Kate James – Victim, Died
Child Girl – 14 months old- Victim, Lived
Mrs. Ham aka. Harry Norton – Killer? Died of Suicide
Officer Sam Bartell – Oklahoma City Detective
Mr. DeWitt – Kate’s father
Luther Martin James – Kate’s Husband
Locals in Weatherford, Oklahoma, tell a tale about a ghostly woman found on a bridge, crying and asking for her daughter to be returned to her. They know this place as Dead Woman’s crossing. The dead woman had a name, Katie James, and this is her story.
July 6th, 1905 – Mrs. Katie James went to the Dewey county court to file a petition for Divorce. The rumor was that her husband was abusive and currently living in their home, located on Mrs. Kate’s land claim. The next day, Kate and her 14-month-old girl left town to visit her sister in Ripley. They left on a train. At one of the stops along the way, Kate was approached by Mrs. Harry Norton, also known as Ham Norton. She tells Kate about someone asking about her, and this spooks Kate. She decides to get off the train and travel by wagon with Mrs. Norton.
Kate never arrives at her destination.
After not hearing from his daughter or grandchild, Mr. DeWitt, Kate’s father, hired Sam Bartell, an Oklahoma City Detective and US Marshall. He was well known for his services before Oklahoma’s statehood.
Sam can piece together Kates’s last few days, and he starts looking for Mrs. Norton. This information makes its way to Mrs. Norton, and she hops in her buggy and runs for it. As Mrs. Norton leaves town, she drops a baby girl off at a farmhouse. The baby is wearing clothes that have bloodstains on them, but she has no wounds.
Detective Bartell locates the baby and gets a description of the woman who dropped her off. From what he’s told, he believes it to be Mrs. Norton.
Detective Bartell is able to track Mrs. Norton to Shawnee, Oklahoma, and arrests her on July 29th. When they inspect Mrs. Norton’s buggy, they notice bloodstains inside. They bring Mrs. Norton in and question her.
Now, they know a lot about Mrs. Norton. She was suspected of another killing before, but she got off on that charge. Now, it looks like she might have struck again.
According to Mrs. Norton, the day after she met Mrs. Kate, they were in Weatherford, Oklahoma, They came across another wagon team, and Mrs. Kate decided to travel with them. Kate paid Mrs. Norton five dollars for her trouble of transporting her and the baby. According to her, this is the last she sees her. She fervently admits nothing. Detective Bartell confronts her with the fact that she fits the description of the woman who dropped off the baby who was last seen with Mrs. Kate and the blood in her own buggy. Mrs. Norton refuses to answer any more questions.
They give up on the questioning shortly after. They aren’t going to get any information out of her, and they know it. Sam returns Mrs. Norton to her cell. An hour later, she is found unconscious and near death. They call a doctor, and they suspect that she has either taken some kind of poison or consumed a lethal amount of cocaine in an attempt to kill herself. The doctor tries to save Mrs. Norton’s life, but she dies an hour later.
Mrs. Norton’s suicide sparked the interest of national news outlets across the nation. She was quickly labeled as the person who killed Mrs. Kate, even though at this time, they had not found her body.
The next day Mrs. Norton was buried by the county when everyone who was kin refused to pay for her funeral.
Meanwhile, the baby is returned to Mr. James, who immediately takes her to his mother’s house for care.
On August 31st, 1905, Mr. Geo Cornell went hunting in Weatherford with his two sons. They pulled up in their wagon to a bridge, and they looked for a place to tie up their team of horses. His sons went to the creek to fish and stumbled upon a dead body hidden in the creekbed. It was severely decomposed.
They alerted authorities, who quickly made the identification of Mrs. Kate. It was determined that she was killed on the bridge and left in the creek as an easy place to hide a body.
Now, when this story is told, this is where it typically ends. Mrs. Kate is found, and Mrs. Norton is definitely the killer. But, part of what helped identify the body of Mrs. Kate was her jewelry that was still on her body. If this were a crime where Mrs. Norton was trying to steal her belongings, these would have been taken as well. But they weren’t. I don’t know why, but it seems like Mrs. Kate’s husband was never really looked at as a suspect in this case. Yes, he didn’t kill his wife. But did he pay Mrs. Norton, a known killer, to do it for him? I think he had more to do with the story than what was found out.