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McLane Murder-Suicide, 1932


Posted By: S. Ferrall - IAGenWeb volunteer
Date: 9/10/2014 at 00:46:22

Wife and Daughter of Deputy Sheriff Are Found Shot in Elkader Home

Elkader, Ia., Jan 9 - The bodies of Mrs. Lewis S. McLane, 46 years old, and her daughter, Frances, 18 years old, were found in their home late Saturday afternoon by the husband and father when he returned from his work at the court house where he is employed as a deputy sheriff.

The girl had been shot through the head, from the back, while a hole in the right side of the head of the mother indicated where the fatal bullet had penetrated the brain. Both died instantly.

The bodies were discovered by Deputy Sheriff McLane shortly after 5 o'clock. He had returned to his home from the office located in the court house. The doors were locked. He entered through a window and found the bodies.

The daughter's body was found slumped over an organ stool. She had a violin in her hand, indicating that she had been practicing her music lesson. The body of the mother was found on the floor nearby, a 38-calibre revolver lying on the floor beneath it. There were two empty chambers in the gun, which was one the deputy sheriff kept at home for emergency purposes.

McLane, after his discovery, rushed to the porch of his home and shouted for help. A boy, 12 years old, who had been coasting on a hill in the vicinity, rushed to his home and notified his mother who in turn, called an acquaintance in the other end of town. Others, however, had been attracted by the shouts of McLane and an ambulance was rushed to the scene. The bodies were taken to the undertaking establishment operated by County Coroner Leslie Oelke while McLane was taken to the home of a relative nearby.

A cursory examination revealed that both had been dead between two and three hours before the bodies were discovered. Sheriff E.H. McGhee of Clayton county was in McGregor when the tragedy was discovered and was notified immediately to return. He arrived here shortly afterwards and opened an investigation.

No motive for the apparent murder and suicide was apparent, as there was no known dissension in the family. Deputy Sheriff McLane, his wife and daughter moved here from Strawberry Point about a year ago when Sheriff McGhee took office. There were no notes left by Mrs. McLane or the daughter and the double death was a baffling mystery to practically all residents of Elkader.

County Attorney F.E. Sharp, who made an investigation shortly after the bodies were discovered, indicated that it was his belief that it was a clear case of murder and suicide. The county coroner, Leslie Oelke, however, declined to make a public statement, declaring that the facts in the case would undoubtedly be brought out at the inquest which has been scheduled for Monday.

After interviewing Sheriff McGhee and Deputy Sheriff McLane, as well as other Clayton county officials, here tonight, the representative of the Telegraph-Herald and Times-Journal was convinced that it is the opinion officially that the double slaying is a case of murder and suicide. The officials appeared convinced that Mrs. McLane shot her daughter and then turned the gun on herself.

McLane was located in the county jail office in the company of Sheriff McGhee. He talked freely, but said that he didn't understand the entire circumstances himself. He stated his opinion that it was a case of murder and suicide. His wife and daughter, he said, made a visit to Strawberry Point, their former home, yesterday without his knowledge and made the trip by bus. He said that since the finding of their bodies he learned of this, and had been told by Sheriff McGhee that while in Strawberry Point his wife had consulted a lawyer of that place, Alex Holmes.

"We had no trouble in the family," he said, "but I understand that it will develop at the inquest on Monday that my wife told Mr. Holmes some kind of a story indicating jealousy about something." Mr. Holmes had called Sheriff McGhee, the man added, and following an appointment made with him had told the sheriff that Mrs. McLane reported to him. He added that since he learned of all this he had found out from Sheriff McGhee that the latter had intended to see his wife Sunday and attempt to straighten out the whole difficulty.

The bereaved man told a vivid story during the interview of the discovery of the bodies of his wife and daughter. He stated that when he left home at 12:40 o'clock, after having luncheon with his wife and daughter, he was ignorant of their visit yesterday to Strawberry Point. He said that he remained at the court house until 5 o'clock and then went to his home. When he found the door locked, he discovered that there was a key in the lock, on the inside, so that he could not use his own key. He had found the place locked once before, he said, on which occasion he entered the house through a window. Being unable to get any response to his repeated knockings, he turned to the same window on this occasion. It was not locked, so he opened it and entered the house. The discovery of the bodies followed.

"My first thought," he said, "was that they had been suffocated by coal gas fumes. The furnace is a hot air one and there was a grate just behind where my wife's body was lying. But when I went to lift her from the floor I got blood on my hands and clothes, and realized at once that they had been killed." He described the position of his daughter's body on the stool before the organ, and said that he then believed someone had entered the home and killed them both. That, he said, sent him rushing from door to door to determine how anyone had gained entrance and gotten away after the slayings.

His investigations, he stated, showed that all of the doors were locked on the inside. Then he thought of a cellar door leading to the outside of the house, so he rushed down, finding it also locked on the inside. This convinced the man that his wife had shot the daughter and herself for some reason unknown to him.

The gun was a 38-calibre revolver which is the property of the county and had been kept on a shelf in the house ever since he has held county office. It was his opinion that there were two exploded shells in the gun, and he said he always kept one exploded shell in it. However, as the gun was in the coroner's possession last night, neither McLane nor Sheriff McGhee would state positively how many empty shells are in the gun now.

It was stated here tonight that Mrs. McLane has a sister living in Dubuque, by name of Mrs. William Dunn.

~Telegraph-Herald and Times-Journal, Dubuque, Iowa, Sunday morning edition, January 10, 1932


Note: the following article restated the details from the Sunday paper, only the portions regarding the funeral have been transcribed.


Monday, while county officials who seemed convinced that Mrs. Hazel McLane killed her daughter and then took her own life were preparing for the inquest, funeral services were being conducted in the room of the McLane home where the tragedy occurred.

Short funeral services were held at the home Monday afternoon at 12:45 o'clock, and then the bodies were taken to Strawberry Point, the former home of the McLanes, where services were held in the Methodist church. Burial was made in the Noble cemetery.

Six students of the Junior college at Elkader, where the McLane girl enrolled in September as a student, carried the casket holding her body. They were Burnell Stoops, Louis Wolf, Franck Asey, Carl Reiner, Gerald Poull and Melvin Jungblut. Six friends of the McLane family were casket bearers for Mrs. McLane. They were Claude Firman, H.L. Meyer, H.G. Campbell, E.W. Hahn, H. Esch and Don Courtnage.

~Telegraph-Herald and Times-Journal, Dubuque, Iowa, Monday evening edition, January 11, 1932; a photo of Frances accompanied this article (see her obituary on the obit board)


Note: this lengthly article has been condensed by the transcriber:

Elkader, Ia., Jan. 12 - Mrs. Hazel McLane, 46, wife of Deputy Sheriff Louis F. McLane, shot her daughter, Frances, 18, and then ended her own life with the revolver with which she killed the girl. That was the verdict returned by a coroner's jury at the end of the inquest held here today. The verdict was returned after the jury of three, G.J. Graf, D.E. Gleason and Charles Meder, had listened for more than three hours to the testimony of McLane and other witnesses.

Charges involving her husband in unfaithfulness and he and Sheriff E.H. McGhee in crimes, including a bank robbery, which Mrs. McLane made to Alex Holmes, Strawberry Point attorney, 24 hours before he and her daughter died, were told to the jury by the attorney. Mr. Holmes expressed his belief that Mrs. McLane was insane.

Another witness, Mrs. Bertha Antwine, Elkader, told the jury of Mrs. McLane having told her of her husband being unfaithful with a woman living between Elkader and Wadena, and that the deputy had contracted a disease and Mrs. McLane was afraid she had the disease and had went to Dr. Howard for an examination.

The question of the sanity of Mrs. McLane was made by County Attorney F.E. Sharp during his questioning of Dr. M.E. Kallman, Elkader. The physician stated he held no opinion as to whether or not Mrs. McLane had taken her own life and said that jealousy was not a sign of insanity. Mrs. Antwine also stated that she felt Mrs. McLane was not insane.

Other witnesses were Milo Munger, Arnold Gostin, Alfred Sekfneider, Mrs. Pearl Hugginson, George Cassiday and Mr. & Mrs. James Fitzpatrick; all persons who went to the McLane home immediately after the double tragedy was discovered.

~Telegraph-Herald and Times-Journal, Dubuque, Iowa, Tuesday evening edition, January 12, 1932

Obits of Lewis McLane (who died in 1958), Hazel McLane & Frances McLane have been posted to the Obituary board


Clayton Documents maintained by Sharyl Ferrall.
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