Saturday, September 16, 2017

Gaston Means Finally Arrested for Killing of Maude King on August 29, 1917

“Means Is Charged With the Murder of Mrs. King,” from the Monroe Journal, Sept. 25, 1917. Remember, the police and coroner had originally ruled that the death was either an accident or a suicide, after Means gave his word as a Southern gentleman.

Officers Arrest Him Believing They Have Sufficient Evidence to Establish Motive for the Killing…Was Unexpected

Concord, Sept. 22—Gaston B. Means was arrested at his home here late today on a warrant charging him with the murder of Mrs. Maude A. King, a wealthy Chicago widow who was mysteriously killed near this place August 29. His preliminary hearing before a magistrate was set for Monday morning.

The arrest of Mrs. King’s so-called business manager followed a long conference between Solicitor Hayden Clement and representatives from the office of District Attorney Swann of New York, who brought here many documents seized in a raid upon Means’ New York apartment several days ago. Means was held at his home under guard until he could confer with his attorneys, who include some of the leading members of the North Carolina bar. Later he was locked up in the Cabarrus County jail.

After swearing out the warrant for Means, Solicitor Clement announced that coroner’s inquest would not be reopened Monday as planned, but that all witnesses summoned for the inquest would be required to appear to give evidence at the preliminary hearing.

As a preliminary move before having the warrant issued for Means’ arrest, Solicitor Clement made a demand through Coroner Carl L. Spears that Means delivered to the authorities the clothes fire arms, cartridges and other effects of Mrs. King, when she was killed and which are said to be in Means’ possession. The accused man refused to comply with the demand, and the solicitor would not say what steps would be taken to procure them.

During the conference between Solicitor Clement and Assistant District Attorney Dooling of New York, several persons were called in and questioned. They included Captain W.S. Bingham, who was a member of the party with Mrs. King when she was shot. Later he accompanied the solicitor and Mrs. Dooling to the scene of the killing and rehearsed the evidence he had given to the coroner’s inquest. He also pointed out the positions of the several members of the party when the shot was fired.

Testimony at the coroner’s inquest was that Means was with Mrs. King near Blackwelder Spring and that the other members of the party were unable to see them because of the uneven ground.

M.F. Ritchie, a hardware dealer, from whom the two pistols and a repeating rifle carried by the Means party were purchased, also was examined during the conference between the prosecuting attorneys. Present also were Dr. Otto Schulte, pathologist attached to the New York district attorney’s office; Captain William T. Jones, pistol expert of the New York police department; John Cuniff, a New York detective; C.B. Ambrose, an agent of the Department of Justice who is on leave of absence and will assist in the prosecution, and Attorney Philip O. McDuffie of Atlanta, Ga., counsel for Mrs. Anna L. Robinson, Mrs. King’s mother.

Persistent rumors that a second automobile was following the machine in which the Means party went to Blackwelder Spring were given official attention today and the authorities are working to clear them up. Captain Bingham said tonight he was certain there was a car following the one in which they were riding and intimated that the names of the occupants would be named at the trial.

The killing of Mrs. Maude A. king, a wealthy New York and Chicago widow, which has attracted nationwide interest, occurred during the early evening of August 29 at Blackwelder Springs, near here, where she, accompanied by Gaston B. Means, her brother, Afton, and Captain Bingham, had gone ostensibly for target practice. A coroner’s jury which investigated the case returned a verdict the day after the tragedy declaring that Mrs. King had met death by the accidental discharge of a pistol. The bullet which caused her death entered the back of her head and caused almost instant death.
When the body of Mrs. King reached Chicago, where it had been taken for interment, a Chicago physician performed an autopsy on the body and his investigation is alleged to have disclosed that there were no powder burns on Mrs. King’s head, which indicated, according to the Chicago physician that Mrs. King could not have accidentally shot herself.

Following closely the publication of this report came stories from Chicago and New York which intimated that Means was in financial difficulties. The Chicago authorities and district attorneys of New York began active investigations into Means’ activities in those cities.

Ten days ago Solicitor Hayden Clement of this district announced that he would re-open an investigation into the death of Mrs. King and asked the coroner of Cabarrus County to re-open the inquest, and set Monday, September 24, for the hearing. The solicitor issued a statement, at the time, in which he neither believed Mrs. King met her death by accident nor by suicide, and stated that he wanted to give the coroner’s jury an opportunity to correct their former verdict, if in their opinion, the evidence warranted it.

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