Murder of a Journalist
The True Story of the Death of Donald Ring Mellett
Publication Year: 2009
Published by: The Kent State University Press
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The late-nineteenth-century press lord and father of journalism’s highest award, Joseph Pulitzer, wrote in 1904, “Our republic and its press will rise or fall together. An able, disinterested public spirited press, with trained intelligence to know right, and courage to do it, can preserve that public virtue without...
1. The Newspaperman
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Who was Donald Ring Mellett that by virtue of his death he achieved overnight nationwide fame and recognition? The Mellett name was French. A distant relative and the first governor of South Dakota, Arthur Calvin Mellette, wrote proudly of those who bore the Mellett name: “They are a law...
2. Mellett in Canton
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Don Mellett went to Canton feeling that it might be his last chance in the newspaper business. At this point in life, he considered himself a failure. He had not finished college and had failed twice as a newspaper editor. Competitor that he was, Mellett wanted a successful career in journalism. He couldn’t...
3. The Murder
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During a golf outing on Sunday, July 11, Don Mellett told his partner, Vic Merson, who was on the Daily News’s advertising staff, about the now-frequent threats against his life.¹ Increasing the pressure was Don’s revelation that he had discovered who killed Paul “Mooney” Kitzig in August 1921. Friends...
4. Unraveling the Conspiracy
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It would not be an easy crime to solve. But perhaps a substantial reward would loosen a few tongues in Canton’s underworld, or lure some reluctant witnesses out of the shadows. Whether the idea for a reward was prosecutor Charles McClintock’s, former judge and Mellett friend H. C. Pontius’s, or the...
5. The Gang of Three
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Ora Slater now had three suspects in a conspiracy to kill Don Mellett: Pat McDermott, Ben Rudner, and the mystery driver, Smitty. Since McDermott had initially come from Cleveland, Slater guessed that he might have returned there. He quietly asked Cleveland police to try to find McDermott. Detectives...
6. The Slugger Goes on Trial
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The trial of Patrick Eugene McDermott for first-degree murder in the slaying of Don Mellett was set to begin December 6, 1927. This trial was more than a legal proceeding to determine McDermott’s guilt or innocence. Canton was on trial. Would the rule of law prevail in Canton? The outcome...
7. The Rich Man Faces a Jury
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With Pat McDermott destined to spend the rest of his life in the Ohio Penitentiary,¹ the state turned its attention to the man Henry Harter called the “smart aleck wolf” of the evil threesome, Ben Rudner. The decision to try Rudner next delayed Louis Mazer’s trial once again. This may have been...
8. Mazer Confesses
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Prosecutor Henry Harter reconvened the county grand jury at the end of February to hear new evidence concerning the Mellett murder conspiracy that had come to light during the Rudner trial.� Louis Mazer, whose trial was next on the docket, remained in jail in solitary confinement, where he was...
9. The Detective’s Day in Court
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Don Mellett’s “classic martyrdom”¹ was recognized on May 2, 1927, when the Canton Daily News was awarded the Pulitzer Prize “for the most distinguished and meritorious public service rendered by any American newspaper during the year (1926).” The $500 gold medal was posthumous recognition...
10. The Dutch Baker Defends Himself
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B y the conclusion of the next session of the Stark County grand jury, June 9, former Canton police chief Saranus A. Lengel was indicted for the murder of Don Mellett. In an ironic twist, that day also marked the twentieth anniversary of Lengel joining the police force; if he hadn’t been fired, if he had worked...
11. McDermott Has the Last Word
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Just two weeks after Saranus A. Lengel’s acquittal in Lisbon, and in a surprising turn of events, Pat McDermott decided to break his public silence. For months rumors had reached Canton that Pat was telling his fellow inmates at the Ohio Penitentiary his version of the slaying of Don...
12. Unanswered Questions
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More than eighty years later, the answers still elude us. Mellett never had a chance to explain his motivation or his strategy. The myth that grew up around the martyred editor has clouded the real truth. Who really initiated the plot to assault Mellett? Which of the conspirators actually fired at Mellett that July night? Three...
13. The Aftermath
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One last detail remained to be resolved before Canton could put the two-year saga of the murder of Don Mellett to rest: distribution of the reward money. Of the nearly $28,000 pledged, $24,113 was actually collected and held by the common pleas court. Wisely, the overseers chose to withhold...
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Page Count: 192
Illustrations: (To view these images, please refer to print version)
Publication Year: 2009
Series Title: True Crime History
Series Editor Byline: Harold Schechter