The Konawa Murders
In the sleepy little town of Konawa Oklahoma there is a beautiful little cemetery with the most distressing comment etched into one of the head stones. It is a simple stone, no ornate flowers or angels to detract from its purpose and the information carved upon it is straightforward and simple.
Dau. Of J. T. & M. K. Cross
Mar. 13, 1899
Oct. 10, 1917
"Murdered by human wolves"
To tell you the truth up until a few weeks ago I had no idea that such a headstone existed until a very good friend of mine (whom I will simply call Mary) informed me of it.
Mary told me the story of how this young woman died during a botched abortion by a local doctor and how she had found out that another girl had died in a similar way only months earlier and at the hands of the same doctor.
The subject immediately intrigued me, two abortion attempts in the space of two months, in a town with a population of less than 2,000 souls? At a time when abortion was not an acceptable operation by almost any ones standards? There was a lot more to this story than first meets the eye.
When I began to research this case I came head to head with a general belief that these murders were the result of local "werewolves". Based in whole or in part, I suspect, on the comment on the head stone.
Being a skeptical and practical person I kept this theory in the back of my mind as I investigated and tried to look at the case simply from the facts and determine from them where and to what opinion they would lead me.
I must first inform the reader that I have 26 years experience in law enforcement. The exact nature of my employment must remain secret as I am not yet fully retired and the restraints of my oath and contract state that I am to make no public statements with out written approval of my superiors. I hardly think they would understand or approve of the type of investigations I now conduct so it is not in my best interest to reveal anything about my employer.
I can say that for the last ten years I worked on a personal and interactive level with convicted criminals confined to a psychiatric facility. I was trained to recognize symptoms of certain illnesses and to help the nursing staff co-ordinate the treatment of the patients.
I therefore have an intimate knowledge and database from which to draw from experience in areas that most investigators can only read about. I spent an average of 10 hours a day amongst the patients, not sitting at a desk and just watching them but talking to them and interacting on a personal level. I have seen them at their best and at their worst and eventually developed a great empathy for truly sick individuals.
Malingerers and fakers I can spot in 24 hours for they can not keep up the fašade of insanity on a constant basis. These men I have no use of and had them removed from the facility at the earliest possible moment.
When I began this investigation I was certain that if there were any signs of mental illness amongst the suspects I would be able to spot them and possibly diagnose them from their symptoms. If no sign of mental illness were present I would be able to tell that as well, at least I thought I could.
I can not say that I have a great knowledge or back ground in "werewolves" for it is not generally a subject discussed beyond the grade B movies they appear in. Lacking further evidence to the fact I feel it is safe to say at this time that the deaths of these two young women were not at the hands, or paws, of any paranormal or mystical creatures but at the hands of a group of despicable and generally evil men.
I found an edition of the "Seminole County News" dated October 25th 1917 that had an article titled "Second Charge". In a short and not very informative story the article described how Dr. A. H. Yates was arrested for the murder of Katherine Ann Cross for performing "a criminal operation". It went on to state that in August of the same year Dr. Yates and the local schoolteacher Mr. Fredrick ONeal were arrested and held on the same charge in the death of one Elise Stone.
In the death of Elise Stone the evidence available shows that she was first admitted to D. Yates office on August 15th at which time it is assumed that the "criminal operation" took place. It is apparent that the operation did not go well for she stayed at the doctors office for 4 days. She must have suffered greatly in that time period for medication to eleviate pain was almost nonexistent. She was then taken back to her home where she died.
Dr. Yates listed the cause of death of Elise Stone as "congestive chill".
It is obvious that locals did not agree with his diagnosis for County Attorney A. G. Nichols was contacted. He obtained the aid of the county physician (who is not named) and obtained a court order from Justice of the Peace M. L. Rascoe to have the body exhumed and an autopsy performed.
The result of this autopsy concluded that Elise Stone did not die of "congestive chill" but died as a result of a "criminal operation".
This one simple and uninformative newspaper article and the head stone of Katherine Cross are the only remaining evidence in this case. My friend Mary tried to obtain records for the period of 1916 - 1917 from the local library but they coincidentally have none for that time period. This lack of records for the period fits right in with my theory of the real facts of the case. I feel it is the final piece of evidence that narrows this case down to human beings and human desires.
I began my personal investigation by sending Mary a list of questions that had come to mind. I hoped that her personal knowledge and investigative skills would be able to answer them.
The first thing I needed was a victimology report of both victims. This is a report that gives the complete background and history of the victims. Where they lived who their friends were and what they did with their lives. To know about the deaths of these women you must know about their lives first.
I also needed a similar report for the suspects in the case. The prior lives and upbringing of a suspect will sometimes provide information that will link with the events that you are investigating. An example of this would be the fact that in the earlier years of serial killers like Jeffery Dahmer, there is evidence that the suspect was active in the torture and mutilation of small animals. It is this kind of information that will give you a hint of events to come.
Unfortunately Mary was unable to provide me with any more information than what I already had. I will have to continue this case lacking vital information.
I have not yet been able to assess the race of the victims either. There is no record that either victim was African American or Native American or any other race. I would find it highly unlikely that this sort of atrocity would be confined to just the white population of Konawa.
When a medical procedure is labeled a "criminal operation" at this period in time, there is only one assumption that can be made of the type of operation it really was. It was an abortion! Abortion at the time was not a viable method or option for most women. Social attitudes and religious dogma frowned upon it. We must admit though that it did take place on occasion and was known about.
Francis Tumblety who was arrested as a suspect in the Jack the Ripper case,
Was also arrested in Montreal Canada on September 23, 1857 on the charge of attempting to abort the pregnancy of a local prostitute named Philomene Dumas. It was alleged that he sold her a bottle of pills and a liquid for the purpose, but Tumblety was released on October 1.
A verdict of no true bill was reached on the 24th of October and no trial was ever undertaken.
The case of Francis Tumblety is an example of the attitude of law enforcers towards this type of charge.
Tumblety at the time was representing himself as a doctor and was a well-respected person in the community. He was even asked to run for public office in the provincial elections but had to decline because of the aforementioned charge. It seems that wealth; position and claimed expertise were a method of avoiding conviction of criminal offenses even at this time.
This is very likely the same situation in the case of Katherine Cross and Elise Stone. Dr. Yates and Fred ONeal were upstanding members of the community holding important positions of trust. It is very likely that they operated in the same social circles as the local Sheriff and the local Judge. Personal and Political associations may have played a part in their release and the cases not going forward. The evidence seems to support this.
It is my opinion that officials of the day did not consider a doctor performing an abortion to be a "real" criminal offence. I feel it was looked upon as one of the unseemly parts of a very difficult job. People at the time and even today, hold doctors in awe. It may be the time and training it takes to acquire a medical degree or the fact that they hold life and death in their hands on a daily bases or simply the fact that they choose to do what few others are capable of mentally or physically. Whatever the reason, doctors are usually placed high on most peoples list of those to admire and respect.
What makes this case suspicious in my estimation is the inclusion of Fredrick ONeal, a schoolteacher. There is no earthly reason that a schoolteacher should be involved with a medical procedure especially one as heinous as this.
When faced with the questions of what his connection with the victim and the doctor are, I come to the following conclusions.
ONeal was either the cause of the pregnancy or was connected in some way with the victim. If he were the father of the child his position in the community would be at risk. Social attitudes being what they were it is highly likely that if the facts were to become known he would be asked to resign his position and to leave the area. ONeal was present and involved because he had to be assured that the job was done right and the truth did not leak out to the community. The best of all conclusions for him would be that the victim died in the process so that there was no one to accuse him at a later date.
With these conclusions we now have a possible motive for the death of Elise Stone.
The unusual part of this case is that there was a second victim shortly after the first who died of the same operation.
What are the chances of 2 young women in 1917, in a community of only 2000, becoming pregnant at the same time? And then both of them dying as a result of the same medical procedure? I think the chances are very slim.
The information on the death of Katherine Cross is very limited; it is almost like some one was trying even at the time to cover it up. Too many things are missing to just be the result of misplacement or poor filing habits. Let me list the reports and documents that should be available.
- The exhumation order written by Justice of the Peace Rascoe.
- The autopsy report issuing the findings of this exhumation written by the county physician.
- The letter written to Justice Rascoe by County Attorney Nichols requesting the exhumation.
- The death certificates of Elise Stone and Katherine Cross.
- The police reports of the arrest and detention of Yates and ONeal.
- The police log book containing the information of who notified them of the crimes.
- The official report of the investigation by the police into these crimes.
- The statements made to police by Yates and ONeal.
- Statements made by other concerned parties or witnesses.
These are all very important documents and none are to found at this time.
Let us now look at the statement on Katherine Crosss head stone, "murdered by human wolves". What does this statement suggest?
To those seeking the supernatural and the paranormal they will automatically jump to the conclusion that the countryside at this time was infested with "werewolves". I can in no good conscience support this theory.
Wolves usually hunt in packs and since the inscription is in the plural form "wolves" I will assume that more than one person is involved with these murders.
When wolves hunt they will drive their victim until it is exhausted, sending only one of the group out at a time to chase the victim and harry it. The rest of the pack follow close behind and wait for the opportune moment to advance and make the kill.
At the time of the attack the pack acts in a coordinated effort. One will go for the throat of the victim while the others concentrate on the vital organs such as the sex organs and the soft under belly. When the victim is brought to ground the pack then feeds in order of authority, the Alpha male and female being first.
The person who ordered the inscription on the head stone appears to have been making this analogy. It would be a method of pointing out the injustice with out arousing the suspicion of the authorities. This person must have been scared that if they spoke out against the pack, they would become the next victim.
Did the parents of the Katherine Ann Cross, the elusive J. T. and M. K Cross, request the inscription? Or was it placed on later by some unknown person? We may never know the answer to this question.
Careful evaluation of the available evidence and information has led me to suggest the following scenario:
A group of individuals from the upper levels of Konawa society had formed a club or association in which members engaged in illicit sexual acts with young men and women from the community.
These young boys and girls were probably hand picked and provided by none other than Fredrick ONeal. ONeal in his position of schoolteacher would seek out the most likely prospects for the group and with his position of influence obtain their trust and confidence. Once introduced to the idea of their participation in the groups activities there was no turning back. Those that objected would later be found dead, their bodies torn apart and left in the woods. Those that participated would be kept silenced by threats and intimidation and the knowledge that they would be looked down upon by the rest of the community regardless of their role.
Elise Stone had the unwelcome pleasure of becoming pregnant as a result of the groups activities. The only possible solution to the problem was to force an abortion upon her, as the giving birth to a child sired by a member of the group was not an option. The group had too much to loose as a whole if knowledge of their activities became known.
ONeal took Stone to Dr. Yates office and it is my assumption that he was also a member of this group, for why would ONeal risk bringing in an outsider to perform an illegal operation?
The operation was attempted but had complications, whether these were planned complications or not is unknown. It is quite possible that the original plan was to simply perform the operation and be done with it for Stone languished in Yates office for 4 days before being sent home to die. If the object was to have her die during the operation I am sure that a doctor would be able to obtain the proper results in a more timely fashion.
Yates determination of a "congestive chill" was initially accepted as the cause of death and Elise Stone was buried.
Some one though in the community alerted the authorities that this was not really the cause of Stones death and convinced the local county Attorney to request a further investigation. Who was this informant? Could it have been Katherine Cross?
The body of Elise Stone was exhumed and an autopsy preformed resulting in the arrest of Yates and ONeal.
The fact that both men were released so quickly and with out a trial suggests the involvement of the local judicial authorities. The presiding judge and the Sheriff would have to be involved and both agree for the charges to be dropped with no further investigation. This would implicate that both were either members of the group or that some other form of influence was used upon them. Since the judge, the Sheriff, ONeal and Yates would have moved in the same social circles, it is very possible that all were involved heavily in this situation.
Given the fact that it would be very coincidental for 2 girls in a small community to require abortions in such a short space of time, I feel that Katherine Cross was murdered because she was either the source of the leak to the authorities or she threatened to be. In other words Katherine Cross was killed to keep her silent.
During the investigation of this case Mary visited the town of Konawa and tried to obtain the assistance of the local police in obtaining information. She was met with a reluctance to participate and eventually misleading information that was meant to drive her away from the community.
This leads me to one final summation of this case. Either there are still relatives of the participants of this group alive and living in Konawa or the Sheriffs department is so heavily involved that they fear that exposure of this information would ruin its reputation.
Whatever the real truth is it does not over shadow the fact that 2 young women died at the hands of unscrupulous individuals and a cover-up was initiated. They truly died at the hands of "human wolves".