Citizens For A Better Norwood 2

Monday, July 13, 2009

Part II: Clue of the Killer’s CALLING CARD

Part I of this Real Detective article immediately below

By morning the haggard, sleepless police of both cities found themselves empty-handed in more ways than one. Not only were they lacking a definite suspect, but the fingerprint men had found no worthwhile impressions either in the drugstore or on the .45 caliber pistol dropped by the slayer.

Fritz, before retiring for a few hours of needed rest, dispatched the weapon's serial number to the manufacturers, asking for the name of the dealer to whom it had been sold.

By nightfall, back on the job, he learned the gun was part of a consignment to a Louisville, Kentucky, sporting goods establishment which had gone out of business within the past year. Contact with a member of this firm revealed that no records of gun sales had been kept.

Fritz was disappointed.

To make his disappointment more keen, Fritz's pawnshop squad reported no results in connection with the Overberg pistol. The bandit apparently had made no effort as yet to dispose of it. Fritz ordered the weapon's description circularized to police departments throughout the by middlewest.

By this time, the Sergeant Overberg slaying had stunned the city of Norwood and brought its 35,000-odd citizens rallying to the raising of a fund to aid Overberg's young widow and her two small children, Carole Ann and Kathleen.

In addition, rewards totaling $700 were immediately offered for the apprehension of the slayers. Soon business firms began contributing sums until the price on the killer's head went over the $2,500 mark.

A FLOODING Of the police department with tips was the result. Fritz kept Kiley, Schultz, Dockum, and Flower always available to run them down. These particular tips involved only Norwood and its environs.

As they fizzled, the officers began spreading out. Thus on Friday, July 10, Fritz, accompanied by Flower and Hein the druggist, raced to Middletown and Hamilton to view suspects and check possible evidence.

In Hamilton the police had detained a youth whose shirt was found bloodstained, but he laid it to a nosebleed and produced a perfect alibi for the night of the murder.

At Middletown, a pawnbroker reported the recent sale of a .45 caliber automatic, giving the name of the purchaser. But the buyer, and he was not the wanted killer, still had the gun.

A military prisoner at Fort Thomas, just across the river from Cincinnati, was investigated by Schultz and Dockum, but this youth, returning A WOL with" a blood stained uniform, could not have been involved in the crime.

The weekend was the busiest ever put in by the Norwood and Cincinnati police, but no trace of Sergeant Overberg's killer was found.

The Monday morning teletype, however, brought Chief of Police Fritz news that a police officer had been slain in Oklahoma City on Saturday night.

According to the report, this officer, Patrolman James A. Long, thirty-two, had been shot four times while attempting to arrest a youth who was molesting a girl in the Municipal Park. The weapon used had been a .38 caliber revolver.

By this time Fritz was in possession of an autopsy report submitted by Doctors Ventress and Frank M. Coppock, the coroner, and the three bullets taken from Overberg's body. Overberg had died of internal hemorrhages, and the ballistic tests revealed that he had been shot with his own gun--a thirty-eight.

Fritz telephoned Oklahoma City for the slugs taken from Long, and these were dispatched airmail. Although Fritz held great hopes that the Oklahoma City killer might be the youth they were looking for in Norwood, examination of the slugs revealed that they could not have been fired from Overberg's gun. They did not match the bullets removed from the sergeant's body.

The Cincinnati police were also aware of the Oklahoma City crime. And on Monday night, July 13, Detective Chief Kirgan arrested three youths driving a car which bore Oklahoma plates.

The trio had no good reason for being in the Cincinnati area, and their replies to Kirgan's questions were suspicious. He notified Fritz who hurried over with Lawson and Coors, two of the drugstore murder witnesses.

When they failed to recognize any of the youths as being Overberg's slayer, Kirgan held the trio for the Oklahoma City authorities. Eventually they were absolved in Patrolman Long's death, though they were convicted of other charges.

Immediately following this incident, Fritz was without a definite lead of any kind for more than a month. Then the police of New Philadelphia advised him they were holding Ralph Straka in $10,000 bail on charges of attempting to kill a railroad detective.

Straka not only resembled the Norwood slayer, but he was carrying a .38 caliber pistol with special grips. But when Fritz, Flower, and Hein drove across the state for a talk with him, they soon realized he was not their man. Ultimately, Straka was found guilty of assault and theft charges.

All this time the police throughout the Midwest were closely cooperating with Fritz, having received from him numerous circulars describing the slayer, his abandoned .45 caliber weapon, and the .38 caliber pistol he had stolen from Overberg.

A number of robberies through out northern Kentucky, which state adjoins Ohio, kept the authorities there particularly busy, and in many instances they obtained a good description of the lone gunman who was committing the robberies. They found him not unlike Norwood's killer-young, tall, slim, and light-haired.

Then a crime occurred near Covington, late in November, which shocked the entire state. An armed thief broke into a crossroads store, held up the aged woman proprietor and sought her money.

When she protested and said she had none, he brutally held her hands over a hot stove until, agonizingly blistered, the woman was forced to reveal the cache of her savings. Obtaining the money, the thief then beat the store proprietor insensible and escaped.

Police Chief Chester Fee and Detective Al Seiter and Leroy Hall worked on this case for weeks, but all they could obtain was the victim's description of her tormenter. This tallied very closely with the description of the Norwood bandit killer.

STILL more violence lay ahead. On New Year's Day, 1943, Thomas Conry, 65-year-old proprietor of a liquor package store in Covington, turned from his cash register to find an armed youth standing in, front of him.

Conry, previously the victim of a holdup man, decided not to submit again. He dove for a pistol.

The bandit's gun exploded and Conry fell dead. Pursuit of the killer started almost immediately. Citizens were joined by police, and in the roundup of suspects was one Oliver Thomas Minch, a Kentucky "bad boy."

Minch had no weapon when seized, but witnesses identified him as the youth who ran from the Conry store. Plus this, the suspect had no alibi for the time of the crime.

Then to top it off, the aged woman proprietor of the crossroads store positively identified him as the bandit who had tortured her, on a November day of the year just past.

Chief of Police Fritz was exceptionally interested in Minch, since he closely resembled Overberg's slayer. With Detectives Kiley and Flower, he took Lawson, Coors and Hein across the river to view the suspect.

The witnesses were unable to pick the bandit suspect from a lineup.

Minch admitted the crossroads store robbery but emphatically denied he shot down Conry. However, he was put on trial for this crime convicted. On May 13, 1943, he received two consecutive life terms. The youth went to prison still protesting the Conry conviction.

Although Fritz was disappointed that Minch had not proven to be the killer he was after, he had reason to rejoice shortly afterwards when Kirgan's men caught a bandit red-handed in the Cincinnati water front area. As Detectives cornered him on a dock, he tossed an object into the river.

"What was that, a pistol?" Kirgan demanded.

"Find out," the bandit sneered.

He identified himself as Howard Rann, twenty-one, of Covington. Although about the right size and age, he lacked the Norwood killer's curly light hair.

Fritz's witnesses could not make up their minds.

"That pistol would settle it-if we could get it back," the Norwood - chief told Kirgan.

"We'll go after it," the Cincinnati detective chief replied. For a week a squad of officers used electromagnets on the bed of the Ohio and eventually recovered a revolver. But it wasn't the Overberg weapon.

Rahn was likewise convicted, but it wasn't in connection with the Norwood murder. And so Chief Fritz had suffered still another rebuff.


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