Today you will all be excited to know that we have finally made it to the trial of Mr. Smith! What will the verdict be? Will all get the answers to our questions about the case? Read on to find out!
We start the story of the trial on September 28, 1931. In that days edition of the Perry Chief, it is announced that Smith will come to trial on Tuesday (the next day). State Agent Tullar had been travelling nearby states the previous two weeks, investigating matters related to the case. He stated that he believed the “case against Smith is now airtight.” The case was built upon a charge of conspiracy to defraud an insurance company, and it was this charge that Smith would face the next day. The trial was to begin if the proper witnesses were secured to appear. Specifically, Doctors Wittle of Clarinda and Donohoe of Cherokee were slated to appear as the first two witnesses.
The next day, September 29, 1931 was the day of the trial. Perhaps surprisingly, the jury deliberated for only fifteen minutes before reaching a verdict. With a single sentence came the closing of the Smith Conspiracy: “We the jury find the defendant John M. Smith to be insane.” Judge W. S. Cooper immediately announced that Smith would be taken to the Criminally Insane Ward at Anamosa, until such time he was deemed sane upon which he would be returned to the Dallas County Sheriff for a second trial. What happened to the airtight case that Tullar was boasting about? What happened that caused Smith to be declared insane so quickly? Well, to start only Dr. Max Wittle and Dr. George Donohue were heard as witnesses before the jury. Both of these witnesses claimed unquestionably that Smith was insane. Dr. Wittle, for instance, said that Smith could not tell right from wrong, and that he was susceptible to suggestions from others who could influence him to act. Dr. Donohue said the same thing, adding that he though Smith was “too dangerous to be discharged.” Thus, the entire trial last only from 9 a.m. to 10:35 a.m., when the jury presented their verdict declaring Smith criminally insane. As if to prove the verdict, upon leaving the courthouse Smith collapsed at the bottom of the first flight of stairs. He appeared to be in a semi-conscious stupor and continually called for “Edith” his wife, even though she was with him the whole time.
Many of you may be wondering if this is it. Unfortunately, it appears to be so. Even the paper says that the entire debacle is a “mystery which still has many loose ends and which will probably never be fully told.” For example, the story of the body found in the car will never be fully told. A story about Smith did reappear in May 1932, but it was a small article about an interview where Smith claimed he was the victim of a “gigantic conspiracy”, and that he remembered nothing “from the time he was bumped on the head” the night the truck was found until he was found near Garner, Iowa. You will have to decide for yourself if the jury was correct, because for now, this case, is closed.
Happy Wednesday readers!
I hope that you are all surviving out there in the rain. Today we will be continuing the Smith Conspiracy Case, drawing ever closer to its conclusions. This week’s paper is from September 7, 1931, and it contains a big break-through in the case: a confession from Mrs. Smith that she was indeed involved in a conspiracy with her husband!
According to the paper, County Attorney George Sackett released portions of a signed confession from Mrs. Smith after she had been grilled for more than five hours. This session occurred at the statehouse in Des Moines, and was conducted by Attorney Sackett, State Agent Tullar, Sheriff C. A. Knee and James E. Risden, the chief of the state bureau of investigation. Sackett did not release the full confession, but the portions that were released were sufficient to unquestionably incriminate both Mr. and Mrs. Smith.
Two particular portions were quoted directly in the paper. First, after admitting that she had conversations with her husband about life insurance, Mrs. Smith goes on to describe one in particular. She said that “In one of those conversations he told me that he would disappear and that it would be up to me to bury him and collect the insurance. Then, after I had collected the insurance, we could communicate in some way and then go back together and live together again after a year or two. Under our plan I was to collect the insurance or accept it when paid and then meet John when he got into communication with me, which might be any time from one to two years.” Clearly, Mrs. Smith knew of the conspiracy, and was quite willing to go along with it.
The second portion that was quoted in the paper indicates that Mr. and Mrs. Smith had indeed been in communication since his disappearance. Mrs. Smith said, “I received a note asking me to meet a certain party near Fremont, Nebraska, on the 19th day of June. On that day I together with my son drove to Fremont and met my husband, John M. Smith and spent the afternoon with him.” Most surprising about this meeting was that it occurred exactly four days before Mr. Smith was found on a side road near Garner, Iowa. Perhaps the two decided the conspiracy was in danger and they needed to take some kind of action. At this point, it is unclear.
Unfortunately, no details were secured about how the couple procured a corpse to use in the conspiracy. Other details also remain untold, but authorities said they would be released when the proper time arrived. Another unfortunate matter is that the case against the two does not seem to be moving ahead as fast as hoped. Sheriff Knee of Dallas County said that he expected no developments on Monday, as the court in Adel was not in session. In addition, although Smith has claimed he would tell all to a grand jury, he has not appeared willing to appear before them.
Despite this set back with the grand jury, it appears we are finally getting to the heart of this conspiracy! Come back next week to see if Smith and his wife finally go before the jury!
Welcome back readers,
Today we are continuing the story of John M. Smith. They are many questions that remain from last time: What are the charges that he faces? Will he be proven innocent or guilty? Where did he get the body that he burned? Find out some of the answers to these questions and more today as we head toward the beginning of Mr. Smith’s trial!
The date is September 2, 1931, and shocking new information has come forward in the Smith case even before his court case officially begins. The newspaper that day read “Smith May Face Bigamy Charge.” According to the paper, Eauline Shaw of Chautauqua, Kansas identified Mr. Smith as the man she married on March 11, 1931. Mrs. Clayton, with whom Mrs. Shaw lives, saw a picture of Smith being fingerprinted at Garner and wrote to the sheriff expressing her suspicions. Her case was turned over to Sheriff Knee of Dallas County, and State Agent Myron Tullar (who had been on the case since it was discovered that the burned body was not Smith’s) started further investigation into the matter. Tullar went to Kansas with a more recent photo of Smith in order to confirm the identification.
According to Mrs. Clayton, the man who married Eauline Shaw used the name McJay Smith. He had arrived in town in February, and soon took an interest in Ms. Shaw. When he proposed to her, Mrs. Clayton began to ask questions. McJay Smith said that he had recently invented a “Miteless Chicken roost” and received $35,000 for the patent right. He also claimed to be a manufacturer of chicken stock food and disinfectant, and was fully capable of earning a living for a wife. The marriage was performed on March 11, two days before it was discovered back in Iowa that the burned body did not belong to John Smith. It is also said that upon his arrival in Chautauqua, McJay Smith was driving a yellow wheeled Chevrolet with a Minnesota license, which compares favorably with the car supposedly driven by John Smith on the night he met his wife near Black’s corner. Kansas officials say that no warrant had been issued for bigamy against John Smith, but a warrant had been issued for removing mortgaged property (an automobile) from the state of Kansas.
Upon positive identification, the charge of bigamy would be added to the charge of conspiracy to defraud. The defrauding charge is the one that Smith would face when he came before the grand jury later in September 1931. What will happen during this court case? Will the charge of bigamy be added? Join us next time, as John Smith and his wife, Mrs. Smith, face charges!