Hello everyone, and welcome to Forgotten True Crime by Okie Investigations, the True Crime Podcast where we tell the stories of crimes that happened long ago. If you are a true crime fan, make sure you subscribe to the podcast. That way, when we have new episodes, you will be the first to know. Also, check us out on our Facebook page Okie Investigations and visit our blog TrueCrime.Blog where we post a lot of the cool things we found for each episode. This episode, “Silent Night, Deadly Night,” has a lot of exciting stuff for you to dig into. Make sure you go there and check it out.
Parts of this story may contain opinions and speculations and should be taken as such. These stories depict violent crimes of all types and may be a trigger for some listeners. Listener discretion is advised. This story discusses suicide. If you or anyone you know is suicidal, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. It is a United States-based suicide prevention network of over 160 crisis centers that provides 24/7 service via a toll-free hotline with the number 1-800-273-8255. It is available to anyone in a suicidal crisis or emotional distress.
Hello everyone, “The 12 days of Murder.” From now and until the new year, I will be debuting several new episodes that are Christmas-themed. Many of these cases are ones you probably never heard of before, so make sure you subscribe to the show. That way, when we have new episodes, you will be the first to know. Check out TrueCrime.blog and our Facebook Paige, Okie Investigations for bonus stories as well.
We have quite the lineup of stories that we are working on. This is a lot of fun to research, and I thank you all for listening. This story is not very well known to those outside of Kentucky.
So I am taking you all back to December 24th, Christmas eve, in the year 1919. We are in Louisville, Kentucky.
Deputy Corner Singer was having a quiet Christmas eve at home when his phone rang. He answered, and it was a local doctor, Dr. Christopher C. Schott. Dr. Schott said he needed Singer to come right away. He had just returned to his office in the late afternoon, and he found his Secretary dead on the floor. Dr. Schott believed it was suicide.
It wasn’t unusual for a doctor to call the Corner, but this was a little odd. Something had happened to this Secretary, suicide or not, and the police needed to be able to investigate this as well. So, Deputy Corner Singer made a phone call to the local station and alerted them to the situation on his way out. That way, they could have a Detective there as well.
It didn’t take long for the Corner to arrive at Dr. Schott’s Office. He was there within minutes. He walked in, and Dr. Schott showed him the body. He said that he only touched he to see if she was living or not. On the floor was a beautiful girl, lost to this world too soon. Her name was Elizabeth Ford Griffith. She was lying on her back on the floor. There was a small bloodstain around her left breast. A gun was at her side.
One thing that the Corner found particularly odd was that she was dressed only in a short slip and a hospital dress. She had on long stockings and shoes. While he was investigating the body, Dr. Schott again suggested it was suicide. So the Corner checked for signs that she had done this to herself. One missing thing was the tale-tale signs of powder burns that the gun and bullet produce when it fires and hits something at close range. There were no burns on the girl’s clothing or body, which suggested that Elizabeth did not do this to herself. He estimated that she was shot sometime between noon and 3 pm.
When Detectives arrived, they first examined Elizabeth’s body, and then they asked to speak to Dr. Schott to get his statement. He said that he and 13-year-old Laurine Gardner, who was a local girl he knew, had left the office to deliver some Christmas presents to some of his patients at noon. Elizabeth was in the office, cleaning and handling the phone. The office needed cleaning pretty bad, and she would be busy for most of the afternoon.
The Doctor told the police that while they were out delivering presents, he called his office to see if there were any messages for him. Back then, when you made a phone call, you would talk to an operator first, then they would connect the call to the correct line. When no one answered, Dr. Schott thought that the line was busy, but the operator told the Dr. that it was not a busy signal, but it just kept ringing, and no one had answered.
Dr. Schott became annoyed at Elizabeth. He said that he thought that she was cleaning and ignoring the phone. When he returned to the office with little Laurine, he found that a patient was waiting outside. The door was still locked, and she waited to see if someone would let her in. So, Dr. Schott unlocked the door with a knife and let everyone in.
He said he was annoyed because the office looked as if it hadn’t been cleaned at all. He said he called out for Elizabeth several times. When she didn’t answer, he looked for her in the back room. That’s where he found her.
The police asked Dr. Schott about the gun that was found, and he confirmed that it was his. He kept it at his office for protection. Elizabeth knew about the gun and never said anything about it one way or another.
The police asked about Elizabeth, what was going on in her life, who she was seeing, and he knew about her. The Dr. told them that she was engaged to Captian George Jordan of the seventh Field Artillery, First Division. They were to be married on Christmas Day but had recently changed the wedding date. He also told them that he, too, had been engaged to her at one point in time. They had been together when she was younger.
The Detective was taken aback and asked how old she was. The Dr. said that she was 17. But when they saw each other, she had lied to him about her age. She was 14 at that time. When they had split up, she met the Captian, and they soon fell in love. But he admitted that she still had feelings for him as well, and he too for her.
The police took the Doctor at his word. So far, there was nothing to charge him with, even though he was quickly becoming their prime suspect. But they now had another name to look into, Captian George Jordan, and they needed to speak to Elizabeth’s parents as well. But for good measure, the police took the Doctor into the police station while they ran down other leads and decided if they had any further questions for him.
Because they didn’t know when Elizabeth had been shot, police started canvassing the neighborhood. They wanted to talk to anyone who heard the gunshot. Hopefully, they knew what time it was.
The first place Detectives went was to Elizabeth’s parent’s house. They had to inform Mr. and Mrs. John T Griffith that their Daughter was dead. They were both in shambles, and Mrs. Griffith openly sobbed. They spoke about Elizabeth’s relationship with Captian George Jordan. How they planned to marry but had to put it off for a few days.
The Detectives asked about her relationship with Dr. Schott, and they told the Detectives that they believed that their relationship was over. Still, they were uneasy with her working for her former fiance. Dr. Schott was a bit of a playboy, and they didn’t know what was going on behind closed doors. The Detectives asked if there were any other men in Elizabeth’s life. Anyone who wanted to do her harm or wanted to stop her from getting married and they told the Detectives that there was no one.
Detectives also spoke to Katie May Griffith, Elizabeth’s little sister. She stated that she called the office to talk to her sister around 2 pm. When she called, Dr. Schott answered the phone. She knew it was him by the sound of his voice. This was a direct contradiction to what the Dr had been telling everyone.
Police then visited Captian George Jordan. They asked him to come into the station, and they told him what had happened. Immediately after being told about Elizabeth’s murder, he broke down and began to cry. They had to rule him out as a suspect, so they asked him where he was that afternoon. He gave them the names of his superiors with who he was working. They and his other squadmates all provided rock steady alibis. There was no way that the Captian had anything to do with the murder. They let him go and promised to catch whoever did this.
On December 26th, Feeling as if they had enough to go forward, the Chief of Detectives went looking for Dr. Schott. He had been let go in the early hours of Christmas morning. They checked his house and office. Both were empty. They received word that the Dr. might be at Attorney Moxley’s office. He was recently hired by the Dr. and would be handling things for him.
When they arrived at Moxley’s office, The Detectives and Officers went straight in. There were five or six people in the room. Little Laurene Gardener, the 13-year-old girl, was sitting at Dr. Schott’s side. The Detective stepped forward and announced, “Doctor, your under arrest.”
“Have you a warrant?” said Dr. Schott.
“I dont need any warrent,” the Detective replied.
Dr. Schott wisely complied with the orders and went with the Detectives. They also took Laurene with them as well, they had not yet interviewed her, and they needed her statement.
Now, they were arresting the Doctor for the murder of Elizabeth, but to charge him with the murder and go forward with the trial. They would need to convince a grand jury of his guilt.
The Detectives separated Laurene from the Doctor to interview her. The paper recorded the interview, “The Owensboro Messanger dated December 27th, 1919, and was front-page news. This is what was said.
Laurene Gardener talked freely while waiting in the office.
She said she was very fond of Dr. Schott and was at his home quite a good deal. She said that she and Dr. Schott started from his office at 10 o’clock Wednesday morning and delivered a number of Christmas gifts in the West End. About 1 o’clock they returned and were preparing some more gifts to be delivered.
The little girl said:
“As we were wrapping up presents, Elizabeth said to Dr. Schott, “Will you answer one question seriously and tell me the truth?” ‘Dr. Schott answered, “Well, it’s owing to what it is.”
“Elizabeth said: ‘For whom is that ivory manicure set?’ ”
“Dr. Schott, in a teasing way, said: ‘You don’t need to know, do you?’ “
Laurene Gardener said that at that, Elizabeth started to cry, and Dr. Schott said to her: “If you want it, you can have it. I’ll buy another.”
Miss Griffith answered: “No, I don’t want it.” “About 1:15 we left on the second trip,” continued the child.
“Elizabeth had stopped crying, came to the folding doors, and started to mop up the floor. We delivered seven packages, and at about 3 o’clock, we got back to the Doctor’s house.
“The Doctor was again with me all the time. He would stay in the machine (Another word used back then for a car), and I would take the packages into the houses. When we got back to Dr. Schott’s Office, I was the first one out of the machine. I went to the front door, which was open. Dr. Schott came right behind me. As we went up, Mrs. Gerlach followed behind us. The folding doors were hooked, and the Doctor knocked on them and called ‘Elizabeth.’ “There was no answer. He took his knife, slipped it in the door, and unlatched them. The mop and bucket had been turned over in this room, and there was water all over the floor.
“Elizabeth was lying in the third room on her back. The revolver was a foot beside her. The Doctor took out something, put it to his ears, and listened to her heart and lungs. He felt her eyes and then went into the middle room and used the telephone.
Dr. Schott, who was now in a prison cell, asked that they talk to Miss Jennie Brands, who spoke to Elizabeth through the day. She knew that Elizabeth was alive when the Dr. was away. She had called him and told him what transpired.
The Detectives did just that. They went down to Miss Brands’ home to ask her about her story and hear for themselves what she had to say. The Courier-Journal reported the interview in Louisville, Kentucky, on December 27th, 1919, and was featured on page three.
“I received a bill from Dr. Schott, which had been settled a year ago. At 9 o’clock Wednesday morning, I called his office to get the matter straightened out. Miss Griffith answered the phone, informing me that the Doctor was out delivering Christmas presents and asked me to call in fifteen minutes. Determined to reach the physician, I followed her instructions, called up at fifteen-minute intervals until 4 o’clock.
“Perhaps it will seem strange, but as the day grew older, the girl’s voice seemed to change. In the morning, her mood was cheerful. After dinner, it was sad.”
“I felt something was worrying her. She sounded as though overcome by some great grief. I remember her saying: “Have you received your Christmas presents?”
“I told her that I expected no presents and that I was not bothered about anticipating them or getting them. Then I asked if she had received and. Brokenly, as though sobbing, she replied: “I don’t know. Christmas presents mean nothing. I am too sad. Too sad to care.’
“It didn’t sound like the Miss Griffith I had talked to earlier in the day.”
“Now, I believe she was wounded at the time I paid little attention to her talk. Being a trifle angry at receiving a bill I had paid. I called again at 2:30 but received no answer. After that, I called until about 4 o’clock, when Dr. Schott answered the phone and, in a not excited tone, said: “A serious thing has happened.”
Now, there are only a couple of scenarios that I can come up with that explains what might have happened in this case. Given what has been told so far, it is conceivable that Elizabeth had become sad about what was supposed to be her wedding eve. Perhaps she was still in love with the Doctor, and the sight of a nice manicure set going out to someone as a present made her believe that he had moved on. Perhaps she had thought about it, taken the gun from the Doctors office, and killed herself in a way that no powder burns were produced.
It’s also possible that the Doctor did indeed commit the murder himself. If he did, he might have been using the young Laurene as a nieve alibi. If she were waiting in the car and the Doctor shot Elizabeth on their way out. Perhaps she didn’t hear or know what was going on. But the Doctor also admitted that he was dating Elizabeth when she was 14 years old. Maybe he had seduced Laurene, who seemed quite taken with the Doctor in her statement to the police. If so, she might be fully aware of what really happened and was determined to help the Doctor no matter what.
What really speaks to this is the statement from Mrs. Brands. She said she had been calling every 15 minutes since 9 am. But if that was the case, why didn’t the Doctor talk to her when he was in the office? She said that after dinner, she called again, and it didn’t sound like the same Elizabeth she was talking to earlier in the day. Perhaps she wasn’t talking to Elizabeth? Maybe it was Laurene?
On December 27th, the state attorneys press forward with the charges of Murder against Dr. Schott. Now they will have to convince a grand jury of his guilt to formally charge the Doctor with murder. This would be the decision of the decade, and it was only a grand jury hearing.
Nextime on Forgotten True crime, we will continue with part two of this case. Make sure you subscribe so that when that episode comes out, you will be the first to know.
I will see you all next time. See ya!