Contemporary newspaper accounts of the murder and trial.
The Alice Crispell Mystery
In the early morning of Monday, July 7, 1913, the body of 18 year old Alice Crispell was discovered floating in the lake near the Weckesser boat house close to Sunset. She had been missing since July 4 after meeting a young Wilkes-Barre miner, Herbert Johns, and sharing drinks with him at the Oneonta Hotel.
Johns was arrested for Alice's murder - but claimed Alice had left him at 11:30 p.m. and was going to walk home. Her family was not immediately alarmed since Alice often spent days visiting an aunt in Wilkes-Barre.
There was immediate speculation that Johns was innocent. His lawyer Frank McGuigan, a lawyer later famed for criminal defense work, declared Johns innocent before even meeting "Bert" Johns.
There was no apparent motive for her death. There was speculation about a lover’s rival, Harrison Cann, but Cann denied it and he, too, believed Johns was innocent. Alice had a medical history of "fits." Was her death accidental? The newspaper raised the question of suicide but her temperament and friends argued against this theory. 100 love letters from Johns to Alice were uncovered - but did not suggest any motive to kill Alice - although Johns feared Alice's father would have shot him earlier because of his involvement with her.
A coroner’s jury found that Alice died as a result of a criminal act, but exonerated Johns for lack of evidence against him. Despite the coroner's jury the District Attorney held Johns without bail in jail on criminal charges of first degree murder.
After a dramatic hearing in Wilkes-Barre, and the release of autopsy reports which found Alice definitely had drowned, John’s lawyer claimed murder could not be proved and Johns could not be connected to Alice's death. A grand jury hearing the case was directed by Judge Fuller to release Johns.
Alice’s death was never solved, although a mysterious postcard was received by the Crispell family a couple of weeks later from "A.N." claiming guilt for her murder.
Copyright 2006-2008 F. Charles Petrillo