George A Thacher.

Why some men kill; or, Murder mysteries revealed online

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say that any human eye could from these marks distinguish a
mark made by a powder pit in the barrel is to task credulity.
It is also obvious that the pit would not mark the bullet unless
its edges were raised, which is improbable. But it is not neces-
sary to dwell on this feature, for as we have shown there is not
a fact proved that tends to establish in the slightest degree that
Pender got the pistol from the trunk.

The third circumstance is the marks on Pender's face. Assum-
ing the existence of the marks, it is inferred from them, without
any proof, that there was a struggle and that the woman
scratched him; it is inferred that the marks were made by finger

84 Why Some Men Kill

nails, and all of this is based upon the previous inference built
upon inferences that Pender was at the cabin, which we have
shown is not a fact. That the marks were made by finger nails
at all is a poor inference and disputed by Pender, who explains
them by stating that he had a breaking out. The weakness of
this testimony was appreciated because it was sought to be
strengthened by evidence that the woman had foreign matter
under her nails. It is wonderful that such evidence should be
seriously offered; it would be remarkable if a housewife, at the
end of a day of work, would not have foreign matter under her
nails. The inference again is that the foreign matter was cuticle
from Pender's face. It is difficult to be patient with such evi-
dence where a man's life at first and now his life-long liberty, is
at stake.

It is stating the case as strongly as it can be stated against
Pender to say that Pender might have got the paper from the
postoffice on Labor Day, he might have taken it past the box
and his own house to the Wehrman cabin, he might have, on his
way, stolen the Riley-Hassen pistol, he might have assaulted the
woman, and upon her resistance he might have shot and killed
her and her boy. But that case is purely conjectured and not
proved by any evidence worthy of the name. But if the facts
to which the testimony looks as to the mail and the pistol and
the face marks were all true and clearly established, there is
between these facts and the conclusion of guilt a series of infer-
ences and conjecture, no one of which is certain, and a reason-
ing resulting in a belief of Pender's guilt is violative not only of
the legal rule but of the rule of common sense. We shall be
asked how it comes that a jury found the defendant guilty upon
such flimsy pretext. A long experience enables this writer to
give the reason: In theory of law the defendant must be con-
victed beyond a reasonable doubt and the fact of the indict-
ment against him is not to be taken as evidence; in actual prac-
tice, the contrary is the case. The attitude of mind of juries and
of everybody else is that when a person is accused of crime, the
burden is on him to show that he is not guilty. The inquiry is to
see if the facts in evidence against the accused are consistent
with his guilt. If they are, juries, unless carefully instructed, are
apt to assume his guilt, especially where no one else is suspected.
But that is neither the legal nor the just way to look at the evi-
dence; the true, safe and just process is to inquire if the facts
in evidence are consistent also with innocence. If they are, the

Judge Pipes' Brief 85

accused is entitled before the law and before the court of human
justice to go free. Pender was convicted because the jury ac-
cepted all of the inferences that were against him and rejected
all that were in his favor and so finding, since he could have
been guilty, they found him guilty. The rational way is to say
that any innocent man might have got the paper out of the mail,
might have known of the Riley-Hassen pistol, might have had
scratches on his face, and still be innocent of this horrible crime,
and that is exactly Pender's case. It is urged against this pardon,
as we understand, that it is not the province of the executive to
review the decision of the jury and of the Supreme Court, but
the pardoning power has no limits except the conscience of the
Governor; he is the last of the instrumentalities of the state to
stand between innocence and unjust punishment; he is as much
charged on his conscience with the duty of preventing injustice
as the jury courts. It is true that where conflicting evidence
has been passed on by juries and questions of law by courts that
the executive is justified in refusing to disturb convictions upon
mere review of the evidence. But where there has been a plain
miscarriage of justice and a conviction upon conjecture and such
insufficient proof as in this case, it is within the province and it
is the duty of the Governor to say that the terrible injustice of a
life-time shall not be suffered by a man who is innocent. We
have read the decision of the Supreme Court in this case, where
it will be assumed the evidence is recited as strongly as possible
against Pender. The principal question before the court was
whether there was any evidence of the slightest kind sufficient
to be submitted to the jury. The court thought there was, but the
court did not occupy the same position as the Governor; it did
not and could not consider whether Pender was innocent or
guilty but only whether error had been committed in the case.
The Governor's province is to make such an examination, not
only of the evidence in the case but extraneous evidence as to
satisfy him whether justice requires a pardon. If it does, then a
legal duty arises and it is his duty; the case is up to him. He is
not bound by previous proceedings against his own conscience
and judgment. That is what the pardoning power is for; indeed
that power exists in all civilized countries because it is recog-
nized that judicial procedure sometimes results in mistakes and
it is the crowning virtue of the humane age that justice shall
never be barred but that every man shall have somewhere and

86 Why Some Men Kill

all the time a chance for his life and his liberty when he has
been unjustly convicted.

There is another consideration to which Pender is entitled.
The crime in this case was unnatural and proves a debased
nature. No normal man could commit it. The murderer in this
case was a murderer at heart, a man of ungoverned passion and
illogical mind. It is inconceivable that a man of thirty-two years
who had never evinced the peculiar passions of this murderer
could be guilty of the crime unless we suppose the accession of
sudden insanity, and it is impossible to believe that this murder
would be the only exhibition of his brutal nature. Pender has
been under the eye of officers of the law for seven years; in all
that time, as we understand the evidence to be, he has behaved
himself and has won the confidence and respect of his guardians.
It would be just as impossible for the murderer of Mrs. Wehr-
man to have successfully stood that test without a break as it
would be for a leopard to change his spots.

We would not recommend a pardon of Pender if there were
the least doubt in our minds of his innocence, but a careful
examination of his whole case convinces us that the wrong man
has been convicted and that the real murderer has escaped

Martin L. Pipes.


Chapter XII.

One of the most shocking perversities of animal hfe is demon-
strated when a mother kills her own young soon after birth.
This is complete defeat of nature's plan of reproduction, and it
is caused by emotional disturbance of the mother.

In the human family the most terrible perversion is shown
when the male under the emotional stress of the sex impulse
kills the female. The perversion in its milder forms is very com-
mon, and the emotional disturbance caused by the sex impulse
includes an intense wish to suffer pain as well as to inflict pain.
In the mentally unbalanced, the feeble-minded, the epileptic and
in senile dementia this perversion shows the greatest violence
and is often the cause of murder. This fact is not generally
known, probably because the Anglo Saxon race has been taught
for centuries to hide under the veil of silence everything touch-
ing reproduction.

The scientific name of this emotional disturbance, amounting
sometimes to an aberration, is algolagnia. This describes a com-
plex emotional state which for practical purposes has been
divided and called by two different names. The desire to endure
suffering is called masochism from the name of Sacher-Masoch,
an Austrian novelist, who was a victim of the desire for punish-
ment at the hands of his wife. He persuaded her, against her
wish, to whip him with a whip having nails attached to it, and
took great pleasure in his pain.

Rousseau was also a victim of this amazing perverted emo-
tion (see his "Confessions") and there have been many cases
known to physicians and alienists.

The other perversion is known as Sadism. Here the patient
desires to inflict punishment such as whipping or strangling or
causing the flowing of blood. This is the perversion which leads
to murder in extreme cases. The murder of the Hill family in
Portland in 1911, which is described in Chapters 14 and 15, was
a case of Sadism.

The name comes from the Marquis de Sade who lived in
France over a hundred years ago and whom Napoleon had con-
fined in an asylum for the insane. But the perverse and wicked
conduct which made Marquis de Sade infamous was told about
three hundred years before de Sade was born in the horridly

88 Why Some Men Kill

fascinating tale of Bluebeard, who cut off the heads of numerous
wives because of their curiosity and disobedience.

Bluebeard's life of wicked and bloody love must have had a
thrilling appeal for men and women, witness its being worked
into a clever drama and also made a part of a popular opera.
The historic original was Chevalier Raoul, who was made a
Marshal of France in 1429. He was a brave soldier, but cruel
and wicked, and he delighted in corrupting young persons of
both sexes and afterwards murdering them and using their
blood in diabolical incantations.

There is a sure foundation in human nature for these tales,
and that is the perverse desire to inflict pain upon a loved
object, possibly from a wish to absolutely dominate the object
of desire. Where the individual is mentally and nervously ab-
normal and unbalanced this desire to inflict pain becomes an
aberration or a species of insanity. Such a person under the
influence of sexual passion may commit murder by strangling or
by stabbing or cutting with any sharp instrument. The effusion
of the victim's blood seems to gratify this insane perversity
which, since the time of the Marquis de Sade, has been called
Sadism. This pathological occurrence either precedes or follows
copulation, but occasionally it becomes a substitute for sexual
indulgence. Lombroso discusses the case of Verzeni, who said in
his last confession, "I had an unspeakable delight in strangling
women," and referring to one of his victims by name, said, "I
took great delight in drinking Matta's blood."

A number of years ago the civilized world was intensely
aroused by the "Jack the ripper" or Whitechapel murders in
London, which were the work of a Sadie. The perverted acts
of this insane devil defy description.

In the last seven years there have been quite a number of
sadistic murders in the United States. In the spring of 1911 the
people of Portland were horrified by the strangling of little
Barbara Holzman in Albina. In June of the same year the Hill
family in Ardenwald were chopped to death with an axe by a
Sadie. Four persons were killed.

In August of the same year, 1911, the Goble family of Rainier,
Washington, were chopped to death with an axe. Two persons
were killed.

Last August Lynn George J. Kelly confessed to killing a fam-
ily of six persons at Valisca, Iowa, with an axe several years
ago. The testimony at the trial showed the nature of the Sadie

Nature of Sadism 89

in unmistakable fashion. Attorney General Havner of Des
Moines sent me a copy of Kelly's confession, which, however, he
repudiated at the trial. There is a great deal of interest in this
confession to a student of sadistic murders, but the man was a
minister and the crime was so overwhelmingly terrible that the
jury of laymen could not believe that a minister would commit
such a wholesale slaughter without an apparent motive.

In 1913 Dr. Knabe, a woman physician in Indianapolis had
her throat cut in her own apartments by a Sadie.

In 1914 in Sacramento, California, a young girl was strangled
by a Sadie.

In February, 1915, there was a sadistic murder at the county
farm in Multnomah County where the victim's throat was cut.

It was about the same time that there was an attempted
sadistic murder of a woman at La Grande, Oregon. The weapon
used in this case was an axe, but the victim finally recovered.

This limited number of cases is enough to indicate the patho-
logical character of sadistic murder. It is literally an insane per-
version of the sex impulse and in these cases where it proceeds
to the point of assassination it is accomplished by strangling, or
cutting or chopping or stabbing. Kraft-Ebing, who is perhaps the
oldest and best recognized authority on sadism, believes that the
Sadie's motor centers are involved to a great degree in his aber-
ration and that the unnecessary violence of the assassinations
are thus accounted for. All of the authorities on the subject,
Kraft-Ebing, Lombroso, Dr. Thoinot, August Forel, Havelock
EUis, Iwan Block, Dr. Healey and Dr. Jacoby, agree that the acts
of a Sadie in his frenzy are those of an abnormal and perverted
being who, like other insane persons, seems to be only partly
conscious of what he is doing. Such are the characteristic quali-
ties of Sadism, which in feeble-minded and unbalanced men has
often led to murder.

There was no evidence given in the trial of Mr. Pender for
the murder of Mrs. Wehrman and her child tending to indicate
that he was a Sadie, but this trial was unusual both because of
the lack of evidence and because of a highly inflamed public
sentiment against the accused. Stories were widely circulated in
Columbia County, especially, that Arthur Pender was a Sadie
and that he boasted of mistreating Filipino girls and then killing
them. Like the old tales of pirates and the stories of soldiers
returned from foreign conquest these yarns were greedily lis-
tened to and swallowed, for Pender had been a soldier and had

90 Why Some Men Kill

fought in the United States army against the savages and bar-
barians in the Phihppine Islands, and now a woman and child
had been brutally murdered and Pender lived only a mile away.

According to the popular notions of circumstantial evidence
that was very damaging. Nobody knows who started these stories
of Mr. Pender's wild doings in the Philippine Islands but they
were put in circulation by somebody who wanted to explain the
murder of Mrs. Wehrman. Even the prosecuting attorney, Mr.
Tongue, did not hesitate to build on this foundation. He has
several times told that Pender's wife in seeking a divorce accused
Pender of threatening her with a knife. However, the divorce
was obtained by default, and so no evidence was given about the
"cruel and inhuman" treatment which is so commonly charged
in divorce proceedin£,'s. Without proof of sadistic tendencies in
the murder of Mrs. Wehrman and her child this theory falls to
the ground. Pressing the finger on a revolver trigger and caus-
ing an explosion of gunpowder caused Mrs. Wehrman's death,
while sadistic murder since the days of Bluebeard has involved
strangling or cutting or stabbing or chopping the victim to
death as illustrated in the cases referred to in this chapter.

Chapter XIII

It's always a matter of great interest to know what kind of
a person the man is who has been accused of crime. The general
pubhc is curious, and the prosecuting officers and the court and
jailers go verj'^ far in coming to a conclusion about the prisoner's
guilt or innocence from their personal impressions of the man.
This is especially true where there is nothing but circumstan-
tial evidence to connect him with the crime, for everyone knows
that circumstantial evidence is apt to be a delusion and a snare
in the every day affairs of life. Of course it arouses suspicion,
and where a terrible crime has been committed it is worth while
to test the suspicions out to see if they amount to proof.

Personal impressions from a close acquaintance give us all
our best means of judging character unless there is direct evi-
dence to the contrary That is why a prisoner's law^^ers always
make up their minds before they finish a case whether the
accused person is guilty or innocent. Criminal lawyers say that
when they are defending a guilty man he will always give him-
self away in some trifling detail even though he protest his inno-
cence. Guilt is alwaj^s trying to excuse or explain, or throw
dust on the trail, and it reasons from guilty knowledge. That
attitude alone is enough to satisfy a prisoner's lawyer.

On the other hand an innocent person accused of crime does
not do the little self-revealing things which the guilty man does.
He may be unable to prove his innocence but the most intimate
acquaintance with him does not suggest guilt.

In the case of Arthur Pender all of his acquaintances and
friends believe him to be an innocent man. His lawyers have
always been satisfied that he is innocent. Arthur Pender's
mother and sisters, in the many little indefinable ways that a
man's family always indicate their feelings, show beyond a doubt
that he has been a good son and a kind-hearted brother.

Mr. Pender is just 40 years old and has spent nearly eight
years in prison. He served in the Spanish-American war, and
Mr. H. E. Coolidge, now cashier in the La Grande, Ore., National
Bank, says of him : "I knew Pender as a soldier in the Philip-
pines in 1898-99. He was a member of the same battery and
one of the gun detachment of which I had charge as chief of
section. He was a splendid soldier and of such a character and

92 Why Some Men Kill

disposition that he held the confidence and respect of his com-
rades at all times. His unselfish devotion to duty and manly
conduct marked him as the best type of American soldier. Dur-
ing all my intimate association with this man, I never knew of
a single act of his that would reflect in any way upon his record
as a soldier or his character as a moral and upright American

The Captain of Pender's company also speaks of him in the
highest terms both as a man and as a soldier who did not hesi-
tate to risk his life again and again in the Philippines.

A prosecutor in Utah and later in the United States Attor-
ney General's office refers to Mr. Pender as a normal man of
good instincts whom he had known personally for many years,
and he voluntarily pointed out that such men very rarely com-
mitted crimes.

My own impressions of him are that he is an amiable and
faithful fellow with a kind heart for the children and women
folks of his family. He is not brilliant but is an intelligent man
and one who inspires confidence, and he is about as far removed
from the criminal type as it is easy to imagine. Even the prose-
cuting attorney, who is notorious as a zealous prosecutor, has
said of Mr. Pender in my hearing, "I have a doubt of his guilt."

Governor Withycombe has said to me on different occasions
and to others also, that he believed Pender to be innocent, but
that he did not feel justified in pardoning him. He said that
people in Columbia County feel very bitter about Pender. My
own conviction is that they would feel more bitter about Sierks
— father and son — if they knew the facts.

There has always been a grave question in the minds of
thoughtful people throughout the state as to Mr. Pender's guilt.
To people outside of the community, and to some of the intelli-
gent citizens of Columbia County, there did not appear to be
any evidence which necessarily connected Pender with the crime.
Mrs. Wehrman and her child were most brutally — nay, fiendish-
ly — murdered by some being who showed no more restraint than
ape. Somebody must have done it, but there was no evidence
to show that Pender was even away from his tent house on
the night the prosecution claimed that the murder was com-
mitted (and as a matter of fact nobody knows whether the mur-
der was committed on Sunday or Monday). There was certain
negative evidence that Pender did not have a light in his tent
Monday evening, September 4, but the witness testified to this

Mr. Pender's Innocence 93

about the first of June, 1912, and again in 1913. This was all
the prosecution had to go on.


Eventually it must be recognized that Mr. Pender is innocent
and that he should be released from the penitentiary. My own
personal interest in Pender is simply that of the President of
the Oregon Prisoners' Aid Society, a body of men and women
who have taken a very active part for many years in securing
better criminal laws and more humane prison administration.
My predecessor in office was Mr. Ben Selling, now one of the
directors of the Society.

It is one of the recognized duties of the Society to bring to
public attention miscarriages of justice, not only for the sake
of the prisoner, but especially to secure in the future a better
administration of the criminal law throughout the state. The
cases of John Arthur Pender and of William Branson and Mrs.
William Booth are noticeable only because they have aroused
interest through the conviction of these persons for wholly un-
provoked murders, and because these convictions were secured
on circumstantial evidence of a very inconclusive character. It
is unnecessary to point out the dangers to the liberties of any
citizen if such unjustified convictions should stand after the
actual criminals have been discovered.

In the case of Mr. Pender, many highly intelligent and respon-
sible citizens of the state are satisfied of his innocence as the
result of this investigation and report, and they have, after
studying the report, signed their names to the following state-
ment in order that the public may know the facts.

This appeal to the people of Oregon to petition the chief
executive to grant a full pardon to John Arthur Pender is made
after mature consideration by each member of the committee
of the report of this investigation and after receiving the advice
and counsel of former City Attorney Frank S. Grant.

Mr. Grant says: "I have examined the record of the case of
the State of Oregon against John A. Pender, convicted of the
murder of Mrs. Frank Wehrman. Based upon the examination
of the record, it is my opinion that John A. Pender never should
have been convicted of this crime."

Chapter XIV

On the southern boundary of the City of Portland is a suburb
known as Ardenwald, which hes partly in each of two counties,
Multnomah and Clackamas. There wdnds through this suburb
a stream known as Johnson's Creek, which in its setting of trees
and bushes is the delight of small boys and the hoboes who like
to have more or less permanent camps in the neighborhood of
a city. On the Clackamas side of Ardenwald there is a grove
of perhaps 40 acres of first growth timber containing many huge
fir trees. The Southern Pacific Railroad running south from
Portland marks the w^estern boundary of this grove, which is
known as Scott's Woods, while at the north end and on the east
side is the town of Ardenwald. There are comparatively few
houses on the east of Scott's Woods and here it was, in the
spring of 1911, that William Hill built a cottage for his family
close to some of the old residences near the south end of the
woods. Mr. Hill was a comparatively young man of 32 years.
He had been married but a short time to a Mrs. Rintoul, a widow
of about his own age. Mrs. Rintoul had two children, Philip
Rintoul, aged 8 years, and Dorothy, aged 6 years

Mr. and Mrs. Hill with their two children moved into the cot-
tage about the first of May, 1911, before it was completed. The
Hills had two near neighbors on the south, the Matthews famil}^
and the Harvey family, both within a few hundred feet. The
houses all faced the road running along the east side of Scott's
Woods, and the neighbors all used this road in walking to the
Ardenwald station on the suburban electric line to Portland.

On June 8, 1911, in the afternoon, Mrs. Hill went to Portland

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Online LibraryGeorge A ThacherWhy some men kill; or, Murder mysteries revealed → online text (page 9 of 13)