The Case Of The Anonymous Corpse

PrintPrintEmailEmail

This case has been pending… for more than 21 years, and it would be a matter of great regret, and a reproach to our method of administering justice if, after six laborious and lengthy trials, an error had crept into die record of such consequence as to require reversal.

In any event, a seventh trial was then too much to contemplate even for the parties themselves; and a settlement with the last of the insurance companies was finally reached. (Counting accumulated interest, the “widow” eventually received a total of $35,700 from the three companies.) She had been for some years happily remarried, with no apparent apprehensions of bigamy; and whether or not her sang-froid was justified, it would not be too long before a future Chief Justice of the United States, Charles Evans Hughes, would gain first fame by his investigation of New York life insurance scandals.

The truth in the Hillmon case is as debatable today as it was when it began. Some twenty years after the last court decision the dean of Kansas journalists, T. A. McNeal, in a book of reminiscences, When Kansas Was Young , would express the novel opinion that Hillmon did conspire to defraud the insurance companies, but that something went wrong and he was really killed at Crooked Creek. McNeal is entitled to respect because he began his newspaper career on the Medicine Lodge Cresset in the spring of 1879, just after the first inquest; and if in the next fifty years or so either Hillmon or Walters had ever been heard from, McNeal would have reported it. However, his little book does not reveal how or why he came to his odd conclusion.

You now have all the facts and theories that are known; perhaps the best way to conclude is with the words with which Justice Brewer, a son, grandson, and nephew of clergymen, concluded his charge to the jury in the second trial:

Consider all the facts in the case. Fear not. Be just; and may that infinite Being, who from His unseen throne in the center of this mystic universe, who sees and knows the very fact, help you to be strong and guide you to truth.