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Ashland County Funeral Homes

1925 Crowley Murder

John Crowley, 27, Gives Himself Up
Former Machine Gun Corporal Says Wife Had Threatened to Kill Him With Shotgun and he Defended Himself with an Oar Tied Rock Around Her Neck
Fled to Michigan but Could Not Rid Mind of the Deed, and Returned and Gave Himself Up This Morning

From the Ashland Daily Press, Saturday November 7, 1925
Page 1 and 2

Submitted by Joan Benner


"Some day I'll kill you or you'll kill me."

These words, uttered last summer by Mrs. Dora Bean Crowley, Indian wife of John CROWLEY, 27, former corporal in the Ashland Machine Gun company, proved to be prophecy when Mrs. Crowley was killed in an altercation with her husband in their house three and one-half miles east of Lake Park last Saturday.

Crowley walked into the county jail at nine o'clock this morning, called for Sheriff Elmer Sanders, broke down completely, and blurted: "I killed her. I killed my wife. I didn't mean it, but I did it and I've got to take the blame."

Then, after he had gained control of himself, he gradually told one of the most ghastly tales in the records of crime in this city.

The body of Mrs. Crowley, clad only in a night dress and with a fishnet weight around the neck, is somewhere in the waters of the bay near the Crowley house.

The Crowley place is in a little travelled location, and Mrs. Crowley's disappearance had not been noticed.

Sheriff Sanders, Coroner Sollie and others were to leave this afternoon with Crowley as a guide, to drag the bay in that vicinity for the body.

Briefly, Crowley said that after his wife had used bad language in referring to Crowley's mother, he had strapped her, but she had repeated the language, and when he entered the shack last Saturday, she confronted him with a shotgun, and shouted: "I'll blow your brains out, you cur."

Crowley lunged at her with a piece of pine moulding he had picked up, broke it across her arm to defend himself, then grabbed an oar and beat her across the arms to force her to drop the gun.

For a moment his mind went blank, and then Mrs. Crowley was on the floor, moaning, and a kettle of water had been knocked off the stove, drenching her.

Crowley picked her up, undressed her and put her to bed, throwing the bed clothing over the naked body. He thought she was stupified from the effects of liquor which she had been drinking, for the moaning and whimpering were like he had heard before.

A little later, Crowley threw himself down on the other bed in the same room, and went to sleep. About four o'clock Sunday morning Crowley awoke, cold, and got up to get another blanket. He looked over at his wife's bed, and she was uncovered. He went over to cover her up.

Her body was stiff.

Crowley lost control of himself, trembling with fear. He went outside, paced about, went back to the body, saw a big bruise on one side of the head, and scarcely knowing what he was doing, went outside and took a fishnet weight from one of the nets, tied it about the neck of his dead wife, slipped a nightgown over the naked body, carried the corpse out to the lake, and threw it in the water.

Then he went back to the house.

Remorse seized him, and he went back to see if he could rescue the body from the water. He wanted to give himself up, if only he could find the body of the woman with whom he had lived for six years.

He spent a long while dragging, but the water became rough and he was unsuccessful.

Then he planned to flee.

He left the place and went to Thomaston, Michigan, where he stayed several days of this week. He planned to hire out as a woodsman, bury himself in the woods, and try to forget.

But the vision of the awful night in the little shack tormented him, and yesterday he came back to Ashland and went out to the shack, determined to find the body of his wife.

All day yesterday he dragged, but did not succeed. He had decided to find the body and then give himself up. But he could not find the body.

Terrified by what he had done, he finally came into town, and went to the county jail, where he told his story.

Sheriff Sanders notified Coroner Sollie concerning the body, phoned District Attorney Merrill, and Crowley was brought to the court house where he willingly repeated the story he had told Sanders while a stenographer took it down. Crowley said he would be glad to sign the confession.

Crowley and his wife have had trouble for the past two years, he declared. He said she drank heavily of the moonshine which he himself made, on one occasion stealing some of it and hiding it.

The place where they lived is on the Indian reservation, handed down to his wife by tribal laws.

Frequently Crowley had demanded of his wife that she quit drinking, but to no avail. It was the slurs at his mother made by the wife that caused the most serious trouble between them, he said.

On one previous occasion she had threatened to kill him, firing a shotgun at him in the presence of Eddie Carpenter and Henry Tonczak of Ashland, Crowley said. The shot went into a door and Crowley was uninjured.

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