the depot at Leon whom the detective identified as the one, and he was taken to Augusta. He admitted being in the car, but says he had no gun. (Walnut Valley Times, May 29, 1915)

Leland, Geddes & Ralston Employed by Ambrose, Accused of Murder

Bert Ray Ambrose, charged with killing Detective Roy Cunningham of the Frisco, on a train west of Beaumont Saturday, was not to be arraigned Monday, county Attorney Steiger said. After a consultation with his attorneys Leland, Geddes & Ralston, however it was announced that he would demand an immediate arraignment.

H. A. Hoffman, Eagle butte, S. D., Cecil Creig, Altoona, Illa., and Fred Crocker, no address given, who were in the car when the detective was killed, are held on charges of stealing a ride on a train. They will be taken before Squire Avery Wednesday.

Ambrose says he has a wife and baby at Aberdeen, S. D. He says he had been braking on the Milwaukee Route, but had been laid off and was going to the harvest fields. Ambrose says that following the altercation over closing the car door a shot was fired and that someone bumped into him, knocking him out of the car. His testimony regarding the attempt to hire Al Burris, section foreman, to take him to Wichita, tallied with that given by Burris at the coroner's inquest.

The evidence at the coroner's inquest showed that four men, Bert Ray Ambrose, H. A. Hoffman, Cecil Creig and Fred Crocker, boarded a refrigerator car on the freight train at Neodesha. They rode to Beaumont, when the crew of the train put them out of the car. They ran to an empty freight car just back of the engine, climbed in and the three detectives, Roy Cunningham, the man who was killed, W. F. Love and F. L. Burton, who were dressed like tramps, ran and climbed in with them. One of the tramps helped them in and the train started. It seems they had not gone far until some of the tramps wanted the door shut. The detectives, however, did not want it shut and in a scuffle, Cunningham hit one of the men over the head with a gun, it is claimed, and then the shot or shots were fired which struck him. Ambrose then jumped out the open door. As he jumped out Detective Love shot at him and says he don't see how he missed him.

Burton with a flash light tried to signal the engineer to stop but he failed to see the signal or would not heed it. Cunningham then staggered to Burton and put his hands on his shoulder and tried to speak but when he opened his mouth, a stream of blood gushed out, he fell and died in a few moments. The ball struck him in the back of the neck, passed through and severed the jugular vein and came out through the mouth. Sheriff Purcell found the ball lodged in the side of the car, dug it out and found the marks of his teeth on it. He also found a second bullet, which had struck a nail and was flattened.

When Cunningham fell, Burton turned his attention to him and at the same time told one of the tramps to take the flash light and try to stop the train. He did so and the brakeman threw coal at him. After Cunningham died, Burton again tried to signal the engineer and was met with a shower of coal from the brakeman. The train ran to the junction at Augusta before it slacked in speed and then the truth was made known regarding conditions. The train ran up into the yards, the car was cut and sealed up with the three hoboes and Cunningham's body. Detective Burton in company with the city marshal of Augusta took a motor car and ran over the track back to near Beaumont, when they found their gasoline was giving out. They stopped at a section house for a supply and asked the section man if he had seen this man, describing him. The section man said he had left there but a few minutes before. They replenished their gasoline and started back and finally at Keighley found Ambrose sitting in the depot. Burton drew his gun and ordered him to throw up his hands which he did. He was taken on the car to Augusta.

When Ambrose reached the section house he asked the man to take his car and take him to Wichita, that he had to go and get there quick. The man replied that he could not. He insisted and said that he would pay any price asked, but the offer was declined.

When Sheriff Purcell and Coroner Turner reached Augusta Saturday morning they found the car sealed, the body of Cunningham lying in his own blood and the three men huddled in the car just as they had been left. They were at once placed under arrest and guarded but kept separate from Ambrose. He did not get to see them and was led to believe all the time until after the inquest that it was his partner, Hoffman who was killed. He too was placed under guard and every means tried to get him to make a statement all the forenoon, but he would not do so, protesting his innocence. He put up a brave front and insisted that he was innocent. Hoffman, Creig and Crocker all willingly made sworn statements, wrote them themselves and swore to them. These statements tallied exactly with the testimony they afterward gave on the witness stand.

After the shooting Detective Burton and Love backed the three men left into a corner and searched them but failed to find even a pocket knife on them. A fifth man was arrested and held on suspicion, but later released as it was evident he had no part with the others.

At the inquest it was found that in no instance did the testimony of the three deviate from or conflict with the sworn statements they had made to the officers. At the conclusion, the jury made up of G. W. Hawes, W. R. Peal, H. E. Uncapher, C. O. Paul, A. L. Snodgrass, W. A. Penley, returned a verdict, "We, the jury, find that Ray Cunningham, came to his death by a gunshot wound at the hands of Bert Ray Ambrose."

Sheriff Purcell, County Attorney Steiger and Coroner turner then started immediately for El Dorado with the four prisoners and lodged them in jail (Walnut Valley Times, May 30, 1915)

Roy Ambrose Acquitted of Killing Railroad Detective Sues Frisco

Roy Ambrose, the young man who was in the county jail here for several weeks last June suspected of the murder of Roy Cunningham, a Frisco railroad detective, has filed suit against the company for damages in the sum of $2,999. The petition alleges illegal arrest and false imprisonment. The petition was filed in the district court Friday by Aikman & Aikman and Leland, Geddes & Ralston.

It is alleged that Ambrose, while in the waiting room of the depot at Leon, May 29, 1915, was arrested by T. L. Burton and Edward Spencer, Frisco detectives. He was taken to Augusta, it is alleged and placed in jail. Later a complaint charging the murder of Cunningham on the night of May 28, was filed with Justice Avery's court in El Dorado, and he was transferred to the county jail. On June 28, he was given a preliminary hearing, it is set out, and on June 30, was discharged.

It also is alleged, the defendant company instructed their agents and detectives to secure evidence with which to convict the plaintiff and that the railroad company employed George J. Benson as special counsel to assist in the prosecution of the case. Because of the arrest and imprisonment and other embarrassments to which he was subjected, damages are asked.

The Cunningham murder aroused much interest, especially in railroad circles, during the early part of last summer. Cunningham was shot and killed while in a box car some where between Beaumont and Leon. His home was in Springfield, Mo., and he was in pursuit of box car thieves. Ambrose, formerly was a railroad man, but at that time was looking for employment in the harvest fields. He now lives in Emporia. (Walnut Valley Times, February 11, 1916)

         

Copyright © 2007 to Kansas Genealogy Trails' Lyon County host & all Contributors

All rights reserved