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Murder On Main Street ( Part One )

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The set of articles in this story were located in The Elmira Telegram and The Star-Gazette, Elmira, N. Y.  If anyone is offended by this article due to proximity of location or relationship to those in this story, please contact me. I find the article very interesting. It not only tells the sad story of this family but also gives us a snapshot of a families life back in 1917 in the Town of Chemung.  - Mary Ellen

The stories were transcribed verbatim. Special Thanks to Mike Tuccinardi for uncovering this unusual piece of history of the town.


Elmira Star-Gazette   Monday  January 8, 1917
 Murder is Outcome of Drunken Night Brawl;
Hold William Bentley For Slaying John Albee

Cayuta Man Is Visiting in Chemung Village – Large quantity of Whiskey Is Imbibed – Heated Words Ensue Just After Midnight Sunday Morning and Charge of Shot Is Fired That Almost Instantly Kills John Albee – William Bentley of Chemung in County Jail Charged with Homicide.


John Albee, aged 55, of Cayuta, N.Y., was murdered Sunday at 12:15 a.m. at Chemung where he was visiting. William Bentley, aged 65, for many years a resident of Chemung is now held in the county jail under a charge of murder.

It is alleged that Bentley was intoxicated and became enraged because a bottle of whiskey had been taken from him and hidden where he could not find it.
Mrs. William Bentley witnessed the shooting. David Albee, son of the murdered man, had a struggle with Bentley following the shooting and it is alleged Bentley hit him on the head with the barrel of the shotgun.
Albee was unconscious for a time. He suffered a long deep gash in the head which was later closed by Dr. C.S. Geer, of Chemung. 18 stitches being taken. Albee is now in the hospital ward of the county jail.
Mr. and Mrs. John Albee and their son David, aged twenty-three, resided in Cayuta. Saturday the three members of this family went to Chemung to visit at the home of Mrs. Albee’s mother, Mrs. William Bentley. Mrs. Bentley was married before she married Bentley and Mrs. Albee was a daughter by that marriage.


It is said that William Bentley has been a hard drinker for many years. Chemung is now a “dry” town it was common for him to go to some of the northern Pennsylvania towns for liquor. Members of the family say that Saturday afternoon William Bentley and David Albee drove to Springs Corners, Pa. where they procured liquor and it is said that they brought some of it home in bottles. John Albee stayed at the Bentley home while his son and Bentley went to Springs Corners.
With the Bentley family lives “Aunt Martha” Rorick, an aged woman, who owns the house in which the Bentleys live. Shortly after supper she retired.
John Albee and his son, David, retired first, on Saturday night going to a room on the second floor of the home. William Bentley remained on the first floor talking to his wife and Mrs. Albee. Bentley had noticed the missing bottle of whiskey and he demanded of Mrs. Albee where it was hidden. She refused to tell him and the argument followed. Bentley ordered the woman from the house and finally put her out of doors. She returned only to be expelled again. The woman went to the Robert Crispin home nearby and engaged accommodations for the night. She returned to the Bentley home and asked Bentley to let her in to get her clothing. This Bentley refused to do until the woman pushed against the door until a window was broken. He opened the door and she was allowed to enter the house and get her clothing. Just before going out of the house she caller her husband and told him of Bentley’s actions. She then went to Crispin’s.


Albee then arose and hurried down the stairs and as he opened the door to the room he was met with a charge of shot from a shotgun said to have been held by William Bentley. The shot entered in the left side of the abdomen. Death probably came instantly.
David Albee, hearing the shot, hurried down the stairs, stepped over the body of his father and faced Bentley who held the gun in his hands. Young Albee grappled with Bentley, when the latter raised the shotgun and struck him a stunning blow on the head. Before Albee recovered from the blow Bentley ran from the house.




A short time later Bentley was caught by Ray Decker and taken to the home of Deputy Sheriff William L. Gregg. It is said that Bentley admitted the shooting. Deputy Gregg at once notified Sheriff Hoke, who with Chief Deputy Knapp and Deputy Kimball hurried to the scene. District Attorney E.W. Personius with Leo Waxman left this city at once for the scene of the murder. Policemen Geisa and Stiles, of the police department, were detailed to go at once to Chemung as it was not known but that their assistance might be needed.
Coroner Hammond hurried to Chemung from his home at Elmira Heights, viewed the body and ordered it removed to the morgue. Dr. C.S. Geer, of Chemung, and Dr. A.W. Booth, of this city were called upon by Coroner Hammond and performed an autopsy under direction of the coroner. All witnesses who knew anything of the trouble were questioned by the authorities. Photographs of the scene were taken by direction of the district attorney.


Apparently there was no motive for the crime, other than William Bentley had been drinking and his anger had been aroused by the argument with Mrs John Albee. It is said that Bentley has an ugly disposition. When he was taken to the county jail by Deputy Sheriff Knapp he was asked if he had ever been convicted before. He replied: “I was arrested once for fighting.” He was not pressed further at that time as to his former convictions.
William Bentley was born in the town of Van Etten. He has resided in this county all his life. He has one half-brother in this city, Jay B. Brink of 738 Hopkins Street.
When Bentley was seen at the county jail this morning by a Star-Gazette reporter, he appeared only slightly nervous. He paced back and forth in his cell, which is the last one in the tier on “murderer’s row,” on the second floor of the county jail. The large steel grated door to his cell is doubly locked, the usual lock being used and a heavy log chain being wrapped about the door and the steel door jam and fastened with a huge brass lock.
“I am no hardened criminal,” he said. “I have lived in this county all my life, but I have a daughter and a son living out of this county who think I live in Ithaca. I do not want them to hear of this. If I am convicted I suppose they will know about it, but until then I don’t want them to know I am in this trouble.”
“I’ll tell you, that young David Albee is not to blame for any of this. He’s all right. It’s that woman---that Mrs. Albee—who is to blame for all of it. She got me madder than anything.”


The hands of the man trembled as he tried to straighten out his brown hair, just tinged with gray, before the photograph was taken of him. “I have not had time to comb my hair since Saturday, I suppose it looks like sin,” he remarked as the photographer was getting ready to take the picture. 
“You don’t suppose that everyone will hear of this, do you?” he asked as tears flowed from his eyes.
District Attorney Personius had requested the reporter not to question the man as to the incidents leading up to or concerning the murder, so the request was granted.


It was a gruesome sight, which met the eyes of neighbors as they rushed into the Bentley home about 12:30 o’clock Sunday morning. The alarm after the killing was given by two persons, Mrs. John Albee and William Bentley. Just after Bentley had struck David Albee over the head several times with the barrel of the shotgun, having first pointed the gun at the young man and pulled the trigger, so it is claimed, the alleged murderer rushed from the house into the street. He ran to the house just west and on the same side of the street as the Bentley house, pounded on the front porch with the empty and bent gun and receiving no response rushed across the highway to the home of Mr. and Mrs. Ray Decker. Mrs. Decker was the first to hear the noise on the front porch.
“Who is there and what do you want?” she shouted.
“There’s been a shooting down to my house, come down,” was the reply of Bentley.
At that Mr. Decker said, “Bentley, you are drunk; there has been no shooting, go on home.”
“I tell you there has been a shooting, come out at once,” Bentley shouted.


Mr. Decker at once went out and found Bentley with the blood-smeared shotgun in his hands. Mr. Decker took charge of the gun and with Bentley walked back towards the Bentley home, which was but a few rods distant.
Arriving at the home they found that Mrs. John Albee had gone to the home of Robert Crispen and given the alarm. She left the Bentley yard immediately after the shot was fired. Deputy Sheriff William L. Gregg had been aroused, in fact the Crispin and Gregg families had heard the shot. They were at the Bentley home. Sheriff Hoke and the authorities were at once notified.
The Bentley home is situate about one-quarter of a mile east of the John I. Ford general store in Chemung, on the main highway to Waverly. The E.C.& W. Railway cars pass the door. The house is on the north side of the street. The door to the living room opens from the front porch. The living room is rectangular in shape, the long way extending east and west. Nearly directly opposite the front door is the door which opens from the bottom of the stairway leading to the second floor. There are two windows in the room looking out towards the highway and one window opening east. On the north side of the room, not far from the east side, sat a common trunk. The heating stove is near the east wall of the room. On the south side of the room was a couch. Opening to the north and near the east wall of the room is a door which leads into the bedroom occupied by Mrs. Martha Rorick, an aunt of William Bentley. Mrs. Rorick, aged about eighty-five years, was a sister of the mother of William Bentley, who died about five years ago. It was ascertained late today that William Bentley owned the little home, it having been deeded to him by Mrs. Rorick, on condition that he support her during her lifetime.


When the neighbors and county officials entered the room they found the body of John Albee lying at the door which opens from the stairway. His head was towards the west, his feet pointing towards the east. A large pool of blood was upon the carpet.
Piecing together the story of the shooting from fragments of information gained from various members of the party little of additional information other than contained in the first part of this story is found. It appears that when the Albee family arrived at the Bentley home Saturday forenoon, having traveled from Cayuta by railroad to Sayre, Pa., from there to Waverly by trolley and to Chemung on an E.C. & W. car, William Bentley decided it best to celebrate the occasion. To his mind the proper way to celebrate was to procure liquor. There was about half a barrel of hard cider in the Bentley home, but after partaking of much of it the decision was reached that some other “refreshment” was wanted.


John Albee declined to go on the trip to Springs Corners, Pa., which is just over the state line in Pennsylvania, near Sayre, Pa., so William Bentley and David Albee made the trip. At a café the men purchased some drinks and took with them two quarts of whiskey. After getting into the wagon they decided that more whiskey was needed, so they returned to the café and bought another quart and a pint, making three quarts and a pint. They returned to the Bentley home. Whether all partook of the whiskey or not is not yet clear, but at any rate after the shooting only a quart of the liquor was found in the home. Drs. Booth and Geer, who performed the autopsy on the body of John Albee, said they endeavored to ascertain by pressing on the chest and forcing air from the lungs, and smelling at the mouth and nose, whether or not Albee had been drinking. They could not detect the odor of alcohol. While this is not positive confirmation that the man had not been drinking, it was an indication that he had not partaken of a great quantity of the liquor.
Shortly after John Albee and his son, David, had retired to a room on the second floor, a discussion arose between Bentley and Mrs. John Albee regarding a bottle of whiskey which had been hidden by the woman. The discussion waxed warm, and after Mrs. Albee had been ejected from the home and had made arrangements to sleep for the rest of the night at the Robert Crispin home, which is the first house east and on the same side of the highway, she returned to get some of her clothing. Bentley had locked the door and when the woman demanded admittance he refused to open the door. The woman then found a paving brick which was lying in the front yard and pounded on the front door. When Bentley still refused to open the door she is said to have thrown the brick through a window. Bentley then opened the door, she entered, procured her clothes and went out.
She then desired to enter the house again, but Bentley refused to open the door. Shoving her head through the opening made by the broken glass of a front window she shouted to her husband, “John, ‘Bill’ won’t let me in. He’s shut me out.”


Albee arose and started down stairs. The man had retired after removing his outside trousers. He still wore a pair of gray trousers, socks, shirt, collar, tie, stick pin and underclothes. Albee walked down the stairs and opened the door directly at the foot of the stairs into the living room. Whether words passed between Albee and Bentley is not now known. Witnesses will state when the proper times comes. However, it is claimed that Mr. Bentley took from the northeast corner of the living room his double barrel, hammerless, twelve gauge shotgun. The gun is of Ithaca make and had been used a number of years by Mr. Bentley who frequently hunted small game in the vicinity of Chemung. It is not known whether words passed between the men after Bentley picked up the gun.
It would take but a fraction of a second to push the little safety catch device on the top of the stock of the gun. From the size and direction of the wound in Albee’s body, it is thought that Bentley did not raise the gun to his shoulder, but fired “from the hip,” as is done by some expert shots. From the shape of the wound in the left side of Albee, just above the hip bone, it is thought that both barrels of the gun were discharged at the same time. Neighbors say they heard only one report. This would have been true if both barrels had been discharged at the same time. When the gun was taken from Bentley by Ray Decker there were two empty shells in the barrels. Some who examined the gun said they thought both shells had recently been discharged.
The physicians who performed the autopsy found that the charge of shot had passed from the left side through the abdominal cavity, tearing the intestines, cutting many large arteries and had lodged in the bone and muscles of the right side. The wound was sufficient to cause instant death. Many shots were found. They are known as No. 6 size. These have been preserved along with wads found. There were no powder marks on the clothing or body. It is thought that the muzzle of the gun was about five or six feet from Albee when the shot was fired. The opening made in the clothing and flesh was oval in shape. Had only one cartridge been discharged, the hole would have been nearly round.


When David Albee heard the shot he at once leaped to his feet and hurried down stairs. Entering the room he was shocked to find the dead body of his father upon the floor. It is said that Bentley pointed the gun at young Albee, but it was not loaded. Albee started to grasp Bentley and the latter swung his shotgun, using is as a club, and hit David Albee on the head. The force of that blow can, in a measure, be estimated for the steel barrels are bent so that the gun is now useless for the purpose for which it was made. That portion of the wood stock under the barrels, which is easily removed, came off during the trouble. It was later found by Deputy Sheriff Knapp and replaced on the gun.
District Attorney Personius is making a most thorough investigation of the affair. From all he is able to ascertain there is no motive behind the shooting, other than the condition that arose that night in the Bentley home. The Albees have been frequent visitors at the Bentley home and, as far as can be learned, there has never been trouble between the families before. There does not seem to be any old feud or anything which might have led up to the tragedy. When asked if Bentley had confessed to the killing, the district attorney said: “He does not deny the shooting.”
The body of John Albee was claimed by his wife and brother at the morgue this forenoon. Coroner Hammond issued a death certificate and the body was taken in charge by Undertaker R.D. Horton of Odessa. The body will be removed to the Albee home in Cayuta where the funeral will be held Wednesday afternoon.
At noon today Mrs. William Bentley was called before District Attorney Personius where she told in detail of the life of her husband from the time she first knew him down to the present. Assistant District Attorney Waxman and Sheriff Hoke were present during the interview.
Coroner Hammond said this afternoon he would hold an inquest in the near future. As yet he has not set a date, for he desires to let the district attorney and sheriff have full sway for the present in the examination of witnesses, etc.



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So very interesting.  The style of writing and details included so very different from today.

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