People v. Pfanschmidt

Citation104 N.E. 804,262 Ill. 411
Decision Date14 April 1914
CourtIllinois Supreme Court


Error to Circuit Court, Adams County; Guy Williams, Judge.

Ray Pfanschmidt was convicted of murder in the first degree, and he brings error. Reversed and remanded.Govert & Lancaster, of Quincy, for plaintiff in error.

P. J. Lucey, Atty. Gen., Fred G. Wolfe, of Paloma, State's Atty., and Arthur R. Roy, of Quincy (John E. Wall, of Quincy, of counsel), for the People.


At the January term, 1913, of the circuit court the grand jury of Adams county returned four indictments against plaintiff in error, Ray Pfanschmidt; one charging him with the murder of his sister, Blanch Pfanschmidt, another with the murder of his father, Charles A. Pfanschmidt, a third with the murder of his mother, Matilda Pfanschmidt, and a fourth with the murder of Emma Kaempen, a school-teacher who boarded at his father's home. On a trial before a jury under the indictment for the murder of his sister, a verdict of guilty was returned, and his punishment fixed at death. After motions for new trial and in arrest of judgment had been overruled he was sentenced to be hanged on October 18, 1913. The record has been brought to this court for review.

In September, 1912, Charles A. Pfanschmidt, the father, was a farmer living about 10 miles southeast of Quincy, Ill., and from 4 to 5 miles northwest of Payson, on the north side of a road running southeasterly from Quincy to Payson. His family consisted of himself, his wife, Matilda, the son, plaintiff in error, who was then 20 years of age, and the daughter, Blanch, 14 years of age. Emma Kaempen, a young lady from Quincy, had entered the home as a boarder early in September, being a teacher in a country school in the neighborhood. During September, and for some weeks before, Ray, who prior to that time made his home with his parents, had been engaged upon a contract for excavating for a railroad switch and coal sheds upon the property of J. L. Frese, just north of the city of Quincy, and about 14 miles from the Pfanschmidt home. On the Frese premises he had established a camp of two tents in an open field about 300 feet east of Twelfth street and a short distance north of the main line of the Burlington Railroad. One tent was used for sleeping purposes by him and one of his men; the other being used for supplies. The Pfanschmidtfarmhouse was a frame building two stories high, containing five rooms, and faced south. A narrow north and south hallway was in the center. A room opened into it on each side, both on the first and second floors, and the kitchen opened off the east room on the first floor. A one-room cellar was under the east room, but did not extend beneath the hall or west room. The upper chambers were used as bedrooms, the east room usually occupied by the parents, and the west room by the daughter or guests of the family. The nearest neighbors were the Kaufmans, father and sons, about a quarter of a mile distant, on the opposite side of the Quincy and Payson road. Somewhat further away, to the northwest, were the Lehr brothers. Other neighbors lived at still great distances. On the south side of the Quincy and Payson road, opposite the Pfanschmidt home, another highway led directly south. A lane, forming almost a direct continuation of this latter highway, ran north, passing several feet west of the house, and continuing beyond it; there being no gate where it left the main highway and a fence on the west side only until the house was passed. The house stood some 300 feet north of the highway, with an orchard between it and the road, and the barns, granaries, and other outbuildings stood a short distance further to the north.

On Friday evening, September 27, 1912, Charles Pfanschmidt, his wife and daughter, and Miss Kaempen were in Payson at a political gathering, going in a two-seated surrey drawn by two horses. At about 10 o'clock the two young women were in the store of Harvey Groce, where they bought some candy, and all four left for home some time before 11 o'clock. All of them were apparently in good health and spirits, and none of them were afterwards seen alive. The following day none of them were seen about the Pfanschmidt premises, although Henry Kaufman and his sons were working in a neighboring field, from whence they commanded a view of the house and its approaches, and for two or three hours were cutting weeds along the highway just west of the lane. Several persons driving along the road past the house on Saturday were attracted by a strong odor, which some of them said they thought came from burning flesh. In the opinion of all these witnesses the smell came from the Pfanschmidt place. This odor was noticed in the morning, and became more pronounced later in the day. About 11 o'clock on Saturday evening one of the Kaufman boys (Gus) returning in a buggy from a call approached the Pfanschmidt premises on the highway leading north to them, and opposite the lane he turned to the northwest on the Quincy and Payson road and thence to his home, but saw no one about the Pfanschmidt place. E. M. Miller testified that shortly after half past 11 o'clock the same night, while driving a team of mules to Quincy, being at that time about eight or nine miles southeast of the Pfanschmidt place, he saw a fire in the direction of that farm. Driving on through Payson and along the Quincy and Payson road, he found the residence, when he reached it, practically destroyed by the fire; only one corner post standing; the metal roof having fallen upon the burning débris. Several neighbors were already there, and one, whom he overtook, rode with him to the fire. The earliest arrival was Henry Schrecke, who saw the fire 10 minutes after 2 o'clock from his farm west of the Kaufman farm. Following him came the Lehr brothers and other neighbors. The horses and surrey used by the family Friday night were found in one of the barns, the horses in their usual places, unharnessed, and the surrey in the runway in the barn. No attempt was made to extinguish the fire until the arrival of Henry Geisel, a brother-in-law of Charles A. Pfanschmidt, who had been telephoned to at his home about 7 miles to the northwest near the Quincy and Payson road, and who arrived with his son shortly before 5 o'clock. They then commenced pouring water upon the hot metal roof and burning débris covered by it. When it was sufficiently cooled the roof was removed, and below were found four bodies, which were taken out and placed in a canvas and later in the day were taken to an undertaking parlor in Quincy, where a post mortem examination was held by several physicians. The bodies of the three women were found in the west half of the house; the two younger women being side by side on a mattress. The fourth body was found in the cellar. All of the bodies were badly burned and disfigured. The hands of Blanch Pfanschmidt were burned off and the arms were burned to the elbow. Her feet were burned off, and limbs burned almost to the knees. One side of the head was completely destroyed. Her hair, in two braids, was under the body. The remains of Emma Kaempen, found by her side, showed a fracture of the bone over the left eye and another on top of the head. There was much blood on the mattress upon which these two bodies were found. So little remained of the body found in the cellar that the physicians could not determine its sex. The flesh and bones of the head, arms, shoulders, upper trunk, legs, and half of the lower trunk were all gone, but a part of one thigh and one side of the lower trunk being unconsumed. The doctors testified that this body had been dismembered before being burned, the flesh cut off with a knife, and the thigh bone severed with a saw. The remains of the two young women were identified by several of the neighbors, and also by the plaintiff in error, before they were removed to Quincy. While water was being poured upon the burning débris, two of the neighbors going into the barnyard found horse and buggy tracks which turned from the northwest into the Pfanschmidt lane from the Quincy and Payson road, going north past the house, and turning to the east between the granary and chicken house and into the barnyard, there describing a circle with an inner diameter of about 9 feet, then passing out again into the lane and thence to the main highway and to the northwest, apparentlymaking no stop at any point within the premises. A light rain fell early Saturday evening and settled the dust, forming a light crust on the surface of the traveled roadways; but the evidence is to the effect that it made no mud. The buggy tracks in this crust or dust are described by some witnesses as flat and by others as somewhat rounded. Many of the witnesses who examined them that morning testified they were made by steel tires, while others testified they were made by rubber tires. The horses' tracks were of a shod team of small horses, about which the great majority of the witnesses discovered no peculiarities on this Sunday morning. The tracks made by the horse and buggy driven by Gus Kaufman turning northwest in front of the Pfanschmidt residence onto the Quincy and Payson road were made before these tracks going in and coming out of the Pfanschmidt lane.

Plaintiff in error, though a minor, had been working for a number of persons in blasting stumps, ditching, and other work, using dynamite and other explosives, and was also carrying on a contract for excavating for J. L. Frese for a switch and coal sheds, as heretofore stated. Between half past 5 and 6 o'clock on Friday afternoon, September 27th, he left his camp at Frese's with his team and buggy. This was a small team of sorrels, each with a white streak on its face, and each weighing between 900 and 1,000 pounds. The buggy was an undercut buggy of standard tread, 5 feet and 2 inches wide. His camp was located a short distance...

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