MARION COUNTY, KANSAS

NEWSPAPER ARTICLES

CONFESSES SLAYING - CONFESSES STAYING

TOPEKA, Kan., Dec.---Ernest Hoefgen, 31, an alleged escaped life-termer from the Huntsville (Texas) prison, Sunday night signed a confession of the slaying of Bruce Gibson Smoll, 18, college student, who has been missing since Sept. 18.

Lou Richter, Head of the Kansas Bureau of Investigation, said that Hoefgen broke down and told officers in detail of the killing, following several hours of grilling. The confession was signed in Richter's office. (Dallas Morning News~ December 27, 1943)

FIRST HANGING IN 75 YEARS HELD IN KANSAS

LANSING, Kan., March 10 (Friday)---Ernest Hoefgen, 31, confessed slayer of Bruce Smoll, 18, hitchhiking college student, was hanged at Kansas state penitentiary Friday, the first state execution in Kansas in nearly seventy-five years.

The trap was sprung by an anonymous, out-of-state hangman at 1:04 a.m.

The condemned man, who had eaten two hearty meals of fried chicken during the day, was marched from the death house at 1 a.m. across a narrow prison street to the warehouse which housed the newly constructed gallows. He apparently was fully composed.

Chaplain T. E. Rudisill accompanied Hoefgen to the foot of the gallows.

Warden Robert Hudspeth talked briefly with Hoefgen and asked him if he had anything to say.

"I'm sorry I couldn't give my life for my country and that I have to go out this way," Hoefgen replied.

Hoeften was not on the gallows more than a minute.

Hoefgen, with a record of twenty-one arrests, was a figitive from a Texas prison where he was under life sentence for the hatchet killing of a motorist who had given him a lift, when Smoll was slain. (Dallas Morning News ~ March 10, 1944)

CONVICT QUESTIONED AND ADMITS 1938 TEXAS HATCHET SLAYING

Lincoln, Neb., May 3 – Clyde C. Fillmore, assistant district attorney at Wichita Falls, Tex., said today Ernest Hoefgen, 27, Nebraska state prison inmate, has signed a statement admitting a hatchet slaying in Texas, Oct. 10, 1938.

Fillmore and Sheriff Pat Allen of Wichita Falls questioned Hoefgen about the death of George Richet, Independence, Kan., carpenter after Federal Bureau of Investigation agents had advised them that Sylvia Phipps, inmate of the women’s reformatory at York had accused Hoefgen of the murder.

Both are serving terms for forgery, Hoefgen five years and Miss Phipps one year.

Fillmore and Allen questioned Miss Phipps at York yesterday.

Fillmore said the two had been hitch-hiking and obtained a ride with Richet, who was en route to a job at Lubbock, Tex. The officer said he had been unable to establish a motive for the killing and quoted Hoefgen as saying he did not know why he had slain Richet.

The officers expected to return to Wichita Falls today. They said the confession will be presented to a grand jury. (Amarillo Daily News, page 3, Saturday morning, May 4, 1940)

PRISONERS MAY FACE MURDER CHARGES

Lincoln, Neb., June 10 – Two Nebraska prison inmates seeking release to face trial in other states on murder charges will be granted a hearing July 10, the prison board announced today.

One is Ernest Hoefgen, 28, years old of Wichita, Kan., indicated at Wichita Falls, Texas for the hatchet slaying of George Richet, Independence, Kan., carpenter, Oct. 8,1 938.

The other is J. B. Fisher, 39, Alexandria, Minn., for whom a warrant has been issued at Willsboro, N. D.

Hoefgen is serving a six-year forgery sentence imposed in Scotts Bluff County last September 14 under the name of Joe Vance. His term would not expire until Feb. 13, 1944 with good time allowance. The board explained he should not be released while witnesses are available in Texas. (The Amarillo Daily News, Tuesday, June 11, 1940, page 3)

KANSAS HANGING WILL BE FIRST IN 74 YEARS

Topeka, Kas. – Kansas, which has not hanged a man since 1870, started building a gallows at Lansing Penitentiary yesterday to execute Ernest Hoefgen, scheduled to die early Friday morning for the murder of a college student.

He pleaded guilty to slaying Bruce Smoll, 18, of Wichita, after the youth accepted a ride with him from Kansas State College to visit his parents. (The Troy Record, Tuesday Morning, March 7, 1944)

KANSAS PREPARES TO HANG SLAYER OF COLLEGE STUDENT

Ernest Hoefgen Calm on Eve of Execution for Killing Bruce Smoll – Eats Two Chicken Dinners with Ice Cream and Peaches as Desserts – Execution Will be First Carried Out by State Since 1870

State Prison, Lansing, Kan., March 9 – There was no visible tension here tonight as Kansas prepared to execute the first man in nearly a century and the man Ernest Hoefgen, was as calm, lying in his solitary cell in the death house after his final meal.

Convicted of killing Bruce Smoll, 18-year-old Kansas State college student, Hoefgen made last minute efforts in letters to his wife to find some avenue to escape the death penalty.

Her answer was as final as the hour itself. She sued him for divorce, the papers having been served on Hoefgen in his prison cell three days ago.

In Solitary Confinement

Warden Robert H. Hudspeth said Hoefgen would be taken from his cell at 1 o’clock sharp and would walk the 40 steps to the newly built scaffold, mount the 13 steps and stand for hanging. An out-of-state hangman will spring the trap.

Hoefgen has been in solitary confinement since he was brought here early last month. In the same cell block are three other condemned men. Kansas hasn’t executed a man since 1870, though there have been several hangings at the federal prison at Leavenworth.

One federal hanging a quarter century ago was stopped when the state rose in protest to President Woodrow Wilson, who commuted the sentence of Robert F. Stroud to life imprisonment. But the hanging tonight hasn’t brought even a letter to the governor.

Warden Hudspeth, in declining to let newsmen wander around the prison grounds, said he did not want to upset the placidity of the 1,167 inmates who all knew of course of the impending execution of the Wichita boy, but who the warden said, were taking it calmly.

Scaffold in Warehouse

The scaffold, erected from blueprints supplied by an unnamed castern prison, stands in an old brick warehouse north of the cell house Hoefgen occupies.

Hoefgen will drop through a double trap door to a pit eight feet deep with the exact length of the drop to be determined by the hangman who will pull a lever opening the doors.

Hoefgen called for two chicken dinners today, and got both. He asked for peaches and cream with the noon meal and changed this dessert to ice cream for the evening meal. Warden Hudspeth’s talks with Hoefgen have only been about Hoefgen’s efforts to find some way out of the penalty. Hoefgen pleaded guilty to shooting young Smoll, who recognized him as an escaped Texas convict where he had been serving a life term for the hatchet killing of George Richet of Independence, Kan., in Texas. When Smoll told Hoefgen he recognized him, Hoefgen drew a revolver and Smoll leaped from the car into which he had climbed earlier as a hitchhiker. Hoefgen shot him in the back.

Hoefgen had a record of 23 arrests and has twice been sent to prison in Texas and once in Kansas for murder and rape.

Warden Hudspeth said no claim has been made for the boy by relatives of the condemned man. (Joplin Globe, Friday Morning, March 10, 1944)

FIND LINKS TO STUDENT’S DEATH

Topeka – Lou Richter, head of the Kansas bureau of investigation said Mrs. Pauline Hoefgen made a formal statement Sunday definitely linking her husband, Ernest with circumstances surrounding the slaying of Bruce Smoll, 18 year old Kansas State college student whose body was found Saturday near Peabody, Kans.

The skeletal remains of young Smoll, missing since Sept. 18, were found in a cornfield by two hunters about three miles east of Peabody. Richter said Mrs. Hoefgen admitted meeting her husband that night in Florence about ten miles from where the corpse was discovered.

The KBI director, Chief of Police Ollie Wright of Marion and Marion County Sheriff George Gephardt planned to question Hoefgen Sunday night.

Have Smoll’s Bag

Richter said a pair of shorts on Smoll’s body bore the printed letters “Bruce Smoll” still legible despite their long exposure to the weather. The same marking, he emphasized was imprinted on the shorts and other clothing found in the Hoefgens’ possession when they were arrested last week in Denver.

Mrs. Hoefgen says she saw Smoll’s bag for the first time when she and her husband stopped at Greensburg to get some sleep the morning of Sept. 19.” Richter related. Later when they got to Denver, she noticed the name “Smoll” on the clothing while laundering it.

The body, a bullet hole in the back of the skull was discovered within two miles of where young Smoll was last seen alive while hitch-hiking to his home in Wichita from Manhattan.

No Charles Filed

There is no question of the identify, Richter declared.

The college student’s father A. E. Smoll, a Wichita real estate and insurance man viewed the corpse Saturday night and confirmed the identification, Richter said.

Mr. and Mrs. Hoefgen have been held in jail at Topeka since being returned from Denver. Hoefgen is charged with breaking jail at Cottonwood Falls but no charge has been filed in connection with Smoll’s death. (Lincoln Journal, Monday, December 27, 1943)

POLICE CHIEF AT FLORENCE KILLED TODAY

Officer Catches Three Bandits Robbing A Store and Gun Battle Follows

Robbers Escape

Believe Three Youths Fled from Robbery Scene in a Small Motor Car

Florence, Kans., Sept. 17 - Chief of Police A. J. Eichenberger, of Florence, was slain early today, presumably in a revolver battle with burglars in front of the Stone Department Store, here.

His slayers are believed to number three. They escaped.

A fusillade of a dozen shots and the cry of pain aroused Charles Larkin and I. W. Draper at their homes near the store about 4 o'clock this morning. In front of the door of the building, the wounded officer lay, shot twice in the right chest and unable to talk. He died an hour later.

A search was started shortly after the shooting for three men, who were seen in an all-night restaurant earlier in the evening.
The first report on the shooting reached El Dorado shortly after Mr. Eichenberger was found. The report was telephoned to the county officers. It was reported that three men took part in the shooting. One of them is described as wearing a dark colored suit, a second were a light colored suit and the other had on work clothes. All of the men are said to be young. It is believed they escaped in a Ford roadster.

Mr. Eichenberger was well known in El Dorado, where he had been many times on business connected with his work at Florence. He had been chief of police at Florence for many years. He was about sixty years old. (El Dorado Times, September 17, 1929)

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