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Murder at the Casino:
The Dorothy Gilhool Case

The Casino at Sunset, FCP Collection

Introduction

From mid-December 1953 to the end of September 1954 Northeastern Pennsylvania was transfixed by the murder of Dorothy Casey Gilhool at the Lake a week before Christmas 1953. The arrest of Paul Graver, a Bingo worker at the Sunset Casino, seemingly solved the murder. The Luzerne County District Attorney had no confession nor clear direct evidence of Graver’s guilt, but the DA had considerable circumstantial evidence matched with expensive expert testimony to seek the death penalty for Graver.

The fifteen- day trial in Wilkes-Barre, which included Saturdays and at times night sessions, drew overwhelming crowds and media attention. The evidence against Graver, however, proved elusive in the contentious battle between the DA and Graver’s counsel, an experienced trial lawyer, Thomas C. Moore, who fell ill at a critical moment of the trial. His youthful assistant, George A. Spohrer, in his first trial, had to assume the role of chief defense counsel for a client facing the death penalty.

Despite the length of this article, it can only review the main elements of the prosecution and defense of the Gilhool case. There were numerous other witnesses and evidence—incriminating and exculpatory-- presented in the case which was of uncertain value and at times contradictory—and in the end credibility may have outweighed circumstances to win the jury’s verdict.

 

Prelude to Murder

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Dorothy C. Gilhool, 1941

It was a bitterly cold night on Thursday, December 16, 1953, when the Bingo room at Sunset's Casino closed at 11:30 p.m. Afterwards, there was a gathering at Jack Nothoff's cafe (now the Villa Roma site) at Sunset which continued into the early morning hours of Friday, December 17, when Nothoff's bar should have been closed under the state's liquor laws. Included in the gathering at Nothoff's was owner Jack Nothoff; John C. Kehoe, Jr., an influential coal operator; his driver, Mark Waltich; Bill Dougher, the bartender; Dorothy Casey Gilhool, 42,; her sister Joan Casey; the sisters’ friend Florence Abenmoha; and Paul Graver, 43, a Casino Bingo employee.

Joseph C. Gilhool and Dorothy C. Gilhool, husband and wife, were owners of the Casino amusement building at the Sunset bridge along with a partner Vincenzo (James Mack) Maccarone of Pittston. Dorothy Casey Gilhool was a graduate of Luzerne High School and the Mercy Hospital School for Nursing. The Gilhools were married in 1941. They owned and operated the Blakeslee Inn and lived in Lehighton before relocating to the Lake. The Gilhools were widely known in the Wyoming Valley as operators of Bingo games at area churches along with famed local radio personality William "Little Bill" Phillips, who coined the phrase, "The Valley with a Heart." Earlier in 1953 the Gilhools and Mack purchased the Casino and Phillips left the Gilhool partnership.

When Bingo closed at the Casino near midnight on December 16, Dorothy Gilhool, Joan Gilhool and Florence Abenmoha went to Nothoff's. Paul Graver and Joseph Gilhool remained at the Casino a short while to close operations. Joseph Gilhool returned to his home in Kingston while Graver arrived at Nothoff's about 15 minutes after the three women.

The Nothoff crowd began a several-hour bout of drinking and dancing to juke-box music. Dorothy Gilhool had several drinks of Squirt (a soda) mixed with Seagram’s-7 whiskey. Kehoe was described as staggeringly drunk while dancing with Gilhool. At 4:00 a.m. Nothoff left the bar to go to bed. At 4:50 a.m. Paul Graver left the bar. It would be claimed he was angry that Dorothy Gilhool was dancing with Kehoe. He went to his apartment above the Casino. At 5:20 a.m. Dorothy Gilhool left Nothoff's telling Florence Abenmoha she was going to find Graver to determine why he was upset. She borrowed a flashlight from the bartender to light her way. Except for her murderer she was not seen alive again.

 

Murder

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Rear of Bryant's Restaurant.
"X" was the site of the victim's body.

An extensive search by Gilhool's family, friends, local and State Police followed during the day of December 17. Efforts to find Gilhool centered on the Casino and Lake shore but were unsuccessful. At one point on December 17 Gilhool’s sister Joan Casey and others searched the Casino, but not Graver’s room. A little later while Joan and Paul Graver were having coffee on the Casino’s first floor three knocks were heard from the second floor. Searchers ran to the second floor to search for the source of the sounds but none was found. It may have been the plumbing—but there was continuing speculation it was the dying Gilhool. It was not until the next day at 3:55 p.m. on Saturday, December 18, that Gilhool's fully bright-pink clothed body was discovered by her two nephews, William Fahey, 11, and Joseph Casey, 12.

Gilhool was found face-down against a retaining wall behind Bryant's Restaurant which once stood on the Lake side of the road roughly opposite where Carpenter Road meets Lakeside Drive. This location is away from the Casino. The four- foot wall was 25 feet from the rear of the restaurant. Then there was a dirt strip followed by a second retaining wall which held back the Lake. Police Chief Edgar Hughes had searched the area of Bryant's dock behind the restaurant but had not seen the pink-clothed body. There never was an explanation during the trial why the body was not found earlier.

Joan Gilhool described her sister as “five- foot, two-inches tall in high heels” and weighing about 100 pounds. Near the now frozen body of Dorothy Gilhool was a bent flashlight, her purse, a white scarf and a set of keys. Night temperatures had fallen to four degrees above zero.

Experts determined that Gilhool died from a cerebral hemorrhage due to blows from a blunt instrument although she did not have a fractured skull. On Monday, December 21, 1953, Luzerne County District Attorney, Louis G. Feldman, announced that a "hit-and-run" automobile accident was ruled out as a cause of death. Robbery was also excluded as a motive as police found money, jewels and a watch in the victim's possession.

As New Year’s Day approached with no arrest for Gilhool’s murder, DA Louis G. Feldman vowed “to restore law and order to Harvey’s Lake.” Lake Police Chief Edgar Hughes held a meeting at the Lake’s fire hall on December 29 attended by 21 of the Lake’s 22 licensed tavern owners to warn them to comply with Sunday closing laws and other liquor laws. The warning also applied to the Sunset area which in part fell under the jurisdiction of the Lehman Township police. Otherwise, they would incur the wrath of the District Attorney.

The District Attorney was also feeling heat in early January when the Times-Leader newspaper ran an article suggesting that the Gilhool murder may never be solved.

On January 20, 1954, 42-year-old Paul Graver, then unemployed, was committed to the Luzerne County prison as a material witness in default of $5,000 bail. Days later the bail was lowered to $1000.00 which Graver was able to raise and he was released. Graver’s legal counsel, Vincent M. Quinn and George A. Spohrer, questioned the legality of Graver’s confinement as a witness in a murder case when no one in fact had been arrested for the murder. DA Feldman had to admit the legality of the confinement was doubtful.

In the meantime, in late March the Casino announced it was planning to open a new season of Bingo. An angry Feldman issued an order which prohibited the resumption of commercial Bingo at the Lake. In part, the order was prompted because the Casino’s co-owner Jimmy Mack was under investigation by a federal grand jury in Washington, D.C., for other activities by Mack. On April 13, 1954, Graver would be charged with Gilhool's murder. Graver was a tall, slim, dark-haired former carnival worker who was married with a nine-year-old son. Graver was now remanded to prison until his trial.

The District Attorney's case against Graver was based on the following allegations. There was an illicit or romantic relationship between Gilhool and Graver. Gilhool went to Graver's apartment after she left Nothoff's. There was an argument between the couple and Gilhool was fatally injured which resulted in her death either during the argument or after Graver dumped her body at Bryant's. Finally, these events followed "an all-night drinking party" which led to Gilhool's death. Feldman charged Graver with first-degree murder or alternatively second-degree murder or voluntary or involuntary manslaughter.

 

The Prosecution Case

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Judge Benjamin R. Jones, Jr.

The trial began on Monday, September 13, 1954, before Judge Benjamin R. Jones, Jr. Graver was represented by Thomas C. Moore, a trial lawyer with 25 years of legal experience, and 27 year-old George A. Spohrer. Admitted to the bar in November 1953, this was Spohrer's first trial as a lawyer. The prosecution was represented by District Attorney Louis G. Feldman aided by First Assistant DA Jonathan Valentine.

In the early days of the trial the young boys who found Gilhool's body testified to their discovery of the body. In the packed court room Joan Casey, 27, testified about the night of drinking at Nothoff's but minimized her sister's drinking. She had left the bar at 1:50 a.m. since she had to work in the morning. When her sister disappeared, she returned to the Lake in the early afternoon on December 17 and she and the defendant Paul Graver jointly searched buildings in the Sunset area for Dorothy. At one point, Graver discouraged Joan from searching near Bryant’s dock. Two pathologists agreed Dorothy Gilhool died from a strike to her head by a blunt instrument. Other medical evidence, however, was questionable. There was no trace of alcohol in Gilhool's system despite testimony of her substantial alcohol consumption. There was inconclusive evidence whether Gilhool suffered one or multiple blows to her head. There was also a question whether she may have died in the Casino, the supposed murder scene, or died after she was moved to the Bryant site.

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District Attorney Louis G. Feldman

Jack Kehoe testified he was at Nothoff's during the late night and early morning of December 16-17, but claimed he had no memory of the events on that night. He could not recall meeting or dancing with Gilhool. He was told he left Nothoff's at 5:30 a.m. He and his driver fell asleep in his Cadillac in front of Kehoe's home in Centermoreland.

The State Police presented a photo of a cardboard box found in Graver's apartment. The prosecution contended Gilhool could have been concealed in the box before she was moved to Bryant's. Moore questioned if the box was large enough to conceal a body. Gilhool's alleged shoes were found in Graver's room but there was no conclusive proof they were from the night of the murder. Other Casino exhibits were offered to support the prosecution but the defense noted there were dozens of people at the Casino during Bingo nights and no direct evidence could be linked to Graver. A defense tactic, however, to shift blame to Kehoe for the murder quickly vanished as the State Police concluded there was no basis to suspect Kehoe. A mystery surfaced when automobile keys found near Gilhool's body did not fit anyone's automobile at Nothoff's the murder night.

William Dougher, the bartender, testified Gilhool had 10-12 drinks. He, too, had searched for Gilhool after her disappearance. He entered Graver's room during the search but he only had a cursory look. Jack Nothoff testified his bar was already in trouble due to earlier violations of State liquor laws. Nothoff claimed he saw Gilhool and Graver embrace each other twice in his bar in the months before the murder. Graver told Nothoff that Gilhool must have "gone home with Kehoe." The District Attorney believed Graver killed Gilhool and kept her body hidden in his room or in the Casino – perhaps in a dying condition – until he moved her to Bryant's the night of December 17.

There was testimony Dorothy Gilhool and women employees from the Casino used Graver's room as a dressing room before it was leased to Graver. Thereafter, these women had to use the ladies room. The prosecution offered witnesses where testimony was of uncertain value. The Lake Police Chief, Edgar Hughes, testified as to his personal search at the Casino and Bryant's for Gilhool but could not offer an explanation how he missed seeing her body. The prosecution would suggest Graver took her body from the Casino to Bryant's around 6:00 p.m. on December 17 but no evidence or testimony to support this timeline was presented.

There was also testimony that during the search Graver told a local policeman: "Looks bad for me." A stunned audience waited for defense counsel to counter the claim but the defense ignored the incriminating statement. On September 23, 1954, the jury of 8 women and 4 men, with two alternate women jurors, actually visited the exterior of the Casino and Bryant's. Later, a male juror was excused due to illness and a woman alternate juror took his place.

It was disclosed that Graver had keys to the Casino, a store-room and a "cubby-hole" – a small locked storeroom – suggesting a hiding place for a body. The victim's husband, Joseph Gilhool, noted the defendant Graver spent the nights of December 17 and 18 and other weekday nights after the murder at the Gilhool's home and then weekends at the Kingston home into January to help Joseph Gilhool with weekend business at the Casino. Critically, Joseph Gilhool testified Graver did not leave the Kingston home the night of December 17 or the 18th .

The key prosecution witness was Florence Abenmoha. She testified that during the evening at Nothoff’s Dorothy Gilhool said, “I love my husband but I am infatuated with Paul.” Abenmoha stated Gilhool and Graves danced for a couple of hours at Nothoff’s. Afterwards, Gilhool danced with Kehoe. Abenmoha did not dance with Kehoe because he was too drunk. Abenmoha told Joan Casey that Gilhool left to find Graver because Graver was mad at her for dancing with Kehoe. But in an apparent change of story Abenmoha told Joan that Gilhool claimed she left a package at the Casino and wanted to retrieve it.

When Gilhool did not return to the Casino Abenmoha went to the Casino to find Gilhool whom she thought was with Graver. For four hours she tried to awaken Graver in his room by knocking on his door, blowing her automobile horn and throwing rocks at Casino windows. When Graver finally responded at 9 or 10:00 a.m., he said he had not seen Gilhool since he left the bar.

Defense counsel elicited from Abenmoha that no one else heard the infatuation remark by Gilhool. At the time of Graver’s arrest in April Abenmoha stated she did dance with Kehoe at Nothoff’s. Defense counsel questioned whether Abenmoha in fact spent four hours in the biting cold trying to arouse Graver. Why were there two stories given to Joan Casey as the reason Gilhool left to return to the Casino?

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Left to right: George A. Spohrer;
Paul Graver; Thomas C. Moore

Defense counsel Tom Moore fell ill while attending church on Sunday, September 19. He was unable to appear in court on Monday, September 20, and would be absent the entire week. The Court offered to postpone the trial but it could result in considerable expense to the DA to re-summon witnesses and experts and a new jury would have to be called. Graver requested Spohrer to serve as his chief counsel in Moore’s absence and the trial would continue without Moore.

There was expert testimony by a criminologist from Penn State University who found and tested hairs, blood and objects in Graver’s room and on Gilhool’s body. The hair samples were matched to Gilhool. But another mystery surfaced when blond hairs were found in the room and on Gilhool who was dark-haired and not blond. Importantly, the expert could not link the blood and hair to the time of Gilhool’s alleged death in Graver’s room.

Graver's full statement to the police at the time of the murder was read into the trial record, but it only affirmed Graver's position at the trial. He had denied a romantic relationship with the victim and he denied murdering her.

There were blood spots matching Gilhool's blood type found at the Casino, but on the first floor not in Graver's room. Fibers matching Gilhool's pink coat worn by the murder victim were found in Graver’s room, but there was no direct evidence when the pink coat or Gilhool may have been in the room. Gilhool's white scarf seemingly had a blood stain but further evidence on this point was not presented. There were two cigarettes found near Gilhool's body but Graver was not a smoker. There was debate over a chair from Graver’s room with a blood stain on it. But the Penn State expert could not accurately access it. A Casino worker testified that at one time Gilhool cut her finger in the Casino--an explanation perhaps for blood spots found in the Casino.

On Thursday, September 23, the DA called Joseph Gilhool to testify in the case—perhaps a strategic error. Gilhool stated Graver was a friend to him and his late wife. Critically, Graver stayed overnight with Joseph Gilhool the evenings of December 17 and 18, and later days. Gilhool stated Graver could not have stopped back to the Lake the night of December 17 to carry Dorothy Gilhool’s body from a hiding place at the Casino to Bryant’s—an essential claim the DA had made.

On Saturday, September 25, the District Attorney concluded the prosecution's case. The final witness had been State Police Detective Charles Santee who testified that he investigated other potential people responsible for Gilhool's murder, but on cross-examination by Moore, Santee admitted he did not investigate several others present at Nothoff's the night of December 16-17, 1953.

 

The Defense Case

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Jack Nothoff and bar

The defense case began during the morning of Monday, September 27, 1954. Moore called a parade of 15 character witnesses who had known Graver from various aspects of his life and all testified to Graver's excellent character and reputation. At this point defense counsel Tom Moore collapsed and had to leave the trial under medical care and would be admitted to a hospital. After a brief recess George A. Spohrer assumed the role of chief defense counsel for Graver with the aid of Atty. J. Dallas Shepard.

George A. Spohrer was a graduate of Pittston Center Catholic High School, Catholic University of Washington, DC, and the University of Pennsylvania Law School. He was also a World War II Navy veteran. He was only licensed as a lawyer one month before the murder of Dorothy Gilhool nine months earlier.

At this point Spohrer accepted the risk of calling Graver to the stand. (A defendant in a criminal case is not required to testify). But if the jury were to convict Graver of first-degree murder, he risked death in the electric chair. Graver himself stated publicly he wanted to testify in his own defense.

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George A. Spohrer

Spohrer examined Graver for three and one-half hours. Graver testified he once worked for the Lehigh Valley Railroad for eleven years. He was earlier a carnival worker for eight years. He moved to the Lake with his family to work for the Gilhools. His family later moved back to his former home in Lehighton where his son would attend school and Graver returned weekends to be with them.

Graver gave his recollection of the late December night at Nothoff's when Kehoe was using vulgar language and dancing with Dorothy (Dotty). Graver was close friends with the Gilhools but Dotty was unhappy and confided to Graver. Joseph Gilhool and partner Jimmy Mack were at odds over the Bingo business. Gilhool was not upset with Dotty for dancing with Kehoe when he left Nothoff's.

A comforter taken from Graver's room had stains on it but Graver stated it had stains when the Casino gave it to him with his room. Moreover, Gilhool used it as a pillow for sun-bathing on the Casino roof before Graver was exclusively leased the room.

There was blood on a pair of Graver's socks and a thread from similar socks under Gilhool's fingernail and on her skirt when her body was found. But Joseph Gilhool had purchased a dozen of these socks and had given half to Graver and kept half for himself. Consequently, it could be equally true that Gilhool had traces of the socks from her own husband.

Judge Jones also questioned Graver who denied Gilhool was in his room the early morning of December 17. Graver also told the Judge that Gilhool was never in his room at any other time with Graver. Graver claimed that blood spots in his room were from his own bleeding gums along with a cut to his foot. In an era before DNA testing, blood evidence could not be matched conclusively to Gilhool or Graver.

District Attorney Feldman began his cross-examination of Graver late in the afternoon on September 27 and resumed throughout the morning of September 28. Graver was composed throughout most of Feldman’s hard questioning. Graver could not be shaken from his consistent defense since his arrest that he was not romantically involved with Gilhool. She did not come to his room after the party at Nothoff’s. Blood spots found on items in his room were from him not Gilhool due to teeth and foot issues—although a prison doctor stated he found no bleeding gums when he examined Graver at the time of his arrest.

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Louis G. Feldman,
National VFW Commander 1981

The DA also had a new theory as to Gilhool’s death. The deadly blow to her head was caused by the striking of a hard-fist wearing a ring. Graver denied wearing any ring. A wet shoe with blood spots was found in Graver’s room. The DA suggested it became wet during Graver’s disposal of Gilhool’s body. Graver could not explain the wet shoe—nor could the DA tie the shoe to the scene at Bryant’s.

Graver stated he never heard the “three knocks” at the Casino during the search for her—as the DA repeatedly tapped three knocks on a court room rail.

In response to the DA’s claim that Graver dumped Gilhool’s body at Bryant’s around 6:00 pm on December 17 Graver noted he was with other witnesses at Nothoff’s the late afternoon of the 17 th waiting for developments in the search for Gilhool. He was on his own for only 25 minutes when he left to shave. He later spent the rest of the night at the Gilhool home in Kingston—as Joseph Gilhool confirmed.

A Scranton reporter noted that Graver had “handled himself with remarkable assurance under relentless grilling” by the DA. Graver’s testimony ended at 3:30 p.m. The DA called two rebuttal witnesses who claimed Graver did wear a large gold ring contrary to his earlier testimony.

The Court directed a night session to permit George A. Spohrer to offer his summation to the jury. Spohrer began at 8:12 p.m. and completed his close at 9:34 p.m.

The young defense lawyer, six-foot, three-inch George A. Spohrer, rose for the defense. The Wilkes-Barre newspapers were on strike during the sensational trial. His summation to the jury was reported in the Pittston Gazette:

A brilliant 90-minute summation was delivered by attorney George A. Spohrer, of 118 Broad Street, this city, in behalf of Paul Martin Graver, Lehighton, accused of the slaying of Dorothy Gilhool, Kingston, at the second night session last night at Luzerne County Court House. Judge Benjamin R. Jones presided.
"An honest man tells the same story all the time, but a liar changes his story day by day," was one of the convincing quotations voiced by the 6-foot-three-inch barrister in the course of his address to the Judge and Jury in the presence of a packed court room. Tears trickled down the young lawyer's cheeks as he pleaded for his client, and Graver, himself, sobbed openly.
Attorney Thomas C. Moore, who entered this trial as chief counsel, was not in the court room last night but Attorney J. Dallas Shepherd was in his accustomed place as Attorney Spohrer delivered his memorable plea.
Attorney Spohrer allowed the tears to drip down his cheeks unashamedly as he emphasized his contention that the Commonwealth's case against Graver was based on "rumors, speculation and guesses."
After the young attorney – making his first summation in the first case he ever tried – completed his close at 9:34 p.m. he was deluged with congratulations by Graver, the defendant’s wife, associate defense counsel J. Dallas Shepherd and scores of persons in the court room.
"No man can be guessed guilty in this court. No man can be guessed into jail. If you have to guess, there's a reasonable doubt and that doubt must be resolved for Paul Graver and you must send him home," declared Attorney Spohrer.
Throughout his summation which started at 8:12 p.m. the defense attorney hammered away on "reasonable doubt" aspects of the defense.
And he lashed into the testimony of Mrs. Florence Abenmoha, 40, Wilkes-Barre, upon which the Commonwealth's case was partially based.
Her testimony was described "as so ridiculous as to be smothered in its own improbability."
The Commonwealth's case also was assailed by the young attorney on the ground that it failed to show conclusively how Dorothy Gilhool lost her life or even where and when she died.
He raised the possibility that Dorothy Gilhool died accidentally, wandering out of Nothoff's Café last Dec. 17 after an all-night drinking session and wandered over to Bryant's Dock at Harvey's Lake to fall from a retaining wall and receive her fatal wound by hitting a concrete walk.
Again leveling his guns on Mrs. Abenmoha, Attorney Spohrer declared that the full import of her testimony could have been an attempt to clear John C. Kehoe, Jr., 42, Centermoreland, of suspicion and "point the finger of guilt at Paul Graver."
Alleged failure of State Police and Luzerne County authorities to thoroughly investigate a number of persons who were present at Nothoff's Café on the morning of Dec. 17 was criticized by the defense attorney. He mentioned Kehoe and Frank Drobenak [a patron who was also at Nothoff’s on December 17 th - 18th ] among those who were not subjected to the same type of investigation as was made in Graver's case.
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Verdict: Left to right, Paul Graver; Jean Graver;
Unidentified; George A. Spohrer

The following morning on September 29, 1954, a two-hour histrionic address was made by DA Louis G. Feldman asserting there was a romantic relationship between Gilhool and Graver. He killed her in his room by striking her with the flashlight in a jealous rage. He hid her body in the Casino until he had the chance to take the body away to Bryant's dock. He paraded various exhibits which he claimed supported his case. In essence, he had a victim. He had an array of circumstantiated (but equivocal) evidence. He had a defendant. Therefore, Graver was clearly guilty.

Later in the day Judge Jones gave a 198 minute charge to the jury reciting the law and evidence in the case. He informed the jury that it could not find Graver guilty of involuntary manslaughter for legal reasons. The choices were first-degree murder with a death penalty or life imprisonment; second- degree murder with a sentence of 10 to 20 years; or voluntary manslaughter with a sentence of 6 to 12 years.

The court went into a night session and the jury deliberated five hours—but considerable time was taken by the jury to request and review evidence in the case. The actual deliberations as to Graver’s guilt reportedly took two hours and 12 ballots before a unanimous verdict was reached.

The jury's verdict was also described in detail in the Pittston Gazette:

Paul Martin Graver is back in his home at Lehighton today a free man, having been vindicated by a jury of nine women and three men of the awful stigma of murder.
For the past fifteen days Graver had been on trial before Judge Benjamin R. Jones in Luzerne County court on charges of having been responsible for the death of Dorothy Casey Gilhool, Kingston, matron, on a desolate night last December at Harvey's Lake. Consistently he maintained that the victim had never visited him at the Casino where he roomed, although those at Nothoff's Café testified that she expressed an intention, after 5:30 o'clock in the morning, to visit Graver and placate him for allegedly becoming "mad" at her indiscretions that night.
A jury of nine women and three men acquitted Graver last night at 9:30 of murder and manslaughter charges.
The verdict set off a jubilant demonstration as it was announced before Judge Benjamin R. Jones.
Spectator's stood, clapped their hands and cheered when the verdict was read by George Kocyan, court clerk.
Immediately the crowd surged toward the tall, dark haired defendant and his wife to congratulate him. Others swarmed about Graver's 27-year-old attorney, George A. Spohrer, whose brilliant closing address had a heavy impact on the jurors Tuesday night.
As Graver walked out arm in arm with his wife, it was the first time he was a free man since he was imprisoned April 19 on a charge of murder.
First detained as a material witness in January, Graver later was arrested and charged with the slaying of Mrs. Dorothy Gilhool, 42, wife of the defendant's employer.
With the acquittal of Graver, the death of the Kingston woman and graduate nurse whose frozen body was found along the shore of Harveys Lake last December 18 became an unsolved mystery. She disappeared 35 hours earlier after departing from a tavern where she participated in an all-night drinking party.
"We just want to go home to our son, Paul," said Mrs. Graver when asked if she had anything to say. The son, 9, is in the third grade of a Lehighton public school.
Asked for a statement, Graver replied to a newsman, "What did I say to you the first time I talked to you back in April?"
Reminded that he had said, "What can I say? I'm innocent, that's all," the smiling six-foot two-inch Graver said:
"That's right," and added, "I'm very happy that I've been vindicated."
It was difficult to press through the crowd congratulating Attorney Spohrer and his co-counsel, J. Dallas Shepherd.
"From the first day that I was hired as counsel for Paul Graver," Spohrer said when asked for comment, "I never had any doubt as to his innocence. The verdict has vindicated that trust. I am only sorry that Attorney Moore is not here to share our victory."
Attorney Thomas C. Moore, senior counsel, twice was stricken ill during the 15-day trial and is in Mercy Hospital. Word of the verdict was telephoned to him immediately.
Judge Jones had no comment on the verdict, and District Attorney Louis C. Feldmann simply said, "the verdict speaks for itself."
Typical of the courtroom spectator response was a remark by an unidentified young woman as she walked from the courtroom. "I was never so thrilled in all my life.”

Dorothy Gilhool’s murder was never solved.

 

Post-Script

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Leaving the Court House, Paul Graver and Jean Graver

The District Attorney Louis G. Feldman, a Marine veteran of World War II's Pacific theatre, was elected for a four-year term as DA in 1951. A prominent Republican, he was a long-time major national figure with the Veterans for Foreign Wars and for a time legal counsel to Congressman Daniel J. Flood, a Democrat, who was under legal siege and forced to resign in 1980. Feldman passed away in 1993.

Thomas C. Moore (1908-1994), a graduate of Dickinson Law School, retired in 1983. He was an Army veteran in the European theatre in World War II.

Judge Benjamin R. Jones, Jr., (1906-1980) was the son of Benjamin R. Jones, also a Luzerne County Judge. The son was a Navy veteran of World War II and former District Attorney. In January 1957 he became a Justice of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court and served as its Chief Justice from 1972 to 1977. His son, Benjamin R. Jones III, was Solicitor for Harveys Lake Borough when it became a separate municipality in January 1968.

George A. Spohrer (1926-2015) became a celebrated legal figure after the acquittal of Graver. He was a member of the White, Rowlands and Hourigan law firm and a founding partner of the prestigious law-firm of Hourigan, Kluger and Spohrer in Wilkes-Barre, which evolved into the firm of Hourigan, Kluger and Quinn. He had a passion for steam railroads and he created the Marney Railroad Corporation in 1962 offering a live steam railroad amusement ride in Plains Township. His associate in the Graver trial, J. Dallas Shepard, was a graduate of Wilkes College and the University of Pennsylvania Law School. He served in the Army in World War II and as a bombardier pilot completing 50 bombing missions in the Korean War.

Paul M. Graver and his wife Jean Graver returned to the Lehighton area after the trial. He continued there as a Bingo concessionaire retiring in 1977. He passed away at age 70 in 1984.

The Gilhool murder also had consequences for Jack Nothoff, a World War II veteran who was a popular Lake figure. He was the President of the Lake’s Lions Club and the club met at his bar. The court suspended his license for 60 days due to after-hour sales in the Gilhool matter. But on August 1, 1957, at 1:10 a.m. in the morning an under-age 18-year-old man was fatally injured in an automobile accident after drinking at Nothoff’s and Nothoff’s license was permanently revoked later in August 1957. The Court noted Nothoff had incurred five suspensions of his liquor license between 1939 and 1955 for violations of state laws. Nothoff had no alternative but to sell the business.

Copyright 2006-2008 F. Charles Petrillo