The Mystery of Asa Hardesty

The Mystery of Asa O. Hardesty – Fort Wayne, Indiana started on January 7, 1921

The Fort Wayne News and Sentinel – City Edition January 7, 1921 page 1.

Asa O. Hardesty, Watchman, found Unconscious in Yard Office of Pioneer Coal Co. Early Today.
Room Shows Evidence of Terrible Struggle; Bottle of Carbolic Acid Found in Victim’s Coat Pocket

Police are baffled in their efforts to ascribe the motive of a murderous attack on Asa. O. Hardesty, 4033 Hoagland avenue, night watchman for the Pioneer Coal company, who was found unconscious with a terrible fracture of the skull in the company’s yard office on Murray street at 5:30 o’clock this morning. The victim is lying at St. Joseph’s hospital unconscious. He repeatedly murmurs “Harvey, Oh Harvey.” in incoherent accents. Dr. Edgar Mendenhall, who is attending him, says it is too early to tell whether Hardesty stands any chance for recovery or not. The surgeon stated that the fracture was on the right side of the head just above the eye and that his condition is very grave. Hardesty’s plight was discovered by John F. Bollinger, foreman for the company, when he came to work at 5:30 o’clock. A one-ounce bottle containing double strength carbolic acid with the label scratched off was found in the victim’s coat pocket. Chief of Police Abbott and his men are investigating the mysterious attack, but up to this time the entire affair is a deep puzzle. A section of a singletree with blood and bits of hair clotted on the one end, which was found in the blood spattered yard office, told the story of how Hardesty suffered the terrible wound on the right side of his head. Another wound farther back on the head is believed to have been inflicted by Hardesty’s falling to the floor unconscious. That a fierce battle occurred before Hardesty was dealt the blow which may cost him his life, is evidenced by the condition of the yard office. Everything was knocked topsy turvey and blood, apparently from .. blows, was spattered on the walls. The body was dragged into an adjacent harness room after the attack. The police department is working diligently in their effort to apprehend Hardesty’s assailant, but at this this have not been able to establish the motive for the attack. The robbery theory is acputed by the police for no effort to rob the place was made, despite the fact that the key for the business office was within easy access in the victim’s coat pocket. Chief of Police Abbott today called J. Kruse, a brother-in-law of Hardesty to police headquarters, thinking that he might throw some light on the possible motive for the assault. Kruse stated that Hardesty had no enemy that he knew of and expressed himself as being as much puzzled as the police. Kruse did state that Hardesty and his wife did not always get along together as well as they might, but that he didn’t think that domestic trouble had any bearing on the attack.

The Fort Wayne News and Sentinel dated Saturday January 8, 1921 page 5

Victim of Murderous Assault Remains Unconscious; Condition Very Grave

With Asa O. Hardest, 4033 Hoagland avenue, Pioneer Coal company watchman, who was found with a fractured skull in the company’s yard office Friday morning, still unconscious and in a grave condition, the mystery surrounding the murderous attack made on Hardesty, still remains a deep puzzle to police officers, who have not been able to even fix a motive for the assault which may spell murder. “Hardesty’s condition shows little change today,” said Dr. Edgar Mendenhall, who is attending him. “He is still unconscious and the x-ray picture reveals a very bad fracture of the skull. The outcome of his case is problematical and I could not at this time venture any statement as to his chances of recovery.” Although Chief of Police Dayton F. Abbott and Detective Sargents John Godfrey and Ray Krabill today continued their efforts to ascribe a motive for the murderous assault and run down the assailant, they met with but little success. The chronological record of the rail system at the Postal Telegraph company shows that every hourly call from the Pioneer company’s yards had been made up to 4:27 o’clock. What puzzles police officers, however, is the fact that although Hardesty was supposed to feed the horses hay at 3:30 o’clock, there had been no hay given the horses at that time Friday. The fact that all the fires in the offices of the company had been out so long that the fire boxes were cold, also puzzles the officers. They cannot conceive why an assailant would remain at the place to turn in the regular hourly calls unless the motive would have been robbery, which the fact that absolutely nothing was disturbed, would certainly account. Various persons, including Hardesty’s wife have been brought to police headquarters and questioned, but as yet absolutely nothing which would throw light on the case, has been discovered.

The Fort Wayne News and Sentinel – City Edition dated Monday evening January 10, 1921 page 1

Asa Hardesty Passes Away at Hospital Without Regaining Consciousness

With the death of Asa O. Hardesty, aged 40 years, Pioneer Coal company watchman, a victim of a murderous attack made upon him in the company’s yard office early Friday morning, the police were today more than ever baffled in their efforts to run down his assailant or assailants. Hardesty’s death occurred at St. Joseph hospital at 10:30 o’clock Sunday morning. He died without throwing any light on the mystery surrounding the attack, never regaining consciousness from the time he was found in a harness room off the company’s yard office with a terrible fracture of the skull. A post mortem examination conducted by Dr. Philip S. Tittus, deputy county coroner at the J. Frank Mungovan morgue, reveals that the entire left side of Hardesty’s skull was crushed in. The bones on the left side of Hardesty’s face were also broken. Although the police have examined everyone who they believed could possibly throw the slightest ray of light on the mystery, they admit that they are still groping about in the dark as far as a solution of the mystery is concerned.
Found in Harness Room Hardesty was found lying in the harness room at 5:30 o’clock Friday morning. So many puzzling circumstances exist that it has been impossible to fix the time of the assault or the motive inspiring it. The call system of the Postal Telegraph company show that the watchman made his last call at 4:30 o’clock, yet physicians declare that Hardesty’s condition indicated that the assault had taken place at least two hours prior to that time. The fact that the furnace fires were entirely out and that the horses which were to be fed at 3:30 o’clock were found unfed, adds credence to that theory, yet the complete cycle of hourly calls would flatly contradict it. The police cannot see where the assailant would have any object for remaining at the scene of the assault and making the hourly calls, at least more than one, for he could only hope to gain an hour’s time for escape through this procedure anyway. Why Hardest’s coat which he without a doubt had on during the struggle was taken from the prostrate form and hung on a nail in the office, also puzzles the police. Haresty’s call key was found in the coat pocket.
Believe Two Men Did It The theory that two men committed the assault is gaining considerable credence. It is believed that finding Hardesty a more formidable fighter than they had expected, one of the assallants might have slugged him with the section of singletree while the other was engaging him in a fierce scuffle. Hardesty leaves a wife, four children, Verna, Edwin, Jessie and Willie; also the father, John Hardesty; three brothers and one sister. The deceased was born at Frankfort, Ind., and had been residing in Fort Wayne for the last fifteen years.

The Fort Wayne News and Sentinel dated Saturday evening January 22, 1921 page 1

Mrs.Asa Hardesty Says Jas. Woody, Who Paid Her Attention, Slew Husband.

“That man is the cause of all my trouble and the death of my husband.” With those words, Mrs. Asa O. Hardesty, wife of the Pioneer Coal company watchman, who was fatally slugged in the company’s yard office on the night of Jan. 6, charged James M. Woody, aged 51 years, Pennsylvania shop employee, with the murder of her husband. An alibi, which shows that Woody was sick in bed under the care of Dr. A.J. Kesler, all night on Jan. 6, positively proves that Woody is not the man who killed Hardesty. Mrs. Hardesty, according to the police, has been “unreliable” in her statements. In fact the officers say, they have on numerous occasions caught her in prevarications, and until this time denied that she had ever accepted the attention of any other man. The officers, however, had learned that she had been with Woody, but she stautly denied this when asked about it. When the officers told her that they would bring in the persons who had seen her with him, she admitted that she knew him and that he had told her he would marry her and provide a good home for her in Harrison Hill if she would leave Hardesty. She also confessed to the officers that Woody had given her little girls dresses and presented her with silk handkerchiefs and other finery.
Admits Giving Presents
Woody admits giving the presents, but denies having persuaded Mrs. Hardesty to leave her husband Mrs. Hardesty told Sergeants Krabill and Godfrey that she was not sure whether she would recognize Woody any more, as she had not seen him for a year and three months. “Come with me”, said Sergeant Godfrey as he led the way downstairs from the detectives room to the office of Chief of Police Dayton F. Abbott. Mrs. Hardesty did not know that the officers had placed Woody in charge of the chief in his office. When Mrs. Hardesty stepped in the door she immediately recognized Woody and made the dramatic and sensational charge that he killed her husband. Woody turned as white as a sheet and great beads of perspiration dropped from his brow as he twitched his fingers and trembled. He stoutly protested his innocence and submitted to having his finger prints taken, expressing his willingness to help the officers in any way he could to clear up the mystery.
Attached Before Midnight
Sergeants Krabill and Godfrey are now convinced that the crime took place before midnight. The railroad switching crew which pulled an empty coal car out of the yards every night, said that the watchman always appeared with his lantern whenever they backed into the coal yard. On the night of the murderous attack they backed into the coal yard at shortly after 11 o’clock and although they spent a much longer time there than usual, the watchman did not appear with his lantern. The fact that the blood on Hardesty’s coat was perfectly dry when discovered at 5:30 o’clock in the morning, also strengthens the theory that the attack occurred early in the night. The surgeons who attended the watchman also said that the condition of Hardesty indicated that the attack had taken place at least four hours before. The telegraph company watchman records show that every call was made during the early part of the night. The police are convinced that the calls were nevertheless not made. They cite instances where the telegraph company had recorded calls which have never been made.

The Fort Wayne News and Sentinel dated Monday evening January 24, 1921 Second Section page 1

Police Believe the Murdered Watchman Kept Company With Another’s Wife.

The police are now working on the theory that Asa O. Hardesty, Pioneer Coal company watchman, who was fatally slugged in a murderous attack in the company’s yard office, on the night of Jan. 6, kept company with another man’s wife and that the irate husband, probably finding them together, struck the blow with the section of single-tree which resulted in Hardesty’s death. Detective Sergeants John Godfrey and Roy V. Krabill have run down clue after clue in their efforts to unravel the mystery. The officers say that they have established the motive prompting the murderous assault. They believe that Hardesty had a paramour, whose husband committed the fatal attack. Their reasons for working on this theory they do not divulge at this time as they fear that this information might work against their efforts to run down the murderer. The officers, however, are seeking the whereabouts of a former watchman at the Pioneer company’s yard who is reported to have left Fort Wayne for a town in Illinois about the time the crime was committed. The police state that they have no evidence of guilt against this man, but that they believe that he may be able to furnish them with certain information which they want.
Wife Sticks to Theory
Detective Sergeant John Godfrey saw Mrs. Hardesty today and she continued to stick to her declaration that James M. Woody, aged 51 years, from whom she received attentions is “the man who caused all my trouble and the death of my husband”. The perfect alibi, which Woody was able to offer, showing that he was at home in bed under the care of Dr. A.J. Kesler, on the night of the crime, proves that he is not the man who killed Hardesty, in the opinion of the officers.

The Fort Wayne News and Sentinel dated Tuesday January 25, 1921 page 14

Pinkerton Detective Gives Up Home In Hardesty Case.

Detective Sergeants John Godfrey and Roy V. Krabill, as well as F. H. Beck, special detective from the Pinkerton agency, who has been working in co-operation with them in trying to run down the slayer of Asa O. Hardesty, night watchman, who was murderously assaulted in the yard office of the Pioneer Coal company on the night of Jan. 6, admit that the crime remains a deep mystery to them After two weeks of hard work, Detective Beck has withdrawn from the case and returned to the Indianapolis office of the Pinkerton agency. The Pinkerton man was placed on the case in the interests of the insurance companies in which Hardesty held policies.