Featured Stories

Law and Order: The Anthony King Murder

-By Greg Hoots-

Chapter 1

Anthony and Marie King were a typical young married couple. Anthony King, born in 1871, was a clerk in a store when the pair wed, and as many young couples do, the Kings hoped to buy a home and raise a family in Junction City, Kansas where they resided. King had once hoped to open a restaurant, but as a married man, his more immediate concern was to find a better paying job.  So, when a position as a city police officer opened on the Junction City force, King applied for the job and was hired.

Working as a policeman paid much more than King had been earning as a store clerk, but the job was very demanding in a bad way. Junction City had always been a tough town to police.  The city was frequented by soldiers from nearby Fort Riley, and there were districts of taverns, gambling establishments and brothels.  And, King soon learned that the use of physical force was a requisite to performing his duty as a policeman, if not for his own survival.

So, when Anthony King was walking his beat one day in July of 1910 and observed two men engaged in an argument and fisticuffs, he approached the men with his nightstick in his hand, ordering them to stop, immediately, and to take their disagreement off the public street, less they be arrested. One of the men, Walter O. Mullins, cursed at the officer, telling him, “You can’t arrest me.” Mullins advanced on King, and the officer dealt a strong blow to Mullins’ head with the nightstick, dropping the offender to the ground, instantly.

Walter Mullins was taken to a doctor, and as the injury to his head was severe, Mullins was bedridden, and it took some time for him to recover his faculties. Mullins, however, could afford the best of care at his Junction City home. He was a man of means, a wealthy landowner and businessman with extensive property holdings both in Junction City and rural Geary County. Mullins’ extended recovery also gave him many hours to think of ways to exact revenge on Anthony King. Walter Mullins soon came to the conclusion that there was only one solution to his problem, Anthony King must be killed.

While Walter Mullins was a man who was quick to anger and no stranger to violence, when it came to this job, Mullins wanted a third party to do the work. He first approached one of his hired men, young Fred Pickering, offering him $200 and a train ticket to San Francisco, if he would kill King. Mullins even suggested that Pickering should follow King and kill the policeman when he was patrolling the railroad yards. Mullins said the crime could be blamed on a hobo. Pickering refused to agree to perform the killing, leaving Mullins concerned that Pickering, himself, was now a liability.

Mullins was frustrated with his lack of success in hiring Pickering to kill King, but he was not dissuaded from the plan. There were lots of other men who worked for Mullins in Geary County, both on and off the books, but for a job like this with the associated dangers, Mullins decided to hire a professional killer from out of town. Mullins had spent his childhood in northern Louisiana and southern Arkansas, and he still had friends there who had unsavory reputations for good cause. One such individual was Paul Roberts.

Once Mullins had recovered from his head injuries, he became obsessed with harassing, berating, and threatening King while the latter worked in Junction City. To make matters worse, Mullins’ brother was a member of the Geary County Sheriff’s department, and a strong animosity had grown between King and members of that department.

In June of 1912 Mullins traveled by train to Bernice, Louisiana, the home of Paul Roberts. Roberts and Mullins had been childhood friends, and both had been in trouble with the law. Mullins had operated a successful club in Junction City, Arkansas, and Roberts was “hired muscle” who could collect debts and settle scores for a price. Roberts had bragged of killing a black man by dragging him at the end of a rope through the streets of Junction City, Arkansas until the man was dead. Roberts had also stood trial for shooting a man, Jim Green, during a poker game but was acquitted of murder by a verdict of self-defense. Paul Roberts was considered in his home town to be a very bad man. Mullins asked Paul Roberts to come to Kansas to kill Anthony King, and Roberts agreed.

Paul Roberts had been married for less than a year, but he and his wife, Myrtle, had a very rocky relationship, and Roberts mistrusted his wife, believing that she was plotting to kill him. Reportedly, before Roberts would ingest anything that his wife cooked, he would feed a portion to the family’s dog to see if the animal succumbed to poison.  Later, Myrtle Roberts would testify in court that her husband told her that he had to go to Kansas to take care of some business for William Mullins.  She also testified that her husband was a heavy drinker and addicted to morphine.

As the summer of 1912 passed, Anthony King became more and more dissatisfied with his job and his life in Junction City. King and his wife had two children, ages 7 and 2, and times were becoming increasingly difficult for the Kings. In July of 1912, Paul Roberts arrived in Junction City, immediately calling on his friend, Mullins who gave Roberts cash for a room at Lizzie Woods’ boarding house.  Woods later testified that after registering at her boarding house Roberts began inquiring about a certain policeman named Anthony King.  Woods also said that Roberts later claimed that he had told King that Junction City was only big enough for one of the two men.

In August of 1912 while King was at work, his house was set afire with his wife and two small children barely escaping the burning dwelling. A few nights later while King was walking his beat, he came under gunfire while near the railroad yards. He took cover, and the assailant fled. Anthony and Marie King made the decision to leave Junction City, and at the end of the August they packed their remaining belongings which had not been destroyed by the fire and moved to Alta Vista, Kansas in southwest Wabaunsee County. On Friday, August 30, 1912 Anthony King opened a restaurant in a tiny building on the north side of the Masonic Hall (707 Main Street). The restaurant wasn’t far from the CRIP depot and railroad yards, and immediately, the new café did a brisk business with railroad crews and passengers.

Masonic Hall, Alta Vista

The Masonic Hall building, left, and the café once operated by Anthony King, right, are seen here in a photo published in the 1987 Alta Vista Centennial book.

King’s restaurant opened on the first day of a five-day Chautauqua in Alta Vista, and three-time Presidential candidate William Jennings Bryan was the keynote speaker for the opening of the celebration. Alta Vista was packed with visitors. King soon learned that in the restaurant business the hours were long. Often, customers would arrive by 6:00 am, eager for breakfast, and sometimes folks would arrive on the train and want a meal at 11:00 pm. King enjoyed the work, and he loved working for himself; but, in the kitchen of the café King kept a twelve-gauge shotgun on a shelf, as he knew the past was never too far behind him.

Buster Brown Show

A crowd gathered in front of the Pearl Opera House in Alta Vista for a “Buster Brown Show” held during the Chautauqua held at Alta Vista the last weekend of August in 1912.

Anthony King’s departure from Junction City took Paul Roberts by surprise, and Walter Mullins was enraged that the man who had offended him had escaped. Inquiries were made, but the first lead on King’s whereabouts came from an article in the Junction City Daily Union newspaper which reported that King had opened a confectionary in White City, Kansas. The next day, Roberts departed Junction City in a buggy owned by Mullins, headed to White City.  At White City Roberts entered a café, asking if the establishment belonged to Anthony King.  The restaurateur replied that there was no one named King in White City, but that he had heard that someone by that name had opened a café in Alta Vista.

The_Junction_City_Daily_Union_Thu__Aug_22__1912_

This article in the Junction City Daily Union reported that Anthony King had moved to White City to operate a candy store when, in fact, he had moved to Alta Vista to operate a restaurant.

Paul Roberts drove Walter Mullins’ buggy across what is now Kansas Highway 4, leading to Alta Vista, less than 20-miles to the northeast. Upon arriving in Alta Vista, Roberts took his buggy and team to Stephen Nelson’s livery stable and inquired about the location of King’s restaurant. Nelson was happy to point Roberts to King’s café, located just a block south of the livery.

Livery Stable

Stephen Nelson operated this livery stable, just a block north of Anthony King’s café. Nelson testified in all of the King murder trials.

Paul Roberts walked to King’s tiny café, and the eatery was packed. A train had arrived and was refilling with water, allowing the crew and passengers the opportunity to have a quick meal.  Roberts peered in the window, and he almost immediately recognized King, serving plates of food.

Roberts pulled his hat over his brow and slipped in line with the railroad crew and waited to place his order. Soon, Paul Roberts came face to face with the man whom he planned to kill. After dining, Roberts walked through the kitchen and out the back door.  A rendering house belonging to Ascher’s meat market and an outhouse were located behind the restaurant, and there was a path from the back door to the wooden privy.  After relieving himself Roberts reentered the café’s back door, walking along the side of the kitchen and into the main dining area. He noticed a 12-gauge shotgun leaning against the back wall of the tiny café.

Paul Roberts spent the night at the Bunger Hotel and then departed the next day in Walter Mullins’ buggy, returning to Junction City. Upon arrival at Mullins’ home Roberts was excited to tell of his discovery that King was in Alta Vista, not White City, and that Roberts had come face to face with King, and the latter had not recognized him. Mullins said that Roberts should return to Alta Vista as soon as possible to do the job.

Bunger Hotel

A group of men pose for a photographer in front of the Bunger Hotel in Alta Vista, Kansas.

Roberts returned to Lizzie Woods’ boarding house to spend the night and retrieve his trunk which he had stored there. He had packed some 12-guage buckshot shells into the trunk when he left Louisiana and had attempted to pack a disassembled shotgun which would not fit into the trunk. The next morning Roberts slipped two pair of buckshot shells in his pocket as he repacked his trunk at Woods’ boarding house, and he slipped a revolver under his belt. Mullins drove Roberts to the Junction City depot, and Paul Roberts boarded a train that would take him to Alta Vista.

It was Friday, the 13th of September when Paul Roberts arrived in Alta Vista at the Rock Island depot, carrying his trunk directly to the Bunger Hotel. He registered at the desk and went to his room, placing his trunk on the bed. Roberts took a couple of drinks from a whiskey flask and then a swig of laudanum before leaving his room and returning to the front desk. Roberts reached into his pocket, producing a $50 gold piece, and asked the woman at the desk if she could place his gold coin in a safe, as he planned on going for a bite to eat and didn’t want to carry that much money with him.  She replied that she could place it in a safe.  Roberts walked out of the hotel and down the street to King’s café.  The Bunger Hotel had no safe, so the hotel clerk took the $50 gold piece to the Alta Vista State Bank, where she placed the coin in a box inside the bank safe.

Meseke Bank

The Alta Vista State Bank was located a block south of Anthony King’s café on Main Street.

Paul Roberts entered King’s café and enjoyed a good lunch. Livery stable operator Stephen Nelson later testified in court that he observed Roberts eating lunch and stopped to visit with him. When Roberts had arrived in Alta Vista on his first visit, he had represented himself to Nelson as a mule-buyer. The men talked briefly of the horse market, according to Nelson. Nelson later testified that after eating, Roberts walked to a cigar case, removed a cigar, and walked into the back of the café while Nelson finished his lunch.

Friday evening’s business was good at King’s café. At about 9:00 pm King began washing the dishes and pans used for the evening meals, glancing into the dining room to see if there were any customers remaining who had not yet received their food. Only one man sat at a table, his hat pulled over his eyes, smoking a cigar after finishing his dinner. King walked into the room and removed the man’s empty plate returning to the kitchen to wash the dish. It took King almost twenty minutes to clean the stove and the kitchen, and when he was done King rinsed the cleaning rag in the remaining dish water, wrung it dry and hung it on a nail stuck in the edge of the cabinet.

Paul Roberts rose from his table and dropped the butt of his cigar on the floor, mashing it with the sole of his shoe with a twisting motion of his foot. He walked through the hallway along the side of the kitchen, and as he approached the back door, he reached to one side and grabbed King’s 12-gauge shotgun which was leaning against the back wall of the building. Roberts walked out the back door into the blackness of the night and positioned himself behind a pile of poles which were stored next to Will Ascher’s meat market building. Roberts broke the action of the shotgun apart, revealing that it had no ammunition. He reached into his pocket, removed two of his 12-gauge buckshot shells, and loaded them into the gun.

Roberts took a sip from his whiskey flask while he watched the back door of King’s café. King appeared in the doorway, carrying a wide pan containing the dish water, and he took several strides into the back yard of the business before throwing the dishwater into the black night. King turned, retraced his steps and entered the back door of the restaurant as Paul Roberts crept behind him in the darkness. The screen door slammed behind King, and Roberts, less than 20-feet behind his prey, opened fire with the shotgun, the first blast hitting King in the back, leaving a gaping hole in the screen door. Roberts opened the door; King lay on the floor, bleeding, but alive. Roberts fired the second barrel of the gun, striking King in the neck. King grasped Roberts’ leg with one hand, and Roberts began beating the dying man’s arm with the shotgun, breaking the stock of the weapon completely free of the barrel. King’s dead body, mangled by the shotgun blasts and one arm broken, laid in the back doorway in a pool of blood for the remainder of the night.

Roberts retrieved the broken stock and action of the gun and ran out the back door, cutting across several lots, making his escape from the scene of the crime. He tossed the two pieces of the gun into a gully as he hurried back to the Bunger Hotel.

When Paul Roberts entered the front door of the hotel, Mrs. Bunger was seated at the desk and a railroad man staying at the hotel, Jerry Murphy, was seated in the tiny lobby, smoking a cigar. Roberts went directly to the desk and asked Mrs. Bunger if he could retrieve his $50 gold piece and pay his bill. Mrs. Bunger replied that she would not be able to give him the $50 because she had placed it in the vault at the Alta Vista State Bank, and that she could retrieve his money the next morning. Roberts was visibly perturbed with her answer, and Mrs. Bunger explained that it wouldn’t matter, anyway, since the last regular passenger train had left for the night, and she reminded him that he had requested that she place the gold in a safe. Seemingly satisfied with her explanation, Roberts urged her to retrieve the coin when the bank opened in the morning, and he invited Murphy to accompany him to his room for some drinking. Murphy was game.

The two men retired to Roberts’ room, and Roberts produced a full bottle of whiskey from his trunk. Roberts spent the entire night drinking, consuming stimulants, and telling stories. Sometime in the wee hours of the morning Murphy retired to his room, while Roberts remained wide-awake during the entire night, appearing at the front desk at 6:00 am, reporting that he was ready to get his $50.

At about 6:15 am J. C. Atchison, “the potato man” of Parkerville, Kansas walked into the front door of King’s restaurant, hoping to have breakfast. No one appeared to be behind the counter, and Atchison looked down the hallway and saw Anthony King’s body lying just a few feet in front of the rear door. City Marshal James Brannick was called immediately to the scene of the crime.  Upon arriving at the café, Brannick called Sheriff Otto Zwanziger and County Coroner Dr. Johnson, both of whom departed Alma on the next train for Alta Vista.

Before Sheriff Otto Zwanziger even arrived in Alta Vista, the news of Anthony King’s death swept through town. There was a report of a stranger who had been seen at King’s café on Friday night, and Marshal Brannick immediately checked at the Fairview Hotel, Nelson’s Livery Stable, and the Bunger Hotel, inquiring as to the presence of any strangers. At the Bunger Brannick was told that Paul Roberts was upstairs in his room, and the Marshal immediately took Roberts into custody, arresting him for drunkenness. The sheriff and coroner both arrived and inspected the scene of the crime, and Zwanziger then took the shackled Roberts with him on an east bound train to Alma.

Chapter 2

Oscar Schmitz was born in 1874, the third child of Alma pioneer Henry Schmitz and his wife, Lena. Schmitz attended law school at the University of Kansas and returned to Alma to practice law. In 1904 Oscar Schmitz was elected to the office of County Attorney in Wabaunsee County. When the Anthony King murder case found its way to the County Attorney’s office, Schmitz recognized that it would be the largest and most important trial of his career.

The Monday morning after the murder found Oscar Schmitz busy reviewing the Sheriff’s reports of the discovery of King’s body and the Roberts arrest report. There was no doubt in Schmitz’s mind that Roberts was responsible for King’s death. A witness interviewed by Deputy Addie, a railroad man named Jerry Murphy, had reported that Roberts had bragged about the crime while the two drank whiskey at the hotel after the killing. Still, Roberts was not talking, and Schmitz had yet to determine a motive for the crime.

Courthouse

A group of county officials stand on the front steps of the Wabaunsee County Courthouse in this real photo postcard view, circa 1910. The Mullins and Roberts trials were both held in this courthouse.

Just before lunch, Sheriff Zwanziger came into Oscar Schmitz’s office. The Sheriff had big news, someone was in his office trying to post bond for Paul Roberts.  Roberts was being held on a charge of drunkenness, a crime that usually had a bond of $50.  Schmitz walked across the hall to the judge’s office, and when he emerged the bond on Roberts was set at $1,000. The man who had wanted to post Roberts’ bail, one A.L. Hartman of Junction City, didn’t have $1,000, so he left the courthouse in Alma and walked toward the train station. As soon as Hartman left the District Court offices, Schmitz ordered the Sheriff to follow the man back to Junction City and see whom he contacted upon his return. Deputy Addie trailed Hartman who was met at the Junction City train depot by Walter O. Mullins.

Sheriff Zwanziger, Deputy Addie, and Schmitz met after lunch, and the law officers briefed Schmitz on what information they had learned about Anthony King, Paul Roberts, and Walter Mullins. Sources in Junction City confided to the Wabaunsee County Sheriff that Mullins had been harassing King for more than two years, and that King and his family’s lives had been imperiled by the ongoing animosity. Schmitz soon realized the magnitude of the case.

The next morning Schmitz left early on the train to Topeka. He was seeking the counsel of a skilled, veteran criminal attorney who he hoped would assist in the prosecution of the murder case. Schmitz walked from the Rock Island depot up Kansas Avenue to the offices of W. S. Roark, Attorney at Law. Roark was a highly respected criminal attorney in the Capital City who also maintained an office in Junction City, and he was known for his aggressive courtroom style and his attention to the technical details of his cases. Roark was saying goodbye to a well-dressed man when Schmitz arrived, and the Topeka attorney greeted Schmitz with a smile, beckoning him into his office. Roark asked the Wabaunsee County Attorney how he could be of assistance, and Schmitz explained that he had landed a huge murder case, murder-for-hire, in fact, and that he would like Roark to join him as counsel for the prosecution.  Flattering Roark, Schmitz noted that he wanted the help of the very best in the business.  Roark was a man who enjoyed flattery, but he blushed slightly at the uncomfortable position that his friend from Alma placed him with the request.  Roark politely declined the offer and explained in an unapologetic way that he and his partner, Lee Monroe, had been hired just minutes earlier to defend Paul Roberts.  The news hit Schmitz like a ton of bricks.  How could this have happened? Schmitz and Roark said their goodbyes, the latter noting that he would be coming to Alma in the next couple of days to confer with his client.

Schmitz caught the next train back to Alma, vowing to never be outmaneuvered again.

By the time Schmitz’s train arrived at the Rock Island depot in Alma, he had formed a clear plan in his mind as to how he would immediately proceed. Departing the train, he went directly to his office in the Wabaunsee County Courthouse, stopping only to invite the Sheriff into the prosecutor’s office. Schmitz noticed a short stack of notes on his desk and quickly examined them. Included were notices of appearance in defense of Paul Roberts for Manhattan, Kansas attorney, Senator John E. Hessin, and Alma, Kansas attorney, William Bowes, along with notices for Roark and Monroe. Hessin was a well-known Manhattan attorney, and every one of Roberts’ defenders had a reputation for a fierce defense associated with a very high price tag. Schmitz came face-to-face with the reality that this shiftless drifter and drunk, Paul Roberts had somehow hired the best legal representation in Kansas.

Oscar Schmitz looked across his desk at Sheriff Zwanziger and Deputy Addie, declaring that there was some “big money” behind this Roberts fellow, and while he had been finessed in the move to hire Roark, it would not happen again. Schmitz proposed a dramatic move which would prove to provide very damaging testimony against the accused and which would also bring the County Attorney under fire with claims of underhandedness and subterfuge. Schmitz gave orders to Sheriff Zwanziger to move Roberts into a specially prepared cell on the first floor which was located adjacent to a storage room in the jail.  Clerk of the District Court Fred Wilson and Sheriff Zwanziger carved a small rectangular hole in the wall of the cell and installed the speaker portion of a court Dictaphone machine, and they creatively patched the hole with wallpaper and plaster. A small cubbyhole was created in the room next to the cell in which the District Court Clerk could sit and take shorthand, creating a permanent record of everything that was said inside Roberts’ cell.

Next, Schmitz placed a call to the Burns Detective Agency in Kansas City, and he hired three detectives who were placed in the cell with Roberts at different times to encourage Roberts to talk. And talk, he did. Roberts bragged to the detectives about King’s killing, and he went so far as to attempt to bribe the men to testify that they had observed Roberts at the train depot when the killing took place. The clerk transcribed all of the conversations that transpired in Roberts’ cell during his incarceration in the county jail. In addition to providing very damning testimony against the accused, the eavesdropping device allowed the state to listen to all conversations between Roberts and any visitors, including his attorneys.

Wabaunsee County Jail

Paul Roberts was held in one of the first-floor cells at the Wabaunsee County Courthouse jail between September of 1912 through May of 1913, before committing suicide the morning of his sentencing.

The next morning Roberts was moved to his new cell and a Burns detective was placed in the cell with the accused. District Court Clerk Wilson secreted himself in his cubbyhole in the janitor’s room, listening intently to his earphones as he took dictation of all that he heard.

Alma Jail

A sign at the Wabaunsee County Jail warned the public not to talk to prisoners.

Schmitz arrived at the courthouse at 8:00 am, and there was a stout, burly looking man waiting by his office door. The man identified himself as Joseph Orberg, a member of the Junction City police force and former co-worker of Anthony King. Orberg had plenty to tell Oscar Schmitz about Walter Mullins and King’s life in Junction City.  Orberg revealed the facts concerning the conspiracy by Mullins, Roberts and Al Hartman to kill King, describing in detail the interactions between Mullins and King in the last two years. Orberg also revealed that Geary County Sheriff John Harbes was a very close friend of Walter Mullins, and that the Sheriff’s office was actively working to protect Mullins interest in the case. Finally, Orberg indicated that he planned to resign from the police department, as he was not going to wait for Mullins’ henchmen to shoot him in the dead of night.  Schmitz recognized Orberg as a valuable source of evidence and a credible ear in Junction City and offered Orberg a job as a special deputy to help investigate the King killing.  Orberg offered a final piece of advice for Schmitz, suggesting that he question a young man named Fred Pickering who worked for Mullins. Orberg said that Pickering was doing a lot of talking about the King murder, and he offered to arrange a meeting between Pickering and Schmitz. Oscar Schmitz could barely believe his good fortune as he furiously took notes of Orberg’s allegations.

The next afternoon Fred Pickering stepped into Oscar Schmitz’s office, identifying himself to the County Attorney. Pickering relayed the story of two separate occasions when he drove a buggy for Mullins, taking him to his rural Geary County farm. Pickering claimed that on both occasions Mullins offered him $200 and a railroad ticket to California if he would “finish up Anthony King.”  Pickering signed a written affidavit of his statement, giving it to County Attorney Schmitz before returning to Junction City.

Oscar Schmitz was becoming increasingly confident of his case against both Roberts and Mullins. On October 8th, as Roberts had been held for three weeks on the drunkenness charge, Schmitz was ready to charge Roberts with murder. Schmitz dismissed the charge of drunkenness and immediately charged Paul Roberts with the first degree murder of Anthony King. Roberts was held without bail, and his preliminary hearing was initially set for October 18th, but it was postponed until October 29th at the request of Roberts’ attorneys.

When Fred Pickering returned to Junction City after giving Oscar Schmitz his sworn affidavit incriminating Walter Mullins in the King killing, the young Pickering was confronted by one of Mullins’ henchmen, A. J. Brooks. After some intimidation, Pickering confessed to what he had told the prosecutor and agreed to sign a new affidavit reputing his first one, claiming that he had been unduly pressured by the County Attorney to sign it. Brooks offered Pickering $50 if he would sign the new affidavit in front of a notary and return it to him. Pickering signed the affidavit, but rather than return it to Brooks, he opted to flee Junction City the following morning, taking a train to White City.

The next morning Walter Mullins asked his friend, Sheriff John Harbes to issue a warrant for Pickering’s arrest on the charge of blackmail, claiming that Pickering had demanded $50 to sign this new affidavit. Pickering was apprehended in White City and taken to the Geary County jail awaiting trial on the blackmail charge.

Oscar Schmitz still needed a co-counsel, and he could see that there were at least two separate major murder cases developing. Further, Schmitz was facing a team of highly accomplished trial lawyers, and he was absolute in his intent to acquire convictions in this case. Schmitz contacted an old friend, William H. Carpenter of Marion, Kansas, a highly esteemed trial lawyer, orator, and jurist. Carpenter agreed to provide counsel to the State and join Schmitz in the prosecution, and he came to Alma immediately to work on the case, full-time. Among his first duties as part of the team, Carpenter became counsel for Pickering, providing defense in his blackmail trial. Schmitz also enlisted the counsel of a prominent Topeka criminal attorney, John J. Schenck who appeared with Schmitz and Carpenter at the Roberts trial.

The preliminary hearing for Paul Roberts convened on the morning of October 29, 1912 to a packed courtroom. Over 50 people from Alta Vista, both witnesses and spectators, arrived in Alma by train, and the street in front of the courthouse was lined with buggies and wagons. County Attorney Oscar Schmitz presented 21 witnesses for the prosecution. Lizzie Woods testified of her conversations with Roberts at her boarding house in Junction City, and Fred Pickering testified that Mullins had offered to pay him to kill Anthony King. Pickering also testified that he saw Mullins and Roberts together the day before the shooting. Deputy Will Addie testified that he had followed Al Hartman, who had attempted to post Roberts’ bond on the drunkenness charge, to Junction City where he was met by Walter Mullins.

The defense offered no witnesses, and Justice Lyons found probable cause in the preliminary hearing to bind Roberts over for trial on the murder charge to the February term of the court, setting his bond at $25,000.

On November 11, 1912 the blackmail trial of Fred Pickering was called before Judge King in Geary County District Court. Attorney H. V. Humphrey joined W. H. Carpenter in defense of Pickering, and after a very brief review of the facts of the case, Judge King dismissed all charges against Pickering and ordered him released from jail. Humphrey and Carpenter immediately filed a civil suit against Mullins, asking $5,600 in damages from the wrongful charge of blackmail including $5,000 in damages, $500 in attorney fees and $100 in lost wages for the 41 days that Pickering had been held in the Geary County jail.

On December 17, 1912 Schmitz arrived at work to learn that Joseph Orberg, one of Schmitz’s best sources of testimony and the prosecuting attorney’s “inside man” in Junction City, had been arrested the night before on the charge of gambling, specifically a claim that Orberg was “shooting craps”. Orberg was arrested on a complaint signed by none other than Geary County Sheriff John Harbes. Schmitz left for Junction City immediately, posting Orberg’s bail. The Junction City Police Department asked for Orberg’s resignation, and it was tendered. There was considerable opinion voiced in the newspapers of the day that the charges were “trumped up” by Sheriff Harbes and his cronies.

Orberg indicated to Schmitz that he wanted to just get out of town, complaining that he was tired of the fight, and now, he was unemployed. Schmitz renewed his offer to hire Orberg as a special investigator, and Orberg agreed. Orberg’s first assignment was to travel to Bernice, Louisiana and gather all information that he could find about Paul Roberts and Walter Mullins. Orberg left town immediately to begin his investigation.

Joe Orberg returned from Louisiana with copious information about Roberts and Mullins, having interviewed Roberts’ wife and numerous acquaintances of both men. He provided all of his notes to Schmitz with directions as to how all of the potential witnesses could be located. Then, on January 23rd, 1913, Orberg appeared in court in Junction City on the gambling charge and refused to plea and was found guilty and fined $10. Orberg’s fine was paid by Henry Heuhn.

Three days later, on January 26th, Oscar Schmitz departed Alma by train on a trip to Bernice, Louisiana to take depositions of witnesses that Orberg had interviewed on his visit.

On Tuesday, February 4th, 1913 court convened in Alma in the trial of Paul Roberts on the charge of murder. W.S. Roark and Senator John E. Hessin appeared on behalf of Roberts while Schmitz and Carpenter represented the State of Kansas before Judge Robert Heizer. In a move that surprised many, the state dropped the charge of murder against Roberts and immediately re-arrested him on a nearly identical charge with the exception that it included the charge of conspiracy to commit murder and included an identical charge against Walter Mullins and Al Hartman.  Mullins had been scheduled to appear as a witness in the Roberts case, thus was present in the courtroom, and it was reported in the local papers that he was shocked by the turn of events, “turning white as a ghost” upon his arrest. Hartman was not present, and it was noted that he had fled the state; however, Schmitz indicated to the court that Hartman had been apprehended near Excelsior Springs, Missouri, and that Sheriff Zwanziger was leaving the next day to take custody of the prisoner.

Judge Lyons immediately set bail for Mullins and Roberts on the new murder charge at $15,000 each and set the date of the preliminary hearing for the three conspirators on February 13th. The court adjourned, and Roberts and Mullins were taken to their cell on the first floor of the courthouse. District Court Clerk Wilson sat in his tiny listening room, ready to record every word spoken as the two men were placed in their cell. It was obvious from their conversations in the cell that the two accused men had no idea that their words were being recorded into a permanent record.  Roberts asked Mullins if he thought Hartman would talk when he was brought back to Alma, and Mullins replied that he “didn’t know, but that Hartman was pretty mouthy and might talk” to the prosecutors.

The next day Walter Mullins’ brother, Jess appeared at the Wabaunsee Sheriff’s office with a bond signed by a number of individuals from Junction City to assure Mullins’ appearance in court. The Sheriff accepted the bond but did not immediately release Mullins before first inquiring with all of the men listed on the document. The Sheriff discovered that the men were all pillars of the Junction City business community, and Mullins was released on bail.

Roberts enjoyed a steady stream of visitors to his jail cell during the next week. His attorneys, Hessin, Roark, and Alma’s William Bowes all visited with their client on multiple occasions, and Roberts’ wife, who had come for the first scheduled preliminary hearing, visited with her husband several times before the second preliminary hearing scheduled for February 13th. Walter Mullins visited Roberts, as well.  It was a very busy time for District Court Clerk Wilson who continued to monitor Roberts’ conversations.

Wabaunsee County Sheriff jailer, John Auer was tasked with the job of feeding the prisoner, and Paul Roberts had become uncooperative in reaching out of the cell to take his meal plate, forcing Auer to open the cell door and step inside. Auer became suspicions and refused to continue the practice, and Roberts’ cell was searched, and a handmade dagger with a blade measuring almost twelve-inches in length with a razor-sharp edge was discovered under Roberts’ “Sunday suit” in the cell.

On February 13th the preliminary hearing for Roberts, Mullins, and Hartman began in the Wabaunsee County courthouse. Prosecuting Attorney Schmitz presented more than twenty witnesses, including those who had testified in Roberts’ first preliminary hearing. Witnesses included Drs. Johnson and Hull who testified as to the wounds on King’s body, L.B. Burt who had created a detailed map of the scene of the murder, Lizzie Woods who testified of her conversations with Roberts at her Junction City boarding house, Mrs. Paul Roberts who testified as to her husband’s ties to Mullins, Fred Pickering who told of Mullins attempting to hire him to kill King, and Fred Heide and Joe Nelson who testified to seeing Roberts in King’s café just minutes before the shooting.  Joe Orberg also testified about Mullins’ longstanding grudge against King and the threats that Mullins had made against Anthony King.

After the attorneys from both sides made pleas for their case, Judge Lyons immediately issued his decision, binding all three men over for trial in the May session of district court.

The preliminary hearing concluded before lunch on Friday with a throng of witnesses and spectators streaming out of the courthouse. Insofar as the hearing lasted two days, virtually all of the witnesses had to find boarding Thursday night. Joe Orberg stayed the night at the Brandt Hotel in downtown Alma, and after the hearing concluded on Friday, he returned to the hotel for lunch and prepared for his return trip to Junction City. Orberg stepped out of the Brandt at 1:30 pm and proceeded to cross the intersection to the south, directly in front of the Bank of Alma.  At that point, Orberg was accosted by Geary County Sheriff John Harbes who reportedly cursed at Orberg, saying he was “a damn liar and I can prove it a thousand ways.” Orberg attempted to walk away, but Harbes laid hands on the former police officer. Orberg tried to walk away a second time, but was grabbed by Harbes who attempted to reach under his coat for his pistol which was stuck under a sweater which Harbes was wearing under his coat. Orberg then pulled a .45-caliber revolver from his belt and fired five shots. Three bullets entered Harbes coat, but only one grazed his skin, wounding him on the left side between the fifth and eighth ribs. The fifth bullet sailed down Third Street to the east, striking the Reverend G. Voegtling of the German Evangelical Church who was standing on the porch of his church located at the corner of 3rd and Grand Streets. Voegtling was wounded in the calf, and while it was a serious injury requiring surgery the following day, it was not life-threatening.

Brandt

This intersection was the scene of the gunfight between Joe Orberg and Geary County Sheriff John Harbes. The spire of the German Evangelical Church is barely visible on the left side of the street in the distance.

The Alma Signal reported on the gunplay, noting, “While the shooting was going on the Sheriff was dodging around pretty lively but was unable to draw his gun. He ran down into the stairway on the north side of the bank and got out his gun. When he came out, Orberg was across the street, and the Sheriff started after him, but the efforts of W.H. Carpenter induced him to stop.”

Evangelical Church

The Evangelical Church was located at the intersection of East 3rd and Grand Streets in Alma. East 3rd was renamed East 4th in the 1920s.

Orberg immediately walked back to the courthouse to the Sheriff’s office where he surrendered to the charges related to the shooting. Orberg was arrested and charged with assault with the intent to commit murder, and his preliminary trial was set for February 27th before Judge Keagy.

On February 27, 1913 Orberg’s preliminary hearing was held with Judge John Keagy presiding in the same courtroom where Roberts’ and Mullins’ preliminary hearing had been held two weeks prior. While spectators and witnesses were not physically searched, everyone entering to courtroom was asked if they were armed, and if they answered affirmative they were asked by the Sheriff to surrender their weapons. A few did so.

County Attorney Oscar Schmitz represented the state with the assistance of J. V. Humphrey of Junction City, while W. H. Carpenter of Marion represented Orberg. It was a strange set of circumstances where the County Attorney was prosecuting his star witness in the Roberts/Mullins case, and the defense counsel in the Orberg case was co-counsel with the Prosecuting Attorney in the Roberts case. Strangely, the question of any conflict of interest went completely without mention by neither the press nor the courts of the day.

Schmitz launched a formidable case against Orberg, presenting fifteen witnesses, mostly consisting of eyewitnesses to the shooting. Defense attorney Carpenter then presented four more witnesses for the defendant, who were also eyewitnesses to the shooting.  After all of the testimony was presented and the defense rested its case, attorney Humphrey made a brief plea for the state, asking that Orberg be bound-over for trial and that the bond be high to assure Orberg’s appearance. Then, Carpenter, an accomplished orator, gave what The Enterprise characterized “an eloquent plea, asking for the release of his client, based on the grounds that the evidence submitted had not been sufficient to bind Orberg over for trial.”  Finally, Oscar Schmitz gave the closing argument for the state, asking that Orberg be bound-over for trial, and Judge Keagy rendered his decision, ordering the defendant to appear in district court for trial. A $2,000 bond was ordered, and E. Johnson, P. Johnson and John Horne, all of Alma, posted the bond for Orberg. Orberg’s trial was set for the May term of District Court in Alma.

The Junction City Daily Union reported on the Orberg preliminary hearing, saying, “County Attorney Schmitz conducted the case in a masterly manner, being especially adept at the cross-examinations.”

Two days later, on March 1, 1913 a writ of habeas corpus was brought before Judge Pringle, asking that Al Hartman’s bond be reduced from $15,000. Hartman’s attorneys claimed in the writ that there was insufficient evidence to tie Hartman to the killing of King, and that insofar as Hartman had a wife and six children at home that desperately needed his support, the petition asked for his release. Judge Pringle refused to dismiss the charges against Hartman, but his bond was reduced to $5,000. A bond was immediately posted by several men from Junction City, and Hartman was released from the Wabaunsee County Jail.

The month of April found Oscar Schmitz busy preparing for the spate of trials facing him in the May term of the court. Depending on what motions the defense would file, Schmitz could be trying Roberts, Mullins and Hartman as a group of conspirators, or, the more likely scenario, the trials could be split and held individually. But, the bottom line was that he had to be prepared for anything.

On April 12, 1913, Oscar Schmitz left Alma for Bernice, Louisiana on a second trip in which he took depositions from witnesses that he might use in the trial. Schmitz spent an entire week in Louisiana seeking information about Roberts, Mullins and Hartman. At the same time, he put W. H. Carpenter to work preparing depositions from citizens of Wabaunsee County attesting to their impartiality in serving as jurors in the Roberts-Mullins-Hartman trials.

On Tuesday, May 6, 1913 the trial of Roberts, Mullins, and Hartman opened in District Court in Alma before Judge Robert C. Heizer. Oscar Schmitz, W. H. Carpenter and John Schenck appeared for the prosecution while John E. Hessin, W. S. Roark, Lee Monroe and William Bowes all appeared for the defense.

The first motion made by the defense was to separate the three defendants at trial. Although Schmitz had charged the three men on a single warrant, the case had grown in such proportions that by the time of trial, he, too, preferred to try the men separately, so he did not challenge the defense motion.  The state chose to first try Paul Roberts on the charge of first degree murder. Without a conviction against Roberts, it would be impossible to prove Mullins’ or Hartman’s complicity in the crime, and the evidence against Roberts was overwhelming.

The defense indicated their intent to petition for a change of venue, and the court gave both parties the opportunity for the remainder of the morning to prepare their arguments on that motion while the court disposed of other routine cases on the May docket. At 1:30 pm the court reconvened with the change of venue question on the table. W. S. Roark introduced affidavits from newspaper owners W. H. Little and W. C. Coats as to the stories which had been published in local papers along with copies of various newspaper accounts of the murder of Anthony King and the subsequent arrests of Roberts, Mullins, and Hartman. Roark read article after article into the record from Alma and Alta Vista newspapers which had sensationalized the killing and reported the names of the suspects in the case and their alleged motives for the crime. The first half of the afternoon was devoted to the defense attorney’s contention that the accused could not receive a fair and impartial trial in Wabaunsee County because of the pre-trial publicity.

Oscar Schmitz was neither surprised nor unprepared for the defense’s call for a change of venue. He had put W. H. Carpenter to work for a week taking depositions of citizens across Wabaunsee County who claimed no bias in the case. It appeared, in fact, that there were a great number of residents of Wabaunsee County who didn’t pay much attention to what was written in the newspapers, or so they claimed.  Schmitz wanted the depositions to have a visual impact as they lay on the prosecution’s table, a stack of paper more than three-inches tall. Schmitz answered the argument of bias made by Roark by placing into evidence the depositions of 60 Wabaunsee County citizens, all stating under oath that they had no preconceived bias against any of the defendants.

Then, Schmitz called Marie King, the wife of the victim, to the stand, and she testified that the couple had moved to Alta Vista on August 29, 1912, and that they had made very few friends or acquaintances in Alta Vista, yet, as they had only lived there a short time. She said that she spent most of her time at home taking care of their two small children.

Finally, George Furney, the tax assessor from Alta Vista, testified that in the course of his travels in the county he had heard of no prejudice or adverse sentiment toward Paul Roberts.

After vigorous arguments were made by Senator Hessin and rebutted by Carpenter, Judge Heizer made his ruling in favor of the prosecution, and the motion for a change of venue was denied.

On Wednesday morning the jury pool was examined and a number of prospective jurors were excused from service for a variety of reasons ranging from illness to one man who professed to be the Township Clerk. It appeared that everyone wanted to watch the trial from the gallery, but no one wanted to sit on the jury. A pool of eighteen prospective jurors was expended with some dispatch throughout the morning, thanks to intense grilling by attorneys from both sides. A second pool of twenty-seven jurors was chosen after lunch, and the attorneys spent the afternoon whittling-away at the members of the pool, utilizing both challenges for cause, as well as preemptory challenges. Thursday passed without a jury being selected, and ten more men were added to the pool in the late afternoon.

On Friday morning a jury was empaneled, described by The Alma Enterprise, “The 12 men good and true are H. O. Boatright and J. C. Prescott of Plumb, Thos. Fauerbach of Maple Hill, J. P. Maas and Otto Pageler of Kaw, C. H. Zinn and J. D. Knox of Mission Creek, P. J. Simmons of Wilmington, A. C. Bridge, Geo. Sommer and Otto Kraus of Mill Creek, and Uriah Hiner of Wabaunsee. They have not been allowed to communicate with anyone since the case begun, and they are so exclusive that they eat and sleep in a bunch by themselves.”

Once the jury was selected, W. H. Carpenter of Marion, Kansas presented the opening statement for the prosecution in a powerful presentation of oratory consistent with his reputation for eloquence and persuasion. He asserted that the state would prove the relationship between Roberts and Mullins, and that Mullins, as a result of a disagreement with King, hired Roberts to commit the murder of the former Junction City police officer.  Carpenter went on to say that Roberts made several trips to Junction City and to Alta Vista before the killing, preparing for the murder. Finally, Carpenter noted that Mullins had paid for Roberts’ legal counsel and had provided financial support for Roberts while the latter was staying in Junction City, preparing to commit the crime.

Prosecutor Schmitz then presented a string of witnesses, beginning with L. B. Burt, the County Surveyor who had drawn a detailed and perfectly scaled map of Alta Vista which included the scene of the crime with careful measurements and distances noted.

Burt was followed by County Coroner Dr. G. T. Johnson who testified as to removing 16 shots of lead from King’s body after it was found on September 14, 1912.

Then, J. C. Atchinson who found King’s body, and W. A. Bennet who observed Roberts in King’s restaurant the night of the killing testified, followed by Joe Nelson and Harry Heide who claimed that they, too, had seen Roberts in the café shortly before the killing. Next, livery stable owner Stephen Nelson testified to his multiple conversations with Roberts, including one which took place at King’s cafe on the Friday night of the killing.

In an effort to dispute an anticipated alibi from Roberts, four men, R. E. Scneder, P. L. Andres, Fred Wakefield and P. T. Crist each testified that they had been at the depot around the time of the killing and had not seen Roberts at the station.

J. H. Bunger testified next, saying that Roberts had stayed at Bunger’s hotel, and that the accused had come into the hotel minutes after the shots were heard, saying that he had been at the depot. Bunger also stated that Roberts had told him of the latter’s history of killings in Arkansas and Louisiana “after they had a few drinks.” Jerry Murphy, who had met Roberts at the Bunger Hotel, supported Bunger’s testimony, saying that Roberts had claimed to be at the depot when the killing took place.

Pat Clawsey, manager of the Alta Vista rock quarry, told of Roberts working one day at the quarry in August of 1912 and of conversations between the two men.

James Brannick, Alta Vista City Marshal was called to the stand next, recounting the discovery of the gun used in the killing and telling of searching Roberts’ bags upon his arrest and finding a pistol.

Next, Schmitz called Ed Wylie of Junction City who said that Roberts had “told him he knew of two men who had a fight and the one who got the worst of it wanted to get even with the other one.”

George Searight identified the shotgun used in the killing as the one which Anthony King had brought with him to Alta Vista when he moved there in August of 1912.

Mrs. J. H. Bunger took the witness stand next, saying that Roberts had given her $50 to keep and had called for it at about 6:00 am the morning after the murder.

H. E. Montgomery of the Junction City Daily Union, then testified, saying that his newspaper had published two notices, saying in error that Anthony King had moved to White City. Then, Ed Beck and Olof Nelson, both of White City, testified that Roberts had come to their town, looking for King.

Finally, after a long day of varied testimony, the court recessed for the weekend, and the jurors were sequestered in the Commercial Hotel in Alma.

On Monday morning, Wiley Green of Bernice, Louisiana took the stand, testifying that he had seen Roberts and Mullins together in Junction City, Arkansas last spring. Green testified that Roberts had murdered Green’s brother a few years ago in a fight over a card game.

Green’s testimony was followed by that of Will Ascher, owner of the meat market located next door to King’s café, who claimed he saw Roberts in King’s restaurant a short time before the murder.

Then, A. W. Bentley, former chief of police of Junction City, testified that he was among a group of men who were  reading from a bulletin board at the Daily Union’s office in Junction City where a notice was posted telling of King’s death. Walter Mullins remarked to Bentley that “it was a dirty trick to kill him (King) in that manner.” However, Bentley noted, the bulletin did not tell how King was killed, nor did anyone in Junction City know of the manner of death at that point in time.

Next, Wabaunsee County jailer, John Auer was called to the stand, telling of finding a “wicked looking knife in Roberts’ cell a short time ago”, saying that the knife had a blade almost 12-inches in length, and it had appeared after Roberts had received a number of visitors, including his attorneys and his wife. The knife had been found hidden under Roberts’ “Sunday suit” which had been brought to him for his court appearance.

John Billings, who had been a prisoner in the county jail when Roberts had been arrested, testified that Roberts had told him of killing two men in Louisiana and that he had two men who would testify that he was at the depot in Alta Vista when King was shot.

Finally, Junction City rooming house operator Lizzy Woods testified extensively about her relationship and conversations with Paul Roberts. Like John Billings, Woods testified that Roberts had told her of killing two men “down south”, and that he had come to Junction City to “do a job” for Walter Mullins. Woods went on to say that Roberts had become very friendly with her, and that on one occasion she and Roberts had engaged in target practice with a pistol in the back yard of her rooming house. She also claimed that Roberts had asked Woods to engage in a personal relationship, a proposal which she declined.

After lunch, the attorneys spent the balance of the day, almost five hours, engaged in arguments relative to the admission of the proposed testimony of Fred Pickering. Despite attempts of the defense team to impeach the credibility of the witness, Pickering’s testimony was ruled admissible by Judge Heizer. Then, the prosecution made an announcement that would rock the spectators in the courtroom. Schmitz stated that the prosecution would also call three detectives from the Burns Detective Agency who had been placed undercover in Roberts’ cell. Everyone in the gallery wondered what secrets these three men might reveal. Despite objections from defense counsel Roark, Judge Heizer ruled that the detectives would be allowed to testify the following day.

The courtroom had been filled with spectators since the trial’s first day, but Wednesday’s anticipated witnesses brought even more spectators to the courtroom, and many brought a sack lunch to avoid losing their seat during the lunch break to those less fortunate in obtaining seating.

Fred Pickering was the first witness called by Oscar Schmitz, and Pickering began his testimony by saying that he had been in the employ of Walter Mullins in 1910 when Mullins and King had an altercation on the street in Junction City. Pickering claimed that a few weeks after the altercation Mullins had instructed Pickering to drive him in a buggy from the Mullins home in Junction City to the Mullins farm in rural Geary County. Pickering testified that it was on this trip that Mullins asked Pickering what his plans were for the future, and Pickering reportedly replied that he hoped to join the U.S. Navy. Pickering claimed that Mullins said that he could get Pickering into the Navy, or that he would pay Pickering $200 and a give him a ticket to San Francisco if the young man would “take care of Anthony King.”  Pickering said that he replied that he would “have to think about it.”

Pickering said that the next day he drove Mullins to the farm again, and during that trip Mullins inquired if Pickering had been thinking about his proposal. Pickering claimed that he replied that he hadn’t thought much about it. It was then that Mullins purportedly suggested that Pickering could hide on a boxcar at the railroad yards, and that when King made his rounds, he could be hit on the head and killed, and that it would be blamed on a hobo.

Much of Pickering’s testimony faced the objections from defense counsel, but in the end, Judge Heizer allowed virtually all of Pickering’s testimony, including the accounts of the conversations between the two men on the two alleged trips to Mullins’ rural Geary County home.

Pickering faced intense questioning from defense attorney W. S. Roark. Pickering admitted that he had been arrested on a blackmail charge and spent 41-days in the Geary County Jail while awaiting trial, and that ultimately, those charges were dismissed by the court. Roark got Pickering to admit that he had been in reform school, and that he had once sold some hay that had belonged to Mullins. Roark asked Pickering if he had stolen Mullins’ overcoat. Pickering denied that he had stolen the overcoat from Mullins, stating that the latter had lent him the coat. Roark challenged Pickering’s claim that he had seen Mullins and Roberts talking at the Brickell restaurant the day before the murder; but despite several heated exchanges with the defense counsel, Pickering held his ground.

There was a moment of excitement in the courtroom after lunch when a stranger walked into the courtroom and was then removed from the room by Sheriff Zwanziger who advised the man that he was suspected of carrying a concealed weapon. The man submitted to a search, and no weapon was found. The stranger explained that he was a reporter for a farm newspaper and really had no interest in the case except as a spectator.

Three detectives from the Burns agency, J. M. Elder, Mr. Elliott, and Mr. Sewall all testified that they had been placed in Roberts’ cell and that Roberts promised to pay them if two of the men would testify that he, Roberts, was at the depot at the time of the shooting.

Clerk of the District Court, Fred Wilson testified of hearing various conversations which Roberts had with the detectives and others, by means of the dictograph that had been concealed in the accused’s cell. Wilson admitted that he had also eavesdropped on all of the conversations between Roberts and his attorneys, and that the state was thus privy to all of the defense strategies which had been shared between the defense attorneys and their client.

Deputy Sheriff, William Addie testified that he had followed Roberts’ tracks for several days, and under cross-examination he admitted that it appeared that many of the stories that Roberts had been known to tell were not true.

Anthony King’s widow, Marie King, also took the stand on Wednesday, telling of the troubles that the couple had endured while in Junction City and explaining that they had moved to Alta Vista because they feared for their lives in Junction City.

At 2:00 pm the state rested their case, and a two-hour recess was called by Judge Hizer. At 4:00 pm the defense opened their case, calling a half a dozen well-known businessmen from Junction City who testified to the impeccable character of Walter Mullins. W. H. Mackey, deputy warden of the Federal prison at Leavenworth was called to the stand to impeach Pickering’s testimony, stating that Pickering had a generally bad reputation. After Mackey’s testimony was complete, the court recessed for the day, the trial having completed its seventh day.

On Thursday, the trial resumed with the defense calling Paul Roberts’ sister, Mrs. Elliott from Bernice, Louisiana who testified as to the dates when her brother was at home in Louisiana, some of which seemed at odds with other testimony regarding Roberts’ presence in Kansas.

Then, Myrtle Roberts, the wife of the accused, took the stand, testifying as to her husband’s presence in Louisiana and his decision to “go north”. Under questioning by Schmitz, Mrs. Roberts testified that she had seen Paul Roberts place some shotgun shells loaded with buckshot in his trunk before his departure.

The defense then entered into evidence a complaint sworn by Anthony King against John Irvine, charging that Irvine had shot at him in Junction City on February 4, 1911.

The defense then rested its case.

The State in rebuttal asked that Irvine and five other Geary County witnesses be summoned for further examination, and a recess was called by the court until after dinner. Each of these witnesses was questioned by the State as to his whereabouts on the night that King was shot. Some of the men bore grudges against King, and the State wanted to prove that none of the men could have committed the crime. As the hour had grown late, the trial was recessed until Friday morning at 8:00 am.

On Friday morning, the State resumed final questioning of the rebuttal witness, and then presented a final piece of evidence, a letter written by Paul Roberts to his wife and found on the accused when he was arrested in Alta Vista. The document was examined by all counsel and presented to the jury. Part of the letter read, “Myrtle: I am going from here. Am in serious trouble. I hated to destroy your letters.” With that, the state rested its case. The court recessed until after supper when the attorneys for both sides presented their closing arguments.

Defense counsel Roark presented closing arguments to the case, arguing that all of the evidence presented against Roberts had been circumstantial, at best, and that there were a number of individuals who had just as much motive for the killing as his client, who was not even acquainted with King.

County Attorney Oscar Schmitz presented a powerful indictment of Paul Roberts, carefully detailing all of the events leading to the crime. Schmitz carefully crafted his speech to draw a direct connection between Roberts and Mullins, and he pointed to the incriminating statements that Roberts had made to undercover detectives while being held in the Wabaunsee County Jail.

Attorneys from both sides met with Judge Heizer, making their arguments relative to the judge’s instructions to the jury, and after a supper recess, Hizer gave the case to the jury just before 9:00 pm on Friday night.

As fate would have it, the jury deliberation room was located just above Paul Roberts’ cell. During the 8 months that Roberts had been held in the jail, on at least two occasions he had been able to overhear a jury deliberating a verdict, and had notified the accused of the verdict in those cases. The same paper-thin walls which allowed the Dictaphone machine to eavesdrop on Roberts’ cell allowed the defendant to listen to the jury deliberating his fate.

Upon entering the jury room, the group took an initial vote with ten men voting guilty and two not-guilty on the first vote. The jury engaged in a spirited and lengthy exchange before a second vote was taken, this time with only one vote for not guilty. Discussion continued and a third vote was taken; and again, one man voted not guilty.  It was shortly after midnight when a fourth vote was taken, and this time, it was unanimous, Paul Roberts was found guilty of first degree murder. Just below the floor of the jury room in a darkened cell, Paul Roberts listened to his fate.

Jury foreman, C. H. Zinn prepared a note for Judge Heizer, advising him that a verdict had been reached, and the jury retired to the Commercial Hotel for the balance of the night. Sheriff Zwanziger placed telephone calls to Oscar Schmitz, William Bowes, and Judge Heizer, advising them that the jury had reached a verdict, and Judge Heizer told everyone that court would convene at 8:30 am on Saturday morning.

Sheriff Zwanziger arrived at the courthouse at about 7:00 am. It had been a long week and a short night for the Sheriff.  Sheriff Zwanziger went to the jail and approached Paul Roberts’ cell, advising the accused that it was time to eat breakfast before heading to court to hear his fate. Roberts did not reply. He lay on the bed in the cell with his back to the cell door. Zwanziger called out louder, but, again, Roberts gave no reply.  Zwanziger fetched the key to the barred door, entering the cell. He reached down to shake Roberts, but upon first touch he realized that Roberts was stone-cold, dead.

Zwanziger stormed into the Sheriff’s office, grabbing the phone, telling the operator to connect him with Oscar Schmitz. Schmitz answered the phone, and Zwanziger blurted out, “Roberts is dead, get over here, now.” Schmitz was preparing to head to the courthouse when he received the call, but left immediately.

Judge Heizer convened court at 8:30 am, immediately inquiring of Sheriff Zwanziger as to the whereabouts of the defendant. Zwanziger replied that Paul Roberts was dead, and that he had been found in that condition when he was to be awakened for breakfast before court. The verdict of guilty was read by the jury foreman, and immediately, defense attorney Roark objected to the verdict being entered into the trial record. He questioned if Roberts had died before midnight when the verdict was reached, pointing out that a jury could not convict a dead man.  Further, Roark asserted that since the accused was unable to face the jury, that the verdict could not be entered into the trial record.  After considering Roark’s arguments, Heizer suspended the placement of the guilty verdict into the trial record. An autopsy was held on Roberts’ body; however no cause of death could be determined.  Roberts’ stomach was removed and sent to the University of Kansas for toxicology tests. Roberts’ wife testified at the coroner’s inquest that her husband had once said that he would never go to prison and would commit suicide if he were ever convicted and sentenced to prison. She also claimed that her husband was a morphine addict and had a supply of the drug sewn into the lapel of his coat. The inquest was inconclusive in a determination as to the cause of death.  Roberts’ body was then released to his sister who had been in Alma for the trial, and she accompanied her brother’s body to Louisiana for burial.

Chapter 3

Thirteen days after the Roberts trial began, Oscar Schmitz returned to District Court in Alma to try Joe Orberg on the charge of the attempted murder of Geary County Sheriff John Harbes. The town was still reeling from the sensational trial of Paul Roberts along with its unusual and gruesome conclusion. Once again, the courtroom was packed with every seat occupied and several spectators standing along the rear of the room.

Oscar Schmitz, County Attorney, represented the State in Orberg’s prosecution with the assistance of H. V. Humphrey, while Schmitz’s partner in the Roberts prosecution, W. H. Carpenter of Marion, Kansas, represented Joseph Orberg. When asked how Orberg pleaded to the charge of attempted murder, Carpenter replied that Orberg was not guilty in that he had acted in self-defense.  There was some dispute in the initial selection of the jurors, however, rather than reject the panel and make a new call for jurors, defense attorney Carpenter agreed to a panel from the first group presented.  In an unbelievable case of coincidence or otherwise, four members of the Roberts’ jury which had just delivered a verdict two days earlier, including jury foreman C. H. Zinn, were placed on the jury in the Orberg trial.  Zinn was elected to the position of jury foreman of the Orberg jury. Carpenter carefully examined each prospective juror, specifically inquiring at to their opinion of the use of self-defense as part of the law. Making the entire situation even stranger, defense attorney Carpenter was an eyewitness to the shooting of Harbes, and he was scheduled to testify as a witness in the trial.

There was some dispute about three new names added to the witness list at the last minute by Schmitz, but the prosecutor explained that the new witnesses had just become known to the prosecutor’s office. Judge Heizer allowed the three additional witnesses to testify.

H. V. Humphrey presented the opening remarks for the prosecution, and William Carpenter made opening statements for the defense. The first witness that County Attorney Schmitz called to the stand was the complainant and shooting victim, Geary County Sheriff John Harbes. Sheriff Harbes testified that he had been in Alma for the preliminary hearing in the King murder case. Harbes said that he had met with attorneys Schmitz, Carpenter, and Schenck at the Brandt Hotel for a conference, after which he intended to stop at a barber shop before returning to court that afternoon. Harbes said that he exited the Brandt and was crossing the street to the south when he was accosted by the defendant, Joseph Orberg. Harbes claimed that Orberg was angry, demanding to know “what he meant by making him out a liar to Sheriff Zwanziger.” Harbes testified that he said, “Orberg, you are a damned liar in a thousand different ways, and I can prove it.” Harbes went on to say that he had turned away from Orberg, attempting to leave when he heard attorney Carpenter yell, “Put that up”. The Geary County Sheriff said that he turned to see Orberg pointing a revolver in his direction while pulling the trigger five times. Harbes testified, “The second shot hit me on the left side above the waist. I advanced toward him, my left hand in front of me. With my right hand I was trying to reach my revolver. At the fourth shot I ducked down the steps leading to a basement under the bank. When I secured my gun, I came up again.” Attorney Carpenter, who had observed the melee from the Brandt, ran to the street, shouting to Harbes not to shoot Orberg, as the Sheriff was taking aim at a retreating Orberg. Harbes and Carpenter then reentered the Brandt Hotel where a physician treated the Sheriff for his wounds.

William Carpenter began a lengthy cross examination of Harbes, comparing all of the details of the Sheriff’s testimony with his earlier testimony presented at Orberg’s preliminary hearing. Carpenter’s meticulous cross examination continued, and at 6:00 pm, Judge Heizer recessed court for the day.  The next morning, Carpenter continued with persistence, much of his questioning revolving around comments that Harbes allegedly made after the shooting, saying that if he, Harbes, had gotten his pistol out of his pocket first, Orberg would have been dead.

After Carpenter concluded his questioning of Harbes, the state presented the balance of their witnesses. Former Junction City police chief, A. W. Bentley testified next, recounting a conversation he had with Orberg before the shooting when the defendant had said, “I’m not done with you (Bentley) and Harbes.”

Harlow Pugh testified next that he was in the Brandt Hotel when the fracas occurred, and that while he had not witnessed the shooting, he had seen Dr. Johnson treating the wounded Harbes at the hotel, and that he had not heard Harbes remark, saying if he had drawn his gun first, Orberg would have been dead.

Henry Heuhn took the stand next, saying that he had spoken to Orberg the day before the shooting, and that Orberg had said that he needed to recover his gun from pawn, and that he had “bawled out” attorney Roark and planned the same for Harbes.

M. D. Peeso of Junction City testified next, saying that Orberg had recently said that he would “have the jobs of Bentley and Harbes.”

Dr. Johnson testified next concerning Harbes’ wound which the doctor treated at the hotel, and he showed the court a spent bullet that had fallen out of Harbes coat while the doctor was examining the wound.

Sheriff Otto Zwanziger was called to the stand to identify Orberg’s gun and the empty shell casings found in the pistol. Then, Geary County Sheriff Harbes was recalled to the stand to show his gun to the court. Some dispute occurred when Sheriff Zwanziger enforced the rule that there could be no loaded guns in the courtroom, as Harbes had some difficulty in removing the shells from his weapon. Sheriff Zwanziger was then called to the stand again, testifying that ammunition sales had soared in Alma just before and during the Roberts trials.

James McCarty testified next and stated that he had talked to Orberg after the shooting, and that Orberg had accused Harbes of insulting Orberg’s deceased mother, and that no man would stand for that. McCarty had noted that he had joked with Orberg, remarking on his poor marksmanship in landing shots, and Orberg replied that it was not his fault that the bullets did not find their target.

The State’s final witness was Dr. Mielke who testified that he had heard shots from his office and had emerged to see the two men involved in a gunfight. He claimed that he had seen Harbes duck into the basement of the Bank of Alma, emerging a moment later with a gun in hand, pursuing Orberg who was walking away. Mielke said that defense attorney Carpenter emerged from the Brandt and pursued Harbes across the street, dissuading him from shooting Orberg.

The State rested its case. Amazingly, there was absolutely no mention of the wounding of the Reverend Voegtling who had been shot by an errant bullet from Orberg’s gun, despite the fact that Voegtling had required two surgeries to repair the wound to his leg.

Fred Wilson, the Clerk of the District Court who had eavesdropped on Paul Roberts’ cell, was the first witness for the defense. Wilson testified that he had spoken to Harbes in the courthouse hallway after the shooting. When asked if he had heard Harbes say that if he had gotten to his gun first, Orberg would have been dead, Wilson replied that he didn’t recall Harbes using the word, “first.”

Pat Clawsey of Alta Vista testified next, giving practically the same testimony as Wilson concerning Harbes remarks.

Marshal James Brannick was called to the stand next, and was questioned as to where the defendant Orberg had been held while in the custody of the Wabaunsee County Sheriff’s department. Brannick said that Orberg had been held in several locations, including the district court office, the Sheriff’s office, and in the very courtroom in which the trial was being held.

J. A. Johnson was the next defense witness, testifying that he had spoken to Harbes after the shooting about the gunfight with Orberg, and upon cross-examination, he said he could not recall Harbes using the word, “first.”

Frank Dorr testified next, saying that he operated a pool hall just down the street, and after he heard gunfire he “came out of the pool hall and looked down the street to see Harbes emerging from the basement of the bank, his gun drawn.” Dorr said that Orberg was attempting to leave the scene while Harbes was pursuing him and was aiming his pistol at Orberg when Carpenter stopped Harbes from shooting his gun. Finally, Dorr testified that he heard Harbes say that “if his gun had not gotten stuck in his tucked-in sweater, he would have killed Orberg.”

Then, in yet another strange twist, defense attorney William Carpenter took the stand and questioned himself, relating his memory of the shooting. Carpenter said he observed the two men arguing in the street and heard Harbes call Orberg, “a God-damned liar.” Orberg turned, according to Carpenter, and Harbes reached out, grabbing Orberg who pulled away before Harbes grabbed Orberg a second time. Carpenter said he witnessed Harbes reach to his hip for his gun, and then Orberg pulled his weapon, discharging it toward Harbes five times, all the while trying to retreat from the Geary County Sheriff. Carpenter heard Orberg say, “Don’t follow me.” Carpenter said that he yelled at Harbes, saying, “cut it out,” and then he pulled the Sheriff away from Orberg. Carpenter then testified that Harbes said, “If his gun had not gotten caught on his sweater, he would have killed him (Orberg).”

Humphrey cross-examined Carpenter for some time, but was unable to shake the defense attorney’s testimony.

A Mr. Johnson then testified that he was at Linss blacksmith shop across the street from the bank when the shooting took place, and both he and Linss said that they witnessed the gun play between the two Junction City men.

The last witness for the defense was the defendant, himself, Joseph Orberg. Orberg said that he had gotten his gun out of pawn at 10:00 am, the day of the shooting, as there had been several threats made on his life. He spoke about his verbal confrontation with Harbes outside the Brandt Hotel, claiming that Harbes had repeatedly grabbed him and was in the act of reaching for his gun stuck in his belt when Orberg drew his weapon first, firing in self-defense. Orberg said that he had attempted to shoot Harbes in the right hand, which was under his coat, pulling frantically at his gun in a hip holster.

On cross-examination Oscar Schmitz asked Orberg if he had ever been arrested, and Orberg had replied that he had been forced to post a “peace bond” in the Dakota territory, once, but had not been convicted, and that he had been charged with gambling in Junction City on a “trumped-up charge” as a result of his work on the Anthony King murder trial. When asked about the number of shells he had in his gun, he replied that he had shot one shell at a bird when in Louisiana, but had not reloaded the gun, and could not recall exactly how many shots he had fired at Harbes.

Attorney Carpenter then introduced into evidence two honorable discharges from the U. S. Army noting Orberg’s two enlistments into the Fourth U. S. Cavalry, which stated that Orberg had been “honest and faithful” in his service. The defense then rested its case.

After a short break, the court resumed the trial as the attorneys presented their closing statements. J. V. Humphrey led for the state, outlining the details of the shooting. Then, William Carpenter presented a compelling closing statement, characterizing the Sheriff of Geary County as a bully who would have shot Orberg in a heartbeat if Carpenter, himself, had not interceded in the melee. In his plea, Carpenter asked the jurors what they would do if a man threatened them and then proceeded to attempt to pull a pistol on them.  Would they wait to be shot?  Carpenter painted Harbes as the instigator of the dispute and a man of less-than-reputable character.  Finally, Oscar Schmitz closed for the state, telling the jury that they, alone, were the true judges of facts of the case, and that they would be responsible to see that justice was served.

At 4:30 pm the jury retired to the same deliberation room where Paul Roberts’ fate had been sealed less than a week earlier. In less than 30-minutes the jury returned to the courtroom with a unanimous verdict. Joseph Orberg was found not guilty and released. Two days later, Orberg left Kansas permanently, moving to Texas.

Chapter 4

The summer of 1913 offered a brief respite from the enormous demands that the Roberts trial had made on Oscar Schmitz. It allowed him to enjoy some of time engaged in stock raising on his Alma farm, and allowed him to spend time with his two children, DeArmond and Esther. Schmitz’s wife Eva had died in childbirth in 1906 as did their infant, and Schmitz’s family had been instrumental in helping raise his two children.

The_Alma_Enterprise_Fri__Nov_4__1910_

Oscar Schmitz served seven terms as Wabaunsee County Attorney. This advertising notice appeared during the 1910 election.

The regular caseload of prosecutions kept Schmitz busy at the courthouse, but, the most important trial of his entire career still loomed before him, and he was determined that Walter Mullins would not go unpunished for the murder of Anthony King. Both Schmitz and William Carpenter continued to prepare their case against Mullins, and much of the work involved investigating Mullins and his many shady businesses. Under normal circumstances Schmitz’s office would receive considerable cooperation from the Geary County Sheriff’s department, as Mullins had resided in that county for many years. However, since Sheriff John Harbes offered no assistance to the Wabaunsee County prosecutor, Schmitz had to conduct his own investigations. All the while, Walter Mullins remained free on bail, actively promoting his defense. The prosecution of the Roberts case had cost Wabaunsee County over $3,000, and there was talk that the mill levy might have to be increased to pay for the cost of the trials by the time the Mullins case was tried. In October a tax levy of 1.8 mills was imposed by Wabaunsee County to pay for the Roberts-Mullins trials.

The trial of Walter Mullins was scheduled for the October term of District Court, and Schmitz and Carpenter spent the last week of September taking depositions in Junction City, anticipating the upcoming trial. The defense had submitted a petition for a change of venue, and Judge Heizer would rule on that motion as the first item of business when the court convened on October 7th.

The jury pool gathered at the courtroom on Tuesday morning as W. S. Roark, William Bowes, and Oscar Schmitz sat at their respective tables. Judge Heizer entered the courtroom and called the court to order, and defense attorney Roark addressed the court, asking for a continuance in the case. He explained that his associate, Mr. Hessin from Manhattan, was out of state on an important matter, and that more time was still needed to prepare their case. Judge Heizer asked Schmitz for comment and a date when everyone might be prepared, and Schmitz explained that the State did not oppose the continuance, as Mr. Carpenter, as well, was unable to attend court that day, and that his presence would be necessary for the State to conduct its prosecution. When all was said and done, the case was postponed until the February 1914 session of District Court.

Court convened at 9:00 am on Tuesday, February 3rd  in the Wabaunsee County Courtroom with Judge Robert Heizer presiding. The attorneys for both sides of the case were considered to be the finest criminal attorneys in the state. The Alta Vista Journal of February 12, 1914 reported on the legal talent appearing in the trial, saying, “The defense is represented by Senator John E. Hessin of Manhattan, Judge W. S. Roark of Topeka, Roark’s partner, the esteemed Lee Monroe, and the local attorney, Wm. Bowes. Attorney Carpenter of Marion, one of Kansas’ most brilliant lawyers, is assisting County Attorney Oscar Schmitz and has direct charge of the case.  Attorney John Schenck of Topeka has not appeared on the side of the prosecution as yet in this trial, though he was retained in the trial of Roberts. Hessin is sharp, bitter, a cruel cross examiner. Mr. Roark is always cool, calm, and shows his judicial training. Carpenter is fiery, witty, and has a clear insight into the case. He is a master of oratory.”

The defense had already submitted a written motion for a change of venue, and Judge Heizer allowed Senator Hessin to present his arguments for the change of venue. Hessin and W. S. Roark presented 24 witnesses from all over the county who testified that they had heard much about the case and expressed their opinions as to Walter Mullins’ guilt or innocence. The defense witness’ testimony and the cross-examination of each witness by Oscar Schmitz took all day Tuesday.

On Wednesday morning, Schmitz began the State’s response to the motion for a change of venue. While Schmitz had presented 60 affidavits proving the impartiality of the prospective jury in the Roberts’ case, he doubled the number of affidavits in the Mullins trial, entering 128 sworn statements into the record from citizens across Wabaunsee County, attesting to their impartiality in the case. Then, Schmitz called twelve witnesses which included residents of every township in the county, all of whom testified that they had no preconceived notions about Mullins’ guilt. Wednesday was devoted entirely to the State’s response to the petition for the change of venue.

Then, in a move that shocked many in the courtroom, defense attorney Hessin called his co-counsel W. S. Roark to the witness stand. Roark was asked when he was made aware that the State had secretly placed a dictograph microphone in Paul Roberts’ cell, and he replied that the first he knew of the dictograph was when it was revealed by the prosecution during Paul Roberts’ trial. William Carpenter then rose to cross-examine Roark, asking on what date he was employed by Walter Mullins. Roark replied that he was hired on October 1, 1912. Carpenter then asked if at the time Roark was engaged to represent Mullins, Hartman and Roberts, had any of the three men been charged with murder?  Roark replied that they had not.

Then, Senator Hessin called C. E. Carroll, a prominent attorney and jurist from Alma, to the witness stand. Hessin asked Carroll if he had attended the Roberts trial, and Carroll replied that he “had been around the courthouse” when it was being held and had spoken to numerous people who had attended the trial. Carroll was also asked if he knew that the County Attorney had hidden a dictograph machine in Paul Roberts’ cell, and Carroll said that he had, indeed, heard that.

Clerk of the District Court Fred Wilson was summoned to the stand next, and Roark asked Wilson if he had known of a dictograph machine placed in Paul Roberts’ cell, to which Wilson replied that he had. Roark asked who knew about the device, and Wilson replied that County Attorney Oscar Schmitz and Sheriff Otto Zwanziger had known about the machine. When asked who had installed the dictograph, Wilson said that he, Schmitz, and Zwanziger had installed the machine. Roark then wanted to know what Wilson’s role was in obtaining evidence using the machine, and the District Court Clerk said that he “was the man with the pencil and paper on the other end.” Roark then wanted to know if any of the conversations to which Wilson testified in the Roberts trial had been reported in the press, and Wilson said that some things to which he testified in the previous trial had been reported.

W. H. Carpenter cross-examined Wilson, asking if he had released or made public any of the things he recorded, to which Wilson replied that he had not. Wilson testified that the secret dictograph had operated from October 1, 1912 until May 1, 1913.

Roark then addressed the court, making a charge of official misconduct on the part of County Attorney Oscar Schmitz and the Wabaunsee County Sheriff for the placement of a secret recording device in Paul Roberts’ cell. The exchange between Roark and Carpenter became testy and was interrupted by Judge Heizer who advised Roark that if he had any charges of misconduct, he would need to put his complaint in writing and file it with the court. Roark assured everyone that he would do just that. Heizer then adjourned court for the day.

On Thursday morning at 9:00 am court convened with Judge Heizer announcing his decision to deny the motion for a change of venue, noting that there was considerable evidence that there were sufficient impartial jurors in Wabaunsee County. He went on to compliment the local press and the judicious presentation of the case that had been made by the newspapers in Alma.

Roark made a motion for a continuance, saying that there were some new names on the witness subpoenas, and that the defense would need to depose those witnesses. After a full examination of the subpoenas, it appeared that they had all been served for some time, and Heizer believed that defense counsel had been given sufficient time to examine any of the witnesses in question.

After a break for lunch, the work of selecting a jury began. The first panel of jurors contained 24 men, and both the State and the defense had considerable questions for each prospective member. Virtually every member of the panel who resided in Alma or Garfield townships were dismissed for their opinions about the case, and by the end of the day Thursday it was apparent that another larger panel would be required. All residents from Alma and Garfield townships were excluded from the new panel. The court recessed for the night as a winter thunderstorm rolled into Alma, and Sheriff’s deputies departed into the dark of night in a driving cold rain to serve subpoenas to a new panel of 99 men.

The new jury pool had arrived in court by mid-morning on Friday. Of the new jurors called, thirteen were excused for sickness and other reasons and sixteen men were never called to the stand for questioning. That left 70 men who were grilled extensively by the attorneys all afternoon Friday and well into the evening, and still a jury had not been selected. Court reconvened on Saturday morning, and adjourned at 1:00 pm, again, without securing a jury.

Court reconvened at 1:00 pm on Monday afternoon, and once again, jury selection was the only item of business. Finally, at 5:00 pm on Monday, a jury was empaneled. The State had used five of its preemptory challenges and the defense used all twelve of their challenges. When all was done, the twelve jurors selected in the Mullins trial were W. A. Urquhart, A. J. Newell, W. H. Laird, J. L. Rippetoe, and G. H. Brown, all of Wilmington; E. B. Roush, Dan Masters and E. A. Vausbinder of Plumb; W. J. Mansell of Maple Hill; E. H. Eberhart, C. W. McDivitt and J. W. Clampitt of Rock Creek.  Two bailiffs were immediately assigned to the jury, and they were allowed to talk to no one and were forced to reside at a special section of the Commercial Hotel and dine together.

Court opened at 9:00 am on Tuesday morning, and immediately defense attorney Roark presented a motion to exclude all of the proposed testimony by Myrtle Roberts. The arguments were extensive by counsel from both sides. The Alma Enterprise described the day’s arguments saying, “About a wagon load of law books were used by both sides, but about 4 p.m. Tuesday Judge Heizer ruled that her testimony was competent.”  William Carpenter presented the prosecution’s opening statement, and when he concluded, Judge Heizer adjourned for the day.

On Wednesday morning the first witness called by Oscar Schmitz was A. W. Bentley of Junction City. Bentley’s testimony described Al Hartman as being a poor man, thus drawing suspicion when he arrived in Alma to post Paul Roberts bond on drunkenness. Bentley said that “it must have been someone else’s money.”

Next on the stand was Joe Baker, the man with whom Walter Mullins was fighting when Policeman Anthony King interceded, and ultimately struck Mullins with a nightstick when he resisted arrest.

Schmitz then called Fred Pickering who told the same story he had given in the Paul Roberts’ trial, saying that Mullins had offered him $200 and a train ticket to California to kill King, and he testified about the two affidavits that he had made about his conversations with Mullins.

Sheriff Harbes was the State’s fourth witness, confirming Pickering’s story about the two affidavits.

Then, Myrtle Roberts took the stand, testifying as she had in her husband’s trial that Paul Roberts had been in Louisiana in July and packed to leave town as “he had a job to do for Walter Mullins that would pay him good money.”

Next, Schmitz called Jim Ward of Beloit who testified that Mullins had followed King and Ward one night in Junction City. Charlie Fox then took the stand to identify the hotel register signed by Roberts in Junction City.

Lizzie Woods then testified that Roberts had stayed at her house in Junction City, and she claimed that Roberts told her of having a job with Mullins and showed her a number of gold coins one night that he said he had received from Mullins.

Woods testimony was followed by that of a porter employed at her rooming house, Ed Wylie, who testified that Roberts had “told him about two men who had a fight and the one who got the worst of it wanted to hire someone to fix the other fellow.” Wylie was questioned by Roark, who forced Wylie to admit that he had once been convicted for “disreputable behavior.” Judge Heizer then recessed court for the evening at 6:00 pm.

On Thursday, February 12th, court convened at 9:00 am and Junction City boarding house clerk, Mr. Fox, testified very briefly. Fox confirmed that Paul Roberts had in his possession a trunk when Roberts stayed in Junction City in August of 1912. Then, Lizzie Woods took the stand, again, to allow attorney Roark the opportunity to cross-examine her concerning her testimony presented on Wednesday.

County Surveyor L. B. Burt came to the witness stand next. Burt had drawn a detailed scale-map of Alta Vista and the scene of the crime. A large copy of the map was displayed on an easel, and Burt testified at length, particularly about the immediate scene of the crime and the route of escape that the prosecution believed the killer had taken.

AltavistaSanborn

This section of the Sanborn map for Alta Vista shows an enlarged section of four businesses located on Main Street. The northern-most building, marked vacant when this map was created in June of 1912, was the building where Anthony King opened his restaurant in August of 1912.

R. E. Scneder an employee at the Alta Vista depot took the stand next, telling of hearing two shots around 10:00 pm, and he stated that no one had come to the depot to claim a trunk that night.

Then, Mrs. Anthony King testified, identifying a gun she said that Jess Mullins had loaned her husband. Roark challenged Mrs. King’s expertise in the field of firearms, forcing her to confess that she was not particularly familiar with guns, and that the pistol presented “looked like” the gun her husband had borrowed from Mullins.

Livery stable operator Stephen Nelson was the next witness, telling of Roberts boarding a team of horses at his stable once during the summer. Nelson’s testimony was followed by that of W. A. Bennett, also from Alta Vista, who stated that he was in King’s restaurant the night of the killing and that “Roberts had come in, asked for a drink, and was directed to the back room or kitchen”. Bennett said that he did not see Roberts again. Harry Heide took the stand next, saying he “was eating a sandwich with Joe Nelson when Roberts came out of the kitchen and went out to the sidewalk and walked south, while Nelson and Heide left the restaurant and rode their horses north.” Heide also stated that Roberts was acting as though he was drinking, stumbling as he came out of the kitchen and again when he went out the front door.

Mr. Montgomery of the Junction City Union testified that his paper had printed a story saying that Anthony King had moved to White City and was operating a confectionary there. Then, Mr. Bock of White City told of Roberts coming to his town, asking about the King eatery, and Bock stated that he told Roberts that there was no such place in White City. Olaf Nelson, a restaurant keeper in White City told of Roberts eating at his café and staying all night in his rooming house.

George Searight testified next, saying that he had helped move the Kings from Junction City to Alta Vista, and he identified the shotgun found dumped in a ravine behind King’s restaurant as being the one he saw during the move.

County Attorney Schmitz then attempted to introduce the testimony of James Atkinson, “the potato man” who found King’s body the morning after the killing. Roark objected strenuously as to the introduction of the testimony, claiming that it denied his client the opportunity to question prosecution witnesses. There was considerable argument by counsel on both sides relative to the constitutionality of the introduction of the Atkinson’s Roberts’ trial testimony, which attorney Schmitz characterized as public record. Finally, Judge Heizer took the matter under consideration and adjourned court until 9:00 am on Friday morning.

When court reconvened on Friday morning, Judge Heizer overruled the motion by the defense to exclude the introduction of Atkinson’s testimony from the earlier trial. Attorney for the State Carpenter took the stand and read the written transcript of Atkinson’s testimony. Atkinson had testified that he had discovered King’s body and had given the alarm. Atkinson also testified that he had spoken to Roberts on one occasion, and that Roberts had said that he was in Alta Vista to buy mules.

William Ascher, who owned the meat market next door to King’s café, testified that he had seen Roberts leaving the restaurant the night of the killing.

P. L. Andres took the stand next, saying that he had been to the Masonic Lodge in the upstairs of Ascher’s building the night of the homicide, and that he had gone to the depot to “see the soldier trains come in, and that he saw no one other than the men who were with him, and that no one had gotten on or off the train while he was there.” Andres was asked if the windows in the hall were open, and he replied that they were closed and shuttered as the hall had electric lights.

CRIP Depot

Paul Roberts claimed to have been at this Alta Vista Rock Island depot when Anthony King was murdered three blocks away.

P. T. Crist was Schmitz’s next witness, saying he was with Andres and that they went to the depot together, and that they turned the Masonic Hall’s lights off when they left the building.

Hotel owner, Mrs. Bunger, testified next as to the $50 gold piece which Roberts had asked her to put in a safe and to his urgency to retrieve the money and leave town the morning after the shooting.

Dr. G. T. Johnson, the Wabaunsee County Coroner took the witness stand next, identifying the bloody clothes of Anthony King, and told of his examination of the body and his conclusion that King had died from gunshot wounds. Attorney Roark challenged the Coroner’s conclusion as to exactly which shotgun pellet caused death, and as to the process in which the trajectory of the individual lead pellets was calculated. Dr. Johnson said there were sixteen punctures in the body and that one of King’s arms was broken. He also testified that while he found an empty whiskey bottle in King’s kitchen, the money drawer was untouched, denying any theory of robbery. When Dr. Johnson’s testimony was complete, Judge Heizer declared a twenty-minute recess at 10:50 am.

Dr. Hull's Drug Store

This photo, taken in about 1912 shows Dr. Hull’s drug store, left and the U. S. Post Office at Alta Vista. The Masonic Hall and King’s Café were located next door north of the Post Office. Dr. Hull assisted in the autopsy of Anthony King’s body and testified in the Mullins and Roberts trials.

When the trial resumed, Dr. R. W. Hull of Alta Vista was called to the stand, and he testified to examining King’s body as a part of the Coroner’s jury. He stated that the shots in the breast and abdomen were fatal and that King had died from the gunshot wounds. Again, Roark questioned the doctor’s conclusions as to which particular shot may have caused death. Seemingly exasperated, prosecutor Carpenter rhetorically asked the defense if they were attempting to prove that Anthony King wasn’t dead.

James Brannick, who was the Alta Vista City Marshal at the time of the killing, testified next, telling of finding Roberts in his room at the Bunger Hotel and noting that there was burnt writing paper in the wash basin and on the floor. He also identified a satchel containing dice, morphine, and shotgun shells as coming from Roberts’ room. Brannick also spoke of holding Roberts’ in custody for the Coroner’s jury, saying that he had asked Roberts if he knew Walter Mullins, and that Roberts said “he just knew him.” At noon, Judge Heizer, adjourned the trial until 1:30 pm for lunch, but Brannick was still on the stand when the trial reconvened in the afternoon. Brannick quoted Roberts as saying he left the King Restaurant shortly before the killing and had gone to the depot to fetch his trunk. Brannick also identified the spent shells found in the shotgun that killed King.

P. J. Clawsey, formerly of Alta Vista, testified next, recalling that on the morning after the killing he was walking from the depot to the hotel and had spoken with Roberts along the way. When near a barn not far from the crime scene, Clawsey recalled telling Roberts that a man could have sighted a gun from that spot and killed King, to which Roberts replied that “The man who shot King stood between these two buildings,” pointing to the back of Ascher’s meat market.

Mr. Harry Bunger testified next, telling of hearing the gunshots, and that he saw Roberts about ten or fifteen minutes later at the well in front of the hotel. They spoke, and Roberts said that he had been at the depot, attempting to retrieve his trunk.

A. W. Bentley of Junction City, the State’s first witness in the trial, was recalled to the stand and questioned about seeing Mullins at the bulletin board at the Junction City Union office the day after the killing. Bentley said that he had never seen Mullins at the bulletin board before that day. Bentley recalled that there was a notice on the board stating that King had been found murdered in his restaurant in Alta Vista, and that Mullins, who was standing next to Bentley, said, “That was a cowardly way to shoot a man down.” Bentley testified that the bulletin did not say anything about “shooting.”

After a fifteen minute recess, Deputy Sheriff William Addie took the stand and identified a pistol found on Roberts as well as a letter from Roberts to his wife which the accused had on his person at his arrest. Defense counsel Roark objected to the introduction of the letter, but Judge Heizer overruled the objection. The letter was given to the jury to read, but it was not read publically in court, with the exception of a small part which said that Roberts did not want to destroy letters from his wife, Myrtle, but that he did. Addie testified that he followed Hartman from the Wabaunsee County jail to Junction City where the latter met with Walter Mullins.

Otto Zwanziger, Sheriff of Wabaunsee County, testified next, saying that he had examined all food sent to Roberts in jail by Mullins and friends, but that he did not open a roasted chicken nor a pie that were sent to the prisoner.

John Auer, Wabaunsee County jailer and deputy, was questioned next and told of finding a knife in Roberts’ cell. The knife, over 12-inches in length, had a handle bound in cloth. Auer stated that the cloth matched some missing cloth from a pillowcase in Roberts’ cell. Auer said that the knife was hidden under Roberts’ “Sunday suit”, and that the prisoner had attempted to lure Auer into the back of the cell. After a brief cross-examination of Auer by Roark, Judge Heizer adjourned court until Saturday morning at 9:00 am.

The courtroom was packed on Saturday morning, as it had been rumored since Friday that the Burns agency detectives would be testifying as to their role in the case. Attorney Roark objected to the testimony of the three detectives as well as the scheduled testimony of John Billings who had been in the Wabaunsee County jail on other charges when Roberts and Mullins had been incarcerated there. Judge Heizer overruled Roark’s objections and allowed the testimony to be introduced, “to prove Roberts was guilty and to be considered only for that purpose.”

Detective Elder of the Burns Agency in Kansas City testified that he came to McFarland, undercover, and Sheriff Zwanziger arrested him on drunkenness and concealed weapons charges and placed him in jail in Alma. While in jail, Elder said that Roberts told him of being arrested for the murder of King, and that he had an alibi. Roberts told Elder that he had $1,800 that a friend named Dave Simmons in Kansas City was keeping for him, and that Walter Mullins of Junction City had hired Senator Hessin to defend him. Roberts proposed that Elder help him find two men who would say that they saw Roberts at the depot at the exact time they heard the gunshots, and he promised that everyone would be paid handsomely. Elder told Roberts that he would see what he could do for him. After Detective Elder “paid his fine and was released” he returned to see Roberts, and the prisoner slipped the detective a note to take to his friend in Kansas City, Dave Simmons. Roberts also warned Elder that Alma attorney William Bowes had cautioned Roberts that the prosecution would place a detective in his cell, and Roberts said if that happened that he would kill the detective.

Next to the witness stand was Burns Detective Elliott who testified that Sheriff Zwanziger had let him see Roberts as a visitor, and that he had identified himself as a friend of Elder’s and offered to give Roberts an alibi. Roberts told Elliott the exact details of the alibi which he needed. Next, Burns Detective Sewell came to the stand, telling of identifying himself to Roberts as the second alibi witness, saying that he had been sent by Dave Simmons. Roberts, wary of Sewell’s identity, demanded to know what his note to Simmons had said, to which Sewell replied that it had read, “Dave, I want bond. Paul.” Sewell told Roberts that he “knew everything” about the killing, and that he would go to Junction City, Arkansas to find an alibi out-of-state for Roberts. Roberts suggested that first Sewell should go to Junction City, Kansas and tell Walter Mullins to bail him out of jail.

All three detectives were grilled by attorney Hessin for the defense, but despite severe and persistent questioning by counsel, the three men’s testimonies stood unshaken.

Fred Wilson, Clerk of the District Court, was called to the stand for a second time, saying that in addition to being the clerk, that he was something of an electrician, and that he and County Attorney Schmitz and Sheriff Zwanziger had installed a Dictaphone machine in one of the cells at the county jail. Wilson said that the men had cut a hole the size of a saucer in the cell wall and placed the microphone of the machine inside the wall and pasted over the hole with wallpaper in which they punched a few holes. They ran a wire from the microphone up the partition wall to the attic and across the room of the janitor where a small cubbyhole was made for him to sit and record conversations. Wilson said that numerous tests were made, and that he could hear even a whisper in the cell, and those voices could be easily distinguished and recognized. Wilson read from his shorthand notes, quoting conversations between Roberts and the Burns detectives which matched the testimony presented by the three private sleuths.

The next witness called to the stand was John Billings. Billings had been in jail in Alma when Roberts and Mullins had been confined there, and Billings had testified at the Roberts’ trial. Billings had not been located by the Sheriff attempting to serve the summons for Mullins’ trial, but William Carpenter argued that the prosecution could present Billings’ testimony from the Roberts trial, along with any cross-examination that occurred. Despite strenuous objections from defense counsel, Judge Heizer permitted the reading of Billings’ testimony. Billings had overheard several whispered conversations between Roberts and Mullins, recalling Roberts, “asking Mullins if he thought that Al Hartman would talk once apprehended. Mullins replied that he didn’t know, but that Hartman was pretty mouthy.”

Harry Montgomery of the Junction City Union was recalled to the stand for clarification of his earlier testimony concerning the bulletin that he had posted at his newspaper telling of Anthony King’s murder.  Schmitz asked Montgomery if he knew at the time he created the bulletin the specific manner of King’s murder, and Montgomery said that he did not.  He said that he had tried to call Alta Vista that night, but that it had been storming, and he could not place the call. By the conclusion of Montgomery’s testimony, it was well into the afternoon hours, and Judge Heizer adjourned court until 9:00 am on Monday morning.

On Monday, February 16th, the trial of Walter Mullins entered its twelfth day. A steady stream of witnesses for the prosecution continued to testify. Mrs. Bunger took the stand, again, as the first witness of the day, saying that Roberts did not have a trunk but instead carried a grip when he arrived at the hotel, and that she had not seen any shotgun. Dr. Johnson came to the stand next to identify the shotgun-riddled back door of King’s restaurant. Marshal Brannick returned to the stand, saying that he had notified the King relatives of the murder at 8:00 am on the morning after the killing, and that he did not tell anyone how King was murdered. Deputy Addie followed Brannick to the witness stand, saying that Roberts had claimed that a Junction City soldier gave him whiskey. Mrs. Mary Irvin of Junction City testified next, saying that Roberts had removed a trunk from Lizzie Woods’ boarding house in Junction City, and that she believed that Al Hartman had helped him carry it away.

Then, in a surprise, County Attorney Oscar Schmitz was called to the stand by co-counsel William Carpenter. Schmitz stated that he traveled to Topeka to get Mr. Roark to assist him in the Roberts trial, and that while there he saw Walter Mullins, and that Roark had indicated that Mullins had hired him. Roark objected to the testimony, calling it an outrage. Heizer overruled Roark’s objection, and Schmitz continued to testify, saying that attorney Hessin had called on Roberts shortly after he was confined in the Alma jail on the charge of drunkenness. Schmitz also testified that he was in Manhattan and that he observed Dave Simmons, Walter Mullins, Al Hartman and Mr. Hessin together. Schmitz said that Hessin was in Alma to represent Roberts while the latter was still in jail on the charge of drunkenness and before the charge of murder was placed against him.

Myrtle Roberts was called to the stand, next, and she said that Paul Roberts had some money, about $1,500, and that he also owned several guns. Roark objected to the testimony, and the objection was sustained.

Stephen Nelson was called to the stand, and he testified that he was at his livery in Alta Vista one Sunday after the killing, and that Al Hartman had driven a team belonging to Walter Mullins to the livery stable, wanting Nelson to identify them. Nelson refused. After some tense banter between the defense counsel Lee Monroe and Nelson which questioned Nelson’s ability to identify a horse, Schmitz surprised everyone in the courtroom by announcing that the State rested its case.

W. S. Roark immediately made a motion to strike all of the testimony of Myrtle Roberts. The motion was denied, and Roark made several other motions asking that the case be dismissed, all of which Heizer denied. Judge Heizer indicated that he would cover any questions raised by Mr. Roark’s motions when he made his instructions to the jury.

Senator Hessin opened for the defense, carefully outlining their case to the jury. Walter Mullins, the attorney noted, was a prominent Junction City businessman who had occasion to hire numerous men as teamsters who used Mullins equipment to haul sand for the railroad. Some of these men, unfortunately, were rough characters, but Mullins association with them, Hessin assured the jury, was just part of doing business. Hessin continued, asserting that the defense would introduce evidence proving that a number of men in Junction City had more motive and opportunity to kill Anthony King than Walter Mullins. Hessin promised to reveal the real motives behind the prosecution witnesses, and he noted that the prosecution, itself, had stooped to new lows in their attempt to convict Walter Mullins.

While Roark had made a motion to exclude all of the testimony of Myrtle Roberts which was denied, Mrs. Roberts was the first witness for the defense. Roberts was asked if she knew if her husband owned any guns, to which she replied that he had once owned two pistols. She was then handed a long-barreled pistol that officers had found in Paul Roberts’ grip and asked if she could identify it. She said that she believed it belonged to her husband.

Attorney Carpenter cross-examined Mrs. Roberts, asking if she was certain that this particular gun was, in fact, her husband’s, and she replied that she could not be absolutely certain. He asked her if she had ever seen the leather holster that was found with the gun, and she said she had not. He asked her if she had ever fired a gun, and she said that she had not. Then, Carpenter asked her if Jim Nicholson, who lives in her home town of Bernice, Louisiana, had come to her recently and “told her if she did not stick close to the truth and tell what she had said before, his gang would get her when she got home.” After some hesitation she replied that was, indeed, a fact. Carpenter then asked her if Jim Nicholson was a relative of Walter Mullins, and she replied that he was Mullins’ cousin.

The defense then called Marie King to the stand. She was questioned by Roark as to when she and her husband had moved from Junction City, and she replied that they moved to Alta Vista “the weekend that Bryan came to town”, referring to Presidential candidate William Jennings Bryan. Roark asked if she knew if her husband had owned a shotgun, and she said that she did not know. Roark asked if she knew whether her husband owned any guns, and she replied that he had owned guns in the past, but that she didn’t know if he had any at the time of his death.

The next witness for the defense was Mrs. Horner, who, with her husband and sons, rented a house located on Walter Mullins’ Geary County farm. She said that after Mullins had recuperated from his fight with Anthony King, he had come to the farm, driven by Francis Pierson. She recalled that Mullins had a headache and came into the house and rested in the dining room. Horner testified that she had never seen Fred Pickering driving Mullins to the farm.

The next witness for the defense was Leonard Horner, Mrs. Horner’s 20-year-old son. He testified that he recalled seeing Mullins at the farm with his head bandaged, having been driven there in a REO automobile by Francis Pierson. Horner also testified that Mullins’ team of pulling ponies was in a pasture during the time when Mullins was recuperating from his head injury.

Leonard Horner’s brother, William testified next, recalling a similar story of Francis Pierson driving Mullins to the farm. He also said that the only time he had ever seen Fred Pickering at the farm was when Pickering was part of an alfalfa-harvesting crew. Carpenter grilled Horner, asking him what time Mullins left the house when he visited there with Francis Pierson, to which Horner was less than sure. Carpenter continued to press for details of Mullins’ visits, many of which were hazy in the witness’s memory.

The defense next called Herman Wetzig to the stand who testified that he had sold a two-cylinder REO automobile to Walter Mullins, and he said that usually Mullins employed Francis Pierson as his driver.

Union Thomas of Alta Vista was the next defense witness, testifying that he had delivered ice to the King restaurant, and that he went into the kitchen every day with the ice and that he never saw a shotgun in the kitchen. On cross-examination Carpenter asked Thomas if he knew for sure that there was no gun in King’s kitchen, and whether he had looked for a gun there. Thomas said that he had not seen a gun, nor had he looked for one.

Pearly McClain, the owner of the building which housed King’s restaurant, came to the stand next, saying that he had been in the kitchen a number of times and had never seen a gun. On cross-examination he said that there could possibly have been several guns hidden in the kitchen, as he had never looked for one.

Alta Vista Ascher Meat

A group of Alta Vista residents are photographed at Will Ascher’s meat market. Ascher, behind meat counter to the right, Pearly McClain, second from right, and Mrs. J. Bunger, fourth from the right, all testified in the Roberts and Mullins trials.

William Schaffer, a farmer from Skiddy, Kansas, came to the stand next, saying that he kept a number of Walter Mullins’ mules and horses, including his “driving team” in a pasture during the summer of 1912. Schaffer was followed to the stand by his wife who claimed that Mullins’ horses remained in the Schaffer’s pasture “until the close of the season.”

Joe Baker was called to the stand next, testifying that he had heard Fred Pickering make a statement after he had been released from the Geary County jail where he had been held on a charge of blackmail, saying that “he would get even with Mullins.” On cross examination Baker admitted that Pickering made the statement while his damage suit against Mullins was in progress.

Mike McCarty was called as the next witness for the defense. He said that he worked for his brother in a shooting gallery in Junction City, and that he had seen Mullins and Roberts together only on one occasion. He also said that he had seen Pickering and Mullins talking amicably together. He was asked if he had ever heard anyone threaten violence against Anthony King, and McCarty replied that he had heard three men threaten King and identified them as O. Klum, W. Schaffer, and F. Rector.

James McCarty was called to the stand next and testified that he owned a restaurant in Junction City which Anthony King had visited many times. McCarty said that once a soldier said that he wanted to rent a gun “to use on Policeman King.” McCarty said that he had seen King and Roberts together in the restaurant “drinking two per cent.”

McCarty was questioned by Carpenter, asking if he had ever reported any of these threats to the Junction City police, to which McCarty replied that he had not. McCarty was then asked if he had ever been charged in court for “selling two per cent”, and he replied that he had, but that he had been found not guilty as he “had paid an attorney $100 to dismiss the injunction.”

At this point, pandemonium erupted in the courtroom as a number of witnesses engaged in a loud fistfight in the hallway just outside the courtroom door, and a throng of spectators in the courtroom attempted to flee the possibility of a gunfight, creating a general panic around the courtroom door. Several deputies were dispatched into the group of fighting witnesses, separating the two camps of brawlers.

Judge Heizer then ordered the courtroom doors opened and addressed the audience and witnesses, saying that he had heard that some of the folks attending the trial were carrying firearms, and that he wanted to be very clear that if anyone were found to be armed in the courthouse, that he would see that they were punished to the limits of the law.

Charlie Fox, a Junction City hotel operator, came to the stand next, and was asked by Roark if he had ever seen Anthony King and Paul Roberts together. He replied that he had seen the two men in McCarty’s restaurant one evening and had heard them talking. On cross-examination Fox was asked if he had reported these facts to County Attorney Schmitz when he was deposed, and Fox said that he had not.

Henry Chance of Junction City testified for the defense next, saying that he knew both Walter Mullins and Anthony King well, and that he had heard several men, particularly soldiers, say that they would “get King if they got the chance.”

Robert Wrigley came to the stand next, saying that he had lived in Junction City for many years, and that he had heard a number of soldiers say that they would like to “get King.”

Then, Attorney Roark offered into evidence a copy of a complaint made by Anthony King against John Irvine accusing him of “taking a shot at Police Officer King.”

Frank Thomas, a Junction City carpenter, testified next, saying that he knew Mullins, King and Pickering well. Thomas was asked if he had ever been in jail, and he said that he had been jailed “for selling two per cent”, and that while he was there he became acquainted with a jailed soldier “who told him that if he ever did get out he was sure going to get Anthony King.” He was asked the name of the soldier, and Thomas said that he never learned it. Under questioning by Carpenter, Thomas confessed that he had been charged and convicted of stealing corn from a M. K. & T. freight car, but he claimed that he “just picked up a little corn from off the track.”

The defense produced thirty-five witnesses in defense of Walter Mullins, but the defendant, himself, did not take the stand. Late in the day the defense rested its case and Judge Heizer recessed court until 2:00 pm the following day when any rebuttal witnesses would be heard. When court convened the following afternoon, the room was packed with spectators with many standing along the back wall of the gallery in anticipation of a secret witness that the State would be presenting.

William Carpenter walked into the packed courtroom and approached his desk, calling out, “The defense calls Francis Pierson.” Pierson had disappeared from Kansas, but County Attorney Schmitz had located him and his mother living in Denver, Colorado and had dispatched a detective to Colorado to bring them to Wabaunsee County to testify.  They had arrived in McFarland on a Rock Island train a couple of days prior to their trial appearance and had been staying in the Modoc Hotel before coming to court to testify.

Pierson testified that he had driven Walter Mullins to his farm on many occasions but never during the time when Mullins was recovering from his head injuries. Pierson’s mother, Stella Pierson followed her son to the stand, testifying that she had seen Mr. Mullins leave for his farm after he was injured on two occasions, once in an automobile driven by a strange man, and once in a horse and buggy, also driven by a stranger. Mrs. Pierson also said that she did not know Fred Pickering.

Senator Hessin gave what the newspaper called a “grilling cross-examination” of Francis Pierson who admitted that he had driven Mullins’ REO car for him many times, yet insisted that he had not driven Mullins while his head was bandaged from his fight with Policeman King. Hessin then asked Pierson if it were not true that Mullins had written him, asking him to come testify at the trial, and that Pierson had demanded $150 to attend the trial, a claim that Pierson denied.

William Carpenter had more questions for Pierson on re-examination, asking if it were not true that Pierson had initially refused to return to Kansas for trial but was compelled by a subpoena, and Pierson replied that it was true.

Hessin gave an equally thorough examination of Stella Pierson, challenging her power of observation by asking her to describe the horses in a team that belonged to Mullins. When Hessin finished his cross-examination, William Carpenter announced that the State had concluded its case.

Defense attorney Roark asked the court for a short time to confer with his co-counsel, and Judge Heizer allowed a twenty-minute recess. When court reconvened, Roark indicated that they wanted to summon Herman Wetzig of White City to testify in rebuttal, and the court allowed the defense until 6:00 pm that evening to produce the witness. Judge Heizer indicated that he would give his instructions to the jury at 9:00 am the following morning. When 6:00 pm arrived, attorney Roark advised the court that Wetzig had not arrived from White City as of yet, as the roads were snow-covered and slick. He promised the court that the defense rebuttal witnesses would be ready at 9:00 am the next morning. With that, Judge Heizer adjourned court for the evening.

Court reconvened at 9:00 am on Friday morning, and Herman Wetzig took the witness stand. Wetzig had with him a ledger which indicated numerous dates that Francis Pierson had driven Mullins in the REO automobile.

Then, Walter Mullins’ wife took the witness stand and testified that her husband had not ridden in any of their buggies or wagons while he was recovering from his head injuries. When Mrs. Mullins’ brief testimony was completed, the defense rested its case.

After a short recess, the attorneys who had battled in the courtroom for sixteen days faced the jury for the final time. Oscar Schmitz spoke first, asking the jury to find justice for the family of Anthony King who had suffered severely from the loss of their loved-one’s comfort and support. He spoke of Marie King who had lost her husband and of her two small children who were forever deprived of the love and protection of their father. Schmitz continued by describing the origin of the dispute between Mullins and King, noting that King had acted in his role as a police officer. Schmitz made a strong indictment of Paul Roberts, citing what he called “irrefutable evidence of Roberts’ guilt in Anthony King’s murder,” and noted that Roberts had told his wife that he was going to Kansas to “do a job for Walter Mullins.” Schmitz concluded his oratory by asking the jury to bring justice to the King family and to the State of Kansas. Schmitz spoke for forty minutes.

Alma attorney William Bowes addressed the jury next. As local counsel for the defense, Bowes was a friendly and familiar face to every juror. Bowes limited the focus of his speech to the evidence which had been presented by the prosecution during the trial. He spoke at some length about the shotgun that was believed to have been the murder weapon, noting that no witness was able to ever place that particular gun in the possession of Anthony King, nor Paul Roberts. Bowes also noted that the prosecution had been unable to even prove that the shotgun presented as evidence had even been used in the commission of the crime. Bowes addressed the jury for 32-minutes.

W. S. Roark spoke next for the defense, addressing the jury for over two hours. Roark spoke of the gravity of the State depriving a man of his liberty with only circumstantial evidence. He spoke of coincidence and cautioned the jury to not confuse it with evidence. Roark said that Walter Mullins could not be held accountable for the actions of Paul Roberts simply because he had the misfortune to have grown-up in the same town as Roberts. Roark outlined the details of the testimony presented by the defense, noting numerous individuals who had a greater motive and more opportunity to kill Anthony King than Walter Mullins. Roark concluded by challenging the jury to find reasonable doubt in the charge against Mullins and then yielded the floor to the defense’s final speaker, Senator John E. Hessin.

Hessin challenged the State’s methods in the prosecution of the case against Mullins, noting that County Attorney Schmitz had eavesdropped on the privileged conversations between the defense attorneys and their client. Hessin again reviewed the inability of the State to directly tie Roberts and Mullins together in any fashion before the commission of the crime, noting that Mullins had never been in Wabaunsee County before the day he was arrested in the Courthouse in Alma. After an hour and a half, Hessin concluded the closing statements of the defense.

William Carpenter spoke last for the state, addressing the jury for over three hours. The Alma Signal reported on Carpenter’s oratory, saying, “He made one of the greatest speeches ever heard in the court room, which was crowded to overflowing. When he began speaking everyone leaned forward so as not to miss a word that the man had to say. It was remarkable how the speaker followed the testimony. He knew it line for line and followed it. He began speaking at 4:30 in the afternoon and at 6:00 pm a recess was called. At 7:30 pm court convened, after which Mr. Carpenter took up where he had left off and wound up about 9:20 pm.”

Judge Heizer presented his instructions to the jury at 9:30 pm. The instructions were detailed and lengthy and took almost fifteen minutes for the judge to read. He first noted the seriousness of the charge of murder, and he explained that Roberts, Mullins, and Hartman had all been charged in King’s murder, but that only Mullin’s guilt was being considered in this trial. Heizer instructed the jury that the burden of proof in the case lay with the State, and that the jurors must believe that the accused is guilty beyond any reasonable doubt, but he cautioned the jury to not confuse reasonable doubt with “any possible doubt”.

Judge Heizer noted that there were no witnesses to the crime and that the state had built its case around a chain of circumstances which were presented in the testimony. Heizer explained that the State need not necessarily present a witness to the crime, noting, “The acts constituting the crime may be proven by circumstances.” Likewise the conspiracy between the three accused men “may be established by circumstantial evidence, the same as any other fact.”

Finally, Heizer defined the words, murder, malice, deliberate, premeditate, and willfully as they applied to Kansas statutes. He then offered only two options to the jury, they could find Walter Mullins guilty or not-guilty of the first-degree murder of Anthony King.

At 9:45 the jury retired to their deliberation room. Shortly after taking their seats the men elected J. L Rippetoe as jury foreman, and soon thereafter a first ballot vote was taken which resulted in seven votes for conviction, four for acquittal and one undecided. The jury debated the verdict all night with no one changing their opinion in the case. At 8:00 am on Saturday morning the jury returned to the courtroom and Mr. Rippetoe told Judge Heizer of the impasse, asking for additional instructions. Judge Heizer told the jury that he had no additional instructions for them except to return to their deliberations. The jury returned to their room and took a second ballot with eight votes for conviction and four for acquittal. The jurors continued their discussion of the merits of the case for three more hours before taking a third vote at 11:15 am. The vote was unanimous this time. The jury marched into the courtroom at 11:20 am and announced that they had reached a verdict. They passed the written verdict to Judge Heizer who examined it and gave it to the Clerk of the District Court who then read it aloud in the courtroom. The jury found Walter Mullins guilty of first degree murder. When the clerk read the verdict aloud, Mullins, who had risen from the defendant’s desk, addressed the jury, saying only, “Gentlemen, you have…” before Senator Hessin seized Mullins by the arm, silencing him.

Hessin then addressed the court, advising Judge Heizer that the defense planned to ask for a new trial, and short of achieving that goal, that an appeal to the Kansas Supreme Court would be filed. He asked that Mullins be allowed to be free on bond while a motion for a new trial and appeals would be prepared, and Judge Heizer allowed Mullins’ bond to remain in effect until the sentencing hearing which was scheduled for February 26th.  Motions for a new trial would be heard at that time.

Chapter 5

It seemed obvious that the court battle between the Wabaunsee County Attorney’s office and the defense counsel representing Walter Mullins was far from over. Attorneys from both sides appeared in District Court on Thursday, February 26th, the defense making their case for a new trial. After almost six hours of argument, Judge Heizer denied the motion for a new trial.  Heizer then proceeded to pronounce sentence on Mullins. The judge addressed the defendant, noting that he had been found guilty of first degree murder, and that it was Heizer’s responsibility to pass sentence. Heizer asked Walter Mullins if he had any lawful excuse that sentence should not be passed, and Mullins said, “I guess not, only you have convicted an innocent man. I am not any more guilty than the jurors and the judge who sat on the bench.”  Judge Heizer then sentenced Walter O. Mullins to life imprisonment for the murder of Anthony King.

Senator Hessin presented an appeal bond to the Kansas Supreme Court in the amount of $25,000 signed by Wm. Bowes of Alma, L. R. King, Fred Boon, Harry Pierce and George C. Smith of Junction City. The attorneys for Mullins were given until May 5th to present their bill of exceptions to the Supreme Court.

Attorneys Hessin, Roark, Monroe and Bowes all were listed as counsel for Walter Mullins in his appeal to the Kansas Supreme Court. The challenge to the Mullins’ conviction was based on fourteen separate complaints by Mullins’ counsel lodged against Judge Robert Heizer’s handling of courtroom motions and instructions to the jury.

Judge Heizer

The Alma Enterprise paid tribute to Judge Robert Heizer who presided over the Roberts and Mullins trials in Alma.

While the appellants made the expected challenges of Judge Heizer’s decision to deny a change of venue and the Judge’s ruling denying the use of challenges for cause of three specific jurors, there were some more unusual arguments made by the defendant’s counsel. One major challenge was the admission of testimony by Myrtle Roberts, the wife of Paul Roberts. The argument was made that a wife cannot be compelled to testify against her husband, and Mrs. Roberts had testified in both the Roberts and Mullins trials. Another unusual challenge surrounded the use of the Burns detectives to gather incriminating evidence against Roberts and Mullins when they were jailed in Alma. Finally, the appellant charged general misconduct on the part of the prosecution ranging from remarks made in closing statements to a complaint relative to the subjects covered and those omitted in the questioning of Mrs. Roberts.

Scheduled for the January 1915 term of the court, the Mullins case was argued on February 5, 1915. The Supreme Court’s decision made reference to the enormous amount of trial record submitted with the appeal. Justice Dawson, writing the decision for the Court, described the case in detail, and then spoke to the sensationalism surrounding the case, saying, “The atrocity of the murder, the employment of detectives, the employment of distinguished lawyers to defend Roberts who was a mere vagabond, the incidents of the Dictaphone, a quarrel between the sheriff and one of the State’s detectives on the public streets of Alma where shots were fired and a bystander was struck by a chance bullet, the finding of the dirk in Roberts’ cell, the tragic close of the Roberts’ trial when he was found dead in his cell—all these circumstances tended to give the case against Mullins much notoriety.”

Dawson’s decision, dated April 10, 1915, addressed every challenge by the appellants and upheld Judge Heizer’s rulings and instructions on every count. Relative to the challenge to Myrtle Roberts testimony, the disputed testimony had been given after Roberts’ death, thus no privilege existed, and the court also noted that the protection against spousal testimony did not extend to third parties or co-defendants of a spouse. The Court upheld the testimony of the private detectives and their use as an investigative tool for the State. The Court stated that it had examined the charges of misconduct with care and concluded that, “Doubtless the State’s counsel was zealous, fervid, and passionate and full of the spirit of his cause, but he apparently kept within the limits of fair debate. Nothing approaching reversible error occurred.”

The Supreme Court’s decision was handed-down on a Saturday (April 10th), and the decision was accompanied with a mandate to the Sheriff of Wabaunsee County to immediately revoke the bond of Walter Mullins and take him into custody to be delivered directly to the Kansas State Penitentiary in Lansing, Kansas. While in many cases, 30-days would be given to a defendant to surrender, in this case, the Court directed the Sheriff to act immediately to take Mullins into custody.

Bill Addie, formerly a deputy for the Wabaunsee County Sheriff’s department, had been elected to the position of Sheriff in 1914, and Sheriff Addie and Deputy Weidemann departed Alma, immediately, upon receiving the mandate from the Supreme Court and arrived in Junction City by early afternoon. The lawmen found Mullins in a conference with his attorney W. S. Roark in Roark’s Junction City office. Sheriff Addie presented the paperwork to take Walter Mullins into custody which shocked both Mullins and Roark, as neither expected the mandate to come so quickly. Mullins begged the Sheriff to allow him to go to his home to say goodbye to his wife and children and to pick up a change of clothes.  The Sheriff refused, but Mullins beseeched Addie, offering to hire a car to transport the three men to his home and then to the train station. Sheriff Addie finally agreed, and the three men departed for the Mullins home.

After speaking with his wife and children, Mullins went into his bedroom and reached into a closet, pulling two .45-caliber revolvers from a holster hanging behind a coat, and turned, pointing the guns at the Sheriff and his deputy. Mullins ordered the two lawmen to leave his residence or be shot, and the two men fled. The Sheriff ordered Mullins’ Junction City home surrounded, while inside, Mullins called Roark, directing his attorney to make the necessary legal papers to transfer ownership of his Junction City home and business to his wife, and his rural Geary County property to his two children.

The stand-off continued throughout the evening as Mullins conferred several times with attorney Roark on the telephone. Then, at 10:00 pm, Mullins made his escape out the back of his home and fled on foot in the night, going first to W. S. Roark’s office where he signed all of the property transfers and a new will. Then, Mullins left Roark’s office, guns in hand, going on two occasions to the home of A. W. Bentley, the former Chief of the Junction City Police Department. Bentley had testified in two trials against Mullins, saying that Mullins knew of the method of Anthony King’s murder although it hadn’t been revealed by the authorities. It was speculated by the local papers that Mullins hoped to “even the score” with Bentley, but as luck would have it, Mr. Bentley was out of town, a coincidence which probably saved his life.

Mullins continued on foot, walking to his Geary County farm which was occupied by Al Hartman. The Alma Enterprise reported Hartman’s account of the meeting when he quoted Mullins as saying, “Al, when you see me again, they will be putting me in the hill over yonder.” Hartman said he tried to dissuade Mullins, to no avail. Mullins walked east on the Fort Riley Road, and a few minutes later Hartman heard two shots. He went down the road a short distance and found Mullins sitting against a cottonwood tree. In one hand was a .45-caliber revolver with two empty shells. A second revolver lay across his chest. There was a severe wound to Mullins’ head.

On October 5, 1915 at the October term of District Court in Alma, County Attorney Oscar Schmitz dismissed the charge of murder against Al Hartman, and Hartman’s bond was returned.

In the sentencing hearing of Walter Mullins, in addition to his sentence of life imprisonment, Mullins was also assessed court costs, which had been unpaid at the time of his suicide. In November of 1918 in response to collection efforts, Mullins’ widow, Genie Mullins, paid $250 to the Wabaunsee County Commissioners for court costs in the Mullins trial. While Wabaunsee County claimed that much more was owed, as the actual cost of prosecution exceeded $5,000, the County finally agreed to close all additional claims against Mrs. Mullins, accepting the $250 as full payment for the claim.

Oscar Schmitz served seven terms as Wabaunsee County Attorney before accepting a position with the United States Justice Department as a special investigator in 1918. Schmitz and his children moved to Kansas City, Missouri when he took the Justice Department job. In 1922 Oscar Schmitz married Grace Haley of Wamego, Kansas. In 1927 the Schmitz family moved to Los Angeles, California. Oscar Schmitz died at Long Beach, California on February 5, 1943.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Categories: Featured Stories, Museum Blog

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