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)
Oberholtzer, being in full possession
of my mental faculties and conscious
that I am about to die, make as my dying declaration the
My name is Madge Oberholtzer. I am a resident of
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.