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D.C. Stephenson Trial: 1925

In A Pullman-car Drawing Room

On Tuesday morning, a car arrived while Mrs. Oberholtzer was out (a roomer was the only person at home). A man later identified as Earl Klinck carried Madge Oberholtzer, who was moaning, into the house and to her bed upstairs. The man said she had been in an automobile accident, then hurriedly departed. Oberholtzer asked the roomer to call a doctor. He and her mother arrived together, and Oberholtzer, sobbing and groaning, told them how she had been taken to Stephenson's kitchen, where she found him quite drunk and where he, his chauffeur, and Gentry twice forced her (each man holding a revolver) to drain a glass of liquid that immediately made her ill and confused. When she protested that she wanted to go home, Stephenson said, "You can't go home. You are going with me to Chicago. I love you more than any woman I have ever known."

Next they took her to the railroad station and boarded a Pullman car. In a drawing room, with Gentry in the upper berth, "Stephenson [her later declaration stated] took all my clothes off and pushed me into the lower berth. He chewed me all over my body, particularly my neck and face, chewed my tongue, chewed my breasts until they bled, my back, my legs, my ankles, and mutilated me all over."

Next morning, in Hammond, Indiana, the men took Madge to a hotel, where Gentry helped bathe her wounds. Stephenson dictated the telegram and Gentry sent it. When Madge begged for a hat, Stevenson gave her $15 and sent her out with the chauffeur, who had driven to Hammond. Without his seeing her, she managed to buy bichloride-of-mercury tablets and, back at the hotel, to take six, vomiting the rest of the day. By nightfall, she had told the men she had taken the poison. She had also refused Stevenson's demands that she go to a hospital and that she marry him. The men put her in the car and headed back to Indianapolis, Madge vomiting, groaning, and screaming all the way. At Stephenson's house, they carried her to a loft over the garage at midnight, just missing her mother, who was again at Stephenson's door. In the morning, Klinck took her home.

The doctor worked for 10 days to get the poison out of Madge's system. Her wounds and bruises responded to medication—except one, the deep wound in her breast, which was infected. Soon after making a formal statement to her doctor and two lawyers, she died on April 14.

Madge's father, George Oberholtzer, a postal clerk, had already filed a criminal complaint against Stephenson, Gentry, and Klinck, and the grand jury had indicted them for assault and battery with intent to commit a criminal attack, malicious mayhem, kidnaping, and conspiracy to kidnap. The three were free on bail. Now the grand jury charged them with murder. They were arrested and held without bail.

After 11 days of interrogating 400 veniremen to get a jury that had no affiliation with or sympathy for the Klan, the trial began October 18. The prosecution quickly established the facts of Stephenson's Sunday-evening phone call and Madge's going off with Gentry for the fatal trip.

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1918 to 1940D.C. Stephenson Trial: 1925 - "i Am The Law In Indiana", In A Pullman-car Drawing Room, A Secondary Staphylococci Infection