Saturday morning, February 1, 1896, was a busy morning one for Sheriff Jake Plummer of Campbell County, Kentucky . A young lady had been found brutally murdered in his jurisdiction, near an orchard just outside of Fort Thomas. Detectives Crim and McDermott, investigators from Cincinnati, showed up to assist, initially scouring over the crime area for clues.
News of the horrific murder traveled quickly and gawkers soon were entering the area. The Covington officers expelled the curiosity seekers and began searching for the head of the deceased woman as she had been decapitated. It could not be found.
The sheriff’s officers closed down the traffic past the crime scene area, admitting only emergency personnel.
Smaller police departments such as Sheriff Plummer’s didn’t have the resources to handle major cases in that era. It wasn’t uncommon for larger units to offer assistance. Sheriff Plummer needed help and was relieved when they arrived.
After the coroner was satisfied with his preliminary investigation he asked the sheriff to send for a wagon to take the body to White’s Mortuary in nearby Newport. A small crowd of citizens was already present when the wagon arrived.
Newport police officers soon began showing up with loved ones who had missing daughters. They knew the process and hoped they wouldn’t be able to identify their loved one by some uniqueness about them. No one could perform the task, made more difficult in that the head of the victim was missing. Meanwhile Sheriff Plummer was sifting through missing persons reports.
Two days later, on Monday, Coroner Tingley gathered with a team consisting of Carothers, Pythian and doctors Fishbach, Jenkins and Schofield, to conduct the autopsy. The clothing was removed and bagged for the sheriff’s examination. The clothing had normal usage but the shoes were found to be new. They had been stamped with a serial number of sorts.
The young lady had not been raped as Coroner Tingley suspected in his cursory exam at the crime scene. Ligature marks on her neck seemed to have been caused by human hands. Her neck was cut cleanly by a very sharp instrument while her fingers were nearly severed by defensive efforts she made to save her life. There was a small wart on a finger of her right hand and three toes of her right foot were fused together. These could possibly help in her identification.
Upon dissecting the body they found she was about five months pregnant and they determined it would have been her first child. They removed the fetus for later examination. Her stomach was sent to the Medical College of Ohio after removal to check its contents. Her age was estimated between nineteen and twenty-two.
Carothers told the sheriff following the post-mortem, the shoes she was wearing were relatively new and could possibly be traced to the manufacturer. He gave Carothers permission to take the shoes to L. D. Poock, a local shoe merchant.
“I’m not aware of the different manufacturers but I know a lot of folks in the shoe business and believe I can find someone who can help you with this,” Poock told the sheriff. He received authorization to find out what he could.
“They look very much like shoes manufactured by Drew, Selby and Company in Portsmouth, Ohio,” he was told. East-west trains ran regularly between the cities and beyond. Soon L. D. Poock was rumbling along the tracks toward Portsmouth.
”Yes indeed, those are our shoes,” the manager of Drew, Selby and Company affirmed upon his arrival. “They are one of our most popular brands, especially with the young ladies. The code on this shoe, 22-11, is the number of the size three shoe form that was used in the manufacturing process.”
Upon checking on that particular order it was learned the pair of shoes was part of twelve pairs made for Louis and Hays Department Store in Greencastle, Indiana.
Mr. Poock telegraphed Sheriff Plummer back in Newport of his findings and was soon departing from the Portsmouth, Ohio, train station, destined for home.
The sheriff was tired, getting practically no sleep since the body was discovered early Saturday morning. The telegram gave him renewed energy. He called the train station to learn the expected arrival time of Poock’s return and for the next departure to Greencastle. He planned to meet Mr. Poock to retrieve the shoes upon his return and then leave as soon as possible for Greencastle. He followed that up with calls to Cincinnati detectives Crim and McDermott. He was pleased to learn they would accompany him to Greencastle as they may have to do a lot of legwork, finding the buyers of the shoes.
Sheriff Plummer didn’t know who the victim was or what she looked like but he knew more than before. Later that evening he met with the detectives and boarded the train for Greencastle. After exchanging information with the other officers he retired to a Pullman sleeper. They would be at the Louis and Hays Department Store in Greencastle the next morning. He knew he needed rest. Copyright 2018 Jadon Gibson
Editor’s note: Sheriff Plummer searches for the identity of the murdered young lady in the next segment of Jadon’s story. His writings are both historical and nostalgic in nature and can be read periodically at bereaonline.com. Don’t miss a single posting!