A collection of novella-length true crime stories from our city’s dark history from former Journal-News writer Richard O Jones. Chapbook editions available at the Butler County Historical Society, the Hamilton Welcome Center, the Ross Avenue Barber Shop and the Hamilton Plaza Barber Shop. $20 for the collection.
The Sleepwalking Slasher: The True Crime of Samuel J. Keelor. Early one winter morning in 1903, laborer Sam Keelor awoke with a bloody cooper’s hammer in his hand and his pretty young wife Bertha dead in their marriage bed next to him. He panicked and decided to get rid of the body, but cutting his pretty wife up into portable pieces proved to be more work than he bargained for, so he opted to cut his own throat instead. He made a mess of that, too. Before he could bleed out, his family discovered the bloody, bloody scene, and rescued the beleaguered coal man. He said his only regret is that he didn’t kill his meddling mother-in-law, too. This “novelette” length true crime story details the family quarrel that led to the gruesome crime and the delivery of turn-of-the-century justice.
The Arsenic Affair: The True Crime of Belle Wardlow and Harry Cowdry. When farmer Lorel Wardlow died from an acute case of quinsy, the country doctor who took care of him signed off on the death certificate without an autopsy. The little town of Kyle was soon buzzing with gossip about his widow and her behavior with the farmhand Harry Cowdry, who helped take care of his boss in his last days. When the coroner got wind of the scandal, he started the investigation. Before the dust settled on the 1917 case, there would be accusations of murder, an exhumation of the body, three trials, one hung jury, a prison break and a scandal that rocked Southwestern Ohio.
The Gas Fume Fugitive: The True Crime of Charlie King. Late one fall night in 1929, the barber Charlie King opened the gas lines of his Hamilton, Ohio, home and left his five sons and wife sleeping in the deadly fumes, then hopped on a freight train heading north. In spite of a heroic effort by police and neighbors alike, Ethel King and four of her children died in the tragedy. It was a year before he would show up behind a barber chair 250 miles away. He was working at a small shop in Northern Ohio shaving an undertaker when the sheriff arrived to arrest him. The barber said he was not Charlie King the fugitive but J.W. Thomas. This novella length true crime history shows how a wily police chief wrangled the truth from him and sent the barber on the way to his date with Old Sparky, the electric chair at the Ohio Penitentiary.
Where’s Your Mother, George? The True Crime of George Schneider. Everyone in the Schneider family presumed that the widow matriarch Catharine was staying with her favorite son George on his remote Ohio farm. When George, his wife Margaret and their seven children showed up to a family dinner without her, suspicions ran high. No one could believe the story he told. George said that he was taking his mother to a train in the fall of 1883 when they were overcome by two robbers at the end of the lane at the edge of his farm. In the course of the robbery, he claimed, the robbers killed his mother, and buried her in a ravine on George’s property. George said they threatened his family, so he kept quiet about it for five long weeks. This novelette-length story details the unraveling of George’s story and the terrible price he paid for his rage.
Massacre on Prospect Hill: The True Crime of Francis Lloyd Russell. Although it wasn’t yet summer, the temperature climbed into triple digits on June 3, 1925, and Lloyd Russell could not sleep that night. He lived with his mother and his brother’s family in a modest three room bungalow. Lloyd worried about a mortgage coming due. Despite two jobs, he couldn’t keep up, and he couldn’t get that off his mind. Before daylight, the temperature still in the 80s, he got up from his sweat-soaked bed, loaded two pistols and shot and killed his mother, his brother, his sister-in-law and five of his brother’s six children. Only 10-year-old Dorothy escaped, and if the shots didn’t wake the neighborhood, her screaming in the terrible hot night did. One of those neighbors was local war hero and deputy sheriff Wesley Wulzen, who kept the man calm while more help arrived.
About the Author
After 25 years writing the first draft of history as a writer and editor for his hometown newspaper, the Hamilton Journal-News, Richard O Jones left the grind of daily journalism in the fall of 2013 for a life of true crime. A creative writing graduate of Miami University, Ohio, the author spent most of his career as an arts journalist and has won numerous awards for his reviews and profiles. In 2004, he was named a Fellow of the National Endowment for the Arts Theatre and Musical Theatre program at the Annenberg School of Journalism. The Ohio Associated Press named him Feature Writer of the Year in 2011. Since leaving the newspaper world, Richard has become an active member of his local history community as a board member of the Butler County Historical Society, a member of the History Speakers Bureau and a regular presenter at Miami University in a program titled “Yesterday’s News.” The Michael J. Colligan History Project of Miami University presented Mr. Jones with a Special Recognition for Contributions to Public History for his coverage of the Centennial Commemoration of the Great Flood of 1913.