Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The trial of Charles Marzyck...

Thanks to Lisa Lindsley of Ellsworth for writing up this summary of the Marzyck trial.  I will post my thoughts later today.  One question I will ask right now is: why did the Vopats need to be "fetched" from Blackwolf?  Surely they realized the importance of the trial and their testimony?  Why did James Vopat not show?  I'll ponder on that a'while and you read:

The trial of Charles Marzyck for the murders of Will Showman, wife Pauline and their three children, Lester, Fern and Fenton, was held in the Ellsworth County Court house after his arrest in Canada in April of 1912. Mr. Marzyck had no attorney, he choose to represent himself.

The prosecution questioned Mrs. O.W. Snook first. She reported the Showman’s had been visiting at her house the evening before until around 9 pm. Mrs. Snook testified calling the Showman house many times Monday morning. Finally, she and her daughter walked the two blocks to their home around 5 pm where she found the bodies.

Next, John Herink from Wilson went on the witness stand. He spoke poor English but he said he had met Charles Marzyck many times. Herink stated he saw Charles Marzyck on the corner of Douglas and Main, Ellsworth, at 4 am on the morning of October 16, 1911. The man’s English was very broken and the Judge had to quiet the crowd in the courtroom often as disarray broke out as everyone was trying to understand Herink’s words.

James Vopat, the man married to Marzyck’s ex-wife, was called to the stand next. He and his wife had not come to court that day. James was fetched from Blackwolf and he and his wife, Minnie arrived at the courthouse soon after. Marzyck stared at James during his testimony. His eyes only once turned to his ex-wife once when she identified a cigar cutter said to belong to Charles Marzyck. The cigar cutter was alleged to be found in the Showman’s house.

James spoke of the threats Charles Marzyck had made to the Showman’s while under the influence of the bottle. Marzyck prior arrest for stealing wheat from James Vopat was brought up. Also mentioned were his open remarks at that hearing to claim revenge on his ex-wife Minnie and sheriff Bradshaw who arrested him for that stealing charge. At the previous hearing, it was noted that both Minnie Vopat and her sister Pauline Showman testified against Charles Marzyck. However it was also noted that Will Showman had written to Marzyck while he was in prison and even petitioned for his release. The threats made to the Will Showman family didn’t seem comprehensible but James as well as others had personally heard the threats from Charles Marzyck’s mouth.

Sheriff Bradshaw took the stand next and testified that on the night of the murder, he had heard noises at his back door. After he heard the noise a couple of times he went to the back door but did not see anyone. The next morning, he did see that the screen to his back window had been partly removed as if someone had attempted to break into his house.

Then Charles Marzyck took the stand in his own defense. The prosecutor took great care in trying to trip up his alibi. Charles was clever and was very clear about the places he had worked and stayed while in Colorado during October, 1911. His probable residence in Colorado during the murders took him far away from Ellsworth.

At the conclusion of the trial, John Herink’s testimony was taken lightly. He had such broken English, he wasn’t completely understood. The Judge also ruled that at 4 am with no street lamp it would be difficult to identify a man on the street. 

The cigar cutter being found at the Showman’s house was not allowed as evidence as the authorities suspected it was planted. It was stated that the cigar cutter was not turned into authorities until two weeks after the murders. Charles Marzyck had what seemed to be an iron clad alibi. In the end, there was not enough evidence to convict Charles Marzyck and he was found “not guilty” and released. After the hearing many spoke of how Charles Marzyck had always been a clever man. He was generally a respectable man but when he took to the bottle he did become rather vile. Many speculated that he had been cleverest in his career to come out of the trail with an acquittal. 

Since his arrest and time in prison at Lansing, KS, Charles Marzyck had been charged both in Colorado and Missouri for writing bad checks and forgery. He was even arrested and held in jail in Missouri; however he was released on some small technicality.
Looking back know, one wonders if John Herink was the link that should of put Marzyck behind bars. Another point never stated was if Marzyck’s alibi in Colorado was ever checked out by authorities. Was his employer in Colorado contacted as well as the hotels he frequented?

The ax murders of the Showman family remain unsolved. A private investigation report in April 1917 implicated others but no arrests were ever made partially because the majority believed Charles Marzyck really did commit the crime. Today, the ax murders are referred to as” Hatchet” around Ellsworth and most citizens only have a slight knowledge of the crime which for the most part it is forgotten. The identification of the murderer was buried long ago, along with the memory of Will Showman and his family.

More to come...

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