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unidentified woman murdered


Posted By: Karon Velau (email)
Date: 10/30/2020 at 13:39:39

Woman’s Body In Stack Fire
Unidentified Body Is Burned in a Stack Fire July 24 [1925]
The body of an unidentified woman was found Monday morning in the charred remains of a straw stack which had been burned down the evening of July 24 in a field at the top of the Watts Hill, about three miles southeast of Carlisle on the George Patterson place. After lying within twenty feet of the road for over two weeks the mangled torso of the woman was discovered by Earl Leveridge, of Hartford, at 10:30 Monday morning as he rode by on the top of a load of baled straw which he was hauling from Carlisle to Hartford.
Leveridge immediately notified Coroner J. E. DeFord, of Carlisle, who went to the scene of the tragedy and took charge of the body. After being viewed by Sheriff Claude Morris, Deputy Sheriff Hartzler, and County Attorney Wilson the body was removed to DeFord’s pharmacy in Carlisle. Monday evening efforts were bring made to locate traces of any missing girl which might lead to the identification of the remains and the county officers were busy working on clues which were found in the ashes of the stack.
All that remains of the woman is the charred trunk and skull and about half a bushel of blackened bones. The skull is cracked and bears the indentation marks of some round object such as a hammer. There are three of these marks, one just above the forehead, one near the temple, and one on the top of the head. A charred clot of hair back of the ear reveals that the color of the hair was a reddish brown. In the stack some distance from the body were found the blackened remnants of a pearl-bead necklace and a cheap brooch decorated with butterflies. The scorched fragments of a dress which appeared to be of some crepe material were found near the body. A fragment of ribbon which might have been a watch bracelet was also found in the ashes. Two teeth which appeared to be false teeth fastened in with a crown fell from the jaw as the debris was being cleared from the skull. No other identifying traces were found and no trace of a hammer or other object which might have been used to kill the woman before she was placed in the stack. Speculation places the age of the victim in the neighborhood of 25 years, but nothing definite can be determined to this.
The straw stack started burning shortly before seven o’clock the evening of Friday, July 24, according to eye witnesses. Patterson had threshed the morning of July 23 so the stack was comparatively new. The straw had been piled close to the fence and the wind had drifted the chaff over the fence, down the ten foot bank and clear out to the road.
At nine o’clock Paul Hartman who lives in the neighborhood returned along the road with a companion from shooting rabbits. They observed a Ford coupe with two couples in it parked in the bend of the road scarcely a hundred feet east of the stack. The road is a favorite resort for spooners so the boys thought little of the occurrence. At eleven o’clock, according to Mr. Patterson, he was aroused by Ross Kerr who told him that the stack was on fired and offered to help him fight it if there was anything which might be damaged. Patterson assumed that the fire was the work of mischievous boys or a cigarette stub thrown from a passing car and replied that he didn’t believe that it was worthwhile to bother. Karr stated, according to Patterson, that a man in a Ford touring car had been stopped by the blazing stack and had driven off just as Karr drove up. The blaze of the stack and the lights from the other car dazzled him so much that he could not make out anything except the outline of the man in the Ford. At the time Kerr thought the man was doubtless just someone who had stopped as he had, to watch the fire. The fire had been started only a short time before he arrived, he said.
The fire was started from the northeast corner of the stack, according to witnesses who passed the place while it was burning, and that is the side on which the corpse was discovered. The wind was from the northwest that evening and the greater part of the stack was southwest of the place where the body was so the fire shifted that way. This fact probably accounts for the fact that the body was not wholly destroyed.
The place where the murderer climbed over the fence to place the corpse in the stack is apparent north of the pile where the poison ivy vines which are growing up around the fence are badly broken. It is near here that the trinkets were found so it is considered probable that the body was rested here and stripped of identification marks before it was placed in the straw and the blazing pyre touched off. The top was pretty well burned down at midnight when Glen Smith passed the place little dreaming of the terrible contents of the pile.
Until recently the ashes of the stack had stood three or four feet deep, Mr. Patterson said, but the rain washed them down some and the wind had blown most of them away within the last few days. Several people who had passed by on the road previously had remarked the skull which protruded from the pile a little but had thought little of it, believing that it was only some animal which had been trapped by the fire.
It is doubtful if the mystery will ever be solved as to the identity of the woman or any light shed on the circumstances surrounding her terrible death for the mute ashes of Patterson’s stack keep their story well. But somewhere, if God is just, there is a man who cannot sleep nights for the haunting memory of his terrible deed. And in the back room of DeFord’s Pharmacy lies the pitiful heap of charred humanity while somewhere a mother is watching and praying for a daughter who will never come home.
[Copied from a scrapbook at the Warren County Historical Society Library, Indianola, Iowa]


Warren Documents maintained by Karen S. Velau.
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