Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The first suspect at Ardenwald

Ed Ramsey

On June 18, 1911, Ed Ramsey (aka Fredrick Alexander) was picked up while crossing the Willamette River on a raft. Ramsey was a well known vagrant who lived in Scott Woods. He was known to local young boys as “Nutty Ed” and reportedly liked to entice boys to his camp where he would sexually assault them. He worked off and on at various jobs but mostly remained a vagrant in the woods surrounding the Portland area. The day he was arrested, his physical description was given as 5’ 7”, 145 lbs. His given age was fifty-five. When asked where he was the night of June 8, he replied that his memory was bad and couldn’t recall. The local sheriff had been trying to catch him for theft for a while and it was reported that many people were afraid of him due to his peculiar behavior. An affidavit was made by a couple who lived near the Hills stating they saw a man walking on the road away from Ardenwald around 7:00 p.m. on the night of the murder. He appeared to be a vagrant and he was agitated and muttering to himself. The woman heard this man say “Damn her, I’ll ____ [sic] her yet.” Now I don’t know how much faith to put in this affidavit. I don’t want to smear the couple that signed it but it was made in 1915, coincidentally around the same time that Ramsey was arrested for vagrancy. The couple was taken to the jail and IDed Ramsey as the man they saw on the road that day. I have to acknowledge this may not be on the up-and-up. Did the couple make these affidavits before or after IDing Ramsey? I believe there is a discrepancy in the affidavit. The couple described the man as being “about 50 years old and medium height and fairly heavy set and looked as if he had not been shaved for a month.” The mug shot above corresponds to this description almost exactly; it was taken in 1915. The description of Ramsey when picked up ten days after the murders is not one of a heavy set man but one of average weight and height at best. I don’t doubt the couple saw a vagrant walking around that day but the possibility is very high they signed the affidavit after identifying Ramsey in the jail in 1915. Thrown into the mix is a detective that never got paid the $2000 billed to the county due to the fact no one was ever caught and you’ve got all the makings of a couple of coached witnesses. Ramsey apparently went to grand jury in 1915 for the Hill murders but the D.A. (who didn’t try very hard) failed to get an indictment.

In spite of all this, I’m not willing to say Ramsey didn’t do it. But I’m not entirely sure he did. His alleged pedophilia was for young boys and not young girls. Philip Rintule was not assaulted beyond the blows that killed him while the females in the house were. His previous MO didn’t show a penchant for violent apprehension of his alleged victims and the worst thing the Sheriff was trying to get him for was theft. If he had been a violent pedophile I’m sure he would have been run out of town long before the Hill’s were murdered, wouldn’t he? The people in 1911 didn’t take pedophilia any lighter than we do today, aside of course from the cultural differences like child brides (which is horrible in any epoch but you have to acknowledge the differences in mind set). That said, you don’t go from theft to mass homicide, rape and sodomy over night, but maybe Ramsey did.

*Mug shot and affidavits taken from Why Some Men Kill by George A. Thatcher

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