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D.C. Stephenson Trial: 1925

"she Would Have Worn A Hat"

Prosecutor Ralph Kane struck the common-sense human chord during his summation:

There are some things that you and I know. If Madge Oberholtzer had gone willingly with Stephenson that night she would have done it by prearrangement, and she would have worn a hat. If I understand anything at all about women, when they start on a 250-mile Pullman ride they take along their clothes, their hats, their cosmetics, their lingerie and other things.

Another thing. Do you think she would ever have had big, pug-nosed Gentry in the same compartment if she had been conscious of what was happening? If she was a willing companion, why bring her home looking like she had been in a fight?

In six hours on November 14, the jury found Stephenson guilty of murder in the second degree and recommended life imprisonment. Gentry and Klinck were found not guilty. Stephenson immediately began a series of more than 40 proceedings to try to gain a pardon, a new trial, or release on parole. In each, an entirely different set of lawyers represented him. At last, in 1950, he gained parole but disappeared within five months. When found in November, he had failed to report to his parole officer for three months. Returned to prison, he next made disclosures to newspapers that resulted in his temporary release to produce records he had hidden. His papers resulted in the indictment of Governor Ed Jackson as well as the Republican political boss, George V. Coffin, for violation of Indiana's corrupt practices act by bribing the governor's predecessor to appoint a Klan henchman as a prosecuting attorney. Stephenson's disclosures also brought indictments against the mayor of Indianapolis and six city aldermen for accepting bribes. The governor and Coffin escaped by pleading the statute of limitations, while the mayor spent 30 days in jail and, along with the aldermen, resigned.

Stephenson's house burned soon after he went to prison. Klinck and Gentry were indicted for arson, but the case was dismissed for lack of evidence. Gentry was murdered in 1934 by a jealous rival in a love triangle. Pleading guilty and receiving a life sentence, his murderer said:

I am not in the least sorry for the act I committed, as I feel I did a good deed for society when I killed Earl Gentry.

Bernard Ryan, Jr.

Suggestions for Further Reading

Busch, Francis X. Guilty or Not Guilty? New York: Bobbs-Merrill Co., 1952.

Nash, Jay Robert. Encyclopedia of World Crime. Wilmette, Ill.: CrimeBooks, 1991.

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