Date: November 25, 1883
Location: Laconia, New Hampshire
Victim: Jane Ford, James Ruddy, Frank Ruddy
Cause of Death: Beating, Axe Murder
Accused: Thomas Samon
In agony, Mrs. Ruddy said, “I am all cut to pieces; take me somewhere.”
He body truly was cut to pieces, but the men could see that it was not the broken glass that caused the wounds. It looked as if she had been chopped with an axe. Carefully, they carried her to the house of Mrs. Charles Filgate who lived next door.
Soon after, they saw smoke rising from the Ruddy house. Andrews telephoned police and the fire departments, then he and the neighbors went inside to try to douse the flames. They quickly put out the fire, but the men were sickened by what they saw inside. Mr. Ruddy and his 13 month old son, Frank, lay with their bodies mutilated and charred under a partially burned feather bed. In the adjoining room, under a straw bed were the charred remains of a woman, her legs nearly severed at the knees. A carpenter’s hand axe covered with blood was found in a wood box in the kitchen.
The dead woman was not immediately recognized, but soon Mr. John C. Ford, who lived nearby, came by to see what was happening and recognized her as his wife, Jane. Ford had a bad reputation and had recently been arrested for shooting at boys in the street. His wife had paid a $50 bond to the town to guarantee his good behavior. Thinking that Ford might be connected with this case, the officers took him into custody.
At the Filgate house, it looked as though Mrs. Ruddy was dying, but under doctors’ care she soon regained her consciousness. By now Sheriff D. B. Story had arrived with his deputies, and the Laconia Selectmen and other government officials were there as well. Realizing the importance of Mrs. Ruddy’s testimony, they began questioning her as soon as she was conscious.
She told them that Thomas Samon came the house about 1:00 the previous afternoon, carrying a trunk in a wheelbarrow. He would not say what was in it but asked if he could leave it in their yard. Mrs. Ruddy agreed to let him leave it there until her husband came home; Samon left, saying that he would return later. Samon and Mr. Ruddy both returned at about 5:00, and Samon asked if he could stay the night with them. Samon was their friend and the Ruddys knew he had recently separated from his wife, so they had no objection. Ruddy helped Samon carry the trunk into the house; Samon said he would explain later what was inside.
John Ford said he had not seen his wife since the preceding Friday evening; she had been in the company of Thomas Samon for two or three nights. The police believed his story and set him free.
A hastily convened coroner’s jury indicted Samon for three murders and the search for him began. He had left town shortly after setting the fire and it was believed he was heading for Plymouth, New Hampshire, where his wife worked.
The Selectmen of Laconia offered a $500 reward for Samon’s capture, and telegraphed all of the nearby towns. At about 4:00 that afternoon, word arrived from Plymouth that Samon had been arrested there and would be taken back to Laconia on Monday.
Samon denied any knowledge of the crime. Believing that the fire had destroyed the evidence, he said that he intended to move his furniture to Plymouth and had moved his trunk full of household goods to the Ruddys’ on Saturday in preparation. He went back to the Fords’ and slept until 5:00 a.m. when he rose and started for Plymouth on foot, having no money for the train. It was not until Thursday, November 28, Thanksgiving Day, that Samon learned that the Ruddy house had not burned to the ground. Realizing that his story would not hold, Samon agreed to confess.
As John Ford had said, Thomas Samon and Jane Ford had been sleeping together for several nights before the murders. They had also been drinking heavily. They drank whiskey and beer all night Friday, and Saturday morning Mrs. Ford asked if there was any more lager. When Samon said no, an argument ensued and quickly turned violent. Samon flung her to the floor and pressed down on her chest with his foot. When he lifted his foot he found that Mrs. Ford was dead. In desperation, and considerably less than sober, he decided to pack her body into a trunk, chopping her legs at the knees to make her fit. He put the trunk in a wheelbarrow and wheeled it away to dispose of the body.
Samon had no idea what to do with the body; he ended up at the home of his friends, the Ruddys, and thought if he could sleep there he would take it away in the morning and bury it somewhere. From this point, Samon’s story matched Mrs. Ruddy’s. He brought the trunk into the house but did not tell them what was inside. That night Samon could not sleep, believing the house was surrounded and he would be captured. Around three in the morning the idea struck him that if he killed the Ruddys and burned down their house, all evidence of his crimes would be gone. “The very moment that the thought came to me I struck Ruddy.” Samon told the police.
Samson's guilty plea was accepted, and without a trial he was sentenced to be hanged in April 17, 1885. When the sentence was read, Samson’s wife threw her arms around him and started sobbing. “It is all right,” he said, “my sentence is just, I will go to the gallows like a man.”
Verdict: Guilty of first degree murder