Jul 16, 2011

And a Libby Murder!!!

Imagine my surprise to find a murder while looking for an obituary for Great Grand Aunt Florence’s son, Morris Vere Hardy! Morris was born in 1900 to Florence Libby Hardy and her husband, Sylvester P. Hardy. Another boy, Roscoe Appleton Hardy, was born in 1902, but he died in 1905. I have not uncovered the cause of that death yet. Morris married Viola Zable in 1920 in Storm Lake, Buena Vista County, Iowa, but by 1925 they were in divorce mode. Here are some of the many articles I uncovered on the murder:

1925 Nov 16, LeMars Globe-Post, P16, LeMars, Iowa
Flickinger Held in Murder of Morris Hardy
Will Investigate Thoroughly Says Hi Yackey, State Detectice [sic], of Council Bluffs
Marcus News: A few hours following the arrival of Hi Yackey, state detective of Council Bluffs, to probe into the murder of Morris V. Hardy, here yesterday, Ed Flickinger was taken to Cherokee and held for investigation. "We will leave no stone unturned to ferret out who the murderer was," Mr. Yackey said.

Funeral services for Morris Hardy were conducted at the Federated church in Washta Sunday afternoon and hundreds attended. Miss Gertrude Weaver, attended with members of her family and laid a floral tribute on the casket of her slain lover. Hundreds thronged the new Brink funeral home Saturday when Coroner G. A. Brink conducted the inquest over the body of Morris V. Hardy, who was cruelly murdered on a lonely road near Marcus Nov. 2. Although an investigation equally as probing as a grand jury might conduct lasting throughout the day, failed to link any person with the crime.

S. P. Hardy, father of the victim came here from his home in Center View, Mo., and was a pathetic figure when he took the stand as the first witness called. Aside from identifying the body of the murdered man as his son, he was not questioned.

Miss Gertrude Weaver, the 22 year old school teacher, for whose love two men pined, it is said, was on the witness stand for more than two hours and in a straight forward manner recited in minute detail all of the events leading up to the time when Hardy left her at the Flickinger home about midnight, Sunday night, shortly before the tragedy. Miss Weaver stated she had taught in the Harris Independent school last year and this year and boarded at the Frank Flickinger home, that during that time she kept company with 18 year old Eddie Flickinger when she was not with Morris Hardy whom she met last June. On the witness stand she admitted that both young men resented her going with the other and on one occasion not long ago Eddie Flickinger had threatened her by saying, "I'll get even with you," and when asked what he meant had retorted, "You'll know."

Both parents of young Flickinger were called on the witness stand and admitted their son left home sometime between eight and nine o'clock Sunday night. Frank Flickinger also identified the rifle which was taken from the Flickinger home as his and told of having exploded six shells in hunting stray dogs on Saturday before the murder. Authorities state that the six bullets found in the murdered man's head were of the same make as those found in the rifle.

Although Eddie Flickinger was given a grilling, he made no admissions considered damaging. He failed however to give a complete alibi Sunday night from the hours of nine until two; only to say he spent the time on the road repairing a puncture on the tire.

He stayed all night at the Bennett home near Quimby where he had been picking corn. Members of the family have no recollections of hearing him return that night. The witness when questioned as to his fondness for the school teacher made light of it and said he only went with her for pastime. On the witness stand, he was apparently unruffled.

John Leeper, a neighbor living in Tilden township 1-3/4 miles from the scene of the tragedy, described in detail the finding of the body in the Ford sedan Tuesday. He said beside the mail carrier who later made the discovery of the body, two men, Henry Montague and Mr. Robeson passed close to the ill fated sedan.

In attempting to shed some light on the theory that Hardy was the victim of a black mail gang Gus Johnson, a former chum of Hardy's was called to testify. He told the jury that Hardy had admitted once that he had been blackmailed. All efforts to get Johnson to acknowledge that Hardy had been mixed up recently with people at a road house near Quimby failed when he repeatedly answered, "They didn't have any trouble while I was there."

Mysterious Trio
Another of the many angles to the mysterious case was brought out when witnesses were called to tell of three suspicious characters seen loitering around the service station in Cherokee Sunday night. According to Frank Deede, the men were apparently watching the Rialto theater where Hardy and Miss Weaver were spending the evening. Herbert Traum, night man at the Surles and Dunn café, also told of seeing the same trio in a Ford roadster near Quimby Sunday afternoon. One of the men who had been drinking asked Traum later why he was following them. Some who believe that more than one party was implicated in the murder, are wondering if these three strange men may know of the crime.

L. M. Miller, C. W. Dorr, and W. D. Hazen, formed the coroner's jury and returned a verdict that Hardy came to his death by strangulation and gun shot wounds committed by unknown persons or person with intent to commit murder. 

1926 Jan 15, LeMars Semi-Weekly Sentinel, P1-2, LeMars, Iowa
Youth Unmoved Under Sentence
Judge Says Best Remedy to Break up Crime is Punish Speedily
Edward[sic] Flickinger, 18 year old farm boy, who confessed he shot and killed Morris Hardy, a former convict, because he was jealous of Hardy’s attentions to Miss Gertrude Weaver, country school teacher, who roomed at the Flickinger home, was sentenced to fifty years in the state penitentiary Tuesday by District Judge Wagner, presiding at the Cherokee county district court.  The only emotion shown by Flickinger was when asked to stand before sentence was pronounced.  He brushed a few tears from his eyes, but stoically stood unmoved as the court read the sentence.

The convicted man’s father, mother and two sisters broke down and sobbed audibly during the talk, in which Judge Wagner tartly commented on Flickinger’s case and its relation to existing social conditions.  The judge took opportunity to point out to Flickinger that the crowd of spectators filling the small courtroom was not interested in Flickinger especially, but desired entertainment.  In part, the presiding judge said:  “This world is going to seed on entertainment.  Mr. Flickinger, it is not because the crowd is interested in you that they fill this courtroom, but it is because they are curious and want to be entertained.  Now people have gone so far as to get entertainment even if it means the cost of a human soul.  I heard today that if the Methodist minister of this town announced a scandal in this church for next Sunday, he wondered if the crowd would be as large as in this courtroom.  There is no justification for you to do this deed – perhaps the whole truth is not out – but at any rate you are guilty.  The court gave you the benefit of the doubt when it decided on second degree murder, which carries a sentence ranging from 10 years to life imprisonment.  In order to make an object lesson to others this court must stand firm. 

“You cannot be a murderer and get by with a light sentence, even though you are only 18 years old.  While, perhaps differing from others as to the question of punishment, the causes of crime and so forth, I feel that the best remedy to protect society is to break up crime and then speedily administer punishment, as will be done in this case.  The duty and responsibility rests on the court to pronounce judgment on a fellowman.  The court must do what it believes its duty on the facts and circumstances surrounding this case.

“There are three motives for punishment:  (1)  To reform wrongdoers; (2)  that punishment may be the object lesson of others, and (3) that society may be protected against criminals.  I do not place a great deal of importance on the first mentioned factor.  As to the second, I think it should bear most consideration.  I have little faith that men and women are made better by going to the penitentiary, and I do not know why Mr. Flickinger committed this deed.  There might be several reasons.  I would not give this boy a light sentence for fear others would do the same thing.”

1926 Jan 14, LeMars Globe-Post, P1, LeMars, Iowa
Flickinger Gets 50 Years in Pen
Washta Youth Retains Composure as He Hears Fate – Sister Cries When Penalty Read
Cherokee, Ia., Jan. 14 (Special) – Judge Henry Wagner of Sigourney late Friday afternoon sentenced Edward[sic] Flickinger, 18 year old son of a Washta, Ia., farmer, to spend 50 years in the state penitentiary at Ft. Madison for the murder of Morris Hardy, a farm hand.  Judge Wagner fixed the guilt as second degree murder at the conclusion of the hearing of testimony to measure the degree of the crime.  Flickinger entered a plea of guilty yesterday to “homicide as charged in the indictment.”

Sister Breaks Down
Appeal bond was fixed at $30,000.  Only once did the prisoner show emotion and that was when his sister broke down and cried.  At all other times he was apparently unconcerned and faced Judge Wagner without visible signs of regret.  Flickinger shot and killed Hardy when they quarreled over the latter’s attentions to Miss Gertrude Weaver, a teacher who boarded at the Flickinger home.

Miss Weaver Testifies
Among the seven witnesses examined Friday in the Flickinger murder case, Gertrude Weaver, school teacher friend of Flickinger and Hardy, the slain man, took the stand for the state and testified that before his first confession in which he accused her of firing the fatal shots, Flickinger had threatened to get even with her.  After making his first confession and before making his second confession, Flickinger admitted in conversation with her that he killed Hardy, she said.  Since making his second confession he had apologized to her for his effort to make her a party to the murder.

Coroner Brink, Dr. Knox and four farmers of the Quimby neighborhood were other witnesses.  The coroner testified as to the evidence given at the inquest, Dr. Knox as to the nature of Hardy’s wounds, and neighbors as to their acquaintance with Hardy and Flickinger and their movements preceding the crime.  The little courtroom here was packed to suffocation.  One man fainted in the jam. 

This was a never-before-told tale from the history of the Libby family. In the end, Edwin Flickinger confessed to the shooting, first trying to implicate Gertrude, then confessing that he acted alone. He was tried in January 1926, found guilty and sentenced to 50 years at Fort Madison state penitentiary. 


Morris' wife, Viola, was in divorce court about the time of her husband's death but before his body was found. Upon returning to her home after obtaining her divorce decree, she learned of his death. He was apparently killed on a Saturday night/early Sunday morning. The next day the postman passed by on this lonely stretch of road, assumed the occupant was hunched over lighting a cigarette, and went on his route. The next day it didn't seem as likely that the occupant of the car was still lighting a cigarette, so the body was discovered on Tuesday. According to records I found on Ancestry and in news archives, Viola remarried two months after the trial. Gertrude, the school teacher involved, secretly married Ralph Fritz, also of Cherokee, in South Dakota in April of 1929.  Edwin Flickinger was released from prison sometime prior to 1952 when he married Aris Thomas Nordstrom Dillon Conroy of Sioux City, Iowa.  He died in 1988 in Sioux City, Iowa.


1930 Apr 17, Emmetsburg, P9, Emmetsburg, Iowa
Mother of Quimby Convict
Killed in Auto Accident.  Son Came Home to Funeral
Eddie Flickinger, who is doing duty in the Fort Madison penitentiary for complicity in the Quimby bank robbery last fall[sic, murder of Morris Hardy], was allowed to return home a few days ago to attend the funeral of his mother.  He was permitted to come without a guard.  Hi Yackey, the well known state agent, considers the young man’s word as good as his bond.  Mrs. Flickinger, the mother of the convict, met her death under rather sad circumstances.  She and her two daughters were at Cherokee buying commencement dresses for the girls.  On their way home their car overturned three times, pinning Mrs. Flickinger beneath.  She was fatally injured but she retained consciousness until the last.

1930 Apr 17, Hawarden Independent, P14, Hawarden, Iowa
Mrs. Frank Flickinger of Cherokee was fatally injured the evening of April 5th when the automobile in which she was riding turned over in a ditch, pinning Mrs. Flickinger underneath.  She suffered an injury to her neck which caused partial paralysis and this is thought to have been the cause of her death.  Mr. Flickinger was driving and he believes that he applied the brakes too quickly when a rear tire went flat, causing the front wheels to lock.  Mrs. Flickinger lived four days following the accident.  The other occupants of the car escaped with minor injuries.  Mrs. Flickinger, who was 44 years of age, is survived by her husband, two daughters and one son.

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