What follows is not an anti-gun editorial. America wouldn't be America without a citizen's right to own a gun ... at least in that part of America known as the United States.

Unfortunately, many Americans abuse the right, intentionally and unintentionally. The year 1933 was filled with examples of accidental or inadvertent tragedies, many caused by incredible carelessness in the handling of firearms. "I didn't know the gun was loaded," was an excuse used all too often to explain a death.

The newspaper accounts I collected barely scratch he surface of 1933's gun-related violence. Not included here are many shootouts pitting cops against robbers or gangsters against other gangsters. The hunting accidents I've included come from only one section in New York's vast Adirondack Park. The area around Tupper Lake reported a record number of hunting fatalities that fall.

CONTRARY to a belief that continued through the 20th century, women often used guns — for suicides and homicides. Suicides spotlighted on this 1933 project are those committed after a murder, either by a jealous or deranged lover, or by people who have come to be labeled "family annihilators." Why a suicidal parent — usually a father — feels it necessary to kill other members of the family is beyond my comprehension.

For the most part I've avoided what — for lack of a better description — might be called a "simple suicide"; that is, instances of depressed people killing only themselves. One exception was the unusual suicide of Louise Turck Stanton, who borrowed an airplane and flew over the Atlantic Ocean until she ran out of fuel.

Worth mentioning is that newspapers at the time regarded suicides as fair game. Many were given banner headlines on the front page. These headlines would have been considered insensitive years later when this cause of death often was withheld from an obituary. Online journalism has revived cutthroat competition, which, in turn, has made suicides fair game again.

BECAUSE of the Depression and the fact so many people were out of work, 1933's suicide rate was unusually high. Guns were perhaps the most common method, though poison and carbon monoxide were frequently used, as was hanging or a leap from a tall building. It seems incredible to me that several people stabbed themselves. Also incredible, some people shot themselves in the head — and survived.

There was one almost certain way to kill yourself, though it's hard to believe anyone resorted to it — but a few men did. They strapped dynamite to themselves; at least one man stuck dynamite sticks under his hat. These were cases that had to be reported in any era.

Those depressed by their plight had other options, of course, and some of those led to violence, as well. The Depression — and Prohibition, which was in effect until the end of 1933 — spawned lawlessness. People in need of money turned to robbery, kidnapping and blackmail.

Unfortunately, big city gangsters and rural outlaws (who followed in the tradition of Wild West legends Jesse James, the Daltons and others) were usually better armed than the lawmen who chased and often confronted them. (That would change in 1934.)

MEANWHILE, ordinary citizens could not be blamed for arming themselves — just in case. Thus bank robbers often were chased away by gun-toting tellers, and when they attempted their getaway, robbers found themselves being shot at by local storekeepers. (What jumped out at me — though I've seen so many old movies that I should have expected it — was how quick lawmen were to fire their guns at robbers who were escaping on a busy highway.)

One of the year's most thought-provoking stories involved an Ohio college student who kept a gun in his car — and used it on a concerned (and very religious) stranger who over-reacted when he found the young man parked in his rural neighborhood along a stretch of road used by couples as a lover's lane. The resident, returning home from a church meeting, tried to drag a young woman out of the car. Her date went for his gun, but the man persisted in his efforts to separate the young couple whose necking he found so offensive. A fatal shot was fired.


Sadly, these two stories indicate that even in what some folks describe as "a simpler time" there was a stress that prompted people to express their anger through the barrel of a gun.

Syracuse Journal, January 17
At war over a tree
ROSS, Indiana (INS) — Death today of Sheriff Roy F. Holley from gunshot wounds raised the toll of casualties suffered in a furious five-hour gun battle at the barricaded home of a crazed mill worker to three dead and eleven wounded.

Nearly 1,000 deputy sheriffs, police, state police and volunteer citizens stormed the barricaded home of Michael Lantare, 67, while he successfully fought them off for five hours with pistol and shotgun fire.

Lantare finally was killed by machine gun fire after officers set fire to his bullet-riddled house.

The attackers used tear gas, a machine gun, shotguns and pistols in an effort to silence Lantare as he sniped from window to window in his darkened house.

Dead besides Sheriff Holley and Lantare is Louis Buettner, 51, a farmer. The wounded are almost all policemen or deputy sheriffs.

The shooting began late in the afternoon when the farmer, Buettner, his two sons and a neighbor were accosted by Lantare as they were felling a tree. Lantare flourished a shotgun, saying the tree belonged to him. Buettner pushed him aside, whereupon the mill worker opened fire, fatally wounding him.

Gary police and Sheriff Holley in Crown Point were notified. When police arrived, Lantare fled into the house. Sheriff Holley was shot as he pursued the man into his home.

Lantare was wounded, but dragged himself into the house and barred the doors.

Ross, Indiana, is a small town a few miles south of Gary and not far from Chicago.

The story below unfolded in eastern New York, near the Connecticut border. This rather brief Associated Press account — and an International News Service item — did not do justice to what actually happened.

Rome (NY) Daily Sentinel, August 5
Collision leads to confrontation
DOVER PLAINS, August 4 (AP) — Felled by a gunman's bullet, fired at another man, Otto J. Schwartzwalder, 32-year-old Manhattan chemist, lay critically wounded in a hospital today while police searched for his unidentified assailant.

Schwartzwalder, a passenger on a transfer bus, was shot during an argument between the gunman and the driver of the bus after a collision. A bullet fired at the driver entered the young chemist's back and pierced his heart.

His revolver wrested away from him, the motorist reached for a sub-machine gun and discharged a volley toward the bus where Schwartzwalder's wife and a 13-year-old boy, Edwin Paulum, of Newark, New Jersey, were sitting.

The shooter then fled. His car bore a Massachusetts license issued to Frederick F. Baston of Norwood, Massachusetts. A checkup revealed the machine had been stolen a few hours earlier in Worcester, Massachusetts.

Schwartzwalder was taken to a hospital in Sharon, Connecticut.

The bus, driven by Carl Richmond of White Plains, was coming on the main highway from Lossing Manor, where Richmond is counselor at a summer camp, when it collided with the automobile.

First off, Schwarzwalder — without the T — died at the hospital on the evening of August 5. According to two local newspapers — the Pawling-Patterson News and The Pawling Chronicle — the incident unfolded like this:

The collision apparently was the fault of the young man driving the stolen automobile. The other vehicle, driven by Carl Richmond, was a town car, not a bus.

After the accident, Richmond confronted the other driver, asking to see his operator's license. When the young man resisted, Richmond jumped on the running board, and the driver responded by producing a pistol and ordering him away. Richmond grabbed the muzzle of the gun and called for Schwarzwalder to help.

During the struggle, the driver of the car left his vehicle, and the gun fired; a bullet struck Schwarzwalder, who was coming to Richmond's aid. Richmond then called to the other passengers, Mrs. Emma Schwarzwalder, and 13-year-old Edwin Paulum of Newark, New Jersey. The teenager picked up a rock and struck the stranger on the head.

The gun came loose, Paulum picked it up and handed it to Richmond, who ordered the stranger to turn his back and put up his hands. The stranger turned his back, all right, then lurched into the car to retrieve not a sub-machine gun, but a repeating rifle.

At that point Richmond and the young man exchanged fire. Richmond quickly ran out of ammunition, and ran for cover. He told police later that he thought one of his bullets had found its mark.

The young man hopped in the stolen car and drove off along a dirt road, headed east.

Within hours police from four states were looking for the unidentified car thief, who'd likely be charged with murder if and when he was caught.

Ten days later the stolen car was found only two miles from the spot where the accident occurred, resulting in the showdown that cost Otto Schwarzwalder his life. The shooter had driven the car off a road and into a heavy growth of bushes and small trees until the vehicle disappeared from view.

Meanwhile, police received several false leads from people who claimed they saw the stolen car — a green Hupmobile — speeding toward Kent, Connecticut, about ten miles to the northeast.

I found nothing on whether the gunman — described as about 24-years-old, five-feet-ten-inches tall, with blonde hair and blue eyes — was ever identified or apprehended, or whether his rifle was ever recovered.


Here are samples of what happens when folks turn to guns to settle simmering feuds.

Syracuse Journal, January 12
A county well nicknamed
JACKSON, Kentucky (INS) —Ambushed as they walked to jail, a deputy sheriff and his prisoner were shot to death before dawn today in this county seat of “bloody Breathitt.”

Officers who had gone on ahead with another prisoner heard firing, rushed to the bridge spanning the north fork of the Kentucky River and found the lifeless bodies of Deputy Sheriff James Marshall, 40, and Richard Jett, 60, a farmer.

Revenge against Marshall was believed the motive for the attack, with Jett an innocent victim. Officers were uncertain whether the gunmen sought to avenge Jett’s arrest or to retaliate for a liquor raid participated in by Marshall a year ago when L. K. Elcaney was killed.

Four officers last night had arrested Jett and his 24-year-old son, Roscoe, on warrants growing out of a disturbance marked by gunplay.

They rode 12 miles here on horseback and muleback; when they reached town, three of the officers took the younger Jett directly to jail while Marshall and the elder Jett dismounted to warm themselves by a fire. As they crossed the bridge, a fusillade of bullets cut them down.


Syracuse American, November 12
After 20 years, he snapped
PRESTON, Nebraska (INS) — Sam Martin, 78, was arrested yesterday after the fatal shootings of James P. Margrave, 53, and his son, William, 26. They were killed on their farm near here. Another son, Stuart, and Mrs. James Margrave were slightly wounded.

“I’m glad I did it,” Martin later told officers. “I don’t care if they put me in the chair by sundown.”

Martin said he had a twenty-year grudge against the Margrave family, who are wealthy farmers. He said they had been stealing his chickens, but neighbors scoffed at this charge.


Syracuse Journal, December 26
Tis the season . . .
NATCHEZ, Mississippi (INS) — The roar of feud guns shattered the Christmas quiet of the Mississippi River bottom lands in a flare-up of the Warren-Beard family war.

Drilled through the heart by a slug from Coley Beard’s gun, William Warren, 57-year-old planter, was slain.

A brother, Barker Warren, died a week ago from gunshot wounds for which Mrs. Betty Beard, mother-in-law of Coley, is held, awaiting grand jury action.

Coley, released on bond today, told authorities he shot in self-defense when William Warren opened fire on him.

Syracuse Journal, December 26
MARSHALL, Arkansas (INS) — Militiamen guarded the streets of this village today to prevent the recurrence of a year-old family feud that brought a renewal of gunplay and one casualty Christmas eve.

City Marshal J. H. Barnett, 61, and two sons were storming a restaurant operated by Ralph Henley when Barnett was shot in the face.

The gunplay broke out shortly after Henley's cousin, Leland, 29, returned on a prison camp leave. He is serving a life sentence for the killing of W. W. Findley, whom Marshal Barnett was accompanying when the fatal street shooting occurred a year ago.

A shower of bullets issued from the Henley restaurant to greet the attacking Barnetts, witnesses said. Two brothers of Leland Henley were said to have been inside the eating place during the exchange of shots.


You try to avoid possible trouble with the driver of the car behind you, but to do so you momentarily pull into a stranger's driveway. Seconds later there are gunshots. Talk about being in the wrong place at the wrong time . . .

Syracuse Journal, December 7
From the frying pan ...
UTICA (INS) — Two young women were near death today from wounds suffered when their automobile was riddled with bullets, fired by a man who decided in the dark they were stealing his car.

Little hope is held for Miss Anna Mullen, 28, shot through the head and stomach. The condition of Miss Viola Kershaw, 25, shot through the thigh, was reported serious.

The two young women were returning from a party, driving their own car, when they noticed they were being followed by another automobile. To get rid of the car behind them, they turned into a dark driveway next to a house.

The second car went on and the young women congratulated themselves that they had avoided an unpleasant incident. As they were backing their car into the street, Paul Ganim, 36, the occupant of the house, came out armed with a revolver.

He said today, when arraigned for illegal possession of firearms, that he thought thieves were backing his car out of his garage. When the car did not stop at his command, he said, he riddled it with bullets.

Seven weeks later the Rome (NY) Daily Sentinel reported that doctors had abandoned hope for the recovery of Anna Mullen, but after two operations she survived and was well enough to be discharged from Utica Memorial Hospital. She had been shot twice in the head. She gradually regained used of her limbs and speech.

Paul Ganim went on trial in April, 1934, charged with assault, first and second degrees, in connection with the shooting of Misses Mullen and Kershaw. Miss Mullen's condition prevented her from appearing in court.

Ganim was sent to prison for a year. Next the women sued for damages. Anna Mullen was awarded $62,500, which at that point was the largest judgment ever given in Oneida County by a court jury. Viola Kershaw was awarded $4,000.

Moral of the next story: If people aren't breaking any laws, mind your own business. And if you can't do that, go home and call the police.

Syracuse Journal, December 19
Just walk on by
CLEVELAND, Ohio (INS) — A farmer returning home from a church meeting who was mistaken for a “petting party” bandit, was shot to death today by the nephew of a prominent congressman as the youth sought to prevent what he considered an attempt to drag his pretty co-ed companion from their parked automobile.

Both occupants of the automobile, Britton Young, a nephew of Congressman-at-large Stephen Young, and Miss Ruth Beiter, 21, of Canton, Ohio, are students at Western Reserve University here. The youth was said to be one of the most popular men on the Western Reserve campus.

Victim of the shooting, which occurred in a lonely section of suburban Pepper Pike Village, was Carl Metling, 48, a Cuyahoga County farmer. His wife told police he had attended a Bible meeting last night and was apparently en route home when he met death.

Authorities expressed belief that Metling had no intention of molesting the girl, but that he had approached the car out of curiosity and became angered when Young met his questions with cool replies and refused to explain their presence there.

“He (Metling) came up to our car and turned a flashlight on Miss Beiter and myself,” Young said in a statement to Mayor A. W. Simonson of Pepper Pike. “Then he opened the door and demanded to know why we were parked without lights.”

The college student said he asked the man to display a badge of authority showing his right to question them.

“Before we had a chance to say anything further, he grabbed Miss Beiter and started to drag her from the seat,” the congressman’s nephew continued. “While she was scratching at his face and trying to keep from being pulled out of the car, I grabbed the automatic in the pocket of the car. I told him to stop or I would shoot. He didn’t, so I shot.”

Miss Beiter corroborated Young’s story in every detail.

Mayor Simonson said preliminary investigation tended to show the youth was justified in firing the shot. Metling, he stated, had no official status in the village and had no right to question parked motorists.


Owning a gun is one thing, being allowed to carry it around like you're Wyatt Earp? Well, that can lead to trouble.

Rochester Democrat Chronicle, May 30
Duels always end badly
LEIPSIC, Ohio (United News) — An enraged husband and the man he accused of stealing his wife’s love stood at 10 paces last night and fought a gun duel that ended only when the second man was dead and the husband dying.

Andrew Goldsberry, 24, the husband, started the shooting, police said, when he found David Gregor, 31, in the house where his estranged wife was living.

The men emptied their guns at each other, re-loaded their weapons and emptied them again before Gregor fell mortally wounded.

Goldsberry’s wife, Octavia, 20-year-old mother of three children, reconstructed the scene that led to the shooting in her story to police.

She and her husband had been separated for five months, she said, and she had been living with his mother, Mrs. John Mason. Her husband, she added, had made several attempts to effect a reconciliation since filing suit for divorce.

Late yesterday, Mrs. Goldsberry told police, her husband came to the home, asked her to come to live with him again, and became enraged when she refused.

Rushing upstairs, he came face to face with Gregor, a former fellow workman. Without a word both men drew revolvers and opened fire.

When his first round of bullets was exhausted, Gregor, wounded several times, reloaded his gun. Goldsberry did likewise.

Suddenly Gregor slumped at the head of the stairs and rolled to the bottom. Regaining his feet, he fired one last shot at Goldsberry, staggered out on the porch and fell dead.

Goldsberry, police said, was struck by only one bullet, believed to have been the last shot fired by Gregor. Without a word to his young wife, who had been huddled in the corner during the shooting, her infant child hugged to her breast, Goldsberry walked outside and collapsed. He was taken to a hospital in Lima, where physicians said he had little chance to recover.

Luckily for Mrs. James Arbor, her estranged husband was a bad shot. Not so lucky for Albert Newton.

Syracuse American, June 18
The great escape
MARIETTA, Ohio (INS) — Believed to have been infuriated by jealousy, James Arbor, 65, yesterday shot and killed Albert Newton, 58, and then committed suicide after firing several shots at his wife.

The double tragedy took place in the apartment of Arbor’s wife, who escaped by climbing through a window. Neighbors said the Arbors had been estranged for some time.

Granted, what follows is not a funny story ... except for the way August Pusateri kept his wits about him and tried to trick his wife and daughter into leaving the house long enough for him to sneak his ill-fated girl friend out the front door.

Rome Daily Sentinel, June 21
The old "needs gas" excuse
PORTSMOUTH, Ohio (AP) — A wife enraged at finding her husband with a strange woman in their home shot and killed the woman and seriously wounded her husband.

The story of the double shooting was told in detail by the wife, Mrs. Ethel Pusateri, 45, police said, as they prepared to file charges of second degree murder against her.

Mrs. Pusateri and her daughter, Nancy, 18, had gone to Cincinnati to visit. They returned unexpectedly shortly before midnight and found the house darkened.

Mrs. Pusateri was attracted by a noise in an upstairs room, she said, and Nancy called out to her father, August Pusateri, 46, well-known wholesale fruit dealer.

He answered and soon afterward appeared at the head of the stairs to request Nancy to have the family automobile filled with gasoline. Mrs. Pusateri said she went to a sun porch to await Nancy’s return.

Pusateri and the woman, as yet unidentified, came down the stairs, evidently believing Mrs. Pusateri had accompanied her daughter. As they approached the door and prepared to leave, Mrs. Pusateri said she snatched a rifle owned by her daughter and fired four times.

She then called a private hospital where police found the woman dead and Pusateri wounded in the chest. The woman had been shot through the head.

Walter S. Quick certainly knew how to charm a girl. At least he had the decency to turn himself in.

Syracuse Journal, October 30
Well, they had him pegged
ALBANY (INS) — A quarrel over a girl led to a double murder in the little village of Rensselaerville, high up in the Helderberg Mountains, authorities announced today.

Walter S. Quick, 23, was held for the murders of Fred Furman, 55, and his son, Charles Furman, 25, both of Berne. Police said Quick admitted killing father and son with a shotgun because they objected to his courting of Myrtle Furman, a high school girl.

The shooting followed an old-time country dance after Quick had been ejected from the dance hall by the elder Furman because he insisted on dancing with Furman’s daughter.

After the killing, Furman drove his car to Albany and surrendered at police headquarters.

This has to be one of the most convoluted schemes ever devised by a woman to force her husband to admit he is having an affair. And apparently Dallas is a city where people never sleep ... well, except for this particular husband, who just happened to be named Daniel Boone.

Syracuse Journal, November 15
Oh, what a tangled web
DALLAS, Texas (INS) — Mrs. L. W. Boone, 35-year-old mother of an eight-year-old child, today passed judgment on an alleged rival for the affections of her husband and shot her to death in the family’s apartment as the husband looked on.

The strange drama of the eternal triangle took place early today, and Mrs. Pearl Hall, 30, whom Mrs. Boone charged had stolen the affections of her husband, went calmly to her death with words of endearment on her lips for Boone.

Mrs. Boone and a friend, Mrs. Reitzell Morrison, had lured Mrs. Hall to the apartment, telling her a friend of Boone wanted to see her.

Boone was in the bedroom, sleeping. He was awakened by his wife after the three women arrived at the apartment about 3:30 a.m.

Turning to Mrs. Hall, Mrs. Boone said, “Tell him what you have been telling me,” apparently referring to statements Mrs. Hall had made during the ride to the Boone apartment.

“Hello, Dan,” Mrs. Hall said to Boone. “She knows all.”

Mrs. Boone said that when she went into the bedroom she picked up a Colt .45 revolver, and that during the dramatic scene in the apartment Mrs. Hall “suddenly started toward me, and before I knew what had happened I had fired the pistol one time.”

The shot hit Mr. Hall in the chest. As the woman slumped to the floor, dying, she murmured, “Good-bye, Daddy.”

Dan Boone scrambled out of bed and disarmed his wife. He then summoned police.

Sometimes it's wise to follow this advice: If at first — and second and third — you don't succeed, then give up. Fortunately for Minnie Bernsdorf, she survived the senseless shooting.

Buffalo Courier-Express, November 30
At least, she survived
Crazed at constant repulse of his attentions by a 50-year-old divorcée, Victor Durante, 52, a roomer at 282 Southampton Street, early last evening shot the woman and then turned the weapon on himself, police report. Durante, police said, is chief engineer for the Hedger Towing Company.

The woman, Mrs. Minnie Bernsdorf, was rushed to Buffalo General Hospital from her upper flat room at 1443 Michigan Avenue, near Glenwood Avenue, where the shooting took place. Durante, in a semi-conscious condition, was rushed to Emergency Hospital. Little hope was held out for his recovery, but Mrs. Bernsdorf was given a better than even chance to live.

Rejection is hurtful, but in this case not entirely unexpected. We trust Henry Lamond learned a valuable (if painful) lesson, and, at least, he did not take out his disappointment on the person who disappointed him.

Philadelphia Inquirer, December 18
Next time use a squirt gun
Love’s sweet dream turned into a bitter nightmare for Henry Lamond last night, and death almost followed the winging trail of a departing Cupid.

Lamond, 26, of 3726 North Bouvier Street, attempted to end his life when he found that love had died. He put the muzzle of a revolver in his mouth and pulled the trigger. The shot, however, was not fatal.

The true-life drama was staged in the living room of the home of his ex-sweetheart, Edna Long, 20, of 2923 Arcadia Street. In long, round-about phrases and with faltering words, Miss Long told Lamond their sweetheart days were ended.

“It has been nice knowing you this past year,” she said, “but you are just a little too old for me. This ends it all.”

Lamond pulled a revolver from his pocket. As he raised it toward his mouth, Miss Long jumped and tried to rest the gun from him. He pushed her down, her head striking a table leg. Then he shot himself.

Neighbors heard the shot and the young woman’s cries and rushed into the house. The couple was taken to Frankford Hospital.

Doctors said Lamond, though seriously wounded, would probably live. Miss Long suffered only a bump or two.


The first item here concerns a man who was no stranger to police in Jamestown, New York. In addition to his clean-shirt fetish and his hair-trigger temper, Sebastiano Basile was a local bootlegger who had been arrested for stabbing a stool pigeon. What isn't spelled out in this version of the story is that he paused to re-load his shotgun before firing at his daughter.

Syracuse American, July 2
Neatness freak #1
JAMESTOWN (INS) — Said to have flown into rage when his wife, Rosaria, refused to get him a clean shirt, Sebastiano Basile, 50, shot her in the leg with a 12-gauge shotgun this afternoon and then turned the weapon upon his son, Joe, 19, and his daughter, Rose, 14. Both fell with flesh wounds. None was critically wounded. Basile was locked up.

If there is any justice, James Polo [Poulos] didn't have to worry about his wife using his razor ever again.

Syracuse Journal, November 6
Neatness freak #2
DETROIT (INS) — James Polo, 40, shot his wife, his mother-in-law and his brother-in-law because his wife used his razor and forgot to clean it.

This was the only explanation Polo gave police for the family tragedy, as the mother-in-law, Mrs. Jennie Tavoularis, 58, lay near death in Receiving Hospital.

The wife, Stella, 32, and her brother, Louis, 17, will recover from their wounds, doctors said. They held out little hope Mrs. Tavoularis would survive.

The next item stretches the meaning of "domestic," but the nature of the dispute is one that often occurs in families, though the resolution, thank heaven, is seldom so violent.

Syracuse Journal, August 18
Neatness freak #3
FORT SLOCUM, New York (INS) — Military funeral services will be held today for Private Donald J. Zinn of York, Pennsylvania, shot and killed by Corporal Truman E. Smith after an argument over the manner in which the 19-year-old recruit performed a cleaning assignment.

Meantime, officers at the army post said a charge of murder would be lodged against Smith, a veteran of 25 years service, as soon as he recovers from two self-inflicted bullet wounds. The corporal fired two bullets into his breast after shooting Zinn.

The following is somehow both heartbreaking and uplifting.

Syracuse Journal, October 28
If there is a heaven . . .
TULSA, Oklahoma (INS) — Charles White, 23, lay on a hospital cot here and weakly whispered the words, “Until death do us part.”

Five minutes later he was dead, and Miss Stella Dye had become a bride and a widow within the space of a few moments.

White died from a bullet wound inflicted by his stepfather, Tom White, while the young man was shielding his mother from the rage of the older man, officers said.

The elder White is held on a charge of murder.


You frequently read or hear about such things — senseless murders committed by a husband and father, a wife and mother ... who determined his or her life wasn't worth living, but decided to take other family members along on a trip to eternity.

Syracuse Journal, January 25
Ultimate rebuttal
ERIE, Pennsylvania (INS) — Ending an argument which had lasted most of the night, John Shaffer, 64, today shot and killed his wife and daughter in a bedroom of their home here, and then blew his head off with the same shotgun.

The victims were Mrs. Martha Shaffer and her daughter, Virginia, 21. Leonard Shaffer, 27, a son, was unhurt. He hurried into the bedroom, but arrived too late to thwart his father.


Syracuse American, March 19
Undone by grief
UPPER DARBY, Pennsylvania (INS) — A note found in an automobile abandoned at the gate of Fernwood Cemetery today led police to the scene of an act of immolation unprecedented in this region’s history.

On the grave of the young wife he had lost, a distraught father laid the bodies of his three young children, whom he had deliberately shot through the heart.

Then the man killed himself by firing a bullet into his brain.

The author of the note and the strange sacrificial act was Gilbert Friend, 35, mail car postal clerk, who had lived in Plant City, Florida, until his wife, a Philadelphia girl, died on December 17, 1932.

John Bowers, superintendent of the cemetery, found the the note. It said, in part:

“I must go to her whom we love so greatly. I do as I believe right about the children, considering the fact that I must go. May God forgive me if I am wrong.”

To his note of explanation, Friend appended a laudatory biography of his wife, the former Margaret Magee.

Police believe he killed the children one by one as they knelt in the dark by the graveside. The dead children — Robert, 8; Helen, 6, and Kenneth, six months old, were lain out side by side under a long while towel when police arrived.

Friend had been married twice, his first wife also having died in Florida. The two oldest children were born of the first wife. The infant, Kennedy, had been the child of the second wife, at whose grave the bodies of the family were found.

Next, a seriously disturbed man takes unusual steps to prevent members of his family from escaping their home, and also plots a different death for himself. However, three of his children outfoxed him, and another managed to survive her wound.

Syracuse Journal, April 14
Daddy's back
SOUTH RIVER, New Jersey (INS) — Joseph Kensek, 50, formerly an inmate of the state hospital for the insane, shot and killed his wife, Amelia, and two of the couple's six children, wounded his 16-year-old daughter in their home here early today and then committed suicide by drinking poison.

Kensek, an alcoholic, was released from the asylum ten months ago, believed to have been cured. Since then he had quarreled constantly with his wife. He moved from his home to live with a friend, John Lash, in a shack not far from where his family lived.

Kensek left about 4 o’clock this morning, according to Lash. He went to the home of his family and after stretching heavy cables across the front and rear doors, forced an entrance by smashing a window.

His wife and children were asleep. The shooting awoke Helen, 13, who climbed out of a window and summoned police. When they arrived they found Mrs. Kensek and her son, Frank, 18, both dead. Anna died shortly after their arrival. Rose, 16, was lying on the floor. Her condition was serious. The other children — John, 10, and Mary, 7 — cowered beneath a bed and were overlooked.

Kensek was found unconscious lying near a pond 250 feet from the house, the .38 caliber gun, with which he had done the killing, beside him. He died later in St. Peter’s Hospital.

The family moved to South River five years ago from Hastings, Pennsylvania, where Kensek had been a miner. He was arrested in February, 1931, on a complaint from his wife that he tried to kill her with a hatchet.


Buffalo Courier-Express, April 28
His wife's vacation was well-timed
CAMDEN, New Jersey (AP) — George Schick, 48, once-wealthy Camden manufacturer, shot and killed his 22-year-old son, George Jr., yesterday, and then committed suicide in their apartment, police said

Authorities said they learned from relatives the father had been brooding over loss of his business, a machine company, in January, 1932.

Reconstructing the shooting, police said the son was shot as he slept. The father then went to his own room, placed the muzzle of the shotgun in his mouth and pushed the trigger with a screwdriver, authorities explained.

Schick’s wife, Mrs. Julia Schick, left two days ago to spend a vacation in Washington.


Syracuse Journal, June 6
Good-bye, dirty world
ATLANTA, Georgia (INS) — Disappointed in love and convinced that “death is merely a chemical change,” J. Lawrence Hight, 22-year-old graduate of Oglethorpe University, made good his written decision to “leave a sordid world and take mother along.”

Hight killed his mother, Mrs. Carrie B. Hight, 52, in the bedroom of their home in a fashionable section here Sunday night and then put one bullet through his own brain.

One of Hight’s notes declared his mother was “too nice to live in this dirty world.”


Descriptions of women responsible for violent deaths often labeled them "lovely" or "attractive," as if their appearance somehow was relevant, or made the shootings more tragic than if they'd been committed by a homely or ugly person.

Beautiful she may have been, but Hazel Collette O'Brien was fatally ill and deeply troubled, and left many wondering what they should have done to prevent this Hollywood tragedy.

Syracuse Journal, October 7
Appearances are deceiving
HOLLYWOOD (INS) — Mrs. Hazel Collette O’Brien, 35, the beautiful brunette wife of Willis O’Brien, noted Hollywood motion picture director, early today shot and killed their two sons and attempted suicide, according to police reports.

Mrs. O’Brien was dying in Santa Monica Hospital.

The murdered boys were William W. O’Brien, 14, who was blind, and Willis O’Brien Jr., 13. They were killed in their palatial West Los Angeles residence as they slept, William in a front bedroom, Willis Jr. on a rear sleeping porch.

Police learned Mrs. O’Brien had been despondent over an illness. She and her husband were separated, police said.

O’Brien was technical director on the feature picture “King Kong,” and prior to that had worked on “Lost World.”

Hazel O'Brien survived the suicide attempt, but was dying a slower death, due to cancer. She was sent to a California prison and succumbed a year later.

Willis O'Brien is credited with creating the "King Kong" ape for the classic film that was released in 1933. At the time of the above incident, O'Brien was working on the sequel, "Son of Kong."

Next, the bizarre tale of a greatly disturbed Massachusetts woman, a former teacher — that is, an attractive former school teacher — who did the unthinkable, but, at least, stopped short of her original goal.

The New York Sun, July 28
Botched observation
ORANGE, Massachusetts (UP) — Mrs. Ruth E. Compton, an attractive former school teacher, today led police to the body of her mother, deep in the Warwick Woods, where she killed her late yesterday as her mother bent over to pick wild flowers.

Mrs. Compton told authorities she had intended also to kill her husband, Warren W. Compton of Watertown, a state engineer, and herself, but that her plans went wrong.

The victim of the killing was Mrs. Mabel A. Grogan, 59, principal of the Cyrus Alger School in South Boston. She and her daughter had been vacationing since June at the Grogan summer cottage in East Northfield.

Last April Mrs. Compton was under observation in an asylum for 20 days. She gave no reason for slaying her mother. Yesterday afternoon, according to her confession, she and her mother went for an automobile ride.

“Mother bent over to pick some flowers,” police quoted the daughter as saying, “and I shot her in the back. She groaned. I shot her in the head and she sank to the ground. I had obtained the revolver from a filling station attendant.

“I went back to the car, then I went back to where mother lay and I shot her three more times. There were blood stains on her stockings, so I took them off. I went back to the car. I drove to Orange (eight miles away) and bought her some new ones. Then I drove back to the woods and put the new stockings on mother. Then I carried her 15 feet and covered her with grass and brush.”

A few hours later Mrs. Compton showed up at her home in Watertown, about 100 miles east of her. Her husband saw a revolver under her arm.

Then she told him what she had done, and how she had planned to kill him also, and herself.

Ruth E. Compton was indicted for first degree murder, but was considered unfit to stand trial. She was confined to Gardner State Hospital. In 1940, she seemed well enough to be tried, and a jury found her not guilty by reason of insanity. She went back to Gardner State Hospital until 1942 when Massachusetts Governor Leverett Saltonstall recommended her discharge. I'm trying to picture Mrs. Compton as the gasoline station, telling the attendant, "Fill 'er up. And I'd like one revolver, to go."
A gun was involved in only one of the deaths in the following family incident, and had that death occurred first, then five lives would have been saved and another would have been spared unspeakable tragedy and horrendous memories.

The Nunda (NY) News, November 24
The question remained: Why?
The death of Mary Ruffo, 12, of Mount Morris, at the Dansville General Hospital Sunday afternoon, left her mother, Mrs. Crucifisca Ruffo, 33, as the sole survivor of a family of seven attacked by a hatchet by the husband and father, John Ruffo, 39, early last Monday.

Mary, oldest of five children, succumbed to a fractured skull.

Mrs. Ruffo, with a fractured skull and bad cuts about the head and face, now believed to have a good chance to recover, mumbles incoherently at times, but has not wholly regained consciousness. She is not aware of the tragedy that has befallen her family.

After hitting members of his family with the hatchet as they slept in their home, Ruffo blew his head off with a shotgun.

Samuel, 8, and Nellie, 4, died Monday; Nunzia, 6, succumbed Tuesday, and Laura, 9, died Wednesday All of the children received fractured skulls.

While Ruffo was unemployed, his circumstances were not dire. His wife worked; their home, which was paid off, was well-stocked with food, police said. They also had tenants on the second story of the home, a family that moved out almost immediately after the tragedy.

A few weeks later, John Ruffo's brother, Sam, was sent to the Rochester State Hospital, after he was arrested for allegedly attacking his wife.


Carelessness and outright stupidity take a toll every year. Stories like this appeared with regularity. Saying "I'm sorry," just won't cut it.

Buffalo Courier-Express, January 15
TROY, New York (AP) — Anthony Iavorone, 21, died in a Troy hospital today and hour after he had been shot accidentally by his seven-year-old brother, Nicholas, on a farm at Reynolds Station in Rensselaer County. A bullet from a .22 caliber rifle pierced his stomach, police reported.

Syracuse Journal, March 6
MINEOLA, New York (INS) — Michael Grosbeck Jr., 12, today was to be arraigned in children’s court on a charge of juvenile delinquency following the shooting of Rose Post, 13, a guest at the Grosbeck home, while he was demonstrating an automatic pistol. Miss Post was struck in the chest by the bullet and died within a few minutes.

Syracuse Journal, August 1
TROY, New York (INS) — Lawrence LaFave, 19, of Harrisena, near Glens Falls, was dead here today from gunshot wounds in his back. Police said he was shot when a gun fell from a cot in a garage where he was working.

New York Sun, August 9
PAYSON, Utah (AP) — Vergie Louise Benard, 11, was shot through the heart and killed when she stepped in front of a target at which her father was firing with a large caliber rifle on a target range.

The girl had been in the target butts marking her father’s shots and signaling his score. The girl’s mother and three younger brothers, who were standing with Mr. Benard, saw the tragedy. Sheriff George Drunell of Utah County said an investigation will be conducted.

Syracuse American, October 1
NEW ROCHELLE, New York (INS) — Martin Bergin, 15, believing his new .22 caliber repeating rifle was empty, yesterday pointed it at his chum, Fred Mohr, 15.

When Bergin pulled the trigger, Mohr slumped over and died in a few minutes in Bergin’s arms. Bergin was released by police, who were satisfied the shooting was accidental.

Syracuse American, November 5
WATERTOWN, New York — Mrs. Loretta Bradish, about 40, wife of Charles Bradish of 750 Pearl Street, is in Mercy Hospital here with a shotgun wound in her right leg, suffered when a gun in the hands of her son was accidentally discharged at her home last night. The woman’s son, Charles Jr., 21, had been pheasant hunting near this city yesterday and returned home late in the afternoon after his gun had gone out of commission.

The young man, believing that he had unloaded the gun in the field, was showing his father the faulty action of the trigger and hammer of the single-barreled, 12-gauge gun when the accident occurred. He pulled back the hammer and then let go of it to show his father that the hammer would not stay cocked.

As the hammer fell on what he thought was an empty chamber, it discharged the shell and sent a charge of No. 5 shot into the right leg of his mother, who was standing nearby.

Buffalo Courier-Express, November 19
SAN FRANCISCO — Jean Firebaugh, 9, of San Leandro, who was accidentally shot through her left lung by her brother, Charles, 11, with a supposedly empty .22 caliber rifle, died last night at Highland Emergency Hospital.

Mrs. Gertrude Firebaugh told authorities her children were preparing for bed in their room when she heard a shot and a scream. She ran into the bedroom to find the girl on the floor and the boy fanning her with a paper, the rifle lying nearby.


Tragically, sometimes a hired hand turns out to be a crazed gunman. Newspapers at the time often treated insanity as an illness akin to the common cold — something that required a few aspirin and a few days in bed. If it were only that simple.

Syracuse Journal, January 7
OCEANSIDE, California (INS) — Becoming suddenly crazed, Edward Burns, 54, ranch hand, shot and killed Mrs. Elizabeth Stewart, 62, owner of a large Fallbrook ranch, seriously wounded Walter Johnson, 20, a lemon picker, and escaped, officers reported today.


Syracuse Journal, March 11
NEWTON, Iowa (INS) — Running amok with a shotgun, Mahland Shipley, hired hand, killed three members of the Floyd Sanford family on their farm near here and then shot himself to death.

The body of Floyd Sanford was found in a barn late yesterday by a daughter, who ran screaming for help.

Neighbors entered the Sanford house and found the bodies of Rosalie Sanford, rural school student, her mother and Shipley in the kitchen.

And then there's this case of a young man who apparently harbored deep resentment of the mother who abandoned him as a baby.

Syracuse Journal, July 10
MAPLEWOOD, New Jersey (INS) — Esther Lehrer, 42, was shot and killed early today by her son, Joseph Steinfeld, whom she saw six months ago for the first time in 25 years, according to the police.

Steinfeld, police say, after firing wildly at his stepfather, Samuel Lehrer, 48, shot himself through the head.

Tragic as the next story is, the background of the victim made me smile. It also reminded me of the story of Betty Hutton, a one-time, big-name movie star, who several years later turned up working as a cook at a rectory in Portsmouth, Rhode Island.

Syracuse Journal, September 2
OSWEGO — Shot three times in the kitchen while preparing dinner in the home of Brig. Gen. Charles D. Roberts, commanding Fort Ontario here, Mrs. Mary I. Roaul, former circus rider and trapeze artist, died just before noon today at Oswego Hospital.

Private Frank J. Bicks, 33, of Headquarters Company, 28th Infantry, was lodged in the guardhouse after the shooting. He will be charged with murder before a United States commissioner and then will be held in the Onondaga County jail at Syracuse.

Bicks pleaded guilty to second degree murder; on December 11 he was sentenced to 29 years, four months in the Northeastern Federal Penitentiary, though it was possible he would become eligible for parole in 10 years. His lawyer claimed Bicks was drunk at the time of the shooting and had no recollection of it. His mother was institutionalized when he was a baby; when he was 19 he shot his sister in the heel with a revolver, but was never prosecuted.

Imagine, if you will, a man describing his brother as having four spindly legs and antlers growing out of his head. Each year, apparently, there are such siblings trampling through the woods, carrying guns. It's no wonder accidents happen.

Syracuse Journal, November 16
TUPPER LAKE — At 12 a.m. today the year’s deer-hunting season ended. A look at police records shows that in the vicinity of Tupper Lake alone fatalities exceeded those of any other year in hunting history. In all, there were eight fatalities and four minor hunting accidents.

Harold Drapeau of Albany was fatally shot by his business partner, William Murdock, also of Albany, on October 16 near Axton, about 12 miles from Tupper Lake. Murdock, held on a charge of second degree manslaughter, is in the Malone jail, awaiting trial.

Murdock was the only man indicted for manslaughter during the latest hunting season, although Seegar Lain was severely reprimanded for his gross negligence in shooting his own brother, William, whom, he said, he mistook for a deer. This accident occurred at Round Mountain, near Big Tupper Lake.

Another case of brother shooting brother occurred on October 20 near Big Moose, when Horace Austin of North Bangor shot at a moving bush to later discover he had killed his brother, Willard, also of North Bangor, with whom he had been hunting the entire morning.

A shooting two days later remains a mystery. Edward Gallagher, postmaster at Witherby, New York, left camp early on the morning of October 22 to go hunting. After several hours, members of the party became alarmed and instigated a search for Gallagher, thinking he was lost.

The group found Gallagher's body, a bullet wound through his heart. State troopers searched the area for hours, but had no success finding the identity of the person who fired the shot.

Strangest hunting accident, on November 8, claimed the life of Clinton Brancard, 23, of Mount Vernon in the Cold River region, about 10 miles from Long Lake. There were four in this hunting party and they split into pairs around the swamp where they were driving the deer.

Everett Johnson, who was in one of the parties saw what he thought were horns on the other side of the swamp and fired, killing Brancard. It was discovered that what Johnson really saw were the tips of the two barrels of his companions’ guns moving along just above the underbrush.

Later that same day Allison McCarthy of Fulton was shot and killed by a hunting companion, Victor Beaumaster, also of Fulton.

Herman Goettels of New York City was found dead in the woods near Saint Regis Falls. The Coroner’s verdict was that Goettels died of a heart attack, due to excitement.

J. M. Clayton of Utica was the next fatality, his heart giving out after he had wandered in the woods lost for two days in the vicinity of Twin Lakes, about 15 miles from Tupper Lake.

Joseph Doran of Albany was shot through the left shoulder by Leroy Pierce on October 19 at Childwold. The injury was not fatal.

Erhard Forkhammer of Syracuse was shot through the right knee by Clayton Crandell of Syracuse on October 21, also in the vicinity of Childwold.

Morris Harple of Faust was shot in the side by fragments of a stray bullet which had struck the side of his car and shattered.

Clarence Syron, 50, of Clyde, is in Mercy General Hospital here recovering from a wound suffered November 11 when he was shot by Adelbert Thorpe, a hunting companion, who mistook Syron for a deer.


Here are five more gun-related stories. The first is a tragic tale about what happened when a young man came up with a far-fetched and dangerous scheme to get himself out of a predicament better suited for a situation comedy than the murky drama it became.

New York Sun, September 26
Bad idea gets worse
The attempt of Joseph G. Gregorovic, 19, a naval training student, of 434 East 67th Street, to hide from his father the fact he had borrowed $5 from the family grocer and had the amount charged on the family bill, led to his death on the roof of the five-story tenement at 348 East 65th Street early today.

He plotted with a friend, Louis Zelenka 17, of the 65th street address, to pose as a hero and persuaded young Zelenka to shoot him in the arm with a rifle. But Zelenka’s aim was bad, and the shot missed Gregorovic’s right arm and hit him in the left breast, inflicting a wound from which the boy died some hours later, alone on the roof.

It took police several hours to learn the victim and Zelenka had been seen together. When Zelenka was located, he broke down as soon as police questioned him.

“Joe told me he had to cover up on the $5 because his father would be paying the bill soon and would discover it,” Zelenka told Assistant Chief Inspector John J. Sullivan, in charge of the Detective Division. “He said ‘you either cut or shoot me slightly in the arm and then I can say I was held up and a lot of people will come around and bring me candy and flowers, and sympathize with me. I’ll be the hero of the neighborhood and my father will forget about the $5.

“He kept after me for several nights, and last night, a little past midnight, when we were in my home, I gave in and sneaked out my rifle. We went up to the roof. Joe said: ‘Now I’ll stand here.’

“He backed up against a wall and pointed out where I was to stand, about twenty-five feet away. Then he held his right arm a little out from his body and said: ‘Okay, Louis, shoot.’

“I did my best, but I guess I was shaking a little because, instead of grabbing his arm Joe put his hand over his chest, and fell down.

“I said: ‘Gee, Joe, I’ve hit you in the wrong place.’ ‘It’s okay, he said, ‘you go downstairs and go home and I’ll stay here for a while and then go over to Flower Hospital and get this fixed up. It’s all right.

“So I went downstairs and hid the rifle and went to bed, but I just tossed around all night. At 7 o’clock I couldn’t stand it any longer, and I went to the roof to see if Joe got away all right. There he was — dead. I went and told my mother and she said: ‘You go on to school and I’ll send your little brother out to Jamaica and have him throw the rifle away.’ “

Apparently after Louis left the roof, Joe tried to get up, but was unable to rise. The knuckles of his left hand were badly bruised in his struggles to get leverage which would raise him. The wound was much more serious than he thought.

Louis’s visit to the scene of the crime shortly after daylight left him terror stricken, and he fled to the arms of his mother, who sought to save him from exposure, but only managed to postpone the inevitable discovery for a few hours.

From the grocer, John Nagy, of 428 East 67th Street, detectives learned the elder Gregorovic had paid his bill yesterday evening and discovered his boy had borrow $5 and charged it to the family account.

The father went home, but Joseph was not there. He frequently spent the night aboard the training ship, and his parents were not particularly worried about his absence. But they were concerned about the borrowing from the grocer. When the father went to work this morning, he left word that Joseph should be home tonight and take his medicine.

All that time Joseph was lying fatally wounded on the roof of the tenement three blocks away.


Syracuse American, July 16
Chickens prove costly
MANNSVILLE — Attempting to escape in his car with a bag of chickens which he is alleged to have stolen from the farm of Roy Dawes, near here, a man believed to be Allen Gray, 40, of Clayton, was shot and killed instantly last night while trying to wrest a gun from the hands of Dawes.

The charge of the 12-gauge shotgun nearly tore the man’s head off.

According to Sheriff Hermann Pratt of this village, Dawes and Mrs. Maude Tennant, a Mannsville widow, were talking in the kitchen of Dawes’ home when they heard a car drive in the yard.

The machine pulled up close to a barn in the rear of the farm house and a man got out. Picking up his shotgun, Dawes and Mrs. Tennant started for the barn and met the man coming from the building.

According to Dawes and Mrs. Tennant, the man was carrying a bag of chickens. Mrs. Tennant attempted to wrest the bag from him when he knocked her to the ground and shouted a warning at Dawes.

Dawes disregarded the warning and started to wrestle with the man, who broke free and ran toward his car. Shotgun in hand, Dawes went after him and got to the auto just as Gray started the motor. Jumping on the running board, Dawes reached into the car and attempted to turn off the ignition. Dawes told authorities the man grabbed the barrel of the shotgun and started pulling it toward him.

Whether the trigger caught on the sill of the car or on Dawes’ shirt he was unable to say, but the gun went off, killing the man instantly.


Syracuse Journal, July 31
Change of plans fatal
NEW YORK (INS) — Karl Werner Heye, wealthy 26-year-old Rochester, New York, broker, was shot and accidentally killed by his traveling companion, Charles Manger, while both were “playing with a revolver” in a cabin aboard the liner Bremen, according to the cabled report of the tragedy received at the officers of the North German Lloyd Line.

The radio message from Captain Leopold Ziegenbein of the liner declared that although negligence was the cause of the shooting, “the matter must be referred to the German court.”

Manger is the son of the partner of a national hotel chain.

Ralph Revillo of 46 Washington Square South, a friend of both men, said Manger did not decide to go until a few minutes before sailing.

“The Bremen was held up 15 minutes to give him time to get his clothes. He bought his ticket at the pier.”

Revillo said Heye and Manger both had permits to carry pistols. Revillo described Manger as a person with a mechanical turn of mind, someone familiar with weapons.

Heye, on the other hand, was described by his friend as ”the life of the party,” someone who enjoyed night clubs and entertaining.

Heye was the adopted son of K. Werner Heye of Rochester, who was killed in an auto accident last year. His will left $200,000 to his son.


Syracuse Journal, November 22
LARAMIE, Wyoming (INS) — A wild west story of the killing of J. Frank Lane, rancher, enlivened records of the district court here today.

Ed P. Blanchard, dude rancher, on trial for slaying Lane, testified he shot Lane while the latter was dragging him across the prairie at the end of a rope.

“As I was dragged along,” Blanchard declared, “I emptied my gun at him and then reloaded and emptied it again, 10 shots in all. Finally he tumbled from the saddle.

Eight bullets were found in Lane’s body.


Syracuse Journal, August 29
Quick, call the NRA!
ALBANY (INS) — New York State today outlawed machine guns. Governor Herbert H. Lehman approved a bill enacted at the recent special session of the legislature making it a felony to own or sell a submachine gun.

The measure outlawing the use of submachine guns by any persons except police officers is so drastic that it is presumptive evidence of guilt on the part of the occupants if such a weapon is found in an automobile or room.