THE MURDER OF ORA PEARL VANCE
Davenport Democrat and Leader; Thursday, May 1, 1924
TEACHER IS MURDERED
BUFFALO, IA., WOMAN BELIEVED VICTIM OF CRAZED EX-HUSBAND
Mrs. Ora Pearl Vance Chased for a Block and Then Shot by Assailant Who Makes His Escape; Believe Man Waited For Her in Her Home, After Forcing Entrance; Woman Had Received Threatening Letters in Which Vance Blamed Her for His Insanity; Other Residents of Buffalo Terrorized; Posses Scouring Vicinity Today; Coroner to Hold Inquest Tonight.
A series of jealous threats from her divorced husband, Edward Vance, 35, paroled from the state hospital for the insane at Mt. Pleasant, last night culminated in the murder of Mrs. Ora Pearl Vance, 30, beloved school teacher at Buffalo, Iowa, and well-known as a church and social worker.
Chased for a block by the murderer, who is believed to have hidden himself in her home, Mrs. Vance died instantly when he shot her in the breast with a .32 calibre revolver. She fell on the sidewalk at the rear of the Charles Moore home, Third and Hecker streets.
Today, the sheriff’s offices of Scott and surrounding counties have combined in a search for Vance or for his body, for it is thought he may have killed himself after slaying his ex-wife. Thru-out the night, Sheriff William Brehmer, his deputy, Frank Martin, and local police officers scoured the vicinity of the crime and resumed their work today. Several posses, working out of Buffalo and Davenport were organized this morning.
During the last several months Vance has been conducting a campaign of terror in the town of Buffalo, writing letters to his wife in which he made insane threats and statements, and addressing anonymous communications to other residents whom he vowed to “get”.
Fearing for her life, the woman now lying dead visited members of the Scott county insanity commission in an effort to have Vance returned to the state hospital. Action was promised, but it was delayed by the difficulty in getting in touch with the man, who, it is understood, has been working in a button factory at Warsaw, Ill. since he was released from the hospital at Christmas.
On Visit of Sympathy
Mrs. Vance returned to her home, where she lives alone, shortly before ten o’clock last night. She had intended to go to prayer meeting at the Friend’s church early in the evening, but changed her plans when she learned that the husband of one of her teacher friends, Mrs. Etta Merchant, had been injured in a quarry accident and was ill at his residence. Mrs. Vance then went to the Merchant home to offer assistance.
After her visit, Mrs. Vance was brought back to her home in an automobile by Elmer Carpenter, brother of Mrs. Merchant. Carpenter noticed nothing wrong at the place, and, after bidding her goodnight, drove away.
Five minutes afterwards, Mrs. Vance was running breathlessly towards the home of Marshal Carl H. Rauch a block away, with the murderer at her heels. When she reached the intersection of Third and Hecker streets, she screamed for help.
She is believed to have started screaming when the insane man produced the gun and aimed it at her. The exact spot at which the shot was fired is not known, but investigators are of the opinion that Mrs. Vance was struck when she was a few feet from the back door of the Moore home. With a low moan she fell to the sidewalk on her face.
The murderer cut thru the back yard and was seen running down the alley by William Carpenter.
Hid in Closet
Coroner J.D. Cantwell and Sheriff Brehmer have formulated the theory that Vance gained entrance to his divorced wife’s home with a skeleton key, and that he concealed himself in a closet in the kitchen, where the woman had let the light burn.
Graphic evidence which seems to support this theory is that Mrs. Vance had left her Bible and parasol on the kitchen table and had started to nibble on a dry peach when the insane man is believed to have walked out of the closet. The half-eaten peach on the table bears testimony to the suddenness of the attack.
Just what occurred between Mrs. Vance and the man who mistreated her during their married life of seven years, may never be known. It is probable, however, that he began a tirade against her, threatened to take her life. He may have showed her the gun. She must have run almost at once, leaving the front door of her home open in her frantic flight.
Seen By No One.
No one saw Mrs. Vance and the murderer running down the street to the intersection, where the marshal’s and Moore residences occupy respective corners on the left and right. The theory is that the woman tried to arouse the marshal, who was at home at the time, but that she was chased in the other direction by the insane man.
When he heard the screams and the single shot, Marshal Rauch rushed out of his home, only to find that a woman had been murdered and that the murderer had made good his escape. Its face covered with blood from lacerations received in the fall to the sidewalk, the body was taken into the Moore home.
Marshal Rauch then notified Davenport police and Muscatine authorities, also summoning Sheriff Brehmer, who, with Deputy Sheriff Martin, rushed to Buffalo and arrived there 45 minutes after the slaying.
Shot Thru Breast.
It was not, however, until Coroner J.D. Cantwell arrived to examine the body that the exact location of the wound was ascertained. Previously, it had been thought that Mrs. Vance had been shot thru the head because of the blood on her face.
Examination, however, showed that the single bullet had entered the woman’s body on the right side, just above the breast, and that it had been deflected downward by a rib and had lodged in her body. The fact that Mrs. Vance had died instantly led the coroner to believe that the bullet entered her heart, altho this fact can not be determined until an autopsy is held.
Visit Murderer’s Home.
The first place in Buffalo visited by the sheriff and his deputy was the murdered woman’s home, where the front door was still standing ajar. From here, the searchers went to Vance’s home in order to find out whether or not he was hiding there.
Sheriff Brehmer aroused Dan Vance, Vance’s step-father whose name he has taken, and the house was searched. The search was fruitless, since it was definitely determined that the murderer had not visited the home of his parents that night, or for some time.
Informed that Vance was being sought for the murder of his ex-wife, his mother became hysterical and it was necessary to quiet her. The sheriff’s visit to the house, however, was not entirely futile since it furnished him with pictures of the murder suspect. These pictures will be broadcast over this section of the country until Vance, or his body, is found.
Swear in Jury.
At the Moore home, Coroner Cantwell directed Marshal Rauch to swear in a jury for the inquest, which will be held at 7:30 o’clock this evening, and gathered a few preliminary facts concerning the murder.
The coroner found that Vance had been seen in Davenport Wednesday by Ray Ord, Buffalo resident. Vance was reported to have been walking on Brady street, between First and Second, last Saturday and was seen by Walter Suhn.
He discovered that Charles Moore, Jr., returning to his home, had heard Mrs. Vance’s screams, but had not seen the murderer running up the pitch-dark alley.
Shortly after this, Deputy Sheriff Martin and Officer Blickhan, of the Davenport force, went to the home of Vance’s uncle three-quarters of a mile from the scene of the shooting, in order to investigate reports that the man had taken refuge in a shed there, and to discover the source of alleged shots reported to have been fired in the quarry.
Takes Lives in Hands.
Taking their lives in their hands, Martin and Blickhan forced entrance to the shed at the Thompson home, and finding nothing, extended their search to the hay-loft.
“If Vance had been in the hay-loft, he could have shot both of us,” Deputy Martin stated today. “We both poked our heads up thru a trap door, and, if he had been hiding there, he could have added two more murders to his list.”
Theories concerning Vance’s escape are that he crossed the Mississippi to the Illinois shore, or that he hid in the dense undergrowth along the river bank.
May Have Drowned Self.
That Vance may have drowned himself or put another bullet into his own head, however, seems probable from his numerous threats at self-destruction. When the man was held by the sheriff as insane, previous to his removal to the Mt. Pleasant hospital, he begged to be released so that he could drown himself.
“Just let me get away for a minute and I’ll jump into the river,” Vance is reported to have told the sheriff. Vance is also understood to have told several persons that he was contemplating suicide.
Ever since he was released on parole at Christmas, Vance has been making his sinister presence felt in Buffalo thru letters and thru mysterious appearances and disappearances, residents said last night.
Six weeks ago Vance is alleged to have gone to Buffalo from Davenport in a Checker taxi-cab with the ostensible purpose of “getting” his wife and other townspeople against whom he cherished an insane grudge. There are also reports that he waited for Mrs. Vance at the Buffalo station last Saturday night, but that he was unable to accost her.
Vance’s peculiar actions in the past have made him a marked man in Buffalo. His activities culminated in an attack on his uncle, Thompson, and led to his being sent to the psychopathic hospital in Iowa City for examination as to his sanity. Later he was taken to the state hospital at Mt. Pleasant.
Relatives who believed him cured obtained his release from that institution since he had shown no violence and appeared to be perfectly rational.
Could Appear Sane.
It was this faculty of Vance’s for appearing sane that made him dangerous, according to Sheriff Brehmer. “He was tricky and could hide his insanity,” the sheriff stated last night. “When you would talk to him, he appeared perfectly normal in all respects, and it was only once in a while that he said something or did something which could lead one to believe him insane.
“The very fact that he was able to get into Buffalo on the night of the murder, without being seen, is evidence of his cunning, in a town of that size, a man has to be pretty clever to order to keep undercover.”
Suspected Poison Plot.
Vance attributed his insanity to his wife, judging from the contents of a letter she received from him some time ago.
“I’d like to know what you put into those oysters that put me where I am,” Vance wrote to Mrs. Vance three weeks ago.
“You haven’t answered my letter, and if you don’t write to me, I’ll have to go further. There are others I intend to finish with before this is over,” is another quotation from one of Vance’s letters, furnished by Marshal Rauch.
Mrs. Vance is understood to have given this threatening correspondence to authorities in Davenport, in the hopes that they would realize her danger and lock him up.
At least two other letters, both anonymous, are believed to have been sent to Buffalo residents by Vance, who appeared to be suffering from delusions of persecution.
One of those letters was sent to Sim Meyers, “I hear your brother is sick,” this letter is said to have read. “Well, he is going to be a whole lot sicker, and so are you, before this thing is over.”
Met Wife While Teaching.
Vance first became acquainted with the murdered woman while she was teaching school in Buffalo seven years ago. Her maiden name was Ora Pearl Mcgill, and she came from a prominent family at Grand View, Iowa.
During the courtship, Vance manifested no peculiarities, and, when the two were married, their friends believed their wedded life would be happy.
It was not long after the couple had settled down, however, that trouble started. Vance became “queer” and “finicky” according to Buffalo neighbors, and seemed to think that his wife and her friends were conspiring against him.
Woman Got Divorce.
All this time, Mrs. Vance was continuing her work at the Buffalo school, where she was loved and honored by her pupils. As her married life became more and more unhappy, she lavished her affection on the children. Even the parents sought her advice, and had the highest respect for her fine mind and for her integrity.
Finally, the Buffalo teacher could stand her husband’s cruelty and abuse no longer, and separated from Vance in April of last year. In July, she was granted a divorce in the Scott county district court on grounds of cruel and inhuman treatment.
Town Against Vance.
Instead of lowering the esteem in which she was held, Mrs. Vance’s action in obtaining a divorce heightened it, since by this time Buffalo residents had become fully aware of her former husband’s character. The natural sentiment against his actions strengthened his insane belief that he was the victim of a conspiracy, and at times he became violent as when he started a fight with his uncle.
Fear for Lives.
After the murder, last night, excitement and fear ran high in the little town. When the sheriff and his deputy arrived, groups of citizens were huddled on street corners, in hopes of sighting the murderer but yet afraid they would get a glimpse of him. Sawed-off shotguns were in evidence, and small posses of men set out from time to time with the avowed purpose of “looking for Vance.”
Brother in Tragic Death.
Mrs. Vance is the second one of her family to meet a tragic death. On Oct. 10, 1922, her brother, William Hyram McGill, of Moscow, Iowa, was accidentally shot on a hunting trip along the Cedar river, about a mile from his home. When his dogs returned without him, searching parties were organized, and although they were at times within a few feet of his lifeless form, they could not find it, since it was hidden in a thick growth of underbrush, until the following morning.
The woman is the fourth of her family to die within three years. Her mother, Mrs. Eliza McGill, died of apoplexy on the 25th of October, 1922, and her father died of the same disease on April 21, 1923.
Saw Clerk Saturday.
It was learned today that Mrs. Vance visited Emil Schroeder, clerk of the Scott county district court last Saturday, and that she showed him four letters, two from the marshal at Warsaw, Ill, and two from her ex-husband. The latter two letters contained no threats, according to Mr. Schroeder. The letters from the marshal were in response to the teacher’s inquiries concerning his activities, and the latest of these two informed her that Vance had quit his job at the button works and had left town.
An autopsy conducted by Coroner Cantwell this morning revealed that the bullet, a 32 calibre, had lodged just under the skin under the left shoulder blade of the murdered woman. The bullet, which entered her right breast, took a diagonal course, passing through the heart.
Tonight’s inquest will be held at Buffalo. Jurors named by Marshal Rauch are Bert Frager, Leslie Barrett and George Rauch.
Paroled to Father.
When the attention of authorities was first directed toward Vance, it was the intention of the family to place him in the Chiropractic Psychopathic hospital in Davenport, but the insanity commission, thru the states’ attorney, found that no person, adjudged insane by the commission, can be committed to any private institution, no matter how well recommended, so Vance was sent to the state institution at Mt. Pleasant, and was paroled from there to his father, with the understanding that he was not to return to Buffalo.
No Threat in Letters.
According to Dr. O.E. Ficke of the insanity commission, the letters received by Mrs. Vance, which were shown to him, did not contain any threat or accusations, but were very cleverly written, so that no direct statement was made. He, however, is firmly convinced that the man was insane when he committed the murder, and that iw s not a case of mad jealousy.
Educated at Cedar Falls.
Pearl McGill was born June 17th, 1893 and was educated in the schools of Cedar Falls, and attended the Teacher’s college there. She was married to Edward Vance April 21, 1917. She had been elected to the position of principal of the Buffalo schools for next year.
She was a fervent member of the Friends church of Buffalo and of the Pythian Sisters. Surviving are three brothers, Floyd, Fay and Donald and two sisters, Mrs. Ada Smith and Mrs. Edna Harvey.
More Unsigned Letters.
County Attorney John Weir was given two more anonymous letters by Clerk Emil Schroeder this afternoon. One of the letters, Mr. Schroeder said, had been received by him several days ago, and the other arrived in Davenport yesterday.
The first letter, according to the clerk, notified him that Vance had quit his job at Warsaw, Ill., and the second stated he had been seen in Rock Island last Saturday. It is probable, authorities say, that Vance sent the letters himself, since this opinion would be justified by his previous actions.
Cover River Bank – 2:45
The river bank for some distance above and below Buffalo was thoroly searched by the posses to-day, but no trace of Vance’s body was found, according to reports last today. After searching all day, Sheriff Brehmer returned to his home at three o’clock for a respite. He intends to continue the search this evening.
It is now the opinion of authorities that Vance has not killed himself but is at large, possible in Illinois.
J. Herman Mangels, residing next door to the Moore home, stated that he saw a flash of fire when the shot was fired and saw two forms struggling in the darkness. He said the struggle went on for several seconds before the shot.
Davenport Democrat and Leader; Sunday, May 4, 1924
Believe Murderer Has Taken Refuge in Old Coal Mine
Arming and deputizing of citizens, dynamiting of the river, guarding of an old abandoned coal mine, in the belief that the murderer might be concealed within its subterraneous passageways, the reported arrest of a suspect at Letts, Iowa, and the investigations of a hundred and one clues advanced by an excited populace, were highlights Saturday in the Ora Pearl Vance murder at Buffalo and the search for her ex-husband, Edward Vance, suspected of being the murderer.
The Letts report, which gave promise of terminating the man hunt, proved unfounded, according to long distance communications between Sheriff William Brehmer and the sheriff’s office at Muscatine. The man, taken into custody at Letts, failed to answer the description of Vance and was later released.
Belief that Vance committed suicide, killing his wife, a belief that is shared by his step-father, Ben Vance, to whom the younger man was paroled when he was released from the state hospital at Mt. Pleasant last November, resulted in renewed activities on the part of volunteer posses along the river banks later in the day.
The river was again dragged Saturday for a considerable distance below the town and dynamite was resorted to later in the day under the direction of Deputy State Game Warden Frank Klauer.
Citizens of the little town of Buffalo, located ten miles west of Davenport, are living in mortal fear of Vance and are keeping their doors and windows barred at night. Many are going armed in the belief that Vance will return to the scene of his crime.
Several special officers were sworn in by the sheriff Saturday at the request of Marshal Carl Rauch. They were assisting the marshal last night in running down the thousand and one false rumors and in guarding points in and near the town where Vance might reappear.
Guard Coal Mine.
Discovery of what appears to be human foot prints entering the opening of an old abandoned coal mine on the Fredericks farm, north of Buffalo, resulted in the placing of a guard near the mine late yesterday and last night to await results.
County authorities, who urged sending someone into the mine to investigate, are skeptical that Vance has made good his escape from the county.
The footprints, according to Marshal Rauch, indicate that someone has entered the mine within the last 48 hours. There are no foot prints to indicate that the party has left the mine.
Says Vance Had Been Drinking.
Morris Bein, proprietor of the Diamond Taxi Line of Rock Island, who identified a picture of Vance as being the man who engaged a taxi of him on the night of the murder to convey him to within a mile of Buffalo, informed Sheriff Brehmer late Friday that the man, whom he identified as Vance, had been drinking although he was not intoxicated. He said he could detect the odor of whisky on his breath.
Authorities who again questioned both Brien and Ed Simmons, proprietor of a second hand store in Rock Island where Vance purchased a revolver on the afternoon of the murder, obtained few if any additional facts which would aid them in apprehending the man.
Failure to locate Vance in or near Buffalo will culminate this week in the sheriff extending the search beyond the confines of the county thru the medium of circulars addressed to police departments and sheriff’s offices, giving a description of the man.
Probate Woman’s Estate.
Vance’s victim, who was buried in Buffalo yesterday, left an estate of approximately $2,325, according to probate proceedings filed in district court earlier in the day. The assets include real estate in the town of Buffalo valued at $2,000 and encumbered by a $1200 mortgage, $200 worth of household furniture and $125.01 on deposit in the Buffalo Savings bank.
The only heirs named in the probate proceedings are three brothers and two sisters: Marion Fay McGill of West Burlington, Donald McGill and Floyd McGill of Grand View, Ia., Ada Smith of Atalissa, Ia., and Mrs. Edna Harvey, 1848 W. Sixth street, Davenport.
Scott & Scott are the probating attorneys.
Davenport Democrat and Leader; Tuesday, May 6, 1924
ISSUE WARRANT FOR ARREST OF EDWARD VANCE
Information Against Ex-Husband Fugitive Sworn to by Weir
INVESTIGATE KEOKUK TIP
Description of Demented Stranger Tallies Closely with Vance’s
First degree murder charges against Edward Vance, who disappeared after killing his ex-wife, Ora Pearl Vance, a Buffalo school teacher, near her home last Wednesday night, were sworn out today by County Attorney John Weir.
The information was filed late this afternoon in the court of Police Magistrate Harold Metcalf and the warrants for the man’s arrest were turned over to the sheriff who is directing the search for the fugitive.
Filing of the state information, the only important development in the case today, followed a conference held last night between County Attorney Weir, Sheriff William Brehmer and the citizens of Buffalo. The conference was arranged by the county attorney for the purpose of gathering of the loose threads of evidence implicating Vance as the murderer.
Owing to the fact that no one in Buffalo can swear that Vance was in the town on the night of the slaying resulted in a situation in which the state was forced to take the initiative and swear out the warrant. The state’s entire case against Vance is purely circumstantial from a legal standpoint although there is no doubt in the minds of the county officials and of the people of Buffalo that Vance committed the crime.
Investigate Keokuk Report.
Publication of a story under a Keokuk date line Monday detailing an experience of a taxi driver who was held up by an insane man and forced to convey the stranger to points in Missouri prompted Scott county authorities to investigate this angle of the case in the belief that the stranger might be Vance.
Long distance communication with the Keokuk police chief and a comparison of the descriptions of the stranger and Vance partially convinced the Scott county authorities that Vance may be the man. The description given by the taxi driver tallies with that of Vance except as to the height, according to Sheriff Brehmer, who believes that that taxi driver might have been mistaken.
The Keokuk police were of the opinion that they would have the stranger in custody within a short time and have promised to keep the Scott county authorities advised.
Continue to Watch River.
Those who cling to the story that Vance committed suicide after killing his ex-wife are keeping a close watch along the river in the hopes that the body will come to the surface.
Buffalo citizens have contributed upward of $70 as a reward for information leading to the arrest of Vance.
County Attorney Weir and Sheriff Brehmer have announced their intention of reporting the case to Governor N.E. Kendall along with the suggestion that he offer a state reward for Vance as well as for the slayer of E. Collicott an auto dealer, who was murdered in Davenport about six weeks ago.
Davenport Democrat and Leader; Sunday, May 11, 1924
STATE TAKES A HAND IN VANCE MURDER CASE
Risden’s Office to Send Out Circulars – Clinton Tip False
The State of Iowa prepared Saturday to set its criminal prosecuting machinery in motion, preparatory to running down Edward Vance, paroled insane patient, who is being sought by the Scott county authorities for the murder of his wife, Ora Pearl Vance, a Buffalo school teacher.
James Risden, chief of the state special agents, who was in Davenport Thursday, Friday, Saturday, announced yesterday that his office was co-operating with Sheriff William Brehmer in an effort to apprehend Vance. Circulars bearing Vance’s picture and description will be mailed out from Risden’s office in Des Moines this week to police departments throughout the country.
Citizens of Buffalo have already raised $200 to prosecute the search for the murderer. This money will probably be turned over to the state to defray the expense of sending out the circulars.
“Seen in Clinton”
A report last Friday that Vance had been seen in Clinton sent county and state officers on a wild goose chase to Clinton. An investigation proved that the tip was worthless.
Davenport Democrat and Leader; Monday, May 19, 1924
BODY FOUND IN RIVER
SUSPECTED MURDERER, DRESSED AS A WOMAN SHOT SELF IN HEAD
Fisherman Finds Boy Floating in River Early Sunday Morning – Ex-husband of Slain School Teacher Assumed Dress and Gay Hat After Deed, Belief – Shots Heard on Night of Murder Believed to Have Been Suicide’s Gun – Body Wore Complete Suit of Man’s Clothes Under Feminine Garb.
Clad in a woman’s hat and gown, the body of Edward Vance, hunted for the past two weeks as the slayer of Ora Pearl Vance, Buffalo school teacher, who was murdered on the night of April 30, was found at 7 o’clock Sunday morning floating in the Mississippi river near Buffalo.
The man was the victim of self-inflicted pistol shots which penetrated his head. It is believed that a short time after the murder, Vance went down to the bank of the river and ended his life, the body falling into the stream.
May Have Hidden Clothes.
Two theories are advanced in an attempt to clear the mystery of why Vance wore the woman’s attire. First, that he wore the clothing at the time of the shooting, in this way hiding his identity from anyone who happened to see him near the home of his divorced wife. Second, that he had the clothing hidden under a bridge near Buffalo, believing that he could make good his getaway in the female attire.
The hat, which is red and trimmed with flowers and long flowing ribbons, was pulled down over the head. The dress is of the loose fitting variety and was fastened to the body by means of a cord. Authorities can advance no theory as tow here Vance got the clothing.
Can’t Remember “Woman”
No one in Buffalo remembers seeing anyone wearing the dress and gay colored hat on the night of the shooting. The taxi driver who drove Vance to the outskirts of Buffalo on the night of the murder claimed that Vance had a bag in which there was clothing.
The finding of the body clad in the woman’s attire sheds a new light on the mystery. Altho it is not definitely proven that Vance did the murder of his former wife, circumstances lead authorities to believe that he killed her.
Heard Suicide Shots?
Two shots heard on the night of the murder less than an hour after Mrs. Vance’s body was found lying on the doorstep of a neighbor’s house, are believed to be the reports of Vance’s pistol when he ended his life.
A posse which searched the river bank on the night of the shooting and for days thereafter could find no trace of the body. Sheriff William Brehmer was confident that Vance had ended his life when he heard the shots. It is evident that Vance waded out into the stream and there ended his life, his body not coming to the surface until badly decomposed.
Man Finds Body.
The body was first sighted by a quarry engineer named John Prignitz who was going down the river to see a launch. He saw the body bobbing in the river near the bank, a quarter of a mile west of Buffalo. At first he thought it was the body of a woman, as the clothing indicated.
Prignitz saw the body floating in the river two or three days before but believed at that time that it was a log. He will be entitled to the $200 reward offered by the citizens of Buffalo, but not the state reward which was offered for his capture.
Marshal Carl Rauch of Buffalo was immediately notified as was coroner J.D. Cantwell. It was not until the step-father of Vance and several Buffalo men identified the body that it was positively known to be Vance. A scar on the little finger on the left hand let to the identification.
Letters in Pockets.
In the pockets of the man’s clothing were found several letters which Vance had received from his sister while he was in Clinton. None of the letters mentioned the dead woman. He had 85 cents in change in one of his pockets.
Authorities made a fruitless effort to find the pistol.
Nearly the whole population of Buffalo gathered at the river bank after the news of the gruesome find had been carried from door to door by the citizens. During the last few days, persons whom Vance had threatened to “get” took extra precautions to protect their lives. It was feared that Vance was hiding near Buffalo and would on any night pay a second visit with “getting a life” as his purpose.
The finding of Vance’s body has made citizens of Buffalo feel at ease. Since that night of the shooting the chief topic of conversation has been the whereabouts of the alleged murderer and whether he would get someone else against whom he held a grudge.
Reports were continually being received by Sheriff Brehmer that Vance had been seen in nearby towns. Investigation which followed failed to find him. Governer N.E. Kendall, in an effort to bring about Vance’s apprehension, offered a $500 reward. Citizens of Buffalo also raised money to be paid to the capturer of the alleged murderer.
Identify Man’s Clothing
The man’s clothing which Vance wore under the dress was the same that he wore several days before the night of the murder.
The crime for which Vance was being sought was one he had threatened to perpetrate on numerous occasions. On the night of April 30, Mrs. Vance, his divorced wife, was murdered at the doorstep of a neighbor, Charles Moore. Persons living in the neighborhood heard screams of the woman, followed by the single shot.
No one actually saw Vance on the night of the crime. Immediately, Sheriff Brehmer ordered the arrest of Vance, had the river banks searched, the stream dragged, for his body.
That Vance wore the woman’s attire at the time that he shot his wife is discounted thru the story of Art Rossen, who saw the fleeing form of a man pass his window. He could not positively identify the man as Vance, but was certain that the person was not clad in a dress. However, Vance may have pulled the dress around his hips after he gained access to his former wife’s home.
Evidence of a Gun.
Then, several days after the murder, evidence was gathered which pointed to Vance as the murderer of his former wife. Ed Simmons, second-hand dealer in Rock Island, recognized Vance thru a picture in The Democrat, the day following the murder, as the man to whom he had sold a gun which was of the same caliber that killed the woman.
This testimony at the coroner’s inquest nearly fastened the blame on Vance. The jury, however, returned an open verdict.
It was on the same day that a Rock Island taxi driver reported to county authorities that he drove a man who resembled Vance to the outskirts of Buffalo on the night of the murder.
The Poisoned Oysters
Vance and his wife had been separated for the past year. She had received numerous threats from him in which he intimated that she had poisoned him thus causing mental ailments. ‘Why did you put that poison in the oysers?’
Other Buffalo people had received threatening notes which were not signed but were believed to be the work of Vance.
Vance had been judged insane on two occasions by the Scott county insanity commission. After the first examination he was sent to Iowa City for treatment and later to Mt. Pleasant. On Christmas day of last year he was released from Mt. Pleasant with the understanding that he keep away from Buffalo. This he violated on several occasions.
Murder a Brutal One
The murder of Mrs. Ora Vance was one of the most brutal in the history of Scott county. The woman, after returning home from spending an evening with a sick friend, was accosted by the insane man and fled to the house of a neighbor for protection. Just as she reached the doorsteps, she was shot.
Just what happened or what was said between Vance and the dead woman will never be solved. It is believed that she begged the man not to kill her as she sought entrance into the house.
Citizens of Buffalo attribute the blame for the murder of Mrs. Vance to the state institution for releasing Vance, who was considered a dangerous maniac.
If Vance had the women’s clothing hid under the bridge so that he could make good his escape why did he commit the suicide? Citizens of Buffalo ask.
Probably after Vance had made his getaway, and was putting on the dress and the bright-red straw hat, he began to feel troubled over his act. Probably the lights in the many homes that were dark until after the shooting caused him to believe that in a few minutes a posse would be on his heels.
That Vance ended his life is no surprise. On many occasions he said that after he “got” several persons he was willing to die. Once when Sheriff Brehmer was bringing him to the county jail, he begged to be allowed to escape so that he could end his life in the river.
Conjectures as to Vance’s probable course of action after he shot his ex-wife, were rife in Buffalo today. Whether he intended to escape in the woman’s clothing he is believed to have brought to the scene of the crime, and then changed his mind after realizing that the odds against him were too great, or whether is escalating insanity developed into a suicidal frenzy, formed conversational material in many homes of the little town.
While sheriff’s aids and police officers were searching for him in his mother’s home and his uncles barn after the slaying, Vance’s lifeless body may have been floating in the Mississippi.
The exhaustive search of the river after the crime failed to reveal the whereabouts of the corpse is now thought to have been due to the fact that the body was caught in some undercurrent or snag, and held beneath the surface of the water until the Mississippi gave it up Sunday morning.
Just how Vance’s body fell into the stream after he had fired suicide shots into his mouth will never be determined. This, and the workings of his disordered mind when he fled from an aroused citizenry may forever remain a mystery.
The desire to flee and to escape unharmed from his pursuers must have changed to a conception of the hopelessness of his situation, as he ran thru darkened streets towards the river bank after the deed authorities believe.
At any rate, his wonted cleverness stood him in good stead when even in death he disposed of his body in the Mississippi, trusting to the Father of Waters to forever keep his secret.
Closes Crime Epoch.
The murder of Mrs. Vance and the finding of her ex-husband’s body closes an epoch of crime unique in the annals of Scott county. Citizens who have been lying awake at night with loaded shotguns at their bed-sides, fearing that the insane man would return to add another victim to his list, may sleep in peace again. The wild excitement which in many cases amounted to hysteria is at an end.
As Vance’s body was borne thru the main street of Buffalo Sunday morning many breathed sighs of relief. Among these were his mother and step-father whose home had been searched in the belief that they had hidden the slayer. Altho a web of circumstances practically make it positive that her son was the murderer of the ex-wife, the mother still clings to the faint possibility that the authorities are mistaken and that he son is innocent.
MANY WEEP AT SERVICES FOR EDWARD VANCE
Relatives and Friends Cling to Hope of His Innocence
Edward Vance, alleged murderer of his divorced school-teacher wife, lay sleeping in his mother’s home in Buffalo Sunday afternoon. Not many hours before his body had been found in the Mississippi river.
Outside the house the sun peeked now and then from behind threatening clouds. The shades of the room, in which the body lay, were partly drawn, the sun coming thru the open spaces in shafts which played upon the casket.
In the black casket lay the earthly remains of Edward Vance, sought for more than two weeks as a murderer, and who ended his life soon after the crime was committed.
Relatives and a goodly number of friends made up the mourners. They wept beside the bier as it rested in the little home for the short funeral services. Floral offerings were few. A conspicuous one lay near the casket. From the heartbroken mother, no doubt, who clings to the hope that her boy is innocent of the accused crime.
Morbid Throng Gathered.
A throng of morbid curiosity seekers passed the home while the funeral services were being conducted. The story of the man’s life had attracted many from the surrounding vicinities. It was only the relatives and the friends who were inside the doors.
“Come unto Me all ye that labour and are heavy laden and I will give thee rest,” was the text of Rev. M.A. Getzendamer. “Going thru life we meet problems, sorrows and difficulties, that our human endurance is unable to overcome. The only place where we can find real comfort is by turning to God,” he said.
And a choir sang, “Some Time We’ll Understand,” and “Beautiful Isle of Somewhere.”
When the casket was taken from the home and placed into the hearse, the curious crowd which had gathered, eyed acutely the weeping relatives and friends. Thru the streets of Buffalo the body was borne to its final resting place in the Rose Hill cemetery. On nearly every corner, small gatherings solemnly watched the procession pass by.
Watchers at Cemetery
The services at the cemetery were short. Even here the watchers gathered to see the last rites of the dead man. And when the body was slowly lowered into the grave the last chapter of Edward Vance’s life was finished.
Edward Vance was born in Schuyler county, Mo., and came to Buffalo when seven years of age with his parents. At the time of his death he was 37 years of age. He was educated in the public schools of Buffalo and was a member of the K.P. lodge.
The survivors include the mother and father, one brother, Jess, and one sister, Olie, all at home. The body was taken from the Hill and Fredericks funeral parlors and then to the home.
The pallbearers were Frank Egger, John Claridged, Harry Egger, H.A. Dorman, Arlie Capps and Marshall Moulder. Mrs. Ed McCullough, Mrs. Burl Frager and Mr. and Mrs. William Ochsner sang the two hymns.
Davenport Democrat and Leader; Sunday, June 8, 1924
LIST ADDITIONAL HEIRS TO ESTATE OF MURDER VICTIM
The names of Flora McKellip of Moscow, Ia., and Lavina Longstreth of Sweetland Center, Ia., half sisters of the late Ora Pearl Vance, Buffalo school teacher who was shot and killed by her divorced husband on April 30, were added to the list of heirs to the murdered woman’s estate in district court Saturday by Marion Fay McGill, administrator. The names were omitted when the estate was first opened to probate.
Davenport Democrat and Leader; Thursday, August 14, 1924
CAR LEAPS ROAD; DRIVER KILLED
Tragic Death Gets Fourth Victim in Ill Fated Family
The fourth member of his family to die a violent death within two years, Burl Thompson, 38 years old, uncle of Mrs. Ora Pearl Vance, murdered Buffalo school teacher, was instantly killed when his automobile plunged over a 25 foot embankment on the Buffalo road, four blocks east of the Buffalo railroad station, before midnight last night.
Thompson met his death on what is said to be the most dangerous road curve in Scott county. Skid marks found by Coroner J.D. Cantwell this morning showed that he had driven his Star touring car 50 feet on the wrong side of the road and had missed the curve.
Thrown From Car.
The automobile, a total wreck, turned over several times as it rolled to the bottom of the steep incline, finally landing upside down. Thompson was thrown out of the car as it turned; his body was found ten feet away from the wrecked vehicle. The man’s neck had been broken, his skull crushed, and his throat cut from ear to ear. There will be no inquest.
Several months ago, Thompson’s niece by marriage, Mrs. Vance, was shot down by her crazed ex-husband, Ed Vance, in Buffalo. The murderer’s body was later found in the Mississippi. A brother of Mrs. Vance was killed in a hunting accident about two years ago.
The latest victim of the peculiar series of fatalities which has pursued his family was on his way to work at the Montpelier stone quarries when he met his death. Last Saturday, Thompson moved his furniture to a new home on Daisy avenue, Rockingham, and he brought his family to the new residence yesterday afternoon.
Mrs. Thompson said today that her husband had been late when he started out for Montpelier shortly before 11 o’clock last night, and that he was in a hurry to get to his work. There were no witnesses to the accident.
Crew Finds Body
Thompson’s body was not discovered until 5:30 o’clock this morning when William Pfeiffer, Buffalo, passed along the railroad tracks which crossed the road at the point where the accident occurred, saw the wrecked and overturned car in the ditch.
Davenport police were notified, and Coroner J.D. Cantwell conducted an investigation. He found the tail-light of the automobile still burning. It was determined that Thompson had died instantly. Thompson’s watch, found in his pocket, had stopped at 8 minutes to 10 o’clock. This, however, must have been before the accident, as the man left his home in Rockingham after 10. A baby picture of one of his children was also found in Thompson’s clothing.
Had Lived in Tent
A.W. Stein, of Buffalo, saw Thompson bring his family to the new home in Rockingham late yesterday afternoon. The family had been planning to move for some time, and had been living in a tent.
Garage men at Buffalo who examined Thompson’s wreck stated that it appeared that the car had been brushed off the road by another auto, behind it. The appearance of dents on the rear of Thompson’s car was used by them as a substantiation of a theory that Thompson had been pushed over the embankment.
How Thompson happened to be on the wrong side of the road, however, may never be known. It is said that he had been drinking for the last several months, but the coroner could find no trace of liquor on the body or in the car.
Killed Before Thrown?
It is believed that Thompson was killed before he was thrown out of his automobile. The violence of his injuries render it unlikely that he received them after he was hurled from his seat.
Marks of Thompson’s tires on the road show that there was little skidding and that his automobile plunged straight off the embankment.
The body has been taken to Stapleton’s undertaking parlors here, pending funeral arrangements.
Father of Five.
Thompson was the father of five children, Howard, aged 17, Harold, aged 14, Lucile, aged 11, Orville, aged 7, and Thelma, aged 3. They, together with his wife, two brothers and two sisters, survive him. The brothers and sisters are Fred Thompson, Buffalo; Bulah Thompson, a twin brother residing in California; Mrs. Harry Egger, Davenport, and Mrs. Jumper of Glenwood.
Thompson was an uncle of Ed Vance, murderer of Ora Pearl Vance, who was his niece by marriage.