Flashback Friday: Melvin Horst

This week’s Flashback Friday case is one of the Charley Project’s oldest: Melvin Charles Horst, a four-year-old boy who disappeared from the small town of Orrville in northeast Ohio two days after Christmas in 1928. Melvin had gone out with some friends to play with one of his Christmas toys. Then he said he would be walking home. Melvin never arrived home but they did find the toy in his front yard.

They actually charged five suspects with Melvin’s abduction after he disappeared, and two of them were convicted, but were released after a few months when it turned out the key witness in the case, a neighbor boy, had lied about what he’d seen. That same child (who seems to have been quite the fibber) went on to accuse his own father and another man of killing Melvin, but that story didn’t hold up either.

In the extremely unlikely event he’s still alive, Melvin would be 90 or 91 years old today.

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Executed Today: a three-time wife-killer

Another Executed Today post by me: Lee “Monroe” Betterton, who murdered three of his wives. He doesn’t appear to have been a serial killer in the strict sense of the word, just someone with an ungovernable, homicidal temper. They finally fried him after the third one, and good riddance.

Just prior to the murder, Monroe’s son by one of his previous wives had married Wife #3’s daughter. I wonder if the step-siblings stayed married. Must have made for some awkward family reunions if they did.

Also on this day (from previous years): two people who were about to be mass-executed by the Nazis but were saved at the last moment by a shortage. Halina Bierenbaum‘s would-be killers at Majdanek in 1943 ran out of poison gas; for Shaike Iwensky in 1941, there wasn’t enough room in the mass graves for his body.

Mailo Segura was executed in Fairbanks, Alaska 92 years ago today

And here is my post about him on Executed Today. Alaska doesn’t have many executions to write about and hasn’t had any at all since it became a state sixty years ago. But Mr. Segura committed quite an ordinary, forgettable murder which I wouldn’t have found worth writing about were it not for the fact that he was from Montenegro, a tiny Balkan kingdom 5,000 miles away, and I thought that was kind of unique.

Turns out there were quite a few Montenegrins in Alaska (relatively speaking) in the early 20th century, and there are about 80,000 people of Montenegrin descent living in America today, about a quarter of them in Anchorage. Now, 80,000 Montenegrin-Americans make a pretty small ethnic minority compared to, say, Irish-Americans or Chinese-Americans, but you have to consider that the present-day nation of Montenegro has only 300,000 citizens. Consider this your historigraphical lesson for the day.

Seeing them living

With more recent cases, I occasionally find traces of a person’s activities on the internet before they disappeared. One college student had a website with some pictures of her and poems, one of which she wrote just a few days before she vanished. Another person, a middle-aged man, wrote somewhere about his experiences volunteering for the Peace Corps in the 1970s. Etc.

Well, I just found an online trace of an MP who is most definitely NOT recent: Bessie Hyde, who disappeared on a rafting trip in Arizona over eighty years ago. Northern Arizona University’s digitial archive has a book of poems Bessie wrote, called Wandering Leaves. You can not just read the text but actually see the book itself, bound with string. It’s typed but the cover has the title in what is presumably Bessie’s handwriting. From page 4:

The first fall frost
In shining silver,
Comes out at night.

And soon beguiles
The fluttering trees,
With jewels.

At dawn…
The barren ground
Is carpeted with brown,
Dry, crackling leaves:
Who can no longer whisper
Soft, low songs
For they–
Are dead.

I always wondered why people made such a fuss about the beauty of autumn. The whole season is about death. Apparently Bessie shared my sentiments.