Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The Mysterious Death of a Civil War Veteran, Part 2

March 28, 1902

Has Been Detailed to Investigate the Stark Case.
No Inquest To Be Held.
Coroner Edmonds has Decided That in His Opinion the Dead Man Met His Death as the Result of an Accident
Other Theories.

Chief of Police O'Day this morning detailed a special officer to try to solve the mystery of the death of John Stark who was found dead in a ditch in a field near the Eastern Lumber Company's mill yesterday morning.  The whole police force received instructions to be on the alert for evidence which might prove whether the unfortunate man met his death by foul or accidental means.  The case is considered by all to be one of the most mysterious that has ever come to the notice of the local authorities. If the dead man died accidentally, the circumstances were most peculiar.  The whole case is baffling the authorities and others and the most intense interest is being taken in developments. Residents of the neighborhood where the body was found are intensely perked up over the circumstances of the fatality and the general opinion among them is that Stark was foully dealt with.

The spot where Stark was found is some distance from the course usually taken by persons passing that way.  Whether the man was murdered for money which he was supposed to have carried, or whether he wandered from his direction, got caught in underbrush and falling, drowned in the pool of water, is a subject which causes difference of opinion between the authorities and the relatives of the dead man. 

Coroner H. M. Edmonds after making a thorough search of the locality, declared it to be his positive opinion that the man was drowned. Mrs. Stark, the aged mother of the dead man, and Peter Stark, his brother, are inclined to think there was foul play. 

Coroner Edmonds is so confident that murder had not been committed that he decided that an inquest was unnecessary.  

"I don't see how my son could have drowned in so little water, " said Mrs. Stark.  "He never drank to excess and he was strong and healthy and perfectly able to take care of himself. He never kept money about him, yet it is possible that someone might have thought he did. He sold some property last week and also sold a house to his brother-in-law, Robert Behring. This may have led to the belief that he carried money around with him."

"I think that my brother's death should at least be given the benefit of a thorough investigation" said Peter Stark. "It is improbable that he would have drowned in a puddle of water."

Coroner Edmonds said, "There is no doubt that the man simply lost his way in crossing the field and fell into the water and drowned. I have learned that he was much influenced by a little drinking, some of his friends say that several glasses of beer would intoxicate him. After looking over the ground thoroughly I am certain that an inquest is unnecessary."

Monkiewicz, the saloonkeeper, said Stark entered the saloon unaccompanied and that he left alone.  "He only drank one glass of beer here," he said. "He appeared sober and there was no one about here whom I would have suspected of following him." 

The ground surrounding the place where the body was found was gone over carefully by a score of interested persons. The field is a wide one filled with marshy grass and pools of water. 

The action of Chief O'Day in detailing an officer to conduct a special investigation assures that the police department will probe the case to the bottom if there is any possibility of finding the guilty parties who may have committed the crimes of robbery and murder or if it may be found that it was all an accident as is believed by some.

Stark's remains were embalmed and removed to his late home last night. The funeral will take place from St. Francis' Church, Sunday afternoon at 2 o'clock.

...So was he murdered or did he die by accident in an unusual and unfortunate situation?

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