Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Unnecessary Headaches: Wikipedia

Click the pic to go to the article
Wikipedia can be a great tool to initialize a research project but I would strongly encourage anyone writing a term paper to never quote Wikipedia directly (if ever).  You see, the problem is that the same person who might have written an article about cancer treatment also wrote the episode guides for ALF, which is okay if it just happens to be an oncologist that also is a big fan of ALF but I would guess that isn't the case.  Over the holiday I decided to look at the Wiki entry for the Villisca case, just to see what was written there; big mistake.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Victimology: Pauline Showman

The frame is to class up the the
poor quality picture
Continuing in my series on the victims I'll write a bit more on Pauline Showman.  As readers may know, when the murder of the Showman family was discovered, investigators immediately settled on the motive being revenge against Pauline for...something.  For small, Midwestern town sheriffs and night marshals this would be a natural conclusion to make.  Mrs. Showman was mistreated after she was killed and was the only victim in the house which received any postmortem attack.  See here for comparison.  Pauline was born in Kansas to John and Theressia Kratky in Dec of 1885 and was one of the younger of many Kratky children.  John and Theressia had emigrated to the United States around 1878, right after their daughter, Wilhelmina, or Willie, had been born in their native country, Czechoslovakia, which was sometimes referred to as Bohemia. John farmed mostly but his children pitched in to help the family where they could.  At the age of 14, Pauline took the job of a live-in house keeper for another family in the county.  In 1904 Pauline would meet and marry a local chauffeur named Will Showman.  I am only speculating but it is likely that he was working for the same family that Polly was keeping house for.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Suspect Roundup: The Rainier Unsub

Cuz unsubs are camera shy
I don't know if anyone is still actually reading this blog but in an effort to keep myself on a somewhat regular posting schedule I've decided to introduce a new, monthly feature/post; The Suspect Roundup.  I will be featuring one suspect, from the well known and plausible to the unknown and incomprehensible. I'll provide photos when available but when a photo isn't available, you'll see something like the image on the left. So without further delay, let me start off with my first Suspect Roundup!

The Rainier Unsub is the name I give to a man who wandered onto a ranch in Roy, Washington, a little hamlet about 12 miles away from Rainier.  The owner of the ranch, Frank Betchard, related to authorities a tale of a man who came knocking on his door to beg a meal on Wednesday, about 2:00 p.m., after the murders..  This in of itself is not remarkable but the conversation at dinner might have been.  According to Mrs. Betchard and her daughter, the man spoke about the Coble murder which had occurred on Monday night, the 10th of July.  They specifically stated that the man said "there had been a murder in Rainier Monday night."  The crime wasn't discovered until Tuesday the 11th in the afternoon and wasn't carried in any newspaper until Wednesday morning, the 12th.  The Betchard family had no knowledge of the crime until the unknown beggar told them about it at 2:00 P.M. the 12th.  Now I do have to concede that it is possible this beggar had spent Tuesday evening in the town of Yelm, woke up and saw the news in the paper and told the Betchards.  Yelm is just five miles south of Roy but Yelm had no local paper until 1922.  The nearest large cities which likely were the major newspaper distribution points were Tacoma and Olympia, both 17 miles away as the crow flies.  Either of these newspapers would have been in Yelm Wednesday morning screaming headlines about the murder.  But wouldn't it follow that the Betchards would have heard about the murders by 2:00 P.M. on Wednesday as well?
Headline from Wednesday, July 12, 1911
As you can see from the headline, this was a "last edition" copy which implies there was an earlier, morning addition proclaiming that a murder had occurred.  The description the Betchard women gave of their beggar was "younger, better dressed and darker complected [then the suspect mentioned above]."  Which means he would have been (or looked) younger then 60/45 (the paper declared the suspect to "look 45"), dressed better than an itinerant hobo/railroad laborer and darker complected then an emigrant from Sweden, and we all know how tan those Scandinavians can look.

Monday, December 12, 2011

The Woeful Story of Mrs. Emma Hill

We have probably all known or heard of someone whose story is so sad you'd swear it was the plot of an Ingmar Bergmen film. The story of Emma Bell Hill, mother of May Hill, seems to be such a story. In my victimology of May Burnham I recounted how John Hill moved his family across the country following his job with the railroad. By 1905 John had essentially left the family to go work in the mining regions of "frontier" Colorado. He sent money back to the family but it didn't seem to be enough. By 1910 he was in Mexico, where he would stay the rest of his life, never seeing his family again, dying in 1950. In 1911 Emma began divorce proceedings from her estranged husband, of course around the time this was happening her oldest daughter and only living grandchildren would be murdered.

Now by all accounts, Emma Hill was very close with her son-in-law, Arthur Burnham, and declared his innocence every time a reporter was near enough to hear, even going so far as to dramatically proclaim her belief at her daughter's and grandchildren's funeral. In February of 1912, Arthur Burnham would finally succumb to the tuberculosis that had brought him to Colorado in the first place and Emma would lose the man who'd become "like a son" to her.

Her divorce from John would be granted in 1914 and in 1919 Emma would remarry to William Carnahan, a man about ten years her senior. Now 1919 would turn out to be a good year for Emma as she was able to celebrate her new marriage and the birth of her grandson, Patrick Ruth. Called "Pattie" for short, he was the son of Emma's youngest daughter, Nettie and her husband, June Ruth. The celebration was short lived, however, as tragedy would strike twice. First, Nettie would die early in 1920 then her grandson Pattie would die the following year. Sometime after that her new husband, William Carnahan would pass away. In 1930, Mrs. Hill was shown in the census as living alone as a widow. She would die in April of 1955. She is currently interred in the grave next to Arthur's family so if you happen to be visiting the Burnham's, don't forget to show a little respect to Emma Bell Hill, I think she earned it.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

How I spent my weekend...

The structure on the left is the chapel at the Evergreen Cemetery in Colorado Springs. I had a chance to visit so I took a trip. Unfortunately, as is my tendency, I left my notes about where the Burnham family was interred back at the hotel. "No problem," I thought. "I'll just drive around till I find the 'old section' of the cemetery and find it that way." Well I'd still be in the cemetery looking if it hadn't been for my trusty Droid. I have to admit it felt strange traveling all that way to visit the graves of people I am not related to and never met in my life. I haven't put near the amount of time and effort into researching these crimes as some and still I felt just the slightest bit of a connection to those people. A silly sense of loss, a quiet pang of remorse and a general feeling of sadness. As I stood there in front of the old headstone I looked around and saw the various other graves surrounding me. There were more then a few that were decorated with fresh flowers or trinkets as this is still an active section of the cemetery. Today, I'm pretty certain the Burnham's receive visitors but it isn't the same kind of visitor their silent neighbors get. There's nothing wrong with that either because it means someone is remembering; someone is recalling. I have no answers if a person seeks the "why" or "who" of what is ultimately a senseless tragedy, but as long as someone asks those questions then I feel I am doing the Burnhams, Waynes and the other victims some kind of service.