Pekin’s last public hanging

By Jared Olar
Library assistant

With this column, we conclude our series on the March 14, 1896 Pekin Daily Times account of the legal hanging of Albert Wallace, the last legal, public hanging in Pekin’s history. Wallace was given the death sentence for his murder of his younger sister Belle Wallace Bowlby in Feb. 1895. The Daily Times report of that day’s execution has been reprinted in the November and December 2016 issues of The Monthly, newsletter of the Tazewell County Genealogical & Historical Society.

The Daily Times news report tells the story of Wallace’s hanging with a high degree of detail such as would be considered morbid if not gruesome if found in a newspaper article today. Newspaper accounts of catastrophes and unnatural or accidental deaths from that period of time characteristically exhibit the same kind of “gory detail,” perhaps in part to help bring the event to life for the reader – though some editors and journalists are known to have opted for lurid sensationalism to increase newspaper sales. In this case, even with the detail, the writing style is not sensationalistic.

Here follows the Pekin Daily Times account of Wallace’s execution:

*****

Albert Wallace was hung this morning for the murder of his sister, Belle Bowlby.

The trap was sprung at 11:09 o’clock. There was a drop of full five feet and his neck was broken. Not once did the poor man betray any signs of fear.

More cool than his executioners he stood on the treacherous trap and quietly looked into the faces of the crowd.

He went to the gallows with his crime unconfessed and his lips sealed against any disclosures.

The sad spectacle had its spectators. There were about two hundred and fifty within the enclosure. And a black line of human figures on the tops of tall buildings along Court street could be seen. These were the morbidly curious people who seemed to make it an imperative duty to witness the execution, even though they were forced to climb to the top of buildings and stand in the cold, bleak air to do it.

From beginning to end, those who officiated at the grewsome (sic) ceremony, went about their task in a mechanical and business-like manner, when once the death procession moved from the jail into the enclosure.

First, came Sheriff Stout, then Sheriff Nicholson, and third, Rev. O. W. Stewart.

Fourth in the procession was Wallace, walking with a firm, free step, his hands at his side. Deputy Sheriff Clark walked with him.

When he reached the bottom of the steps his first glance was directed toward the blue sky to the west. He disdained the scaffold and looked straight ahead as he walked toward the south.

Reaching the foot of the scaffold he ascended it, with slight support on either side. Stepping onto the trap he stood cool and collected and glancing over the crowd to see who he could recognize.

He was too weak and frail after his sickness to escape from the law, but his wrists must be handcuffed and his limbs bound. This was done quickly.

As one of the straps was tightened he remarked:

“You have thrown me off my feet.”

These were the only words he spoke.

Then the dun colored shroud was slipped over his neck. He watched the sheriff adjust it about his lower limbs and seemed anxious to have it just right.

The sheriff then slipped the noose over his head.

It was quickly followed by the cap and Wallace took one last lingering look at the world, as the cap was pulled down.

The rope was quickly drawn taut about his neck, and the sheriff springing back threw the lever. Down went the body like a rocket. It stopped with a sickening thud.

The silence was deathly and the only visible movement were the contortions of the suspended murder[er].

The cord made several turns on itself and Albert Wallace was soon a corpse that swayed to and fro. Drs. Beatty, of Fairview, McCoy, of Pekin, and Hufty, of Delavan, stepped up to examine the body.

It was first given out that the victim had died of strangulation, as the horrible convulsions agitating the frame were taken for breathing.

Later a more thorough examination was made and it was found that the fall had broken his neck.

He was pronounced dead at 11:20, just eleven minutes after the trap was sprung.

Three minutes later he was cut down and placed in the coffin.

The mob made an attempt to tear down the stockade, but failed. Several arrests were made.

The arrival of the coffin created a stir on the outside. It is a plain wooden affair, furnished by the county. It was taken through the jail residence at 9 o’clock and laid at the west of the scaffold.

The jury of physicians was composed of Drs. S. D. Low, A. McCoy, W. O. Cattron, J. I. Skelly, Pekin; Beatty, Fulton county; N. L. Hufty, Delavan; R. D. Bradley, Peoria; A. I. MacLay, Delavan; Schaefer, Morton; Powell, Mackinaw; J. M. Cody, Tremont.

This drawing of Albert Wallace's walk to the gallows and his execution by hanging illustrated the March 14, 1896 Pekin Daily Times report on Wallace's execution, which was the last legal, public hanging in Pekin. IMAGE COURTESY OF THE TAZEWELL COUNTY GENEALOGICAL & HISTORICAL SOCIETY

This drawing of Albert Wallace’s walk to the gallows and his execution by hanging illustrated the March 14, 1896 Pekin Daily Times report on Wallace’s execution, which was the last legal, public hanging in Pekin. IMAGE COURTESY OF THE TAZEWELL COUNTY GENEALOGICAL & HISTORICAL SOCIETY

ADDENDUM: The account of Albert Wallace’s public execution was also reported in the The Tribune of Tazewell County on Thursday, March 19, 1896. The Tribune account, which agrees in almost every particular with the Pekin Daily Times account, was reprinted in the February-March 2017 issues of the Tazewell County Genealogical & Historical Society Monthly.

#albert-wallace, #john-c-bowlby, #murder-of-belle-wallace-bowlby, #rev-stewart, #sheriff-j-e-stout

The Third Degree: Chapter 17: Clash of the medical experts

With this post to our Local History Room weblog, we continue our series on a pair of sensational deaths that occurred in Pekin, Illinois, during the Prohibition Era. The Local History Room columns in this series, entitled “The Third Degree,” originally ran in the Saturday Pekin Daily Times from Sept. 15, 2012, to March 2, 2013.

THE THIRD DEGREE

By Jared Olar
Library assistant

Chapter Seventeen

Clash of the medical experts

Key to the prosecution of Tazewell County Sheriff’s Deputies Ernest Fleming and Charles Skinner for the beating death of jail inmate Martin Virant was the testimony of several medical experts, chief of whom were former Tazewell County Coroner Dr. Arthur E. Allen and Chicago criminologist Dr. William D. McNally.

During the trial of Fleming and Skinner in late February 1933, Allen and McNally gave hours of testimony in order to establish for the jury that after Virant died, his body exhibited extensive internal and external injuries – more than 30 different injuries, including a broken rib, Allen testified – that obviously were not the result of a hanging, and that Virant in fact had died of those injuries before he was hanged.

Other prosecution witnesses had testified that Virant had no visible injuries when he first was brought to the Tazewell County Jail, but the following day, at the inquest of murder victim Lew Nelan, Virant was seen to have several bruises and wounds about his head and neck. Allen corroborated their testimony, describing the injuries that he saw at the Nelan inquest, and telling the jury that Virant was “nervous and excited” and “in pain and distress,” and that he spoke in a voice that “was quite loud.”

On Thursday afternoon, Sept. 1, 1932, around 2:15 p.m., Allen entered Virant’s cell and saw his body hanging in the northeast corner of the cell. Virant’s feet were flat on the floor. Fleming was there, but neither he nor any other member of the jail staff had attempted to cut Virant down. Allen then did so.

“I took my pocket knife in my right hand and slipped my hand around his waist to ease the body to the floor,” Allen said. Virant was a short man and of slight build, and his body did not strike any object as Allen eased it to the floor. Virant had no pulse, but Allen began artificial respiration. “I knew I could get no response but I thought there might be some life left.”

“The body was warm and I heard Deputy Sheriff Fleming say, ‘He couldn’t have been hanging very long.’”

Most troubling, Virant’s body showed none of the usual signs of a hanging death. “Dr. Allen told that he had occasion to observe the body of the deceased closely while performing artificial respiration and that the face had the natural death pallor. The face showed evidence of there being no circulation. He said that the tongue was not swollen neither was there a collection of fluid in the man’s mouth,” the Daily Times reported. “The eyes were not protruding but were partly closed,” Allen testified.

If Virant had died of hanging, Allen said, his body should have had a dark discoloration of the face from the neck up to the face and scalp, a dark discoloration of the lips and tongue, and a swollen and protruding tongue. There could be no doubt, then, that Virant had been hanged after he had lost all blood circulation to his head.

Pekin physicians L. F. Teter and L. R. Clary, who conducted two autopsies on Virant’s body at Allen’s direction, also provided testimony that showed Virant was dead before he was hanged. In particular, they found that Virant had suffered a brain injury due to a concussion. McNally also reiterated his findings at great length, assuring the jury that Virant could not have died of hanging, but rather had died as the result of a vicious beating.

The defense attorneys labored valiantly to rebut the state’s expert testimony, and hostility was at times evident between Allen and Pekin attorney Jesse Black as he persisted in his vain attempts to trip Allen up.

The defense also countered the prosecution’s expert testimony with medical experts of its own, Dr. C. G. Farnum of Peoria, Dr. T. M. Scott of Peterburg, and Dr. R. B. H. Gradwohl of St. Louis, who sharply contradicted key points of the conclusions of Allen, Teter, Clary and McNally.

In particular, Gradwohl, a coroner who had investigated numerous suicidal hangings and had even personally conducted six legal hangings, bluntly rejected the results of McNally’s investigation as “faulty observation.”

According to the state’s witnesses and experts, Virant had been brutally beaten while in custody at the jail, and finally had succumbed to a kind of “shock” resulting from the severity of his wounds.

But, in his testimony on March 1, 1933, Farnum said that Virant could not have been in “shock,” because the autopsy results as well as witnesses at the jail had established that Virant had eaten a meal within an hour of his death. Virant also allegedly attempted to flee when he was taken from the jail to the Nelan inquest. A man suffering from shock could not have done either of those things.

On that point, Farnum was correct. Virant did not die of shock. Based on the autopsies and the known circumstances of Virant’s death, more likely the immediate cause of his death was the brain injury he suffered when the deputies tortured him.

Farnum and Gradwohl also told the jury that embalming alters a dead body in ways that could affect an autopsy’s findings. This was potentially important, because both of the autopsies conducted by Teter and Clary, as well as McNally’s examinations, took place after Virant had been embalmed. Farnum implied that even the apparent evidence of Virant’s concussion and bleeding in his brain could have been caused by the embalming.

Finally, Farnum and Gradwohl contradicted the conclusion of the state’s experts that Virant’s bruises had been inflicted prior to his death. They explained that if a body is injured just before death or very soon after death (but before blood circulation has been lost), bruising can result. This would form an important part of the defense’s alternate scenario of how Virant died and why his body appeared to have been horrifically beaten.

However, none of the defense’s experts attempted to counter the evidence that Virant showed none of the usual signs of a hanging death. The defense attorneys would attempt to destroy the credibility of that evidence through other means.

Next week: The defense pleads its case.

Defense attorneys in the Martin Virant jail death trial in Feb.-March 1933 called upon several medical experts who disputed the verdict of the coroner's inquest jury and the prosecutions experts who said Virant was dead before he was hanged.

Defense attorneys in the Martin Virant jail death trial in Feb.-March 1933 called upon several medical experts who disputed the verdict of the coroner’s inquest jury and the prosecutions experts who said Virant was dead before he was hanged.

#c-g-farnum, #charles-skinner, #coroner-arthur-e-allen, #dr-william-d-mcnally, #ernest-fleming, #jesse-black, #l-f-teter, #l-r-clary, #lew-nelan, #martin-virant, #r-b-h-gradwohl, #t-m-scott, #the-third-degree

Albert Wallace’s last night

By Jared Olar
Library assistant

This week we continue the March 14, 1896 Pekin Daily Times account of the legal hanging of Albert Wallace, who had murdered his younger sister Belle Wallace Bowlby in 1895. The Daily Times report of that day’s execution has been reprinted in the November and December 2016 issues of The Monthly, newsletter of the Tazewell County Genealogical & Historical Society.

The Daily Times report told of Wallace’s final night on earth in two sections, the first headlined “WALLACE’S LAST NIGHT,” with the subheadline “It Was Thought He Had Taken Poison – Did Not Want to Sleep,” and the second headlined, “LEARNED HIS FATE,” with the subheadline, “Said He Preferred Death But Would Like to Have Fooled His Enemies.” For the purposes of chronology, the order of those two sections has been reversed below:

*****

This drawing of Tazewell County Sheriff J. E. Stout illustrated the March 14, 1896 Pekin Daily Times report on the hanging of cold-blooded murderer Albert Wallace. IMAGE COURTESY OF THE TAZEWELL COUNTY GENEALOGICAL & HISTORICAL SOCIETY

This drawing of Tazewell County Sheriff J. E. Stout illustrated the March 14, 1896 Pekin Daily Times report on the hanging of cold-blooded murderer Albert Wallace. IMAGE COURTESY OF THE TAZEWELL COUNTY GENEALOGICAL & HISTORICAL SOCIETY

The news that the governor had declined to interfere was broken to Wallace as he sat in his cell about 6 o’clock last evening.

Father Kelly had gone to the jail to see if the condemned man wished his services. Sheriff Stout asked him if he wished to see the reverend gentleman and Wallace replied, “He can do me no good.” He then asked, “Have you heard anything from Springfield?”

“Yes,” said the sheriff.

“Well, what is the news?” asked Wallace.

The sheriff replied that the governor had declined to interfere and that he thought best to tell him.

Wallace replied that he “would rather know it than be kept in suspense.”

He asked that his sisters be sent to him as soon as they arrived.

Mrs. Quinn came up at 6:52 p. m. on the C. P. & St. L. She had been present at the hearing and she bore up with great fortitude. She had previously been informed by her brother’s attorneys that she should prepare for the worst, and had there been any good news, it would have been more of a surprise than was the governor’s decision. Mrs. Planck, the other sister, met Mrs. Quinn and together they went to the jail. There was a sad meeting as it was the last time the three were to be together. When the sisters expressed regret that the governor had not interfered, Wallace said:

“I would rather die than live in the penitentiary. The only thing was I wished to beat those people who wanted to see me hang. You have done all you could for me, so don’t worry and fret. I will be better off but it is hard for me to bear.” He was much affected by the consultation with the sisters and sobbed repeatedly.

At the end of fifteen minutes his sisters parted from him. The parting had been too much for Mrs. Quinn, weakened as she was by the work and worry of many weeks, and it was necessary to carry her down the stairs. Reaching the bottom she fainted and it was with difficulty that she was revived.

She left for Tremont on the evening train, taking the manuscript that Wallace had written during the last days of his life. What this is may never be made public, though it seemed to be the writer’s wish that some portions of it be given out.

*****

The Tazewell County Sheriff's Office constructed a wooden gallows and stockade next to the county jail in preparation for the hanging of Albert Wallace. This drawing of the jail and gallows stockade illustrated the March 14, 1896 Pekin Daily Times account of Wallace's hanging. IMAGE COURTESY OF THE TAZEWELL COUNTY GENEALOGICAL & HISTORICAL SOCIETY

The Tazewell County Sheriff’s Office constructed a wooden gallows and stockade next to the county jail in preparation for the hanging of Albert Wallace. This drawing of the jail and gallows stockade illustrated the March 14, 1896 Pekin Daily Times account of Wallace’s hanging. IMAGE COURTESY OF THE TAZEWELL COUNTY GENEALOGICAL & HISTORICAL SOCIETY

Wallace did not want to sleep last night.

He became very nervous early in the evening, and drank often, evidence of a feverish thirst.

He was given the freedom of the upper part of the jail, a privilege he seemed to want. There were three guards over him. These were Messrs. Chapman, Hatch, and Poebel.

He had slipped away from them once and gone down to the south end of the aisle between the top cells. When Death Watch Chapman started down to overtake him, he found Wallace at the bath tub, with a tin cup in his hand acting mysteriously. He hastily set the cup down, and Chapman emptied the contents out. Wallace appeared confused, and for several minutes sat on the tub, looking sullen and saying nothing.

He was taken ill soon afterward, and his pain was so intense that Dr. Harry V. Bailey was sent for. He administered an opiate hypodermically.

“If I had known you were going to do that, I would have stopped you,” said Wallace.

“It is good for you,” replied the doctor.

“If that is good for me,” retorted Wallace, “I don’t know myself.”

The pain continued, but he grew drowsy. This he attempted to fight off, saying that he wanted to keep awake. He succeeded, and his symptoms growing more uncomfortable, Dr. Bailey was again sent for, but Wallace refused to take any medicine. Much alarm resulted. It was feared that he had taken poison and was attempted to fulfill his boastful promises that he would not be hung, no matter what the courts or governor did. His illness was watched with much solicitude. At 1 o’clock this morning he asked for the TIMES, but it has not thought best to permit him to read. He was very weak, and had to be supported by the guards when he walked.

After an unusually bad spell, the stomach was relieved of its burden. Though weak and pale, he expressed himself as feeling better and by 2:30 o’clock he was asleep. Before he went to sleep Rev. Stewart offered up a long prayer, Wallace kneeling on the floor of his cell.

Rev. Stewart was constantly with him until 3:30 but the confusion that resulted from Wallace’s sickness, prevented any conversation on religious matters.

The guards were thrown out early in the evening and patrolled the square all through the long hours of the night, issuing their hoarse challenges to any who crossed the picket line.

Inside the jail, Winchester rifles were stacked in the corners and belts of cartridges were on tables ready for immediate use in the event of any trouble. It was not believed that any attempt would be made to tear down the enclosure but the sheriff did not wish to take any chance.

Wallace was astir at 5 o’clock. It was thought that he might weaken as gray dawn came. The light, however, which crept in through the east windows did not in the least affect him. He did not even become nervous as he awoke to a realization that the fatal day had dawned.

He was mindful of little matters and when his favorite guard dozed at one time he reached over and tapped him on the shoulder, that he might not be caught napping.

In conversation with one of the watch he said, “There are some in this town who think I am afraid to die, but when their time comes they will die harder than I. If they think I am afraid they are badly mistaken.”

It was expected that Wallace would order an elaborate breakfast this morning, the last meal before he crosses the dark river, but he surprised the cook at the jail by making the request for a simple meal of eggs, meat and potatoes, and a cup of coffee, identically the same breakfast allowed the other prisoners. In addition, however, the cook tucked in a big wedge of chocolate cake, as Wallace had a weakness for it. He ate the meal in silence but with an apparent good appetite.

In speaking about religion, one of the last things Wallace said was, “I have read my Bible, and I wish I could believe in a hereafter. There is one passage which urges us to forgive and forget, but I would rather go on the scaffold, die and go to hell, than forgive some of the people who testified against me at my trial.”

*****

Next week: Pekin’s last public hanging

#albert-wallace, #dr-harry-v-bailey, #father-kelly, #murder-of-belle-wallace-bowlby, #rev-stewart, #sheriff-j-e-stout

The Third Degree: Chapter 16: The courtroom theatrics of Attorney Black

With this post to our Local History Room weblog, we continue our series on a pair of sensational deaths that occurred in Pekin, Illinois, during the Prohibition Era. The Local History Room columns in this series, entitled “The Third Degree,” originally ran in the Saturday Pekin Daily Times from Sept. 15, 2012, to March 2, 2013.

THE THIRD DEGREE

By Jared Olar
Library assistant

Chapter Sixteen

The courtroom theatrics of Attorney Black

Three days into the manslaughter trial of Tazewell County Sheriff’s Deputies Ernest Fleming and Charles Skinner, who were accused of causing the Sept. 1, 1932 death of jail inmate Martin Virant, prosecutors had made great progress in laying out their case.

Ample witness testimony had established that Virant was uninjured when he first came to the jail on Aug. 30, but somehow had acquired several noticeable injuries about the head and neck by the time he was brought to the Lew Nelan murder inquest on Aug. 31. Testimony from jail inmate Elizabeth Spearman of Peoria also strongly suggested that Virant’s injuries had been caused by Skinner and Fleming.

In response, during cross examination the deputies’ attorneys, Jesse Black Jr. and William J. Reardon, diligently attempted to discredit or throw doubt upon the testimony of the state’s witnesses. Black and Reardon were both retired Tazewell County judges, and their great legal skill and extensive courtroom experience were prominently displayed during this trial.

Black’s style and personality often broke up the trial’s tedium and monotony, though it wasn’t always clear whether his approach was helping or harming the defense. At times Black’s enthusiasm could get the better of him, and Judge Guy Williams would have to admonish him for being too aggressive or too hostile in his cross examination.

Black also reveled in the use of his own body, or the body of co-attorney Reardon, as if they were exhibits for the defense.

One of those times came on Feb. 23, 1933, during Black’s cross examination of Edward Jackson, embalmer at Kuecks Funeral Home, who was present at the Lew Nelan inquest and saw that Virant was hurt.

“I noticed that his right ear was black and his neck down to his shirt collar was black and what I took to be blood on his shirt collar,” Jackson said, also noting “a black spot that looked like coagulated blood under the skin or a bruise on the back of his neck.”

Also, after Virant died, Jackson took his body from the jail to back to Kuecks. Jackson saw that Virant had two black eyes, the right ear was black, the neck was black, and he had about six large bruises in the middle of his back and on the shoulder blade.

As he questioned Jackson, Black asked him to explain how he embalmed Virant’s body. Black took off his jacket so Jackson could “demonstrate” embalming on his own body, but the demonstration didn’t get very far before Judge Williams upheld the state’s objection that Black’s line of questioning was irrelevant.

Probably the liveliest – and no doubt the most (unintentionally) humorous – moment of the trial came on Feb. 24, during Black’s cross examination of former Tazewell County Coroner Dr. Arthur E. Allen.

An absolutely crucial element of the defense’s strategy was to cast as much doubt as possible upon the findings of investigators that Virant was already dead prior to being hanged, and to try to undermine the credibility of the prosecution’s expert witnesses. Black had already attacked Allen’s honesty and impartiality in the press, so there probably was no love lost between the two men as they faced off against each other during an occasionally testy or even heated cross examination at the Menard County Courthouse.

So it was that the Pekin Daily Times headlined its story of Black’s confrontation of Allen, “BLACK SQUIRMS WITH NECK IN STRAP,” giving it the subheadline, “Ex-Coroner And Ex-Judge Furnish Court Example of Hanging; Ends In Laughter.”

An unintentionally humorous episode in the Martin Virant jail hanging trial was featured on the front page of the Pekin Daily Times on Feb. 24, 1933.

An unintentionally humorous episode in the Martin Virant jail hanging trial was featured on the front page of the Pekin Daily Times on Feb. 24, 1933.

Daily Times staff writer Mildred Beardsley reported, “Attorney Jesse Black’s penchant for acting things out in court nearly resulted today in giving the jury first hand information about how a hanging man looks . . .

“Facing each other were Ex-Coroner A. E. Allen, the witness, and Ex-Judge Jesse Black, defense lawyer who was cross examining the witness. They had been glaring at each other all day, the examination of Allen having taken practically all day long.

“Attorney Black, who is about to wear his coat out taking it off and having different imaginary operations performed upon his body, had asked Dr. Allen to take the ‘death belt’ and ‘show the jury on my wrist how it was tied.’

“State’s attorneys promptly objected that a wrist and neck were far different and Judge Williams ruled that if Black wanted the demonstration it would have to be on his neck.

“Dr. Allen was only too glad to put a strap about Black’s neck and did so.

“‘Tighten it up a little,’ said Black, or words to that effect.

“The next thing the crowd knew, the Pekin attorney was gasping for breath.” (Elsewhere, Beardsley reported that Black protested, “I don’t want you to pull so much.”)

“A few moments more and the jury could have seen first hand the blackened face, the protruding tongue, and the frothing mouth of a hanged man – which is the whole point in dispute in this trial.

“The next time Attorney Black decided to take his coat off, he hesitated, glanced at Judge Williams, changed his mind and left his coat on.”

Next week: Clash of the medical experts.

#charles-skinner, #coroner-arthur-e-allen, #edward-jackson, #elizabeth-spearman, #ernest-fleming, #jesse-black, #judge-guy-williams, #lew-nelan, #martin-virant, #mildred-beardsley, #the-third-degree, #william-reardon

Albert Wallace sentenced to death

By Jared Olar
Library assistant

In our column last week, we presented the Pekin Daily Times account of how Albert Wallace murdered his sister Belle and attempted to murder Belle’s husband John Bowlby, also injuring others at the Bowlby’s farm and causing a fire in the Bowlby home. This account was published in the March 14, 1896 edition of the Daily Times, published the day Wallace was hanged for his crimes.

The Pekin Daily Times report from that day has been reprinted in the November and December 2016 issues of The Monthly, newsletter of the Tazewell County Genealogical & Historical Society. That day’s newspaper also told of Wallace’s trial and conviction, sentence, and appeals, under the headings “INTERESTING CASE,” with the subheadline, “Murderer Lived Between Hope and Fear For Over a Year”; “LEARNED HIS FATE,” with the subheadline, “Said He Preferred Death But Would Like to Have Fooled His Enemies”; and “LAST HOPE DESTROYED,” with the subheadline, “Why the Governor Refused to Commute the Sentence to Life Imprisonment.”

Here follows the Daily Times 1896 account of the legal aspect of these tragic events:

*****

The first legal step after the shooting was the preliminary examination of Wallace before ’Squire Rhodes, Wednesday, February 20th [1895]. There were three charges against him, all for assault with intent to kill and murder. He waived examination and was bound over to the grand jury in the sum of $1,500. Early Thursday morning, February 21st, one of his victims, Belle Bowlby, died.

The coroner’s inquest was conducted Friday, February 22d, by Coroner Bailey. The principal witness was Lawrence Lyman, who said he was positive that it was Albert Wallace, who did the shooting. The verdict was to the effect that Belle Bowlby came to her death from the effects of gun shot wounded inflicted on her person by Albert Wallace. The jury recommended that he be held without bond to await the action of the grand jury.

The grand jury returned an indictment at the May term, 1895. The court appointed W. L. Prettyman and W. A. Potts, attorneys to defend. Then came the arraignment and plea of not guilty; next a motion for continuance on the part of the defendant was made and continued was granted. The cause was continued until the September term of court at which time the case was heard. After a fair and impartial trial, in which a sensation was sprung by the defence (sic) resting their case without calling any witnesses to testify, the jury brought in a verdict of guilty and fixed the penalty at death. The jury was composed of A. M. Chapman, foreman; David S. Birkett, Sebastian Minch, J. M. Sharp, F. M. Gragg, B. B. McClellan, John Umdenstock, Chas. Bailey, George Kent, Louis H. Wehner, S. H. Robison, Frank Webb. The verdict was reached on the third ballot.

At this stage of the case Mrs. Quinn, of Tremont, a sister of the murderer, interested herself in behalf of her brother and engaged G. B. Foster, of Peoria, to assist Messrs. Prettyman and Potts to obtain a new trial.

The case was argued before Judge Green, and a new trial was refused, and Wallace was sentenced to be hung on the 25th day of October, 1895. His attorneys appealed to the supreme court, at Ottawa, and was granted a supersedeas and a stay of proceedings until the case could be heard by the court of last resort.

This sketch of Albert Wallace awaiting his fate in his cell at the Tazewell County Jail illustrated the Pekin Daily Times account of his trial and hanging on March 14, 1896. IMAGE COURTESY OF THE TAZEWELL COUNTY GENEALOGICAL & HISTORICAL SOCIETY

This sketch of Albert Wallace awaiting his fate in his cell at the Tazewell County Jail illustrated the Pekin Daily Times account of his trial and hanging on March 14, 1896. IMAGE COURTESY OF THE TAZEWELL COUNTY GENEALOGICAL & HISTORICAL SOCIETY

When the case was heard, the supreme court, at Springfield, found that Judge Green had erred in fixing the day of execution at more than twenty-five days from the day of sentence, and ordered the court to re-sentence Wallace. Judge Green re-sentenced him on the 19th of February, and March 14th, 1896, was set as the day for his execution.

Since that time his attorney have worked faithfully to have his sentence commuted to inprisonment (sic) in the penitentiary for life. Affidavits, in regard to the insanity of his parents, were procured, and petitions of citizens of the county were presented to the governor, asking him to commute his sentence to imprisonment for life. Counter petitions were procured by States Attorney Saltonstall and T. N. Green, and the case was argued before the governor on the 13th day of March, 1896.

The governor, after hearing the case, decided that he could not interfere, and the law must take its course.

He said, “I am satisfied that if this evidence of insanity were presented to a jury it would fail. As to the grandmother of the condemned man having been insane, it is conclusive; and Mrs. Quinn’s evidence that his mother was insane was strong, but it is shown that the father of Wallace was a rough, drunken man, who abused his family, and a woman treated in the way she was might act in such a way as to cause doubts regarding her sanity. Even if it were reasonably proved that the mother was tainted with insanity, the evidence in the case of this man does not show him insane. The affidavits of people living in the neighborhood, while they indicate that his mind might have been slightly affected, do not show that he could not discriminate between right and wrong. While I think this evidence should have been presented to the jury, I do not believe it would have affected their verdict.”

****

Governor Altgeld was positive in his decision not to interfere in Wallace’s case. He had been sick at Chicago but when he finally got back at his desk in Springfield, and called the attorneys together, he gave it an exhaustive hearing, commencing at 11:30 o’clock yesterday morning and concluding at 3 o’clock in the afternoon.

He inquired closely into the details and seemed desirous of getting the case thoroughly in hand before he took up the critical matter of a commutation. When he had the history of the entire case as he wished it he gave attention to the affidavits, petitions and declarations.

He said it was a peculiarly distressing case, owing to the many tragedies that had brought the Wallace family into public notice, fate seeming to pursue it with a relentless fury and remarkably fatality. First a son was instantly killed by the accidental discharge of a gun, while he was hunting, then Andy Wallace, the father, was shot and killed by Connelly (sic), then came the tragic death of Mrs. Belle Bowlby, and last Albert Wallace, expiating a crime on the gallows. Nevertheless the governor said that he could do nothing.

He held that the matter of insanity should have been tried in the courts. Both the circuit and supreme court, he said, had handled the case and he did not think it right to interfere.

The attorneys for the defense were seen by a TIMES representative on their return from Springfield and said they were not surprised.

When Attorney Foster was asked if anything further would be done, he said, “We have reached the limit; every effort within reason has now been made and it would be foolish to attempt anything further.”

Next week: Wallace’s last night

#albert-wallace, #andrew-wallace, #conn, #gov-john-peter-altgeld, #lawrence-lyman, #murder-of-belle-wallace-bowlby

The Third Degree: Chapter 15: The prosecution painstakingly lays out the case

With this post to our Local History Room weblog, we continue our series on a pair of sensational deaths that occurred in Pekin, Illinois, during the Prohibition Era. The Local History Room columns in this series, entitled “The Third Degree,” originally ran in the Saturday Pekin Daily Times from Sept. 15, 2012, to March 2, 2013.

THE THIRD DEGREE

By Jared Olar
Library assistant

Chapter Fifteen

The prosecution painstakingly lays out the case

On Feb. 21, 1933, the first day of the Martin Virant manslaughter trial in Petersburg, Ill., prosecutors began to build their case that Virant, an inmate at the Tazewell County Jail in Pekin, had been brutally beaten by Sheriff’s Deputies Ernest L. Fleming and Charles O. Skinner.

Virant, a potential witness in the Lew Nelan murder case, was found hanging in his cell on Sept. 1, 1932, but investigators and a coroner’s inquest jury found that he was already dead when he was hanged, and that the hanging had been staged to try to cover up the true cause of death.

Many of the same people who testified at the Virant inquest on Sept. 14, 1932, also testified during the manslaughter trial. For example, the first witness for the prosecution was Frank Franko of Peoria, Virant’s brother-in-law, who repeated for the jury what he had previously testified at the inquest.

Next, the jurors heard testimony from Tazewell County Jail inmate Elizabeth Spearman of Peoria, who provided crucial testimony on behalf of the prosecution regarding Virant’s treatment and statements he made, as well as the injuries he suffered while in the custody of the county’s deputies.

Spearman’s testimony was vital to the state’s case, because, on account of Virant being dead, Judge Guy Williams had excluded as inadmissible hearsay the entirety of Virant’s testimony at the Lew Nelan inquest, when a noticeably injured Virant boldly accused Skinner and other deputies of nearly beating him to death.

After Spearman’s testimony, the state called Peoria attorney Vic Michael, legal counsel for the Virant family who was representing them in a wrongful death lawsuit against Tazewell County Sheriff James J. Crosby. On Sept. 1, Michael had accompanied Virant’s sister and Frank Franko to Pekin to get Virant released from jail.

According to the Pekin Daily Times, “Michael related that he had gone to the sheriff’s office in the courthouse and talked to Deputies Skinner and Fleming. Finally Skinner said, ‘Oh, go get the —– out.’ Skinner started to walk across the yard with Attorney Michael and his party following. Then, related Michael: ‘All of a sudden I saw a newspaper man named Watson of the Pekin paper go by on the right. He ran up the jail steps into the jail. I decided something must be up and I followed. The door was shut, but a lady let me in. Dr. Allen was just pronouncing Virant dead after trying to revive him with artificial respiration.’ Michael related that Virant’s right ear was swollen and he had bruises on the back of his head and a hole in the head was bleeding.”

Like Michael, several other witnesses provided testimony establishing that Virant had no visible injuries when he was first brought to the jail on Aug. 30, 1932, and describing Virant’s injuries that they saw at the Nelan inquest or on his dead body. Among those witnesses was Pekin attorney James St. Cerny, who was called to the stand after Michael and who testified that Virant had no visible injuries when he was booked into the jail.

Similarly, in testimony on the second day of the trial, Feb. 22, 1933, Edward Tucker, East Peoria city clerk, George Reichelderfer, superintendent of East Peoria water works, and Charles Schmidt, East Peoria justice of the peace, all said that Virant had no visible injuries when they saw him with Deputy Skinner in East Peoria on Aug. 30. Frank Virant, however, saw his brother’s body at the undertakers on the day of his death, and noticed “a black spot on his left ear that extended down to his jaw,” which obviously could not have resulted from a hanging.

The next to testify was George Genseal, who, like Virant, had been brought to the jail as a suspect in the Nelan murder case, but subsequently was released. He reiterated what he had said at Virant’s inquest, substantiating key points of Spearman’s testimony. After Genseal, Edward Hufeld, one of the defendants in the Nelan case, was called to the stand.

The detail from a page of the Feb. 22, 1933 edition of the Pekin Daily Times shows a portion of the testimony of Edward Hufeld, who was called as a prosecution witness in the manslaughter trial of two Tazewell County Sheriff's deputies accused of beating and torturing jail inmate Martin Virant to death.

The detail from a page of the Feb. 22, 1933 edition of the Pekin Daily Times shows a portion of the testimony of Edward Hufeld, who was called as a prosecution witness in the manslaughter trial of two Tazewell County Sheriff’s deputies accused of beating and torturing jail inmate Martin Virant to death.

In relating the events of how Virant was found hanging in his cell, Hufeld told much the same story as Genseal. However, Hufeld provided an important additional detail. As the Pekin Daily Times reported on Feb. 22, 1933, Hufeld testified, “When Skinner came into the jail I could hear him when he called up to Martin. He said ‘Martin’ a couple of times. Q. Was he outside the cell then? A. Well, before he went clear up he said, ‘That damn monkey must have hung himself.’”

If Hufeld was remembering truthfully and accurately, this comment would suggest that even before he had ascended the stairs to the upper tier of cells, Skinner already knew he would find Virant dead and hanging.

On the third day of the trial, Feb. 23, the state called H. A. McCance, jury foreman at the Nelan inquest, and asked him to describe Virant’s appearance and demeanor during the inquest. Though Virant’s testimony at the inquest was inadmissible, McCane still was able to tell the jury that Virant appeared to be in pain or distress, and that his face appeared to be in misery.

Also called to describe Virant during the Nelan inquest was Janese Shipley, stenographer at the Nelan inquest. She testified that Virant had two black eyes, a swollen ear and blood on his shirt shoulder, and that Virant spoke in a voice that was “louder than an ordinary person.”

As the trial continued, the state made its way down its lengthy list of witnesses, methodically and painstakingly – and at times tediously – laying out its case for the deputies’ guilt.

But thanks to defense attorney Jesse Black Jr. of Pekin, the trial proceedings never stayed boring for very long.

Next week: The courtroom theatrics of Attorney Black.

#charles-schmidt, #charles-skinner, #coroner-arthur-e-allen, #edward-hufeld, #edward-tucker, #elizabeth-spearman, #ernest-fleming, #frank-franko, #frank-virant, #george-genseal, #george-reichelderfer, #h-a-mccance, #j-p-st-cerny, #janese-shipley, #jesse-black, #judge-guy-williams, #lew-nelan, #martin-virant, #sheriff-james-j-crosby, #the-third-degree, #victor-michael

Wallace’s crime: a ‘shocking domestic tragedy’

By Jared Olar
Library assistant

In last week’s column, we reviewed what the March 14, 1896 edition of the Pekin Daily Times reported about the background and motive of Albert Wallace’s murder of his sister Belle Wallace Bowlby the year before. The Daily Times that day published a lengthy and detailed report on Albert Wallace’s hanging for his crime, and the Times report recently was reprinted in the Tazewell County Genealogical & Historical Society Monthly.

The Times’ account of the crime appears in the Dec. 2016 Monthly, on pages 1787-88. The story was published under the headline, “WALLACE’S CRIME,” with the subheadline, “Murder For Which He Was Hung Was Cold Blooded and Premeditated.” Ben C. Allensworth later retold the story of Belle Bowlby’s murder and her brother Albert’s hanging in the 1905 “History of Tazewell County,” but the 1896 account is much more complete and detailed. Following in the Daily Times’ 1896 account:

*****

The murder of Mrs. Belle Bowlby was one of the most shocking domestic tragedies in the history of the county, for domestic it was, as the murderer was a brother of his victim, lived with her family and was treated with the utmost kindness and that has made the crime seem all the more atrocious. The tragedy was the culmination of several years of drunkenness and immorality on the part of Albert Wallace, who did the deed, and during which time his mind became depraved and he grew to hate the whole world, for it is a sad fact that no one ever cared to call him friend from the time he gave himself up until his body shot through the scaffold and he was no more.

This sketch illustrated the Pekin Daily Times' March 14, 1896 report of Albert Wallace's hanging in downtown Pekin. Using a shot gun, Wallace murdered his sister Belle and seriously wounded her husband John on Feb. 19, 1895. IMAGES COURTESY OF THE TAZEWELL COUNTY GENEALOGICAL & HISTORICAL SOCIETY

This sketch illustrated the Pekin Daily Times’ March 14, 1896 report of Albert Wallace’s hanging in downtown Pekin. Using a shot gun, Wallace murdered his sister Belle and seriously wounded her husband John on Feb. 19, 1895. IMAGES COURTESY OF THE TAZEWELL COUNTY GENEALOGICAL & HISTORICAL SOCIETY

The murder was committed between 8 and 9 o’clock on the evening of February 19th, 1895, at the Bowlby home, a pretty homestead, nestling among the picturesque hills that flank the Mackinaw river in the central portion of Dillon township.

On the fatal day Wallace and Lawrence Lyman, a hired man, were hauling corn to Delavan. Wallace was in a bad humor and said to Lyman, for whom he had a nick name, “Duff, there is Ed. Judkins getting $1 a day and you and I getting nothing. We will see about this after awhile (sic) .” Lyman did hear something and it forever deprived him of the sight of one of his eyes. Wallace, early in the evening offered to bet $10 that the teams would not leave the stable the following day, this proving that he had fully made up his mind to do the deed that night.

The Bowlby family had gathered in the sitting room after the evening meal, and though the house had witnessed some dramatic scenes, as a result of the feeling that Wallace had for John Bowlby, his brother-in-law, peace seemed to have blessed the home for once. Bowlby was lying on the lounge, as he had been sick. Lyman and Jesse Strawbridge, another hired man, were sitting near. Annie Krile, a domestic, was playing the piano and the little Bowlby girl was singing fragments of gospel hymns that her loving mother had taught her.

Wallace was the last to eat his supper that night and he then went into the living room and after remaining a few minutes walked out. In about a minute a gun cracked and a charge of shot tore through the window in the northwest corner of the room. Its effect was to cut off two of John Bowlby’s fingers on his right hand and inflict a wound on his head.

Lyman ran to the front door, and as he opened it a second shot was fired. The charge shattered the door casing and the powder put out Lyman’s eye.

By this time all was confusion. Annie Krile grabbed little Stella Bowlby and rushed into an adjoining room. Mrs. Belle Bowlby did not see the child removed and missing the little one, she rushed to the door, shouting, “My God, where is my child?” Her answer was a load of shot from the murderer’s gun and she staggered back, bleeding from her terrible wounds.

This sketch illustrated the Pekin Daily Times' March 14, 1896 report of Albert Wallace's hanging in downtown Pekin. Using a shot gun, Wallace murdered his sister Belle and seriously wounded her husband John on Feb. 19, 1895. IMAGES COURTESY OF THE TAZEWELL COUNTY GENEALOGICAL & HISTORICAL SOCIETY

This sketch illustrated the Pekin Daily Times’ March 14, 1896 report of Albert Wallace’s hanging in downtown Pekin. Using a shot gun, Wallace murdered his sister Belle and seriously wounded her husband John on Feb. 19, 1895. IMAGES COURTESY OF THE TAZEWELL COUNTY GENEALOGICAL & HISTORICAL SOCIETY

Lyman got a revolver and started out to get help. As he reached the door he was shot twice, nearly one hundred shot entered his body.

Strawbridge escaped from the house and made a remarkable run of three miles bareheaded without stopping. He spread the alarm among the neighbors.

Messrs. Paul and Mitchell were the first to arrive at the Bowlby home. They entered and found a shocking state of affairs. Blood was scattered everywhere. The sitting room was on fire from the wadding of the gun. Mr. Bowlby had used rugs and pieces of carpets in an unsuccessful effort to extinguish the blaze and was afraid to go for water, as he was fearful that he might be again shot. Mrs. Bowlby was in bed, as was Lyman, and both were in great pain.

This sketch illustrated the Pekin Daily Times' March 14, 1896 report of Albert Wallace's hanging in downtown Pekin. Using a shot gun, Wallace murdered his sister Belle and seriously wounded her husband John Bowlby on Feb. 19, 1895. IMAGES COURTESY OF THE TAZEWELL COUNTY GENEALOGICAL & HISTORICAL SOCIETY

This sketch illustrated the Pekin Daily Times’ March 14, 1896 report of Albert Wallace’s hanging in downtown Pekin. Using a shot gun, Wallace murdered his sister Belle and seriously wounded her husband John Bowlby on Feb. 19, 1895. IMAGES COURTESY OF THE TAZEWELL COUNTY GENEALOGICAL & HISTORICAL SOCIETY

Mrs. Bowlby was given the best of medical attention, but died after lingering in great agony for thirty-six hours. Bowlby was ill for six weeks and Lyman would have died but for his iron constitution.

After the shooting Wallace walked around in the neighborhood in an aimless manner for a time and then finally threw away his gun. It was found the next morning sticking upright in the snow. He then went to the barn of John Connell and taking a horse, started for this city. He reached here about midnight and tieing (sic) his horse in the stable at the Tremont House, he requested Officer McClellen to accompany him to the jail. Sheriff Stout refused to lock him up at first as Wallace would not tell what the trouble was, but he finally said, “John Bowlby has been shot and they say I did it.” He was then put in a cell in the county jail where he has been confined since that fatal night.

*****

Next week: Wallace’s conviction, sentence, and appeal

#albert-wallace, #john-c-bowlby, #lawrence-lyman, #murder-of-belle-wallace-bowlby