George A Thacher.

Why some men kill; or, Murder mysteries revealed online

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and saw her father and brother in their law office. Mrs. Hill
w^as apparently much disturbed about something, but on account
of some interruptions neither her father nor brother learned
what had happened.

They never saw her again alive, for some time during that
night Mr. and Mrs. Hill and their two children, Philip and Doro-
thy, were chopped to death with an axe taken from the porch of
Joe Delk's house. Mr. Delk lived with his family one-fourth of
a mile to the north of the Hills, and he had sharpened his axe
that evening and left it on the step of a side porch of his house.

Some sexual perverts of the type known as Sadies had either

I.i). Hamsky. alias Frctlerick Alexander, alias Alexander Raiiili)rd, alias William
l-lyiiii, and known to many small boys as "Nutty Ed.," who was accusod by William
Higgin of being his companion in killing the Hill I'amily in Ardenwald on .Uiiie 8,
1911. Ramsey is a high-grade moron, and has lived in the jungles I'oi- years. It is
knoNxn that lUggin and Ramsey were living together in the .jungle in lilll when this
sadistie nnirder nl' the Hill family was eommittcd.

The Hill Murder 95

taken the axe, or had it brought to tliem by a companion, and
they had then used it in wiping out a whole family as a prelim-
inary to a pathological sexual orgy.

The members ol" the Hill lamily were murdered in their beds
and the bloody axe was left standing at the foot of the cot on
which lay the body of little Dorothy Rintoul. The axe was posi-
tively identified by the owner who lived about one-fourth of a
mile towards the city from the Hill home. Mrs. Matthews dis-
covered the murder at about 8 o'clock A, M. on the 9lh of June.
The windows had been covered with garments and pieces of
cloth which indicated that the murderers had spent some time
in the house and that they had a light.

The surgeon at the coroner's inquest testified in part as fol-
lows :

Question. "What wounds did j'ou find on Mr. Hill?"

A. "His face and head were completely chopped to pieces
on the right side; especially on the right side above the eye,
deforming whole face."

Q. "What wounds did you find on Mrs. Hill?"

A. "There was a wound starting in the middle of the eye-
brow above the right eye, extending clear across; the wliole skull
was fractured. There was a cut on left side of nose down into
the bone, breaking out front upper teeth. Her lower jaw was
broken on left side."

Q. "What wounds did you find on Dorothy Hintoul?"

A. "There was cut on angle of right eye, extending up for
three inches, fracturing skull, going through it. Cuts were done
with sharp edge of axe. There was a cut two inches above left
eye extending three inches, went through skull; done with sharp
edge of axe, a blow on the back of the head completely smashed

Q. "What wounds did you find on Philip Rintoul?"

A. "Whole skull battered in; several bruises along side of
right eye and forehead. Occipital bone in skull only bone not
broken. Right arm bloody; shows bloody finger prints on arm.
Head all mashed over to left side. Looks like wound was caused
by side of axe."

Q. "Was there evidence that someone had washed U]) before
leaving house?"

A. "Yes."

Q. "Could you tell how long the bodies had been dead?"

A. "No; it's hard to say."

96 Why Some Men Kill

Q. "Any bloody finger prints on bodies?"

A. "Yes."

Q. "Other than on the boy's arm?"

A. "Yes, several."

The testimony of the surgeon also showed that the bodies of
Mrs. Hill and her -6year-old daughter, Dorothy, had been assault-
ed in outrageous fashion. The murderers left conclusive proof
that they were not only Sadies, or insane sexual perverts, who,
like the Whitechapel murderers in London years ago, delighted
in the effusion of the blood of their victims, but were the lineal
degenerate descendants of the vicious inhabitants of ancient

However, there was no clue whatever as to the Sadies who
had destroyed this whole family and who so shockingly muti-
lated their bodies. Several thousand dollars in rewards were
offered by the State and by private individuals for the detection
of the murderers, but aside from the arrest of a neighbor of the
Hills, whom the grand jury refused to indict for the murder,
very little progress was made. At the same time public interest
was intense and has continued in great measure through the
years that have elapsed since the murder. All the elements of
the crime combined to stir the community. Public sympathy in
a murder of this sort reflects the personal element of fear of
meeting a similar fate, which in this case combined the horror
of butchery with that of indecent assault. To aggravate the ter-
ror and resentment caused by this ignominous destruction of a
family was added the element of mystery which was as complete
as if some unknown and invisible animals had suddenly demon-
strated their presence by the mysterious destruction of the lives
of a whole family of reputable citizens.

Usually in cases of mysterious murder the motive is not ap-
parent and remains more or less a matter of speculation, but in
the murder of the Hill family the motive was established abso-
lutely by circumstantial evidence. There remains then the prob-
lem of discovering who were the perverted and abnormal men
who entered the Hill home that night in June. This is another
point to be remembered, for abnormality of such a marked
character is exceedingly rare. The verdict of students of sexual
pathology is unanimous in declaring that Sadies of this extreme
type are afflicted with defective nervous systems or defective
brains or both.*

Note. Dr. Jatoby in his recent volume, "The Unsound

The Hill Murder 97

That is not only the conclusion from numerous investigations
by specialists, but it is also the verdict of common sense, be-
cause only an abnormal being could be guilty of such out-
rageously abnormal conduct. This narrows the field of investi-
gation to a search for the abnormal men who were in the imme-
diate vicinity of the home of the Hills on the night of the mur-
der. It is possible of course that the perverted murderers were
birds of passage and were in the vicinity only a few hours, but
the probabilities are very strong that they were thoroughly fa-
miliar with the neighborhood and were at least transient resi-

Quite a number of defective men were picked up by sheriffs
and questioned as to their whereabouts at the time of the mur-
der and then were released. One of the number was a man of
55 years of age by the name of Ed Ramsey. He claimed that
his true name was Frederick Alexander. He was what is known
as a "jungle" man, and while he worked at intervals, his favorite
occupation was loafing in the woods in the suburbs of Portland
and inducing young children to go to his camp. He was gen-
erally regarded as a thief and people were afraid of him as his
actions were peculiar. Ramsey w^as picked up on June 18, ten
days after the murder, as he was crossing the Willamette River
on a raft. It was well known to the authorities that he had been
living in the strip of hea\'y timber between the home of the Hill
family and the Southern Pacific Railroad. Upon his arrest he
said that he was a San Francisco earthquake refugee and that
his memory was poor and that he could not tell where he was
the night of the murder of the Hills.

When Ramsey was picked up, ten days after the murder,
he was barefoot and unkempt and had injured one leg by burn-
ing it, so he claimed.

On June 19, 1911, an insanity complaint was filed against
Ramsey and he w^as committed to the asylum at Salem. Com-
mitment says he was morose and had hallucinations and illu-
sions of sight. His description says he was 5 feet 7 inches tall,
weighed 145 pounds, had blue eyes and gray hair and was some-

Mind and the Law,' says: "As a psychopathological man-
ifestation Sadism is dependent pre-eminently, at any rate
in its most pronounced form, upon congenital or acquired
feeble mindedness, upon alcoholism, hysteria, epileptic
psychoses or senile dementia."

98 Why Some Men Kill

what bald. He gave his age as 55 years and said he was born
in Canada,

The State Hospital notes say of Ramsey that he "does not
appear to be insane, no delusions or hallucinations discoverable,
is coherent, reasons sanely and appears normal, works well and
is a quiet, nice patient." On this hospital record Ramsey was
discharged on July 25, 1911, about a month after he was com-

Ramsey has continued to live on the outskirts of Portland
with occasional visits elsewhere.

1 have talked with a number of boys, at least half a dozen
whom Ramsey has mistreated sexually, and several of them
signed sworn statements as to details. These statements I turned
over to the district attorney of Clackamas County in the fall of
1915 when Ramsey was arrested on a vagrancy complaint signed
by L. G. McKenny, who first brought the matter of Ramsey's
assaults on children to my attention and also the further fact
that Ramsey was living in the neighborhood of the Hills at the
time of the murder. Ramsey's reputation in the matter of his
mistreatment of children was notorious and also his habits as
a jungle man and suspected thief.

Deputy Sheriff August Scholtz, of Multnomah County, gave
me* his sworn statement about his knowledge of Ramsey's bad
habits where children were concerned, and of his various at-
tempts to get evidence to convict Ramsey as a thief.

Mr. L. G. McKenny suspected Ramsey of being implicated
in the murder of the Hill family because of his presence in the
community and because of his peculiar and vicious sexual as-
saults on small boys, which corresponded with the assaults made
on the bodies of Mrs. Hill and her little daughter the night of
the murder.

This attracted my interest and attention because of the well-
recognized connection between sexual assaults on children and
the perversion known as Sadism. The murder of the Hills was
one of the most clearly demonstrated cases of sadistic murder
ever recorded. Dr. Albert Moll, the great Euorpean authority,
in his book, "The Sexual Life of the Child," says on page 234,
"Sexual inclinations towards children are especially apt to be
associated with sadistic acts."

Conclusive evidence of Ramsey's presence in the neighbor-
hood of the Hill home on the evening of the murder was dis-
covered by L. G. McKenny, the detective whom I have men-

The Hill Murder 99

tioned. A Mr. and Mrs. Tliomas 1^. Vale, a reputable couple
who lived at Berkely, a short distance from Ardenwald station,
took a walk after supper on the evening of June 8, the night
of the murder, in the general direction of Ardenwald, and they
met a jungle man with his gunny sack and tomato can who was
muttering threats against some woman or girl. Here is Mrs.
Vale's statement:

"State of Oregon, County of Yamhill — ss.

I, Nancy Vale, being first duly sworn, depose and say that I
am the wife of Thomas B. Vale, and that at present I am a
resident of McMinnville, Yamhill County, Oregon, and that in
June of 1911, I was living with my husband in Berkely, Mult-
nomah County, Oregon; that on the evening of the murder of
the Hill family in Ardenwald, immediately after supper, I walked
with my husband towards the picnic grounds on Johnson Creek
at some time between G and 7 o'clock P. M., and that before
we reached the creek we met and passed a crazy looking man
carrying a small paper sack and a tomato can. He was horribly
dirty and tough looking and was hanging his head forward and
muttering to himself as he passed on. After he had got by us
I heard him say, 'Damn her, I'll her yet." I told my hus-
band what the man said and I felt so horrified at his appear-
ance and his threat against some woman that I said I wanted
to go back home and we did go home. This man was about 50
years old and medium height and fairly heavy set and looked
as if he had not been shaved for a month. I think I should
know this man, though it is four years since this happened,
because he made such a strong impression upon me because of
his filthy and wild appearance and his threat against some
woman, unless of course he has changed very much in appear-
ance. (Signed) Nancy Vale."

Mr. Vale's statement corresponds with his wife's. Mr. Vale
was so much impressed by this occurrence when he learned tlie
next morning that the Hills had been murdered and Mrs. Hill
and her little daughter assaulted that he reported it to a police
officer, but probably it never got any farther than the officer
whom Mr. Vale talked to.

It seems that on the afternoon before her death Mrs. Hill
called on her father and brother in their office in Portland and
that she was disturbed and excited by something that had hap-
pened. Mr. Tom Cowing, a brother of Mrs. Hill's, will testify

100 Why Some Men Kill

that this is true. The place where the Vales met Ramsey is not
far from the road Mrs. Hill went and came on the afternoon
of her trip to Portland, and it is possible, though not certain,
that Ramsey accosted her that afternoon or evening.

After Ramsey was arrested in 1915 on a vagrancy charge,
I took Mr. and Mrs. Vale to the Clackamas jail to see if they
could identify Ramsey. They both identified him positively as
the man they saw near Johnson Creek the evening of the Hill
murder and who uttered threats against some woman.

These facts concerning Ed Ramsey, including his presence
in the neighborhood of the Hill home the evening of the murder,
and his character in the matter of his treatment of children,
were presented to the grand jury of Clackamas County in the
fall of 1915, but were evidently regarded as absurd by the dis-
trict attorney and the grand jury.

In a private conversation with the district attorney a short
time before the grand jury met he assured me that "there would
be something doing if I were trying to railroad a harmless old
man to the penitentiary." He said that he knew where I had
been, and named the office of the lawyer who was attorney for
the man suspected of this murder, the intimation being that 1
had been hired to divert suspicion from this man to a poor,
harmless half-wit.

The district attorney had previously hired a private detective
for the sum of $2000 to get the evidence in this murder case,
and this same summer this detective had collected his $2000 by
a suit in court, as the county had refused to pay the amount
because no conclusive evidence had been secured. The detective
believed that this neighbor of Hills who had been arrested, but
whom the grand jury refused to indict, was the guilty man.

The district attorney intimated that the boys who had made
detailed statements under oath of Ramsey's assaulting them
sexually were irresponsible, and asked if one of them had not
been in the reform school.

Ed Ramsey was released after this grand jury hearing and
the matter seemed closed.

William Ru.ciiN ( Iroiit view), who, ;it
the time he confessed to the murder of
William Booth on October 8, 1915, also
confessed to his part in the sadistic mur-
der of the Hill family on June 8, 1911.
and who said that Charles Brown and
William Flynn were his accomplices.

Chapter XV


In May of 1917, when Bill Riggin confessed to shooting and
killing William Booth at Willamina on October 8, 1915, he made
a statement about taking part in the Hill murder on June 8,
1911. The statement follows:

Office of Sheriff of Washington

J. C. Applegate

Hillsboro, Ore.

State of Oregon, County of Washington — ss.

Under oath, I, William Riggin, do make this my free and vol-
untary statement, to-wit:

In 1911 I was standing on the street, right by the bridge at
Oregon City, when this Mexican named Brown and William
Flynn came up to me and said : "Will, we know where we can
get some money." I said, "All right, we'll go get it." This was
about half-past-four in the afternoon when they came to me.
Brown gave me a .38 automatic revolver. We went across the
Willamette River, across the bridge, and set down near where
an old store stood, and talked. We talked there, I guess for
about twenty minutes. Brown said, "You stay out. Bill, and be
a spotter in case anything turns up, and give a signal by firing
a shot, and we'll do the rest." Brown said: "After we go in
and come out again, you beat it, and we will meet again tomor-
row night." The meeting place was to be down below the Glad-
stone Park. We then walked over to where the Hill family
lived and got there about half-past-nine at night. The lights
were still burning in the house. They had not gone to bed. The
front door of the house stood out. They went to bed at about
half-past-nine. Brown told me to get back quite a ways so that
I could see good, and if anyone came, to fire the shot. I went
back from the house, and stayed about forty yards from the
house. I was to shoot with a gun down close to the ground,
so that it would not pop loud. They waited until about 11 o'clock
before they went into the house. Then one went in through the
window, and the other one went in through the door. Brown
took the axe from the woodshed. Flynn went in the window
and Brown went in the door. They were in the house for about
half-hour. I heard the children scream. I heard a noise that

102 Why Some Men Kill

sounded like chopping, and heard the screams. They came out
through the back door, and went one way, and I went the other.
I went down to Gladstone Park and laid around until they came.
They came in about daylight. They had $1400, part in gold and
part in silver. I don't remember whether there was any paper
money or not. I got $100.00 for my part. They divided the
money. They went one way and I went the other. I haven't
seen them since.

(Signed) William Riggin.

State of Oregon, County of Washington — ss.

I, William Riggin, being first duly sworn, depose and say that
the foregoing statement is true, as I verily believe, so help me

(Signed) William Riggin.

Subscribed and sworn to before me this 18th day of May,

(Signed) H. A. Kurath,
County Clerk, Washington County, Oregon.

Late in July, 1917, I saw William Riggin at Willamina, where
he located the spot where Rooth's body was found and described
the position of the body with absolute accuracy, according to
Mr. Sherwin, foreman of the coroner's jury.

In conversation with Riggin, I referred to Ed Ramsey with-
out mentioning the Hill murder. Riggin was surprised that I
knew anything of Ramsey, and when I told him some of Ram-
sey's peculiarities, he was evidently very much surprised that
I should know anything about him.

At this time I had not seen Riggin's statement about the Hill
murder but had heard of it. Riggin exclaimed with an oath
that he might as well tell the whole story of the murder of the
Hills and the next day he gave a statement which follows:

State of Oregon, County of Marion — ss.

I, William Riggin, first being duly sworn, depose and say in
regard to the Hill murder, that I had been living around with
Ed Ramsey about six or eight months before the Hill family
was killed. I had been at work for the Fitzgerald Brothers at
the Blue Ridge farm and Ramsey came there and saw me. I
had seen him several times before this, but it was after I left
the farm that I lived with him in different places in the woods
and around the country to the south of Portland and in Yamhill
County. On the afternoon before the murder I was in Oregon

The Hill Murder 103

City and sal on the bridge for about an hour, and 1 went to Mil-
waukie in a rig that evening.

lianisey and 1 made a plan about 9 o'clock to go to the Hill
house. I met Ramsey down close to Ardenwald. I went and
got an axe from a fellow's house on the road to Ardenwald. I
think 1 could go and pick out the place. I know that I went up
some steps to get the axe, but I don't remember how many
steps there were. It was a sharp axe. We went together to
the house about midnight. I saw Ramsey go in. I was on the
lookout on the outside and had my orders to shoot close to the
ground if anything happened. I never seen her. I didn't go
into the house. I do not remember what time Ramsey came
out but think it was about 3:30 A. M. No, I was not in there
with him. That is one reason I didn't hang around Oregon City
afterwards. I saw him afterwards. He said: "I got the best of
the people." He didn't tell me what he did to the woman or
the little girl. He gave me i}>100.00. I do not know where he
got the money. His plans were to get money — and hate. I know
of many things Ed did but the police were not smooth enough
to get him. After this was over that night we went down by
Gladstone Park and stayed around the shack in Scott's Woods.
The next morning Ramsey told me about his meeting Mrs. Hill
on the road to Ardenwald the afternoon before, and about his
asking her for and about her running away from him.

After this affair I lived with Ramsey off and on for several
years, though I did not see him for some time after the killing
of the Hill family. My father asked me several times who this
strange man was that I was monkeying around with and wanted
me to leave him.

I thought about the Hill family a good deal and it troubled
me so that I did not go to that neighborhood. My brother John
asked me at one time what it was that troubled me, and at
another time my father wanted to know what it was that made
me so troubled. I told him it wasn't worth while for him to
know everything. In May of this year when I was at Hillsboro
I told my father for the first time about my connection with
the Hill matter.

(Signed) Wuxiam Riggin.

Subscribed and sworn to before me this 21st day of July, 1917.

(Signed) Frank Davey,

Notary Public for Oregon.

The discrepancies in the two statements are very interesting,

104 Why Some Men Kill

especially as they are the wholly voluntary statements of a high-
grade defective, no attempt being made to lead him.

In the confession of May, 1917, Riggin told of two men, Brown
and Flynn, proposing to rob the Hill family and of their asking
him to be outside guard. The men met in Oregon City, and
Riggin said they walked to the site of the Hill home and got
there about 9:30 P. M. In Riggin's statement in July, 1917, he
said he rode from Oregon City in a rig. In his statement to
Attorney General Brown in August, 1918, Riggin said the other
men had a team and he had a saddle horse.

In the May, 1917, statement Riggin said the front door of the
Hill cabin "stood out." It was typed "open" and changed after-
wards. It is fair to assume that he meant that the door would
not open, judging from the change of wording and his statement
in August and later that they went in at the back door. It is
true that the front door was fastened shut and could not be
opened and that the murderers did use the back door.

In his first statement Riggin said Brown took the axe from
the woodshed. In his second statement Riggin said he got the
axe himself and thought he could take me to the house where
he got it. He did this a year later and showed where the axe
was taken, and curiously, in view of the previous account, he
was entirely accurate in showing where the axe was secured,
and during this year he was in the penitentiary and without any
opportunity of getting the information.

In his first statement Riggin said Brown and Flynn were
his accomplices in the murder. At the time I first talked to
Riggin in July, 1917, I had not seen his confession of May, 1917,
and did not know the names. I asked some questions about
Ramsey and he was very much surprised that I knew him, and
he finally admitted that he knew Ramsey and was living with
him in the early summer of 1911, and said that his father and
brothers knew who Ramsey was. In telling me the story of
the murder he placed all the blame on Ramsey and did not
mention Brown. In August, 1918, Riggin told Attorney General
Brown, Warden Murphy, the stenographer and I being present,
that Ramsey sometimes went by the name of William Flynn.
He also said that Brown was the name that Charlie Daniels went
by and that Daniels was an old friend of his and that they were
in the reform school together. He said he kept Daniels out of
it as much as he could because of their friendship. Upon making
inquiries I found that Charlie Daniels was in the reform school

The Hill Murder 105

froir. the time he was 11 years old until he was 21 and that
Riggin was in the reform school several years during this period.
Riggin's father and two brothers knew of the friendship between
Riggin and Daniels. Daniels had a very bad record in the

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Online LibraryGeorge A ThacherWhy some men kill; or, Murder mysteries revealed → online text (page 10 of 13)