I hope you are all ready for a ride, because we are continuing the story of the Smith Conspiracy today! This part of the story comes from the June 23, 1931 Perry Chief, which had the headline “Smith Must Face Trial in Dallas.”
Early in the morning of June 23, 1931, cries and whistles coming from the road near his home, near Wilson Highway No. 15 on a byroad, attracted Charles Grau, a Hancock county farmer. He went to investigate, and what he found was quite the surprise. Lying at the side of the road was John M. Smith. His hands and feet were bound together with wire, and were connected with a rope. There was no car nearby, and Mr. Grau had not heard any car in the vicinity, so how Mr. Smith ended up there was a mystery. Grau released him, took him to his home, and called Sheriff Hanson. When the Sheriff arrived, he found that Mr. Smith was in a dazed and semi-sane condition, bordering on hysteria or insanity, but physically seemed in good condition. He was unable to give details about how he got to the vicinity, any about the apparent attack, and only talked about his wife and the truck. Sheriff Hanson did indicate, however, that Mr. Smith’s bond were loose enough that it “might not have been impossible for the man to have wired and tied himself.” The sheriff arrested Smith that day, on a warrant charging him of “conspiracy to defraud” insurance companies.
Upon reaching Garner, Iowa, positive identification that this man was John Smith was provided. Harold Gesell, a fingerprint expert identified him using fingerprints from his army records. Unfortunately for authorities, Smith was not very helpful. He continually referred to his wife and his car, but appeared unable to talk about his disappearance or the incidents prior to and after the finding of the car and burned body. He claimed that three men knocked him unconscious with a blow to the head, bound him, and threw him to the side of the road, and that he had been kept in a basement for the past 5 and a half months. However, a physician failed to find any head injuries, casting doubt on the story. According to a Chief representative, Smith had lost considerable weight, was haggard in appearance, and seemed to have aged much in the five months he was missing. His mental state still appeared to be in disarray, as he was irrational and still semi-dazed. His reappearance resumed the investigation into his affairs by local insurance companies, and a question of where he was to be taken arose. The accident and burning of the other body occurred in Crawford County, but Dallas County officers carried out the case. County Attorney George Sackett stated that he would endeavor to have Smith brought to Dallas County to face charges unless Crawford officials decided to prosecute. As of the night of June 23, there was no decision on who would get custody over Mr. Smith.
As you can see, the plot of this story only continues to thicken. Was John Smith actually kidnapped and held in a basement? Is he just delusional and going insane? Find out next week as the charges are laid against him!
Good afternoon readers!
I hope that you are ready to hear more about the Smith Conspiracy, because there is much more to come! Today we are looking at the headlines from the March 21st Perry Chief. The headline for this paper is “Smith Escapes Officers and Wife.”
According to the paper, Mrs. Smith received a phone call from DeSoto at 6 p.m., in which a man identifying himself as a salesman of the Disintone company and asked her to meet him at 7 p.m. at the junction of highway 169 and 7. This intersection was more commonly known as Black’s corners, and is about 14 miles south of here. Mrs. Smith, thinking this was information concerning her husband, immediately notified local police asking for an escort. This opened an opportunity for the arrest of John Smith. Unfortunately, things were not going to go their way.
Shortly before 7 p.m. Mrs. Smith left Perry. A car driven by Deputy Sheriff McCarthy, who was accompanied by Deputy Sheriff Chase and Perry night officer Grant Herrold, followed her. Deputy Burger of Adel was also notified, and was accompanied by Dutch Baldwin, the Adel marshal. These two officers reached the point first and took up a vantage point where they could see the entire intersection. As they watched, a yellow-wheeled Chevrolet coupe arrived, but they were unaware of who was in the car. Mrs. Smith came from the north, maintaining a quarter mile ahead of McCarthy’s car. When she finally came to the intersection, the yellow-wheeled car met her. Mr. Smith was driving this car and as he approached Mrs. Smith’s car, he slowed down so that he could talk to her. Upon identifying him, Mrs. Smith yelled to the officers, and the chase began.
Smith took off, and Mrs. Smith and McCarthy turned to follow his car. Smith stopped his car just east of the end of the wide east turn, and Mrs. Smith stopped behind him. McCarthy stopped at the corner and picked up Deputy Burger, and Baldwin drove past both cars to stop in front of Mr. Smith. Noticing he was trapped, Smith again started east. McCarthy turned back in the road to head him off, and Officer Herrold got out of his car, but knocked a shotgun to the ground. As he bent to pick it up, Smith’s car blew past him, missing his head by about 8 inches and running over the gun breaking it at the stock. Because of this, McCarthy halted his car to avoid Herrold, and Smith was given the necessary room to make his escape to the north. Baldwin then got into Mrs. Smith’s car, and she started to give chase. When asked if she could drive, she replied, “I’ll drive it as fast as it will go to catch him.” Unfortunately, a driver in a passing Ford thought that the officers were chasing Mrs. Smith’s car, and so he blocked her car, causing her to go into the ditch. Mr. Smith then got away, and was still at large upon the printing of the paper.
What happens next? Do the police find and capture Smith? Find out next week, when the headline is “Smith Must Face Trial in Dallas”!
Happy Wednesday Readers!
Last week I told you all the beginnings of the Smith Conspiracy, which was a big event here in Perry in 1931. Today, we will be continuing that story, looking at the next big headline in the March 13th Perry Chief, which read “County Attorney Sackett to Ask Complete State Inquiry In Smith Case”.
The County Attorney at the time, George Sackett, formally requested that the State Department of Criminal Investigation in Des Moines inquire into the mystery of the John M. Smith Case. Now, many of you may be asking why such an inquiry was needed. Well, if you remember from last time, there was also an article in this paper titled “Body Exhumed Here Was Not That of John M. Smith Thought Killed in Accident.” This happened because of an inquiry carried out be three insurance companies: Traveler’s of Hartford, Massachusetts Mutual and Minnesota Mutual. Primarily, Mr. Smith had bought a $5000 Travelers policy in Omaha good for only 12 days, and his supposed death occurred 7 days later. There were also other details about John’s death that aroused suspicion, such as how the car had not been wrecked but merely driven off the road at an angle and then burned.
Both of these suspicions lead to the exhuming of the body at the C. D. Bemmar funeral home. Dr. D. J. Glomset and Dr. C. B. Luginbuhl performed an autopsy, along with many other doctors and dentists who attended. What they found was startling: the body that was buried there was not that of John M. Smith. There was much to back up this discovery. First, the doctors found that the body was embalmed before it had been burned. They found that the body had an incision under the right arm, arteries had been drawn and drained, and then had been tied off. In addition, they found that the dental work did not match Mr. Smith’s dental records. The doctors also examined the skull of the body for a fracture that Mr. Smith had received while living in Nebraska that they believed had left an indentation. They did not find any such marking on the skull of the body. Clearly, the body buried in the cemetery was not that of John M. Smith. So, the all-consuming question became “Where was John M. Smith?”
Further details only made the case more interesting. To start, friends of Mr. Smith presented the theory that foul play might be involved. Where the body was secured also became a mystery, and mutilation of that body was determined to be a charge placed against anyone found to have taken part in the incident. Mrs. Smith also gave a statement, saying she would not collect any of the insurance money as long as there was doubt that her husband was alive. However, it was reported that Mr. Smith had approximately $50,000 in insurance, which was all payable to either his estate or Mrs. Smith.
Many factors about the Smith Case were coming to light, and each one only brought with it more questions. What happened next? Find out next week as the story unfolds with the headline “Smith Escapes Officers and Wife”!