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More from the murder file

March 21, 2009
By Howard Riley,

Judging from the response created by the last two stories in this column recalling a murder on the Forest Home Road in 1959, readers have a fascination, but near disbelief about such happenings.

Well, just take a look at the "murder file" (that is exactly how the file is titled) at the Adirondack Room of the Saranac Lake Free Library and talk to Curator Michele Tucker about these matters. You will find out about murders here in the past that will make your hair curl.

I am taking a chance that the following story printed in the Enterprise Dec. 28, 1921, was so long ago, that it is okay to use the names just as they appeared at the time. The story reads "was brought back from Malone" meant back to Saranac Lake, since I recognize the names of the judge and police chief as Saranac Lake men.

Article Photos

A group of officers discuss clues to the murder of Jane Doe on the Moody Pond Road late Sunday afternoon in 1959. Seen, from left, are investigator Clem Jackson, Sgt. Otranto, investigators Cootware and O’Connell and trooper Donald Hamm.
(Enterprise file photo — Gar Munn)

"William Grant R. Johnson, ex-serviceman, charged with killing Dr. Robert C. Paterson in his office Saturday afternoon, was brought back from Malone today for a hearing before Police Justice George A. Utting and was held for the action of the Grand Jury on a charge of murder in the first degree.

"Johnson waived examination. Besides his lawyer, Attorney Ganway of Malone, Dr. Mac Kenna, a prominent mental specialist; Colonel Gillette, Assistant District Attorney W. B. Clark and Sheriff F. S. Steenberge were present at the hearing. Johnson will be taken back to Malone tonight in the custody of Chief of Police Frank E. Sheldon."


Saranac Lake, March 12, 1973

So here we are back 36 years ago in Saranac Lake, where the Enterprise carried a 72-point, eight-column headline over a murder story with my byline:

"Saranac Lake - State Police arrested a 16-year-old boy here late Sunday afternoon and charged him with murder in the death of 9-year-old Jane Doe whose body was found at 9:10 yesterday morning in a wooded area about 200 yards from her home on East Pine Street.

"Two neighborhood girls, friends of the dead girl, discovered the body of the girl just off the Moody Pond Road on the property of Mr. and Mrs. Arthur Wareham and only a short distance behind the Wareham house. Their screams brought neighbors and other searchers to the scene.

"The Daily Enterprise learned from another report that the girl had not been sexually molested. Her body was fully clothed when found but she had suffered multiple stab wounds.

"Police said also that the alleged murder weapon had been found but would not say where it was found or if the weapon was a knife.

"The youth was arraigned at about 8 o'clock last night before North Elba Town Justice Philip Wolff. The youth's father appeared with him at the arraignment."

As a reporter, these were the toughest stories to cover. Trying to be sensitive to the families involved and still get a detailed, accurate story was not always easy so imagine what it is like for the police involved. Here is a quote I got that day from Alice Wareham: "I was very impressed with the gentleness and efficiency of the state police, the men from the Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI) and the local police. They all worked together in a wonderful fashion. They handled the children beautifully; they were sympathetic yet firm in trying to find out from them everything they knew."


Lake Placid, March 15, 1973

Here are excerpts from my continued coverage of the story:

"Lake Placid The closed door arraignment of the 16-year-old boy charged with the murder of 9-year-old Jane Doe last Saturday was adjourned again this morning when his court-appointed attorney, Norman Hess, obtained an order directing psychiatric examination for the defendant. The youth will be returned for continuation of the arraignment on April 13.

"The dark-haired youth was dressed in a yellow turtle-neck and seemed to show no emotion or signs of nervousness as he stood in the courtroom. This was noted by this reporter who observed the defendant through an open door and by a person who was present in the courtroom.

"Precautions were taken by the BCI officers to keep the defendant from being viewed by the public as a small group of curious onlookers and newsmen gathered outside the courtroom door and at the side door of the North Elba Town Hall where the arraignment was held.

"The suspect was removed through a little-used rear door of the court chambers, down a stairway behind the auditorium stage, through a cluttered storage area, and out a side door." (Now how do you suppose I observed all of that?)

When I can find the conclusion of that story I will add it, in the future, with other bits and pieces I have learned about the Forest Home murder.



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