Saturday, August 22, 2015

Katie Hood's Fate.

Little Murders
Sixteen-year-old Katie Hood left the house the evening of Saturday, September 21, 1889 and never returned. She worked at Mike Schoenig’s saloon in Connersville, Indiana, and resided with her employer’s family. Katie was known to be somewhat wild, and at one point, Schoenig fired her and sent her from his home for staying out until two or three in the morning. On her promise to do better, Schoenig rehired Katie, and up until the night of her disappearance she appeared to have reformed.

Katie Hood’s reputation as a fast girl fueled speculation in Connersville that she had met with foul play. Some believed she had simply skipped town, but all she had with her were the clothes on her back, and most thought she was being held somewhere against her will. A rumor circulated that Katie had become an inmate of a brothel in the South End of Connersville, and on the night of September 27, a posse of men raided the house, sending the customers running in all directions. Reportedly, one respectable citizen jumped out of a window to avoid exposure. But when the dust settled, Katie Hood was not in the house.

As days passed with no trace of Katie Hood, suspicion began to grow that one of several prominent men often seen in Katie’s company had been responsible for her disappearance. The Connersville Daily Examiner reported that enough circumstantial evidence existed that “…the strong arm of the law will soon have a father of a fine family, and well fixed financially, entangled in its meshes.” His name was not divulged but detectives had him under surveillance.

All hopes of finding Katie Hood alive were dashed on September 30, when a train engineer found her body floating in the canal about a mile north of the city. Suicide was ruled out; she had a gash on the back of her head made by a blunt instrument, and marks on her neck and torn clothing indicated a struggle. The skirt of her dress was missing, it was believed to have been weighted down and was torn away when the body floated up.

Many in Connersville, including those who knew the victim, believed that she had died as a result of an abortion or had been murdered to cover that crime. This question was likely answered during the postmortem examination of the body, but the procedure was held in the utmost secrecy. Coroner Larimore had no intention of releasing any information prior to the inquest.

No news was coming from the coroner’s office and the anonymous, well-fixed, citizen had not been arrested, but the rumor mills were running full time. Everyone in Connersville knew that Katie Hood was murdered by her secret paramour, Henry Lee Jones. H. L. Jones was one of the richest men in Connersville, a good family man who had often been seen together with Katie Hood. According to Captain Bruce of the Indianapolis Police, who had been leading his own investigation of the murder, Katie Hood had engaged an attorney to bring suit against H. L. Jones for seduction and had met with Jones several times before her disappearance attempting to effect a compromise. Captain Bruce believe that Jones did not commit the murder himself but hired someone else to do it.

Public sentiment against Jones became so intense that the family decided to move out of Connersville. As the move was progressing, Henry Lee Jones suddenly became grievously ill and appeared to be on his death bed. “Tell baby that I lover her,” was his message to his favorite daughter. Then he bade his family Farwell and said, “I die an innocent man.”

Jones’s death was suspected to be suicide by poison, and in the postmortem examination his stomach was removed and sent to a chemist for analysis. In the public mind, suicide was the equivalent of confession. This sentiment increased when it was learned that Coroner Larimore was a friend of Jones and physician to his family. It was thought he withheld information from the public to protect his friend.

The chemical analysis of Jones’s stomach returned negative for poison but that did little to quell public belief that he had killed himself to escape prosecution for Katie Hood’s murder. Though the accused was dead, there was an attempt to try the case in civil court. The administrator of Katie Hood’s estate brought a suit against the estate of Henry Lee Jones, for $10,000, charging him with the infliction of injuries resulting in the death of Katie Hood.

It would have been interesting to hear the arguments against H. L. Jones who had died before ever being arrested or indicted for the murder, but his estate challenged the validity of the lawsuit. Two years later, the Indiana Supreme Court ruled in favor of Jones’s estate, quoting Lord Mansfield, “the wrong and the wrong-doer were buried together.”  

"'I Die an Innocent Man.'" Connersville Daily Examiner 8 Oct 1889.
"Great Day for News." Indianapolis Sun 11 Oct 1889.
Griffiths, John L. Reports of Cases Argued and Determined in the Supreme Court of. Indianapolis: The Bowen-Merril Co., 1891.
"Justice Defeated." Cincinnati Commercial Tribune 9 Oct 1889.
"Katie Hood's Fate." The Cincinnati Enquirer 1 Oct 1889.
"Katie Hood's Murder ." Cincinnati Commercial Tribune 5 Dec 1889.
"More Evidence." Connersville Daily Examiner 10 Oct 1889.
"No Arrest Yet!." Connersville Daily Examiner 2 Oct 1889.
"Nothing New." Connersville Daily Examiner 27 Sep 1889.
"Still a Mystery." Connersville Daily Examiner 28 Sep 1889.
"The Connersville Tragedy." Cincinnati Commercial Tribune 4 Oct 1889.
"The Katie Hood Mystery." The Cincinnati Enquirer 26 Oct 1889.
"Was it Murder?" Connersville Daily Examiner 1 Oct 1889.
"Was it Suicide?" Connersville Times 16 Oct 1889.
"Who Killed Katy Hood?." The National Police Gazette 16 Nov 1889.


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