True Crime Books by Jason Lucky Morrow

Welcome to HistoricalCrimeDetective.com [Est. 2013], where you will discover forgotten crimes and forgotten criminals lost to history. You will not find high profile cases that have been rehashed and retold ad infinitum to ad nauseam. This blog is the official website for true crime writer Jason Lucky Morrow, author of four books including the popular series: Famous Crimes the World Forgot, Volume I and Volume II. If you would like to send me a comment, old crime tip, or exchange links with a related website, Contact Me Here. - Please follow this historical true crime blog on FACEBOOK.

Serial Killers Anonymous: Lee ‘Roy’ Hargrave Jr.
Released in 2010 after 35 years in prison.

Home | Serial Killers Anonymous, Short Feature Story | Serial Killers Anonymous: Lee ‘Roy’ Hargrave Jr.
Released in 2010 after 35 years in prison.



“Angel of Death”A type of serial killer, who is employed as caregiver and kills people under their care.

yourdictionary.com

The headline above accompanied a retelling of this once famous case that appeared in a 1991 issue of the New York Daily News. A link to that article can be found at the end of this story.

[For legal purposes, the official position of this blog on Lee Roy Hargrave Jr., is that he is a “suspected serial killer.” He has not been convicted of two or more murders, or confessed to any murder in addition to his 1975 conviction on one count of first-degree murder.]

 

Suspicious Deaths

In June 1974, administrative supervisors at Petersburg General Hospital in Petersburg, Virginia, were baffled by a sudden increase in patient deaths.

During a recent two-week period, twelve heart patients on the coronary care unit floor died unexpectedly. Although many of those twelve men and women were elderly, all of them were in the recovery unit, and the prognosis for each of them was good.

In those days, PGH was a seven-story hospital with 440 beds that served Petersburg, Hopewell, and Colonial Heights. A modern coronary care unit occupied one entire floor of the hospital. It was divided into two sections: one for intensive care of critically ill patients, and a larger section for recuperative care.

When hospital administrators and doctors examined the medical charts for all twelve, they could find no logical explanation for why they died. Although their prognosis was good, it was as if their hearts just stopped working—suddenly, and for no reason.

But twelve dead in two weeks was statistically impossible. They had to keep looking for a cause; something they all had in common.  The found the first one by looking at the time of death; all twelve died between 11 p.m. and 7:00 in the morning.

At PGH, eleven o’clock at night to seven o’clock in the morning was known by all as, ‘the graveyard shift.’

When they cross-referenced employee schedules with the date, and time of death for those patients, they found one name that came up all twelve times–Lee ‘Roy’ Hargrave Jr. Going back further, they found even more instances where Hargrave was on duty the same night other patients died suddenly, and unexpectedly.

Not only was he there on those same nights, Hargrave was the one who called for a code blue in most of those cases.

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Lee “Roy” Hargrave Jr.

In 1974, Hargrave was a twenty-one-year-old nurse’s aide who once dreamed of becoming a doctor before he flunked out of college his second semester. High school friends and college classmates who knew him, described Hargrave as an affable young man but a loner who kept to himself mostly. They recalled he was interested in the occult, supernatural, and the Salem witchcraft trials.

During his short time at Randolph Macon College from 1971-72, a small nodule of unknown origin had grown on the left side of Hargrave’s neck. Doctor’s did not know what it was and didn’t seem to think it was serious. However, Hargrave told several classmates he had leukemia and was dying.

To encourage that belief, Hargrave had ‘fainting spells,’ missed classes often ‘for medical reasons,’ and wore long sleeve shirts to cover-up rubber tubes supposedly attached to his arms. However, this just attracted more attention since the tubes were clearly visible extending beyond his shirtsleeve.

In a 1974 interview, Hargrave’s parents told a reporter for the Petersburg Progress-Index their son did not have leukemia.

“But he apparently led others to believe he was dying,” Jim Greenfield wrote in his ‘sob-sister’ feature story. Greenfield dodged an explanation to why he did it, but others speculated Hargrave lied about having terminal cancer to cover up for his poor academic performance. In high school, he earned a D and an F over two semesters in chemistry (an important subject to learn for anyone wanting to become a medical doctor). His teacher described him as a quitter; when things got too tough, Harvgrave stopped trying.

During the summer of 1971, after he graduated high school and before attending the small, private college in Ashland, Virginia, Hargrave found a part-time job as a nurses-aid at Petersburg General Hospital. When Hargrave returned home from Ashland in 1972, he also returned to his old part-time position.

In Greenfield’s article for the Petersburg Progress-Index, he wrote that 1972 was a difficult time for the Hargrave family; young Roy’s mother was recently diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, and the plant where Roy Sr., was employed was having problems. Work was unsteady, which meant his paycheck was unsteady, and his wife, Mary C. Hargrave, needed medical treatment. The bills were piling up.

Young Hargrave was needed at home. His dream of returning to college to become a doctor was placed on indefinite hold.

Hargrave worked as a part-time nurses-assistant for two more years before the hospital offered him a full-time position in April 1974. Like many new hires to shift work, Hargrave was assigned to the graveyard shift, 11 p.m. to seven o’clock in the morning.

A few weeks later, patient mortality on the coronary unit slowing began to increase. Then, it spiked suddenly when twelve patients died during a two-week period in May and June 1974. That was the anomaly that caught the attention of hospital supervisors. Their internal review narrowed it down to Hargrave as having some sort of connection to those deaths.

But this was a hospital investigation, not a police one. They wanted to be one hundred percent confident in any action they took. During those last two weeks in June, Hargrave was ‘under surveillance,’ by his superiors. High-ranking nurses, doctors, and others were watching him carefully.

Not carefully enough, unfortunately.

During the last week of June, five more non-risk patients died overnight while Hargrave was on duty. They included John Edward Harris, 64, June 23; Martha Jane Avery, 80, June 25; Thomas Wesley Wray, 85; June 29, and Josephine L Thomas, 73, June 30.

It was the last one that got him.

Her death erased any doubts with hospital staff who “were stunned by her sudden and inexplicable demise,” a crime magazine later reported. Retired schoolteacher Josephine L. Thomas was in good physical condition, and strong for her age. Staff members did not regard her as particularly ill, and knew she would soon be released.

A nurse, who later testified against him, said: “that within two minutes of the drug-induced seizure which ended Miss Thomas’ life, Hargrave had gone down the hall of the progressive unit toward the patient’s room, and then was the only employee in that section of the unit.”

Hargrave had a special talent for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Looking back over their records, hospital investigators calculated that Hargrave called for 26 of the last 31 “code blue” alerts. When a heart patient was dying or dead, he was the one who sounded the alarm 84 percent of the time. It was another statistical impossibility.

Later that morning, Hargrave was “laid-off” due to staff cutbacks, the hospital told him.

An investigation into the unexplained deaths progressed quietly, carried out by the Virginia Commonwealth Attorney and his assistant, as well as the state medical examiner and toxicologist, with the further cooperation of staff members at Petersburg Hospital. Law enforcement would not be involved until the very end.

Blood and tissue samples from Josephine Thomas were sent to the state lab where it was handled by the chief toxicologist. The results from the gas chromatograph revealed the killer’s secret weapon: Thomas died from a lethal dose of lidocaine, a drug that depresses activity of the heart muscle to the point it will stop moving. The 73-year-old retired schoolteacher was never prescribed lidocaine. In fact, a cardiologist would have no reason to prescribe a heart patient a medication that would lead to heart failure.

 

Arrest, More Victims, and Trial

HARGRAVE WAS INDICTED and arrested on August 14 for the murder of Josephine Thomas.

Over the next two months, the bodies of more patients who died that June were exhumed, and tests revealed five of them died from lethal doses of lidocaine. Hargrave was charged with first-degree murder in those cases as well. They included: John E. Harris, 64; Martha Avery, 84; Thomas Wesley Wray, 85; Robert Wyche; and Leonard Hudson Sr. He pleaded not guilty to all the charges.

Following thirty-five days of mental observation in a state hospital, in which his letters home to his parents were made public in newspapers, Hargrave’s trial for the first-degree murder of Josephine Thomas began on May 3, 1975.

The case against him was overwhelming with 29 prosecution witnesses testifying over six days. When Hargrave took the stand in his own defense, the prosecutor’s cross-examination boxed him into a corner and most of his answers consisted of “I don’t know,” and “I don’t recall.”

When asked if he had once told his cellmate that he had ‘killed elderly people for kicks,’ Hargrave answered, “I don’t remember.”

“You deny it, or don’t remember?” the prosecution asked again.

“I don’t remember,” Hargrave repeated.

In addition to hospital coworkers who testified they witnessed Hargrave doing or saying things suspicious things, two male patients also testified against him. In two separate incidents, Hargrave entered their room with no explanation, and asked them to roll over on their side. Doing so directed their attention away from their IV drip where Hargrave inject something into the tube. In those separate incidents, both men were suspicious of Hargrave, protested his presence, and turned to look to see what he was doing when they saw him inject the unknown substance into their IV.

 A short time after he left those rooms, both men said the suffered medical complications that required the attention of a physician and several nurses.

On May 8, after two hours of deliberation, the jury found Lee Roy Hargrave Jr. guilty and the judge sentenced him to life in prison. Shortly after court recessed, Hargrave met with his attorney and parents in a small witness room to discuss an appeal. With a guard standing nearby, Hargrave entered a restroom and then returned thirty seconds later.

After a few minutes went by, he collapsed on his mother.

Hargrave was taken to the hospital and treated for a drug overdose. When he was in the bathroom, he swallowed approximately thirty pills of valium and Elavil, an anti-depressant. The medication belonged to his mother who took them for her multiple-sclerosis and depression.

He was never in any real danger.

In 1975, a sentence of “life in prison” did not mean “life in prison.” Hargrave’s life sentence actually meant he would be eligible for parole in fifteen years. He was never tried for the other five murders.

 

Parole and Seclusion

In November 2009, after serving thirty-five years in prison, the Virginia Parole Board granted parole to Lee Roy Hargrave Jr. according to the laws in place at the time of his conviction. He was quietly released on December 31, 2009. The parole board did not notify the media they had released a suspected serial-killer into the community until two months later.

Over the last twenty years, only one newspaper in the country has reported on this (suspected) serial killer—the same newspaper that serves the community he affected the most, the Petersburg Progress-Index.

Their first article on Hargrave’s release was published 60 days later, on March 4, 2010. Their front-page headline story retold the story for readers, and also shed more light on Hargrave’s peculiar hobbies.

He acknowledged at the trial that he had an interest in communicating with the dead, holding Ouija board sessions “in lieu of beer parties.” He also kept a list of the people who died in the coronary care unit.

A neighbor and close friend of Hargrave told the media during the trial that Hargrave had a longstanding interest in the occult and believed he had supernatural powers given to him by the “forces of evil.”

Others who knew Hargrave described him as a loner and confirmed his interest in the supernatural. But his mother told a reporter at the time that Hargrave was a normal young man who “especially enjoyed the little old ladies” when he worked at the hospital.

The Progress-Index, Mar 4, 2010

The March 4, 2010, article said no contact information for Roy Hargrave was released by the parole board, and the reporter was unable to locate the then 56 years-old. The Virginia parole board assigned him to their district 41, which includes Hanover and Caroline counties. In 2010, it wasn’t clear why the parole board sent him to that particular district.

The answer to that question came in 2012 when Hargrave’s father died on March 18, in Ashland, Virginia, which is Hanover County. After serving bravely in World War II, Lee Roy Hargrave Sr. graduated from Randolph-Macon College in Ashland sometime in the early 1950s—the same school Roy Jr., was “separated from for academic deficiencies.”

Roy Sr., loved his son and always believed in his innocence, and he was to say as much in death. In his short obituary that can be found online, it reads:

Hargrave, Lee Roy, Sr., 86, of Ashland, passed away on Sunday, March 18, 2012. He is survived by his wife of 61 years, Mary C. Hargrave; a son, Lee Roy Hargrave, Jr.; and his brother, Col. C. E. Hargrave (U.S. Army Ret.). He is also survived by his special children, Nicki and Mercedes (his cats). Mr. Hargrave was a U.S. Marine Vet serving at Iwo Jima during WWII. Funeral services were private at Forest Lawn Cemetery.

In 2015, Roy Sr.’s brother, mentioned in his obituary as a retired army Colonel, died in 2015. In his obituary available online, sister-in-law Mary C. Hargrave of Ashland; and nephew Lee R. Hargrave Jr. of Ashland are listed as survivors.

That was the last time suspect serial killer Roy Hargrave Jr.’s name is posted on the internet, or in digital newspaper archive services. There is also no record of either one of them passing away since listed in the 2015 obituary. If mother and son are still alive, they are likely living together in their Ashland family home.

Although this case received national coverage in 1974 and 75, it appears as if only handful of people today remember this ‘angel of death’ suspected serial killer who was once charged with five other murders, and could have been responsible for 12 to 26 victims total.

For legal purposes, the HistoricalCrimeDetective.com blog’s position about Lee Roy Hargrave Jr., is he is a “suspected serial killer.” He has not been convicted of two or more murders, or confessed to any murder, in addition to his 1975 conviction.

Read More… Read this 1991 feature story from the New York Daily News.

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A Tribute for my Mother

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A Tribute for my Mother

Linda L Morrow, 1944 to 2018

A Tribute to my Mother

 

 

 

 


How to Get a Free CD with 35 Vintage True Crime Magazines

Home | New Books | How to Get a Free CD with 35 Vintage True Crime Magazines


Update: October 3, 2018

I want to offer my sincere appreciation to Ron, Jenn, Larry, Sarah, Mia, Howard, & Steve who all took the time to write an Amazon review after reading HCD’s new book, “Vintage True Crime Stories: An Anthology of Forgotten Tales of Muder & Mayhem, Vol I.”

As I promised to them, and all who read the book and write a review, I have just mailed your CD-ROM with 35 vintage true crime magazines. I also loaded it up with 90+ true crime books. That’s over 125 items on the CD-ROM. You now have your own historical true crime library.

The offer of a FREE CD-ROM with 35 magazines and 90+ books is still open to anyone who completes the review. Just write whatever you want there, even if you didn’t care for the book, then email me with your address. And that’s it. I’ll send you this CD loaded up with 125+items.

The Kindle book is available for .99 cents, or you can write to me and I’ll send you a free copy. If you would, please be so kind as to write a review when you have completed it.

You can learn more about the CD and the true crime magazines that are on it by scrolling down further.

 

Posted: September 28, 2018

This offer valid until Sunday, October 14.

I would like to say thank-you to everyone who wrote an Amazon review for HCD’s recently published book, Vintage True Crime Stories Volume I. To thrive in that online marketplace, books with lots of reviews appear more often than those with only a few or none.

Vintage True Crime StoriesSince it’s release two weeks ago, 4 reviews have been posted for Vintage True Crime Stories and that’s a good start.

To show my appreciation to those 4 book reviewers, I will be sending them a unique gift— a CD-ROM* (DVD+R) with 35 vintage true crime magazines published between 1925 and 1960.

These magazines are scanned, digital pdf files of the original magazines published long ago. With the disc, readers can copy and transfer these files to smartphones, tablets, laptops, and cloud accounts to be read anywhere at anytime.

On eBay, original copies of these magazines sell in the $10 to $30 range. At a $15 average, these 35 copies would cost $525.

If you enjoy reading about true crime and vintage true crime, you will love this collection of old “Detective” magazines. To get your very own CD-ROM, follow the illustrated instructions in this really cool infograph.

The really, really, really cool infograph shows exactly what’s on the CD, and how EASY IT IS to get one.

[*The CD-ROM is actually a DVD+R disc which has 7x more memory. Describing the disc as a DVD is potentially confusing to those who think of that medium for movies and music only. A CD-ROM is understood by all to mean a disc with data files, or read only files, and is why that term was used.]

This offer valid until Sunday, October 4.

free true crime magazines

 

Only .99 cents on Amazon Kindle: Vintage True Crime Stories: An Illustrated Anthology of Forgotten Tales of Murder & Mayhem.

 

 

 


Chapter 17 of “Vintage True Crime Stories V-1,” The Collins Case, Topeka, 1898

Home | Feature Stories, New Books | Chapter 17 of “Vintage True Crime Stories V-1,” The Collins Case, Topeka, 1898


[September 7, 2018]  Posted below for your consideration is Chapter 17 from the first volume of a new anthology series presented by HCD Publishing entitled, Vintage True Crime Stories: An Illustrated Anthology of Forgotten Cases of Murder & Mayhem, Volume I, 314 pages.

The book will be released on Amazon Kindle this coming Monday, September 10. A hard copy of the book is already available on Amazon for $14.99. Distribution of the digital book through other venues will continue over the next several weeks.

All the books in this series, including Volume I, will have a corresponding companion webpage where readers can  browse through additional images, illustrations, maps, genealogy files, court documents, relevant excerpts from vintage magazines and books, and pdf files of old newspaper stories that were published during the many stages of each criminal case.

The link to the companion webpage for volume one is at the end of this story.

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Story by Thomas Furlong, Fifty Years a Detective, 1912

NO CRIME COMMITTED IN THE West in recent years was surrounded with more mystery than was the murder of James S. Collins which occurred in Topeka, Kansas, in the spring of 1898 (May 13). Mister Collins was slain while asleep beside his wife in their home. The weapon used was a shotgun, and one or two of the shot struck the wife’s shoulder, making slight, though painful wounds.

The murdered man had been a prominent insurance and real estate man of the Kansas capitol, where he had lived for many years and was well known to most citizens of that city, as well as throughout the entire state. In fact, he was considered one of the state’s most prominent citizens. At the time of his murder, he was about fifty-five years of age, had a wife, one daughter, and a son, John.

The Collins family occupied a comfortable home in Topeka. John, the only son, was a student at the state university at Lawrence, Kansas, where he was being prepared for the ministry. He had been a student at Lawrence for two or three years before his father’s murder. He boarded at the school and occasionally visited his home in Topeka, usually on Sundays and holidays.

The Collins home, which was one of the best on the state capitol’s most prominent residential thoroughfares, was disturbed early one morning by the discharge of a gun in the sleeping room occupied by Mr. Collins and his wife, which was situated on the ground floor. Mr. Collins had been shot and died instantly, and his wife, as stated above, received one or two grains of coarse shot in her shoulder. Other occupants of the house that morning were Miss Collins, a young lady of about eighteen years of age, and John Collins Jr. Both of them occupied rooms on the second floor of the house. There was also a servant girl in the house. It was in the early part of the summer, and the windows were all screened with wire. John, apparently aroused by the shot that killed his father, dressed hastily and aroused the nearest neighbors. It was at an early hour in the morning but after daylight.

The police were sent for and, on their arrival, ascertained that the doors of the house were all intact and carefully locked; however, a window screen in the rear of the house on the second floor was found to have been cut, leaving a hole large enough for the passage of a human body. This window was directly above a one-story addition to the main building in the rear.

After the police finished their investigation of the premises, they arrived at the conclusion that the murderer must have entered the house with a key. After he shot Mr. Collins, he escaped by going up the main stairs to the second floor, down the hall to where the wire screen to the window had been cut and jumped out of the window onto the roof of the one-story addition. He then jumped down to the ground, a distance of about ten or twelve feet, and in that way made his escape.

The murder created a great sensation because of Mr. Collins’s high standing in the community. A number of the more influential citizens of Topeka, who were friends of his, formed a committee for the purpose of locating the murderer and having him brought to justice. These gentlemen wired me at my St. Louis office, asking me to come to Topeka to investigate the case. I went to Topeka at once, arriving there, if I remember right, the third day after the murder had been committed.

I reported to the gentleman who was chairman of the committee and at once began my investigation by examining the premises where the murder occurred. I interviewed the widow, who was Mr. Collins’s second wife, her stepdaughter, and her stepson, John Collins. Mrs. Collins was a woman between thirty-six and forty years of age, of the brunette type, rather above the medium height and inclined to be slender. She was very attractive and considered a good-looking woman, intelligent, and refined.

Miss Collins was also above the medium height, nice-looking, well educated, and intelligent.

John Collins had just passed his twenty-first birthday, was about five-feet-eight- or nine-inches tall, light brown hair, fair complexioned, well built, pleasing in manner and a very fine-looking young man.

After I had consumed about four days in my investigation, I became satisfied in my own mind that the murder had been committed by some person who belonged in the house and that the house had not been entered by an outsider. I had discovered that Mr. Collins had been killed with his own shotgun, a high-priced firearm, which he always kept in a leather case, usually placed on the upper shelf of a clothes closet in his bedroom. This closet was unusually large and extended from the floor to the ceiling. The ceiling being very high, an ordinary-sized man could not reach the shelf where the gun was kept without the aid of a stepladder, or possibly, it could have been reached by a tall person while standing on a high table.

Mr. Collins had not used his gun for months before the murder, and it had always been his custom after using the weapon to clean it thoroughly, take it apart, and pack it in the case. It was, therefore, necessary for the murderer to take this gun case from the shelf, put it together and load it with the ammunition, which was also kept on the high shelf. None of this could have been accomplished by any outside person without having been discovered by one of the residents of the house.

I also learned that John Collins had left his lodgings at Lawrence on the evening preceding the murder, going to Topeka and directly to his home, where, he claimed, he retired for the night at an early hour. He also claimed that he remained there until aroused by the shot that killed his father. I also learned that the young man had formed the acquaintance of a very estimable and wealthy young lady (Frances Adelaide Babcock) at Lawrence, with whom he had become infatuated. He had paid a lot of attention to her for months, and finally, she had informed him that her mother had decided to purchase or lease a cottage at Long Branch in which to spend the summer months.

I surmised that when he learned that she intended to accompany her mother to Long Branch for the summer, young Collins feared his sweetheart would meet one of the many fortune hunters who frequent the resort during the summer months, thus endangering his chances of winning her. Since that was unacceptable to him, Collins made up his mind to do all he could to spend the summer at Long Branch to guard his young lady friend from the unwanted, indecent, lecherous, salaciously sinful flirtations of other young men, who, of course, might possibly be taller, more handsome, and more clever.

The elder Mr. Collins had been considered to be wealthier than he really was at the time of his death. He had met with financial reverses and really had but little more than his home in Topeka when he was murdered, but he was carrying thirty-thousand-dollars insurance on his life, ten thousand to his wife and ten thousand to each of his children.

Having secured the above information, I sent one of my operatives, J.S. Manning, to Lawrence, Kansas, with instructions to quietly ascertain all that he could as to the habits of the young man Collins and his associates. Mr. Manning’s investigation there developed that young Collins had been spending considerable money on buying flowers, carriage hires, and entertainment. He had no means of defraying these expenses other than twenty-five dollars a month allowed him by his father for that purpose. Mr. Manning also learned there were a couple of black hack drivers (a horse and carriage taxi) in Lawrence who had been patronized by the younger Collins.

Upon receipt of this information from Mr. Manning, I sent Dell F. Harbaugh, who was then in my employ, to Lawrence. Mr. Harbaugh had lived in Lawrence, Kansas, for a number of years before he entered my service. He had been in the livery business there and had been a hack driver. He was personally acquainted with the black drivers mentioned before, but these men did not know that he was now in the secret service work. For this reason, Mr. Harbaugh saw it was easy to find out everything that the hack drivers knew about John Collins.

 After renewing their acquaintance, Harbaugh learned from them that Collins had approached them and entered into a verbal contract to kill his father for a certain sum of money, part of which he had paid at the time the agreement was made, he agrees to pay the balance after the murder had been committed.

They told Harbaugh that they had no intention of attempting to murder Mr. Collins but had promised John they would do so to work him for what money they could get out of him, knowing, as they did, that he dare not expose them when they failed to carry out their agreement.

The murder was to have been committed on or before a certain date. The date passed and Mr. Collins still lived, whereupon John became anxious and admonished the hack drivers who had hustled him. They told him that they were entitled to more money than what he had agreed to pay them, and he gave them an additional one-hundred dollars, as well as a gold watch his father had presented to him on his twenty-first birthday.

This money young Collins had secured by borrowing from his friends, and through bank drafts he had drawn on his father’s account, as we later learned. There was then another date set for the murder to be committed by the hack drivers. When that day arrived and passed, young Collins again yelled at the drivers for not having carried out their agreement. They coolly informed him that they had concluded that if his father had to be killed, that he had better do the killing himself. They positively would not commit the crime and, in fact, they had never intended to do so.

Upon hearing this, young Collins became desperate and left Lawrence and went to Topeka. There, he killed his father in his sleep with his own shotgun.

When this evidence was obtained, I reported it to the gentlemen who had employed me, and they then decided to hand my report over to the prosecuting attorney at Lawrence. At the request of the prosecuting attorney, the county commissioners at Topeka employed me to complete the evidence so that Collins could be arrested and prosecuted for the murder of his father.

John Collins was immediately arrested, placed in jail without bond, and in due time the case came to trial. The trial caused a great deal of interest in the community because the elder Mr. Collins was so well known, and the killing had been done in a mysterious manner.

The trial attracted great attention throughout the entire country. All of the leading western papers had special reporters present, and all the sensational features were “played up” (as newspapermen call it) as they developed. The courtroom was crowded, and many noted lawyers were also in attendance to watch the legal battle, which at times waxed very warm as all the counsel on both sides were very able men. Prosecuting Attorney Aaron P. Jetmore was at his best, making one of the greatest fights I ever saw to get his evidence before the jury.

Among the spectators for almost the entire trial was the late Justice David Josiah Brewer of the United States Supreme Court at Washington. He was visiting his daughter, who was the wife of the prosecuting attorney, Mr. Jetmore. At the close of the case, Mr. Justice Brewer complimented me very highly for my work in solving the mystery.

During the trial, a great many people got the idea that I had been employed by the insurance companies, believing that the companies were trying to avoid payment of the thirty-thousand-dollars insurance by proving that the son had killed his father. This opinion was erroneous. The people who employed me in this case were citizens of Topeka and lodge friends of the murdered man. They were not connected with the insurance companies relevant to the case, and they were only good and law-abiding citizens seeking justice. As soon as I had satisfied them that John Collins was the murderer, they immediately turned the evidence over to the proper state authorities.

The trial lasted more than a week. Collins was defended by two of the most prominent attorneys at that bar. They labored earnestly and to the best of their ability to clear him, but he was found guilty of murder and sent to the state prison to await the governor’s action in fixing the date of his execution. However, it has always been the custom in Kansas for the governor to never set the date for execution of one found guilty of murder. The prisoners are usually kept in prison, and a sentence of death in Kansas usually means a life term in the penitentiary.

There has been an effort made by friends of young Collins and the family to obtain a pardon for him, but up to this time, I understand they have not made progress.

I will say here that the black hack drivers from Lawrence took the witness stand for the state against John Collins and produced the watch that he had given them, which had been presented to him by the elder Mr. Collins upon the 21st anniversary of John’s birthday. This watch, with the testimony of the hack drivers, in which they detailed the contract they had made with the younger Collins, all of which was corroborated by circumstances that were not, or could not be, contradicted, led to the conviction of the son for the murder of his father.

Above, a Kansas State Prison mugshot of John Henry Collins taken in 1901. Despite being sentenced to death, Collins served less than ten years for the murder of his father. Following his release, he moved to California. Photo Credit: Kansas State Historical Society, Item Number: 311265.

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Epilogue: John Collins was released from prison a year or two before 1910 when the US Federal Census reports him as living on South Flower Street in a Los Angeles, California, rooming house. The census reports that the thirty-two-year-old was living alone and employed as a hotel clerk. By 1920, he had married Grace Fowler, a twenty-eight-year-old stenographer who worked in a machine shop. He also returned to his first calling, the church, where he worked for the next twenty-five years as a “Practitioner” in Santa Monica, employed on his own account. The couple had one son, William, born in 1921.

John Collins died on February 1, 1945. He was sixty-seven years old. Grace died more than eight years later, on September 6, 1953.

 

Click here to visit the companion webpage for Vintage True Crime Stories Volume I.

 

 

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Infographic for New True Crime Anthology

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The infographic below communicates in a clear and simple way the tedious process of putting an anthology of true crime stories together.

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