What we are going to talk about today is an unsolved murder that dates back all the way back to 1909. That’s currently 113 years ago! But that’s the least crazy thing about this. You won’t believe some of the details in this case, so let’s get to it.
Hello everyone, my name is Trevor Shelby, and I am your forgotten true crime investigator. You can follow me on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/trevor.shelby.3 Today we are talking about the mysterious death of Kate Teal. If you like unsolved crimes, let me know in the comments below, and we will look into covering a lot more in the future. But I would like to know what your preference is. Make sure you subscribe for more content just like this.
In 1909, Kate Teal was described as quite the character. She lived in St. Louis, Missouri, in a house that was divided into several apartments. The room that she rented was in the rear of the house on the second floor. This room was somewhat desirable because it had a short balcony attached to it.
Mrs. Teal was well known in town as quite the drinker. She lived where she did because there was a Slevers saloon just across the street. She would go over to the Saloon several times a day and fill her bucket with beer. Then she would carefully carry her bucket back to her room to spend the next couple of hours drinking. Once the bucket was empty, she would return to the Saloon to fill her bucket again.
A few months before this, Mrs. Teal would be joined at the hip by her husband, Samuel Teal. They loved each other as about as much as they loved drinking. Sam was quite a bit older than Kate, and he died of natural causes. Distraught, Kate propped Sam up in a chair next to a fire and then put herself in a 4-day drunk stooper before reporting her husband’s death. She told officers then that she knew that he would be buried in a potter’s field and that it really bothered her.
If you don’t know what a potter field is, then that’s ok. A quick explanation would be that it’s a place where a city or county would bury someone with no money. It was done at the city or county’s expense, which was done very cheaply.
After her husband’s death, Kate’s main companionship came from two small dogs that she had taken in. They were both very noisy, and she let a friend take one of them. The other was a small brown dog that she loved very much, despite how loud the dog constantly was.
Now, we already established that Kate was quite the drinker. So on Friday, June 4th, 1909, when Kate failed to come out of her room to go and get a drink at the Saloon, Mary Lucka, who lived across the hall, became worried. Kate’s dog had been barking nonstop all night and now all day, and there were no signs that Kate had been up and out. So Mary knocked on Kate’s door. She waited for an answer and got none except the now very excited barking from the small dog. Mary then tried to enter the room, but the door was locked.
So Mary decided that she would try another tactic. Next door to Kate’s room was a vacant room. It was unlocked. She entered that room and then went out on its balcony, which was connected to Kate’s balcony.
She climbed over the small railing that separated the two balconies, and she then went over and peered through the window into Kate’s room. What she saw, she would never forget.
Kate was in bed, face-up, and was a bloody mess. She was obviously dead, and Mary ran to alert the police.
When officers arrived, it was Sergeant Smith with the St. Louis Police Department who was the lead detective on the case. He tried to enter through the bedroom door but still found it locked. He then forced his way into the room and was immediately attacked by Mrs. Kate’s small brown dog. Sergeant Smith took out his baton and hit the dog hard enough to cause it to yelp and flee from the officer. It took refuge under the bed, where Mrs. Kate Teal was lying dead.
The room was a complete mess. The contents of the closet were pulled out, and there was refuse all over the room. Mrs. Kate was lying face-up on her bed. She was covered in blood and was clutching a butcher knife. It first entered the officer’s mind that Kate might have taken her own life, but upon further investigation, he noticed that the blood was coming from two stab wounds that were very narrow, not large like the butcher knife was. Also, the butcher knife was clean. Not a drop of blood was on it.
Kate’s body was taken to the morgue, where it would be examined by a corner’s jury. These typically comprised of several doctors who would all independently come up with the cause of death and then, in some cases, place the blame on a suspect in the case. Unlike a trial jury, their decision was based purely on what they thought happened and didn’t hear arguments from both sides of the case.
From the state of the room, Sergeant Smith didn’t believe that this was a robbery. It was apparent from the state of the room that Kate didn’t have much. But, he also noted that the room appeared to have been searched.
The other tenants in the home were Mary Lucka, Mike Machenicka, and 12-year-old Eva Dayton. They and their families who lived in the home were all arrested and brought to the police station for questioning.
By the time they got everyone to the station, officers had learned that Kate Teal had been dead for about 36 hours. This put her death around the early morning hours of Thursday, probably sometime just after midnight.
They separated everyone and then questioned them one by one. Officers soon learned that Mrs. Kate’s dog had been barking almost nonstop since Thursday. They paid it little mind because the dog was very energetic and would bark at the littlest things.
On Wednesday evening, the night before the murder. Three witnesses walked by Mrs. Kate’s room. The door was open, and they all stated that they saw Kate’s friend, John Deborta, sitting with her, and they were drinking beer out of a blue bucket. The bucket was noticeable because it was not the same bucket that Kate typically carried around and drank from.
The Three witnesses were Mary Lucka, Mike Machenicka, and 12-year-old Eva Dayton. Eva was the most notable of the witnesses, not just from her age, but she knew John personally and would have recognized him when she saw him.
Officers searched the other tenant’s rooms and found nothing that connected them to the crime. One of the things they were looking for was a cufflink. They found a gold cufflink in Mrs. Kate’s room, thought to have been dropped by the killer. They sought for its pair as a way of identifying who the killer was. When they found nothing that linked them to the crime, they let the tenants go.
At this point, Officers learned more about the weapon used to kill Mrs. Kate. It was a very unique knife, about one inch in diameter and twelve inches long. Imagine a knife with a blade the length of a standard ruler. It was that long. In these times, knives like these were typically found in animal processing jobs. They were called killing knives because they were long and very sharp and used in the killing process of the animal.
Kate had two stab wounds, one through her eye that went through her brain, the other was in her side that went through her lungs and pierced her heart, killing her very quickly. They finally ruled out suicide as a possibility when the corner made this statement.
The officer’s next stop was to see 24-year-old John Deborta. John worked at the Tamm Brothers Glue Factory. Now, when I heard glue factory, my ears perked up. Glue has been commonly made from animal parts, especially horses. I did some research on the history of the Tamm Brothers Glue Factory but never discovered the type of glue they made, and I learned that there was just as easy of a chance that the glue they made was not from animals. The glue factory adjoined the house where Kate was living and had been murdered in.
Officers visited and questioned John Deborta for some time at his house. He denied any wrongdoing and was actually surprised to hear of Kate’s murder. Officers searched his home and found a coat with some stains on the sleeves. They thought it might be blood. They then found the blue bucket that 12-year-old Eva Dayton described. They took it and the stained jacket as evidence and arrested John on the spot.
A second suspect was also arrested. A man by the name of Charles Alwens was also taken into custody when he was reported to have been telling people around town about the amount of money that was in Mrs. Kate’s room. Townsfolk thought this to be suspicious and turned him in. When interviewed, they found out that Charles, who was a porter for the Saloon that Kate frequented, did a job for her three weeks before she was murdered. She needed a screen door hung, and she paid him to do it for her. When she paid him, he swore she pulled out several large bills out of a jar and silver. She paid him what was owed, and then she put it back from where she got it.
Charles had a pretty solid alibi for his whereabouts at the time of the murder, so he was not really a suspect when this was found out. But they wanted to know if he told anyone about this money that he saw, and he told officers that he did not. But Charles let the police know who did know about the money, and they told anyone who would listen… it was Kate herself. Before her murder, Kate spent her time when not drinking, talking about herself and how much money she had. Detectives always believed that this was a lie because she used a watch that was handed down to her as collateral for loans all the time. She often pawned the watch to make ends meet. Also, the main source of income was from her wealthy brother. He sent her money to keep her going, and he never sent her more than what she needed because he knew she would just spend it at the Saloon. Many others around town would come forward to say that Kate told them that she had a lot of money.
Days after the discovery of the body, police let John Deborta go. It was found that the stains on his jacket were not blood and that being in the room hours before the murder didn’t equate him as the murderer. Now when researching this case, I looked to see if John Deborta had ever been arrested after this, and someone by the same name was arrested over 20 years later in Iowa. But upon further investigation, I found that it was not the same John Deborta. This person was a lot younger and spent a lot of time in and out of jail.
This case would be continued to be investigated, but it was never solved. Personally, I think that Kate might have brought on her own demise if she was going around town telling others that she had a lot of money.
This is where we conclude the story and start giving our opinion. We can brag about this case and talk about how we are the only ones covering it, or we might have an inside look into the topic.