Drake - Murder trial - Fountain County INGenWeb Project

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Drake - Murder trial

Source: Indianapolis News 4 July 1903 p 1

Covington, Ind July 4 – The court house is deserted and the great crowd of people that has been attending the trial of Elmira Drake for the murder of her husband is away on picnics or attending Independence Day celebrations. Mrs. Drake is in her cell at the county jail and during the day received a number of visitors, who came to see her out of curiosity. The jury for a week has been almost as much of a prisoner as the defendant, but last night Judge Rabb allowed it to separate and the members return to their homes, so they could have rest and recreation.  This is rather an unusual proceeding, but the judge said the jury is made up of some of the best men in the county and he was not afraid to let the members go to their homes.  The state closed its case in chief at 3 o’clock yesterday.  It was thought that the defense would ask the court to instruct the jury to return a verdict for the defendant, but on the final round-up the State produced such testimony as made it necessary for the defense to go to trial because it was well understood that the court would not give the give the desired instructions. The defense will put Mrs. Drake on the stand in her own behalf because she insists on her right to testify. It is understood that her attorneys would much prefer that she does not go on the stand, but she is determined and they must let her have her way because after all she is the person most interested.  Prosecutor Ratcliff and Charles McCabe, representing the State, both say there is no question in their minds but they will secure a conviction, and the fact that the woman will give testimony in her own behalf encourages them for they may thus be able to impeach her by showing up her record. The State will, on cross-examination, try to show that Mrs. Drake, from her early girlhood was an adventuress and has many victims charged up against her and for one of her games she served a term in prison. John S. Martin, one of the attorneys for the defense, defender here when she was sent to prison. The State feels encouraged over the fact that but for the woman’s reputation it is doubtful that she would now be on trail, but the good people of the community in which she lives are determined to get rid of her, if possible, and they are afraid that if she should be acquitted there is no telling what damage she might do to the people of Harveysburg and vicinity.  The attorneys for the state think they have welded a chain of circumstances about the woman which, if it does not hang her, will drag her to prison for life.  The State began this chain by showing the peculiar manner in which she met Drake; how she was a fortune hunter who, in less than a year after the death of her husband – whose death is now being investigated – began hunting for victims. That the woman secured a large sum of money from Drake and that she refused to give it back to him.  It was shown that she wrote letters back to his relatives after they were married to ascertain if her husband had property, and that these letters were written anonymously. The contention of the State is that she was laying plans to murder her husband who was 13 years her junior.  She deceived him as to her age, the testimony shows. He got drunk and they had frequent quarrels. She had him arrested for surety of the peace. He secured letters and instruments that showed her to be in an infamous business, and he threatened to send her to the prison if she appeared against him.  She did not appear, but had the case dismissed. She told several person that she was determined to get rid of him one way or another. She said she was afraid of him and a short time after these threats he was taken with a fatal sickness.  It was known that she did not call a doctor. That he would be better one day and worse the next and it was shown that though the attending physician had instructed her to notify him of any change in the man’s condition, she did not do so and when the physician, notified by some of the man’s friends reached the house, Drake was dying. That she did not display much grief over his death and refused to let the relatives of the dead man have the body until they had paid all the funeral expenses. That she refused an autopsy unless the surgeons would agree that no parts of the body be taken away, the contention of the State being that she was afraid of a chemical analysis of the stomach.  In addition to all this, Dr. Hurty of Indianapolis, Dr. Nelson Bayton, Dr. Davidson of Lafayette and Dr. Williamson of Kingman all testified that the sulphate of zinc and antimony found in the stomach and other organs was the cause of death. The poison was found about the place and in her testimony before the grand jury, where Mrs. Drake appeared as a volunteer witness, she said there was no poison around the house to her knowledge. All this, with the woman’s reputation, makes the attorneys for the State believe that they will secure her conviction.  Mrs. Livengood for the defense, in his opening statement to the jury said they were able to show that Drake and his wife were a loving couple; that she really was in love with him and had no reason for his death. The defense will show, he said that Mrs. Drake knew her husband had no property when they were married except  about $200 and that she was ready and willing to give that to him whenever he wanted it.  The defense will content that Mrs. Drake never made any threats, that she dismissed the surety of the peace proceedings because she loved her husband, and did not appear because he had promised to treat her better and further, that she was sick and unable to appear in court.  That the instruments claimed by the State to be for infamous practices had been in the family for many years, were made by her first husband and were used in repairing organs; that her husband never threatened to send her to prison – she prosecuted him. She will deny writing any anonymous letters, and will insist that much of the testimony that was introduced by the State was the result of a neighborhood conspiracy to get her away from Harveysburg.  The defense will introduce testimony to show that Drake, while working in the woods was poisoned by ivy vines; that he bought the sulphate of zinc himself, and told the druggist that he was very susceptible to ivy poison; that he used the zinc as a wash for his poisoned hands and body and also as a gargle for his sore throat. The defense will meet the testimony of the State’s experts with the testimony of other experts who will give evidence that the poison found in the body was not in sufficient quantities to produce death that it was absorbed through the skin and was not given the man by the mouth. The defense has in different vials the quantity of poison that was found n the body and in other vials the quantity that would be necessary to produce death, the purpose being to give the jury an ocular demonstration that the quantity found in the body was not a fatal dose and the contention will be that the stuff found is not in fact a deadly poison. The principal contention of the defense is that Drake was a hearty eater and was sensitive to attacks of cholera morbus and his drinking habits made him susceptible to gastritis. The defense will show that on the night Drake was taken sick he ate three large slices of ham, a large quantity of bread, some vegetables and an hour later drank a quart of ginger tea, and that this overloading of the stomach brought on a violent attack of cholera morbus and gastritis. It will be shown, it is asserted, further, that Drake took a whisky cure and the poison contained in this cure might have aggravated his condition.  The insistence of the defense is that Drake died from cholera morbus and gastritis and not from poison.  It is possible that the defense may bring out from Drake the story of her imprisonment and have her explain the charges of the different crimes against her. Mr. Livengood says that he does not know what day his client will go on the witness stand, but hopes to get her testimony by Tuesday afternoon or Wednesday. The state will introduce a number of witnesses in rebuttal after the defense has rested its case. It is thought that the trial will take up most of next week.  WH Blodgett

Source: Indianapolis News Wed 25 March 1903 p 1

Covington, March 25 – Love and be loved – that was Drake’s and my motto when we were married. He loved me and I loved him. I did not give him poison. It is all a big pack of lies; these things you see in the newspapers.

Mrs. Elimar Myers Drake, who is behind the bars of the Fountain County jail on the charge of murder in the first degree for poisoning her husband by the slow zink process, gave way to tears as she thus summed up a long interview in her cell this morning. At times when she told of how she had advertised for a husband in a matrimonial paper, how Drake had come to see and court her, and how he had embraced her, and how they had healed many family quarrels by kissing, her eyes began to fill and many times she repeated – “Love and be loved – that was our motto.”  The Drake murder mystery has put all Fountain County on the tiptoe. The grand jury finished its investigation today and it is expected that the report will be made tomorrow.  It is said that some of the charges that were made in Coroner E. F. Rice’s court against Mrs. Drake have not turned out as expected in the grand jury investigation. It is expected that an indictment will be returned against Mrs. Drake tomorrow but that it will not be based so much on the testimony that has been given, a large portion of which is through second and third parties as on the analysis of the contents of Drake’s stomach made by Dr. JN Hurty of the state board of health in which he found sulphate of zinc in large quantities.  Mrs. Drake said this morning, “I loved Drake -yes, I loved him. No, no, I did not give him any poison.”  But, Mrs. Drake, sulphate of zinc has been found in his stomach. How did it get there? “I don’t know.”  Haven’t you any theory? NO.  She tought a long time and again said no as she wiped her eyes. ‘Did you ever have any poison around the house?”  “Yes, sulphate of zinc. Drake was very easily poisoned and if he would be working in the woods he would use sulphate of zinc as a wash. He bought the stuff at a drug store and kept it in a small glass jar in the house and it can be found there now. “Did it ever occur to you that Drake committed suicide?  She thought for some time and then said, “Drake was just my kind of man, but he had one fault. When he would get mad he would lose his temper and he told me several times that he felt that he was going crazy. Several times he would seem beside himself with anger and he might have taken the poison himself during such spells. He would not take it at any other time.”

The opinion is expressed among those who have testified against her that Mrs. Drake got rid of her husband because she feared he would put her out of the way. “Did it ever occur to you, Mrs. Drake that he married you for your money and was trying to get it?  

“Yes, it did at times – but I loved him so I looked over that. He always wanted me to collect in large sums of money – 4500 and up. Then in January he wanted me to deed all my property to him. When I would not do it he wanted me to sell everything I had and get it all into money. He wanted me to insure my life for 43,000. He always seemed to be thinking about my money. “Did you ever think he was trying to get away with you?”  She thought and finally dismissed the subject, “Oh, he loved me!”
Did you ever think he was going to get ahold of your money and then leave you?
“I would have thought so if he had not loved me so. He would never leave the house until he would kiss me.”

Mrs. Drake has a record that will stand against her. Ten years ago she was committed to the Indiana Women’s Prison on the charge of robbing a man named Hathaway of $4,000.  Previous to that she was in litigation in this county charged with having secured the mill and property of a blind man named Banmetre through illegitimate methods.  Many of the people of Harveysburg, her home, who have been her neighbors for years, charge her with having a bad moral record. EI Lewis – The records of the women’s prison show that Ella A. Myers was received from Fountain County May 26, 1890. She was sentenced to one year for embezzlement and was discharged from prison April 22, 1891. The records do not show what kind of prisoner she was. Her term was before the enactment of the indeterminate sentence law and it appears that she got one month off for good time.

Source: Kentucky Post and Times-Star Tue 30 June 1903 p 8

Covington, Ind June 30 – Mrs. Elmira Drake, 70, charged with the murder of her husband, Robert Drake by giving him sulphate of zinc was placed on trial for her life here Monday.  Before 8 o’clock people were coming from different parts of the county, and the courtroom was filled. The defense will make the point that Drake was in the habit of using sulphate of zinc and thus account for poison in his stomach.  Mrs. Drake will probably be put on the stand in her own behalf. Drake came from Wisconsin in response to a matrimonial “ad” to marry the woman. Since the investigation of his death there has been talk about the death of a previous husband, Calvin Myers in 1900 and yesterday his body was disinterred and the stomach is being examined.  Mrs. Drake was sent to prison a few years ago for bouncing Farmer Hathaway out of $20,000.  It is said she got $20,000 about a score of years ago from the Goelet estate by claiming that her mother had been secretly married to the grandfather of J. Ogden Goelet, the NY millionaire.

Source: Chicago Tribune 27 March 1903 p 4

Covington, Ind March 26 – Mrs. Elmira Drake who was arrested on Monday for poisoning her husband and who claims to be a daughter of the late Peter Goelet of NY today gave a history of her early life. She says she was born in White County, Indiana March 8, 1856.  She is angry because some newspaper correspondents have state that she was 60.  When she was 3 months old her mother died and she was adopted by Mr. Carson McElwee. Her foster father often told her she was the daughter of Pete Goelet and when he died in NY a Chicago Lawyer named Willis Wolf and his brother, Marion Wolf of Crawfordsville induced her then the wife of Solomon Myers to put her claim against the Goelet estate in their hands.  Mrs. Drake says she followed them to NY City and at the residence of Elhrige T. Gerry was introduced to her two aunts and one uncle, sisters and brother of Pete Goelet. Mrs. Drake says she reived more than $10000 to settle but she will not say just how much. She says her lawyers would never tell her the exact amount they obtained. She vigorously denies that she poisoned Mr. Drake claiming that she was deeply in love with him.  Her case is to go before the grand jury.

Source: Chicago Tribune 11 July 1903 Sat p 13

Covington, Ind July 10 – The jury in the case of Mrs. Elmira Drake, who was tried on the charge of poisoning her husband, disagreed today and was discharged.

Source: Weekly Republican Thu 16 July 1903 p 6

Covington, Ind July 11 – The jury that has been hearing the case of Mrs. Elmira Drake who was tried on the charge of poisoning her husband, disagreed and was discharged. The jury stook six for conviction, six for acquittal.  

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