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The murder of Katie DeWitt James


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#1    Kowalski

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Posted 07 August 2013 - 03:37 PM

So, while reading Haunted Heritage by Michael Norton and Beth Scott, I came across an interesting murder mystery, that occurred in Oklahoma during the turn of the century. Although, the ghost story is intriguing, the murder itself, is more fascinating. This is what I was able to find.

According to this link: http://en.wikipedia....ssing,_Oklahoma




Quote

Susan Woolf Brenner, a university student from Weatherford, investigated the origin of the name Dead Women Crossing. Her report, Dead Woman's Crossing: The Legacy of a Territorial Murder, was published in Chronicles of Oklahoma, Volume 60 in 1982.[5]Michael Norman and Beth Scott describe Brenner's findings in their book Haunted Heritage.[4]
On July 6, 1905, a schoolteacher named Katie DeWitt James filed for divorce. The next day, she carried her 14-month old daughter Lulu Belle to a train station in Custer City. Katie was going to visit with her cousin who lived in Ripley. Her father Henry DeWitt came to bid farewell; her husband Martin James did not come to the station.[4]
A few weeks later, Henry became concerned that he had not heard from his daughter. He contacted a sheriff, who suggested hiring a detective named Sam Bartell. Bartell started his investigation from Clinton, but nobody remembered seeing a woman and a baby there. Then on July 28, 1905 in Weatherford Bartell learned that Katie and the baby spent a night in the house of William Moore. They were brought to this house by Moore's sister-in-law Fannie Norton, a resident of Clinton who also was known as Mrs. Ham, and reputed to be a prostitute.[6] In the morning Norton, Katie and the baby left in a buggy; Norton returned alone two hours later. Then Norton went back to Clinton.[4]
Later Bartell found out that two women and the baby were seen around Deer Creek. The detective also was able to find the baby. The witness testified that Norton left the baby with a boy, and asked him to take the baby home. The baby was unharmed, but her clothing was covered with blood.[4]
While locals searched for Katie, Bartell tracked down Norton, who denied she murdered Katie. Later that day Norton committed suicide by poison.[4]
On August 31, 1905, Katie's remains were found near Deer Creek, about twenty miles east of Clinton. Her head was severed from her body. Katie's father confirmed these were remains of his daughter.[4]
Many questions about the murder went unanswered.
  • Did Katie and Norton meet on the train by chance, or had Norton sought out Katie? Was Norton somehow involved with Katie's estranged husband, and if so what was his role in the murder? Katie's husband had a strong alibi for the time of her disappearance, but he did not take a part in her search, and showed no interest in finding her.[4]
  • Why were Katie's remains not found for two months? The area was extensively searched. Did somebody move Katie's body later, and if so, who did it? The only suspect in the case, Fannie Norton, was long dead by that time.
  • Why did Katie leave the train at Clinton, rather than continuing to Ripley as planned? What did a schoolteacher find in common with a prostitute?[4]


Another link: http://mystorical.bl...witt-james.html
Notes:


Quote

Henry Dewitt, father of Katie. A look at the 1900 census for Dewey County locates a Henry Dewitt, b. 1844 in Canada who called himself a farmer and next door lives a young woman with a name that looks like "Katie Dewitt", b. 1874 in Iowa, listed as a schoolteacher. Is this Katie Dewitt the woman who marries James? In 1910 he is listed in Beaver County and dies there in 1930.

Fannie or Fanny Bray Ham Norton. In the nearby Custer County is a "Fannie Ham, b. 1872, Tx" listed as a laundress with several children: Roy, Diela, and Lula. Is this "Fannie Ham" the later "Fannie Norton"? Some sources indicate this woman had killed a bartender in Weatherford and had been a prostitute. The grave of the woman who committed suicide in Shawnee while under arrest lists the information for the Fannie Ham on the Custer Country Census.


Martin Luther James, husband of Katie and father of the 13 month old baby girl. In the Dewey Co., OK 1910 census is a “Luther James” with a wife of three years Cynthia and a 6-year-old daughter, Blanche and a 2 year old son. The wife was born in Kansas but the daughter’s information lists that her mother was born in Iowa.



Edited by Kowalski, 07 August 2013 - 03:37 PM.


#2    RockShaman

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Posted 07 August 2013 - 04:07 PM

This IS interesting... but not a lot of information. As it asks, what would they have in common to get her off the train early...hmmm... what was the motive?

edit to add a link I found to a post written by an ancestor of the victim adding some family lore about it all http://wlslack.wordp...t-of-the-story/

Edited by RockShaman, 07 August 2013 - 04:14 PM.

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#3    Taun

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Posted 07 August 2013 - 04:23 PM

That is an odd case... On the face of it there does not appear to be much in the way of motive (for anyone really)... The fact the the husband did not go to the train station may not mean a lot... They were
going through a divorce so maybe they both just wanted some "space" from each other...
As to why she got off the train early... Perhaps she met the other woman on the train and decided to visit with her for a while before moving on...

Fannie is IMO involved in the murder, but I'm not sure if she did the killing, or just provided a victim for another... Perhaps she wanted Katies baby...

But the article says they left in a buggy and Fannie returned (alone) two hours later... Yet Katie's body was found 20 miles away...  That means that Fannie would
have had to have driven the horse and buggy 40 miles in 2 hours (plus commit the murder)... 20 miles an hour in a horse drawn cart is pretty fast... Especially on dirt roads...

From a Horse web site...

"Horses can gallop at speeds of 30 to 40  miles per hour but they can not keep up running these speeds for long. Most horses canter at speeds of 10 to 17 miles per hour, trot at 8 to 10 miles per hour and walk at 3 to 4 miles per hour."
(from the same site)
"Horses can usually travel 20 to 30 miles in a day. A horse carrying heavy gear or that is out of shape may cover less than 20 miles in a day"


She must have nearly driven that horse to death...

Edited by Taun, 07 August 2013 - 04:30 PM.


#4    kannin

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Posted 07 August 2013 - 04:40 PM

oh wow good observations taun, body must have been moved

at a later time

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#5    Taun

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Posted 07 August 2013 - 04:42 PM

I just looked at Google Earth and determined that Custer City (where Katie got on the train) and Clinton (where she got off) were only one train stop apart...  Aparently the route of planned travel was from Custer City, south to Clinton, East to Weatherford through Oklahoma City and then on to Ripley (which is NE of OKC)... Odd that she got off at the very first stop....

Edited by Taun, 07 August 2013 - 04:43 PM.


#6    Kowalski

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Posted 07 August 2013 - 04:44 PM

View PostRockShaman, on 07 August 2013 - 04:07 PM, said:

This IS interesting... but not a lot of information. As it asks, what would they have in common to get her off the train early...hmmm... what was the motive?

edit to add a link I found to a post written by an ancestor of the victim adding some family lore about it all http://wlslack.wordp...t-of-the-story/

Thanks for the link! :)


View PostTaun, on 07 August 2013 - 04:23 PM, said:

That is an odd case... On the face of it there does not appear to be much in the way of motive (for anyone really)... The fact the the husband did not go to the train station may not mean a lot... They were
going through a divorce so maybe they both just wanted some "space" from each other...
As to why she got off the train early... Perhaps she met the other woman on the train and decided to visit with her for a while before moving on...

Fannie is IMO involved in the murder, but I'm not sure if she did the killing, or just provided a victim for another... Perhaps she wanted Katies baby...

But the article says they left in a buggy and Fannie returned (alone) two hours later... Yet Katie's body was found 20 miles away...  That means that Fannie would
have had to have driven the horse and buggy 40 miles in 2 hours (plus commit the murder)... 20 miles an hour in a horse drawn cart is pretty fast... Especially on dirt roads...

From a Horse web site...

"Horses can gallop at speeds of 30 to 40  miles per hour but they can not keep up running these speeds for long. Most horses canter at speeds of 10 to 17 miles per hour, trot at 8 to 10 miles per hour and walk at 3 to 4 miles per hour."
(from the same site)
"Horses can usually travel 20 to 30 miles in a day. A horse carrying heavy gear or that is out of shape may cover less than 20 miles in a day"


She must have nearly driven that horse to death...

I agree, I don't think Fanny did it alone, or even committed the murder herself. I think she was used to lure Katie. I definitely feel Katies husband had something to do with it, though. Strange, in the 1910 census, (5 years later) he is listed as remarried, with a new family....


#7    kannin

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Posted 07 August 2013 - 04:44 PM

View PostTaun, on 07 August 2013 - 04:42 PM, said:

I just looked at Google Earth and determined that Custer City (where Katie got on the train) and Clinton (where she got off) were only one train stop apart...  Aparently the route of planned travel was from Custer City, to Clinton to Weatherford through Oklahoma City and then on to Ripley (which is NE of OKC)... Odd that she got off at the very first stop....
indeed, and given the fact that the body was found 20 miles, and they left in buggy, could suggest a different murder location and moved at a later time, but why keep a body for 2 months? why sever the head from the neck? why not kill the baby as well? seemed to me like they focused enough on that babies well being

happiness can be found in the darkest of times, only if one remembers to turn on the light

#8    Taun

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Posted 07 August 2013 - 04:44 PM

View Postkannin, on 07 August 2013 - 04:40 PM, said:

oh wow good observations taun, body must have been moved

at a later time

Or there was a second person that was given the victim...


#9    kannin

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Posted 07 August 2013 - 04:45 PM

and due to the baby not being harmed i think the husbands right up there

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#10    Taun

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Posted 07 August 2013 - 04:45 PM

View Postkannin, on 07 August 2013 - 04:44 PM, said:

indeed, and given the fact that the body was found 20 miles, and they left in buggy, could suggest a different murder location and moved at a later time, but why keep a body for 2 months? why sever the head from the neck? why not kill the baby as well? seemed to me like they focused enough on that babies well being

Perhaps control of the baby was the motive... Either by the father - or by Fannie...


#11    Taun

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Posted 07 August 2013 - 04:58 PM

Okay... Scenario time...

(and it turns out there was another train stop between the two towns - Arapahoe (the county seat)

Distance from Custer City to Clinton - 11.9 miles (as the crow flies)

Katie and the baby get on the train - total travel time to Clinton (figuring in a 15 minute stop in Arapahoe) perhaps 45 minutes...

Katie meets Fannie on the train and they strike up a "friendship"... Katie is talked into stopping off in Clinton to spend the night at Fannie's Brother in Laws house (no idea if the BIL was home or not) Perhaps it was late in the day
and Katie was planning on catching an early morning train for Weatherford-OKC-Ripley...

While this is transpiring, the husband Martin travelled to Clinton - perhaps on horse back - it would be faster than a train that makes stops for this short a distance... (could also explain why he was not at the station to see her off)
In the morning katie misses the train (probably with the conivance of Fannie) and Fannie offers to drive her and the baby to Weatherford to catch either the same train or another... (I have no idea if Deer Creek is between Clinton and Weatherford or not)
At the creek (probably at a ford point) they meet up with Martin who kills Katie (though I have no idea why he would need to cut her head off)... Fannie high tails it back home with the baby, Martin does the same without the baby as that would arouse suspicion
as to how he got the child, if he was still in Custer City...


What do you think? Plausable?

Edited by Taun, 07 August 2013 - 04:58 PM.


#12    kannin

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Posted 07 August 2013 - 04:58 PM

exactly, given the fact the baby was specificly not harmed and given to an actual person that was sure to bring it to a safe place, means the motive is exactly that taun this murder was def for the baby but why and witch one was it, the father was going through a divorce and could have used the services of a prostitute you quote "would do anything for money" and the fact that she commited suicide could mean she couldnt live with the guilt makes me think automaticly she didtn due the killing and lured, and in that one census the baby is now 6 and with the dad and new wife......

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#13    Kowalski

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Posted 07 August 2013 - 04:58 PM

I found her grave on Findagrave.com and the inscription is interesting:

The inscription on her tombstone reads:
"How Many Hopes He Ended Here."  

Link: http://www.findagrav...n&GRid=10619462

Posted Image


#14    kannin

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Posted 07 August 2013 - 05:02 PM

View PostKowalski, on 07 August 2013 - 04:58 PM, said:

I found her grave on Findagrave.com and the inscription is interesting:

The inscription on her tombstone reads:
"How Many Hopes He Ended Here."  

Link: http://www.findagrav...n&GRid=10619462

Posted Image
i think its a fairly simple case to crack, husband all the way, taking some ones head off is a grudge killng for sure, maybe she was secretly running away with the child and martin found out

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#15    Taun

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Posted 07 August 2013 - 05:07 PM

View PostKowalski, on 07 August 2013 - 04:58 PM, said:

I found her grave on Findagrave.com and the inscription is interesting:

The inscription on her tombstone reads:
"How Many Hopes He Ended Here."  

Link: http://www.findagrav...n&GRid=10619462

Posted Image

Sounds like whoever set up the stone (Katies father?) was thinking the husband did it as well...





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