Murder of Pauline Duebbert 1929 Part V

Part I
Part II
Part III
Part IV

Dateline: St. Charles, Missouri
Thursday, January 19, 1933
St. Charles Banner News


David A. Miller was granted a twenty-day reprieve by Governor Park last night after Osmund Haenssler, his attorney, had presented a petition containing 779 names.
Miller received the news of the reprieve quietly and said, “Thank you, Sheriff, it’s sure a relief to me.”
A few minutes later, Miller asked that his light be turned out and he fell asleep. The deputies on watch were withdrawn by Sheriff Phelps.
Sheriff Phelps said that Miller slept late today.
So confident was Miller that a reprieve would be granted, that he had promised several friends to paint pictures in water colors for them “next week.”
It is evident that Miller was living under a strain, even though he maintained a stolid attitude and continued to paint with unerring skill the whole of yesterday.
Unless Governor Park interferes further in the case, Miller must be hanged on Friday, February 10.
The governor’s communication follows, in part:

“By virtue of the authority in me invested by Section 8, Article 5, of the Constitution of Missouri, I, Governor Guy B. Park, do hereby suspend until February 10, 1933, the sentence and execution of David A. Miller….”

The next step in Miller’s case will be an attempt to secure a commutation of sentence to life imprisonment. Governor park, when he granted the reprieve, indicated that he wished to study the case.
Miller, the early part of the month, wrote a letter to his aged father saying that he believed he had only a short time to live. He seldom speaks of his own family. When told that the supreme court had affirmed his sentence last December 14, Miller said, among other things, “I want my daughter to have my $20.”
Osmund Haenssler said today that governor Park and he were in conference for some time. After hearing a review of the case, Governor Park promised Mr. Haenssler to study the evidence in the hands of the supreme court.

From Wednesday’s Daily:
Sheriff Phelps today announced that he had suspended certain jail rules in the David A. Miller case. Miller has been granted special permission to receive visitors, day or night, as long as the death watch is maintain3d in the county jail. He is no longer served regular fare at meal times but is allowed to order such food as he desires.
Today, Osmund Haenssler, attorney for Miller, motored to Jefferson City to present to Governor Park the people’s petition asking that commutation to a life sentence be granted. The petition contained 779 names of local and St. Charles county resident.
The death watch began this morning at six a.m. Two deputy sheriffs will be on duty at all times until after the execution or at such time should the governor intervene.
In the event the scheduled hanging takes place Friday morning between 8:00 and 9:00 o’clock, twelve witnesses will be on hand. Two of these witnesses must be physicians.
David Miller spent the entire day today painting a picture in water colors which he intends to present to Niva Phelps, daughter of Sheriff Phelps. The painting itself shows the skill of the self-made painter.
Interested friends furnish Miller with calendars and pictures from papers from which he develops his own ideas. He has painted several scenery pictures and a number of biblical pictures. Recently, he clipped a picture of a bulldog from a newspaper and has drawn pictures of the animal.
Miller, who said he had been a Christian for more than two years, pointed out that his hand is steady and that it was confidence in his innocence and his belief in God that made it possible for him to carry on his hobby.
Using a small camel-hair brush, he creates beautiful scenes and has sold numerous paintings. He also takes orders for water color paintings.
So confident is he that the scheduled hanging will not take place Friday morning, he has told Deputy Sheriff Joe Borgmeyer that he will finish other paintings next week.

Dateline: St. Charles, Missouri
Thursday, February 9, 1933
St. Charles Banner-News


From Thursday’s Daily:
David A. Miller, scheduled to hang tomorrow morning for the murder of Miss Pauline Deubbert, spinster of the Femme Osage neighborhood on August 22, 1929, has discontinued his painting and spent most of today writing last letters to his father, brother and one or two friends.
Miller has given up hope of interference on the part of Governor park and says that it is the will of the Lord that he is to go.
The condemned man has just finished painting his last picture and will present it to Rev. Charles A. Weinig, assistant pastor of the St. Peters Catholic Church. He leaves several orders unfinished.
Sheriff Charles Phelps said this morning that Miller has requested of the Sheriff that any word, good or bad, that is received from Governor Park, be revealed to him immediately. The sheriff has promised to do so. The sheriff attempted to talk with the governor yesterday but the latter was too busy.
Some time ago, Miller said he did not want to be buried in a pauper’s field. At that time, he had saved several dollars secured from the sale of his paintings and planned to buy a burial lot in the St. Peters Catholic Cemetery.
Sheriff Phelps tonight will serve Miller with any eatables he chooses. Miller’s last supper will be served about eight o’clock. He will also be given the right to his breakfast tomorrow morning.
Since his arrest on September 22, 1929, Miller has been an ideal prisoner, ex-sheriff Grothe and Sheriff Phelps report. He has never asked for more clothes and a pair of shoes from Mr. Grothe and a sweater from Sheriff Phelps were the only gifts he received from the county.
The light in Miller’s cell was turned out about midnight last night. The rule that all lights in the jail proper must be turned out at a certain time has been suspended in Miller’s case, Sheriff Phelps said.
Miller has become very religious since entering the jail. Time and time again he has referred to the approaching hanging in the words, “If it’s the Lord’s will. I will die: if it isn’t I won’t die.” Pastors of the St. Peters Catholic church have made frequent visits to Miller’s cell. It is said Father Weinig will be with him during his last moments, if Miller goes to his death.
Miller recently wrote to his aged father, telling him that he (Miller) believed he had only a short time to live. He said in the letter that if his father wished to come to see him or felt he could make the trip, it would be all right. Miller’s father lives at Swedesburg, Mo., located in the Ozark mountains.
Miller was convicted of first degree murder nearly three years ago. Norman E. Tanner, who was charge jointly with the crime, was given a life sentence in the state penitentiary upon his plea of guilty, before Judge E. B. Woolfolk.
Sheriff Phelps sent telegram to the governor his afternoon at one o’clock stating, “I am preparing to execute David. A. Miller at six a.m. February 10, 1933.


From Wednesday’s Daily:
The death watch over David A. Miller, scheduled to hang Friday morning, February 10, for the murder of Pauline Duebbert, was placed on duty near the death cell this morning at six a.m. Four deputies will alternate in keeping watch.
As yet no word has been received from Governor Park relative to the Miller case. Local authorities believe that the hanging will take place during the scheduled hour.
Miller entertained only a few guests today. He has requested of the sheriff that no newspaper reporters be allowed to talk with him.
It seems that during the last death watch, a local newspaperman caused David A. Miller considerable embarrassment. Miller recently said that the newspaper man had invariably misquoted him his newspaper articles and in questioning miller had embarrassed him before others. The newspaper man evidently did not grasp the seriousness of the situation. The man, while waiting in his death cell for the fatal hour when life would be taken, was treated as though the reporter was interviewing Miller on any subject other than life or death.
Miller’s request has been granted by the sheriff, protecting the men from such tactics in securing news in the future.
Sheriff Phelps, while in Jefferson City today was expected to interview the governor in Miller’s behalf. Once before, Sheriff Phelps attempted to see the governor on this matter.
As during the other death watch, Miller will be granted certain privileges not attainable by other prisoners. His cell is located on the upper floor near the front of the ajil proper. The officers on duty during the day are Fred Koester and Abe Boschert and during the night. Rav Weinhoff and Tony Rufkahr.

Dateline: St. Charles, Missouri
Thursday, February 16, 1933
St. Charles Banner-News


Dies At 6:17 A.M., Fourteen Minutes After Trap is Sprung.
Has Nothing to Say but Prays Calmly.
Will Have Christian Burial Monday Morning

From Friday’s Daily:
David A. Miller was hanged by Sheriff Charles Phelps this morning at 6:03 o’clock in the St. Charles county jail for the murder of Miss Pauline Duebbert. Coroner Will L. Freeman and County Physician L. E. Belding pronounced him dead at 6:17 o’clock, fourteen minutes later.
Miller walked to his death calmly reciting the rosary. Deat ame in the middle of a prayer.

Nothing to Say

“Have you anything to say, Dave?” Sheriff Phelps asked as deputies fastened straps about Miller’s legs. “I have nothing to say, “ Miller replied in a firm voice and immediately continued reciting the rosary. Father Charles Weinig who was with Miller until the last, recited the rosary with him. Not a tremor was noted in Miller’s voice.
Witnesses Called
Witnesses began arriving as early as five o’clock this morning At 5:15 o’clock, the witnesses were called into the corridor below the trap and there police officers, reporters and about twenty others were sent upstairs to witness the tightening of the rope. It was estimated that about thirty five St. Charles and county residents attended the hanging. Sheriff Phil Dueser of St. Louis county and his chief deputy Litzinger, were also present.

The Death March

Witnesses assembled, Deputy Sheriff Joe Borgmeyer entered the death cell and placed straps about Miller’s waist and hands. Then, leading the procession Borgmeyer walked toward the trap on the second floor in the jail, just ten feet from the cell. He was followed by Miller and Father Charles Weinig of the St. Peters parish. Both Miller and the priest were reciting the rosary as the condemned man walked unhesitatingly toward the rope.

Trap Sprung by Sheriff

Standing on the trap and looking straight toward the priest prayers were again resumed. Deputy Borgmeyer placed the straps about Miller’s feet as Phil Rupp placed the black hood and the rope. Sheriff Phelps stood by the lever within two feet of the trap. It was only a moment later that the Sheriff pulled the lever, allowing the platform to fall.
Death was due to a fractured neck and jugular vein, the physicians said.

Eats Fish Breakfast

Sheriff Phelps served Miller a four pound catfish for breakfast at 5:15 o’clock. Miller did not eat supper late last night because he was too busy packing articles and writing letters. Father Weinig said that Miller had requested him to mail six letters to his father, brother, a friend in California, Father Wm. Pezold of Cottleville and the remainder went to St. Charles friends.

Saw No Reporters

Out of respect for Miller’s request, no reporters were allowed to interview him during the death watch. It s3ems he became angered when one reporter was tactless in his questioning during the first death watch. Only the priest, near friends and deputies saw Miller during the last two days, Sheriff Phelps said. His attorney, Osmund Haenssler, called on him about ten o’clock last night.

70 Unfinished Pictures

According to Father Weinig, Miller had orders for nearly seventy more paintings which he was unable to finish. In the last two years, Miller has painted about 200 pictures in water colors and has sold them to friends for whatever they would pay him. At one time, Miller was said to have saved nearly $170 in this way. He discontinued his paintings last Wednesday when he began writing letters and packing his valuables.

Christian Burial

Father Weinig said last night that Miller will be given a Christian funeral service Monday morning from the St. Peters church. Interment will be made in the cemetery of that congregation.
Miller was clutching a crucifix when the hanging took place. He took communion at five o’clock. The remains at present are at Dallmeyer funeral parlor. Miller stated some time ago that he had a horror of being buried in a pauper’s field. It was for this reason, he said that he was saving his money.
Prepared to Die
Miller, time and time again, had said that he was ready to die if it was the Lord’s will, “If it’s the Lord’s will, I will die and if it isn’t, I won’t die,” he would say. He became converted to the Catholic faith about two years ago when Father Wm. Pezold, then assistant pastor of the St. Peters church, called on him. Miller told a deputy recently that he knew he would go to a better place.

Family Unknown

Very little is known about Miller’s family. He has an 86 year old father and a brother living at Swedesburg, Mo., and a wife and family unknown to authorities here. None of his family have called on him during his stay in the county jail here since Septembe4 22, 1929.

Perfect Work

Those who had witnessed hangings before said this morning that Sheriff Phelps did his duty in an efficient and humane manner. The actual hanging was over before the witnesses realized what was taking place.
The equipment was put in perfect order by skilled workmen several days ago. Sheriff Phelps tested the rope twice by dropping a 180 pound sack of sand from the trap. This work was not witnessed by Miller as steel doors had been drawn, shutting off the view.

Governor Refuses

Governor Park in an Associated Press statement, said yesterday afternoon that he would not further interfere with Miller’s execution. Sheriff Phelps made two trips to Jefferson City recently and on both occasions attempted to interview the governor. Yesterday afternoon at one o’clock the sheriff sent a telegram to Governor Park stating, “I am preparing to execute Dave A. Miller at six a.m. February 10 1933.” He received no reply.
A “special delivery” letter was delivered to the jail for David A. Miller early this morning a few minutes after he was pronounced dead. Sheriff Phelps sid he did not open and read the letter but returned it to the post office here. He said the “special” did not bear a postmark nor return address. So it can only be assumed that the letter came from a friend or relative who resides at a distance.

Other Telegrams Sent

Last evening Sheriff Phelps received a telephone communication from a woman inquiring if word had been received from the governor. When told that none had been received, she said, “There will be telegrams sent to the governor at one hour intervals starting at six p.m. this evening and continued until midnight.”
The Sheriff did not learn the name of the woman who had called, Deputy Sheriff Borgmeyer said.

According to Sheriff Phelps, he had received numerous applications from people who wished to spring the trap. Among the applicants was a sixteen year old youth who rang the door bell at the county jail one evening and asked $150 to do the work. It is thought that lack of work had prompted most of the men in their actions who thought ony of the $125 allowed the Sheriff to carry out the orders of the court.

Murder in 1929

Miss Pauline Duebbert was murdered and her cousin, August Meyer, seriously shot on the evening of August 22, 1929. The couple were found sometime later by neighbors and a report was immediately forwarded to Sheriff I. Grothe. Due to the lack of clues at hand at that time, the sheriff and his chief deputy, Les Plackmeyer, assumed that robbery was the motive.

Warrants Name Two/p>
After placing bloodhounds on the trail, Sheriff Grothe found two revolvers, handkerchiefs and coveralls which were traced thru East St. Louis pawnshops and hardware stores. About the same time, Miller’s employer read in the newspapers that a murder had been committed and knowing that two of his woodcutters had disappeared, he notified authorities here.
David A. Miller was placed in the St. Charles county jail, and with that incident came the news that his partner, Norman Tanner, had also been captured and was in the jail at Sprinfield, Mo., awaiting delivery to Sheriff Grothe.
Tanner was captured at Pitcher, Oklahoma, where he and Miller had been staying for two weeks.
Locate Men
The sheriff and prosecuting attorney located their men and placed Pinkerton detectives on their track. The detectives followed Miller, but remained a few days behind him all the time.
The downfall of Miller seems to have been a woman with whom he was infatuated at Boonville. Knowing this, the officers watched the mails and were enabled to find out in what part of the United States Miller was staying. By one device or another, they also obtained a letter that Miller had written to his homefolks in another state, advising that his wife need never hope to see him again, and recommending that she get a divorce.

Owned Four Autos

It was learned that in the last few weeks of his freedom Miller had been the owner of four automobiles, abandoning them in succession. The last one a Ford which he bought at Pitcher, on which he paid $180 down and gave his note for the balance. At Boonville he abandoned a $1900 Victory Six, having paid $800 down on it. The Plymouth car, in which he and Tanner made the trip to Indianapolis and return, was also abandoned and there is a record of his having purchased another car.

Cheated Employer

Miller obtained $1200 cash by a fraudulent transaction in which he cheated his empl9oyer, Mr. Hurt, of Crocker, Missouri, out of that money. For this fraud a reward was placed on his head by the Missouri Bankers’ Association. Sheriff Grothe said that all the money the man had left seemed to be $3, the amount found in his pockets.
Miller indicated to associates that he intended to go to South America. He got as far as Indianapolis, but the theory is that there was a magnet in Boonville that drew him back to Missouri.

Miller was Returning

When the St. Charles officers reached Buffalo, Mo., Miller told them that he left Pitcher, Oklahoma with the idea of coming to St. Charles and giving himself up and he was on his way when arrested by Sheriff Hyde. He explained that he had just heard he was wanted and as he was innocent, he desired to be thoroughly questioned and released. The officers, however, accepted his story with a broad margin of incredulity.
At Buffalo, there is no jail. Sheriff Hyde had the prisoner at the Sheriff’s office under guard.

Tanner Arrested

Norman Tanner, accused jointly with David A. Miller of the murder of Pauline Duebbert, was secured by Sheriff Grothe and Prosecuting Attorney W. F. Bloebaum, at the jail at Springfield, Mo., and brought to St. Charles. John Steele drove the car.
Tanner was 21 years old at the time. Evidently he and Miller were pretending to tell the same story, but the officers after a lengthy conversion, felt in a very optimistic mood. They believed they had secured the men who had committed the murder.
Both Mountain Men
Both men are Missourians, having come from the same section of the country in the Ozarks, in and around Swedesburg and Crocker. Miller, the older man, had the dominant personality. He also had a criminal record while the other suspect did not.
In accordance with investigations of the prosecuting attorney, Miller served a term in the penitentiary, in which he was accused of taking money from some one by force. He said he was innocent of the charge but was talked into accepting a three year term rather than let the case go to a jury.
State witnesses at the hanging were Drs. W. Freeman and L. E. Belding, Wayse S. O’Neal, Charles Cappel, Frank May, Per Compton, Dr. f. L. Harrington, Dr. Howard Muhm, Dr. O.A. Muhm, Dr. B. P. Wentker, Dr. Ben .L. Neubeiser and John Washburn. The entire police force attended the hanging.

Dateline: St. Charles, Missouri
Thursday, February 16, 1933
St. Charles Banner-News

Hundreds Viewed the Remains Sunday.
Rev. Father Weinig Delivered the Sermon

From Monday’s daily:
Dave Miller was laid to rest this morning in the graveyard of the St. Peters parish. Thus ends the episode that begun with the murder 9of Pauline Duebbert and included the conversion of the perpetrator of that crime. Before he died he was a true Christian, whose penitence was sincere and devout. His whole nature was changed. He was no longer criminally inclined, but would have made a good citizen, had he been released. This is the opinion of hundreds.
After the hanging last Friday, Miller’s body was taken to Dallmeyer’s Undertaking Parlor where it was given careful preparation. The head had almost jerked from the torso. The jugular vein was severed and the muscles frightfully contorted. Regardless of that fact the undertakers revamped the mutilations so that when the body was peaceably laid out, it appeared perfectly normal in all respects. With the neck unhidden in the casket, it seems as natural as in life.
Yesterday hundreds of people visited the undertaking parlors and viewed the remains. They were prompted by curiosity no doubt tbut there have been few laid in their final resting place that have attracted larger crowds. One man who looked on Miller’s dead face said that he did so because of a request which the doomed convict made several days ago. For some unknown reason Miller had asked him to do so.
The pallbearers were the same personnel as those whom the sheriff designated to keep the death watch several days ago. They were Fred Koester, Anthony Rufkahr, Anthony Boschert, Charles Cappel, Hilary Pieper and Roy Humhoff.
The remains were taken to the St. Peters Church., Third and Clay streets where Rev. Fr. Weinig, Miller’s spiritual advisor was celebrant of the requiem mass.
The Rev. Weinig in his remarks made it clear that Miller should no longer be regarded as a sinner, but instead, as a redeemed man who had made his peace and was a child of Christ and inheritor of the Kingdom of Heave. The priest explained that the occasion of the funeral was the first time the body of Miller has ever entered a Catholic church. “His body is here” he said, “but his soul has gone to eternity.”
Miller joined the church in baptism April 10, 1931, and since that time had been a changed individual. Miller was a worthy christian example, Father Weinig said, and his influence among the other prisoners was uplifting.
The good priest compared Miller to the saved man on the cross at Calvary whose redemption was promised by none other than the Savior. The crowd, which understood none of this spiritual values connected with the crucifixion of either Jesus or the thief who died with him was blasphemous and unmerciful. Miller’s experience was along the same line but his inner life obtained his salvation.
A crowd of about 350 was in the church. A smaller crowd accompanied the casket to the grave.

Return to Part IV

Thank you for reading! Please leave me a comment and let me know if you enjoyed it.


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