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FrankfortHeights
08-17-2005, 10:08 AM
I am gathering some research for a potential writing project on a murder case which happened in my small hometown. An employee of a small neighborhood grocery store was found beheaded by the meat cutter. (sounds like an episode of CSI doesn't it?). This occured in the early 1960's. There were a couple of suspects but no arrests were ever made.

I am currently gathering facts that were reported in the local papers at the time.

I haven't gotten the nerve to question the local police department. I'm not sure what rights the general public has to crime files such as those.

Any suggestions on what to do next?

Beyond Belief
08-17-2005, 10:16 AM
Did you research all the old newspapers at the library? Talk to all town historians? Get the names of all the previous owners of the businesses in that area, interview, find out who worked in that area at the time, interview, locate past associates of victim, interview, research other crimes of the time, research arrest records during that time period.

FrankfortHeights
08-18-2005, 10:03 AM
I have since learned that a "prominent citizen" was always suspected as the killer but no charges were ever filed. So far nobody has been will to say who the "prominent citizen" is or if he is still living.

One person I spoke to said that they thought the case was ruled a suicide. She said most people in the community didn't buy that because evidently a you have to "shove" something through a meat cutter in order for it to cut.

Things are getting interesting. I'll post back whatever I find out.

You mentioned arrest records? Are they available to the public?

shadowangel
08-18-2005, 11:38 AM
Not only check the larger area libraries (county, city, university or college) but also the smaller town libraries. The large libraries will carry the large-circulation newspapers, however most of these will have carried stories from the newswires-AP, UPI, etc. The smaller libraries will have the local town papers, which are more likely to carry "rumors and gossip"-type stories (which can really help in research.

Another avenue to pursue are retired officers who were on the force at the time. This will require you to speak to the local PD, but you won't necessarily need to stroll into the local precinct house. Strike upa converstion with an officer on patrol-preferably a more mature officer who may have heard stories passed on from the officers before them. They may be able to start you in the right direction, give you names of retired officers who were there...If there was a cover-up, the officers may have done what they felt was their duty and played along, but they probably weren't happy about it. They may appreciate the opportunity to set the record straight.

mysteriew
08-18-2005, 07:53 PM
You mentioned arrest records? Are they available to the public?

Anything that happens in court is public info- other than the juvenile and probate divisions. (Even divorce records) How to get access to it differs from state to state. In my state some of the record is online, Fla. it is online- but for a fee. Check with a clerk of courts in your state and ask how to get to the court records.
When I say that court records are public info- there will be some info that won't be available to the pubic- but anything that occured in a public hearing (including any paperwork submitted) is usually available.
If it isn't online, you will have to physically go to the courthouse and view the records, pay for any copies.

coco
08-19-2005, 05:54 AM
Hi , sorry if it has already beeen said, do you know the victims name?

FrankfortHeights
08-19-2005, 10:56 AM
I do not know the victim's name yet but I am getting close to getting that information. I've narrowed down the time period of when the murder occurred and have ordered back copies of newspapers through interlibrary loan. I'll post the information once I get it.

FrankfortHeights
10-01-2005, 06:09 PM
Here is information I have learned about the case since my original post.

Benton Evening News – Monday, April 15, 1963



Murder Possibility Probed in Frankfort: But Suicide is Probable Officers Say



The decapitated body of a 43-year-old West Frankfort widow was discovered Sunday morning in the grocery store she operated and authorities are investigating the possibility of both murder and suicide.



State’s Attorney Joseph Hickman said today that “all signs point toward suicide,” but he was not ruling out the possibility that Mrs. Geraldine Patton Williams was murdered.



Though medical reports fixing the time of death are not available, it is believed Mrs. Williams died some time Saturday evening, likely after she closed the Patton Grocery Store at 1716 East Main Street in Frankfort Heights after 10:00pm Saturday.



The body was discovered by West Frankfort policeman Arthur Marks, who investigated when Mrs. Williams could not be found by a Sunday morning newspaper distributor and by a clerk at the store both of whom searched her living quarters immediately behind the store.



Mrs. Williams’ body was found behind the meat counter section of the store, the head severed from the body apparently by a band saw. Authorities said the head was resting on a shelf near the saw and the body was found lying prone and face down behind the meat counter near the saw.



When Marks investigated, the saw was still running and was hot. Sheriff Ray Carrell said there was no sign of any struggle or violence. Mrs. Williams was clad in slacks, shoes and a brassiere. Her blouse had been removed and placed on nearby boxes.



Investigation by officers found that she had apparently counted out the Saturday store receipts and that as far as can be determined no money is missing.



Coroner Eugene Dorris said that Sunday newspaper dealer Paul Kelley came to the store about 8:00am yesterday bringing papers for Mrs. Williams to sell as he normally does. He found doors locked and could not locate anyone. He summoned Hank Killion, a clerk at the store and Killion entered the living quarters through an east side window. He went into Mrs. Williams bedroom, noting that her bed had not been slept in, found nothing out of order in the living room and left the living quarters through the window, then called authorities.



Policeman Marks also entered through the window. He found that all the doors of the building were locked, but a door into the store that was closed, was not locked. It had a “snap-type” lock on it.



Mrs. Williams was widowed about eight years ago and had operated the store about four years. Her mother, Mrs. Mattie Patton, who lives nearby, is the owner of the building. Mrs. Patton was visiting in Chicago over the Easter weekend. Mrs. Williams lived with her eleven-year-old son, Jay, who was also away over the weekend, visiting in Ziegler.



Coroner Dorris said that no notes were found in the living quarters or in the store and that Mrs. Williams was not known to have been especially despondent. She was not known to have been in ill health recently.



State Crime Laboratory personnel were summoned to the scene and arrived Sunday afternoon to conduct an investigation that included fingerprint taking and other work.



Pathologist Dr. Fred Kiechele of Evansville, Indiana conducted a thorough post-mortem examination at the Franklin Hospital yesterday after the body was removed from the store at mid-afternoon.



Coroner Dorris said that although Dr. Kiechele’s report will not be available until Thursday, he found no sign of a blow or other marks of violence on the head or body. He said there was not evidence or rape or molestation.



Pending reports from the pathologist and the state laboratory, Dorris did not immediately set a date for an inquest into Mrs. Williams’ death.



Mrs. Williams was said to be small woman, weighing an estimated 105 pounds. A crowd estimated as large at one time as 500 persons gathered in the area of the store as word of the bizarre tragedy circulated. It was reported that Mrs. Williams’ mother was hospitalized after being informed of the death of her daughter.



Mrs. Williams is survived by her son, Jay, 11, her mother, Mrs. Omer Patton, a brother, Glenn Patton of Bridgeview, and a sister, Mrs. Lucille Hill of Mt. Vernon.



Funeral services will be held at 2:00pm Wednesday at the Second Baptist Church in West Frankfort. Interment will be in Tower Heights Cemetery. The body will lie in state at the Vantrease Funeral Home in West Frankfort after noon Tuesday.



Benton Evening News, date?



Still Awaiting Lab Report in Frankfort Death



Authorities today expected to receive reports tomorrow from an Evansville, Indiana pathologist and state crime investigation experts on the death of Mrs. Geraldine Patton Williams, 43, whose decapitated body was found Sunday morning in the West Frankfort grocery store she operated.



State’s Attorney Joseph Hickman today said that no one has been taken into custody in the matter he earlier said pointed toward suicide.



Mrs. Williams body was found near a meat-cutting saw that had been used to sever her head from her body. Hickman said today “not one scrap of evidence points to murder,” although he said murder cannot be ruled out because an aluminum storm door could, if a person knew how, have been locked from the outside.



He added that investigation is continuing and that he and Sheriff Ray Carrell are obligated to pursue every rumor no matter how absurd.



Authorities found no notes in the store or living quarters. Robbery earlier was ruled out as a motive for murder because funds owned by Mrs. Wiliams were found. A preliminary pathologist’s report indicated no marks of violence on her body other than the saw cut.



It was learned that so far almost $2,900 has been found in various places in the store and living quarters since the body was discovered. The pathologist’s report will come from Dr. Frederick Kiechle of Evansville who conducted an autopsy Sunday at Franklin Hospital.



Benton Evening News = date?



Frankfort Death Was Suicide, Pathologist, Crime Expert Say



Both reports of a pathologist who conducted an autopsy and a state crime expert who conducted an investigation indicate that Mrs. Geraldine Patton Williams, 43, West Frankfort widow, was a suicide.



State’s Attorney Joseph Hickman told the Evening News today that he has received reports from Dr. Frederick L. Kiechle of Evansville, the pathologist, and from Thomas Cole, supervisor of the Identification Section of the Illinois State Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation.



Mrs. Williams’ body was discovered Sunday morning at Patton’s Market, 1716 East Main Street in West Frankfort, the store she operates. Her head had been severed from her body with a band-saw meat cutter that was still running when the body was found.



Dr. Kiechle said in his report, “It is my medical opinion that death resulted from suicide on the basis of the available evidence and the autopsy findings.” Cole said that on review of photographs and other evidence, his opinion was that the death was suicide.



The pathologist said that there were no signs of injury to the woman’s scalp, no skull fracture or no brain contusion. He found no needle marks on the body or no skin or hair fragments on or under the fingernails. He said no signs of asphyxiation were noted.



However, Dr. Kiechle said, “of course, we cannot rule out the possibility of murder since this patient could have been hypnotized or first smothered, perhaps in a pillow, without leaving specific traces.”



Dr. Kiechle did not pinpoint a possible time of death.



Neither Hickman nor Coroner Eugene Dorris had any comment today on the reports. Earlier they said the reports would be used to interpret all the evidence found at the scene of the death. Dorris said that a date has not yet been set for the inquest.

FrankfortHeights
10-01-2005, 06:13 PM
The last newspaper article mentions an inquest being held? I wasn't able to find anything more from the papers? If this was done wouldn't that be a legal matter that would have a paper trail?

I've found a couple of distant relatives of the victim who said that family was never convinced this was a suicide. To this day they still consider it an unsolved murder.

upallnite
10-01-2005, 06:20 PM
Why in the world would this poor woman count out the days reciepts and then do herself in with a band saw? Man, even if I were contemplating suicide, which I'm not, that would be the very last method I would use. Phew!!!!

vanillasky
10-01-2005, 06:28 PM
O - M - G !!! :eek: How in the world could they say with a straight face that it was a suicide?!?!?!



Authorities said the head was resting on a shelf near the saw and the body was found lying prone and face down behind the meat counter near the saw.

shadowangel
10-01-2005, 06:52 PM
You think she would have at least turned the saw off when she was done. This is as good as the story I posted about my parents' friend who was found in his underwear on his front lawn, with a bullet having passed from his lower back, up through his body, and exiting his chest. A rifle was found on the porch about 25 feet away. He also had bruises and cuts over most of his upper body. That was a suicide, too. I guess he sat on the rifle on the porch, pulled the trigger, stood the rifle up by the door, but then had the courtesy to bleed out on the lawn.

The results of the inquest should be public record, in the Coroner's office.

H0NEYWEST
10-02-2005, 01:58 AM
O - M - G !!! :eek: How in the world could they say with a straight face that it was a suicide?!?!?!
"Authorities said the head was resting on a shelf near the saw and the body was found lying prone and face down behind the meat counter near the saw."

Ummmm....there must be another way to write that. A body can't be face down when the face is resting on a shelf.

mysteriew
10-02-2005, 02:19 AM
"Authorities said the head was resting on a shelf near the saw and the body was found lying prone and face down behind the meat counter near the saw."

Ummmm....there must be another way to write that. A body can't be face down when the face is resting on a shelf.

LOL, Honeywest. I thought that but was afraid to say it.

vanillasky
10-02-2005, 02:33 AM
LOL, Honeywest. I thought that but was afraid to say it.

Omg, me too. I was thinking they should have said lying stomach side down or something. :silenced:

Richard
10-02-2005, 06:23 PM
Omg, me too. I was thinking they should have said lying stomach side down or something. :silenced:
The term "Lying Prone" means that the body is lying front side down or "face down". So the origional account was redundant, but correct. The whole story is bizarre to say the least. I wonder how many other cases there have been of "sucicde by band saw"?

shadowangel
10-02-2005, 06:58 PM
A band saw is typically a woodworking tool, how common are they in a butcher shop? Also, I have never seen one with any kind of "feed" on it (the item being cut is fed into the blade automatically). So, at the point she was, well, no longer functional, how did the rest of her get through the blade? I could see, for instance, cutting one's vein or artery and bleeding to death, but how did she cut her entire head off? Run at the machine?

Becba
10-02-2005, 07:48 PM
Link to Suicide attempt with a chainsaw:



http://www.news24.com/News24/World/News/0,,2-10-1462_1643447,00.html

The guy tried to kill himself, missed the jugular and the chainsaw became stuck in his spine. :sick:
Once the person is dead or hurt wouldn't they no longer be able to propel their body against a bandsaw? I mean it would be easier to accept the suicide theory if the head was only partially decapitated. Though I think "partially decapitated" should be an oxymoron.

H0NEYWEST
10-02-2005, 08:36 PM
Link to Suicide attempt with a chainsaw:



http://www.news24.com/News24/World/News/0,,2-10-1462_1643447,00.html

The guy tried to kill himself, missed the jugular and the chainsaw became stuck in his spine. :sick:
Once the person is dead or hurt wouldn't they no longer be able to propel their body against a bandsaw? I mean it would be easier to accept the suicide theory if the head was only partially decapitated. Though I think "partially decapitated" should be an oxymoron.
semicapitated?

H0NEYWEST
10-02-2005, 08:45 PM
Man Slices Own Head Off in Supermarket Suicide

http://news.excite.com/odd/article/id/43351|oddlyenough|05-07-2003::09:25|reuters.html

shadowangel
10-02-2005, 09:15 PM
He only made it halfway....Guess he should have turned around.

mysteriew
10-02-2005, 11:02 PM
A band saw is typically a woodworking tool, how common are they in a butcher shop? Also, I have never seen one with any kind of "feed" on it (the item being cut is fed into the blade automatically). So, at the point she was, well, no longer functional, how did the rest of her get through the blade? I could see, for instance, cutting one's vein or artery and bleeding to death, but how did she cut her entire head off? Run at the machine?

The saws I have seen in supermarkets typically you bring the saw blade down over what you wish to cut. I assume that there is some type of spring which holds the blade in the air when not in use. You would then need to use some force to pull the blade down. When the downward pressure is released the blade goes up. I wonder how hard it would be to disable that spring or mechanism? Many small grocerers don't keep up with maintence as well as a chain or grocer who have others cutting the meat. I wonder what position the blade was in when the body was found?

shadowangel
10-03-2005, 09:20 AM
A band saw has typically has a large, thin blade that is a band (about 3 feet circular, usually and inch or two wide) that goes up and down rapidly to cut. Here is a pic of one, the butcher model can cut taller objects but the idea is the same.
http://woodworker.com/cgi-bin/FULLPRES.exe?PARTNUM=28-206&LARGEVIEW=ON

Richard
10-03-2005, 09:51 AM
A band saw has typically has a large, thin blade that is a band (about 3 feet circular, usually and inch or two wide) that goes up and down rapidly to cut. Here is a pic of one, the butcher model can cut taller objects but the idea is the same.
http://woodworker.com/cgi-bin/FULLPRES.exe?PARTNUM=28-206&LARGEVIEW=ON
You describe the band saw blade correctly, but not its action. The band saw blade moves somewhat like a fanbelt, resulting in a continuous downward cutting movement of the blade. Except for the old double cut timber saws, most saws usually only cut in one direction, and usually on the "down" or forward motion of the blade. The band saw, which provides a continous "downstroke", rather than an "up and down" motion is therefor more effecient, and a better choice for meat cutting.

A band saw would be used by the butcher for such jobs as cutting steaks or chops, where it is necessary to cut through bone. It is rather large, and would usually be set up permanently in a back room, away from customers. The circular blade cutter that most people see at meat counters is used for finer cutting, such as making deli cuts from cooked meat for sandwiches.

shadowangel
10-03-2005, 11:02 AM
I guess I was thinking more of a scroll saw. Still can't understand how a person could get their entire neck through one. I know when I've used a band saw for woodcutting their is no "pulling" action on the part of the blade. The item being cut has to fed into the blade throughout the entire cut.

FrankfortHeights
10-03-2005, 02:44 PM
One question I had from the article dealt with the store clerk and the policeman searching the area? Why would they search the living quarters but not enter into the store itself? Especially if the store clerk was present?

The blouse being removed might lend credibility to the suicide theory (She removed it so it would be out of the way)....but I find that hard to believe.

I also cannot understand how this would physically be possible. It would seem that you would need to apply force to completely sever the head. One person I talked to said a theory going around was that maybe she caught her hair in the machine and was pulled into it. If that was true then how can you explain the blouse.

I'm going to keep digging. The accounts I posted were from a newspaper in a neighboring town. The paper where the crime occured is only available in one library and those copies are not lent out. My mystery-loving mother is going to get me copies of those.

Summer Jones
06-08-2010, 10:56 AM
Just wondering how your investigation progressed. I have a friend who grew up in West Frankfort and remembers some details of the death (he, too, believes it was a murder and not a suicide). As a matter of fact, that's how I found your thread -- I was searching the internet for details because he musings on this poor woman's death were so intriguing.

Lil'E
06-11-2010, 02:26 AM
OMG. I remember this! I lived there when I was a kid. I had a vague thought that it happened around Easter and this post just confirmed it. The "prominent citizen" referred too by this poster was my drivers ed teacher in high school.

I too find it hard to believe this was a suicide, having used band saws many times they frequently have an abrupt kick back if the object you are sawing is not held firmly in place at both ends.


However, Dr. Kiechle said, “of course, we cannot rule out the possibility of murder since this patient could have been hypnotized or first smothered, perhaps in a pillow, without leaving specific traces.”

This absolutely makes no sense...an M.E. should be smart enough to know that if the victim were alive at the time this had occured there would be arterial spray all over the place. If deceased, very little blood. Duh!

After reading this I suspect I will have nightmare for months once again! DANG!

Claudette
06-12-2010, 12:37 PM
I wonder what came of this, as it was discussed on here 5 years ago...what a weird story.

Zoe Bogart
06-13-2010, 06:34 PM
What an odd and horrific story! Obviously the police doing the investigation were men. I'm sure every woman, or most all, would question why the victim removed her shirt willingly before committing suicide. Most women don't like to expose themselves for just anyone! Surely she would know someone was going to find her body. :shakehead:

That is one bizarre story and I don't understand why anyone believed this was a suicide. It's also odd how people kept entering and exiting the place through a window! Suppose the killer used that window to enter and exit, they ruined all evidence! Can we say incompetence? No wonder the crime hasn't been solved. For shame. Another murderer runs free.

It appears FrankfortHeights only posted in this thread and hasn't posted since 2005. Too bad, I would like to know how the research turned out. It would have been wonderful if the research had brought the case to light once again, it was reopened and solved, with the killer being convicted. No end of the story here. Too bad.

Claudette
06-14-2010, 10:39 PM
Agreed.

It's too bad we didn't learn of a town, unless I missed it? Otherwise we might be able to follow up.

Lil'E
06-15-2010, 03:17 AM
Agreed.

It's too bad we didn't learn of a town, unless I missed it? Otherwise we might be able to follow up.

It happened in West Frankfort, Illinois in 1963, The county seat is Franklin. Hope that helps.

MacPlus512
06-15-2010, 03:57 AM
I just heard of this case today, was not a member here five years ago.

I actually own a bandsaw (the woodworking variety, not the butcher type) and will tell you right now--someone needs to feed an object entirely through it to cut it properly. In other words, if you have a piece of wood you're trying to cut in half, you will need to actually guide it through the blade to get the desired cut. If you just leave it there, it will stop in mid-form and likely won't make it across by itself. It may cut randomly in one direction depending on the physical properties of the wood, but the cut will be extremely random and jagged.

That being said, this is definitely a homicide, not a suicide. Any shop teacher or woodworking enthusiast would concur.

littlehorn
06-17-2010, 08:44 AM
Any word from the original poster since 2005? Would be interested to know what happened with this.

CSI Mayberry
01-05-2011, 04:30 AM
[QUOTE=Beyond Belief;769315]Did you research all the old newspapers at the library? Talk to all town historians? Get the names of all the previous owners of the businesses in that area, interview, find out who worked in that area at the time, interview, locate past associates of victim, interview, research other crimes of the time, research arrest records during that time period.[/QUOTE

I am assuming poor FrankfortHeights knocked on the wrong door.

FrankfortHeights question...Why didn't the store clerk search the living quarters? Thats a good Question!

I emailed Frankford Public Library. Maybe thats the library Frankfort was talking about in FHs last post.....waiting for a reply.

RIP FrankfortHeights.

CSI Mayberry
01-05-2011, 09:35 AM
[QUOTE=Beyond Belief;769315]Did you research all the old newspapers at the library? Talk to all town historians? Get the names of all the previous owners of the businesses in that area, interview, find out who worked in that area at the time, interview, locate past associates of victim, interview, research other crimes of the time, research arrest records during that time period.[/QUOTE

I am assuming poor FrankfortHeights knocked on the wrong door.

FrankfortHeights question...Why didn't the store clerk search the living quarters? Thats a good Question!

I emailed Frankford Public Library. Maybe thats the library Frankfort was talking about in FHs last post.....waiting for a reply.

RIP FrankfortHeights.

Grrrr. Why only the living quarters?

RIP or Pieces? FR