The Kent State University Press

True Crime History Series

Harold Schechter

Published by: The Kent State University Press

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True Crime History Series

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The Adventuress

Murder, Blackmail, and Confidence Games in the Gilded Age

The engaging tale of a nineteenth-century black widow

Intrigue, deception, bribery, poison, murder—all play a central role in the story of Minnie Walkup, a young woman from New Orleans who began her life of crime when she was only sixteen years old.

Born in 1869 to Elizabeth and James Wallace, Minnie was a natural beauty and attended convent school where she learned social graces and how to play the piano. After the divorce of her parents, she was raised in multiple boardinghouses owned by her mother, and at one of them, met her first husband, James Reeves Walkup. At sixteen, she married Walkup, a forty-nine-year-old successful businessman and acting mayor of Emporia, Kansas. One month later, Walkup died from arsenic poisoning and his young wife was accused of murdering him. Her trial became one of the most sensational cases in Kansas history and was covered by reporters across the nation.

The Adventuress details Minnie Walkup’s remarkable life and criminal activities. Using newspaper articles, census and probate records, and descendants’ reports, true crime writer Virginia A. McConnell depicts a captivating story that is full of scandal, gossip, theft, and murder and that includes events taking place across the South and Midwest. McConnell reveals a fascinating cast of characters revolving around Minnie Walkup, including a former Louisiana governor and senator, a prominent Ohio banking family, the partner of a famous railway tycoon, and a sleazy district court judge from New Orleans. The Adventuress offers a Gilded Age soap opera that seems too far-fetched to be what it is—true.

A substantial contribution to crime history, The Adventuress is a welcome addition to any true crime reader’s collection.

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Murder and Martial Justice

Spying and Retribution in World War II America

A remarkable story of how the U.S. military tortured German POWs into confessing their guilt

“An expert dissection of the crime, its witnesses, and Washington’s shifting goals. Murder and Martial Justice is a good murder mystery, based on a solid examination of the various contradictions and irritating bureaucratic villains.” —Arnold Krammer, author of Nazi Prisoners of War in America and Undue Process: The Untold Story of America’s German Alien Internees

During World War II, the United States maintained two secret interrogation camps in violation of the Geneva Convention—one just south of Washington, D.C., and the other near San Francisco. German POWs who passed through these camps briefed their fellow prisoners, warning them of turncoats who were helping the enemy—the United States—pry secrets from them. One of these turncoats, Werner Drechsler, was betrayed and murdered by those he spied on.

U.S. military authorities reacted harshly to Drechsler’s death, even though he was not the first captive to be assassinated by his fellow POWs. How had military intelligence been compromised? Were fanatical Nazis terrorizing their countrymen on American soil? Would Hitler take reprisals against the GIs he held if the United States did not protect the German POWs from violence and death while confined at the interrogation camps? At one of the secret camps, U.S. officials forced Drechsler’s seven murderers to confess. The next problem faced by authorities was how to court-martial them when their confessions were legally invalid. Their secret trial was stage-managed to deliver death sentences while apparently complying with U.S. and international law.

This presented U.S. authorities with further problems. The Geneva Convention entitled the prisoners’ governments to the full facts about their crimes, trials, and sentencing. Despite escalating German complaints, the War Department adopted a policy of giving as little information as possible about any of the several POW murder trials in order to avoid releasing inconvenient facts about the Drechsler case. Unsurprisingly, the Reich began sentencing GIs to death. Gambling with American lives, the War Department stalled every German attempt to trade these men for the convicted German murderers until the war ended. Every American was saved; every German but one was hanged.

The Drechsler case foreshadows current controversies: creative circumvention of the Geneva Convention, secret interrogation centers, torture, and the consequent problem of how to provide a fair trial to prisoners coerced into self-incrimination. Author Meredith Lentz Adams sees a familiar pattern of cover-ups, leading to difficulties with public and international relations. In contrast to recent policies, she points out how leaders during World War II felt constrained by their respect for Geneva and by fear of retribution against their own soldiers.

Murder and Martial Justice is a fascinating and provocative book that will appeal to those with an interest in World War II, POWs, international law, foreign policy, and true crime history.

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Murder of a Journalist

The True Story of the Death of Donald Ring Mellett

Private detectives, crooked cops, gangsters, and bootleggers

The July 1926 murder of the editor of the Canton, Ohio, Daily News, Don R. Mellett, was one of the most publicized crimes in the 1920s. For less than a year, Mellett was the editor of the Daily News, owned by former Ohio governor and Democrat presidential candidate James Cox. Having promised Cox he would turn the unprofitable News into a success, Mellett combined personal conviction with marketing savvy and in 1925 embarked on an antivice, anticorruption editorial campaign. The following year, the Daily News and Mellett, posthumously, received the Pulitzer Prize for his columns.

His editorials were often aimed at the Canton police chief, S. A. Lengel, making the News law and order crusade personal. An unholy alliance of bootleggers and corrupt police, angered at Mellett’s interference with business as usual, hired an ex-con from Pennsylvania, Patrick McDermott, to attack and scare the editor. When the intended assault spiraled out of control and Mellett was murdered, the national press became outraged and saw this situation as an attack on the First Amendment, demanding justice in editorials appearing on the front pages of newspapers throughout the country.

Author Thomas Crowl, using newspaper and magazine accounts, interviews, and other primary source material (some previously unavailable), follows the investigation into the Mellett murder by a private detective who was hired by the Stark County prosecutor. The arrest of the prime suspect and the sensational trial of the cocky hitman received nationwide media coverage. The murder investigation also netted the two local hoodlums who hired McDermott. Additionally, a former police detective was arrested and convicted as the originator of the plot, and he in turn implicated police chief Lengel in the murder conspiracy. Nearly a year and a half later, however, Lengel was ultimately acquitted of the charges.

This compelling and intriguing story is the first in-depth study of the Mellett murder. Historians and true crime buffs will welcome this as a valuable addition to the field of true crime history.

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Musical Mysteries

From Mozart to John Lennon

An engrossing look at the interplay between crime and music

Crime has formed the basis of countless plots in music theater and opera. Several famous composers were murder victims or believed to be murdered, and one of the greatest Renaissance composers slaughtered his wife and her lover. In Musical Mysteries, renowned true crime historian Albert Borowitz turns his attention to the long and complex history of music and crime. The book is divided into two parts. The first addresses three aspects of musical crime: the clashes between envious and competitive musicians, the recurrent question of whether genius and criminality can coexist in the same soul, and the jarring contrast between the creative artist and the violent melodrama of everyday life. Borowitz explores eight infamous crimes and crime legends, including the suspected killing of Robert Cambert by his rival, opera composer Jean-Baptiste Lully; the lurid slaying by sixteenth-century madrigal composer Carlo Gesualdo of his unfaithful wife; Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s supposed murder at the hands of Antonio Salieri; and the stalking and murder of John Lennon by Mark Chapman. The second part examines crimes in music, looking at such diverse examples as the “Song of Lamech”, the second biblical killer; the preoccupation of the Gilbert and Sullivan operettas with corporate law and fraud; and the violent character of Jud Fry in Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Oklahoma!

This interdisciplinary study of musical crimes and criminals offers readers Borowitz’s characteristic close, learned analysis and insightful, engaging prose. Musical Mysteries will appeal to true crime aficionados as well as students of social and music history.

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Nameless Indiginities

Unraveling the Mystery of One of Illinois's Most Infamous Crimes

Upon discovering that her great-great aunt was the victim and central figure in one of Illinois’s most notorious crimes, author Susan Elmore set out to learn more. She uncovered a perplexing case that resulted in multiple suspects, a lynch mob, charges of perjury and bribery, a failed kidnapping attempt, broken family loyalties, lies, cover-ups, financial devastation, and at least two suicides.

In June 1882, when young schoolteacher Emma Bond was brutally gang-raped and left for dead in her country schoolhouse near Taylorville, Illinois, an enduring mystery was born. The case was covered by newspapers across the country, but some of the injuries inflicted upon the victim were so appalling that the press refused to print the ugliest details, referring to them only as “nameless indignities.” Emma’s life hung in the balance for months, but she survived. Eighteen months went by before three of the six suspects were finally brought to trial. Citizens expected a swift conviction but were shocked to learn of the defendants’ acquittal.

What should have been the end of the Bond story was actually just the beginning. Permanently crippled in the attack, Emma spent time in a sanitarium and was stricken by amnesia. In the years that followed, new theories on the crime emerged. Some suggested that she had concocted her story as a cover-up for an unwanted pregnancy or abortion. Doctors labeled her as a mentally unstable hysteric and a malingerer who purposely lied. Within a decade, the tides turned against Emma and her life began to crumble as she tried to cope with the demons of her past.

At the time, educators, editors, politicians, lawyers, and doctors eagerly weighed in on the case and its ramifications. Doctors of the Victorian era couldn’t agree on anything of a physical or a psychological nature, and as a result, Emma paid dearly. The crime also took a toll on local residents, pitting families and neighbors against one another. The fact that the case was never solved gave it staying power, with unanswered questions and intrigue persisting for decades.

Elmore spent years digging through historical newspapers and documents, trying to crack this whodunit. In the process, she uncovered startling new facts about some of the defendants and based on those discoveries developed her own theory on what really happened. Her theory concludes Nameless Indignities

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