Unsolved: Swamp Ruby

Pymatuning State Park

Zech and I arrived in Linesville after spending the morning at nearby Pymatuning State Park. The foggy morning had not stopped people from coming out the place where “ducks walk on the backs of fish.” The massive school of carp in the spillway was an odd sight and watching visitors tossing bread into the water and the fish and birds fighting over it was truly bizarre.

We watched the massive school of carp surfacing and searching for food tossed by other visitors until the fog began to lift. We left the park and its fish and drove towards nearby Linesville. Passing through town we arrived at the Linesville Cemetery. Unlike the state park, which averages three hundred thousand visitors each year, only locals visit the cemetery to pay respects to their relatives buried there. I scanned the cemetery before Zech and I walked back to the section where the poor and unknown were buried. Consulting the map of the cemetery we located the burial place of the unidentified lady – known as Swamp Ruby – who is buried in the Potter’s Field section. Note: Since I had last visited the grave of Swamp Ruby, the Linesville Cemetery Association has marked the graves of those buried in the Potter’s Field section.

“Who was she?” Zech asked as we stood at her grave. Sadly, no one seems to have missed the unknown woman given the name of Swamp Ruby.

The story of Swamp Ruby begins April 23, 1932 in the swamps of Pymatuning. The headline of The Record-Argus, from Greenville, Pennsylvania, screamed: “Pymatuning Swamp Yields Body of Dead Woman.” When Warren native Norman Hartweg arrived to explore the swamp that day, he could not have imaged what he would discover while searching for snakes for his graduate project. Norman, who was a graduate student at the University of Michigan, stumbled upon a female body submerged in the cold waters of the Pymatuning Swamp. After making the horrific discovery, Norman made his way out of the swamp onto a dirt road, marked the spot by hanging a pail from a bush and promptly headed into Linesville to report his find to authorities. Once he reported his discovery, Norman went back into the Pymatuning Swamp in search of more snakes and local authorities went searching for the body.

Around five that afternoon Norman wandered back to the area of his gruesome discovery, only to learn that the authorities had not located the body, nor had they even discovered the pail marker he had left to mark the location. Norman immediately lead authorities to the location of the hidden body.

It was determined the unidentified body was a female between thirty and forty years of age, who had been dead for approximately six months. She had died from a fractured skull and slit throat. Zech and I had both wondered how they could determine her throat had been slit after six months in the swamp and the April 23, 1932 edition of The Youngstown Vindicator gave the answer to our question — she had been preserved by the icy cold waters of the Pymatuning Swamp.

Clues at the scene were very few. Swamp Ruby was wearing a dress, coat, and overshoes. Her regular shoes and stockings were missing. The Youngstown Vindicator’s April 23 article also reported that her hat was found a short distance away. Nearby, authorities discovered a strong piece of rope that they believe may have been used to drag the body forty feet into the swamp.

Newspapers reported that the killer had a knowledge of the area and therefore must be somebody local. The Record-Argus presents a reason the body was placed at this location. At the time of the murder, the Pymatuning Dam was under construction. Started in October of 1931, the dam was being built to help with flood control in the Beaver and Shenango Valleys. When completed, the scene of the crime would be under at least twenty feet of water. Had Norman not stumbled upon her body, this victim would have been hidden forever.

The Pittsburgh Press ran a brief article about the murder on April 25, 1932. The article suggested that it may have been the body of Betty Gray. Gray was the prime witness in the February 3, 1931 murder of Cleveland Councilman William Potter by Hyman “Pittsburgh Hymie” Martin, a bootlegger who ran alcohol between Pittsburgh and Cleveland. Betty Gray, the wife of Hymie’s associate J.J. Gray, accused Hymie of the murder. Betty changed her accusatory story to say that Hymie was not responsible for the murder and immediately vanished.

An article in the April 26, 1932, edition of The Pittsburgh Press dismissed this notion. The woman found in the swamp was described as being a brunette with perfect teeth and no fillings – Betty Gray was a blonde who had fillings in her teeth.

The June 2, 1932 edition of The Linesville Herald reported the unidentified woman buried in Linesville Cemetery had been exhumed for a possible identification. Anthony Parado, from the Cambridge Springs area was summoned to the inquest. The reason for the exhumation was reported in the May 27, 1932 edition of The Record-Argus. Parado’s neighbors suggested to local authorities that the unidentified woman was Mrs. Carolina Parado, who had last been seen on December 22, 1931. Despite Anthony’s claim that Carolina had returned to her home in Poland, neighbors were convinced the body discovered in the Pymatuning Swamp was the missing thirty-seven-year-old Venango Township woman.

Carolina and Swamp Ruby had many similarities. Carolina was in the age range of Swamp Ruby and she was last seen in the same time period when Swamp Ruby’s body was dumped into the wilds of the Pymatuning Swamp. Carolina and Swamp Ruby had the same color hair, were of the same stature, and both had perfect teeth. At the inquest, neighbors positively identified the unidentified body as Carolina. However, Anthony Parado refused to identify — nor did he deny identification — that the body was his missing wife.

If the neighbors were convinced that Swamp Ruby and Carolina were one and the same, then why didn’t Anthony identify the woman? I could think of four possible reasons Anthony did not identify the body as Carolina.

One: the unidentified female discovered in the Pymatuning Swamp was not Carolina. There is a possibility the unidentified female discovered by Norman Hartweg was not Carolina, but another female with a similar appearance. There is a slight chance that Swamp Ruby had disappeared from another area, was transported to the swamp and dumped – during this time period it was too common for people to up and disappear, moving to where they could find work. The obvious question then is: if this was not Carolina, then why didn’t Anthony say that the body was not his wife?

Two: the woman is Carolina, but Anthony really was not able to identify her. This would be very possible due to the time that had passed since Carolina had vanished. If the swamp had preserved the body, then Anthony should have been able to make the distinction if this was or was not his wife. However – not to be morbid – Swamp Ruby had been removed from the preserving waters, subject to the other elements while being transported, had been buried and exhumed, so there is no telling how much the body had been affected by its surroundings since its discovery.

Three: the woman was Carolina and Anthony had purposely not identified her. This is the scenario that the newspapers ran with. They were convinced that Anthony had killed his wife and dumped her body in the Pymatuning Swamp. In keeping with his claim that she had moved back to Poland, he would have purposely had to deny the body was Carolina.

Four: the woman was Carolina and Anthony was so distressed about seeing his dead wife that he was mentally unable to see the body as being his wife. This theory would suggest that he was convinced Carolina was alive and living somewhere and he mentally could not believe that his wife was deceased. He was convinced that she was safe somewhere in their home country of Poland and this unidentified woman could not be his wife.

I personally think the Swamp Ruby and Carolina Parado are one and the same. Carolina Parado seems to have vanished from the historical record. Unfortunately, so many years have passed that the real identification of Swamp Ruby may never happen.

The final question that popped into my mind as I stood at Swamp Ruby’s grave was: “Why has this case been forgotten?” The answer came quickly as I looked at the first newspaper — the nation was caught up in another crime — the kidnapping of Charles Lindbergh, Jr. Newspapers were following the kidnapping of the Lindbergh baby, and the story of the unidentified woman was pushed to the side and forgotten. Within a couple weeks of the discovery of Swamp Ruby, the case disappears from the newspapers. By the next generation her story had faded away. And in three generations her sad story had disappeared altogether into the mists of time.

As Zech and I stood there, nature seemed to agree with the sadness that we felt as raindrops began to fall from the only cloud in the sky. We paid our final respects to Swamp Ruby before leaving her and the secret of her identity resting in the sacred grounds of the Linesville Cemetery.

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