Halloween Homicide: Murder of Walter Schenck 1902

Murder Victim

Walter D. Schenck
26-year-old Teamster
City Constable
Cause of Death: Gunshot
Motive: Robbery

Murder Scene and Date

Front Gate, Schenck Home
210 Second Street
Adair, Iowa
Adair County
October 31, 1902


By Nancy Bowers
Written July 2011

location of Adair, Iowa

location of Adair, Iowa

Walter D. Schenck was a young teamster who had worked hard and saved his money to buy a home at 210 Second Street in Adair, where he lived with his wife Ida and their three children. Schenck also served as an Adair City Constable.

Anticipating rowdy celebrants and pranksters on Halloween night of 1902, the city deployed Schenck and other constables to work extra time to prevent mischief and vandalism — what one newspaper referred to as “depredations.”

When he left for patrol duty that Friday night after supper, Schenck had a small amount of money in his pocket and carried an umbrella. He was last seen about 9:00 p.m. making his rounds.

☛ Day After Halloween ☚

from the Cedar
Rapids Evening Gazette

Early the next morning, 26-year-old Schenck was found near his own front gate, shot in the head. Nearby was a revolver from which one cartridge was discharged.

Rigor mortis had set in, indicating time of death at several hours before. Schenck’s clothes were muddy and his cash missing. His umbrella was found two blocks away.

Early newspaper accounts reported the death was a suicide, the fifth within recent years in Adair.

However, Schenck’s muddy and disheveled clothing indicated a struggle had taken place, suggesting another person — an assailant — was involved.

A coroner’s inquest ruled Schenck died from a gunshot wound to the head. However, the jury made no attempt to definitively declare the death either a suicide or homicide.

Local authorities admitted they were “completely baffled” by the Halloween death.

☛ Walter Schenck’s Life ☚

Photo by “FHL”

Walter D. Schenck was born September 13, 1876 in Washington Township of Adair County to Elizabeth M. Crabb and Darwin M. Schenck. He had three sisters — Cora Schenck, Jennie Schenck Consolver, Alice R. Schenck Herman, and Ethel M. Schenck Corrough, as well as three brothers: Willis W. Schenck, Enos R. Schenck, and Arthur D. Schenck.

On October 20, 1897, he married Ida Lillian Volz in Adair and the couple had three children: Edna Irene Schenck Barnes, George W. Schenck, and Helen S. Schenck Johnson.

When he died, Schenck’s children were all under the age of four; baby Helen was only one month.

Walter Schenck is buried in Sunny Hill Cemetery in Adair beneath a stone erected by the Woodmen of the World.

Please note: Use of information in this article should credit Nancy Bowers as the author and Iowa Unsolved Murders: Historic Cases as the source.



  • ☛ Anita Tribune, November 6, 1902.
  • ☛ Cedar Rapids Evening Gazette, November 8, 1902.
  • ☛ “A Chapter of Casualties,” Cedar Rapids Evening Gazette, November 3, 1902.
  • ☛ “Murdered At Adair,” Elgin Echo, November 13, 1902.

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