Monday, February 25, 2008

Was Colorado Springs the First?

In July of 2006, Beth Klingensmith wrote a research paper about the Midwest Axe Murders and the theory put forward by M. W. McClaughry, the fingerprint expert who investigated the Villisca crime. It is a brief summery of the murders included in his theory and some “outlying” cases he didn’t include. The report is available here.

Ms. Klingensmith sums up a murder that occurred in Ardenwald, Oregon in June of 1911. I want to discuss that and one other over the next few days.

William Hill had married the widow Ruth C. Rintule and taken on the raising of her two children, Philip, 8, and Dorothy, 6. In May of 1911, the Hills moved to the little community of Ardenwald, south of Portland and near the Southern Pacific rail line in an area known as Scott Woods. Then as today, Ardenwald was a suburb of Portland, and while it may have no relation whatever, there is a small, wooded park on the west end of Ardenwald named Scott Park. William Hill began to build a cabin for his family and they moved into it in late May or early June before it was completed but it had walls, roof and doors so it was habitable. On the afternoon of June 8, 1911, Ruth took the electric line north to Portland to see her brother and father at their law firm. It was reported she was very agitated but she apparently never told her family why. On the morning of June 9, the neighbor, Mrs. Matthews, called on the family out of concern for the quiet look of the house. The windows were covered with clothing and cloth and the front door was locked. Mrs. Mathews entered through the unlocked back door and made the grisly discovery of the Hills bodies. Details vary on where each of the bodies where found. One source says William and Ruth were found in separate rooms and the children in one bed, another says all were found in their beds and insinuates the children were in separate beds. The axe had been stolen from a neighbor’s side steps and was found resting against Dorothy’s bed and there was a bowl of bloody water found inside the house. Philip had fingerprints on his right arm and other bloody prints were found on the bodies showing the killer had handled the bodies at some point. Both Mrs. Hill and her daughter, Dorothy, had been “assaulted in outrageous fashion” which is to say they had been raped but, according to one source I have, it appears both female victims had also been sodomized with a foreign object. Nothing I have found describes the bodies being covered or the presence of a chimneyless lamp.

The community was in a panic upon the crime’s discovery. Doors were reinforced and locks were bought. Guns sat loaded at the headboard of beds and neighbors took night-watches for one another. Posses went into Scott Woods and began clearing out the vagrants and hobos known to populate it. From Ms. Klingensmith’s report:
Numerous suspects were arrested, one for bothering women, another, a vagrant, a third a survivor of an axe assault in 1898. Two youths implicated a traveling partner before cross-examination of the story broke down.
My next post will look at this crime in comparison with Colorado Springs and I want to introduce you to that “vagrant” who was arrested. He is indeed a person of interest.


Gary Radmacher said...

Inspector Winship,

Ruth Hill was my grandfather's (Tom Cowing's) younger sister. Her father (my great grandfather), was a respected Portland attorney. I am fascinated to read what you have learned and posted about her demise.

A family story is told of a wealthy Milwaukie, OR, businessman who was arrested for the crime, but not convicted because he had money and connections with the prosecutor. My grandfather was deputized so he could carry a gun. He went to the office of the alleged perpetrator, and told him he was going to kill him because he had killed his sister. He reportedly pulled the trigger, but the gun jammed. The man ran out, and my grandfather's shots missed him.

That's the end of the tale, but we are glad he missed, because if he had been successful, his family (including me) might never have existed!

I am very interested to find out what source material you found, and where I might got hold of it myself.

Thanks so much,

Inspector Winship said...

Gary - please email me through my profile page. I will give you the info you are looking for.

Unknown said...
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Unknown said...

Strange that the Portland and Villisca murders are almost exactly one year apart, both involved entire families, both have sexual angles and in both the killer may have cleaned up at the scene (something Klingensmith says happened in Iowa, while you mention the bowl of bloody water in Portland). All those murders in the Klingensmith paper, some perhaps related but others not - it's hard to find a pattern. I was thinking maybe the killer had a thing for families with young daughters.