“Have you figured it out yet?” The email read. It had been almost six months since I last heard from my mystery writer. I sighed as I set my glasses on the desk and scratched my head at the simple email my mysterious correspondent sent me.
For the past five years, I have been playing tag with a lady who has obviously done some research into the unsolved murder of Louise Carroll. Sometimes she has answered. Sometimes she does not. But she continues to make sure I have not forgotten about the murder of Louise Carroll, a young lady from Renovo who was murdered in Buffalo, New York on July 20, 1915.
With a deep sigh, I reopened my file on Louise Carroll and began rereading everything I had on hand. The murder of Louise Carroll failed to make the newspapers in Central Pennsylvania when she was discovered Tuesday, July 20, 1915 lying along Broadway in Buffalo. The handful of Central Pennsylvanian newspapers that announced her murder never followed up with any new information.
As I started looking through the various newspaper databases at hand, I noticed I now had access to some Buffalo area newspapers I previously not had access to when I initially researched this case in early 2019. As I read through these other newspapers, a handful of new details and information were revealed. Note: The original article about the murder of Louise Carroll can be found here: Who Murdered Louise Carroll?
Louise Carroll’s murder does not appear to have been taken seriously from the start by Buffalo officials. Or maybe they were so over confident in their abilities to solve this murder that they failed to properly investigate it until it was too late. The Sunday, July 25 edition of The Buffalo Courier makes the following assessment of the murder: “District Attorney Dudley, confident the mystery has been solved, abruptly stopped work on the case early yesterday afternoon. Assistant District Attorney Moore was out of the city. Supt. Regan spent a large part of the afternoon showing relatives sights of the town. Sheriff Stengel closed his office at noon and the under sheriff went to a ball game.” All of those with the power of solving this case were so convinced they had solved the murder they stopped working the Carroll case.
What was the big piece of evidence they had found that caused them to believe they discovered her murderer? Collected from Louise’s room a business card for “G.M. Coffin.” George Coffin, who was referred by Mrs. Prentiss as George Hassett, was a supposedly a textile salesman from Cincinnati, Ohio. This was the piece of evidence that led authorities to believe they found Louise’s killer. This was not something recovered on her body or at the crime scene, but something discovered while going through the room where she stayed.
Added to this discovery, there were suddenly two witnesses who saw Louise earlier on the night she was murdered. Charles J. Hickey and John McGowen state they saw Mrs. Prentiss and Mrs. Wenrick come out of the Wenrick house with Louise and place her in a vehicle – a blue sedan – driven by a man the ladies called George. Both Mrs. Wenrick and Mrs. Prentiss were taken into police custody and their statements were given to local authorities as potential witnesses.
Then it was discovered George M Coffin did not exist. Following the leads, authorities discovered “G. M. Coffin” was actually Meldrum H. Coffin, a textile salesman from Boston. He had been in Buffalo the week before the murder and had left two days before it happened. Coffin claimed he was the only man with that last name working for the textile company, so he did not know who this “G.M. Coffin” was.
There were four people who claimed this mysterious George Coffin was involved in the murder Louise Carroll. When the police discovered that this mysterious man did not exist, they should have questioned the witnesses again. Instead it does not seem the four who identified the mystery men as George were ever brought back to the police station for more questioning.
There was another unidentified witness who stated they saw Louise in a car with another woman roughly an hour before Carroll’s body was discovered along Broadway. According to the testimony of Charles J. Hickey and John McGowen, Louise was the only one of the trio exiting the Wenruck hiuse who got into the car. If Louise was spotted with another woman driving around, the identity of this woman is never revealed, nor does it appear it was ever followed up on.
The discovery of a burnt car on August 2 was thought to be a part of the case. The car was discovered stolen and when police questioned the owner, he was able to provide an alibi. The color of the car was never identified as being red, like the one spotted near Louise’s body or blue, like the one Louise was supposedly spotted being placed into that fateful night.
Under the backseat of the vehicle Sheriff Stengal and District Attorney Dudley discovered a partially burned woman’s garment. The DA believed this garment was related to the Carroll’s murder and this was the article of clothing presented to Louise’s friends but was not identified as belonging to Louise.
By early August, the case was placed in the hands of Assistant District Attorney Gus Moore, who continued to investigate any new information. In early August 1915, he followed a lead about a phone call from the morning Louise’s body was discovered. The call from Ellicott Square in Buffalo was to the Carroll family in Renovo. The phone call was done by a man who was checking to see if the rumors of his grandfather death were true. Although the man is not identified in the article, it is mentioned he is one of the men who had been held in regards to Louise’s death.
One of the biggest problems with discovering who murdered Louise Carroll and why is the police never determined the location where Louise was attacked. Some articles report it happened at spot she was discovered, while others thought she was struck in the vehicle before being dumped onto Broadway. Still others insisted she was struck elsewhere, before being placed in the vehicle and transported to the spot she was discovered. Unable to identify where the incident took place, the police lost any possible evidence that may have solved her murder. Note: I am not accusing, but I do want to make an observation. It was never followed up in the newspapers if the Wenrick house was ever searched. If Louise had been helped to the car from the house, the blow may have happened there, but the police, as far as I can determine, never checked the Wenrick home for clues.
Most articles state it was believed that Louise Carroll knew something about a robbery at the home of Dr. Johnson, which resulted in her death. But there is something I noticed that was only mentioned once in the newspapers at the time. Hidden deep within the July 24, 1915 issue of the Buffalo Courier is a mention of the Pennsylvania Railroad sending their own chief of detectives, Seth Conover, to help with the investigation due to the number of people who had a connection to the railroad. Both husbands of Mrs. Prentiss and Mrs. Wenrick worked for the Pennsylvania Railroad and were from Renovo. Charles J. Hickey, one of the witnesses who saw Louise leaving the Wenrick house, worked for the Pennsylvania Railroad. Louise’s father worked for the Pennsylvania Railroad at the Renovo yards.
Conover’s help was pushed aside as the focus was on the robbery at Dr. Johnson’s house. The connection with the Pennsylvania Railroad was only mentioned once and it was two brief paragraphs. Could it be possible Louise’s murder was not about the robbery at Dr. Johnson’s house, but possibly something in regards to the Pennsylvania Railroad? Was Louise murdered because of something that had happened or was it something that was being planned? Or maybe it was about something that happened in Renovo before they all moved to Buffalo?
In 1923, Louise’s murder would once again make the Buffalo newspapers, this time as a part of the political scene. Former Police Chief Michael Regan was now running for Sheriff. Regan had resigned years earlier from the police force claiming he was physically unfit for the job. Guy Moore, now the District Attorney, called Regan out in regards of not solving Louise Carroll’s murder. A counterpoint was made by Regan’s supporters – if Regan had been sheriff, he would have been able to solve it. Moore’s response was Regan could not solve the murder when it happened under his watch as police chief. Regan won the election and Louise’s murder went unsolved.