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, we are still in “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.
I hope everyone is doing well. This has been a very busy holiday season for me. But I prefer it to be that way. My Son is coming down from College to spend the month with us, and I am very excited about that. It’ll be nice having everyone in the house again.
Last time on the program, you will remember we were telling the tragic story of Elizabeth Ford Griffith. Elizabeth was engaged to Army Captian George Gordan. She was found dead at work. Her boss and former boyfriend, Dr. Christopher G. Schott was the prime suspect in the case. He told police that he was out delivering presents with little Laurine Gardner. When he left Elizabeth, she was alive and well. When they came back, she was dead. The Doctor stated that he believed that Elizabeth had taken her own life.
The Corner believed otherwise. If Elizabeth had shot herself, she would have had to do it in an odd sitting position. She would have powder burns on her clothing, showing that the gun was pressed near her, and none were present. So the weapon had to have been fired away from the body. Making it all too difficult to do when in that odd sitting position.
Besides that, there was little evidence that the Doctor had committed the crime. At this time, the only person who can break the Doctors alibi and show that he was indeed at the office near the time of the murder, is coincidentally, the victim’s sister, Katie May Griffith. She stated that she had called around 2 pm and that Dr. Schott answered the phone at that time.
But something that was just being revealed to the public. There was another witness to the Doctor’s whereabouts at the time of the murder. You see, one of the first things that the police had done was canvas the neighborhood. They interviewed anyone and everyone who lived in the area. Police wanted to know if they had heard the gunshot and if they knew what time it was. The police got much more than they bargained for when they talked to Mrs. Ellis Rudolph. She told police that she lived across from the Doctor’s office. That on Christmas Eve, around 2:30 pm, she heard a gunshot. She stepped outside to see what had happened, but all she saw was Dr. Schott coming out of his office. He approached Mrs. Rudolph and asked if she had heard anything, and she told him about the loud bang sound. The Doctor told her to check to see if anyone else had heard it, but the Doctor was gone when she came back.
A second witness came forward as well. Mr. William J. Ryan stated that he was walking down the street when he saw Dr. Schott come out of his office around 2:30 pm. He said they had a brief conversation and then went about his day. He didn’t realize until he had heard about the death of Elizabeth and the arrest of the Doctor that he might have just seen the Doctor just after the murder.
These statements gave the state’s attorneys enough to arrest the Doctor for murder. But Dr. Schott was not the only one in trouble. Because the state’s attorneys were so sure that the Doctor was not telling the truth about his movements on Christmas Eve, it meant that little Laurine Gardner, who stated that she was with the Doctor the entire day, was also not telling the truth.
Since the Doctors arrest, the police had let Laurine go into a detention center. Their reasoning was that her parents let her do as she pleased and were obviously not watching over her. The judge placed a two hundred dollar bail on her release, and her parents quickly paid it. So Detectives knew that she was back at home. So, on December 28th, 1919, Police and Detectives entered the Gardner home and then arrested Laurine as an accomplice to murder. While she was being arrested, her parents were pleading that she not be taken. When that didn’t work, they screamed at Laurine to not cooperate with Detectives and not to answer a single question.
Other than her statements, the Detectives and Attorneys had reason to suspect Laurine as knowing more than she is letting on. She had shown little to no emotion to the death of someone she had seen throughout that day. This was, in the eyes of the police, very suspicious.
When told of the arrest of Laurine, Dr. Schott was conducting an interview with the Courier-Journal paper. He told the paper several things, but one of them stuck out as something very odd. He said: “Now that they have arrested her, I will tell something I have never yet said. After Laurine and I left the Standard Dairy Lunch, before the body was found on Wednesday, and were getting in the automobile, I said: “Gee, I wonder if she killed herself? When we arrived in front of my office, I said: ‘Laurine, you come in the office with me.’ “I had a fear that the girl killed herself,” he said.
This statement is very odd. To be brought up in such a manner only casts more doubt to Dr. Schott’s innocence in my eyes. He is trying too hard to prove his innocence. If he had told Laurine his suspicions, then there could be someone who would testify that is precisely how he felt at the time. But he didn’t. Also, according to Laurine’s own statement, she was the first one out of the car. She didn’t have to be told to get out and come along. She was already going on in.
On New Year’s Eve, Dr. Schott is let out of jail on an eight thousand dollar bail. He told the papers that several female patients were calling to get appointments. Many of them had nothing wrong with them. They just wanted to be around him. He suggested that he found it hard to get on without a secretary and that he was putting out an ad to hire a new one. Amazingly, he found someone willing to replace Elizabeth. 45-year-old Mrs. Hartung who had been looking for a job. She reported that the phone at the office had constantly been ringing, and then the caller would either hang up or say they had the wrong number.
Oddly enough, the same night that Dr. Schott is let out of jail. Someone went to the address that the paper listed were Mr. William Ryan lived at, who was the witness that said he saw the Doctor at his office around the time of the murder, and this unknown person left a letter at the door that threatened the life of William Ryan. This letter was written in red ink and had a photo of William inside with red ink splattered on it like blood. The letter was handed over to the police.
The Corners Jury announced their verdict on January 3rd, 1920. They were split on if Elizabeth killed herself or not. They could not really say one way or another. They knew that she died of the gunshot, but not by who’s hand. The problem they had was they did a test with Dr. Schott’s gun. They shot a piece of cheesecloth with it at various lengths to see how far you would need to hold it out to not get powder burns. This test showed that all you had to do with this gun was hold it out 3 inches or more, and it would not produce burns. This was damming to the state’s stance on why they believed the Doctor was guilty in the first place.
Now a grand jury is different than a jury trial. In a jury trial, the state has to prove that the accused is guilty without a shadow of a doubt. It’s the state’s job to show that 100%, this person is guilty. But in a grand jury case, all the state needs to do is prove that there is enough evidence to charge someone with something. They don’t have to prove anything. They just need to show that there is enough for us to think that this person did it.
So when the grand jury started seeing this case. They were flooded with witness statements from both sides of the aisle. Several took the stand, including Elizabeth’s sister, her parents, those who received presents from Dr. Schott, the person who served him at lunch, Little Laurine testified for Dr. Schott. They all told of what they witnessed and how it all happened on that day.
While all of this was going on. The state found another charge to place against Dr. Schott. Contributing to the delinquency of a minor. Dr. Schott and Laurine Gardner’s parents were all brought up on this charge. They were basically saying that you personally helped this child break the law and did nothing about it. This wasn’t a severe charge. It didn’t mean that they would spend a lot or any real-time in jail or prison if convicted. But because this was such a publicized case, this ended up being in almost every paper in the state.
It took several days for the jury to decide whether there was enough to charge the Doctor with Elizabeth’s murder. End the end, they exonerated Dr. Schott of any wrongdoing. It was the decision of the grand jury that there was just not enough evidence to bring the Doctor up on charges.
Elizabeth’s mother came out and spoke to the press after the verdict. She talked to the Owensboro Messenger, and this was published on January 14th, 1920. “There’s another and higher court,” said Mrs. John Griffith, mother of the dead girl, when she heard the grand jury’s report, “and as sure as there is a God in heaven the guilty will not go unpunished. Anybody who ever knew prro dear Elizabeth knows she could now have committed suicide. She was a bright, sweer and sunny-natured child. We have received six or seven letters every day since she was killed from poeple all over the country expressing their sympathy.”
Because they were not charged, the charges of Contributing to the delinquency of a minor were dropped. The state tried every which way to hold and stop the Doctor, but it seemed like they failed at every point.
A year after this decision, in an odd turn of events. Dr. Schott had the body of Elizabeth moved to his family plot. He erected a 500 dollar monument to her, which still stands today. I have a link to this at TrueCrime.blog if you want to see it. Dr. Schott was quoted as saying, “I loved Elizabeth and I feel as if she belongs to me.”
Kinda creepy. Elizabeth’s family oddly went along with this. I can’t imagine that the Doctor could move the body without their permission. No motive behind that was ever published. I find this very odd and the type of thing you can base ghost stories on. One of the papers that reported this stated that Dr. Schott vowed to take the open space next to Elizabeth as his own, so he would be close to her.
Now, Dr. Schott was never re-tried for the death of Elizabeth. He went on about his life, continuing to womanize, putting himself and others in danger, and so on. Typically this is the part where I tell you that the story is complete, and we discuss how I feel about it, but would you be surprised to learn that there is a part three to this story? Would you be surprised to hear that another murder happened in Dr. Schott’s office just a few years after Elizabeth’s murder? And would you be surprised to find out that Dr. Schott was the one that was murdered?
Join us next time for episode three and the conclusion of this exciting story, “The Murder of Dr. Schott.”
I would be interested in hearing everyone’s take on this case. Email me at Okieinvestigations@gmail.com and tell me how you feel about it. Personally, I think that not only did Doctor Schott kill Elizabeth, but he convinced a 13-year-old girl to help him.
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