Unsolved Crime Death of Horace Bennett December 30, 1905
Sunday morning about 10 o’clock, the body of a man was discovered by some men in the woods about a hundred yards west of the north end of the trestle leading to the Big Four bridge at Lawrenceville. The men had been up the river looking after some traps. They immediately came to town and notified Sheriff Carr.
After being informed by Harry Ruddy about the crime, Carr went to the campsite and found a young man probably 23 years of age, who had been hideously murdered during the night. The body was face down, lying on its left side, with the face lying in a pool of blood. His feet were toward the north on a board that had probably been used as a campstool. His face and head was literally beaten into a pulp; the nose and jaw were broken. The condition of the body led Carr to believe he had been dead for several hours. There was a club lying nearby that the perpetrators had used to commit the awful deed. His pockets were turned inside out, and a few papers were lying near the body that led to his identification.
A letter from Mayor C. H. Ayers of Portland, Indiana gave his name as Horace Bennett. Sheriff Carr telephoned that city, but the mayor was away. The Portland Chief of Police identified the body from the description. He was a paroled prisoner and Mayor Ayers was his sponsor. His mother, Amanda, lived in Portland. The sheriff gave permission to embalm the body.
The body was taken to the court house basement where an inquest was held late Sunday evening by the coroner, A. T. Abell. The jurors were W. A. Gould (Foreman), Joe Bernstine, Ed Adams, Clarence Leach, E. P. Plowman, and Dr. Chas. P. Gore. Stanley Vandament stated that he saw the man Saturday evening about 4:30 accompanied by another man, near where the body was found as he passed by to check on his traps. The two men indicated they were going to make camp and asked Vandament for some matches.
Britt Roberts, who had accompanied Vandament, stated that he saw the man with two companions get off a north-bound freight Saturday about 3 o’clock. One companion got back on the south-bound passenger. The other two, including Bennett, walked toward the depot. Later in the evening about 7:30 or 8:00, he saw Bennett’s companion at Furrows Restaurant where he was buying things to eat.
Harry Ruddy said he was awakened about 10 am by Geo. Gosnell, Albert Brush, Ernest Gosnell Homer Cochran and Link Ryan. They found the body about 46-50 ft. west of the new Grade. There was a small purse near the body.
Others stated they saw Bennett Saturday evening. They remembered because he was crippled and walked stiff-legged, his right leg being at least 4 inches shorter than the right leg.
Among the papers was found a card Bennett used for begging. Successive dates of the month and an amount of money opposite the dates, presumably the result of his begging each day, was written on the card. From the amounts shown, he averaged $2.00 a day. There was also a letter addressed to him at Memphis, Tennessee. He may have been making his way home to Portland and had some money on his person. No money was found on the body.
After viewing the body and hearing the evidence, the verdict of the Coroner’s jury was that Bennett came to his death by wounds inflicted with a blunt instrument in the hands of person or persons unknown.
Mayor Ayers of Portland arrived in Lawrenceville, Tuesday morning and took the body home to Bennett’s mother. A collection had been taken up to pay for the expenses. He stated the young man had been in Harrisburg for a time working for the rail road and may have had some money.
On January 10, 1906, the Sumner Press reported that Governor Charles S. Deneen had offered a reward of $200. The Lawrence County Board of Supervisors matched that sum for the arrest and conviction of the murderers. A week later, the Vincennes Western Sun issued a description of the two men: One of the men was about 20 years old, 5 feet 7 inches tall, with broad shoulders and dark hair wearing dark clothes, well-worn, and brown hat, almost black in color seeming rather dirty. The other man was described as older in appearance than his companion, six feet tall with light complexion, and wearing well-worn, dark clothes.
The residents of Lawrenceville have never learned if the murderers were brought to justice.
Sheriff: P.J. Carr
Coroner: A.T. Abell
Lawrence County News, December 10, 1905
Lawrence County Coroner’s Report, December 31 1905
Lawrenceville Republican, "Foully Murdered" January 4, 1906
Vincennes Western Sun, “Found Slain” January 5, 1906
Sumner Press, January 11, 1906
Vincennes Western Sun, “Governor Has Issued Reward for Lawrenceville Murders” January 19, 1906
Research by K Borden, Article by D Burton