Midnight Assassin: A Murder in America's Heartland
About the Authors
The Hossack Case
Law and Literature
Susan Glaspell
Praise for the Book
Current Projects
Contact Info

Glaspell's Articles



Professor Tilton and Dr. Grimes on the Stand -- Grewsome Exhibits In Evidence.

INDIANOLA, April 4.--(Special)--The most damaging evidence thus far submitted in the Hossack murder trial was offered today. The medical experts, Dr. Grimes of Des Moines and Professor Tilton of Indianola, who made the chemical analysis of the blood found on the axe with which the prosecution alleges Mr. Hossack was murdered and which the defense has insisted is that of a fowl testified that in their opinion the blood is that of a human. Dr. Grimes goes further and intimates that in his opinion an effort was made to wash the blood from the axe before it was submitted to him for analysis.

One witness testified that he had seen Mrs. Hossack chopping wood and knew her to be an expert with an axe.

It must be admitted, however, that the prosecution has not thus far furnished any direct evidence and it is extremely doubtful if the chain of circumstantial evidence thus far offered will be sufficient to eliminate all doubt of the defendant's guilt from the minds of the jurors. Unless more positive evidence of threats or desire on the part of the defendant to get rid of her husband are offered, it begins to look like the defense will be able to sustain its claim of easy acquittal.

On the other hand, however, it is known the state has not by any means exhausted its efforts and it is claimed by the prosecuting attorney that the best evidence is yet to come. The prosecution was never more confident of securing a conviction.


P.T. McGriff was the first witness sworn by the prosecution in the Hossack murder trial today. He testified to being at the Hossack home at 9 o'clock Sunday morning, the day of the murder; that he saw the sheriff take several hairs from the blade of the axe and place them in his pocketbook. He also stated that he had seen Mrs. Hossack chopping wood at different times and that she used the axe exceptionally well for a woman.

During his testimony the defense was constantly raising objections, which were constantly overruled by the court.

The second witness was Prof. John L. Tilton of Simpson college. This was the first expert witness produced by the prosecution. He testified that he had examined the hairs given him by the sheriff; that the sheriff had given him two vials, each of which contained hairs. He was unable to say definitely that the hair had been taken from a human being, but he stated that in his opinion they had been. He also testified to having examined the blood found on the handle of the axe, but would not say positively that it was human blood. He said he had discovered the blood of a fowl and that there were traces which looked like human blood.

Dr. Eli Grimes was the next witness. He stated that from microscopical and chemical examination of the spots on the handle of the axe he believed them to be human blood. He said that when the axe was shown to him it looked as though it had been subjected to a wetting, and that in consequence it had taken some time to determine the nature of the substance which had caused the spots. He stated that the two larger spots, which are about in the middle of the handle, were made by blood which had struck the handle with a great deal of force; that it was either thrown by an animal in agony or by the bursting of an artery.

The cross examination of this witness failed to modify his statement.

Prof. Grimes states that in his opinion the axe was washed for the purpose of removing the bloodstains.

Lew Hodson, the sheriff, was next called to the witness stand. He stated that on December 10 he had been present when the body of Hossack was exhumed and some of the hair taken from the head near the wound. This hair was placed in vial number two and given to Prof. Tilton, the purpose being a comparison between the hair found on the axe and that growing on the head of the murdered man.

Grant Kimer, deputy sheriff, was the next witness examined.

He identified the axe marked as exhibit "one" as being the implement which he found at the Hossack place. He stated that the ground under the granary where the axe was found was clean. He also testified to finding Mrs. Hossack's undervest in a bucket of bloody water, just west of the house; that he was with John Hossack, jr., who took it out of the water; that the bucket was examined at his suggestion. During the examination of this witness the bed in which he died was introduced by the prosecution and was identified by the witness as the one in which he found the deceased lying. When asked to describe the blood stains on the wall of the room and the situation of the bed, he stated the bed footed north and that the foot of the bed was about two feet from the wall; that the north wall near the west wall showed several large blood stains; that on the north end of the wall there was a window, but that he did not see any blood stains on this, although just south of it on the west wall there were blood stains.

It is the purpose of the defense to show that this window was opened at the time of the murder and that the murderer came through the window at the foot of the bed, reached forward and struck the fatal blows; then passed through the sitting room, opening the front door leading on to the font porch; that the reflection of the light seen on the wall by Mrs. Hossack was caused by the ray of light reflected by the glass of the door as it was closed.

Court adjourned at 12 o'clock and reconvened at 1:30.


INDIANOLA. April 4.--(Special.)--At the close of the cross-examination of Deputy Sheriff Kimer in the Hossack murder trial today he was asked as to whether or not the window of the west wall of the room in which the murdered man was sleeping, was open. He said that he was uncertain, but did not think it was.

Fred Johnston was the next witness sworn. He stated that he was the administrator of the Hossack estate; that he had known the deceased for thirty years intimately, and had been associated with him in a business way at Medora. He stated that one year ago Thanksgiving he had been at the Hossack home, and had effected a reconciliation between Mr. and Mrs. Hossack; that Mrs. Hossack had told him in various conversations that she and Mr. Hossack were not living happily together, and that she was willing to accept the division of the property proposed by Mr. Hossack, by which he was to take the west eighty, the family to have the balance of the property. The witness stated also that Mr. Hossack had told him he was unable to bring up his children as he wanted to, owing to the fact that Mrs. Hossack would not allow him to do so; that whenever he objected to their going any place, she always sided with them; that when he wanted them to learn the short catechism, she would to allow them to do so; that on one occasion he had bought the children some shoes, and they were dissatisfied with them and their mother again took their part. Witness said that during the past year he knew of no difficulties between the dead man and his wife; that he saw the dead man on 10 o'clock on the morning of the murder; that he had seen blood spots on the walls of the room, and on the undervest of the garment worn by Mrs. Hossack; that he noticed on the skirt of the shirt in front, on the right side, a blood stain, which was very faint and looked as though it had been made by coming in contact with some bloody object, against which it had rubbed. He would not state that the bloody object was the axe in question.


INDIANOLA, April 4.--(Special.)--For the first time since the commencement of the Hossack murder trial, when court adjourned yesterday the prosecution retired, satisfied it had placed before the jury evidence of a nature to satisfy that body of the sincerity of their attempt to convict the defendant of the crime with which she is charged.

"Did you hear your father say anything?" Cassie Hossack was asked.

"I did not."

This admission produced a startling effect upon the jury and spectators as it had stated by William Hossack that when he entered the room his father had repeatedly called for Ma and other members of the family. The prosecution seemed satisfied with the admission and changed their line of examination.

"Where did you go after this?" asked Attorney Clammer.

"I went to the Nicholson's."

"How soon?"

"Right away."

"How long were you gone?"

"Don't know."

"What time was it?"

"About 1 o'clock."

"When you got back?"

"When I was at Nicholson's."

The prosecution waited at this point for the jury to gather the full importance in the discrepancy in time as stated by the witness and others who had testified that they had been awakened by Mrs. Hossack calling them about 2 o'clock in the morning.

Mrs. E. E. Henry testified that Mrs. Hossack had said in her hearing that it would be better for her to separate from her husband, but stated this conversation had occurred several years before. She testified she had never heard her father say anything relative to her mother or about a separation.

Dr. H. M. Dale, coroner, was called. His testimony was the strongest yet introduced. He testified that in his opinion it would be impossible for a man, suffering from the injuries sustained by Mr. Hossack, to regain consciousness within half an hour.

J. L. Kemp, a son-in-law of the murdered man, was next sworn. He stated that he reached the Hossack home about 4 o'clock in the morning of December 2. He stated that he thought Mr. Hossack was conscious at that time, as, when he shook hands with him, the latter gave him "a grip."

An effort was made on the part of the defendant to ascertain from the witness what secret organization the "grip" indicated Mr. Hossack as belonging to, but was overruled by the court.

[ Back to Articles Listing ]

Midnight Assassin copyright © 2017; Patricia L. Bryan and Thomas Wolf