December 24, 1908
MRS. MORASCH ASKS NEW TRIAL.
Attorney Declares He Has Found
Evidence to Clear Her.
After hearing arguments on the application for a new trial in the Sarah Morasch murder case yesterday morning Judge McCabe Moore of the district court, Kansas City, Kas., announced that he would withhold his decision for a few days. Mrs. Morasch is the woman who was convicted of sending a box of poisoned candy to the home of Charles Miller on Cheyenne avenue, Kansas City, Kas., which resulted in the death of Ruth Miller, a 4-year-old girl.
The jury that tried her returned a verdict of murder in the first degree. Her attorney, Daniel Maher, asked for a new trial on the grounds that he had found new evidence which he argued was sufficient to clear her.
Labels: attorney, Death of Ruth Miller, Judges, Kansas City Kas, murder
May 22, 1908
SARAH MORASCH IS
GUILTY OF MURDER.
CONVICTED OF POISONING A
Sent Poisoned Candy by Mail to Ella
Miller, Who Did Not Eat It Be-
cause It Was Bitter -- Her
Sister Was Killed.
Mrs. Sarah Morasch must spend the remainder of her life in the Kansas penitentiary for the murder of her 4-year-old niece, Ruth Miller. The jury which heard the evidence in Mrs. Morasch's second trial reached a verdict of guilty at 1 o'clock yesterday afternoon. The case had been on trial since May 4. There was no verdict in the first trial.
When the verdict was read Mrs. Morasch held her usual composure, and merely laughed.
The case went to the jury at 4 o'clock Wednesday afternoon, and from the first ballot to the one which settled the fate of Mrs. Morasch the jurors stood eleven to one for conviction. At noon yesterday George E. Horn, foreman of the jury, asked for the testimony of Charles Miller, father of the dead girl. A few minutes later a knock was heard on the door of the jury room. "We have agreed," said Foreman Horn, and the twelve jurors filed in the court room and took their seats.
On the afternoon of February 13, the Miller children were in their home, 634 Cheyenne avenue, Armourdale. A knock was heard on the door and the postman, Henry T. Keener, handed Ella Van Meter, better known as Ella Miller, a package weighing about a pound. It was wrapped in white paper and bore the inscription: "Ella Miller, 634 Cheyenne avenue, Armourdale. A knock was heard on the door and the postman, Henry T. Keener, handed Ella Van Meter, better known as Ella Miller, a package weighing about a pound. It was wrapped in white paper and bore the inscription: "Ella Miller, 634 Cheyenne avenue, corner of Cheyenne & Packard avenues. From the S. & S. girls."
The box was opened, and found to contain a pound of chocolate candy, which she says tasted bitter, and gave some to the other children who gathered around her.
A few minutes later Ruth, who had eaten more of the candy than the rest, was seized with cramps while playing in the back yard, and was taken into the house. She died before the nearest physician, Dr. Zacharia Nason, who lived a block distant, could be summoned. He pronounced the death as due to strychnine poisoning.
The fact that Mrs. Sarah Morasch bore a grudge against Ella Miller, who had once laughed at he, and that immediately after the little girl's death, she had gone to Harrisonville, Mo., caused suspicion to be directed to her. She was arrested at the Missouri town.
The testimony of handwriting experts was a strong factor in the conviction.
Labels: Armourdale, children, courtroom, Death of Ruth Miller, doctors, Harrisonville, murder, poison
May 20, 1908
MORASCH CASE WILL
GO TO THE JURY TODAY.
Accused Woman Again Says She Fled
Because Taggart Threat-
Arguments were begun in the case of Mrs. Sarah Morasch, accused of having poisoned 4-year-old Ruth Miller on February 12, by attorneys in the Wyandotte county district court yesterday afternoon. The case will go to the jury today. This is Mrs. Morasch's second trial.
The defendant, who has shown remarkable nerve throughout the long sessions, was put on the witness stand early yesterday and kept there until evening.
The two small children of Mrs. Morasch, with her almost constantly since the beginning of the second trial, were not in the court room yesterday. Nellie and Hattie, 10 and 16 years old respectively, had become tired of standing, first on one foot and then on another, listening to prosaic and endless banterings between the attorneys in a heated atmosphere and gone off to play in the court house back yard. The east windows, however, were opened occasionally during the day, then while the defendant battled for her life the voices of the children could plainly be heard as they romped about on the grass, but the mother never once seemed to notice it.
The story told by the accused woman did not vary greatly from the one told at the first trial and at the preliminary hearing in Judge Newhall's court. She denied assertions made by some farmers who live near Belton and Peculiar, Mo., to the effect that she and Blanche had passed along that route on the way to Harrisonville and had said she worked on some ranch in the neighborhood.
In Harrisonville, she said, she had obtained employment for herself at a restaurant. She worked there only one day and the receipts amounted in full to only 35 cents. Her employer then gave her 45 cents and discharged her Although her wages were 10 cents ahead of the receipts, she testified that she thought this a good business showing for a Harrisonville restaurant.
While telling the jury of Prosecutor Taggart's attitude to her in his private office a few nights before the flight to Harrisonville when, it is alleged by the defense, he got extremely nervous and frightened the defendant, Mrs. Morasch laughed. She was then asked by the county attorney if she had felt more nervous on that occasion that at the present one when she is being tried for her life. She said that she had been more nervous. She was then dismissed and the arguments for the state by Assistant County Attorney Higgins followed.
Labels: children, courtroom, Death of Ruth Miller, murder, women
May 4, 1908
SHE'LL FACE SECOND JURY.
Mrs. Morasch's Trial Begins in Kan-
sas City, Kas., Today.
The second trial of Mrs Sarah Morasch, accused of killing Ruth Miller of 634 Cheyenne avenue, Armourdale, will begin this morning in the Wyandotte county district court under Judge McCabe Moore. Sixty-five jurors have been summoned for the panel, and the selecting of jurors to try the case may consume today and possibly tomorrow.
Attorney Joseph Taggart for the prosecution announces that he will have at least sixty witnesses for the state, some of them called from distant states, and that he will introduce some features in this hearing not introduced in the first one, a month ago. Attorneys Maher and Wooley, for the defense, are confident that the state will utterly fail to make a case against the accused.
Mrs. Morasch is confined in the county jail. The strain of the past two months, if there has been any, has left no visible effects, and her face, while a little pallid from the confinement, is much fuller.
The crime with which Mrs. Morasch is charged is that of sending a box of poisoned candies through the mails to Ella Miller, stepsister of Ruth Miller, Wednesday, February 12, this year. All the five children of Charles and Malinda Miller at home when the candy was received there tasted of the sweets, but only Ruth, 4 years old, died from the effects. Mrs. Morasch was captured by Sheriff Fred Hamilton of Cass county, Mo, a few days later. She had fled to Harrisonville.
Labels: County Attorney Taggart, Death of Ruth Miller, jail, Judges
April 9, 1908
MRS. MORASCH'S BOND $4,000.
Her Attorney Says She May Be Able
to Furnish It.
The bond of Mrs. Sarah Morasch, accused of killing Ruth Miller of Armourdale, February 12, has been fixed by Judge McCabe Moore of the Wyandotte county district court at $4,000. Mrs. Morasch is now being held in the couty jail for a second trial in the district court, set for May 4. Daniel Maher, attorney for the defense, said last night his clielnt may be able to give bond.
Labels: Armourdale, attorney, Death of Ruth Miller, Judges
April 6, 1908
MORASCH JURY IS
UNABLE TO AGREE.
WILL BE ANOTHER TRIAL SOON,
PERHAPS NEXT WEEK.
Eight Jurors Continued to Vote for
Conviction and Four Asked for
Acquittal During Twenty-eight
After being out since 4 o'clock Friday afternoon, the jury in the Mrs. Sarah Morasch case in Kansas City, Kas., was dismissed by District Judge McCabe Moore at 8:30 o'clock last night, after Charles Sass, the foreman, had reported an insurmountable difference of opinion among the members. The first ballot, taken Friday, soon after the jury had left the court room, show eight in favor of conviction and four against. The last ballot, taken last night at 8 o'clock, indicated that none of the jurors had suffered a change of heart during the twenty-eight and one-half hours of mediation.
It is probably that the case will not be called for another trial Monday, although the defense has challenged the state to appoint that day for the opening. Most of the state's fifty-six witnesses have gone home, one of them to Indianapolis, Ind., and the county attorney says he may need more time in which to summon them back. Mrs. Morasch was returned to the county jail last night. When word was sent to her that the jury had "hung," and that she would have to go through again a trial before the district court, she laughed and said:
"Well, I don't wonder they 'hung.' I'm innocent, you see. There's no evidence Taggart can bring up that will convict me of the killing of Ruth Miller, and I ain't going to lose any sleep. The next jury will acquit me, but oh, I hate to sit there in a chair in that court room and hear all the bad things said of me by the lawyers."
Mrs. Morasch was told that the lawyers probably hated the return engagement as much as she does and are under almost equally as much nervous strain, to which she replied, laughing again:
"Well, they get paid for it and I don't."
Labels: County Attorney Taggart, courtroom, Death of Ruth Miller, Kansas City Kas, murder
April 4, 1908
MORASCH ARGUMENTS TODAY.
Jury Will Soon Pass on Fate of the
The last evidence in the Sarah Morasch murder trial, which has been running over two weeks in the Wyandotte county district court in Kansas City, Kas., was heard by the jury at 4:50 o'clock yesterday afternoon. The argument will begin this morning at 9 o'clock. In it all phases of the mysterious circumstances surrounding the kiling of 4-year-old Ruth Miller of Armourdale will be reviewed. Yesterday afternoon the court room was packed with visitors.
Mrs. Morasch finished testifying before noon and was suceeded on the witness stand by her oldest daughter, Mrs. May Gillin. Mrs. Gillin told of her dealings with County Attorney Taggart prior to the capture of her mother in Harrisonville, Mo., with which she seems to have played the leading role.
According to her own words $20 was the renumeration which she received for her services. She said that she had been assured by the county attorney that no harm would come to her mother, and thus led to believe it was for information only Mrs. Morasch was wanted by the state.
After Mrs. Gillin, Attorney Daniel Maher for the defense called his assistant, Judge F. H. Wooley, to the witness chair to testify as being the person who wrote the note introduced by the defense to the state's handwriting experts as having been written by Ella Van Meter. He succeeded in misleading two of the experts by the note.
Labels: Armourdale, attorney, County Attorney Taggart, courtroom, Death of Ruth Miller, Kansas City Kas, murder
April 3, 1908
MRS. MORASCH TELLS
HER STORY TO JURY.
DENIES SENDING POISONED CAN-
DY TO LITTLE GIRL.
Says She Fled Wyandotte Because
She Feared County Attorney
Would Prosecute Her
in Baby Case.
Mrs. Sarah Morasch testified yesterday in her own behalf before the district court jury in Kansas City, Kas. She was called by counsel for the defense to tell the jury of her whereabouts at the time of the murder of little Ruth Miller of Argentine.
On direct examination the story told by the defendant in many ways differed from that told by her daughter, Blanche, in connection with the doings of the Morasch family the night before and the night following the killing of the child. Some of her statements, according to court records, were diametrically opposed to statements made by both herself and Blanche at the preliminary trial in the South city court.
The testimony of the defendant was mostly a series of negatives. She positively denied having sent the box of candy to Ella Van Meter. She had never sent Ella any candy at all, had never in her life been the possessor of a grain of strychnine, and Ella had never written for her the address of the Millers at 634 Cheyenne avenue, she said. In regard to the baby alleged to have been adopted surreptitiously by Mrs. Morasch from the U. S. G. Hughes maternity hospital last January, the defendant likewise blocked all further inquiry about details from the prosecution and defense by an emphatic denial.
The baby had been in good health while in her hands, she said. She had not at any time claimed it as her own, as her neighbors unanimously testified, nor had she, at any time, said she was about to give birth to a child.
When in cross-examination the prosecutor parried with her answers and tried to pin her down to an acknowledgement that she wrote some of the letters exhibited, her voice rose shrill in reply:
"I wrote some of that letter, not all of it!" The damaging parts of the missives, she freely swore, had been inserted by someone else. As she leaned far over in her chair to designate the questioned sentences or paragraphs, the had with which she pointed shook perceptibly, and her voice frequently broke.
SAID TAGGART SCARED HER.
"Where was I February 11?" Why at home, of course. Where do you suppose I'd be?" the witness answered to one of the queries of the county attorney.
"I had just been let out of your office, Mr. Taggart, where you know you bluffed me and nearly frightened me to death, until I could jump into a river at the sound of your voice. I went straight home after quitting the court house. You told me there to go home and to pull down the blinds, lie on my back and think over all I knew of the Hughes home and then, if I remembered anything about it that I had not told you, to come back.
"I went straight to a rooming house across the line and hired a room and paid 25 cents down on it, leaving me with a nickel. I had started with only 35 cents."
"Did I knot tell you before you left my office," interposed County Attorney Taggart, "that you would never again be arrested on the charge of mistreatment of the Hughes baby?"
SHE WAS NERVOUS WRECK.
"Yes, you did, but I did not place much faith in it. You also told me that if I did not return to you with full information concerning the maternity home you would see to it I got a six months' jailing. You said I would be followed everywhere I went and that I could not escape you.
"I tell you, I went out of your office a nervous wreck compared with what I was when I went in."
As to the flight of herself and daughter, Blanche Morasch, form the temporary home at Eighth and Locust streets to Harrisonville, Mo., subsequent to the murder, defendant alleged it was inspired by a fear of the county attorney, who had bulldozed her, she said continually.
She said that on the evening of Wednesday, February 12, she had left the rooming house to buy bread for the children. Before she had gone far she turned a corner of a street and came face to face with Taggart standing on the opposite side of the street with his hat pulled well down over his eyes.
In great fear she had but then turned about without buying the bread, she swore, and had then fled to her room, there stating to her daughter, Blanche, that the two of them must at once leave the city and go to Wichita, Kas., or again face the juvenile court and Taggart on a charge of child abuse.
WROTE LETTER DURING FLIGHT.
County Attorney Taggart then showed the witness the letter purported to have been sent by Mrs. Morasch to her daughter, Mrs. May Gillin, while on the flight to Harrisonville. It is "No. 8" in the exhibit.
Witness stated that part of the letter was in her handwriting and part in that of a girl at the farm house, where the two were stopping for the night. She said she had asked this girl to finish her letter to her daughter.
"Mayme was her name," testified Mrs. Morasch, "and I don't know what she might have added to my letter. She also wrote my signature on it."
"Now, you say you wrote the forepart of this letter. Are you responsible for the line on page two of which says: 'Did the police inquire about Blanche?' "
"The line does not say Blanche," replied the witness, sharply.
"Well, it indicates it by the letters, B and L together, with a dash following."
Mrs. Morasch took the sheet referred to and satisfied the prosecutor that the two letters spell 'me' and are no abbreviation at all. The lines following practically repeat the question, using the name Blanche spelled out in full. Mrs. Morasch denied having written that part of the letter, ascribing it to "Mayme," whose last name she could not recall. The defendant will be called upon for further cross-examination this morning. Counsel for the defense, Daniel Maher, will today call upon his assistant, Attorney Wooley, in regard to the mysterious not introduced by the defense as a sample of Ella Van Meter's handwriting where on the experts disagreed.
The case may not go to the jury before Monday.
Labels: Argentine, attorney, children, County Attorney Taggart, courtroom, Death of Ruth Miller, Harrisonville, murder, Wichita
March 31, 1908
MORASCH GIRL TELLS
OF THREE DAYS' TRAMP.
WENT TO HARRISONVILLE TO
ESCAPE COUNTY ATTORNEY.
Mrs. Morasch Feared Prosecution for
Death of Hughes's Foundling.
Grieved to Hear of Ruth
In low, even tones, Blanche Morasch, 17-year-old daughter of Mrs. Sarah Morasch, now being tried in the Wyandotte county district court, Kansas City, Kas., told the jury of the flight of Mrs. Morasch and herself to Harrisonville Mo., subsequent to the poisoning of Ruth Miller. While talking, Blanche seldom withdrew her eyes from those of County Attorney Taggart, except to cast them down toward the thin, nervous fingers of her left hand, which kept continually twisting at the folds of her skirt. he turned states' evidence upon the charge against her being dismissed.
"We were three days and as many nights on the way to Harrisonville," said the girl. "The first night we were at Peculiar, Mo., the second at Belton, the third half way between Belton and Harrisonville. We went all the way afoot, except one short ride in a farm wagon. There was snow on the round.
"Mother and I left Kansas City, Mo, about the morning of February 13. Mother was worried about something and insisted we leave at once for Wichita, Kas., She wanted to stop over a few days with friends at Harrisonville, Mo. We had a little money, which I had earned working at a laundry, and I turned this all over to mother, for I knew very well she could manage the expenses of the trip much better than I could.
"If mother knew anything of the poisoning she told me nothing about it and indicated in no way any knowledge of it. When we were talking over the walk to Harrisonville, the previous night, she told me she that she had just met County Attorney Taggart near our rooms at Eighth and Locust streets. She described him as having his hat pulled down over his eyes.
" 'The county attorney is following me everywhere,' she explained as a reason for our hasty departure from Kansas City. 'I've just got to go somewhere to get away from him. He thinks I killed the baby, which I adopted from the Hughes home If we don't pack up and leave the city he's going to get me sure. I can't stand his following me all the time.
"We set out on the trip about dawn. Both of us had new shoes and the walk to Peculiar, which consumed the greater part of the day, went off nicely. We stayed at a private home that night.
"The next morning, early, we got up, dressed and started out. Both of us were very tired yet from our tramp of the day before, but by noon the stiffness disappeared. Our shoes gave out in the uppers for the slag on the railroad grade was sharp as knives The center of the railroad track was filled with water and snow.
"We did not stop long at Belton, but passed through to a farm house a few miles beyond Before we left there the following morning the farmer's wife brought out a pair of shoes for mother, old ones, which she had thrown away.
""When we got to Harrisonville our feet were very sore and we were a sorry sight. Mother was completely exhausted."
GRIEVED OVER RUTH'S DEATH.
"When did you first see the Kansas City papers and get your first information of the death of Ruth Miller?" asked County Attorney Taggart.
"At Belton," replied the witness. "Mother went into a hotel or some place there and got a paper. When she saw on the first page the account of the little girl's death she wrung her hands and said over and over again: 'Poor Ruth! Poor Ruth!"
After dismissing Blanche from the witness stand, Taggart recalled Coroner A. J. Davis. Ella Van Meter, to whom the candies were sent, was recalled. Her testimony was similar to that given on the stand a week ago and went to show that the slip of paper containing the address, now marked 'exhibit No. 1,' was the one originally on the package.
Thomas D. Taylor, superintendent of the mails in the Kansas City Mo., postoffice, and Postoffice Inspector John C. Koons, partially identified the stamp on the candy box wrapper, on exhibit, as the one used in Kansas City, Mo., at the time.
CASE TO JURY FRIDAY.
Judge Newhall of the Kansas City, Kas., south city court, who presided at the preliminary, is to testify this morning as to statements made by Blanche and Mrs. Morasch at the preliminary hearing.
According to County Attorney Taggart, last night, the state will rest its case tomorrow, but has another handwriting expert to introduce. The defense has announced that it will produce only a few witnesses and is even now willing for the case to go to the jury without argument.
Mrs. Morasch has borne up well since the opening of the hearing. While being returned to her cell at the county jail, after court adjournment she kept up a lively and childish conversation with her little daughter, Hattie, who has spent most of her time in her lap, asleep.
Labels: attorney, County Attorney Taggart, courtroom, Death of Ruth Miller, Eighth street, Harrisonville, Judges, Kansas City Kas, Locust street, murder, Wichita
March 27, 1908
NEW KIND OF EXPERT
IN MORASCH TRIAL.
IT'S A WOMAN WHO HAS HAD
Called to Bear Witness That Mrs.
Morasch Did Not Give Birth to
Child She Claimed as
Ollie Jones, the mysterious witness for the state in the prosecution of Mrs. Morasch, accused of poisoning Ruth Miller, did not testify yesterday and, according to County Attorney Taggart, will not today. Court is adjourned until 9:30 o'clock Monday morning. The prosecutor says there is a world of minor testimony to be heard before Jones can be called to the stand. Jones was subpoenaed in Indianapolis, Ind, Monday.
Professor Beshong of the chemical department of the Kansas university finished his testimony at 11 o'clock yesterday morning and was dismissed. In cross-examination, Professor Bushong could not be certain that the symptoms of a certain kind of ptomaine do not resemble the effects of a dose of strychnine. He held, however, that ptomaine cannot exist in ordinary glucose such as used in making the white center portion of a chocolate cone.
The first witness called in the afternoon was Mrs. Laura Brooks, special witness for the state. Mrs. Brooks testified that the child Mrs. Morasch took from the Hughes maternity hospital a month or two before the poisoning, and which she claimed she had given birth to, could not have been her own.
"But, how do you know?" questioned Attorney Maher for the defense.
"The day after she said it was born I examined it and found it to be at least three weeks old."
"Three weeks old? I venture to assert t here is not a woman in the court room who could be sure on that point after a child is three days old. Are you a mother yourself?"
"Oh, yes; I have thirteen children, most of them grown," sighed the witness wearily. She was then dismissed by counsel for the defense without further cross examination.
Dr. Z. Nason of Packard and Osage avenues, Armourdale, was then called. Dr. Nason said he had been the first physician called after the poisoning and had seen Ruth die. He said she died of strychnine poisoning as far as he could judge. Her symptoms did not resemble those of ptomaine poisoning.
Labels: Armourdale, attorney, County Attorney Taggart, courtroom, Death of Ruth Miller, doctors, murder, poison, women
March 25, 1908
TESTIMONY A BLOW
TO MRS. MORASCH.
She Seems to Wither Before
John P. Shearman, expert in handwriting, was put on the witness stand in the Sarah Morasch poisoning case in Kansas City, Kas., yesterday. He was subjected to both direct and cross examination. His testimony was positive when it came to identifying the address that was on the candy box as being in Mrs. Morasch's handwriting, and he illustrated his conclusions by copying characteristic letters with a crayon on a chart. When court adjourned for the night the expert was still at this chart.
The principal instruments with which Shearman makes his investigations are a magnifying glass of moderate power and several photographs of the original writing. He was supplied with ten photographs marked for exhibition, by the county attorney yesterday. "Exhibit No. 1" was a print form the address on the candy box that contained the poisoned chocolate cones which killed ruth Miller. The others were photographs of proved specimens of r. Morasch's writing.
In furnishing grounds for his identification of the handwriting on the candy box, the expert took the letters "F" and "G," both of which occur several times in the letter the defendant wrote to her daughter, Mrs. May Gillin, while on her flight to Harrisonville, Mo., and which also appear on the candy box address. They appeared exactly the same when presented in copy on the blank chart by the expert. Both letters are old-fashioned and peculiarly slanted, which made the similarity more striking. A comprehensive lecture on the coincidence in style and slant of these two letters took Shearman the greater part of the day, and so he was not dismissed by the prosecution until about 4 o'clock. Daniel Maher, attorney for the defense, then began his cross examination.
EXPERT GROWS FACETIOUS.
Attorney Maher evidently intended to confuse the state's special witness and belittle his evidence by forcing him to directly compare the original characters in the exhibits with his copies for the purpose of illustration, only on the chart. But in this he failed signally.
The witness, profiting, perhaps, from his experience as such in over 500 United States and state courts, essayed to be witty in returning answer to the questions of the counsel. Many times his quick and well put replies brought a smile even to the austere face of the court, while a titter ran around the crowded room.
Mrs. Morasch seemed alone in not enjoying the jokes, of which she was indirectly the poor target. The settled shade of melancholy which characterized her face yesterday, as the cross-examination dragged on in its pun-producing course, deepened visibly and her shoulders drooped.
"Now, Mr. Shearman, you have drawn for us here on the chart an alleged facsimile of the letter "F" which occurs, you say, six times in the ten exhibits," said Attorney Maher. "Will you tell the jury what the small character is which follows this letter on your chart?"
DIDN'T KNOW THE ANSWER.
"I don't know what it is. I can't remember what I thought it was in the original, for I have not previously been asked about it."
"You have not been questioned in regard to it and so you have said nothing, although you are an expert, are you not?"
"Well, you see," drawled Shearman, "I am an expert in handwriting rather than in answering unasked questions."
Again the lawyer for the defense tried to catch him and was cleverly parried away from the point, apparently much to his chagrin.
"Now will you tell the jury what relation to the cross on the letter 'F' in the original bears to the small character you have made in the same position in your alleged duplicate?" asked Maher sharply, pointing at the chart. The witness took little time in answering.
"They ought to be twin sisters," he said.
At this point the court was dismissed for the day by Judge McCabe Moore. It will reconvene at 9"30 o'clock this morning. The cross and redirect examination of the state's expert witness will probably last the greater part of the forenoon.
Labels: attorney, courtroom, Death of Ruth Miller, Kansas City Kas, murder
March 22, 1908
MRS. MORASCH TELLS
STORY OF HER LIFE
REARED IN THE SQUALID PACK-
ING HOUSE DISTRICT.
Still Wears the Wedding Ring of
Bill Morasch, Her First Hus-
band, Whom She Loved.
Case Goes On.
MRS. SARAH MORASCH, ACCUSED OF MURDERING 4-YEAR-OLD RUTH MILLER.
"I did not send the candy. Who thinks I sent it? Not my associates in the West Bottoms, who have known me for years Not little Ella, the poison was intended for. Ask her; look her in the eyes and see if she doesn't tell you on the square she loves me, and will come back to my house to visit as she used to, when this dreadful trial is over. I am innocent, I tell you; I am innocent."
Mrs. Sarah Miller, better known as "Mrs. Morasch," said this yesterday to a reporter for The Journal. She is the accused woman in the case of the poisoning of little Ruth Miller, the 4-year-old daughter of Charles and Ida Miller, 634 Cheyenne avenue, Armourdale. Ruth sickened and died apparently from strychnine poisoning, ten minutes after eating bonbons from a package anonymously sent by mail to her step-sister, Ella Van Meter, 14 years old, at noon, Wednesday, February 12. The case is now being tried before Judge McCabe Moore, in the district court of Wyandotte county in Kansas City, Kas.
Mrs. Morasch spoke earnestly. At the mention of Ella Van Meter, who testified against her Friday, her deep-set gray eyes softened, and the lines about her mouth thawed visibly. All facial evidence of years of hardship, toil and companionship in the packing house district of both Kansas Cities became temporarily erased. She did not look the woman who could deliberately poison a 14-year-old girl and a family of little ones.
Mrs. Morasch is only 49 years old, but stooped shoulders and gray hair make her appear 60, at least. Two front teeth are gone, and this discrepancy makes sinister a smile which otherwise might be motherly and kind Her voice is a trifle harsh at times.
BEEN HERE ALL HER LIFE.
"Where was I born? In Dayton, O., 49 years ago. I was brought to Wyandotte county, Kas., by my father, Edward Davis, and my mother, Elizabeth Davis, when I was but 3 years old. My father was a veteran of the civil war and a farmer.
"Everyone loved dad. He was such a neighborly soul and so fond of children that he at once won the hearts of everybody who got acquainted with him. I think that if I have really gone to the bad, it cannot be justly laid at his door or my mother's. Good, kind souls, both of them.
"I remember when I was a little girl father took me on his knee and told me to grow up to be a good woman like mother. We were in the kitchen of the old farm house near Quindaro. Mother was knitting a pair of leggins for me by the fire. Father took the family Bible off of a stand near his chair and read some part of it which meant 'be a credit to the old folks that they may live long and die in peace and know in heaven you did the best you could.'
"I think he cried a little then, for I remember he took a big, red handkerchief out of his pocket and after wiping his own eyes, wiped mine as though I had been crying, but I hadn't After that he lectured me on how I should behave when I had grown up.
FORTY YEARS AGO.
"About forty years ago, father moved to what they call the West Bottoms now. It was known as Kansas City, Kas., then and was not a packing house district at all, but a little village of two or three thousand people. He had some money laid up and invested in a home and truck patch in the rear I was to go to school. I believe that was the object my father had in view when he moved into town Mother wanted to move in so as to be near a Presbyterian church, for she was an old Scotch woman.
" 'Come to church with me,' she used to tell me of a Sunday morning, as she tidied me all up ready for the service 'You be a wee bit Scotch and Presbyterian yourself, do you know it lassie?'
"Father seldom went to church or to Sunday school, himself, but believed in it. I think I must have been Sunday schooled to death in my younger days."
Mrs. Morasch laughed harshly at the recollection. She seemed for the moment to have forgotten the dreadful charge hanging its threat of life penal servitude over head.
"Sunday schooled to death," she repeated seriously, returning to the story of her life in the West Bottoms.
MARRIED BILL MORASCH.
"When I became 20 years of age," she went on, "I married Bill Morasch. I was a little wild at that time. Fond of boys and kiting around to parties and dances at my own free will, but Bill was a steady fellow and we settled down to housekeeping. I married again after he died three years ago, but I have never taken his wedding ring off my finger and like best the name he gave me."
Mrs. Morasch, as she prefers to be called, then crowded a thin, wrinkled left hand through the small opening in the door of her cell, through which her victuals are passed to her by the jail matron. On the third finger was an embossed gold band ring, which she turned reminiscently with her thumb.
"Oh, I can stand this murder charge," she assured suddenly, "if it pans out all right in the end. I'll tell you what I'll do. When the trial is all over, and Ella comes back to me, I'll take her up to your office, wherever it is, and let you see for yourself.
"I know what you think. You think she will not, but she will. Ella knows in her heart I did not send the candy, and when she comes back to me she will say, 'Mrs. Morasch, I thought all the time you didn't send it, and I was sorry for you all the time I was testifying against you.' "
The accused woman seemed to think most of the attitude of Ella Van Meter, whose testimony more than that of any other witness, according to the prosecutor, condemns her. Several times during the interview she pronounced the name, always following it with a statement that Ella was her friend and would come back to her after the trial.
Ella testified Friday that she knew no reason why Mrs. Morasch should try to poison her, but insisted she had been to the latter's home only twice and had not been more than ordinarily intimate with her. When Daniel Mahe, attorney for the defense, asked the witness why she did not refer to the defendant as "auntie," Ella had replied sharply:
"She's not my aunt!" and manifested in other ways that the law relationship existing between herself and the prisoner was a matter of repulsion to her.
SAYS SHE'S PREJUDICED.
Mrs. Morasch said yesterday that this attitude was affected and that Ella has been prejudiced against her by older persons.
It was said by her counsel last night that both Ella and her mother, Mrs. Ida Miller, would be recalled for further cross-examination before the conclusion of the trial.
Her lawyers profess to have suffered for the failure of the state in locating Ollie Jones, a 19-year-old half-brother of Charles Miller. Jones is said to have left Kansas City the night following the poisoning, and later it was learned he went from here to Indianapolis, Ind.
When County Attorney Taggart tried to subpoena him there a few days ago he could not be found. What use the state intended to put Jones to and why the attorney for the defense should be disappointed because he could not be found is studiously screened from the public gaze. It was stated by counsel last night that Jones was a close friend of the Millers. County Attorney Taggart, who is bending every resource of a fertile and brilliant mind toward the conviction of the prisoner, practically admitted the same thing in the same mysterious manner less than an hour later.
"We need him badly," said the prosecutor. "There is one important phase of this case he must cover with his testimony If he will not come when subpoenaed, then a bench warrant will bring him."
EXPERT WOMAN WITNESS.
Taggart further said that a woman witness, mother of thirteen children, would be employed by the state as a special witness tomorrow in proving Mrs. Morasch's physical condition prior to the time the baby is represented to have been adopted out of the U. S. G. Hughes maternity home, and that the handwriting experts would probably be called in the afternoon of the same day.
Attorney Maher said last night that a great deal of the defense would lie in showing up Mrs. Morasch's past.
"She is a poor woman in two senses of the word," he said. "Poor from the standpoint of health and means of financing her case. She has been a wanderer in the West Bottoms, without money and almost without friends, for years. Her first husband died three years ago, killed himself with carbolic acid. Her second husband likewise died. Children she has kept and mothered, from the Hughes home, have sickened on her hands. One of them died after it had passed to the care of others in the hire of the county and the revolting suspicion that she had killed it with drugs and slow poison was expressed in her presence. She was warned by Attorney Taggart to leave town. Haggard and worn, dogged by the law and shunned by her intimates because of her misfortunes, Mrs. Morasch hurriedly gathered up her few belongings and fled to Harrisonville, Mo. But the Nemesis followed her even there, strangely coincident with her flight the poisoned bonbons arrived at the Miller home, so she was arrested on the murder charge and brought back to face trial."
Labels: Armourdale, children, Civil War, County Attorney Taggart, Death of Ruth Miller, murder, poison, The Journal, women
March 20, 1908
JURY CHOSEN IN
THE MORASH CASE.
ELLA MILLER'S TESTIMONY WILL BE
Prosecutor, in Statement to Jury,
Says the Accused Woman Had
No Cause, Other Than
Fear, to Fly.
The preliminary statements of the prosecution in the case of Mrs. Sarah Morasch, held for the murder of Ruth Miller, were made yesterday by County Attorney Joseph Taggart, beginning at once after the jury was sworn in precisely at 3 o'clock.
The process of impaneling had been tedious, covering the greater part of two days, and the spirit of battle was constantly evident in the minuteness of the examination of each prospective juror. By 2 o'clock the defense, which had six challenges left from the day before yesterday, had used these up. As the six challenges allowed the state under the laws of Kansas were exhausted Wednesday afternoon, the last challenge of the defense left the selection of jurors largely to the option of the court, and in fifteen more minutes Z. Bellamy filled the one vacant chair on the jury platform. The jury, as it stands, follows:
John Bruns, farmer, Piper.
D. C. Roberts, haberdasher, 1961 North Fifth street.
J. Murry, baker, Eleventh street and Minnesota avenue.
A. C. Hartman, laborer, 1943 North Third street.
E. H. Baker, merchant, 47 South Valley street.
Charles V. Sass, farmer, Bethel.
R. A. Alleman, grocer, 1032 North Sixteenth street.
B. H. Hoppe, engineer, R. F. D. No. 4.
J. M. Smithcarpenter, 2300 North Ninth street.
A. T. Delameter, baker, 727 Central.
Z. Bellamy, dairyman, Bethel.
All through the impaneling of the jury Mrs. Morasch sat between her counsel, Daniel Maher and Judge E. H. Wooley. She has seldom smiled. The lines about her mouth, always marked, have grown deeper with the worry of the past three weeks.
When County Attorney Taggart took the floor to deliver the usual preliminary statement on the part of the state, the prisoner smiled feebly, drew down the corners of her mouth and bent forward in her seat as if to catch every word spoken against her. From the beginning to end of the statement she did not once relax from this posture.
Prosecutor Taggart, in introducing the stand of the state in the case, began with the incident, two months ago, when the prisoner took a child from the Hughes maternity home and claimed it as her own. He reviewed facts which brought Mrs. Morasch before the juvenile court on a charge of mistreating the child, stating that the state would attempt to show she had not then sufficient cause to fly the city in fear of the law. When he represented that the prisoner had chaimed to have given birth to the Hughes child, which was 6 weeks old when she obtained it from the institution, Mrs. Morasch laughed and whispered something to counsel, who nodded reassuringly.
Labels: children, County Attorney Taggart, courtroom, Death of Ruth Miller, laborer, murder
March 14, 1908
SET TRIAL IN POISON
CASE FOR WEDNESDAY.
STATE HAS MANY WITNESSES
AGAINST SARAH MORASCH.
Less Than Month Ago Little Ruth
Miller Died From Eating Bonbons
Sent Her Half-Sister in
Next Wednesday is the day set for the trial of Mrs. Sarah Morasch in the Wyandotte district court, where she will be called to answer the charge of murdering Ruth Miller by sending a box of poisoned candy through the mails to her father's household. he child, who was 4 years old, died February 12. She was the daughter of Charles and Malinda Miller of 634 Cheyenne avenue, Armourdale.
Since her arrest in Harrisonville, Mo., on February 20, Mrs. Morasch, in default of bond, has been confined in the Wyandotte county jail. Her stories of her relations with the Miller family told at different times to Prosecuting Attorney Joseph Taggart, Chief of Police Bowden and others, have not agreed one with another, and her description of her flight from Kansas City, Kas., to Harrisonville is vague and not convincing, according to Taggart.
Among the fifty-six witnesses who have been called to testify for the state next Wednesday are: Charles Miller, father of the dead girl; Malinda Miller, the mother; Ella Van Meter, their step-daughter, to whom the poisoned box of bonbons was addressed; Coroner A. J. Davis, Professor of Chemistry Bushong of the Kansas state university, Chief Bowden and Detective Harry Anderson.
The defense is in the hands of Attorney Daniel Maher and will rest chiefly upon statements of relatives of Mrs. Morasch and boon companions, who were with her during her stay in the West Bottoms. In the event of her being proved guilty by the state, she cannot be hanged and will be admissible to bail under the revised criminal statutes of Kansas
Labels: Armourdale, children, County Attorney Taggart, Death of Ruth Miller, detectives, Kansas City Kas, murder, poison, women
February 21, 1908
MRS. MORASH IS
SHE MAY KNOW SOMETHING OF
FOUND IN HARRISONVILLE.
WHERE SHE HAD WALKED WITH
Ella Miller Says She Wrote Her
Address, as on Candy Box, for
Mrs. Morash Three
The first arrest in the murder case of Ruth Miller, poisoned by eating candy containing strychnine
at the home of her father, Charles Miller, 634 Cheyenne avenue, Armourdale, Wednesday noon, February 12, was made at 4 o'clock yesterday afternoon on state warrant by Sheriff Fred J. Hamilton of Cass county at Harrisonville, Mo. It was that of Mrs. Albert Morash, sister-in-law of Charles Miller. Sheriff Hamilton acted under orders of Attorney Joseph Taggart of Wyandotte county, who telephoned him to the effect that Mrs. Morash was wanted in Kansas City, Kas., on a murder charge, Wednesday and again Thursday. One-half hour after the telephone message, Hamilton had her in the county jail of Cass county. Chief Bowden of the Kansas City, Kas., police department and Detective Harry Anderson returned with the accused woman to Kansas City, Kas., early this morning and she was lodged in the city jail.
Sheriff Hamilton said last night over the telephone that the woman and her daughter, Blanche, had arrived in that city last Sunday afternoon, after having walked fifty-eight miles, all the way from Kansas City. They were jaded and their shoes worn through in many places Sunday. They stopped at the home of a farmer a mile outside the city limits that night, but Monday and Tuesday nights stayed at local hotels.
Chief Bowden and Captain U. G. Snyder have expended every resource to find her, on accoun of information it was thought she might be able to give concerning the poisoning. Yesterday morning they arrested Blanche Moran, the daughter, and compelled her to tell where she and her mother had gone after quitting Kansas City. Blanche had returned on a train to the home of her sister, Mrs. May Gillin, 634 Armstrong avenue, Tuesday afternoon.
County Attorney Taggart says he has discovered that the sender of the poisoned candy did not write all of the inscription on the wrapper. He says that Ella Miller, to whom the bonbons were addressed, wrote the words, "Ella Miller, 634 Cheyenne ave. Corner Packard and Cheyenne ave." appearing on the wrapper for Mrs. Morash, three months ago, and writing of the little girl corresonds exactly with the writing on the package. He says Ella has denied writing the rest of the inscription, "From S. S. Girls."
Blanche Morash cried when questioned by Captain U. G. Snyder, captain of police, at headquarters. She said she thought her mother was wanted by police in connection with an ocurrence of a month ago when Mrs. Morash was found guilty of mistreating and neglecting an infant taken from the Hughes maternity home.
Blanche furthermore said she was willing to make a statement regarding the sending of the box of bonbons, but did not say whether or not her statement would be in in the form of a denial of any knowledge concerning them.
Labels: Armourdale, County Attorney Taggart, Death of Ruth Miller, detectives, jail, Kansas City Kas, murder, poison
February 15, 1908
RUTH MILLER'S DEATH.
ANALYSIS OF CANDY DEVELOPS
No Motive for the Attempt on Life
of the Elder Miller Girl
Has Yet Been Dis-
Strychnine was the bitter-tasting foreign substance noticed by the Miller children who survived sampling the box of bonbons mailed to Ella Miller, 14 years old, of 634 Cheyenne avenue, Armourdale, Wednesday. Four year old Ruth Miller, after eating one of the candies, fell dead in the throes of a paralyzing agony. The lives of the other children were saved because of the unsavory taste of the sweets.
The candy was sent to the chemical laboratory of the Kansas state university at Lawrence. Yesterday the analysis had progressed at the university to such period as to make certain the identity of the poison employed. It was strychnine. How much of the drug each piece of candy contained has not been determined, but one-twelfth grain of strychnine crystals, the form employed, is sufficient to cause death.
But who committed the deed, and why?
This question was asked and left unanswered a great number of times in the office of the Kansas City, Kas., chief of police yesterday. Detectives Quinn, McKnight, Walsh and Wilson reported finding nothing, after a diligent inquiry into the private life of the Miller family for a possible reason why the little girl, to who the package was addressed, should be out of the way. Apparently she has always been a dutiful daughter, living in peace and harmony with her step-father and well loved by he playmates and friends at the packing house where she worked.
The theory at first held by the officers that some jealous small boy, a sweetheart of the girl, perhaps, had prepared the package and mailed it to her, was explored when the only two boys with whom the little girl has gone anywhere were brought in by the drag net and proved to be the neighbor boys selected by Mrs. Miller once or twice to walk with Ella to a nickel show in the vicinity.
According to Mille last night about 500 people have called at the home to express sympathy yesterday. Many of them offered financial help in locating the poisoner. Among the visitors were a half-dozen girls who worked in the canning department of the Schwarzschild & Sulzberger plant. They were unanimous in declaring no one in their department had sent the bonbons.
"Why, we all loved little Ella," said Artilla Hack, Miami and Coy streets, Armourdale, one of the visitors. "She was just as good as she could be to all of us, and I know none of the girls had anything against her. If they had someone would have been sure to mention it, since she left there a month ago." Geanette Brymer, Seventh and Coy streets, said practically the same thing.
The other children of the Miller family affected by eating candy from the box sent the oldest daughter are out of danger. D r. Zachary Nason, who lives two blocks from the Miller home, and who atended Ruth Miller while she was dying, says they all showed strong symptoms of strychnine poisoning.
"It must have been this drug that was inserted into the bon-bons," said Dr. Nason, last night. "The theory that it might have been arsenic is, in my opinion, absurd, as arsenic is an acid while strchnine is a salt, and therefore their symptoms should be diameteically opposite. The little girl, when I saw her, was rigid in the arms and across the chest. Occasionally she completely relaxed. Lockjaw preceded death by at least two minutes. All these symptoms are those of strychnine poisoning, and not posible after a dose of arsenic."
Labels: Armourdale, children, Death of Ruth Miller, doctors, Lawrence, murder, poison, universities
February 13, 1908
DEADLY PACKAGE IS SENT
THROUGH MAIL TO A GIRL.
SISTERS ATE THE SWEETS.
RUTH MILLER, AGED 4, SOON
DIED IN AGONY.
Other Children Became Ill, but Were
Revived -- Package Purported
to Come From "Girls
of S. & S."
Victim of Poisoned Bonbons Sent Her Sister Through the Mail.
"Sweets to Ella Miller, From girls of S. & S."
This was the labol on a box of cheap bonbons sent through the mail to the oldest daughter of Charles Miller, 634 Cheyenne avenue, Armourdale, at noon yesterday. The postmarks were blurred and the stamp of the postoffice where the box had been mailed had evidently been turned around purposely, as it was brought into contact with the wrapper. The police believe the sender told the postal clerk that the candy was intended for a valentine. What it really contained was poisoned bonbons, and as a result of eating two of them Ruth Miller, the youngest daughter of Charles and Melinda Miller, died in agony less than ten minutes after the box was received at the home. All four of the Miller children were affected by the poison in the candy, which is supposed to have been strychnine, but none except the little girl suffered more than temporary distress, which an application of home remedies relieved.
NEVER HAD A SWEETHEART.
Ella, 14 years old, to whom the candy was sent, has worked in the canning department of the Schwarzchild & Sulzberger packing house up to a month ago, when she was withdrawn by her parents so that she might attend school. She said last night that as far as she knows she has no enemies among the girls at the packing house. She never has had a sweetheart and her parents seldom allow her to go far from the home unless accompanied by some relative or friend. They considered her too young to keep company with young men and also that she has never indicated any desire to receive boy or men callers.
This statement was borne out by the little girl last night.
"I never had any lover and I don't want one," she said, the tears trickling between her fingers as she held her hands to her eyes. Her little frame shook with sobs at the memory of the tragedy and she was bordering on hysteria.
"I don't see how any of the girls at the packing house could ever have had anything against me. I never did anything against them. I don't believe they had a hand in the crime. It is too horrible. The girls in the canning department where I worked were good to me, and always asked my mother who worked in my place after I left how I was getting along every morning as she came in to work. No, I am sure it was not the packing house girls. I can not imagine who could have sent them, but I know it was not my old friends there."
CHILDREN SOON BECAME ILL.
As far as the police are concerned, the tragic death of little Ruth Miller is a complete mystery, while it represents one of the most mystifying crimes in the criminal history of the city.
Immediately after the postman arrived at the Miller home at 12 o'clock noon, Ella discovered the package near the front door on the veranda. All the children are small and crowded around their oldest sister as she opened it to receive their share of the treat. They each took at least two of the bonbons. None except Ruth ate one. As soon as the candy touched the mouth, according to the surviving children, a bitter taste was noticed by them and their tongues became puckery, as though they had touched a powerful astringent. Ella, who had tasted her piece of candy first, got a cup of water and rinsed out her mouth and those of the others.
Ruth did not complain of the bitter taste but a moment afterwards began to scream, and fled from the ho use in the direction of the home of George Gause, 628 Cheyenne avenue, a neighbor. While the mother of the Miller children was away from home it had been the custom of Gause and his wife to care for the children.
Mrs. Miller was away from home at noon yesterday visiting a brother of her husband in the West bottoms near South James street. Gause had been apprised of the mother's absence and when he heard Ruth scream ran out at once from the house, thinking, he says, that she had fallen and hurt herself. When he reached the back porch of his house he saw little Ruth throw up her hands and fall to the ground.
DEAD IN FIVE MINUTES.
"What's the matter, Ruth?" he called, as he ran to her assistance. At this juncture Ella, who had followed the little girl from the house, called out that all of them had been poisoned. Gause sent for a doctor. Ruth did not live over five minutes after the doctor arrived.
Both Miller and his wife were not at home and were not apprised of the death of their little daughter until nearly an hour later, it being necessary to send a special messenger in both cases. The Miller family was prostrated with grief last night.
Miller could not name any enemies likely to take such a cruel revenge on his family. He said he lived in Toad-a-Loup, Armourdale, a year or two ago, and then moved to Greystone Heights, Kansas City, Kas., hwere he lived in perfect peace with his neighbors up to a month ago. Both Miller and his wife have a reputation for being agreeable neighbors and loving in their treatment of their neighbors. Girls working in the canning department of the S. & S. packing house said yesterday they had never known a little girl they liked better than they did Ella Miller. Mrs. Miller was also popular with them.
POLICE CHIEF PUZZLED.
Chief of Police Bowden was at a loss to account for the crime. He said it was without parallel in the city for brutality, considering the extreme youth of the intended victim. He said the matter was one for both the United States postal authorities and the local police to look into. City Detectives Quinn and McKnight were assigned by the chief to the case. Others will be assigned to the task this morning.
An analysis of the poisoned candies made by Coroner A. J. Davis of Wyandotte county after 6 o'clock yesterday evening disclosed a white powder inserted with the chocolate covering the bonbons.
Labels: Armourdale, children, Death of Ruth Miller, detectives, Kansas City Kas, murder, poison, West bottoms
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Early Kansas City, Missouri