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The Murder of Mrs. Maybelle Kelly

The story below follows the 1937 newspaper reports of this incident. LPP

MISSING WOMAN IS FOUND DEAD NEAR HANNIBAL

Mrs. Dennis Kelly with her two sons, Francis and Gene.

Hannibal, Mo., July 13 – Police of two states traced a path marked by blood, including spots on the Mark Twain bridge, to identify the body of a woman found 25 miles down the Mississippi river as one who disappeared from her home last night. The body was declared to be that of Mrs. Dennis Kelly, missing from her Paris, Mo. Home after drawing $1,900. She previously had deposited $2,000 after the sale of some property. She had, according to her husband, left a 14-page note directing the education of their 12 year old son, Francis. The body was identified by her brother-in-law, Charles Kelly. There were cuts on the scalp and apparent skull fractures from a beating the woman had received before she fell or was thrown into the river. Source: Chicago Daily Tribune (1872-1963); Jul 14, 1937; ProQuest Historical Newspapers Chicago Tribune (1890-1984) pg 10.

“I BEAT HER TO DEATH”, PASTOR CONFESSES

PITCHES BODY INTO RIVER ON WAY BACK HOME

Wife’s Story Helps Trap Missourian.

Pittsfield, ILL., July 15 – [Special] – The Rev. C.E. Newton, 51 years old, veteran Baptist minister, confessed tonight that he slew Mrs. Dennis Kelly, 45, for many years his friend and parishioner in Paris, Mo., early last Tuesday and threw her body into the Mississippi river. The stolid minister made his confession to State’s Attorney Merrill Johnston of Pike county after steadfastly denying for two days that he had any connection with the crime. He was brought to the jail here from his Paris home after Mrs. Kelly’s bruised and battered body was recovered late Tuesday from the river. 

His Story of Crime.

“Mrs. Kelly and I were riding along in my car,” Prosecutor Johnston quoted Newton as relating. “I wanted to turn back home but she didn’t. We began to scuffle in the car and she fell out, striking her head and injuring herself. Trying to get her back into the car, I fell out, too. I got panicky and struck her on the head with a hammer, and then drove back to the bridge {the Mark Twain bridge across the Mississippi at Hannibal, Mo.} and pushed her over the banister.”

Wants to Catch Train, He Says.

The minister then explained that Mrs. Kelly had persuaded him to drive her to some point where she could catch a train or bus “because she was leaving her husband.” In a note to her husband she had stated she was “leaving and he never would find her.” “When we got to Hannibal, Mrs. Kelly insisted on going on,” said Newton. “We asked the bridge-tender on the Illinois side about Hull, Ill. He said we could make no connections there, but we drove on anyway.” Then he related the quarrel and scuffle, the blows by the hammer, of driving back to the bridge. “I knew she was dead,” he said. Authorities who heard the minister’s statement said they were not satisfied with his explanation of the crime and planned to question him further regarding his motives.

New Evidence Piled Up.

Newton’s confession followed a succession of swift developments today in which circumstantial evidence pyramided against him. These developments were:

1. The contradiction of the minister’s alibi – that he was at home during the time fixed for the tragedy – by his wife’s story that left at 11 o’clock Monday night and did not return until after dawn.

2. The recovery from Newton’s adopted daughter, Miss Myra Hanan, 36 years old, of $1,930 presumed to be part of the $1,950 Mrs. Kelly had withdrawn from a bank.

3. The statement of Prosecuting Attorney Walter Stillwell of Marion county, Mo., that Miss Hanan had told him that her foster-father admitted to her that he had “done away” with Mrs. Kelly.

Clews(sic) Found at Home.

Newton was first connected with Mrs. Kelly’s disappearance when it was learned she mentioned his name in a 14 page farewell note to her husband. A search at the minister’s home revealed wisps of hair and stains under the floor mat of his freshly washed automobile, four loaded revolvers, stained clothing, and a deep, long hole, resembling a grave, dug in his garage. He was arrested by Sheriff Russell Wilkes of Monroe county, Missouri, and brought here because it was believed the crime was committed in Illinois. The money was turned over to Prosecuting Attorney Tom Proctor of Monroe county today by Miss Hanan. Proctor said Miss Hanan told him the money had been given to her in an envelope by Newton as “valuable papers” to keep for him. Asked by Prosecutor Johnston about the money which Mrs. Kelly had with her, Newton stated: “She had put the money in the pocket of my car. I didn’t think any more of it until I got home. Then I gave it to Myra Hanan. She and my son, Noel, took the luggage belonging to Mrs. Kelly from my car and burned it up.” The charred remnants of Mrs. Kelly’s luggage, Proctor said, were found by a roadside in Shelby county, Mo., 31 miles northeast of Paris, where Miss Hanan and the minister’s son, Noel, had admitted burning two suitcases they recognized as Mrs. Kelly’s. 

Newton and the red-haired, attractive church worker who was the mother of two sons had long been friends. Mrs. Kelly championed the pastor in a church controversy here last year that resulted in his resignation after 13 years service. Proctor said Mrs. Kelly’s husband and friends “were well aware of the strong bond between his wife and the minister.” Questioned yesterday, Newton said Mrs. Kelly had told him she was discontented at home and planned to leave. He also knew she had withdrawn close to $2,000 from the bank, he said. Newton, who was a former mayor at Kahoka, Mo., has been a Baptist minister for thirty years. He is the father of two children. Source: Chicago Daily Tribune 1872; Jul 16, 1937; ProQuest Historical Newspapers Chicago Tribune (1890-1984) pg 1.

ADMITS KILLING WOMAN; PASTOR READY TO DIE

TOILS OVER HIS CONFESSION ALL NIGHT LONG.

The Rev. C. E. Newton, age 51, in cell at Pittsfield, Illinois after being arrested.

Pittsfield, Ill., July 16 – [Special] – The Rev. E. Ellsworth Newton, a gangling country pastor from Paris, Mo., smoked cigarets in an endless chain in his cell tonight, after expressing a willingness to face the electric chair for the roadside murder of his “dear friend,” Mrs. Dennis Kelly, a parishioner. Her battered body was taken late Tuesday from the Illinois side of the Mississippi river, opposite Louisiana, Mo., where the Rev. Mr. Newton said he threw it earlier in the day. The pastor confessed he clubbed her to death “with a hammer, a dumbbell, or something” during a quarrel as he drove her on a flight from her husband and two children.

Signs 11 Page Confession.

State’s Attorney Merrill Johnston of Pike county told of the minister’s desires to accept whatever punishment the state chose to inflict after the prisoner, who weighs only 125 pounds despite his 6 feet height, signed an 11 page confession. Prosecutor Johnston also said a statement given him by an intimate associate of Newton supported a theory that the pastor had planned to “rid himself” of his wife, but he refused to elaborate and withheld the name of the associate. All night long, in rolled shirt sleeves and stockinged feet, the 51 year old parson toiled over his masterpiece, an amazing document which described in meticulous detail his long intimate friendship with Mrs. Kelly and the events on the night of her murder. These included a midnight dash through the rain in his automobile, he wrote in his confession; their quarrel and her murder; his consolation from a whisky bottle which his foresight provided; and the Mark Twain bridge across the river from Hannibal, Mo., where he heaved her body into the muddy water.

Pastor Takes All Blame.

Despite a clear web of circumstantial evidence, including the mention of his name in a farewell note Mrs. Kelly left for her husband, a rural mail carrier, the Rev. Mr. Newton maintained his innocence until late yesterday. Then, confronted with the statement of Miss Myra Hanan, 36, who had been reared in his household, the minister confessed. Miss Hanan told Prosecutor Johnston that Newton gave her $1,930 of Mrs. Kelly’s money to dispose of, and that after the murder she and one of his three children, Noel, burned part of her clothing. The Rev. Mr. Newton was insistent in his confession that neither his wife, Miss Hanan, nor any other relative, had any prior knowledge of his actions on Monday night when he killed the 45 year old woman who had brought him dressed chickens, vegetables and butter for years. None of the others was held.

Takes Problems to Him.

His friendship with Mrs. Kelly developed during the normal relations of a pastor with a member of his congregation, the minister’s confession related. She came to him with her problems, he declared, and he learned of her growing domestic unhappiness and a physical ailment which doctors told her would soon cause her death. Then came her decision to leave home and hearth. The pastor, after inveighing against this action, declared he bought suitcases and agreed to let her use his car. Mrs. Kelly said she would try and get some one else to drive, he wrote, but if she could not, Newton said he agreed to help her in this way despite the danger of trouble from Dennis Kelly and his own wife. Monday evening, by arrangement, the parson said he left his automobile in the driveway with the ignition key in the switch. If no one came for it by 11:30, he said he understood that he was to do the driving.

Goes for Ice and Groceries.

“After supper I went over to my youngest son’s,” read the confession, “and together we went to the ice plant and loaded fifty pounds of ice on the ice carrier of the car and went to the baker’s, where I had left groceries and other things, loaded these in and went home. I later went back downtown and out to the house. I have been using whisky for two and a half years and remembered that I had none and was feeling nervous and upset, anticipating trouble. I went back and got in the car and drove to Madison, Mo., twelve miles west of Paris and went to the drug store and got a pint of whisky which I put in the dash pocket of the car, returned to Paris and took the whisky to my study and put it in my desk drawer.” After waiting for the substitute driver to appear, Newton wrote, the 11:30 deadline arrived, and he prepared to play Lochinvar to Mrs. Kelly. “I think I went out to the car,” his confession continued, “then returned to the study and took the whisky out of the desk drawer, also a revolver, and put them in the car. I had been out several days and was weak and nervous and felt like I wanted whisky and also anticipated possible danger and wanted the pistol along. I backed out of the driveway and drove north.” There follows in the confession a detailed account of his meeting Mrs. Kelly at the side door of her home and how he helped her load her belongings into the car.

Suggested That He Return Home.

Then their drive began. Newton told of suggesting that he leave Mrs. Kelly at some town not too distant, so that he might return to his own home without being missed. But she would nave none of it. “We had to drive slowly because it had been raining ever since we left Paris,” continued Newton’s confession, “and I began asking her what she thought we could do, where I could leave her most consistently and be back in Paris by daylight. She repeated that she didn’t know and that she was depending on me. I repeated that I didn’t know these towns, but thought she had better stop the first place we could find a decent hotel so I could go home.”

Stops Car to Talk It Over.

“She said, ‘Are you going home?’ By this time we were some distance this side of the river, but I cannot say how far. I stopped the car that we might decide definitely what we were going to do and said, ‘Maybelle, you know that I have to be home by daylight and it is getting late now. We can’t go very far. Also we might get caught in the high water and kill ethe engine and then we would be in a jam.” But Maybelle had different ideas. Unless the elderly parson, who does not look over 37, would go with her, Maybelle said, according to his confession, that she would not move. In fact, the preacher wrote, she became hysterical, and “to quiet the spell,” he got out of the car. So did Mrs. Kelly. “She half screamed that she would never get back in the car unless we were going together,” Newton continued. “I tried to pick her up to put her in the car.”

Moves Her Toward Car Door.

“I don’t know how I took hold of her. She was facing me and I lifted her up and as I did with some difficulty she turned partly around as I held her and moved her toward the card door which was not fastened and I was about worn out and although she was small it was about I could do. I got one foot on the running board and tried to support her with my knee and with my elbow tried to get the door open. It possibly was opened about four to six inches. She struggled and put her hand against the car and shoved me back, thinking only to shove herself back perhaps, and I lost my balance and staggered, I don’t know how far, but it seemed to me my impression is about to the rear of the car by the side and fell, she falling over m shoulder and back and I fell on her. I think her head struck the pavement, for when I bent over her to pick her up and spoke to her she didn’t reply, seemed unconscious and limp. I picked her up with some difficulty, staggered under her weight and in trying to go to the car door I stepped off the edge of the pavement on the south side, for the car was facing east, and fell again, dropping her either on her face, or back of the head, I do not recall, and fell with her.”

Feels Faint; Gulps Whisky.

“I think I picked her up the third time or tried to. At any rate while both of us were on the pavement I lifted her head and blood was spurting from it in a stream over my shirt and some in my face. I was feeling faint, so I took two or three drinks of whisky.” The pastor said he tore a strip from his shirt and tried to staunch the flow of blood. “I became excited and I don’t remember all that happened,” he continued. “I think I struck her with something, hammer or a dumbbell, and then I, with much difficulty, got the body into the car.” The minister started back towards the river. On the Mark Twain bridge he rolled her body over the railing into the water, following it with the old iron dumbbell used in the murder, which later was recovered. “I went home and I think for the first time remembered that the money Mrs. Kelly had drawn from the bank before she left was still in the car,” the preacher said. “It was he own suggestion that she put it in the dash pocket and I think she forgot about it. I took it into my study and put it in my desk.” Source: Chicago Tribune Press Service.

OTHER WOMEN SOUGHT TO TELL MORE OF KILLER

PASTOR NEWTON’S INSURANCE SALES STUDIED.

Pittsfield, Ill., July 17 - [Special] – State’s Attorney Merrill Johnston said today he would question the Rev. C.E. Newton further her tomorrow about his alleged friendship with other women. Johnston indicated a belief that the parson has not yet told all the facts concerning the fatal beating of Mrs. Dennis Kelly, Paris, Mo., mother. Newton, who is 51 years old, has admitted he slugged Mrs. Kelly, described as one of his most loyal women followers, with a hammer and then tossed her body into the Mississippi river, near Hannibal, Mo., last Monday night. The state’s attorney expressed the opinion that the minister’s goal was eventually to get rid of his wife as a result of his interest in other women. He will ask Newton’s indictment before a special grand jury next week, probably Monday. Source: Unknown.

CLERIC ACCUSED IN DEATH, LOSES FIGHT FOR LIBERTY

Pittsfield, Ill., Aug 9 – The Rev. C.E. Newton, of Paris, Mo., was back in his cell with his Bibles tonight, ready to fight charges that he murdered Mrs. Dennis E. Kelly, his “devout friend” and former parishioner, during a quarrel last month. In a brief court appearance today, the former minister pleaded innocent, shortly after Judge A. Clay Williams overruled a defense motion to quash the indictment. The court set his trial for November 15. Source: Unknown.

PASTOR ON TRIAL AS SLAYER OF HIS NEIGHBOR’S WIFE

STATE TO ASK DEATH IN ELECTRIC CHAIR

By Marcia Winn, Chicago Tribune Press Service.

Pittsfield, Ill., Nov 14 – [Special] – The Rev C. Ellsworth Newton sat somberly in his cell here today, his gaunt frame doubled over the Bible. Between furious puffs at a cigarette he read his favorite author: Job. Tomorrow the Rev. Mr. Newton, a gangling Baptist minister from Missouri, goes on trial for the murder of his lifelong friend and parishioner, Mrs. Maybelle Kelly, whose body floated to the surface of the Mississippi river on July 13. The state will ask the electric chair, but the minister is calm. Pittsfield’s population is expected to be doubled when the trial opens, as the Rev. Mr. Newton’s defense is being financed by half the Baptists in the state of Missouri. He has been a preacher for 30 odd years.

Three Attorneys from Missouri.

Contributions have been so numerous that three attorneys have been imported from Kansas City, Mo. They are Daniel P. Johnson, Martin F. Turner, and James McPheely. The story of the pastor and Mrs. Kelly, a postman’s wife, has stirred the countryside for many months now. Long before Mrs. Kelly’s body was found and long before Mr. Newton’s alleged confession that he beat her to death “with a hammer, or dumbbell or something,” their association had been common gossip in Paris, Mo. Mrs. Kelly was 45 and the mother of two children. She lived about a block from the parsonage. The Rev. Mr. Newton is 51, but looks 35. He is 6 feet tall and weighs 125 pounds. He was pastor of a Baptist church in Paris until 1936, when a rift came in his congregation. Despite the ardent support of Mrs. Kelly, he had to resign.

$1,950 Withdrawn From Bank.

At the trial State’s Attorney Merrill Johnston of Pike county will bring out the full story of Mrs. Kelly’s disappearance on July 12, of the $1,950 she withdrew from the bank, and of the 14 page letter she left for her husband, Dennis; of the charred remnants of her luggage found 31 miles northwest of Paris. The state’s evidence includes stains and wisps of red hair found under the floor mat of the minister’s automobile, four loaded revolvers found in his house, and a pair of stained trousers, as well as the iron dumbbell fished up from the floor of the Mississippi river beside the Mark Twain bridge, over the railing of which the minister tossed the body. Source: Chicago Daily Tribune (1872-1963); Nov 15, 1937; ProQuest Historical Newspapers Chicago Tribune (1890-1984) pg 6.

DEATH MAY BE ASKED FOR PASTOR IN SLAYING

Pittsfield, Ill., Nov 14 – State’s Attorney Merrill Johnston said tonight “I think I will” ask the death penalty for the Rev. C.E. Newton, charged with murdering Mrs. Dennis Kelly, 45, of Paris, Mo. Mrs. Kelly’s body was found in the Mississippi River near Louisiana, Mo., in July. Two days later, Johnston announced the minister confessed he tossed his “devout frame” into the river after striking her on the head “with something, I think a hammer.” Source: The Washington Post (1877-1954); Nov 15, 1937; ProQuest Historical Newspapers Washington Post pg 3.

PICK 8 JURORS TO TRY PASTOR IN RIVER DEATH

By Marcia Winn, Chicago Tribune Press Service.

Pittsfield, Ill., Nov 15 – [Special] – A long and grueling session in Circuit court here today produced only eight of the 12 jurors necessary for the murder trial of the Rev C. Ellsworth Newton, cadaverous Baptist minister from the bottomlands of Missouri. The Rev Mr. Newton guided the spiritual destinies of some northern Missouri Baptists for the last 30 years. Now he is charged with the murder of Mrs. Maybelle Kelly, his most devoted parishioner, whom he once called “a very helpful, devoted Christian woman.” Since the slaying of Mrs. Kelly, matronly red haired wife of a Paris, Mo., rural mail carrier, took place some 30 yards on the Illinois side of the Mississippi river, the trial is being held here in Pike county, with half the women in Paris crossing the river to attend.

All Farmers on Jury.

This is one reason why of the 56 lean, taciturn farmers who entered the jury box today, only eight were permitted to remain. Of those eight, only one is a bachelor; all are farmers in the river country. Of the others who streamed in and out of the jury box since 9 o’clock this morning, their faces devoid of emotion, their voices low by emphatic, six had conscientious scruples against the death penalty which the state will ask. Others admitted preconceived opinions. Judge A. Clay Williams excused seven from jury service. Harvey Scott begged freedom because he has “a good many hogs to look after and corn schuckin’ on hand.” Russ Laurel’s apple crop is ready for the warehouse and “it’s purty hard to get away.” Another’s wife is “poorly.”

Victim Long a Friend.

Mrs. Kelly has been Newton’s friend ever since 1923, when the preacher first came to Paris, Mo. She plied him and his wife with fresh vegetables and dressed chickens, served him as president of the Woman’s Missionary society and on the night of last July 12 left town with him. The next day her body was found floating in the Mississippi river. Although the questioning of the prospective jurors, Newton, a thin lipped man with a gaunt frame appropriately draped in black, seemed nervous.

Courtroom is Filled.

The courtroom, a great octagonal place, bright with golden oak and dull with stained glass windows, was filled. All the spectators looked toward the Baptist preacher, who in the past had been called “handsome, almost boyish.” Right now he is neither. He looks his age, which is 51. Although tall, he is so thin he seems frail. His features are on the foxy side, long, lean jaw, small pointed chin, and quite a nose. His blue gray eyes are blurred behind thick lensed spectacles with gold rims. State’s Attorney Merrill Johnston says he will dwell on the minister’s “winning way” with women and will seek to prove he took from Mrs. Kelly, his richest admirer, the $1,950 she had with her.

Defense is Mysterious.

Defense Attorney Daniel P. Johnston, however, is mysterious. Thus far he has subpoenaed no witnesses; has done little, in fact, except issue a repudiation of Newton’s confession of July 15. In that confession the minister implied he was merely trying to help an old friend flee by automobile from a husband she was sick of unto death. When he told her he intended to drop her at a hotel so he could get home she “became hysterical.” To give his nerves the calmness which a pint of whisky had failed to do, he got out of his car into the rain. She followed, and they grappled and fell, her head striking the pavement, he said. Seeing she was unconscious, he then “became excited,” by his own words, administered a brief clubbing, and tossed her from the Mark Twain bridge, 35 miles from here. Source: Chicago Daily Tribune (1872-1963); Nov 16, 1937; ProQuest Historical Newspapers Chicago Tribune (1890-1984) pg 1.

PASTOR HEARS KIN AID STATE

WEEPING SON RECITES EVENTS IN SLAYING CASE

Tells of Destroying Woman’s Baggage

By Marcia Winn, Chicago Tribune Press Service.

Pittsfield, Ill., Nov 17 – [Special] – The son and the foster daughter of the Rev. C. Ellsworth Newton took the witness stand in Circuit court here today to testify against the gaunt Baptist preacher from Missouri. Before the day’s session of court was ended it was apparent that the pastor’s defense will be that Mrs. Maybelle Kelly, whom Newton is accused of killing, was beaten to death by jealous women.

Son a Tearful Witness.

The son, Noel, a tally youth of 22 with ruddy cheeks and dark hair, made a reluctant and sorrowful witness, but Miss Myra Hanan, the pastor’s adopted daughter, an angular spinster of 37, made a grim one, with folded arms and sardonic, spectacled eyes flashing from behind a voluminous black veil. The pair undoubtedly are the state’s key witnesses in the trial of the Rev. Mr. Newton for the murder of Mrs. Kelly, his red haired parishioner and admirer whose body came floating down the Mississippi river on July 13. For not until Missouri authorities heart their story, at 3 a.m. on July 14, was suspicion directed against the minister. The story both told today, in widely divergent manner, but to equally dramatic tempo, was of the finding and burning of Mrs. Kelly’s shawl and suitcases which they discovered in the rear of the Rev. Mr. Newton’s car the day after her disappearance and death.

Avoids Glancing at Father.

The similarity ended with direct examination, Noel Newton, a stricken, anguished figure, was released without cross-examination and darted from the courtroom without a glance at the emotionless, white face of his father. But Miss Hanan, swarthed smartly in a bright green coat and dress, was kept on the stand for a grueling cross-examination that lasted until 8 p.m. From this questioning came the first inkling of what the Rev. Mr. Newton’s defense will be. It was indicated that he will take the stand and deny the murder, repudiating his confession of July 15, and seek to continue his reputation as the swashbuckling Don Juan of Paris, Mo. [a reputation his cadaverous appearance does not support], by contending that a jealous woman, or women, hammered Mrs. Kelly to death. Miss Hanan bore up like an automation under the verbal barrage of Defense Attorney Martin S. Turner of Kansas City. She folded her arms, ventured an occasional thin, tolerant smile and time and again answered monosyllabically, “I did not.” The Rev. Mr. Newton, his face bland and shining with aggrieved innocence, watched her intently.

Denies Meeting Minister.

“Did you, at 4 o’clock the morning of July 13, meet Colonel [his first name] Newton near Monroe City, Mo.?” Attorney Turner demanded, veering suddenly from his discussion of the delicate matters such as where the pastor’s study was located and how many sermons he wrote. “Why,” bridled Miss Hanan, “I did not. I was at home asleep.” “Did you say to him at that time,” Attorney Turner persisted, “’Daddy, did it hurt you much? We are sorry for you. This is a terrible case. Everything has gone haywire.’ Did you say that?” “I did not.” Q- At that time in response to his question, “Whose blood is that?” did you say “That’s hers. You had better forget it.” A. – I did not.

Insists She’s Home in Bed.

Q - To his question, “What happened to Maybelle?” did you say, “She is dead.” A - I did not. Q - To his question, “Where did it occur?” did you say, “Right where we caught up with you?” A. – [primly] I was at home in bed. Q – To his question, “What has become of the body?” did you say, “She’s gone down the river?” A – I was at home. We had no such conversation. Q – Did you say, “Could Loy or Ella or E.P. identify that old hammer?” A – I was at home and not in a car with him. No such conversation took place. Q – And did he say, “I expect they could”? A – No. I didn’t say that. Q – When he said, “Was it used?” didn’t you say, “Never mind. What you don’t know won’t hurt you”? A – I did not. Q – “Did you say, “You’d better keep your mouth shut or you’ll have everybody into this.” Did you say that? A – I did not.

Here’s Elaborate Reply.

Q – When he said, “I want to know the truth,” did you say, “What good will it do you or anybody else? It’s done and that’s that”? A – I did not. Q – Later, the afternoon of July 13, did you say, “What do you know or are you just guessing? For Pete’s sake, keep your head”? A – No [smiling broadly], I did not. Miss Hanan’s one elaborate reply came when she was asked where she was at 1 a.m. on July 13. She said she had gone out to look for the minister. “Why?” he demanded. “I was uneasy about him,” she said. “I thought something might have happened to him.” Although the many women in the audience followed her testimony intently the witness who drew the breathless attention – and the sympathetic attention – of men and women alike was the minister’s son, Noel. Noel’s steps lagged as he walked to the witness stand. Once there, he clenched his fists and steadfastly turned his gaze away from his father. Noel often hesitated as long as two minutes before replying to the questions of State’s Attorney Merrill Johnston, while a tense courtroom of farmers and townsfolk leaned heavily forward and a jury of eleven farmers and one barber eyed him with amazement. Judge A. Clay Williams often prompted him with a sympathetic “Go on, go on, boy.”

Asked About His Father.

When Noel first ascended the stand his preacher father looked at him intently. But as the questioning continued, and the youth’s anguish became acute, the Rev. Mr. Newton huddled up in his black suit, shot his long chin down toward the table, and shifted two pieces of paper together, again and again and again. “Did you see your father on Monday, July 12?” Prosecutor Johnston asked. Noel crossed one leg, clasped an ankle with both hands, and said nothing. Finally, looking pleadingly at his father, he replied that he had. Q – Tell the jury when and where, Noel. A – [again a long silence, as he rubbed his chin} About 10 that evening. Q – Where? A – At my filling station. Q – How long was he there? A – About and hour and 15 minutes. Q – When did you close? A – About 11:15.

Witness Shifts in Chair.

Defense Attorney Daniel T. Johnson of Kansas City, Mo., shifted uncomfortably. Previous witnesses had told how, on the morning of July 13, the Rev. Mr. Newton had said he stayed at his son’s filling station until 1 a.m. Q – Then where did you go? A – To a café and then home. Q – Did you see your father any more that evening? A – [slowly shifting in the witness chair] No. Prosecutor Johnston paused dramatically before asking his next question. “Do you know Myra Hanan?” he asked clearly. Noel’s answer came faintly, almost inaudibly. Again and again, Judge Williams admonished the spectators to quiet the shuffling of their feet. “Yes,” Noel said, “I do.” Q – Shortly after noon on July 13 did you see Myra Hanan? A – [in a low voice] Yes, sir. Q – Where? A – At my filling station.

Tells of Finding Shawl.

Q – What happened at that time? A – [turning his gaze around to the windows behind him and coughing] I don’t know if anything happened. She started to drive away. She was in my father’s car, and I noticed that the back seat was jutting out. I told her to wait a minute and I would put it back in place. [Again he lapsed into a long silence]. Q – What happened then? A – [slowly] It wouldn’t push in, so I pulled it out to see what was the matter. Q – Then what? A – The first thing I saw was a shawl. I don’t know what kind it was. Q – Had you seen it before? A – Either it or one like it. Q – Where? A – On Mrs. Maybelle Kelly. A murmur of conversation rippled through the courtroom. Judge Williams turned a stern face toward them. His bailiff rapped for order. Q – What else were there? A – Two suitcases. Q – Did either you or Myra open them? A – No sir.

Meeting with Myra Told.

Q – [sternly] At that time did you know anything about Mrs. Kelly? A – I heard that she was missing. The minister glanced severely at his son as he said this, then relapsed into his apathetic huddle. Noel continued haltingly. He and Miss Hanan drove out to his home, southwest of Paris, Mo., he said, and placed the shawl and suitcases in an abandoned shed, then returned to town. That afternoon he called on his mother, Mrs. Grace Newton, who is ill. Q – Did you see Myra after that? A – I did. Q – About what time? A – Between 7 and 8, at my station. Q – What did you do? A – [in a whisper] We discussed the disappearance of Mrs. Kelly. Q – Had you heard she was dead? A – I had, yes, sir. Q – What did you do? A – I wondered about those clothes and what we should do with them. Again he paused. There was no sound in the courtroom. The minister made little marks on his two sheets of paper. “Go on,” said Judge Williams. “Go on, boy.” “Well, at 9 o’clock Miss Hanan came back,” Noel continued. “We went out to the shed, moved the suitcases and drove out to the north, possibly 32 miles. We went off on a side road.” Q – What did you do when you got there? A – Burned them. Q – How? A – With kerosene and gasoline. Q – Did you wait to see them burn? A – [clenching hands tightly] – Yes, sir. Then we got back to Paris about midnight, stopped by my station, and [his voice droned off into silence]. Noel next saw Miss Hanan at 2 a.m., he said, at his parents’ home when she turned over some money to Sheriff Russell Wilkes of Monroe County, Mo.

Jurors Given Rest.

Q – How much money was delivered there? A – I saw him count it out, but I’ve forgotten how much it was. Q – Was it $1,930? A – I couldn’t say [whispered]. Q – Did you see the size of the bills? A – Yes, $20 bills and $10 bills. Q – Where was the money? “If you know,” interrupted Defense Attorney Johnston. “I went with Myra to her office to get it,” Noel said slowly. With that he was excused without cross-examination and he hurried from the courtroom, ignoring his father. Judge Williams then dismissed the exhausted jury for a ten minute rest. The money, the state will seek to prove, was the $1,930 remaining from the $1,950 Mrs. Kelly withdrew from the bank on July 12 preparatory to leaving her home and husband with the preacher. Newton later gave it to Miss Hanan for “safekeeping” and she turned it over to the sheriff.

Miss Hanan Next Witness.

The next witness for the state was Miss Hanan, a pleasant spinster of 37, whose features were blurred behind a voluminous black veil. Her testimony was similar to Noel’s. She said that Newton, whom she served as secretary, gave her an envelope “which had money in it.” “Did he say anything?” Prosecutor Johnston asked her. “He said,” she replied distinctly, “if any one asked where he was the night of the 12th I should say he was home.” Q – Was he at home during the evening? A – Until 8:30. Q – Did you see him again that evening? A – No. When Defense Attorney Martin S. Turner asked on cross-examination if she were “uneasy” about the minister she replied, “I was afraid something might have happened to him.” The morning session was one with grimness and macabre relics of Mrs. Kelly. A tuft of reddish-brown hair, a piece of skull bone, a grimy white handkerchief, a pair of slippers, the contents of a pocketbook – all these were spread out on a little table, while the jury craned forward.

Tells of Seeing Hair.

Oscar Howarth, a Pike county farmer, a tall, wiry man, dressed in his dark Sunday clothes, testified that as he was driving along highway 66, a mile and a half east of the Mark Twain bridge, at 6 a.m. he saw a pair of woman’s slippers and blood on the pavement. His testimony continued as follows: Q [by prosecutor] – How do you know that was a pool of blood you saw? A – Oh, I’ve seen blood before. Q – Did you see anything else? A – I saw bits of hair near the edge of the pavement. Q – Are these [producing a pair of small, dark blue, kid tie-pumps] the slippers of which you spoke? A [peering intently at them] – I think they are. I know they are. That dent there [indicating a tear in the leather of one heel] was where one had been run over on the pavement. The Rev. Mr. Newton, a look of superior resignation on his face, cast a cursory glance at the slippers, then bent over the table to scribble many notes. Howarth admitted on cross-examination there had been quite a bit of rain the previous night. 

Witness Evokes Titters.

Q – But there was no water on the pavement? A – No, sir. Q – It was a comparatively hard rain? A – Yes, sir. Q – Did you pick up the shoes? A [emphatically] – I did not. Q – You left them there? A [with slight disgust] – I moved them off the pavement with my rubber boot. Q – Did you leave them there? A – I sartinly did. The spectators and jury both tittered audibly as the farmer, with affronted dignity, drew back in the witness chair. Judge Williams sat sternly upright. “There must not be anything of that kind in her,” the judge said, frowning at the laughter. “I give you that warning now.” “I never touched them,” Howarth hurriedly added. “I seen the law instead.”

Recalls Finding Spots.

Q – Was there hair on the concrete? A – There was hair on the concrete? A – There was hair on the concrete and on the weeds. Q – Did you say the hair was between the bloodspots? A – Yes, sir. Q – Did you see any footprints? A – I saw a couple of men’s tracks right where the bloodstains were. They looked like fresh tracks to me. Later on the bridge, he saw more blood, he said – ‘scattered all over.” The size was “O, a nickel or a quarter or something like that.” James O’Donnell of Hannibal, Monroe County, Mo., coroner, a big man with gray hair and John L. Lewis eyebrows, testified he went with Kelly to identify the body. A Hannibal policeman, Bailey Brower, then took the stand. Brower went out to the scene of the crime on Howarth’s report and found spots of blood “the size of my hand” on the pavement and a spot “twice as large” on the shoulder. 

Women Witnesses Sob.

Q [by prosecutor] – How much hair did you see there? A – Several strands. Q – Where was it with reference to spots of blood? A – Some was close by. Q – Describe that hair if you can. A – Reddish brown, streaked with gray. Q – Did you pick it up? A – I did later. Q – What else did you see? A [slowly] – A piece of skull bone with jagged edges covered with blood. A murmur of horror went through the courtroom. The minister, tilting his chair backward and forward, compressed his stubby yellow pencil in his fist. Women witnesses, awaiting their turn at the stand, began to cry. One left the courtroom. Brower said he also saw imprints of shoes in the mud, some two feet away from the piece of bone, and found about four or five hairpins. Source: Chicago Daily Tribune (1872-1963); Nov 18, 1937; ProQuest Historical Newspapers Chicago Tribune (1890-1984) pg 1.

PASTOR FOUND GUILTY IN KILLING WITH HAMMER

JURY DECREES LIFE IN PRISON FOR SLAYING WOMAN WHO TAUGHT SUNDAY SCHOOL.

By the Associated Press.

Pittsfield, Ill., Nov 24 – The Rev. C.E. Newton was convicted today of slaying his former Sunday school teacher and the jury fixed his punishment at life imprisonment. The 51-year-old Missouri country preacher had pleaded he was the victim of circumstances in the brutal hammer-slaying last July of Mrs. Dennis Kelly, 45-year-old mother, of Paris, Mo. A motion for a new trial was filed a few hours after the jury returned the verdict. Merrill Johnston, youthful State’s attorney, who read to the jury Newton’s purported “confession” to slaying Mrs. Kelly “with something. I think a hammer,” the night of last July 12, said: “I’m well satisfied with decision.” Myra Hanan, 37-year-old foster daughter of the preacher, and whom he implicated in the murder through testimony in his own defense, testified Newton gave her an envelope of money last July 13, said it had belonged to Mrs. Kelly and asked her to tell questioners he had not left his home the previous night. The minister admitted helping Mrs. Kelly flee from her husband, a rural mail carrier, but declared she was slain after he was abducted and beaten on a lonely road by captors. Source: Unknown.

PASTOR GETS LIFE TERM.

JUDGE SENTENCES NEWTON AS SLAYER OF WOMAN IN MISSOURI.

Pittsfield, Ill., Dec 11 – Overruling a motion for a new trial, Circuit Judge A. Clay Williams formally sentenced the Rev. C.E. Newton to life imprisonment today for the murder of Mrs. Dennis Kelly, his “devout friend and loyal co-worker,” at Paris, Mo. When the judge asked if he had anything to say before sentence was pronounced, the 51-year-old minister rose and responded: “Nothing, Your Honor, except that I’m not guilty.” He was convicted by a jury Nov 24 on a charge that he hammered Mrs. Kelly to death to last July 12 while helping her desert her husband, a rural mail carrier. The body of the 45-year-old mother was found floating in the Mississippi River the next day. Newton, pale from his long jail confinement and visibly nervous, was present in court during a hearing on the motion for a new trial. His attorneys changed that the conviction resulted from “passion and prejudice” and “misconduct of the jury.” Defense counsel filed notice of an appeal to the State Supreme Court. Source: Unknown article.

MINISTER CONVICTED OF SLAYING WOMAN BEGINS LIFE TERM

Pittsfield, Ill., Dec 18 – [Special] – The Rev C.E. Newton, convicted of the hammer slaying of Mrs. Dennis Kelly and sentenced to life in prison, was taken to the Menard penitentiary today by Sheriff Wendell Johnson. Since his conviction Nov 24, the pastor has insisted he is innocent of the slaying, and attorneys have said an appeal will be taken. Mrs. Kelly, described as a loyal friend and devout church worker, was slain at Paris, Mo., and her body was thrown into the Mississippi river. Newton was arrested July 14, the day after her body was found. Since the conviction the preacher, who is 51 years old, has expressed eagerness to be taken to the penitentiary. Levi Collins, starting a one to ten year term for hog theft, was taken with the pastor to Menard. 

Source: Unknown article.