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13 February 2007 @ 02:18 pm
Murder Mystery Progress  
I have received some articles from my home town newspaper, The Daily Gate City, regarding my Great-Uncle Cecil Earl Paris' death on February 18, 1928. I received these from the Keokuk Public Library. I also have the Keokuk Police Department looking into their records. I am going to ask that the library look for more articles in the weeks following the murder since the investigation was ongoing.

I don't have them online yet, but I scanned the articles at high resolution given the poor quality of the copies--printed from microfilm. Here is the gist of the story:

Cecil Earl Paris, 31 year-old night watchman at the Keokuk Box Factory plant on Commercial Alley, was shot and killed some time Saturday night by an unknown assailant who was armed with a .22 caliber revolver. The body was discovered on Sunday morning by Walter Bryant, the day watchman. The body had been pushed under a lumber wagon about forty feet from the doorway of the boiler room at the plant. There was a sack of coal found near the building. Police believed he was shot when he ordered someone off the premises. His own .32 caliber revolver was missing and believed stolen. Money had also been removed but a cheap watch was untouched. Three charcoal tablets had been wrapped in a paper that they think the murderer mistook for a bill were found on the ground along with the paper. "A sister of the murdered man told the coroner who told the officers that a week ago her brother had accosted a man in the boiler room and ordered him out." Henry Faber was the police officer who responded to the call and he called Frank W. Oertel, Justice of the Peace and acting coroner.

Bloodhounds were used to follow the trail the murderer might have taken. They were given the scent from the victim's body and also the sack of coal. Five times they led to the house of a man named Hammond in the vicinity of the tenth street bridge, following a trail along "bloody run." [I never heard of an area called Bloody Run. Interesting.] A man named H. Lewis was taken into custody and questioned but later proved to have an alibi. He explained also that he had done some work unloading coal for a local coal dealer and the Hammonds with whom he was staying confirmed that he was at their home all night.

An autopsy traced the route of the bullet as it entered the right side of Cecil Earl's body to the left of the right nipple, between two ribs, and lodged in the pericardium and had pierced the ascending aorta (the largest artery entering the heart) which would cause nearly instant death. At the direction of Coroner Frank Oertel, the autopsy was performed by Dr. F. B. Dorsey Jr. and Dr. Johannes Anderson. The bullet was recovered and sealed as evidence. A three-inch spread of powder burns was found on the victim's shirt and body once the shirt was removed.

The Sheriff's office was notified and Sheriff Hart, Deputy Sheriff Reinig and County Attorney D. J. McNamara joined the police officers already on the job under the direction of Chief J. B. Parks. Deputy Sheriff Fred Weisemann of Fort Madison also joined the officers. Deputy Sheriff H. E. Coles brought two bloodhounds who were allowed to sniff articles from the body and the bag of coal as described above. The dogs "worked furiously" when they came to a place in the creek where the ice had been broken, as if someone had plunged through.

A tag bearing the name of a local feed store was found on the sack of coal. No other mark was on it. This tag and the clothes of the murdered man were taken by the coroner for evidence. He empaneled a jury composed of R.L. Sherwood, Dr. P.E. Hanes and Henry Van Essling to hear the inquest on February 21, 1928. The body was removed to the Cunningham funeral parlor.

"Paris was said to have come here from Memphis, MO, about five years ago and was employed at the box factory. He had been night watchman for two years. He is survived by his widow and five children.

Native of Missouri

"Earl Paris was born in Schuyler county Missori, on August 5, 1896, and was the son of
George and Laura McDaniel Paris. He came to Keokuk three years prior to his death. [This contradicts the portion above which says five years.] He was married to Rosa McKinney on September 17, 1917 at Moulton, Iowa, and to this union were born seven children, two of whom preceded him in death.

"He was a member of the Christian church at Downing, MO.

"He is survived by his wife, five children, all of whom live at home; his parents who live at Memphis, MO; four brothers; and seven sisters, besides other more distant relatives.

"The body will be taken to Memphis, MO., Tuesday morning where funeral services will be held from the Camp Ground church near Downing, MO., Wednesday morning."

There is an interesting portion of an article that was not fully copied which talks of a Virgil Coovert, motorcycle cop who was paid one dollar by Mr. Paris earlier Saturday evening for a debt. One has to wonder if this was related to the rumored gambling. Mr. Coovert later gave this money to the widow out of sympathy.

There's also a mention that the .32 caliber revolver used by Mr. Paris was considered "old-fashioned." Additionally, the course of the bullet indicates that the assailant was taller than Mr. Paris and fired at close range. Mr. Paris was described as a "big well built man, and his companions said he was a good wrestler, and could have been a match for anyone in a fair fight."

I will add more as I learn more.
(Anonymous) on May 13th, 2011 02:11 am (UTC)
Toni Miller
As I drove my father home from a Dr. appt in Iowa city he began to tell me a story of his grandfather and grandmother. He told me that his grandfather Cecil Paris was murdered behind the old box factory and that his mother Rosetta Paris had killed her mother with a hammer. I was amazed to hear these storys coming from him because he can not remember what he ate for lunch on a daily basis. I went home and typed in Rosetta's name and found this site. I was amazed to actually see it in writing that what he said was true about his grandfather. I have not yet found anything to support his story of his mother killing Eva. If you have any information concerning her I would love to hear of it. I would love to speak to you and learn more of my family history. I have also learned that Rosetta sent her children to live in an orphanage. I have met george and Jake was my grandfather but would love to hear more of the others. Thank you Toni Miller- please contact me at tmilla69@yahoo.com
Tapatitapati on May 13th, 2011 03:07 am (UTC)
Re: Toni Miller
Rosetta was Cecil's wife, so did you mean to say that his grandmother Rosetta killed her mother? I never heard that story from anyone. I heard the children were parceled out to relatives. I will ask my cousin Bryn, from the Hatfield line, if she ever heard this story about Rosetta and Eva.

Here is a family tree entry:


I wanted to get more of the story from the Daily Gate City archive at the Keokuk library but they weren't willing to keep looking. The last entry I read was about guns being sent to the state police. If you can get copies of the microfilm I would pay you for them! Then I would scan them all and put them all online.

It is amazing how old memories stay with us when our short term memory fails, isn't it?

Did you know Rosetta's brother married Cecil's sister? I wonder if they double dated. Oscar and Amanda. :)

Will email you soon!
Tapatitapati on May 13th, 2011 03:15 am (UTC)
Re: Toni Miller
PS wish we could have a big family reunion and hear all of these old stories.