|From Murder Will Out! A unpublished manuscript by the late Glenn H. Waight|
An Avondale St. man walking his dog along Jennings Ave. in late October 1940 made a gruesome early morning discovery -- a woman's body jammed inside a barrel lying just off the road-way.
Her killer was never punished, although the prime suspect was placed on trial with strong circumstantial evidence but was acquitted. The case drew wide area attention as the "Barrel Murder."
Mrs. Julia Jordan Wall, 46, had been stuffed into the wooden container jack-knife fashion, and apparently tossed from a vehicle near St. Clair Ave.
Harvey Cullen noticed the barrel around 7:30 a.m. Oct. 29, a Tuesday, and telephoned police. He told officers that shortly after his discovery a parked "purplish" colored sedan with out-of-state plates left the area and turned onto St. Clair.
Bluish blotches on the victim's face led police to believe she had been strangled. There were no marks of violence, and no indication of sexual assault.
Wrapped in a burlap bag, the body, with the legs and feet protruding, was com-pressed so tightly the barrel's hoops had to be knocked off before the victim could be freed. Death occurred not long before, since rigor mortis had not set in, and the barrel was dry although rain had fallen about 6 a.m.
THE WOMAN, NOT immediately identified, was clad in a deep red dress and belt trimmed with gold ornaments, silk stockings and an imitation black Persian lamb coat. Around the neck was a fine linked chain with a small cross set with imitation stones. She wore no rings.
The barrel had apparently been used to store potatoes. On the burlap bag was the label of a California walnut company.
Before the day was over, the victim was identified through cleaner's marks on the clothing. It was also learned that she had been married only four days before and had worked for a city produce dealer who was reportedly jealous.
That was enough for officers to wait outside the E. Second St. apartment of Frank Cascio and arrest him as he drove up in his produce truck.
Mrs. Wall had been an employee and associate of Cascio for two years in his small vegetable and fruit store. She had left him around Oct. 3 to become house-keeper for Christopher Wall, 64, of Smiths Ferry, Pa
Wall, who worked at the Crucible Steel open hearth department in Midland, had read a want ad in The Review: "Refined, dependable, middle-aged woman desires housekeeping for one, two or three adults. References." He contacted her, and she moved to his residence. They were married Oct. 25 at Steubenville
Wall said his wife had departed their home around 3 p.m. Monday for East Liverpool to pick up a pair of spectacles left at a store for repair. She carried in her purse his flashlight, explaining "it may be dark before I get home."
Between 3:50 and 4:30 p.m. she was downtown with her daughter, Mary Catherine Jordan, 16, of Maplewood Ave., a high school sophomore. They shopped at three department stores, and Mrs. Wall bought the girl a pair of shoes.
The two separated at Ogilvie's store where the mother was purchasing curtains. Mary Catherine listed three articles Mrs. Wall was wearing but not found later -- a black felt hat, black shoes and a brown, zippered purse.
The mother apparently intended to return to Smiths Ferry, telling the girl she would have "just enough change to take me home on the bus."
Wall told police Cascio had threatened his wife several times, telephoning and asking for money. He said the produce dealer claimed she "had been his woman for two years," and came to their home the previous Friday asking for money.
After taken into custody, Cascio, a thick-bodied, native-born Italian, was trans-ported to City Hall where Police Chief Hugh McDermott filed a suspicious person charge. Questioned intensely by city and county authorities, Cascio, 55, denied the slaying, and provided a detailed account of his whereabouts from Monday after-noon until Tuesday morning.
A search of his rooms uncovered beneath a pillow on his bed a flashlight which Wall later identified as the one his wife had taken with her. He said he recognized it because it lacked a lens and had a peculiar dent on the side
In a money pouch Cascio carried was a gold wedding band Wall said was his wife's. Mary Catherine also identified it, adding she had worn it herself when younger. Her mother kept it in a change purse, and wore another wedding ring and engagement band Monday.
Police said the home showed no signs of a struggle. A button matching the vic-tim's coat was found, but the coat did not have any missing. Some dresses and a hat were also found along with an earring and hairpin, but not linked to Mrs. Wall.
WITH SUCH EVIDENCE, Chief McDermott filed a murder charge in Municipal Court, and a preliminary hearing was held before Judge Frank Grosshans.
Dr. Frank Harrison, city health commissioner, provided surprise in reporting that no strangulation marks were on the victim's neck, and she died from lack of oxygen because her breathing had been shut off.
The doctor also noted the body had been embalmed before the autopsy, and the embalming fluid could have caused some changes in the internal organs.
Atty. John Bauknecht of East Palestine, retained by Cascio, contended that she would have struggled with her killer, leaving some marks. He had asked the phys-ician to examine the suspect, and Harrison reported a small abrasion behind his right ear and another on the shoulder.
Cascio told the doctor the first was caused by a barbers slip during a recent haircut, but did not explain the other.
The most convincing Prosecution witness was Charles Harris of 1047 St. Clair Ave. who had known Cascio for more than 20 years. City Solicitor Carroll Lynch asked if the suspect had mentioned anything about his relationship with Mrs. Wall.
Harris quoted him saying Monday afternoon, "She has double-crossed me. I feel like killing her."Harris said he told Cascio, "Forget about it. Go find yourself another woman; there's lots of them around." This brought a laugh in the courtroom, and the Judge gaveled for order, reminding all "This is serious business."
After the two-day hearing, Judge Grosshans bound Cascio over to the County Grand Jury. The recalled September Grand Jury studied the case along with several others when it met in December. An indictment of first degree murder was returned against him.
Another sensational case came before the panel -- the severe Dec. 12 wounding of Mrs. Sylvia Anderson on the porch of an East End home by James Bunfield of Vanport, her lover. Bunfield, formerly of East Liverpool, shot Mrs. Anderson, 35, because she was leaving him to return to her husband after four years.
In an effort "to see her one last time," he went to visit her at her brother-in-law's house on Monaca St. He asked her to step out on the porch, and when she did, he placed his gun against her head and pulled the trigger.
He fled, going first to Newell where he told his wife at the Homer Laughin China Co. what he had done. Then he hid down in the Congo area, to wait for a friend who was to let him know whether Mrs. Anderson had died.
Police learned of his whereabouts, and city officers with Chester police and Hancock County Sheriff deputies closed in around dusk, capturing him. "I didn't mean to kill her," he told them, "I just wanted to mark her for life."
Bunfield, an employee of Crucible Steel, had previously served two terms in the Ohio State Penitentiary -- once for house looting and again for car theft. The victim remained in "critical" condition for several days at City Hospital, and the Grand Jury indicted him for shooting with intent to wound or kill.
FRANK CASCIO went on trial Feb. 10, 1941, with a new legal scenario facing him. Frank Springer of East Palestine was now County Prosecutor, elected in Nov-ember to replace the previous Prosecutor Karl Stouffer.
Judge Joel H. Sharp of Salem had begun duties in Common Pleas Court, elected to succeed Judge Frank Lones who retired. Atty. Bauknecht was now assisted in defense by Atty. Francis Lang of East Liverpool.
But more than personalities had changed. The Prosecution had suffered major setbacks in its case against Cascio.
Christopher Wall, a key witness regarding the flashlight and his wife's ring, had died Feb. 1 at a Buffalo, N.Y., hospital of heart problems. He had narrowly escaped death in December after suffering a stroke and falling against a gas stove, causing the heater to burn high and filling his Smiths Ferry home with fumes.
Patrolman George Kidder, the desk man who identified the flash light and ring in Cascio's possession, had also died in the meantime. Mrs. Lucy Lillie of Pink Alley, another witness who said she saw Mrs. Wall enter Cascio's apartment, was killed in a December traffic accident near Toronto.
So Municipal Court clerk Mary Toland read her stenographic account, bringing the accusing words of the husband and policeman to the jury of five men and seven women -- middle-aged farmers, housewives, a businessman and others.
Harvey Cullen went to the stand, describing how he took his dog out to "raise rabbits," stopped when the dog refused to approach a thicket. He checked and found the barrel about two feet off the cinder roadway and close to the edge of a steep drop into a hollow.
Kicking at the wooden barrel, Cullen was startled when the burlap opened to disclose the body. He hurried to a neighboring home and summoned police. As he returned to the site, he noticed a parked auto start up and head onto St. Clair Ave. He could not read the license, but it appeared out-of-state -- Pennsylvania or West Virginia.
Mary Catherine Jordan described the ring found by police, saying she recognized it from a mark where it was cut to fit her finger when she wore it two years before.
Telling testimony came from Willie Ward who lived in a Second St. apartment opposite Cascio's. He said he saw Mrs. Wall enter her former employer's doorway around 4 p.m. the day before the body was found. He recalled the time as close to when the quitting whistle sounded at a nearby factory.
Ward didn't see her leave, he told Springer.
The Prosecutor focused on the basic elements previously outlined in the pre-liminary hearing, centering on the time of death between 5 and 8:30 the night before, and the woman's presence at Cascio's apartment.
Judge Sharp, new to the bench, was caught up in the challenge of legal technicalities. His wife telephoned the Sheriff one evening to report her husband has-not yet come home, and asked if deputies could locate him. A deputy found him in his chambers, engrossed in law books. "What time is it?"he asked. Told it was 2:20 a.m., the surprised jurist remarked, "Gosh, I haven't had dinner yet!" and departed.
After the state concluded its case with some 30 witnesses, Bauknecht moved for a directed verdict of acquittal. He declared the state had failed to provide any positive evidence linking his client.
THERE WAS NO proof, he noted, of how Mrs. Wall was killed or even if the crime occurred in this county. But Judge Sharp refused to dismiss, and the defense presented its case with 13 witnesses and testimony refuting the State's claims.
G. R. Pattison, a city jeweler, said the wedding ring had not been cut down to fit, since the line was not near the 14K mark as it would have customarily been.
Atty. Lang took the stand to read a statement he obtained from Willie Ward who testified he saw Mrs. Wall enter Cascio's apartment shortly before 4 p.m. Lang noted several witnesses testified seeing Mrs. Wall and her daughter shopping uptown at 3:50 p.m.
Four Valley Motor Transit bus drivers testified about passing along Jennings Ave. and not seeing any barrel until they noted police at the site after 7:30 a.m.
Mrs. Bessie Horton of 220 E. Second St., a neighbor of Cascio's, said she saw him leave his apartment around 7:50 a.m., walk to Washington St. and head up the hill, stopping to light his pipe. But other witnesses placed Cascio at the City Market at 7:15 a.m.
Frank Wells, produce manager at the market, said Cascio was there with his parked truck when Wells arrived at that time. Fred Huston, a grocer, said He saw Cascio there when he came to buy supplies.
Despite strong objections from the Prosecution, Bauknecht introduced hearsay evidence that Mrs. Wall had been seen "quarreling in the streets" with her husband at 3 a.m. the day the body was found. Mrs. Jessie Heath of the Ceramic Hotel testified a man told her of seeing the pair arguing. She reported it to Chief McDer-mott who doubted the credibility because the man was believed intoxicated.
Cascio himself went on the stand to deny he had anything to do with the woman's death. He traced his movements the night before Cullen discovered the barrel, and identified the flashlight and the ring as his own. He kept the flashlight under his pillow, he explained, because the apartment lacked electricity, and he needed it during the night.
The ring, he explained, was part payment of a grocery bill receive when he was in business at Toronto. He had given it to his second wife, Blanche, and she had taken to Steubenville to have it fitted. Since her death several years before, he had carried it in his change purse.
As to his relations with the murdered woman, he testified she had come to work for him when he operated a store. "I couldn't afford to pay her very much. She said she had been kicked out, so I agreed to pay her $10 a week and board."
"She had been living in a room on West Sixth St., and I had been staying with my brother, so I rented the three-room apartment. She stayed there for three months until I had to close up the store, and then she went out to do housework."
The short, stocky witness testified, "She didn't stay there continually, but would be away for two or three weeks, then come back, then go away again." He said he learned of her final employment from two women he overheard passing his truck. "From the remarks, I became suspicious. They didn't say it was a very good place."
HE SAID HE went to Smiths Ferry and gave her $15 he owed on a note at the First National Bank. Her name was on the note.
Asked about phone calls he made to her a few days before the death, he said he was about to give up the apartment, and wanted to know what she would do with furniture she bought.
Cascio was grilled fiercely by Prosecutor Springer who claimed he had told the victim's sister he would marry Julia if she would come back to him. He denied that along with a suggestion he had not spent the night in his apartment.
Springer, seeking to convince the jury the murder had occurred earlier in the apartment, charged, "You put her on the bed and held something over her mouth and nose so that she could not breathe or scream, and then put the body in a barrel, hauling it to the ravine out in the residential district where her own brother lived, and there rolled it from your truck."
Casio, visibly shaken, replied, "No, no, Mr. Springer!"
In Bauknecht's closing arguments to the jury he declared the State had not one "shred of evidence" linking Cascio to the killing. There was no indication that the body had been left on Jennings Ave. before 7:22 am., he said, noting the lack of rigor mortis.
He noted from Cullen's testimony that it appeared the body in the barrel had been thrown in haste from an auto that morning, and had failed to roll down into the ravine. The driver had stopped and waited nearby to push it over, and left when Cullen came along.
He also scored the "slipshod investigation" in which the body was embalmed before the autopsy, and the stomach contents not examined.
Bauknecht said the victim was not with the defendant that night, pointing out she was completely clothed. "No woman who went to a man's apartment and stayed until 4 would have been dressed fully. And no man ever dressed that woman as a corpse."
Judge Sharp explained to the jury it had five verdicts to consider -- guilt in the first degree with mandatory execution, first degree with recommendation of mercy, second degree, manslaughter or acquittal.
During its five hours of deliberation, the panel held three votes. The first was nine to two for not guilty with one not voting, the second was ten to two for not guilty, and the third a unanimous acquittal.
A beaming Cascio was surrounded and embraced by happy, tearful relatives. The Judge told him, "This releases you. You may go home now." Cascio, held in jail for three months, said humbly, "Thank you, judge," and shook hands gratefully with each of the jurors.
Springer, who had taken over the case only weeks before, had no public comments on the outcome of his very first trial as Prosecutor.
Few followers of any murder trial -- fully understand the stress placed upon the attorneys, both for the state and the defense. Lawyers for the accused especially realize a human life rests in their skills, their expertise, their complete commitment to the cause.
And much study and review of the law are demanded. The family of Francis Lang recalled for me the long hours and tremendous pressure he endured during this case.
In fact, Mrs. Lang afterward made him sit down and sign a statement that he would never again serve in a capital punishment case. He didn't.
And the death of the three-week bride remained unsolved, as it is today.