Mr. and Mrs. Henry Yeater were murdered Aug. 30, 1903, at their farm just eight miles north of Warrenton. A United States marshal found their bodies in their bedroom with their throats cut. The …
Mr. and Mrs. Henry Yeater were murdered Aug. 30, 1903, at their farm just eight miles north of Warrenton.
A United States marshal found their bodies in their bedroom with their throats cut. The double murder would lead to a whirlwind manhunt and an execution by hanging in front of the Warren County Courthouse.
The prime murder suspect was the Yeaters’ only child, William E. Church, 22, who the couple had adopted when he was 9 and they loved as their own.
Immediately after the murder, Church boarded a train for St. Louis, then Chicago and up to Buffalo, New York. He enlisted in the Military and was stationed at League Island near Philadelphia.
Law enforcement believed he began writing letters home to Minnie Roewe and signed them with an alias, Lewis A. Law. The letters were turned over to attorney J. W. Delventhal who shared them with the Philadelphia police department.
Law enforcement there learned that a man matching Church’s description had enlisted in the Militaryy as William Buescher and was stationed at League Island. He was transferred there from Cleveland, Ohio, where he had entered the service the January before.
Mrs. Yeater’s brother-in-law — the killer’s uncle — J. E. Young assisted Delventhal in following clues in the letters. They were convinced that William Church was posing as William Buescher, the sailor.
Young went directly to police headquarters in Philadelphia and requested special officers to go with him to the barracks. He had an arrest warrant for William E. Church, aka William Buescher. But Young was kept waiting until after dinner, which made him nervous. He told the officers if they did not accompany him, he would call private detectives.
Church, as sailor Buescher, was doing guard duty on a ship, so the group decided to bring him to the police department. Young and the officers proceeded to the barracks.
Waiting there, Young went down a flight of stairs to get a drink. He met a sailor on his way back upstairs who he recognized as Church.
He was turned over to authorities in Warren County and held in St. Louis.
Church would tell reporters that he did not write the infamous letters. Rather, they were really written by Lewis Law, a sailor who had, by now, been sent to the Philippines.
Law had asked Church for the name of a young lady to have correspondence with. Church said he gave him Roewe’s name and later became afraid to ask Law to stop writing her. He said he feared lawmen would become suspicious.
Authorities, however, thought Church wrote them to try to find out what was happening back home with the murder investigation.
After his arrest, Church told the police chief that he had plotted the murder for four years. He killed them because he believed he would not receive an inheritance from them.
A last will and testament found at the Yeater home actually directed the property to go to Mrs. Yeater first. After her death, if Church remained faithful, then he would be the sole heir. The estate was valued at $4,500.
The defense tried for a plea of insanity, calling for doctors from St. Louis to deliver their opinions.
The case ended July 1 when the jury rendered a guilty verdict after three hours of deliberation.
On Aug. 23, Judge Nat Shelton decreed that Church, “should be taken to the courthouse yard in Warrenton and hung by the neck until dead.”
An appeal to the Supreme Court was sustained in 1906.
Church talked freely about the crime. Despite learning that his parents left him their entire estate, he maintained that he did not regret killing them.
On Jan. 10, 1907, a crowd gathered on the courthouse square to see justice served. Residents bought tickets to attend his hanging.
This story was provided by the Warren County Historical Society, which is funded by donations and run by volunteers.
The museum is located at 102 W. Walton in Warrenton, and is open from 10 to 4 p.m. Thursday and Friday and 1 to 4 p.m. Sunday.
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On Jan. 10, 1907, a crowd gathered on the Warren County courthouse square to see justice served. William Church was sentenced to death for killing his parents. Residents bought tickets to attend. Submitted.