Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Murder of Aunt Mandy's Daughter, Part 2

Reading through the news reports about the murder of Aunt Mandy’s daughter, Geneva Orr Lammers and her children, I felt as though I were watching the events unfold. The Hiawatha (Kansas) Daily World headlines on Wednesday, December 13, 1950, read, “Four Die In a Trailer Blaze on Troy Night.” The mystery was the husband’s whereabouts.[1]

The [Troy] Kansas Chief, reported that “Troy was visited early Tuesday morning with one of its worst catastrophes when a mother and three small children . . . burned to death in a trailer house fire, the lot back of the Fred Worman home in west Troy.” A neighbor woman had been awakened by a “bright light shining through her window,” and peering out her window, she saw fire in the Lammers’ trailer. Trying to rescue Geneva and the children, the neighbor’s husband burned his hands and face when he opened the trailer door. Other neighbors were waking, too, and several called the police and fire department.[2]

By the time the blaze was extinguished, not much remained of the Lammers’ home. Authorities found Geneva’s charred body lying on her back on the floor near the rear door; the little girls, Lora Mae, age 3, and Melba, age 2, lying on their stomachs in their beds; the baby boy, LaVern, age 11 months, in his crib wrapped in blankets. According to reports, the Lammers family had moved to Troy from Manhattan, Kansas, in July. The husband, James Lammers, 26, “had gone in search of work sometime Monday.” He had been employed by Clarkson Construction Company as a bulldozer operator, but he had been laid off two weeks prior to the fire.[3]

A coroner’s jury was convened, and Coroner E. L. Karr reported that all four victims showed signs of carbon monoxide poisoning, indicating they were “alive when the fire started,” and that Mrs. Lammers was “an expectant mother.” The bodies were so badly burned, he said, that further tests were necessary.[4]

The Hiawatha [Kansas] Daily World reported similar events in the case on Thursday. In addition, this newspaper noted that a Dr. Lattimer from Topeka had come to Troy to make “exhaustive examinations of the bodies of the four victims.” He confirmed reports that the mother’s body was so badly burned that all that was left was the torso. The state fire marshall, Charles Reed, speculated that the cause of the fire may have been two butane tanks or a small oil stove in the trailer, and “it is obvious that the presence of this inflammable material contributed to the fierceness of the blaze.”[5]

Karr had telephoned the Lammers and Orr families in Fordyce and Hartington, Nebraska, respectively, and several family members had arrived in Troy: Geneva’s brother James Orr, James Lammers’ brother Frances [sic], and a Lammers cousin, Gene Wieseler.[6]

Police had broadcast a call for James on the radio, and state police were alerted to look for “a Ford 1947 pickup truck, color black with yellow trimming . . . with Kansas license T 58-66.”[7] About 12:30 p.m. Thursday, James arrived in Troy claiming someone in Topeka, Kansas, had recognized his truck and informed him about the fire, so he raced home. He was being questioned at press time.[8]

[1] “Four Die in a Trailer Blaze on Troy Night,” The Hiawatha [Kansas] Daily World, 12 December 1950, p. 1, col. 1.
[2] “Trailer House Tragedy Kills 4,” The [Troy] Kansas Chief, 13 December 1950, p. 1, col. 1-2.
[3] Ibid.
[4] Ibid.
[5] “No Trace Found as Yet of Husband of Victim of Tragedy,” The Hiawatha [Kansas] Daily World,  14 December 1950, p. 1, col. 6.
[6] “Trailer House Tragedy Kills 4,” p. 1, col. 1-2.
[7] Ibid. “No Trace Found as Yet of Husband of Victim of Tragedy,” p. 1, col. 6.
[8] “Trailer House Tragedy Kills 4,” p. 1, col. 1-2.

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