20-year-old Hired Girl
Henry and Rebecca Russie Farm
Cause of Death: Stabbed, Slashed, and Clubbed
Murder Scene and Date
August 26, 1893
By Nancy Bowers
Written December 2010
August 26, 1893 was a late-summer Saturday, with a day of rest ahead.
That evening, 20-year-old Anna Weise felt like socializing when she finished her chores at the Henry and Rebecca Russie farm three-and-a half miles northeast of Green Mountain in Vienna Township of Marshall County.
Anna, the daughter of a local German farmer, was a tall, pretty girl who attracted the attentions of many young men in the neighborhood. So far none had won her heart.
She had worked for the Russie family since May and was industrious and steady there, just as she was with the Ernst families and others who employed her in the past.
After cooking supper and cleaning the kitchen, Anna bathed and fixed her auburn hair, which was sun-streaked from going without a hat. That night she pinned her hair up, although she sometimes crimped it or wore it braided or knotted into a bun.
Anna changed her clothes, putting on a striped underskirt and corset and then a black sateen skirt and red blouse; as usual, she wore no hat.
She left the Russie farm about 7:00 p.m., walking south towards the Ebenezer and Sarah Hill farm a half-mile away. The Hill’s son, Arthur, and his wife Laura, had their own house on the farm and Anna often visited there.
As she walked along the road, Anna encountered Dr. A.F. Walter and his wife Mary driving north in their buggy. Like all the neighbors, the Lows knew Anna; her brother Henry worked for them. The Lows were on their way to the Adam and Fannie Jackson home for a “sing” and stopped to invite Anna to go along and share a watermelon. But Anna said she was going to the Hill farm.
Shortly afterwards, brothers John and Frank Knight drove past Anna in separate wagons. Before they passed her, they stopped to talk with Anna’s employer Henry Russie and told him they were returning from hauling corn to Green Mountain.
At the Hill farm, Anna sat in the kitchen in a chair against an open door. Her mood was happy and light as she chatted with Laura Hill. Arthur’s brother Horace, who lived with his parents nearby, was also a friend of Anna but did not come over that night.
When Thomas and Mary Low drove back past the Hill farm later in the evening, they saw Anna sitting in the doorway. Lights were lit and voices came across the yard.
About 10:00 p.m., Anna left the Hill house to walk home alone. The moon was bright enough to illuminate her way.
☛ Horror Along the Road ☚
Not long afterwards, Henry Russie was helping his invalid wife Rebecca undress for bed when they heard screams. He thought it might be a pig, but Rebecca recognized Anna’s voice and pleaded with him to find out what was wrong. Russie rushed to the barn where his hired boy, 14-year-old Perry Greggs, was tending a sick foal and told him to investigate. Greggs was too fearful to go alone, so the two ran together towards the terrible cries.
Mid-way between the Russie and Hill farms and just west of the Cyrus and Emily Bennett farm, they found Anna on her back in a ditch. Her head pointed south and turned slightly; one leg was bent.
Russie thought Anna had fainted and sent Perry Greggs to bring Arthur Hill. While waiting for help, Russie lifted her head and turned it; the moon’s shadow from the weeds blocked her face and he had no lantern.
When Hill arrived at the scene with a light, he looked closely at Anna and saw she was dead. Three pools of blood were close by. Next to her lay a maple club two inches in diameter, broken into pieces and stained with blood.
Anna’s clothes were not torn or ripped, but the top of her dress was soaked with blood and her hair had fallen down and was tangled and coated in blood. Her throat was slashed and wounds could be seen in her chest.
Arthur Hill left to round up neighbors. Henry Russie let no one touch the broken club or trample the scene around the body. Some said he reported holding Anna’s head in his lap and crying; but he later disputed that.
When Hill arrived at the Bennett home at the far southeast corner of their farm and called out from his horse, Cyrus Bennett came to the door but opened it only partially. He would not permit his wife Emily to talk with Arthur Hill. However, Emily’s 22-year-old-son, Arthur Sherlock came out to join the search party for the assailant.
☛ Early Morning Inquest ☚
At 1:00 a.m. on Sunday morning, telegrams were sent from Green Mountain to Marshall County Coroner Dr. Wilfred F. David and Sheriff Jacob B. Pence, who arrived at the scene about 2:00 a.m.
Dr. David performed a general examination of the body in the moonlight. He noted neck injuries, wounds on her breasts, and a deep gash on the right side.
The other men helped Dr. David carry Anna’s body on a “shutter” to Henry Russie’s house; her hair hung over the sides and dripped blood. Her hands were covered in blood, her eyes were open and staring.
In the house with more light, David examined Anna’s clothes and the wounds more carefully.
On the spot, he held an inquest with a three-person coroner’s jury composed of men who were at the murder scene. They declared Anna was killed by “person or persons unknown.”
While the inquest was going on, neighbors viewed the scene in the rising sunlight.
Hairpins were scattered about. East of the road and across a wire fence was a slough thick with tall weeds, trampled down as if someone lay in wait there. Blood was on the fence where it was lifted to crawl through.
All day on Sunday, neighbors gathered at the Russie home. They viewed the body, consoled Anna’s parents who had arrived from their farm, and lingered in the yard talking and speculating about who could have done such a terrible thing.
☛ Autopsy ☚
On Tuesday, August 29, Dr. Winfield S. Devine helped Dr. David perform an autopsy at nearby Schoolhouse #5, the same one where Anna had attended classes and where the community held “meetings” or church services. It sat on the George M. Kinney property west of the Russie farm, today the southwest corner of Wallace Avenue and 130th Street.
Anna was stabbed in both the back and breast — a total of approximately 10 times. Her throat was slashed from right to left with three strokes – two short and not penetrating and a final one so deep and hard that her head was nearly severed.
She had two vertical scratches on the upper lip and chin, possibly from fingernails, and an inch-and-a-half abrasion on her chin.
Although there was no hymen present, Anna was not raped and was not pregnant, a finding that put to rest rumors that she was in “a delicate” position and was done away with by a lover who wanted to be free.
Prying open her fingers, Dr. David found long, reddish-auburn hairs. On her shoulder, he saw a lock of what looked like her own hair cut off in the knife attack. David saved both samples of hair for investigators.
☛ Anna Is Buried, At Least Temporarily ☚
Anna’s body was prepared for burial by furniture store owner Peter Ben Dixon, who served as an undertaker.
Her funeral was held at School House #5 on Wednesday, August 30 and Anna was buried in the Vienna Cemetery at Beaman. Her parents, German immigrants Marie Elizabeth Fredereka Moeller and Henry Weise, Sr., grieved along with Anna’s five siblings — Henry, Jr., Gus, William H., Amos L., and Bessie.
☛ Emotions Run Strong ☚
Marshall County citizens were highly agitated about the murder of Anna Wiese and emotions ran strong; one newspaper reported:
“The whole community is searching for the murderer, bent on summary vengeance.”
The day after the murder, Iowa Governor Horace Boies visited the crime scene and pronounced “the outrage” the most cruel and atrocious act he ever saw.
Then Governor Boies and Marshall County Sheriff Jacob B. Pence announced a $1,000 reward for the arrest and conviction of the killer; the Cedar Rapids Police Department contributed another $500.
☛ An Arrest is Made ☚
On August 30 – the day of Anna’s funeral — Albert E. “Bert” Isenhart, a 23-year-old barber who previously worked in nearby Gladbrook and was known to admire Anna, was arrested for the murder at Rolfe and taken to Marshalltown. He was of medium height and weight and had an odd scar below his lip from being kicked by a horse. The Sioux Valley News, in reporting Eisenhart’s arrest, stated, “He may be lynched.”
From the night of the murder on, the neighborhood buzzed about Bert Isenhart. Everyone knew he was stuck on Anna. A letter from him in her possessions said he sold some items and acquired a sum of money for them to marry; it stated his affection and begged her not to laugh at his declarations of love.
Anna met Bert Isenhart when he worked at the Emily and Cyrus Bennett home during the spring of 1892. Anna’s brother Henry Wiese said Isenhart called on Anna several times, but she was not interested.
On the Sunday before the murder, he came to see her but she was at church at School House #5 with the Lows. Isenhart went there and gave Anna a ride home; at that time, she rejected his suit. Dejected, Isenhart bought a train ticket to Dubuque about mid-week and disappeared.
Isenhart, however, had a solid alibi for the murder. He worked with a haying crew in Pocahontas County all day Saturday and spent the night at the farmer’s home.
Many, especially Emily Bennett – for whom he once worked — continued to blame Bert Isenhart, however.
☛ Early Investigation ☚
Marshall County Sheriff Jacob Pence requested assistance from Hardin County Sheriff John T. Boylan, Franklin County Sheriff W.T. O. Rule, and Tama County Sheriff E.C. Foster.
Marshall County Attorney James L. Carney worked the case from the beginning as well.
Much of the investigation concentrated on the 160-acre Bennett farm just east of the murder. The Bennetts’ land was enclosed by the wire fence where blood stains were left. Footprints were found leading from the scene, around the slough, and towards their house.
The county sheriffs working together combed the Bennett farm and home. Constable W.H. Wilson of Marshalltown discovered what appeared to be hand prints in blood on the second board from the top on a wooden cow gate. A one-inch blood stain was found on the frame of the kitchen door and more blood was located on a porcelain screen door knob.
Inside the Bennett house, Sheriff Pence found a blue, blood-stained blouse in a trunk under papers. All the buttons on it matched except the bottom one, which was metal and looked to be from a man’s trousers.
Earlier, a button similar to the matched ones on the blouse was found midway between the murder scene and the Bennett house
On Saturday, September 2, Sheriff Pence burned the weeds in the slough near the murder scene to check for weapons or other clues, but nothing was uncovered.
☛ “Investigation” Sideshow ☚
The large reward offered by the governor created a second agitation in the area, motivating detectives and would-be sleuths.
So eager were the community and law enforcement to solve the murder, that any and every “detective” was allowed to investigate in any way they chose, including exhumation of the body, which was done at least twice within two months.
Some claimed Anna’s body was dug up once so her eyes could be sent to Chicago for a “photograph” of the murderer to be obtained.
N.C. Hutchens of Whitten, who styled himself a “private detective,” convinced local farmer Samuel R. “Sam” Ernst, for whom Anna once worked, that he obtained a confession from 21-year-old Horace Hill. Horace was a brother to Arthur Hill, at whose house Anna was visiting the night of her murder. Hutchens also said he knew a young woman who went out with Horace Hill and reported he threatened to kill her if she would not yield to his demands.
In mid-October, Hutchens and Ernst “charged” Horace Hill with murder, restrained him, and took him to the Marshalltown jail. A warrant was sworn out on the word of the two accusers and Hill was arraigned before Justice of the Peace Stillman Stotts.
So strong was their belief in Horace Hill’s innocence, that neighbors posted his $10,000 bail; and he was released until the next term of court. After he established a solid alibi, Hill was exonerated. Soon afterwards, Hutchens fled the state, sending this illiterate letter to County Attorney Carney asking that Hill be let go:
Mr. Carney Sir I hav con clouded to Draw the ute a ginst horis hill. I have Concel a lower and take evra thing in consideration. I don’t think I can make it stick and I hant doan iney thing conterry to Law but I will say he did canfess and I will swear to it if I go to the pen. . . . you release the man and do it as quitley as you can and atch him and yo will get the wright man and if yo want me wright me and I will cone iney time I was coning to town this morning but miss the train I hope I hant Don iney harm and what I have doan will proave to bee good. Yours truly N.C. Hutchens yo will find me at Indianapolis Ind
Arthur Hill’s friends dwelt on the injustice, however, and agitated until authorities arrested Hutchens on kidnapping charges. He was found guilty and sentenced to six months in prison.
In late November, Horace Hill filed a suit claiming $10,000 damages from his accusers. Half the sum was for false imprisonment on the parts of both Ernst and Hutchens and half for slander by Ernst, whose valuable farm was attached for the whole amount of damages.
In early February 1894, a Marshalltown jury heard the case of slander against Ernst and, after deliberating 30 hours, was evenly split from the first ballot to the last. Within the next six months, Ernst left Marshall County, moving his family to Missouri.
☛ Investigation Closes In ☚
In October, Marshall County Sheriff Jacob B. Pence traveled to Chicago and hired Pinkerton Detective Barney Shultz, who then spent four weeks in Marshall County studying the murder.
During Shultz’s investigation a prime suspect emerged.
From the beginning, authorities assumed Anna was killed by a male. Early headlines like “Slain By An Unknown Man” were common, although Governor Boies reportedly said on visiting the crime scene:
“None but a frenzied woman could do such a bungling, hacking job.”
Pinkerton Detective Barney Shultz also believed it was committed by a woman, specifically Emily Bennett because of the blood stains on her fence, property, and blouse.
Neighbor Anna Sprecker was present when Shultz interrogated Emily and watched him take hair from her head to compare to that found clasped in Anna’s hand.
After Shultz left, Anna Sprecker and Emily went into the house, where Emily was highly agitated. She sat at a table and talked about Barney Schultz, scraping the table in front of her with her nails until it was white; when she got up to stand, her knees buckled. After that, others noticed that she was absent-minded, preoccupied, distressed, and sleepless.
Anna Sprecker said that Emily told her the victim was in the Bennett home the previous Sunday and sat with her son Arthur Sherlock in the kitchen. From the parlor Emily heard Anna talking immodestly about her conduct in a buggy with a young man and Arthur joined in. Even before the murder Emily had spoken of Anna in a negative way, saying she did things a “good girl” would not think of doing and “she rode every young fellow to death nearly that she went with.”
She also asked Anna Sprecker to go down to the slough with her the day after the murder and seemed nervous.
☛ Emily Bennett is Arrested ☚
On Thursday morning, November 9, a Marshall County grand jury returned an indictment against Emily Bennett for the murder of Anna Wiese. That afternoon, Sheriff Pence arrested her at her farm.
Anna Sprecker was there before the Sheriff arrived and saw Emily lifting up a part of the porch with one hand and poking a stick at a rat. Emily repeatedly said she felt bad and hadn’t been sleeping well.
Sheriff Pence found Emily Bennett inside the five-room, story-and-a-half house lying on a bed but wearing a dress and shoes. She claimed she had typhoid fever. Cyrus Bennett was gone to Gladbrook to consult a doctor about Emily’s “sickness,” and was not at the house, although her son Arthur Sherlock was.
At 2:00 p.m., Sheriff Pence arrived at the Marshalltown jail with Emily, accompanied by Arthur Sherlock. Once there, Emily collapsed from her “ailments,” which were labeled “a nervous attack.” Dr. A.F. Walter of Gladbrook examined her and prescribed medicine, although he told jailers he found nothing physically wrong.
Emily was placed in a cell with a Maud Stover, who later testified against her. Emily told Stover that if she “suffered,” others would “suffer as well” and that if she “had to go to the pen,” she “would have to go to the pen.”
The Cedar Rapids Evening Gazette described Emily Bennett for its readers:
Mrs. Bennett is an unprepossessing woman perhaps 45 years of age. She and her husband have lived in that vicinity for several years. They have not enjoyed great popularity among their neighbors, but nothing particularly to their discredit has been known in the past. Mrs. Bennett has been regarded as a rough, mannish sort of woman, capable of desperate deeds, perhaps like some women under the sway of strong passion.
☛ The Accused ☚
The suspected murderer was born Emily Winters Gardner in 1844 in Kane County, Illinois, the daughter of Elizabeth Tanner and Hiram S. Gardner; she a twin sister, Emma Gardner. In 1866, at the age of 22, she married George Sherlock in LaSalle County, Illinois. The Sherlocks lived briefly in Nebraska, where their only child, Arthur D. Sherlock, was born in 1872. Within a few years, the Sherlocks moved to Marshall County, Iowa.
In 1879, William Sherlock died. There were rumors that Emily killed him and hid his body in an old well. At the time of Emily’s arrest for murder Anna Wiese, the Rock Valley Register reported:
“Not much can be learned of [Sherlock’s] death, but it is stated that he either was murdered or committed suicide.”
For a time after she was widowed, Emily lived with her twin sister Emma Gardner Shattuck in Eden County. She worked as hired help on nearby farms to support herself and her young son.
In January 1886, Emily married Cyrus A. “Cy” Bennett, a man 9 years her junior, after knowing him for six months. When asked her age for the marriage certificate, Emily lied and said she was 36 (only 2 years older than Cyrus), when she was in fact 43.
☛ Legal Preliminaries ☚
After her arrest, Emily Bennett was sullen and morose and refused to talk. The Union Star wrote:
“Mrs. Bennett bears up remarkably well under the terrible strain, is calm, self-possessed, and frigid in her demeanor. All hope of her confessing has perished. She is non-committal and obstinate in defiance. Scores of women visit her daily in the jail, but she screens herself behind a newspaper, and will converse with no one. She utterly refuses to talk of the crime even with her most intimate friends, and it is evident that her wonderful nerve will be sufficient to sustain her through the greatest ordeal of her life.”
To represent Emily, the Bennetts hired the father-son legal team Oliver L. and Ernest Fawcett Binford and their colleague Obed Caswell.
On November 14, a large and curious crowd packed the courthouse for a bail hearing but was disappointed when Emily Bennett was not there. Her attorneys pleaded “not guilty” in her absence and argued for bail because the indictment did not specify first degree murder (only murder generally) and, therefore, it was not a capital offense. They also argued that because the trial could not be held until the next court term began in January, Emily’s “poor health” made confinement an “unnecessary cruelty.”
Judge S.A. Weaver ordered Emily Bennett held on $10,000 bail, which most of the community assumed the Bennetts could not make because their farm was already heavily mortgaged and they had few assets.
However, Emily Bennett posted the bond after 23 people — including Anna’s employer Henry Russie and her acquaintance Thomas Low, as well as Emily’s husband and son — put up the money. Bennett was released from jail on November 20.
The Cedar Rapids Evening Gazette described the scene when bond was announced:
“Emily Bennett received the news with singular indifference, in appearance at least. Scarcely a muscle in her face moved; she showed no joy, no elation, no excitement, and acted as if the whole thing was as natural as eating a breakfast. She put on her wraps and went away with her husband, driving out immediately to their home near the scene of the murder of which Mrs. Bennett is accused.”
So much criticism was leveled against those who went Bennett’s bail, that the bondsmen issued this statement:
“We, the undersigned bondsmen of Mrs. Emily Bennett, who is under indictment for the murder of Anna Wiese, hearing that certain rumors were current, namely: ‘That we as bondsmen, in signing her bond, virtually said that we believed in the innocence of defendant, and by our actions in the matter were to a certain degree shielding defendant;’ we, and each of us, say that the question of quilt of innocence of defendant was not taken into consideration, the facts of which we know nothing about; but as the court had said that the defendant could be admitted to bail, our action followed merely as that of friends and neighbors. We stand on neutral ground and want to see justice meted out to defendant, whether innocent or guilty.”
☛ Pre-Trial Maneuvering ☚
Evidence against Emily Bennett was circumstantial but strong. Her motive was that she thought Anna was exerting an immoral influence on her son Arthur Sherlock, causing him to stray away from a “good” girl he had courted for two years.
A rumored alternate theory was that Emily Bennett thought her husband Cyrus paid Anna attention. Still other gossip said that Anna knew the Bennetts killed someone who lived on their farm a few years before and was about to tell authorities.
The crime was so sensational and the trial so highly anticipated that area residents wanted to know every detail. Responding to that need, the Times-Republican ran this notice:
“The now Celebrated Case, the Trial, will commence in Marshalltown Jan. 8, 1894. So much interest has been shown in the case all over the state that the TIMES REPUBLICAN will give each day a full and complete report. An order for the Daily Times-Republican for one month (50 cents) will enable you to get this report. Order of our traveling agent, or send direct to the TIMES-REPUBLICAN, Marshalltown, Iowa.”
These daily, detailed newspaper reports — available on microfilm — are an excellent summation of events. Christina Meide has faithfully transcribed the articles for the website thenightwatchmanchronicles.com.
In late December, Bennett’s attorney Obed Caswell petitioned to have her case moved to the March term for more time to prepare.
Caswell also wanted to observe the outcome of the $10,000 slander, conspiracy, and malicious prosecution case of Horace Hill vs. S.R. Ernst. He hoped something would emerge from that trial to exonerate Bennett and put the blame on Hill.
On January 13, 1894, 10 of the 23 original bondsmen for Emily Bennett asked to be released, including Henry Russie and Thomas Low. They did not want to be a part of the continuance, according to one newspaper:
“Owing to the burden of dread and horror that has weighed upon them and their families since the commission of this terrible crime.”
On February 24, Obed Caswell asked the prosecution to declare the highest degree of murder charged, as the original indictment omitted that information; and he requested Emily Bennett be tried for assault with intent to commit murder only.
☛ Ghoulish Procedure ☚
In early January, Obed Caswell announced he would dig Anna’s body up again. The public was distressed by the previous exhumations and believed another could not happen because the ground was frozen. That was not the case, however.
Caswell gathered what he declared “reliable witnesses” to observe and hired Maurice Ricker, a science teacher at Marshalltown High School — whom he called “Professor Ricker” — to take samples of Anna’s hair.
A prominent businessman who participated in the exhumation but wanted to remain anonymous told the Evening Republican:
“I helped take up the body, pushed the glass lid of the casket part way back, and assisted Mr. Ricker in getting samples of the dead girl’s hair. Just as we were about to close the coffin again I discovered a bunch of hair in her right hand, which was clasped over the left of her breast. There was a white mould fully a quarter of an inch thick adhering to the face, hands and all exposed parts of the flesh. The hair, however, was free from this grave mould. That in her hand stood up in a sort of loop or bow, above the second finger, and the ends were between and apparently under the index and third fingers. I called Mr. Ricker’s attention to it and asked if we hadn’t better bring it along with us. He said it might be well to do so. I then reached under the glass and took the hair from the hand. It pulled as if being partially grasped or inserted under the fingers. I handed it to Mr. Ricker, who put it into an envelope and marked it “Hair in hand” and haven’t seen it since. The hair was about four inches in length.”
The hair found in Anna’s hand during the exhumation was dark and coarse like a man’s hair, completely different from the fine auburn hairs originally found.
Peter Ben Dixon and others who prepared the body for burial swore there was no hair in her hands when she was placed in her coffin.
Obed Caswell, it was speculated, paid someone to dig Anna up, place the dark hair in her hands, and rebury her for him to dig up again.
In all, Anna’s body was exhumed at least four times. The Waterloo Courier questioned the adage “there is rest in the grave.”
The Cedar Rapids Evening Gazette claimed the body was dug up three times “so far as is generally known, and the opinion prevails that the body has been surreptitiously taken up on one or more occasions. It is not even known that the remains are in the grave today.”
Rumors of Caswell’s prosecution for the exhumation circulated. The Pella Weekly Herald wrote:
“There is considerable feeling existing against the attorney for the defense in the alleged attempt to manufacture evidence and for continually disturbing the remains of Anna Weise without authority.”
☛ Trial ☚
The trial finally began in early April with 11th District Judge D.R. Hindman presiding. About 100 people were called for the jury pool and nearly 100 witnesses were subpoenaed.
In addition to law enforcement, Pinkerton Detective Barney Schultz, and medical experts, also subpoenaed were Vienna Township residents who were at the scene the night of the murder, attended the inquest, searched the fields, lived near the site, and were acquainted with Anna and Emily. In addition, Emily’s sister, husband, and son would testify.
The Prosecution attorneys were County Attorney James L. Carney and the Henry Elderkin Jewett Boardman. Although Emily was represented by the firm of Binford & Binford, attorney Obed Caswell would handle the courtroom duties.
Emily Bennett seemed untroubled by the trial. The Cedar Rapids Evening Gazette wrote:
“[She] has never exhibited the least sign of agitation or emotion. She talks little, manifests no fear but that she will be fully able to establish her innocence.”
Emily Bennett dressed in a black, loose-fitting dress with a gold-plated brooch at the throat and wore an unadorned brown straw hat, with a narrow, straight brim and flat crown. On the first day, she had a veil; but by the second, it was gone and the crowd eager to see her had its chance.
Emily Bennett sat stone-still in a cane-bottom chair facing the court. She carefully watched the proceedings without moving her body or head, but spectators could see she rolled her eyes to follow the action. Her lack of movement looked almost painful and the crowd was certain she would break down from the physical and emotional stress.
Behind Emily sat her twin sister, Emma Gardner Shattuck, who came with her husband George from Rhodes; there was a close resemblance between the two women, although Emma looked much younger. Their father Hiram Gardner attended, also.
Emily’s husband Cyrus sat beside Emma. The Evening Republican said:
“[Cyrus] is a fine looking man, with a tawny, golden-brown beard, and is probably 40 or 45 years old, but doesn’t look it by ten years.”
During the seating of the jury, the courtroom was packed, mostly by women. On the following days, their numbers decreased because they had only wanted to see what Emily Bennett looked like and were satisfied.
When the final jury was selected, nearly all were farmers.
☛ Testimony Begins ☚
Marshall County Attorney James L. Carney presented the state’s case against Emily Bennett. He used a plat drawn by County Surveyor William Brenner to show the countryside around the murder scene and to establish the proximity of the Bennett’s house at a little more than .6 of a mile southeast.
The prosecution’s case was built on the premise that Emily Bennett murdered Anna Wiese because she believed the girl had an “undue” intimacy with her son Arthur Sherlock and possibly with her husband Cyrus.
James L. Carney spelled out these specific accusations:
☛ Anna Wiese was acquainted with Emily Bennett and was sometimes in the Bennett home, usually on a Sunday. The Wiese family lived near the Bennetts for four years before relocating in the spring of 1893.
☛ On one visit, Anna was introduced to Albert “Bert” Isenhart. When he showed interest in Anna afterwards, Emily Bennett warned him that Anna was of “immoral character.”
☛ The Sunday before the murder, Anna was in the kitchen of the Bennett home with Emily’s son Arthur Sherlock. From the parlor, Emily overheard Anna tell him about sexual matters in a manner that was not proper for an unmarried girl.
☛ She started rumors that Anna was immoral and was pregnant.
☛ Emily knew Anna’s habit of visiting the Hill farm in the evening, as well as her route.
☛ The night of the murder, Emily’s son Arthur Sherlock went to Green Mountain for the family’s mail and she suspected he might meet Anna clandestinely.
☛ Emily dressed in men’s clothes, walked northwest through the cow yard and through a grove (where there many sticks similar to the one used to kill Anna), passed through a cornfield and the slough, and hid in the tall grass midway between the Hill and Russie farms on the east side of the fence. When Ann came along, she attacked her.
☛ Tracks were found leading from the murder scene to the Bennett home.
☛ In climbing over the fence, Emily left behind blood stains from the brutal stabbing. She then retraced her steps and entered her house, leaving more blood stains on a door knob and elsewhere.
☛ The bottom button of Emily’s blouse was loosened during the struggle with Anna and fell off – and was found by law enforcement — 20 rods from the scene of the murder at a mid-way point between there and the Bennett home. Emily sewed a metal one in its place.
☛ The blouse, which bore blood stains confirmed by scientific tests, was hidden in a trunk. Bennett told a friend the stains were red paint; on another occasion, she said they might have been made when the laundry was jumbled together or a button on the blouse rusted.
☛ Dr. Cassius C. Cottle also testified that scrapings from under Anna’s nails matched fibers from Emily Bennett’s blue blouse.
☛ Dr. Cottle exhumed Anna’s body to take hair from her head and found it did not match what was in her hand.
☛ Hair from 17 people living in the area was examined microscopically by Professor Walter S. Haines of Rush Medical College in Chicago and compared to what Anna clutched in her hand. Only Emily Bennett’s reddish hair matched in type, texture, and color.☛ Emily Bennett was seen washing something in a tub at the well the morning after the murder. There were damp overalls hanging near the house and later brought inside that Emily said she washed because they had paint on them. She had worn one of the pair to kill Anna.
☛ The club used to strike Anna matched soft maple trees and branches from them on the Bennett farm; no other neighbor had such trees.
☛ The stabbing was done with the left hand; of all those suspected, only Emily Bennett was able to use her left hand as well as her right.
☛ Hair pins found at the scene did not match those used by Anna or her employer Rebecca Russie.
☛ Even though Emily claimed she was too frail and ill to kill Anna and could not lift one of her arms to her head, neighbors described her working with heavy milk pails and bundles, climbing fences, rolling under fences, and adjusting her hat with both hands. Thomas Low heard her say in the summer of 1893 that she was tougher than a “biled owl” in reference to her ability to work.
☛ Maud Stover, Emily’s cellmate at the Marshalltown Jail, said Emily acted strangely and threw away the doctor’s medicine for her “complaints.” She also told Stover she would not go down alone for the murder.
☛ Anna’s mother, Mary Wiese, testified that Emily came to her house before the murder and complained that Anna never visited the Bennetts anymore; Anna told Emily that Arthur Sherlock was “mad” at her. Emily kissed Mary Wiese for the first time the day after the murder when she viewed the body; she was appalled by the throat gash and said it would require a “strong-nerved” person to do it. Emily told her the last thing she heard Anna say was “good night” when she passed by the Bennett farm on the Sunday before the murder and would not come in when invited. In December, Emily told Mary Wiese Anna “need not step in the snow,” presumably because she was in a better place.
☛ The Bennetts claimed they stayed up all night looking out the window in case the murderer ran by; however, witnesses said the house was dark all night.
☛ Dr. Cottle testified that he tended to Emily Bennett in the months following the murder for complaints of headache, nausea, constipation, hot and cold flashes along the spine, and sleeplessness. He said, “When I went out to her place I didn’t see anything the matter; saw no perceptible indication of disease.” The implication was that she pretended to be too sickly to have killed Anna.
☛ The scratching and hair pulling suggested two women fighting.
☛ Emily had secrets in her past, such as the death of her first husband, George Sherlock.
☛ Emily had done her best to insure the arrest of Albert Isenhart for Anna’s murder to take suspicion off herself. When she learned he was arrested and might be lynched, she urged her son Arthur Sherlock to go into town and witness the execution so he could see what happened to bad people. She, herself, was eager to witness it, also.
☛ The Defense ☚
Rumors spread around the county that Emily Bennett would testify in her own defense. Court spectators waited anxiously, wanting to see if she could maintain her detachment on the stand or would break down or even confess. She did not testify.
Obed Caswell presented the case for the defense:
☛ Emily Bennett was 50 years old and weighed only 120 pounds. She was “nearly broken down” from life-long hard field work. She could not have attacked Anna. Only a man could have subdued the strong and athletic girl who was nearly 5-feet-11 and in excellent health.
☛ Emily’s left arm was out of its socket and had been since she was young and played “Crack the Whip.” She was unable to raise her left hand to her head or in a way that would have been necessary to kill Anna.
☛ Emily saw Anna the Sunday before the murder, but the two met in the yard rather than inside the house and talked “pleasantly” in the presence of Arthur Sherlock. Anna said, “Good night” and passed on by.
☛ Blood stains on the fence were from dehorning cattle, not from the murder.
☛ John and Anna Hooper were at the Bennett farm the day of the murder to gather cherries; the stains believed to be blood at the Bennett home were actually cherry juice.
☛ Anna Hooper saw Emily Bennett at supper time before they left that evening. Emily was wearing a wine-colored, plaid dress, not the blue blouse in question.
☛ Emily’s twin sister Emma testified she saw the blouse in mid-October and put it in with the rest of the wash. She considered wearing it herself, as it was not that dirty.
☛ Emily Bennett could not have seen Anna at the Hill house half a mile away unless she climbed 25 feet up a windmill on the property. From the house itself, only the chimney of Arthur Hill’s house could be seen.
☛ The Bennetts went to bed early and were asleep when Arthur Hill roused them to say Anna was murdered. Emily jumped from bed to go to the door but Cyrus prevented that and told her to change out of her night clothes. They stayed up all night watching for any possible sign of the murderer.
☛ Emily Bennett sat in the presence of Anna’s body at the Russie home for two hours without “signs of guilt or agitation.” She also attended the funeral and acted normal.
☛ There were others, like Horace Hill and members of his family, who could have killed Anna. Milton Smelser, a nephew of the Hill brothers was at the Hill farm that night and left earlier than Anna. Henry Russie was also a strong suspect and yet another man was seen running east from the scene.
☛ Emily Bennett was not concerned about Anna’s influence on Albert Isenhart. She warned Anna away from Isenhart after he beat and injured a colt, telling her for her own good that a man who would abuse an animal would abuse his wife.
☛ Arthur Sherlock never went out with Anna, and Emily never worried that he would. He had been seeing Etta Simmons for two years and was not interested in Anna.
☛ The hair in Anna’s hand was her own which was pulled out in the struggle.
☛ Tests showed that blood on a hand would dry within the 10 minutes it took to run from the crime scene to the Bennett house; therefore, blood stains could not have been left there.
☛ Rumors that Emily Bennett murdered her first husband, George Sherlock, in southwest Marshall County and put his body down an old well were false; he died of consumption and there were witnesses who saw him buried.
☛ Anna Wiese’s own parents – Henry and Mary — came to Marshalltown after Emily Bennett’s arrest and said they believed her innocent.
☛ There was bias on the grand jury that indicted Emily Bennett because Ebenezer Hill, the father of Horace – who at one time was in jail for Anna’s murder — served on it.
☛ Emily’s cellmate Maude Stover was immoral and of “poor” character and not to be believed. She was jailed for prostitution and “lewdness” and once shot at a man who looked in her window while she was bathing.
☛ Testimony Ends and the Matter Goes to the Jury ☚
Testimony ended on the morning of Saturday, April14. All day on Monday, April 16, Prosecution lawyer Henry Elderkin Jewett Boardman summed up his case. When he stopped at 5:00 p.m., he was hoarse. He continued on Tuesday until noon. Then the defense began its summation and went through Wednesday. The matter was given to the jury on Thursday.
The jury deliberated almost 40 hours altogether. The first ballot, taken immediately, was seven for acquittal and five for conviction. The next ballot was a tie and the jury stood evenly divided after that. The next day a ballot, taken just the before jurors went out to breakfast, was 9 for acquittal and 3 for conviction.
One of the most forceful men on the jury, Henry Desch, collapsed while the jurors were eating breakfast with stomach convulsions and bleeding from the bowels. His pain was excruciating and he could not continue to serve.
Because of Henry Desch’s illness and the failure of the jury to yet reach a verdict, Judge Hindman dismissed the jury, ending the trial.
☛ Second Trial ☚
On September 6, 1894, Emily Bennett’s second trail for murdering Anna Weise began in Marshalltown. Judge S.A. Weaver presided. The attorneys for the state were again James L. Carney and Henry Elderkin Jewett Boardman; J L. Meeker took the place on the defense team of O.L. Binford, who was ill.
The second trial covered the same ground as the first, with few variations. The motive once again was said to be Emily’s “jealousy” over her son’s perceived interest in Anna Wiese; one witness said Arthur Sherlock “nudged” Anna at church in a provocative way that invited her attentions.
Several days into the proceedings, the Evening Republican reported:
“It is quite evident that this is the most tedious trial, in the way of scrupulous detail, that Judge Weaver ‘has ever put up with.’ On September 17, the newspaper termed the testimony “prosy” and said many in the courtroom dozed off, including Emily Bennett.”
The second jury seemed less engaged than the first one. When offered an opportunity to visit the crime scene, several said they didn’t want to go and the trip was abandoned.
The hair samples from Anna’s hand and from the head of Emily Bennett were again discussed at length. Dr. Cassius C. Cottle testified again they matched and he was backed up by Chicago wig-maker William Barrow, who said that all heads of hair were individualized and distinguishable.
On the other hand, Dr. Irving J. Smith, professor of Pathology and Histology at the State Agriculture College in Ames, testified that there was no difference in Anna’s and Emily’s hair and it was impossible to identify a particular person’s hair by color or other characteristics. Another witness, Dr. Thomas Taylor – a government “microscopist” from Washington, D.C. — also testified it was impossible to tell if the hairs matched those of Emily Bennett.
Several witnesses, including professional butchers, testified about how quickly blood on a hand dries.
Emily’s son Arthur Sherlock testified that he attended school with Anna at School House #5 but that he was never interested in her as a girlfriend and denied he “nudged” her at any time. He said that on the night of the murder he fetched the mail in Green Mountain. He came home, went upstairs, took off his boots, and sat on the side of the bed. Then Arthur Hill rode up to the house and hollered to him and the Bennetts that Anna had been murdered. He said he rode his horse all night looking for the murderer.
Emily’s husband Cyrus Bennett testified for 5 hours. He swore his wife was wearing a wine-colored, plaid dress on Saturday evening and put it on again Sunday.
Emily Bennett’s twin sister, Emma Gardner Shattuck, testified that Emily worked hard all her life, ever since their brothers were called away to fight in the Civil War and left them to tend the farm. She also said Emily could not raise her left arm because her shoulder slipped out of place when she was 13. She stayed with Emily after the murder and in mid-October saw the blue blouse and put it with other clothes to be washed, although it was clean enough that she thought about wearing it and did notice the metal button different from the others.
The singular change from the first trial was a major one. The defendant herself testified. She was questioned for two hours and never showed any emotion, excitement, or fear. She did not contradict herself, get confused, or show guilt, although the Evening Republican noted: “Some may attach significance to the fact that her memory was so perfect to many unimportant things in life on the farm for years back, and yet was not clear [of] some circumstances about the time of the murder of Anna Wiese.”
During the second trial, 35-year-old juror Enoch B. Willim became violently ill with symptoms similar to those of juror Henry Desch in the first trail, although he regained enough strength to come back the next day after the proceedings were temporarily suspended.
Mr. Carney made essentially the same summation as he had in the first trial about the timing, the blood, the blouse, the matching hair, and the strength of Emily Bennett to have committed the crime.
Carney, however, made one new and surprising declaration: he said the locations of cuts on Anna’s clothing and body and the fact that a club was also used indicated two people committed the crime. He pointed at no particular person, but implied that Emily Bennett was assisted by either her husband Cyrus or son Arthur Sherlock.
The state rested on the afternoon of September 12 and the defense rebutted in a similar way as in the first trial.
On September 22, the jury deliberated five hours and voted four times. On the first ballot they were split evenly; on the second, seven voted for acquittal and five for conviction; on the third, eleven were for acquittal and one for conviction. On the fourth and last, all voted for acquittal.
When asked how she managed to stay so cool and calm at the verdict, Emily Bennett said, “Why shouldn’t I be?”
Near the time of the trial, Anna’s Wiese’s small pocketbook was found beside the Great Western railroad tracks near Green Mountain. Inside was a receipt for four dollars for photographs taken nearly a year before her murder. The find did not affect the trial nor lead to any other suspects.
☛ Justice Denied? ☚
Although Emily Bennett had some supporters, most courthouse watchers believed the trial proved her guilty of murdering Anna Wiese, although not in the first degree. Many speculated that she lay in wait to threaten and lecture Anna but became angry and lost control.
Others suggested, as had the County Attorney, that she did not act alone. Frank Knight, who encountered Anna walking on the road earlier in the evening, testified that when he passed by the Bennett’s pasture he saw Cyrus Bennett on horseback there. It would have been easy for Cyrus to see Anna going to the Hill residence and he could either have told Emily to go and wait for her or gone with her.
The fact that Anna was both struck with a club and stabbed suggests more than one person. What Emily could not accomplish because of her strength or “disability,” a younger man like Cyrus could have done.
Arthur Sherlock, Emily’s son, was suspiciously near the scene according to the timing. He said he’d gone to Green Mountain for the mail and had just come into the Bennett house and was about to go to bed when Arthur Hill came to tell them of the murder.
Emily herself told Anna Sprecker that Arthur had just come home and was upstairs sitting on the edge of the bed when Hill arrived. She worried that authorities would arrest him because he was out at the time of the murder.
Emily Bennett washed something at the well the morning after the murder and two pairs of damp overalls were found, suggesting the need to clean two sets of bloody clothes – one for her and the other for one of the men. Or for the two men.
Originally, suspicion settled on Cyrus because his reddish beard was the same color as the hair found in Anna’s hand. He also had a long scratch on his nose in the days after the murder.
Marshall County residents also thought it an odd coincidence that a juror in each trial was struck down with mysterious symptoms matching several forms of poisoning. Henry Desch and Enoch Willim had stomach and bowel cramping, bleeding, extreme convulsions, and disabling pain. Did someone poison their food to derail the trials?
The first trial was stopped by Desch’s illness; the second continued only because Enoch Willim did not get as sick as Henry Desch, perhaps not having consumed as much poison.
Many wondered if the acquittal verdict was arrived at because no one wanted to risk being poisoned serving as a juror in a third trial.
☛ Life Goes On ☚
After the trial, Emily and Cyrus Bennett returned to their farm and stayed in the county for a number of years.
In 1910, the Bennetts lived in Bremen, Wells County, North Dakota. By 1920, they had moved to Twin Falls, Idaho, to live with her son Arthur Sherlock, his wife Estella, and their children.
Emily Winters Gardner Sherlock Bennett died February 27, 1925 in Twin Falls, Idaho, at the age of 80. Cyrus Bennett’s date of death is unknown.
Arthur Sherlock and Estella Simmons had five children: Nora, Mary, Howard, Alma, and Helena. In 1944, he died at age 76 in Twin Falls, Idaho.
☛ Anna’s Memory Preserved ☚
In the summer of 1894, near the first anniversary of Anna’s death, Marshall County citizens raised money to place a granite monument over her grave in the Vienna Cemetery at Beaman with this inscription:
In Memory Of Anna Wiese
Aug. 26, 1893
Ages 20 Yrs., 2 Mos., 15 Ds.
Erected By Generous And Sympathizing Friends
Vengeance Is Mine Saith the Lord
Although her murder was never avenged because no one was brought to justice, Anna’s memory will live on through the monument erected by a caring community.
Please note: Use of information from this article should credit Nancy Bowers as the author and Iowa Unsolved Murders: Historic Cases as the source.
- ☛ Algona Courier, November 17, 1893.
- ☛ “Anna Wiese’s Pocketbook Found Near Green Mountain,” Cedar Rapids Evening Gazette, October 3, 1874.
- ☛ “Barney Shultz’s Work,” Hawarden Independent, November 23, 1893.
- ☛ Cedar Rapids Evening Gazette, October 25, 1893.
- ☛ Cedar Rapids Evening Gazette, December 1, 1893.
- ☛ Cedar Rapids Evening Gazette, January 9, 1894.
- ☛ “A Detective in Trouble,” Waterloo Daily Courier, November 8, 1893.
- ☛ “Around The State,” Emmet County Republican, January 1, 1894.
- ☛ “Around The State,” Pella Weekly Herald, January 19, 1894.
- ☛ “Around The State,” Pella Weekly Herald, October 27, 1893.
- ☛ “Around The State,” Pocahontas County Sun, October 26, 1893.
- ☛ “Arrested For The Wiese Murder,” Iowa State Reporter, November 16, 1893.
- ☛ “Emma [sic] Weise’s Murderer,” Waterloo Daily Courier, November 10, 1893.
- ☛ Hamilton Daily Democrat, August 29, 1893.
- ☛ Evening Times Republican, April 9, 1874.
- ☛ “In A Death Grip,” Iowa State Reporter, November 16, 1893.
- ☛ “Iowa News,” Pella Weekly Herald, December 8, 1893.
- ☛ “Iowa News In Brief,” Cedar Rapids Evening Gazette, January 8, 1894.
- ☛ “Iowa State News,” Lyons Weekly Mirror, November 4, 1893.
- ☛ Jackson Sentinel, November 2, 1893.
- ☛ “The Jury Couldn’t Agree,” Northern Vindicator, February 1, 1894.
- ☛ Mills County Journal, November 23, 1893.
- ☛ “Mrs. Bennett Gives A New Bond,” Cedar Rapids Evening Gazette, January 17, 1894.
- ☛ “Mrs. Bennett Pleads Not Guilty,” Cedar Rapids Evening Gazette, November 15, 1893.
- ☛ “Mrs. Bennett Released On Bail,” Cedar Rapids Evening Gazette, November 22, 1893.
- ☛ “Mrs. Bennett Released On Bail,” Adams County Union, December 7, 1893.
- ☛ “News Of The State: Curtain Rises On Another Act In The Wiese Murder Case,” Cedar Rapids Evening Gazette, November 29, 1893.
- ☛ “News Of The State: Horace Hill Arrested On A Charge of Murdering Annie [sic] Wiese,” Cedar Rapids Evening Gazette, October 23, 1893.
- ☛ Night Watchman, 2005.
- ☛ “The Opinion of The Night Watchman and Christiana M. Meide on ‘Who Murdered Anna Wiese.”
- ☛ Pella Weekly Herald, January 26, 1894.
- ☛ “The Second Trial,” Cedar Rapids Evening Gazette, July 12, 1894.
- ☛ “She Pleads Not Guilty,” Rock Valley Register, November 17, 1893.
- ☛ “Slain By An Unknown Man,” Ohio Democrat, August 31, 1893.
- ☛ “The Supposed Murderer,” Sioux Valley News, August 31, 1893.
- ☛ Waterloo Daily Courier, December 27, 1893.
- ☛ Waterloo Daily Courier, January 10, 1894.
- ☛ “The Weise [sic] Murder Case,” Cedar Rapids Evening Gazette, February 24, 1894.
- ☛ “Weise [sic] Murder Trial,” Cedar Rapids Evening Gazette, April 2, 1894.
- ☛ “The Wiese Murder,” Cedar Rapids Gazette, November 10, 1893.
- ☛ “The Wiese Murder Case,” Union Star, November 24, 1893.
- ☛ “The Wiese Murder Case,” Waterloo Courier, November 22, 1893.
- ☛ “Wiese Trial,” Cedar Rapids Evening Gazette, April 5, 1894.
- ☛ “Will Have a Monument,” Oxford Mirror, July 26, 1894.