(More) Odds and Ends

While digging through old newspapers looking for material for this site, I occasionally happen across an article that isn’t substantial enough to warrant its own separate entry here. I call these articles my “odd and ends,” and I even included a chapter with that title in Haunted Marion, Ohio. What follows are a couple of odds and ends that I’ve collected since the publication of the book.

On March 9th, 1869, the following appeared in The Cairo Evening Bulletin in Cairo, Illinois:

I actually tried to find out if there was a trial involving a man named Brown and the murder of an editor from Dayton before 1869 but was unsuccessful. Could this be a very old example of an urban legend?

An even stranger article appeared in The Arizona Republican on October 23rd, 1902:

An apparition of the devil is reported from Mt. Olivet Church, Marion, Ohio. The visitant, when seen, is always at a window looking out. Color in the daytime: a sickly green. Color at night: a lurid red.

One would think that a story like this would’ve gotten some press in Marion. However, neither of Marion’s two newspapers, The Marion Daily Mirror or The Marion Daily Star, mentioned the devil or, for that matter, even a Mt. Olivet Church in 1902. How the editors of the Republican ended up with the story is a mystery.

A far more plausible story ran in The Marion Star on July 30th, 1937, detailing the “antics” of the Marion courthouse clock.

Recent antics of the ancient courthouse clock are becoming a serious mystery to Sherman Dixon, for the last 36 years one of the building custodians and probably the oldest county employee in point of service. The massive timepiece, by far the largest in the city, several times this year has stopped during the night and then started up again – which simply isn’t possible for it to do all by itself, Mt. Dixon says.

To anyone who isn’t a bird, the clock is virtually inaccessible and there are only three sets of keys to the door which leads into the attic. All are held by the janitors and other county officials who are not suspected of complicity in the mischief. John Haines, Stationary engineer, is similarly puzzled.

This postcard, courtesy of Marion resident Mike Crane, shows the Marion Courthouse (and its misbehaving clock), circa 1920. Anyone interested in looking at Mike’s nice collection of old photos, postcards and other assorted Marion miscellanea should check out his website.

The article doesn’t imply that the clock’s behavior was the work of supernatural forces. On the contrary, Mr. Dixon suspected “miscreants” of messing with the clock, though he wasn’t able to adequately explain how they could’ve carried out such mischief. Anyone interested in seeing the original article can download the PDF file here.

On November 2nd, 1904, this article concerning Marion County appeared in The Hartford Herald, a newspaper serving the tiny town of Hartford, Kentucky.

Haunted through life by the terrible impressions made upon him at the hour of his birth, George Yeager of Richmond [sic] Township, has been driven insane and was to-day sent to the State Hospital.

On the day he was born a terrible thunderstorm was raging, and about the hour he was born a bolt of lighting struck near the home of his parents, frightening his mother almost to the point of unconsciousness. Then, too, while Life was bringing him into the world, Death had laid claim to his father This, added to the other harrowing experiences, so unnerved the mother that she has never been well mentally as she was before.

That these vivid impressions upon Mrs. Yeager communicated themselves to the sub consciousness of her child, are evidenced by the fact that he has…had an unnatural fear of thunderstorms and death in any form.

The finale of this strange life tragedy came to-day with the commitment of the man to the asylum.

Despite mistakenly referring to Richland Township as Richmond Township, the basic story seems at least plausible. And of course, Mautz-Yeager Road, which is presumably named after the Yeager family, runs through Richland Township, and this detail lends the article a certain amount of credibility.

Lastly, the following short article turned up in a book published in 1997 called A Cabinet of Medical Curiosities:

In another bizarre report, Dr. T.B. Fisher of Marion, Ohio, described the case of a lady who had felt something moving in her stomach for four months. She was ridiculed by her friends as a hysteric, but she silenced them by vomiting a nearly fully grown mouse, which Dr. Fisher kept in a glass jar in his office as a pet.

There’s no question that Dr. Fisher was indeed a member of the Marion community. According to the 1907 History of Marion County, Dr. Fisher opened his practice in 1835 and faithfully served the people of Marion until he retired in 1882. He also served two terms as Marion’s mayor. Why such a well-regarded figure would tell such an outlandish story is uncertain.


The Hammer Slaying of Roxie Green

Roxie Green as she appeared in the September 28th, 1938 edition of the Marion Star.
Roxie Green as she appeared in the September 28th, 1947 edition of The Marion Star.

The Victim

It’s an early Friday evening in the fall of 1947. 16-year-old sophomore Roxie Green has just returned to Prospect High School by school bus after attending a football game in Chesterville. Roxie and one of her girlfriends, Norma Jean Sparks, walk to Norma’s house in Prospect. After talking for a bit, Roxie says goodbye and begins walking the four-and-a-half miles to the Green home on Lauer Road. As she makes her way along Route 47, a man pulls up alongside her and asks her if she needs a lift. Taking him up on the offer, she jumps on the running board of the car and tells him where she lives. Roxie Green, however, never makes it home.

The Suspect

Roxie went missing on September 19th, and while it would be over a week before the people of Marion County learned what had actually happened to her, the sheriff’s department almost immediately had a suspect in her disappearance: a balding and “slightly built” 32-year-old Prospect man named Ray Shappard. The reason for law enforcement’s interest in Shappard was simple: A few witnesses had come forward saying they had seen an older model Ford in the area around the time Roxie disappeared, and Shappard drove a 1928 Model A Ford.

On Sunday, September 21st, 1947, Sheriff Leroy Retterer and his Deputy, Edward Fink, paid Shappard a visit at his parents’ home in Prospect. When Deputy Fink asked Shappard where he had been on the afternoon of September 19th, Shappard claimed he had been at work at the Scioto Ordinance Plant until clocking out at around 3:30. After work he had gone to a few bars in Marion and then to Prospect where he picked up his wife and child. Shappard took his wife and child over to her foster-parents’ place before leaving to pick up some groceries. Under questioning, however, he admitted that he had actually driven in the direction of Waldo to buy beer. He was gone for about an hour and Mrs. Shappard later told Sheriff Retterer that he had returned without any groceries. Members of law enforcement speculated that it was while he was driving to Waldo that he spotted Roxie Green walking home. However, the sheriff lacked the evidence needed to arrest Shappard, and he remained a free man while the search for Roxie Green continued.

Ray Shappard, Hammer Murder, Prospect, Ohio
On the evening Roxie Green disappeared, Ray Shappard’s Model A Ford was seen in the area.

Roxie Green’s whereabouts were still unknown on September 28th when Sheriff Retterer asked Shappard to come in for another round of questions. That night Shappard admitted he may have hit a girl with his car on the 19th, though he couldn’t really remember. When Sheriff Retterer carefully asked him where he would’ve hidden the body in such a situation, he named a section of woods southeast of Prospect where he frequently hunted. Wasting no time, Sheriff Retterer and a few other officers drove Shappard out to the woods he had mentioned, but they found nothing. Oddly, when they returned to Marion, Shappard said that he might be able to remember more if he got a good night’s sleep. The sheriff obliged by putting Shappard in a single cell for the night. The next morning Shappard asked someone to bring his wife to the jail because he needed to speak to her. It was shortly after talking to her that Shappard was ready to confess what he knew about Roxie Green’s disappearance.

A Murder Confession

The September 29th, 1947 edition of The Marion Star carried details of Shappard’s confession. Obviously, this is Shappard’s version of events and so while one may question whether it’s accurate or even believable, it’s certainly incriminating:

I started out from Prospect to get some beer. As I drove east on Route 47, I saw the girl walking along the road and stopped to give her a ride. She got on the left [running board] of my car. We started up the Lauer Road. I didn’t know just where she lived and as we passed a house, she jumped off. I couldn’t stop because the brakes were bad. I went down to the next house and turned around. When I drove back, I found her lying along the road. She was knocked out. I got out and put her in the front seat. I was going to take her to the doctor. I got back in the car and started south. When I got to Route 47, I turned east to the Rittenhouse Road and then went south again to the Norton Road. Before we got to Norton, she came to and began to holler and scream. I kept on driving east through Norton to this country road. She kept screaming and finally said she would get me for kidnapping. I got out of the car and she was out. I hit her over the head several times with [a] hammer and then threw her into the weeds.1

Even today, a murder of such brutality is hard to imagine. (According to the article appearing in the Star on September 29th, “a hole about three inches long and an inch wide showed plainly in the skull.”) And if the crime itself were not callous enough, Shappard’s actions after the murder were even more appalling. He told law enforcement that after leaving Roxie’s body near the side of Norton Road and getting rid of the hammer, he drove to Waldo where he had a few beers before returning to Prospect. Incredibly, he took his wife out dancing later that night.

Of course, upon hearing Shappard’s confession, the sheriff immediately placed Shappard under arrest and asked him if he could take them to the location of Roxie’s body. Shappard said he could. Sheriff Retterer, along with Marion County Prosecutor James Reed, once again took Shappard out to the southern part of Marion County, though this time Shappard directed them to a section of Norton Road just east of the Olentangy River that’s on the Marion-Delaware County line. Almost immediately they spotted Roxie’s partially hidden body. A short time later they recovered the blood-stained hammer as well.

Shappard’s Motive

Shappard’s motive for killing Roxie was never entirely clear. Officials speculated that after Shappard found Roxie unconscious, he decided to take advantage of her. That’s why he put her back into his car rather than run up to the Green house for help. After she came to in his car, Shappard claimed she began “yapping” and “threatened to get me for kidnapping.” Shappard panicked and that point and grabbed the hammer lying on the back seat. When asked directly if he had sexually assaulted the girl, Shappard first told police, “I don’t think so.” Later he denied assaulting the girl altogether. Because of the condition of Green’s body when it was finally recovered, Marion County Coroner E.H. Morgan couldn’t “ascertain whether there had been a criminal attack.”

Seeking Justice

Roxie Green is buried in the Marion Cemetery. Her classmates helped pay for the gravestone.

On Wednesday, October 1st, 1947, the day Roxie’s funeral was being held, Common Pleas Court Bailiff Fred Miller was busy assembling a grand jury to consider Shappard’s case later in the week.  Unsurprisingly, the grand jury indicted Shappard for the murder of Roxie Green.

By December of 1947 a jury had been selected, and the trial got underway on the 10th. It soon became clear that Shappard’s defense attorneys, Ralph and Dwight Carhart, were not going to argue that Shappard hadn’t killed Roxie. The sheriff had Shappard’s confession, after all. But the Carharts did argue that Shappard’s crime against Roxie was one of “impulse” rather than premeditation and thus they were hoping for a verdict of manslaughter rather than murder. For his part, County Prosecutor James Reed had no problem convincing the jury to return a guilty verdict.2 However, their verdict also carried a recommendation of mercy for Shappard. This meant that Shappard would receive a mandatory life sentence but would be spared death. On December 17th, Sheriff Retterer transported Shappard to the Ohio penitentiary in Columbus where he began serving his life sentence.


1 This was not even the first murder in Marion County where the weapon of choice was a hammer. History of Marion County relates a story of James Lefever, who, on May 14th, 1874, beat Frank Johnson to death with a hammer in Lefever’s Green Camp blacksmith shop. While Lefever claimed in court that a drunk and belligerent Johnson had threatened him first, the court apparently didn’t buy Lefever’s self-defense claim. He was found guilty of second degree murder and sentenced to life. For reasons unknown, the governor pardoned him just four years later.

2 One minor but interesting historical tidbit about the jury noted in The Marion Star was that one of the jurors, a truck driver named Carl West, was the first African American to ever sit “on a jury hearing a first degree murder trial in Marion.”