Ozarks History Journal

Tag: murder

The Death of Julia Patterson

Springfield Daily Leader,
May 21, 1886

Julia knew she was going to die. She had been shot in the chest and left arm and her left thumb was blown apart. But her concern was for her family—” How bad my mother will feel, and my poor sister, how she will miss me.”

Just a few minutes earlier she sat reading on the front porch of the Morrison house, where she worked as a servant. Deciding that her time was better spent reading the Bible rather than a novel, she went inside to get it. She was walking down the hallway and into the kitchen when she was shot by Theodore Morrison, the son of Nathan Morrison, the first president of what was then Drury College.

That was on May 14. Julia lingered, in considerable pain, for a week. Part of that time she was lucid; sometimes she was delirious. But regardless of her mental state, she was worried about her family.

“She spoke of different members of her family, and…how they would grieve for her, showing very plainly that she believed she would die…I noticed particularly the fact that she was so perfectly willing to die. All that she said on this point showed a beautiful, trusting, Christian character,” stated a witness.

Julia was also worried about Theo. According to the testimony of Frances Fowler, a Drury art teacher who was nearby when the shooting occurred, Julia expressed particular concern that Theo not be blamed. She “seemed to feel keenly that Theo would be severely blamed by his parents, and she felt that it was…an accidental move of Theo’s that caused the gun to go off.”

Julia Patterson died on July 21st. She had been “born of poor but respectable parents, and had recently joined the Christian Church…she and her sister [had] been saving their hard earnings for years in order to assist their parents in purchasing a home, and it almost prostrated them to see her cut down in the bloom of womanhood.”

There was no inquest held in Julia’s death; the coroner was out of town, and in any case, her father objected. The funeral was held the afternoon of her death at the home of relatives, some sixteen miles southeast of Springfield.

Prosecutor John A. Patterson declined to hold a preliminary examination; he thought the grand jury could handle the case. Theo was arrested on May 27 after the grand jury indicted him for 2nd degree murder; he pled not guilty. Theo’s $1500 bond was paid by a few prominent Springfield men, including T. B. Holland. Since he was underage, he could not be sent to prison; according to the Springfield Leader and Press, the charge would become a misdemeanor that would likely land Theo in the county jail for only a year.

Theo didn’t go to trial until February 1887. Dr. Tefft, witness for the state, testified about Julia’s injuries and her mental condition. He said the only thing he heard Julia say about the shooting was that it was “accidental,” which she repeated “a good many times” in front of everyone, including her family. By the time of her death on Thursday, Tefft stated that “she was more or less delirious…not all the time, but part of the time.

Another witness, an art teacher at Drury College, confirmed that Julia said the shooting was an accident. She also recounted that Theo had no contact with Julia other than asking if there was anything he could do to help.

There was much discussion at the trail about the condition of the gun and whether or not Theo knew it was loaded. Theo claimed that he did not; his younger brother Douglas had loaded it to hunt rabbits without Theo’s knowledge. Also, it had been taken to a gunsmith a few weeks prior to the shooting to have a new hammer installed. Theo and his brother complained that the gun wasn’t reliable; sometimes it would shoot, sometimes not. The gun was not repaired because the gunsmith couldn’t find a hammer that would fit.

The trial lasted four days. On Sunday, February 5th, Theodore Morrison was found guilty of manslaughter and fined $500.

After the trial, the Morrison family moved to Wichita, Kansas, where Nathan became the first president of Fairmont College (now Wichita State University). He died in 1907 and his wife in 1926.

Theo graduated from Marietta College in Ohio in 1902, then obtained a law degree from Northwestern University. Due to hearing loss, possibly caused by the scarlet fever, he gave up law and became a librarian at Fairmont College. In July 1906, Theodore married Belle McHenry at her home in Aberdeen Mississippi. They had one child, a son also named Theodore, born in 1910.

Theodore H. Morrison died in July 1912. A notice in the Springfield Republic reported that Theo’s death was caused “by an abcess (sic) on the brain, the result of an attack of scarlet fever in childhood.” There was no mention of his manslaughter trial.

Murder at the Colonial Hotel

Arthur J. Seigfreid was ready to go home. A salesman for a Kansas City jewelry company, Arthur had been in Springfield for a few days, making the rounds to all the local jewelry stores. Now it was just two days before Christmas and he had his train ticket in hand. At around 3:00 p.m., he paid his bill at the front desk of the Colonial Hotel and headed back to his fourth-floor room. He just needed to grab his jewelry trunks and the presents he had bought for his two children and he could be on his way to the train station.

Arthur didn’t make it to the train station. When he arrived back at his room, he discovered an intruder already there, a man, trying to open his jewelry trunk. The two men struggled and the would-be thief shot Arthur in the face. The intruder ran, and Arthur staggered out of his room to search for help. A hotel employee found him on the second-floor stairway, where he had collapsed. He was “bleeding profusely” and was rushed to the Springfield hospital, where he died two hours later. 

Shortly before he died, Seigfreid reportedly said that “they were trying to rob me and they shot me.” He died without giving any additional information. The police investigation discovered that his room was in disarray, indicating a struggle. According to his employer, the C. A. Kiger Jewelry Company, Siegfried had in his possession $10,000 of inventory, mostly in diamonds. Surprising, nothing appeared to be missing.

By the next evening police had a suspect in custody—a 22-year-old woman who identified herself as Mrs. Beryl Lloyd Brenner, wife of Fred Brenner. Mrs. Brenner was believed to be an accomplice of Fred and another man, both suspected of the attempted robbery and murder of Arthur Seigfreid. Mrs. Brenner was arrested in her room at the Metropolitan Hotel on College Street. After continued questioning by the police, Beryl admitted that she was not married to Fred, and in fact, had only recently met him. 

Brenner was not the smartest of thieves; he gave himself away by registering as a guest at the Colonial and then asking employees if there were any silk or jewelry salesmen also staying there. Brenner was travelling light; he registered with no luggage and investigators found only “two hats and an overcoat” in his room. 

According to detectives, Beryl and Fred Brenner had checked into the Colonial Hotel together on December 15, but checked out and moved to the Metropolitan Hotel just two days later. Fred Brenner returned to the Colonial a few days later and checked in again, this time alone. Shortly after the shooting, an elevator operator reported seeing Brenner return to his room in an “excited” and “flushed condition.” That was the last time he was seen in the hotel. Beryl had also been seen at the Colonial Hotel shortly after the shooting, and even rode in the elevator with the two detectives working on the case.

After two days of sitting in the county jail, the former Mrs. Beryl Lloyd Brenner was finally in the mood to talk. On Christmas Day,  she confessed that her real name was Glen Mumford Bailie. She had met Brenner, whose real name was Rowland Lee,  in Cincinnati a few months prior to their arrival in Springfield. She claimed that Lee’s accomplice was a man known as “Boogher” Bertram, someone they had met in St. Louis. The three were on their way to Tulsa, but had stopped in Springfield because they were low on funds. 

Police in several cities across the Midwest helped search for the fugitives. There was a possible sighting at Clinton, Missouri, where they may have been seen boarding a train. However, Springfield police chief D. C. Welch believed the men were likely headed for the Mexican border and asked El Paso border officials to watch for them. 

Miss Bailie believed that the two men would never be found. Bertram, she claimed “was the brains” of the operation. Lee, on the other hand, “had cast iron nerves but not an ounce of brains.” What Lee apparently had was charisma, which Bailie said made him the leader and enabled him “to exert a supernatural influence over Bertram and myself.” 

In early 1921, Lee and Bertram had still not been located and Bailie was charged with accessory to murder. Her bail was set at $5000. A group of local women wanted it reduced, but prosecuting attorney O. J. Page refused, pointing out that Bailie knew the men she traveled with were “stick-up men” and therefore she could not be trusted. It wasn’t until late May that Bailie’s attorney, Fred A. Moon, had her bond reduced and she was finally released after spending five month in the Greene County jail. By July, the charges against her were dropped and she was on her way to New York to stay with her “half-brother, Maxwell Hoblitchell.” 

Rowland Lee and “Booge” Bertram were never apprehended. 

© 2022 Connie Yen's

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑