Murders & Other Crimes

Republican Compiler, Gettysburg, PA, July 2, 1828

We learn by the Indiana Journal that a rencontre took place at the mouth of Spoon River on the Illinois about the 20th May between 5 white men and 15 or 20 Indians, which resulted in the death of 3 of the latter. The Indians had got whiskey and were drunk, demanded more whiskey, drew their knives and attacked the whites, but having lost three of their number, ran to their camp for their guns, when they were quieted and prevented from further mischief.
Contributed by Nancy Piper

The Ottawa free trader. (Ottawa, Ill.) 1843-1916, September 12, 1857

A Man Killed at a Camp-Meeting -- From the Menard Index, we learn that at the camp-meeting held near Hiawatha, in Mason county, Illinois, a man by the name of Preston Metzker and a worthless fellow by the name of Duff Armstrong had a quarrel and a fight, during which Metzker received a blow from a slung shot, which has since resulted in his death. Armstrong and a wicked character by the name of Norris have cleared out. They are supposed to be the murderers. The Index gives great praise to the Rev. Peter Cartwright for his conduct on the occasion.
Contributed by Kristin Vaughn

Edwardsville Intelligencer, March 31, 1870

It is alleged that Samuel Dudley, Clerk of Mason county, is a defaulter to the amount of several thousand dollars, which he procured by "raising" old county orders.
Contributed by Kim Torp

Mason City Journal, February 12, 1875

Some scalawag hanging around the office of the C. & A. R.R., last Saturday morning, discovered Frank Conehay's pocketbook in one of Frank's coats, hanging in the office, and appropriated the contents, about $7.75, to his own use and behoof, for an un-”expired” term. Probably the scoundrel who stole the money afterwards lost it on the foot-race, as such scamps generally flock around all gambling matinees.

The Inter Ocean, April 8, 1875


Bloomington, Ill., April 7-This afternoon a stabbing affray occurred in a saloon in this city. William Elmer, of Mason City, entered the saloon of Charles Awe, and became noisy. Awe attempted to put him out, when Elmer drew a knife, inflicted several severe stabs, and ran, but was speedily arrested. Awe's injuries are of a severe nature, and he may not recover.

The Cairo bulletin. (Cairo, Ill.) 1872-1878, October 21, 1875

The person who was shot by Constable Reed, while endeavoring to defend the horse-thief Pemberton from the hands of the vigilant committee, at Forest City, on the 7th inst., proves to be Fred Bruning, a young man about 24 years of age, who died from the effect of his injuries last Saturday night. Bruning was formerly a clerk in the dry-good store of M.M. Engle, of Green View, Menard county, and was well known throughout the community.
Contributed by Kristin Vaughn

The Day Book [Chicago, Ill], June 14, 1912

Saidora, Ill - James Mibbs shot and killed his brother Clarence. No reason known

Belleville News-Democrat, October 18, 1913

Shoots Visitor at Home.
Mason City, Ill., Oct. 18-George Soote was shot and perhaps fatally wounded here by John Quick. Quick has confessed to the shooting, saying he had warned Soote to keep away from his residence.

Belleville News-Democrat, December 18, 1916


Mason City, Ill., Dec. 18-The sum of $14,000 was taken by the slayer of Mr. and Mrs. John T. Becker, wealthy farmers, found shot to death five miles northeast of here, according to Sheriff Close of Havana. The money had been collected by Becker December 15 from tenants on his farms.

Bloodhounds, placed on the trail of the slayers, followed a scent to Luther and then to Mason City, ending at the home of relatives.

An autopsy over the dead bodies disclosed the fact that Becker was shot seven times and his wife four times.


The Day Book, Chicago, Ill, December 18, 1916

Trail Slayers of Aged Pair -- Find Bottle Clue

Peoria, Ill., Dec. 18 == Slayers of John Becker, 85 years old, and his wife, aged 83, were trailed to a point three miles from the scene of the crime today. A posse found an empty whiskey bottle, which had contained kerosene. The bottle was splotched with blood. It probably contained kerosene, which was poured over the bodies of the victims after the killing.

Relatives said Becker received $3,000 a year ago and knowledge of his mistrust in banks is thought to have caused the slayers to kill the couple in their search for his gold.


The Day Book, Chicago, Ill, December 18, 1916

Boy and Brother Held in Slaying of Aged Couple

Havana, Ill., Dec. 19 -- Charles Thomas, 31 years old, and John Thomas, 12 years old, brothers, are held here today for investigation in connection with the murder of Mr. and Mrs. John Becker, near Mason City. Bloodhounds followed a trail to the Thomas home, one mile from the scene of the crime. Sheriff Close says shells found at the Becker home tally with those in a .22-calibre rifle in the Thomas boys' home.


Fair Play [Ste. Genevieve, MO], March 17, 1917

William Becker, son and confidential secretary of John P. Becker Sr., who, with his wife, was murdered in his home near Mason City, Ill., in December, was arrested at his home on a warrant charging murder.


The Day Book, Chicago, Ill, March 7, 1917

Peoria, Ill. -- Sheriff has hard time saving Wm. Becker from mob. Is charged with murder of his father and mother at Mason City in December.


The Ogden [Utah] Standard, March 7, 1917

Prisoner Saved From A Lynching
Peoria, Ill., March 6 - A ruse by Sheriff Close of Mason county today probably averted the lynching of William Becker, whose arrest was ordered by a grand jury investigating the murder of his aged father and mother at their home near Mason City, Ill., on the night of December 17 last.

Tonight Becker, who was confidential secretary to his father and handled the hundreds of thousands of dollars belonging to his parents, is in the Logan county jail at Lincoln, Ill., under special guard and held without bail. His parents were shot and killed and an attempt to destroy their home by fire was made apparently in an effort to conceal the murder. The house was ransacked.

While en route to Havana, Ill., with the prisoner in an automobile the sheriff was warned of the approach of a mob in automobiles. He turned his machine toward Pekin, Ill., but a messenger warned him that the mob would try to head him off near that town, too. The sheriff then backed his car into some brush and in a little while the string of automobiles carrying the mob sped by and the sheriff proceeded to Lincoln.

The prisoner refused to make a statement tonight.


Decatur [Illinois] Daily Review, March 8, 1917

Mason City, March 8 - The indictment of William Becker for the killing of his parents has aroused interest in the case and there is general belief that other arrests may follow. It is understood that detectives are still at work on the case and the grand jury is subject to recall at any time to hear additional testimony.

One reason that Mr. Becker was taken to the jail at Lincoln was that his attorneys reside there and it is therefore much more convenient for the development of the defense.

Mob Story Fake
The reports sent out from Peoria of a mob forming to take Becker from the officers was without foundation. Mr. Becker would be perfectly safe on the streets of Mason City, as sentiment generally is in his favor.

Sheriff Sheets knew that Becker was to be given into his care at Lincoln, as Sheriff Close had completed the arrangement even before the indictment had been reported by the grand jury.


Scott County Kicker [Benton, MO], March 31, 1917

Fifteen business men of Mason City, Ill., convinced of his innocence, have signed a bond for $50,000 for the release of William Becker who is charged with the murder of his parents.


Decatur [Illinois] Daily Review, March 16, 1917

Becker Released on $50,000 Bond
Havana Ill., March 16 - William Becker, indicted by the Mason county grand jury March 5, on a charge of murdering his aged parents, Mr. and Mrs. John Becker, in their home near Mason City some time ago, secured his freedom on bond of $50,000 in the circuit court yesterday. Becker, accompanied by a number of friends, returned to his home at Mason City.

After his indictment, Becker was arrested and taken to the county jail at Lincoln. He was brought to Havana yesterday by the sheriff of Logan county. The case probably will be heard at the November term of court.

It is probable that Congressman E.M. Chiperfield of Canton will be in charge of the defense. Mr. Chiperfield and Attorneys Covey and Wood of Lincoln, and Lyman Lacey, represented the defendant on the application for bond. Becker maintains his innocence.