Murder, Mystery, Spooky Articles & Stories


Testimony of Chemist Important In Wellington Murder Trial

Wellington, Kan., Sept. 25---Mrs. Martha Freeman Burson, 45 years old, was found not guilty of murdering her husbnd, Marion Burson, late today, after the jury had deliberated only fifteen minutes. It was charged that Burson was given small doses of arsenic over a period of two weeks and that a short time prior to his death, April 12, he had taken out an insurance policy.

Traces of arsenic were found in the viscera, according to the state chemist. The evidence largely was circumstantial. Dr. Lloyd Cross, Kansas City chemist, testified that in his opinion the arsenic found was absorbed from a can in the shipment of the viscera for examination. (The Miami Herald ~ 26 Sep 1921)



The Celebrated Nutting Murder Case at Wellington

WELLINGTON, Kan., May 10---Last evening at 10 o'clock the Nutting murder case was given to the jury. This case has been on trial before his honor, Judge Burnett and a jury since Friday last. On the evening of February 20 in a saloon in Hunnewell, Paul Langlois, the keeper, was shot in an affray, the ball going through his heart, and the next morning his frozen dead body was found in an alley in the rear of his saloon. William Nutting, the druggist, was arrested and was on Friday last put upon trial for murder in the first degree. Senator O. H. Bentley of Wichita appeared as counsel for Nutting and to the surprise of everybody, including the local bar, selected the jury to try the casein less than three hours. Only one challenge for the defendant was used, and the case proceeded, and on last evening was carefuly argued and submitted to the jury, with most elaborate and careful instructions. As this was Judge Burnett's best murder case, he took great pains and carefully and most scrupulously covered every possible phase of the case.

Senator Bentley promised the jury in his opening statement for the prisoner to present to them the best case of self-defence ever plead in a Kansas court of record. So well did he keep his promise that upon the jury retiring they remained out exactly eight minutes by the watch, returning into court with a verdict of acquittal.

The case for the prosectuion was made as strong as possible, and County Attorney Carver made a strong effort to convict the prisoner. The defense had a very carefully preprared cse, and every point was most carefully guarded. The surprising thing about the verdict is that it took the court about twenty minutes to read his charges to the jury, and as they were only out eight minutes, they must have formed a verdict without reading the charge of the court.

The life of Nutting as placed before the jury by his counsel, reads like the tale of "Arabian Nights." There was considerable sentiment in the case, as Nutting was a drummer boy and received a shot at Winchester that disabled his left eye. In the means in which Frenchy was shot, Frenchy assaulted Nutting with a heavy branding iron, leaving marks that has disabled his right eye, and fractured his skull in two places. Nutting was for a long time a conductor on the D. and R. G. Railway, also on the line running into Truckes. Notting was under sheriff of Stafford county, deputy U.S. marshal, captain of scouts under Col. Inman at Fort Harker, is a prominent Grand Army man, a well known mason, and an Odd Fellow. He is also a Knight of Pythias, an Elk and a member of the Railway Conductors' union. He was in the county seat contest in Leoti and has had a most varied experience. All of these matters were handled with great care and shrewdness by his counsel. As going to show his former good character, Nutting took the stand in his own behalf, and his counsel handled him in such a manner as to make a decided and most favorable impression upon the jury. The acquittal of the prisoner meets with public approval. The jury were a unit for a verdict for the defendant. (Topeka Weekly Capital ~ 17 May 1894)




J. M. Thrawls, the sheriff of Sumner county, Kansas, passed through this city yesterday for Wellington, Kansas. He stated to a reporter that he had been to Albuquerque, with a requisition for one Charles Monroe, alias Davis, for the murder of a man named George Woods, in Sumner county, Kansas, some five months ago. He says that while it is certain that Davis is in Albuquerque or vicinity, it is impossible to find him. One Frank Stewart, who is known to be a running mate to Sheriff Thawls for $500, but he says he refused to pay the amount over. He is very sore at the officers of Albuquerque for not rendering him some assistance in finding the murderer. (Las Vegas Daily Gazette ~ 1 March 1883)



Believed to Have Been Killed---Was Working On Kansas Murder Case

Wellington, Kan., March 25---A detective named Ferguson who has been working on the case of Montgomery, the Santa Fe railway detective, has been missing for several days and is believed to have been dealt with at the hands of the gang that killed Montgomery.

Montgomery was killed at his home last fall in Winfield, while prosecuting a case for the railroad. Ferguson recently was instrumental in the arrest of two men charged with Montgomery's death. He left Arkansas City for Enid and El Reno, O. T., 10 days ago and has not been heard from since. Ferguson heretofore never let a day pass without writing to his home and to his head office. (Idaho Statesman ~ 26 March 1902)



Wellington, Kas., April 18---Edward Robbins was held yesterday by Justice Gilmore to answer to the charge of killing J. H. Ott here, two weeks ago, by striking him on the head with a shovel. He was remanded in default of $5,000 bail. His home is in Wichita. He quarreled with Ott here over a trivial matter.
(The Kansas City Star ~ 16 Apri 1902)



Wellington, Kas., March 2---Douglas Riggs, who killed Bob Sharp at Caldwell last October, over a game of cards, was today found guilty of murder in the first degree in the district court. (The Kansas City Star ~ 2 March 1889)



Supposed Drowning of J. M. Thomas May Turn Out A Murder

News comes from Sumner county of a sensational murder down at Caldwell. Three men have been arrested on suspicion of having committed the crime. Their names are Elliston and Bob and Sam Poulson.

The crime occurred a week ago, but it was not supposed to be a murder until yesterday. The murdered man's name was J. M. Thomas.

Last week work came to town from the waterworks dam on Bluff creek that Mr. Thomas had been drowned while fishing with the alleged criminals. A crowd of men went down and dragged for the body, which was easily found. An inquest was held and a verdict rendered that the deceased came to his death by drowning.

A few days went by and the fishing companions of Thomas began to talk too freely. They made so many conflicting statements that suspicion was aroused. The grave was opened and an examination of the body revealed the fact that Thomas was dead before he went under the water.

The four men were fishing with dynamite. They had a supply of alcohol with them and the theory is that they had a fight with Thomas, probably over a drink, and that they stamped him until they thought he was dead. It is said that they then threw him into the water to make the public believe that he was drowned, but that the water revived him and he either came out or was dragged out. It is thought that he died after a few minutes and was then thrown into the water where he was found.

Thomas was the oldest living pioneer of Caldwell and had been a justice of the peace there for nearly thirty years. He was well known all over the southwest. In addition to being a justice of the peace, he always acted as coroner for the section of the county and undoubtedly "sat on" more dead men than any man in Kansas. In the cowboy days he had a busy time for there was a killing every few days. In 1883 he held inquests over thirty-nine men who had been killed in street or saloon fights.

He was doing so well that he advanced Dave Leahy of this city to the position of long hand stenographer for his court and kept him busy for several months.

Assistant Attorney Generla Snelling also knew Thomas well and his first case in Kansas was before him. Deputy United States District Attorney Harry L. Bone made some of his best maiden speeches before Thomas. All of them express regret for his fate and tell some interesting stories concerning him.

A detective left this city last night to complete the chain of evidence against the supposed murders. (The Kan Semi-Weekly Capital ~ June 14, 1898)



Held Responsible for Murder Committed by Another


The Actual Murderer Acquitted by a Kansas Jury

He Was Believed to Be Under the Hypnotic Influence of the Man Condemned

Wellington, Kan., Dec. 29---Anderson Gray was today given the death sentence by Judge Burnett, according to the verdict of the jury finding him guilty of murder in the first degree for the killing of Thomas Patton. Thomas McDonald, while under the hypnotic influence of Gray, did the killing, but was discharged after trial. Gray is a well-to-do farmer. Hatton had incurred his enmity and Gray hypnotized McDonald, a farm hand, and while the latter was in that condition compelled him to commit the murder.

Thus, for the first time in the history of Kansas jurisprudence, the theory of hypnotism was seriously entered into the trial of a case of murder. J. V. Beckman, of Sumner County, who is a prominent candidate for Speaker of the Kansas House and who was the attorney to introduce the hypnotic theory, relates the extremely interesting details of the case. On the 5th day of last May, at a place near Caldwell, Sumner County, Thomas McDonald shot and killed Thomas Patton. McDonald was the tenant of Anderson Gray, a wealthy farmer, who was the neighbor of the murdered man. Gray was involved in a lawsuit in which Patton was a witness, and he had, it is alleged, a consuming desire to get the latter out of the way. It is claimed he involved young McDonald and Patton in a quarrel by reporting to McDonald that Patton was circulating scandalous reports about his wife. On the 5th of May the two men met and exchanged angry words. This was early in the morning, and Patton was to return that way at 2 o'clock in the afternoon.

Hypnotic Influence Exerted

At this point Gray appeared in the affair and commenced to exercise, according to the theory of J. V. Beckman, his hypnotic influence. He assured McDonald, according to the story, that Patton was a dangerous man, and that his only hope of life would be to kill him first. McDonald and his wife both rebelled at the murderous thought, but Gray, who is a man of intense will power, insisted. McDonald had never fired a gun in his life, and Gray at once procured a rifle and commenced to give him instructions. At the first shots he could not hit the mark t all, but under the mysterious spell of Gray, who was an expert shot, became able to hit the mark in the center at every shot in less than an hour's practice.

Shortly before 2 o'clock Gray conducted McDonald to the spot in the woods where Patton must pass, and cut a crotch in which he might rest his gun. At the expected hour Patton cme riding by, and an unerring buttet from McDonald's rifle reached his heart.

After a time suspicion pointed to McDonald and Gray as the murderers. They were arrested, as also was McDonald's wife. After three weeks in jail McDonald broke down and confessed all, asserting that he could not bear to see his innocent wife in confinement. But, as bearing on the hypnotic theory, it was shown on the trial that whenever McDonald got anywhere close to Gray he would deny the confession or the fact that he had made it.

At the opening of the Sumner County District Court three week ago, Gray, the accessory and hypnotizer, was placed on trial first. He was quickly found guilty of murder in the first degree and has since been sentenced to be hanged.

Accessory Guilty, Principal Innocent

On Monday of last week McDonald was placed on trial. The case lasted the entire week and was intensely interesting because of the peculiar defense offered. Judge Beckman, for his client, freely admitted the crime, and made no attempt to soften its astrocious details. He tried the case strictly on the theory that McDonald was under the hypnotic influence of Gray, and that he had no control over his own actions. The court in its instructions left no dividing line between a verdict of guilty and an acceptance of the theory of hypnotism. Tonight, after three hours' deliberation, the jury returned a verdict of not guilty, and the remarkable spectacle was presented of a principal who was innocent and an accessory who was guilty.

The sentence imposed upon Gray has attracted great attention here and in all the cities of Kansas, and local physicians are discussing the justness of the verdict. It is held by most members of the legal fraternity that a hypnotist has no power to influence a man to commit a crime which is repulsive to the one controlled. They hold that if a man shrinks from committing an offense against the law any effort of the hypnotist to force him to do the act will result in his losing power over the subject. For this reason they are inclinced to believe that Gray should not have been convicted on the theory of hypnotic influence. They believe, too, thta an appeal to the Supreme Court will result in a reversal of the verdict. It is, al things considered, the most remarkable case in the criminal annals of Kansas, and the final outcome will be watched with a good deal of interest. (The Daily Inter Ocean ~ December 30, 1894)


Supreme Court of Kansas Has Not Recognized It as a Defensive Plea

Topeka, Kan., April 10---Papers throughout the country have very generally announced that through a decision handed down Saturday last the Supreme court of Kansas has recognized hynotism as a defensive plea in the charge for murder. Chief Justice Horton, in an interview today, says the inference is wholly unwarranted. A man named Gray procured a gun and incited a man named McDonald to kill one Patton. Gray made McDonald believe that Patton was traducing the character of Mrs. McDonald. All were residents of Sumner county. McDonald, who did the killing, was acquitted. Gray was convicted in the lower court, and the Supreme court affirmed the decision. The case was known far and wide as the hypnotic case.

Judge Horton says: "The McDonald case was not presented to the Supreme court. If it had been and the same evidence presented to us against Gray had been presented against McDonald, the Supreme court, had it the power, would have ruled for McDonald's conviction. The acquittal of McDonald seems to have been a miscarriage of justice." (The Kansas City Times ~ April 11, 1895)



The Disappearance of a Sumner County Farmer's Daughter

She Went out Riding With Her Lover Who Has Fled The Country---$100 Reward Offered

Wellington, Kan., Dec. 8---A. D. East, a well-to-do farmer living about twelve miles northwest of Caldwell in Morris township, has deposited $100 in the Stock Exchange bank of Caldwell as a reward to the party who will effect the capture of one Lou Wilkinson and safe return of Eva, the 15-year-old daughter of Mr. East.

For some time past Wilkinson, who has been living with B. W. Warlow, nine miles northwest of Caldwell, has been waiting upon Miss East. They have been very closely associated for several months in fact Wilkiknson is about the only young man from whom Miss East has received any attentions. Two weeks ago last Sunday, Wilkinson called at the home of Mr. East, as was his custom to do, and asked Miss East to accompany him on a drive. She consented and they drove off. The father of the girl waited patiently until evening for their return, but they did not come. Next morning Mr. East arose in a frenzy of uneasiness and later in the day drove to Mr. Warlow's farm to learn the cause of his dauther's and Wilkinson's delay. There he found Wilkinson's delay. There he found Wilkinson, but his daughter was not iwth the young man.

When Mr. East asked about his daughter's whereabouts, Wilkinson replied, "Oh h--l, I lost her at Milan," and turning walked to the barn. Mr. East then engaged in a conversation with Mr. Warlow regarding the matter, and while the two were thus engaged, Wilkinson saddled a horse and rode away unseen by them. When they went to the barn to look for him he was gone and no trace of him nor the girl has yet been found.

The girls has relatives living at or near Milan and Argonia, and when Wilkinson spoke of losing her at Milan her father simply supposed he had left her there with her relatives. But later investigation seems to prove that Wilkinson has either killed the girl or securely secreted both himself and her. It is said that the girl was in a delicate condition, as a result of the treachery of Wilkinson and it is not thought improbable that her treacherous suitor and seducer has blotted out her young life to shield his own mock honor. The girl was recognized as a virguous and respectable young lady until her associations with Wilkinson possibly corrupted her. She was of slight build, weighing about 100 pounds, had dark hair and eyes, clear complexion and is described as being quite beautiful. Every possible effort will be made to find the girl and apprehend her supposed destroyer. (Topeka Weekly Capital ~ December 10, 1897)


Isaac Reed Found Guilty of Killing Isaac Hopper

WINFIELD, Kan., Sept. 15----The celebrated Reed murder case, in which Isaac Reed has been on trial here for the killing of Isaac Hopper, and which was tried at the April term of the Cowley county district court in 1893 on a charge of venue, and which was appealed to the supreme court, where Reed was granted a new trial has resulted in a verdict of murder in the first degree. Thus has ended one of the longest trials ever held in this county and one that has cost Sumner county, which has been responsible for the prosecution, more than $50,000. The prisoner has been removed to jail to await sentence.

Isaac Reed killed Isaac Hopper on Washington avenue in Wellington on May 21, 1892, by shooting him in the abdomen. Hopper had accused Reed with criminal intimacy with Mrs. Hopper and had besought Reed to let her alone and let peace reign in this family. Reed claims to have shot in self-defense but the evidence shows Hopper was standing in front of Reed about eight feet distant with his hands down at his side when Reed, who had a loaded revolver in his hand, shot and killed Hopper.

There were a large number of witnesses, both for the state and the defense, and it took a week to examine them and then get the case to the jury.

Reed was at one time a prosperous attorney of Sumner county and had a good income. (Topeka Weekly Capital ~ September 20, 1894)



Sam Smith, Kansas Outlaw, as City Marshall and Town Killer at Nowata

Wellington, Kan., Nov. 22----Reliable information comes to the city that Sam Smith, the much wanted Sumner county outlaw, is marshal of the town of Nowata, I. T., about forty miles south of Coffeyville and that he is the man who committed a double murder a few days ago over trouble growing out of Nowata's dual government.

The Indians and white people both have a city government at Nowata. The two governments have clashed frequently in the administration of municipal affairs. Recently the question of which faction was the legal government was taken to the courts for settlement. A decision was rendered in favor of the white people. The Indians were not satisfied with the decision and refused to give up. Several encounters between the leading spirits of the two factions have occurred, and only a day or two ago a double murder, believed to have been committed by Sam Smith, the Sumner county outlaw, who is said was acting as marshal for the white government, grew out of the trouble. The marshal for the Indian government was taken sick and he deputized his son to act for him. His son mingled too freely among the whites and was killed in cold blood by Sam Smith. Word of the killing reached the young man's father, who was sick in bed and he got up and went immediately to Smith and asked why his son had been killed. Smith replied by shooting the father through the heart. The affair has caused considerable excitement in the community and more trouble is looked for. Smith is still holding his job as marshal with the white government.
(The Kansas Semi-Weekly Capital ~ November 23, 1897)


Search for Prisoner Who Escaped From Kansas Penitentiary

Leavenworth, Kas., Nov. 17---Estell and Cravens, the convicts who escaped from the state penitentiary yesterday after a running fight with the guards, are still at large. The men took shelter in the timber that surrounds the penitentiary, and in the shots exchanged last evening, before darkness made further pursuit impossible, it was believed that one of the convicts had been shot. Search at daylight, however, indicated that neither was hit. Armed mounted guards are today searching the timber in all directions.

Sam Smith, the convict shot by one of the guards during the break for liberty, is still alive, but will die. Kansas first came to Kansas penitentiary from Sumner county in February, 1898, under a year's sentence for grand larceny. He broke away form an outside guard in the following June, stole a horse and rode to Butler county, where he took part in the robbery of a train and killed a man. Smith was convicted of murder and brought back in December, 1898, under sentence of death.

At 12:30 p.m.--Estell and Cravens have been surrounded in an old farm barn west of the prison and reenforcements have been sent to the posse. The convicts are heavily armed.

The barn was surrounded and will be fired if the convicts refuse to surrender. Warden Tomlinson has sent to the federal prison for Krag-Jorgenson rifles, his guns being demed insufficient. (The Morning Olympian ~ November 18, 1900)



W. D. Stitzel, Wanted for Kansas Slaying, Gives Up

Arkansas City, Kas., Nov. 23---W. D. Stitzel, one of the two brothers charged with the shooting of Constable Nick Danett at Oxford, Kas., Saturday night was placed under arrest near this city late last night after the alleged murderer had telephoned the local officers that he was ready to surrender.

At the time the phone message reached the city police station the young man was at the home of his brother-in-law, J. Guy, eight miles southwest of the city. Two of the policemen went to the Guy home and took charge of the man. He was brought to this city and later in the night was taken to Wellington by the deputy sheriff of Sumner County and was placed in jail there.

W. D. Stitzel, better known as "Dean" Stitzel, told the officers that he did not do the shooting at Oxford, but that his brother did it and that his brother, John, was heavily armed the last he saw of him and that he did not propose to be captured. John Stitzel has a criminal record, according to local officers. Sheriff J. W. Lingerfelter and several of his deputies were here this morning from Wellington and went on to the home of the brother-in-law of the two alleged murders in an effort to get on the trail of his brother John, who is thought to have fled to Oklahoma, which is south of the Guy home. (The Kansas City Star ~ November 23, 1920)


Twice They Caused Alleged Slayer to Fall into Hands of Law

Wellington, Kas., Jan. 27---Twice has "the light that lies in a women's eyes" proved the undoing of John Stitzel, alleged murderer of Constable Nick Damitt of Oxford, and a man feared by peace officers. Twice has Stitzel, the bud man, escaped officers only to fall into the hands of the law later, betrayed through his attachment for a woman.

Stitzel is int he Sumner County jail, awaiting trial on a murder charge in connection with the slaying of Damitt more than a year ago. He was captured last week on a ranch near Fort Morgan, Col. First intimation officers received of his whereabouts following his escape from jail months ago came from a letter said to have been received from him by a woman at Decatur, Tex., who had been under survelliance for some time. Texas authorities notified Sheriff John Lingenfelter of their suspicions. Lingenfelter wired to officers at Fort Morgan. There Stitzel was found and arrested.

It is said that Stitzel's first capture at Eldorado resulted from the fact that the sheriff's men learned he was visiting a woman. They surrounded the place and captured Stitzel after a revolver battle. (Kansas City Star ~ January 27, 1922)


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