THE DYING DECLARATION OF MADGE OBERHOLTZER
THE KEY EVIDENCE IN THE 1925 TRIAL OF D. C. STEPHENSON
(FROM MY INDIANA BY IRVING LIEBOWITZ (1964) (PP. 195-203)

Madge Oberholtzer


I, Madge Oberholtzer, being in full possession of my mental faculties and conscious that I am about to die, make as my dying declaration the following statements:
My name is Madge Oberholtzer. I am a resident of Marion County, State of Indiana, residing at No. 5802 University Avenue, Indianapolis. I first met D. C. Stephenson at the banquet given for the Governor at the Athletic Club early in January, 1925.

After the banquet he asked me for a date several times, but I gave him no definite answer. He later insisted that I take dinner with him at the Washington Hotel and I consented and he came for me at my home in his Cadillac car, and on this occasion we dined together.

After that he called me several times on the phone, and once again I had dinner with him at the Washington Hotel with another party.   
   

Subsequent to this I was once at Stephenson's home at a party with several prominent people when both gentlemen and their ladies were present.       

I did not see him again until Sunday, March 15, 1925 when upon returning to my home about ten o'clock in the evening I was informed by my mother, who said to me that there had been parties calling for me on the telephone and saying for me to call Irvington 0492. I called Irvington 0492 and Stephenson answered and said to me to come down if I could to his home, that he wished to see me about something very important to me; that he was leaving for Chicago and had to see me before he left. This was about 10 P.M. Sunday.
His home was only two or three blocks from mine. He said further that he was busy and could not leave, but that he would send someone for me. I recognized Stephenson's voice. Soon a Mr. Gentry, whom I had never seen before, came for me and said he was from Stephenson's. I walked with Gentry to Stephenson's home. When we arrived there we went inside. I saw Stephenson and that he had been drinking. His chauffeur, whom he called Shorty, was there also. Shorty is a young man. Later a man whom they called Clenck (sic) came in. Soon as I got inside the house I was very much afraid, as I first learned then there was no other woman about, and that Stephenson's housekeeper was away or at least not in evidence. Immediately upon my arrival they took me into the kitchen and some kind of drinks were produced. It was then Clenck came in the back door. I said I wanted no drink but Stephenson and the others forced me drink. I was afraid not to do so and I drank three small glasses of the drink. This made me very ill and dazed and I vomited.

Stephenson said to me about this time, "I want you to go with me to Chicago." I remember saying I could not and would not. I was very much terrified and did not know what to do. I said to him that I wanted to go home. He said, "No, you cannot go home. Oh, yes! You are going with me to Chi­cago. I love you more than any woman I have ever known." I tried to call my home on the phone but could get no answer. Later when I tried to get to a phone they would not let me.

These men were all about me. They took me up to Stephenson's room, and he opened a dresser drawer which was filled with revolvers. He told each of the men to take one, and he selected a pearl-handled revolver for himself and had Shorty load it. Stephenson said first to me that we were going to drive through to Chicago. He said for me to go with him, but I said I did not wish to and would not go to Chicago. Later Gentry called the Washington Hotel, at Stephenson's order, and secured reservation in a drawing room for two persons. They all took me to the automobile at the rear of Stephenson's yard and we started the trip. I thought we were bound for Chicago but did not know. I begged of them to drive past my home so I could get my hat, and once inside my home I thought I would be safe from them. They drove me to Union Station in the machine, where they had to get a ticket. I did not get out of the automobile all the way.

Before we left the house I remember Stephenson said to Clenck, "You get in touch with Claude Worley right away and tell him we are going to Chicago on a business deal to make money for all of us." Clenck did not go with us in the car. Stephenson and Gentry sat in the car all the time with me until we got onto the train. We stopped at the Washington Hotel on the way down. Shorty got out and went in the hotel and came back. They would not let me out. I was dazed and terrified that my life would be taken and did not know what to do. Stephenson would not let me get out of the car and I was afraid he would kill me. He said he was the law in Indiana. He also said to Gentry, “I think I am pretty smart to have gotten her.” We got on the train, and although I cannot distinctly remember, I think only the colored porter saw us. They took me at once into the compartment. I cannot remember clearly everything that happened after that. I know Gentry got into the top berth of the compartment. Stephenson took hold of the bottom of my dress and pulled it up over my head. I tried to fight but was weak and unsteady. Stephenson took hold of my two hands and held them. I had not the strength to move. What I had drunk was affecting me. Stephenson took all my clothes off and pushed me into the lower berth. After the train had started, Stephenson got in with me and attacked me. He held me so I could not move. I did not know and do not remember all that happened. He chewed me all over my body, bit my neck and face, chewing my tongue, chewed my breasts until they bled, my back, my legs, my ankles and mutilated me all over my body. I remember I heard a buzz early in the morning and the porter calling us to get up for Hammond and Gentry shook me and said it was time to get up, that we were to get off at Hammond. At this time I was becoming more conscious and Stephenson was flourishing his revolver. I said to him to shoot me. He held the revolver against my side, but I did not flinch. I said to him again to kill me, but he put the gun in his grip. I had heard no sound from Gentry during the night. Afterwards Gentry and Stephenson helped me dress and the two men dressed and they took me off the train at Hammond. I remember seeing the conductor. I was able to walk to the Indiana Hotel. I remember begging Stephenson and saying to him to wire my mother during the night and he said he had or would, I am not clear about that. At the Indiana Hotel, Stephenson registered for himself and wife. I tried to see under what name but failed to do so. This was about six-thirty in the morning. There were in the hotel lobby two colored bellboys and two colored girls. Gentry, Stephenson went to the rooms. I had no money. I kept begging Stephenson and say to him to send my mother a telegram. I said to the bellboy, "Are there any blanks in the room?" Stephenson made me write the telegram and said to me what to say. Gentry took the telegram and said he would send it right away. Stephenson lay down on the bed and slept. Gentry put hot towels and hazel on my head and bathed my body to relieve my suffering. We were in room 416 with Stephenson while Gentry was doing this. Stephenson said he was sorry, and that he was three degrees less than a brute. I said to him, “You are worse than that." Breakfast was served in the room. Shorty came in about this time. He said he had driven up in Stephenson's car. Stephenson ate grapefruit, coffee, sausage and buttered toast for breakfast. I drank some coffee but ate nothing.

I said to Stephenson to give me some money, that I had to buy a hat. Shorty gave me $15 at Stephenson's direction and took me out in the car. Shorty said to Stephenson he had been delayed getting there as he could not find the hotel where we were in Hammond. Shorty waited for me while I went into a store close to the hotel to get a hat. This was a small black silk hat similar to one I have-it cost $12.50. When I came back to the car I said to Shorty to drive me to a drugstore in order I might get some rouge. We drove to a drugstore near the Indiana Hotel and I purchased a box of bichloride of mercury tablets. I put these in my coat pocket. Then we went back to the hotel.

During the morning when we were in the hotel the men got more liquor at Stephenson's direction. Stephenson said we were going to drive on to Chicago. Stephenson made me write the telegram to my mother saying we were going to Chicago. Gentry took it.

When I got back to the hotel with Shorty I went up to the room. Gentry had a room next to Stephenson. His was No. 417. I said to Stephenson to let me go into No. 417 to lie down and rest. He said, “Oh, you are not going there. You are going to lie right down here by me." I waited awhile until I thought he was asleep, then I went into room 417. Gentry stayed in the room with Stephenson. There was no glass in room 417 so I got a glass in 416 and took the mercury tablets. I laid out eighteen of the bichloride of mercury tablets and at once took six of them; I only took six because they burnt me so. This was about 10 A.M. Monday, I think.

Earlier in the morning I had taken Stephenson's re­volver, and while Gentry was out sending the telegram I wanted to kill myself then in Stephenson's presence. This was while he was first asleep. Then I decided to try and get poison and take it in order to save my mother from disgrace. I knew it would take longer with the mercury tablets to kill me. Later, after I had taken the mercury tablets, I lay down on the bed and became very ill. I think. it was nearly four o'clock in the afternoon before anyone came into the room where I was. Then Shorty came in. He sat down to talk to me.

He said to me what was wrong that I looked so ill. I replied, "Nothing." He said, "Where is your pain?" and I said it was all over. He said I could not have pain without cause. I said to him, "Can you keep a secret?" He said "Yes." I said, "I believe you can," and then I said to him that I had taken poison, and said to him not to tell Stephenson I was very ill and almost delirious at this time. I had vomited blood all day. When I said to him I had taken poison he turned pale and in a few minutes he said to me he wanted to take a walk. He then went out. In a few minutes Stephenson and Gentry and Shorty came into the room very much excited. Stephenson said, "What have you done?" I said, "I asked Shorty not to tell." Stephenson ordered a quart milk and made me drink it. I said to Stephenson and the others that I had taken six bichloride of mercury tablets, and I said, "If you don't believe it there is evidence on the floor and in the cuspidor." Stephenson emptied the cuspidor into the bathtub and saw some of the tablets and the cuspidor was half full of clotted blood.     

I said to Stephenson, "What are you going to do?” And he said, "We will take you to a hospital here and you can register as my wife. Your stomach will have to be pumped out." He said to me that I could tell them at the hospital I had gotten the mercury tablets through mistake instead ­of aspirin. I refused to do this as his wife. Stephenson said, “We will take you home." I said I would not go home. Either that I would stay right there, and for them to leave me there and go about their own business, or to let me register at another hotel under my own name. Stephenson said, "We will do nothing of the kind. We will take you home." Stephenson said that the best way out of it was for us to drive to Crown Point and for us to get married. Gentry said he agreed with him. I refused. Stephenson snapped his fingers and said to Shorty, "Pack the grips." Stephenson helped me downstairs. I did not care what happened to me. Just before we left Hammond I said to Shorty to call my mother up. He said, "If I do that she will be right up here." And I said, "What could be sweeter." Stephenson said to me he had called her. I said to him, "What did she say?" And he replied that she said it would be all right if I did not come home that night.

I don't know much about what happened after that. My mind was in a daze. I was in terrible agony. Shorty checked out for all of us, and they put me in the back seat of the machine with Stephenson. We then started for home in the automobile. After we got a piece Stephenson said to Shorty to take the auto license plates off of the car, which he did, and Stephenson said to him to say if questioned that we had parked in the last town we had passed through and auto plates had been stolen. All the way back to Indianapolis I suffered great pain and agony and screamed for a doctor. I said I wanted a hypodermic to ease the pain, but they re­fused to stop. I begged and said to Stephenson to leave me along the road someplace, that someone would stop and take care of me if he wouldn't. I said to him that I felt he was more cruel to me than he had been the night before. He said he would stop at the next town before we got there but never did. Just before reaching a town he would say to Shorty, "Drive fast but don't get pinched." I vomited in the car all over the back seat and grips.

Stephenson did not try to make me comfortable in any way. He said he thought I was dying, and at one time said to Gentry, "This takes guts to do this, Gentry. She is dying." I heard him say also that he had been in a worse mess than this before and got out of it. Stephenson and Gentry drank liquor during the entire trip. I remember Stephenson having said that he had power and saying that he had made $250,­000. He said that his word was law. After reaching Indian­apolis, we drove straight to his house, cutting across Emerson Avenue or 38th Street some way. When we reached Stephen­son's garage he said, “There is someone at the front door of the house." It was sometime during the night when we got to the garage, as I think we left Hammond about five o'clock, and Stephenson said to Shorty to go and see who was at the front door. Shorty came back and said, "It's her mother." I remember Stephenson said to me, "You will stay right here until you marry me."

Stephenson, or someone, carried me up the stairs into a loft above the garage. Stephenson did nothing to relieve my pain. I do not remember anything that happened all night, after we reached the garage. I was left in the garage until I was carried home. A big man, the Mr. Clenck mentioned before, took me home. He shook me and awakened me and said, "You have to go home." I asked him where Stephenson was and he said he did not know. I remember Stephenson had told me to tell everyone that I had been in an automobile accident, and he said, "You must forget this, what is done has been done, I am the law and the power." He said to me several times that his word was the law. I was suffering and in such agony I begged and said to Clenck to take me home in the Cadillac car. He said he would order a taxi, but finally said he would take me in Stephenson's car. He put my clothes on me and then carried me down to the car and put me in the back seat and drove the car to my home. I said to him to drive up in the driveway. He did and then carried me into the house and upstairs and into my bed. It was about noon Tuesday when we got into the house.    
    

I, Madge Oberholtzer, am in full possession of all my mental faculties and understand what I am saying. The foregoing statements have been read to me and I have made them as my statements and they are all true. I am sure that I will not recover from this illness, and I believe that death is very near to me, and I have made all of the foregoing statements as my dying declaration and they are true.                                                                  

MADGE OBERHOLTZER

Trial Testimony Concerning Madge's Dying Declaration
Indiana Supreme Court's Decision on the Admissibility of the Dying Declaration
D. C. Stephenson Trial Homepage