Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Murder of Aunt Mandy's Daughter, Part 3

On Friday, December 15, four days after the fire that killed 23-year-old Geneva Orr Lammers and her children—Laura Mae, age 3; Melba Jean, age 2; LaVerne Francis, age 11 months, and an unborn baby—newspapers were still pondering the mystery surrounding the cause of the fire. Parts of the bodies had been sent to Washington, D. C. for analysis in FBI labs. No arrests nor warrants had been issued.[1]

Nonetheless, Sheriff Carter and his officers thought they knew who did it, but they wanted a confession. They insisted Lammers take them on the route he had traveled when he left Troy the previous Monday morning supposedly in search of work. He first took them to Independence, Missouri, then to Kansas City where he tried to provide an alibi by showing a receipt for gasoline purchased on December 12, but the actual date, December 13, was smudged and over it was written the number 12. Then he took them to Topeka, Kansas, where he had spent the night in a hotel and mailed a post card home to Geneva.[2]

            “Dec. 14, 1950
            Dear Gen:

            I made it do(wn) here O.K. . . . I didn’t get my work. I am goting to Topeka see if I can             get work there. I’e seeing you sune.
            I am goting now to Topeka.


Addressed to “Miss James Lammers, Tory, Kansas,” this card had arrived in Troy on Friday, December 15, 1950.[3] Spelling errors belong to Lammers.

He said he had overheard people in Topeka talking about a terrible trailer fire in Troy, so he hurried home. The group returned to Troy late Friday, and at 12:30 a.m. Saturday, the sheriff woke Lammers to announce that he was serving a first degree murder warrant on him.[4] “Does it have to be as bad as that?” Lammers said.[5]

Photo of James and Geneva Lammers found in ruins of trailer.

On Saturday, the story in The Hiawatha Daily World announced that Lammers had confessed! Showing no remorse, he admitted that he had returned to Troy after midnight on December 12 and set the blaze outside the trailer. Evidence had already convinced the fire marshal of this, and he had used his knowledge to pressure Lammers into confessing. Lammers claimed to have poured kerosene under the trailer while his family slept. He said he had walked to his truck and watched until he was sure the fire was blazing and then he drove to Missouri. Although tests showed that Geneva’s body had been drenched in kerosene, he denied entering the trailer. [6]

After his confession, Lammers was moved to an undisclosed location for his safety.[7] Anger in the community must have been raging.

A few days later, The Hiawatha Daily World reported that Lammers had changed his story. He claimed to have choked his wife to death and poured kerosene on her body before setting the fire. This new confession contradicted the coroner’s report that all the victims had died of carbon monoxide poisoning.[8] It also changed the charges against him to two counts of murder: one for killing his wife by choking and the other for killing his children by fire.

Meanwhile, Geneva's brother, James Orr, sadly took the responsibility of accompanying the bodies of his sister and her children home to Hartington, Nebraska, where their heartbroken mother, my dad's Aunt Mandy, waited. They were buried together in a single grave at St. John the Baptist Cemetery, Fordyce, Cedar County, Nebraska.

What possible reason could James Lammers have had for such a terrible deed? He claimed that his children drove him crazy, and he was dreading the arrival of a 4th child.[9] He had taken his wife to St. Joseph, Missouri to a doctor where they thought she could get an abortion, but the doctor had refused.[10] Yet another motive would surface during his trial.

[1] “Husband Returned to the Fire’s Scene As Probe Goes On,” The Hiawatha [Kansas] Daily World, 15 December 1950, p. 1, col. 3.
[2] “Lammers Confesses!” The Hiawatha [Kansas] Daily World, 16 December 1950, p. 1, col. 3. “Confesses to Trailer House Murder,” The [Troy] Kansas Chief, 21 December 1950, p. 1, col. 1-3. Note: The Chief was a weekly, so its story was a summary of the week’s findings.
[3] “Confesses to Trailer House Murder.”
[4] Ibid. “Troy Killer Shows No Regret Over a Slaughter of Five,” The Hiawatha [Kansas] Daily World, 18 December 1950, p. 1, col. 2.
[5] “Troy Killer Shows No Regret Over a Slaughter of Five.”
[6] Ibid.
[7] “Lammers Confesses!” “Confesses to Trailer House Murder.” “Troy Killer Shows No Regret.”
[8] “Lammers Makes a New Confession In Troy Murder Case,” The Hiawatha [Kansas] Daily World, 28 December 1950, p. 1, col. 3.
[9] Raymond Harley, “Flames For Four,” Real Detective, April 1951, p. 31.
[10] “Confesses to Trailer House Murder.”

No comments:

Post a Comment