-by Greg Hoots-
In the spring of 1934 the most heinous, violent murder in the history of Wabaunsee County occurred in the rural hills southeast of the county seat of Alma, Kansas. I had read of some details of the case in 2007 when I was researching local papers for a book which I was authoring about the 1930s construction of Lake Wabaunsee. The brutality of the crime was shocking. Armed with a shotgun and a rifle, one Wabaunsee County farmer lay in wait for a neighbor, luring the victim from his wagon before shooting the unarmed man six times. The circumstances behind the crime were salacious, a father claimed the obligation to murder his neighbor to protect his daughter’s virtue.
In 2013, Wabaunsee County Signal-Enterprise editor and publisher, Ervan Stuewe wrote a five-part article about the murder and the trial, titled, “A Father’s Love…A Story of Sacrifice for a Daughter’s Honor.” The story appeared in five successive issues of the paper between November 7, 2013 and December 5, 2013.
In the course of his research of the story, Stuewe conducted multiple interviews with Harold Longaker, the son of Charles Longaker, the man arrested and tried for the murder. The story was fascinating, and it was insightful in that it was presented through the eyes of a family member of the accused. After reading it, I wondered to myself what the family members and friends of the victim of the murder, Joe Pusch, would have said if they had been interviewed.
Finally, I felt that the story was incomplete. What happened to the daughter, whose honor was so valuable as to justify Charles Longaker’s murder of his neighbor in cold blood? And, furthermore, what happened to Ruth Longaker’s child whose father had been murdered before the baby’s birth? What happened after the trial?
I’ve spent parts of the last six years researching those questions, and the answers tell a very dark story of injustice, betrayal, and loss. I struggled to find any honor in the crime, whatsoever.
The eyewitness source on whom Ervan Stuewe relied for memories of the murder, Harold Longaker, passed away in 2014, thus I considered only his published statements in the Signal-Enterprise articles. The trial records were scant, especially considering the length of the trial and the seriousness of the charges. However, the Wabaunsee County District Court Clerk’s office did have records which included the charging documents, the handwritten record of the preliminary hearing, the jury pool list, the list of jurors chosen for the trial, a proposed affidavit presented by the defense attorney which was not admitted as evidence, and most significantly, the thirty-five pages of jurors’ instructions prepared by Judge Otis E. Hungate. There was never a transcript of the trial prepared; however, the trial was closely reported in the Wabaunsee County newspapers, and those published accounts were valuable sources of information about the crime and the trial.
May 5, 1934 was a beautiful spring day in the Kansas Flint Hills. Wabaunsee County had enjoyed two days of rain prior to the first Saturday of the month, and while the skies were blue, the roads in Wabaunsee County were soft and muddy. The old-time farmers would bring out the team of mules and the wagons when the roads were too muddy for the farm trucks of the day. So, it was not unusual that Wabaunsee County farmer, 64-year-old Joseph Pusch chose to haul a load of corn from his farm at the Snokomo community to the Pusch family farm near Halifax in a wagon pulled by horses. Pusch’s neighbor, 53-year old Charley Longaker observed Pusch driving the team along the narrow road in front of the Longaker farm, located in Mill Creek Township.
Trouble was brewing on the Longaker farm. A week earlier Charley Longaker had learned that his second-oldest daughter, Ruth, was six and a half months pregnant with a child, fathered by none other than his neighbor, Joe Pusch, a married man with five children. Charley Longaker had been beside himself with rage and anger, and later claimed that he had been unable to sleep for days due to this family crisis.
That crisis was about to boil-over into cold-blooded murder. The May 10, 1934 edition of The Eskridge Independent recounts the events of that fateful Saturday prior. “Charles W. Longaker shot and killed his neighbor, Joe Pusch, last Saturday afternoon, then gave himself up to the sheriff, C. R. McCauley. Longaker made a statement to the county attorney, E. W. Stuewe, that Pusch had ‘improper relations’ with one of the Longaker girls, 20 years old and feeble-minded.
Longaker and Pusch were farmers living north of Eskridge, both of middle age and heads of families; both well known in Eskridge where they did considerable trading. Pusch had been working on the paving job here. According to his story to Stuewe, Longaker set an ambush for Pusch and poured the contents of four shotgun shells and two .32 caliber rifle cartridges into Pusch’s body. After the shooting, which occurred on a road near their farms, Longaker went to his home and told his family to call Sheriff C. R. McCauley, which they did.
Describing the ambush and shooting in detail, Longaker told Stuewe that he laid his raincoat beside the road near their farms knowing Pusch would be along late that afternoon. He then got behind a stone fence beside the road with his shotgun and rifle. Pusch came by in an empty wagon, stopped his team, got out beside the road to get the raincoat. As he did so, Longaker says he shot him twice in the left side with the shotgun. Pusch fell to the ground and Longaker said he emptied two more shotgun shells into his body. Then he walked over to the body, he said, and finding life still in him, shot him twice more with the .32 rifle.
Longaker, according to Sheriff McCauley, was distant from Pusch only about twelve or fifteen feet when he fired the gunshots.
County Attorney Stuewe arraigned Longaker Tuesday a.m. in an Alma justice court, charging him with first degree murder, and his preliminary hearing will be held next Saturday at 10 am.
According to Sheriff McCauley, Longaker is very calm about the matter and was not in the least regretful. He believes he did the only thing possible for him to do under the circumstances and undoubtedly will base his plea for mercy on the theory of justifiable homicide.
Longaker bears an excellent reputation in Eskridge and Alma, where he is generally known as a hard-working farmer, thoroughly honest and faithful to every obligation.
The funeral of Pusch was held at Alma Tuesday, services being held at the Methodist church. He left a wife and five children.
The other Wabaunsee County newspapers tell a similar story. The May 11, 1934 edition of one of Alma’s newspapers, The Enterprise, published by O. W. Little, recounts the crime: “The shooting took place along the road north of Longaker’s as Pusch was going home from his Halifax place with a load of corn. After being sure Pusch was dead, Longaker went to the Gatrost home and called Sheriff McCauley, telling him what he had done.
The reason Longaker gives for his rash act was that Pusch had been having improper relations with Longaker’s 20-year-old feeble minded daughter and that he had but recently learned that she was in a delicate condition.
According to his story, Longaker set an ambush for Pusch and poured the contents of four shotgun shells and two .32 caliber rifle cartridges into Pusch’s body. Longaker said he had laid his raincoat beside the road near their farms knowing Pusch would be along later. He then got behind a stone fence beside the road with his shotgun and rifle. Pusch came by, stopped his team and got out to get the raincoat. As he did so Longaker says he shot him twice in the left side with the shotgun. Pusch fell and Longaker said he emptied two more shotgun shells into his body. Then he walked over and finding life still in him, shot him twice more with the .32 rifle.
Both men are around 60 years old, both married and with families, Pusch with five children and Longaker with six. Pusch was born and raised near Halifax and Longaker has been on his farm east of Alma about 25 years. He has always been a good citizen, quiet and inoffensive, a hard worker and with not an enemy of which we every have heard. His preliminary trial is set for Saturday and his neighbors say they will sign his bond for all they are worth.
It is one of the most deplorable crimes that has ever occurred in the county. One man dead and another in jail with blood on his hands as a result of the efforts to obtain speedy justice for a terrible wrong to his family.”
It is notable that local newspapers put similar spins on the story in more than one respect. Both papers refer to Ruth Longaker as being 20 years old at the time of the murder. In reality, Ruth Longaker was 22 years old when her father murdered Joe Pusch, she was 21 years old when she became pregnant, and 23 years old when her father was placed on trial for Pusch’s killing. It was not until the trial that Ruth’s actual age was revealed to the jury and the media. Finally, all of the newspaper articles published before and during the trial, repeatedly referred to Ruth Longaker as being “feeble-minded”. There was no evidence presented of her mental incapacity, no experts examined her to determine her psychological age, nor her ability to consent. She had attended District 35, a one-room school also known as Union Center School or the Arbor School, through the fifth grade.
Ervan Stuewe asked Harold Longaker about his sister’s intellectual capacity for his 2013 article, noting, “Harold said his sister, Ruth, was ‘slow’. ‘I wouldn’t say she was mentally retarded. She just wasn’t too smart…she was slow.’ said Harold.” Regardless, in every newspaper story which appeared before the trial, Ruth Longaker was characterized as “feeble-minded”, and her age was misreported.
County Attorney, E. W. “Butch” Stuewe and County Coroner W. C. Hasenbank both arrived at the scene of the killing and examined the body. Charley Longaker readily confessed to the crime to the sheriff and prosecutor, and he detailed all of his actions in the commission of the murder. Longaker went so far as to take the sheriff and county attorney to his home to examine Ruth’s “delicate condition”, and he forced his daughter to tell the law enforcement officials of her trysts with Joe Pusch.
Longaker was arraigned on May 8th, 1934, and the preliminary hearing was held on May 12th. At the preliminary hearing, coroner W. C. Hasenbank testified for the State, along with two of Charley Longaker’s neighbors, Arthur Bundy and Joe Weeks. The defense offered no witnesses, and Charley Longaker refused to enter a plea to the charge. Longaker was held for trial on first degree murder, the judge entered a plea of not guilty for the accused, and set bail at $10,000. On May 29th, 1934, Longaker’s wife, Eva, posted the bond. A story was told of many of the Longakers’ neighbors pooling their money to make the bail, and an equally unsubstantiated story says that Charley’s in-laws posted most of the money required to buy his freedom until the trial which was set for the October 1934 term of the district court.
Charley Longaker hired a longtime Alma attorney, Alfred Edwin “Ed” Carroll to represent him in the Pusch murder case. Ed Carroll’s father and grandfather had both been attorneys in Alma; Ed’s roots in the law ran deep. After graduating from Alma High School, Ed taught school for a short while before enlisting in the Army in July of 1917. Ed went overseas with the 35th Division, spending a year in France where he was a dispatch rider, carrying messages along the front by motorcycle.
After returning home in the spring of 1919, Edwin enrolled in business college in Kansas City in June of that year. Edwin’s sweetheart from his high school days, Lucy Pleasse from Wamego, Kansas, joined Ed in college, and both Ed and Lucy enrolled in night school at the Kansas City Law School. On December 31, 1919, Edwin Carroll wed Lucy Pleasse in a private ceremony in Kansas City, Mo.
By the end of 1922, Ed and his wife Lucy had received their law degrees, and in December of 1922 the couple returned to Ed’s hometown of Alma to live. Edwin began a law practice in Alma, and while Lucy also held a law license, she never practiced, but it was said that she often worked with Edwin behind the scenes.
When Ed Carroll took Charley Longaker’s murder case in 1934, it was the biggest case of his career and the one which posed the biggest challenges. His client, after all, had confessed to committing murder to both the Sheriff and the Prosecuting Attorney, while at the scene of the crime.
Ed Carroll faced an able opponent in his defense of Charley Longaker, in the person of Edward W. “Butch” Stuewe, Wabaunsee County Attorney. Stuewe was no stranger to Ed Carroll. Ed’s older sister, Marguerite, was married to Butch. Butch was born in Alma, Kansas in 1891, the son of Albert and Bertha Stuewe. Butch’s father was a prominent stockman, banker and businessman in Alma, and after graduation from Alma High School, Butch attended Kansas University at Lawrence, receiving a degree in law in 1915. Butch had been a record-setting running back on the K.U. football team, making him a hometown hero. In 1917 Butch married Marguerite Carroll, and the couple raised seven children in Alma. Butch was enjoying his second term as County Attorney when Charley Longaker murdered Joe Pusch, and Stuewe continued to serve as Wabaunsee County Attorney for more than 25 years.
Since the prosecutor and the defense counsel were related by marriage, and as the crime was one of some notoriety, each of the attorneys obtained co-counsel. Ed Rooney, a Topeka attorney with the Attorney General’s office assisted County Attorney Butch Stuewe, and Manhattan attorney, Ira Snyder assisted Ed Carroll with the defense.
Ed Carroll’s father, Carey Carroll was the district court judge in Wabaunsee County, and he had long practiced law in Alma prior to being appointed to the bench. Carey Carroll had built a reputation in Wabaunsee County of being fierce in his defense of his clients during his years as a lawyer, and he was known in Alma by the nickname, “The Great Defender.” Judge Carroll had served four years as County Attorney, himself, and he spent twenty years on the school board, ten years on the City Council, four years as a State Senator, and eight years as the district judge. Additionally, from 1901 until his death in 1948, Carey Carroll was the publisher and editor of The Alma Signal newspaper. In 1946 he purchased the town’s other newspaper, The Alma Enterprise, consolidating the two papers.
Insofar as defense attorney Ed Carroll was Carey Carroll’s son, and County Attorney Butch Stuewe was Carey Carroll’s son-in-law, Judge Carroll recused himself from the Longaker case, and asked the Kansas Supreme Court to appoint a pro tem. judge to preside over the Longaker trial.
The Supreme Court of Kansas selected the Honorable Otis E. Hungate of Topeka to preside over two Wabaunsee County cases from which Judge Carroll was recused. Hungate was no stranger to Wabaunsee County, having spent his childhood in the Snokomo community, living just a mile from the site of the Pusch murder, and Judge Hungate had known the Pusch family in his youth.
The first order of business before the trial began was to address a motion and affidavit presented by defense counsel, Ed Carroll. The six-page document, dated October 22, 1934, is described as AFFIDAVIT AND MOTION FOR CONTINUANCE. While the presentation of such a motion is not unusual in itself, the nature of this particular affidavit was rather bizarre.
In the affidavit, Charley Longaker testifies that he had spoken to Ralph Shumaker, the Longaker’s rural mail carrier who had told the defendant and the defense attorneys Carroll and Snyder that he had witnessed Joseph Pusch and Ruth Longaker on numerous times engaging in amorous activities along the side of the road while he delivered mail in the area.
The affidavit claimed that Shumaker could provide “the only evidence available to the defense in corroboration of the fact of intercourse between Ruth Longaker and Joe Pusch.” Charley Longaker claimed in the affidavit that his attorney, Edwin Carroll had met with Ralph Shumaker on October 8th or 9th, concerning Shumaker’s attendance at the Longaker trial set for October 22, 1934. Shumaker, after allegedly telling defense counsel of seeing Pusch and Ruth Longaker together “a great number of times,” indicated that he had plans to attend a national American Legion convention in Miami, Florida on October 22nd, so he would not be able to testify.
Carroll issued a subpoena on October 11th, 1934, ordering Ralph Shumaker to appear at the trial on October 22nd. Wabaunsee County Sheriff McCauley made three attempts to serve the subpoena on Shumaker, but as the mail carrier feared just such action by the defense counsel, Shumaker departed for Miami early, and McCauley returned the subpoena as unable to serve.
Carroll created a speculative rendition of the questions that he would ask Shumaker, if the mail carrier were present, and the defense attorney also provided the answers that he believed that Shumaker would have provided if he had been in court. The entire affidavit and motion was written as if being spoken by Charley Longaker recounting his conversation with Shumaker, and the document bears Longaker’s signature, dated October 22, 1934, the day the trial began.
Judge Hungate refused to consider the motion for continuance, and it was obvious to all parties that there was another person who could testify as to the relationship between Charley Longaker’s daughter and Joe Pusch, and that person was Ruth Longaker.
The Longaker trial was scheduled for Monday, October 22, 1934, and the new Wabaunsee County Courthouse was packed with spectators who filled the courtroom, spilling into the hallway. The Alma Enterprise of October 26, 1934 reported on the trial: “The Longaker murder trial, being heard this week, has brought in hundreds of people. They came early and stayed late. They brought their lunches and ate in the court room so they would not lose their places. Every inch of standing room was taken and they overflowed into the halls from all five doors.”
The first order of business was to select a jury for the trial. Forty-five Wabaunsee County citizens were empaneled to be examined by both attorneys in an effort to select 12 jurors for the trial. The Alma Enterprise describes the process: “It was easy to get a jury, only taking until about 3:30 Monday, and here they are: Clarence Clark, Edgar Eldridge, Edgar Kinzy, L. M. Vausbinder, M. B. Singer, W. C. Kopp, Victor Anderson, August Zeckser, Will Clark, S. C. Trout, Walter Arand, A. L. Peoples. All but one are farmers and eight of them come from the south and east parts of the county.”
Notably, in the jury pool of 45 individuals, there were no women included in the group, and there were no African-American citizens included in the pool. The random selection of the jury pool apparently produced 45 white men. As The Alma Enterprise noted, of the twelve men chosen for the panel, eleven were farmers. The newspaper failed to note that eleven of the men were also fathers, and the majority of them had daughters of their own.
The one non-farmer on the jury, W. C. Kopp, owned a commercial laundry in Harveyville, and he was the mayor of that town. Kopp was elected by the twelve jurors as the jury foreman.
By 3:00 pm on Monday, the jury had been selected and opening statements were provided by both sides. County Attorney Butch Stuewe set the tone for the prosecution, noting the brutality of the murder and the fact that Longaker had acted not in a rash manner, but in a calculating, premeditated manner, defining the defendant’s actions as being with malice aforethought. The term was used repeatedly in the charging documents, and it was one that the prosecution carried into the trial.
Ed Carroll outlined the case for the defense in a manner that might be characterized as scatter-shooting. By the time the trial began, Charley Longaker made a few significant changes in his story of the shooting, differing from the version he had given Sheriff McCauley and County Attorney Stuewe at the scene of the crime. The defense now claimed that Longaker and Pusch argued before the shooting, and Longaker claimed that Pusch had advanced toward him in a menacing manner, and in a different account, claimed that he thought that Pusch was armed with a knife. Longaker’s claim was that he had acted in self-defense. Then, in the very next breath, the defense added a new argument, claiming that Longaker was crazy at the time he committed the crime. Everyone knew he had been acting irrationally for a week. The defense asked the jurors, would you expect any father in the same situation to behave differently? And, finally, Carroll wanted the jury to do a lot of thinking about what justice was, and more importantly, what would they have done if they had been in Charley Longaker’s situation?
After the presentation of opening statements, the prosecution began bringing witnesses to the stand. Sheriff McCauley testified as to the crime scene and described Charley Longaker’s readily given confession at the scene of the crime. McCauley’s testimony was followed by that of Coroner, W. C. Hasenbank who testified as to the cause of Joe Pusch’s death and speculated as to the distance that Longaker was from the deceased when the fatal shots were fired. Court recessed at 5:00 pm on Monday, and on Tuesday morning the State presented seven more witnesses, mostly all were neighbors who had visited the crime scene, in some cases, before the Sheriff and Coroner arrived. By noon, the County Attorney rested the case of the State against Charley Longaker.
The defense presented several witnesses who had talked with Charley Longaker during the week before the killing, describing his distraught nature and asserting his lack of sanity or clear-thinking. By Tuesday afternoon, one of the most-anticipated witnesses took the stand, Ruth Longaker.
The Alma Enterprise of October 26, 1934 described her appearance. “The high light in the case was the testimony of Ruth Longaker, the simple-minded 23-year-old girl who was the cause of Joe Pusch’s murder, when he was shot to death May 5 by Chas. Longaker, father of the girl. She told of her meetings with Pusch, father of her baby born some time ago, but much of her testimony was lost on the crowd because they could not hear her.”
Ruth Longaker’s testimony and cross-examination were lengthy, as the prosecution sought to prove that Ruth Longaker, an adult, had entered into a relationship willingly with Joe Pusch. Charley Longaker, the prosecution contended, had shot Pusch in cold blood because of Pusch’s relationship with Ruth Longaker. Amazingly, there was little distance between the version of the crime presented by the prosecution and that developed by the defense counsel.
The trial continued to Wednesday as the defense presented more witnesses to the character of the victim, as family members of both the accused and the victim spoke of their relatives. On Wednesday afternoon, the most surprising defense witness was announced as Charley Longaker was called to the witness stand. The Alma Enterprise reported, “Longaker’s testimony took the most time and his story of the shooting differed somewhat from the one he told right after it happened. He was on the stand part of Wednesday afternoon and up until 11 o’clock yesterday. The lawyers got him pretty badly tangled up before he got through. The defense seemed to be nearly through at noon when we went to press.”
The defense presented a rebuttal witness, a gun “expert” named Smith from Manhattan, Kansas who testified that Longaker was much closer, just five-feet from Joe Pusch when the six shots were fired. Sheriff McCauley had testified for the prosecution that the men were “twelve to fifteen feet apart” when the shots were fired.
On Friday morning, after hearing counsel’s arguments relative to juror’s instructions, Judge Hungate addressed the jury and read thirty-five pages of his prepared instructions. The leading pages of the instructions were pretty unremarkable, the judge first listed the specific charges of the crime, defining first degree murder and lesser charges, the concept of reasonable doubt, and the presumption of innocence. On page three of the instructions, Hungate writes, “In your deliberations in the jury room you must not allow passion, prejudice of partiality to influence you in the slightest degree in deciding your verdict, but you must be guided by the law as given to you by the court and the evidence of witnesses given in your presence.”
Hungate defines first degree murder for the jury, “Murder in the first degree is committed where a person of sound memory and discretion unlawfully and willfully with deliberation and premeditation, kills any reasonable creature in being in the peace of the state with malice prepense or aforethought, express or implied.” The judge goes on to define second-degree murder, and the various degrees of manslaughter.
Judge Hungate defines the term, malice for the jury, “’Malice’, in its legal sense, is that condition of mind which prompts the intentional doing of a wrongful act without just cause or excuse. ‘Malice aforethought’ is malice previously and deliberately entertained. ‘Express malice’ is where one person unlawfully kills another with sedate, deliberate mind and formed design, being evidenced by external circumstances discovering the inward intention and premeditation, such for instance as lying in wait, antecedent threats, former grudges and concerted schemes to do the party some bodily harm. ‘The implied malice’ is where the killing is effected [sic] by any deliberate and premediated cruelty and evincing a design to take human life, and done without present provocation. And although there is this distinction between express and implied malice, they mean and express the same condition of mind.”
Hungate addresses the claim of self-defense and justifiable homicide, specifically as it applied to the Pusch killing. He notes, “A person who is unlawfully attacked by another may stand his ground and defend himself by using such force as at the time appears to him to be reasonably necessary. Such a person is not required to retreat to the wall or as far as possible, before defending himself, but he has a right to stand his ground and repel force. Such person is justified in acting upon the facts as they appear to him and he is not to be judged by the facts as they actually are or as they may be subsequently disclosed.
Hungate cautions, “Mere apprehension that a person designs at some future time to kill another or to inflict great bodily harm upon him is not sufficient to authorize such other person to attack him or take his life. But, where a person is attacked by another and the apparent situation is such as to create in the mind of such person a reasonable belief that the other is about to kill him or inflict great bodily harm upon him, then such person can take the life of his assailant and it is justifiable homicide.”
Then, Hungate addressed the issue directly of Charley Longaker’s right to protect his daughter’s honor, clearly defining the law in Kansas for the jury. “Among other things, it is claimed by the defendant that at the time of the shooting of Joe Pusch by the said defendant, that defendant’s reason was so impaired from information he had received concerning the debauchment of his daughter, Ruth Longaker, and from brooding over this treatment that his said daughter had received from Pusch, that he, the said defendant was irresponsible for the killing of said Pusch. In this connection, you are instructed that it is not the law of this state that the debauchery of a man’s daughter by another will justify or excuse the killing of such another for so doing. The doctrine of the so-called ‘unwritten law’ does not obtain within this state and it is no excuse or justification or no defense for the killing of a human being for any such reason.”
Concerning the claim of the defendant of insanity, Hungate writes, “Applying the foregoing to this case, you are instructed that if you find that the defendant killed Joe Pusch as charged by the State, and that at the time of such killing, defendant was not of such mental capacity to know the nature or quality of his act, he was doing or if he did know it, he did not know what he was doing was wrong, then the law does not hold him responsible for his act, and he should be acquitted. But, on the other hand, if you find defendant did kill Joe Pusch and at the time of such killing, he was capable of understanding what he was doing and knew that the act was wrong, then he should be convicted of such offense as you may find from the evidence and under these instructions, he is guilty.”
Judge Hungate was liberal in his interpretation of the nature of the law, providing the jury with numerous options in reaching a verdict. He offered the jury the option of convicting Longaker of first-degree murder, second-degree murder, third-degree manslaughter, manslaughter in the fourth degree, or acquittal because of insanity at the time of the crime, or not guilty of all charges.
Judge Hungate closed his thirty-five-page instruction with these words, “In conclusion, members of the jury, you will be addressed by counsel for the state and counsel for the defendant, to whose arguments I trust you will give respectful attention. It is the duty of counsel to keep fairly within the evidence and the instructions of the court and to assist you in coming to a correct verdict in this case. When the arguments of counsel are concluded, you will take these instructions with you to your jury room, with the various forms of verdict and I trust you will give the case such careful consideration as its importance demands that your verdict may speak the truth.”
By late morning, Judge Hungate had concluded his instructions to the jury, and Edwin Carroll addressed the jury first, outlining the defense’s multiple arguments for the acquittal of Charley Longaker. Carroll vilified Joe Pusch as a predator who had taken advantage of a “feeble-minded girl”. Carroll then expressed to the jury the outrage and anger of Charley Longaker when he learned of Ruth Longaker’s pregnancy. The Alma Enterprise described Carroll’s plea when he argued that “the worry over the condition of his daughter caused him to be temporarily deranged and irresponsible for his acts.” The defense counsel argued that Pusch had advanced on Longaker aggressively, and that the defendant had acted in self-defense when he shot Joe Push six times. Finally, Carroll charged the jury with the responsibility for determining what justice was in this case. He asked the jury to consider what they would have done if they had been in Charley Longaker’s shoes. He reminded the jury that in the end, justice was in their hands, solely.
County Attorney Butch Stuewe made the final arguments to the jury. Stuewe reminded the jury of the brutality of the crime, the fact that Joe Pusch’s untimely death left a wife and six children without the head of their household. Stuewe emphasized to the jury their responsibility to follow the law, and he told the jury that justice would only prevail if the jury followed the law. The County Attorney explained that the crime was not one of passion, nor was it one of an insane man flying off the handle. The crime was one of premeditation, where Charley Longaker lay in wait, baited his victim to leave his wagon, and then shot the unarmed man six times, and expressed no remorse in doing so. The State had proved, Stuewe asserted, that Charley Longaker had acted with malice aforethought, and the only verdict that the jury could reasonably reach was to find Charley Longaker guilty of first-degree murder.
After lunch, the jury retired to their deliberation room escorted by Court Bailiff, Carl Zeckser. The first order of business for the jury was to elect W. C. Kopp of Harveyville as Jury Foreman. While Judge Hungate had prepared six different verdict forms for the jury, giving them a wide variety of verdict options, the jury immediately fell into two camps when the initial vote was taken, once their foreman was selected. The ballots were counted, and there were ten jurors who voted for acquittal, and two men voted to find Charley Longaker guilty of first-degree murder. Considerable discussion and argument ensued among the jurors, and the jury asked that some of the testimony be re-read to them, twice. Another vote was taken, and the jury was still deadlocked 10-2 to acquit. Both of the jurors who voted to convict were adamant in their positions, and very late Friday night, the jury sent a message to the judge that they were hopelessly deadlocked.
Judge Hungate called the jury to the courtroom, addressing them directly with what is known as an Allen Charge, an order to the deadlocked jury to resume deliberation. He noted to the dissenting votes in the minority, that ten of their fellow citizens had come to a very different conclusion than they had, and that there was nothing wrong with changing their vote. The deliberations lasted throughout the night and continued at dawn. Throughout the day Saturday, the jurors argued their opinions as to the verdict with no movement of position by any of the jurors. Finally, at 6:00 pm, the jury sent another message to Judge Hungate, saying that they were still hopelessly deadlocked 10-2 with no prospect of any resolution. Hungate called the jury before him, saying that they had a responsibility to reach a verdict. The judge went on to say that he was going home and would return to Wabaunsee County the following Wednesday, and that he would sequester the jury until that date.
The Alma Enterprise reported on the jury deadlock. “It is understood that they had been 10 to 2 for acquittal before they agreed. They asked to have parts of the evidence read to them twice and had informed Judge Hungate twice that they were “hung” and no chance to agree. He told them to go back and get to work. He said he had to be here Wednesday for the Holt trial so might just as well hold them until then. So, the jury gave up…Chas. W. Longaker went out of the court house Saturday night a free man, after having confessed that he shot Joe Pusch to death on May 5.”
The Alma Signal, published and edited by Judge Carey Carroll, wrote of the verdict, “The jury stood, we are informed, ten to two for the acquittal of Longaker on the first ballot, and until the verdict of “Not Guilty” was reached Saturday evening a few minutes past seven o’clock. The verdict seemed to meet with the approval of a majority of people…After the verdict was read, Mr. Longaker thanked the jurors, was discharged by the Judge, and soon departed for his home to be welcomed by a loyal wife and splendid family of children.”
The Eskridge Independent gave a very short report on the verdict, saying, “C. W. Longaker, on trial at Alma last week on a murder charge, was acquitted by the jury after about 24 hours deliberation. It was understood here that the jury stood 10 to 2 for acquittal from the start, but two men hung out until Judge Otis Hungate threatened to lock up the whole body over Sunday, then an agreement on a verdict was quickly reached.”
The jury found Charley Longaker not guilty of murder. While they could have acquitted him by reason of insanity, the jury, instead, found him not guilty. There was a serene feeling that everyone got what they deserved, and that true justice had been handed-out by this Wabaunsee County jury, the law be dammed. Metaphorically, there was a good deal of back-slapping being done, and everyone was ready to get back to their everyday lives.
After the Trial
Not everyone was so happy and pleased with the verdict which set Charley Longaker free. Obviously, members of the Joe Pusch family were stunned and angered by the verdict. The Pusch family had lived on Nehring Branch, southeast of Alma, for more than sixty years, and they had many friends, most of whom felt that justice had been denied, as well.
Neighbors talked. People in town talked. One critic of the verdict was Agnes Downey McPeak, a Wabaunsee County native that grew up on a farm next to the Pusch homestead on Nehring Branch Road. In 1984 McPeak authored a book titled, Should It Be Told, and in that volume, she writes of the Pusch case. “Joseph (Pusch) in later life, was shot to death in an ambush by a man who believed he was the father of a baby that his retarded daughter would give birth to. However, it was decided it was not his child after it was born and had no resemblance of him.”
Lifelong Wabaunsee County rancher, Stephen Anderson, visited with me about the Pusch murder case in 2015 while we dined at the Pharmacy Café in Alma. Although the murder took place six years before Anderson’s birth, his grandparents were neighbors of the Pusch family for many, many years, and Stephen had heard numerous family stories of the circumstances around the killing. “You know, there were a few guys around Union Center who were pretty nervous for a while…there was lots of talk, a few guys wondered if Charley Longaker was going to come after them. Some people said that the baby looked like the Dallas boys who lived down the road.” Anderson shook his head and smiled, continuing, “shoot…that Heise boy packed up and left the country. There was lots of talk.”
Lois, Ruth Longaker’s newborn daughter was a continual reminder to Charley Longaker of Joe Pusch and everything that went with that memory. He had enough.
State Training School at Winfield, Kansas
On March 22, 1887, the Kansas State Asylum for Idiotic and Imbecile Youth opened at its new facility at Winfield, Kansas. Upon opening, the facility had thirty-one pupils, but soon, those numbers would grow wildly as the Winfield facility gained the reputation for taking “patients” that would not be accepted at any other State-operated facility. That reputation, coupled with the policies and theories which defined the Winfield “Training School” as a de facto custodial facility, created a facility that was nothing more than a work camp or prison farm. Institutionalization at the Winfield facility was often a life sentence.
Frederick D. Seaton wrote in The Long Road Toward “The Right Thing to Do” The Troubled History of the Winfield State Hospital in Kansas History, in 2004, “The name of the Winfield institution was changed in 1909 to the State Home for the Feeble-Minded, recognizing that it provided custodial care for a large number of clients. The age limit of fifteen finally was removed from the statutes.”
In fact, there were many, many “inmates” at the Winfield institution who were adults, including numerous individuals in their 40s and 50s. There is a cemetery on the institution’s grounds that contains the graves of nearly 850 patients who died at the facility, http://genealogytrails.com/kan/cowley/winfieldstate-ac.html and they range widely in age.
On a much darker side, the institution became a tool of the eugenics movement, popular in Kansas in the early 20th century, resulting in the hospital becoming a sterilization factory for the “defective” and the “feeble-minded”. Seaton writes, “Nevertheless, by the 1910s, during the latter part of the Progressive era, sterilization became a common method for controlling the behavior of the mentally handicapped. Kansas was among the leaders in sterilization of individuals in state institutions, legalizing this practice in 1913. Both the mentally ill and the mentally retarded were subjected to sterilization, which persisted in Kansas into the early 1950s. Kansas is reported to have sterilized 2,851 patients, including 779 who were classified as “feeble-minded.” Seaton continues, “This marked the beginning of a period during which the institution at Winfield was governed as if it were an industry—or a reformatory. Obviously influenced by advocates of eugenics, a commission in 1919 cited the “menace to society” presented by the “feeble-minded,” and complained, as if it were an acknowledged fact, that many criminals came from their ranks. The commission recommended separating clients according to their behavior and changing the name of the institution to the State Training School, which occurred in 1920.”
The Winfield institution resembled a prison in far more ways than it resembled a hospital or a school. Winfield was a work farm, and the farm needed to show a profit. Having a captive work force where workers were paid a few cents a day, made the profit margin wider than competing private farms.
By 1920, the Home for the Feeble-Minded was fully entrenched in the eugenics movement. Dean T. Collins examined the Winfield institution’s history in Children of Sorrow: A History of the Mentally Retarded in Kansas, in 1965, writing, “The medical department (Dr. T. E. Hinshaw—a part-time general practitioner) continued a passionate interest in eugenics. He lauded the advent of national prohibition and the consequent elimination of ‘one of the four great causes of feeble-mindedness.’ At the same time he recommended changing the immigration laws to reduce the number of undesirables entering this country from Europe… ”undesirables, rendered so by the use, for generations, of alcohol, itself a protoplasmic poison, and the additional fact that many of them are suffering from the effects of syphilis, either hereditary or acquired.” Further recommendations included prohibiting the feeble-minded to marry and sterilization to offset the larger families in the lower class, “which produces relatively the greatest number of criminals and paupers and of the mentally deficient.”
Wylie Cook, a man with an eighth-grade education, was the frequent superintendent of the Winfield institution between 1915 and 1944, and he had a particular interest in desexualizing patients who he felt were inferior human beings who should not reproduce. The Kansas Legislature gave more power to this school of thought, passing a state law in 1917, allowing the sterilization of the insane and feeble-minded. Cook seemed to take a personal interest in “fixing bad girls.” Dean Collins writes in Children of Sorrow, “By 1922 the biennial reports had begun to sound like those of an efficient farm manager. The major part of the 1922 report concerned itself with the crops, the livestock, the development of the land for gas and oil production, and a justification for the purchase of more farm land. Patients were mentioned only to report that the parole system was not a success, particularly with young women…Mr. Wylie Cook expressed his opinion, “While I very much regret to learn that (the patient) has gone to the bad again, I am not greatly surprised. My experience with this class of girls has been more or less disastrous, and I have reached the conclusion that there will be no more young women paroled from this institution while I am in charge. You may return (the patient) to this institution at your earliest convenience, and fortunately she will be here in time to become a member of our next sterilization class.”
To change the behavior of bad girls, Wylie Cook devised special forms of punishment. Collins writes, “To work in areas with (severely retarded) patients became a punishment for patients who misbehaved. In a letter to a probation officer in 1932, Mr. Cook wrote of the miscreants: ‘They (two girls) are now both safely corralled in a ward of idiotic girls, both have their hair clipped close to their scalp and both are in blue denim dresses and barefooted. They are required to look after the wants and needs of about fifty idiotic and imbecile girls and women whose clothing has to be changed two or three times daily and very many of whom have to be spoon fed. It is my opinion that these good-looking girls will hesitate a long time before they venture out again.’”
Throughout the 1930s and 1940s the Winfield Training School was a state-operated house of horrors. Dean Collins describes the horrific treatments employed at Winfield, “Treatment continued to be influenced by the moralistic attitude of the medical department—the eugenic use of castration and sterilization, especially for the mildly retarded who might leave the institution. In one year (1940), 49 of 81 major and minor operations were castration, oophorectomy, salpingectomy, or vasectomy… Dr. Pilcher had performed 11 castrations during his first term as superintendent and 47 during his second. The practice was not resumed until 18 were performed in 1923, and again 22 in 1927. In 1931 castration was intensively resumed, so that by April, 1944, a total of 656 such operations had been performed at the institution. There are no records to cover the surgical activities from 1944 to 1951. Since 1951, no such surgery has been performed.
On July 1, 1944, Mr. Cook resigned as superintendent having reached the age of 85. He was again succeeded by the steward, L. C. Tune. The next few years were a period of stagnation. No reports were submitted and few records kept of activities at the institution. From figures on patient movement one can reconstruct that in Mr. Tune’s nine years as superintendent, not a single patient was discharged.
The third and fourth decades of the twentieth century were truly the doldrums in the care of the mentally retarded. During this period Kansas found more significance in the milk production of the institutional dairy herd, the effects of the drought on the alfalfa crop, and the prospects of gas and oil development on the institutional grounds than in the number of gonads surgically removed, the countless restraints and instruments of submission employed, or the life sentence that admission to the institution had come to mean.”
It was to this hellish institution that Charley Longaker had his daughter, Ruth Longaker and his granddaughter, Lois Longaker, committed for life. Insofar as his daughter was an adult, and insofar as Ruth Longaker was the sole parent of Lois Longaker, Charley Longaker had to petition the court to have the mother and daughter institutionalized.
Again, Charley seemed to find an ally in the judicial system. After all, it had been said over and over in court and in the newspapers, that Ruth Longaker was feeble-minded, what more did anyone need to know? By the end of 1935 Ruth Longaker and the infant, Lois Longaker were inmates at the Kansas State Training School.
On May 1, 1951, the State’s Division of Institutional Management fired L. C. Tune as superintendent of the facility, and Dr. William H. Wood, a third-year resident from the Menninger School of Psychiatry at Topeka State Hospital, became the acting superintendent. Seaton writes, “Although an April 1950 inspection report by the State Board of Health found that physical punishment was rarely, if ever, used, Wood found black jacks, handcuffs, leg irons, whips, and thumb screws inside the Winfield facility. Staff members had made requests for the extraction of all a client’s teeth to prevent him or her from biting other clients. More capable clients took refuge in corners of barns and huts on the grounds. Unanswered correspondence dating to six years previous was discovered in Tune’s office, along with twenty-one unprocessed applications for admission.
…The hospital for epileptics at Parsons became the Parsons State Training School in 1953, and 107 “educable” children were transferred there from Winfield. Leaving severely handicapped children and young adults at Winfield resulted in further pressure on the staff, according to Smith, and reduced time for training, recreation, and the arts.”
Nineteen-year-old Lois Longaker was one of the “educable” children who was transferred to the newly organized Parsons Training School. At the Winfield institution, no effort had been made to send Lois to school, and she had lived since infancy entirely within the institution, having developed few social skills.
After two years of school and counseling at the Parsons Training School, Lois was placed in Ottawa, Kansas, given a job and a place to live at the Crum Care Home at 803 S. Main. It was a dream come true to the young lady who had been robbed of her childhood by the State of Kansas.
Lois met Henry Edward Williams in Ottawa, and on November 21, 1959 the couple were married and moved to Henry’s rural Richmond, Kansas home in Franklin County. Henry was a longtime worker for the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway, and the couple had two sons. Henry Williams passed away on June 17, 1962 at Ransom Memorial Hospital at Ottawa, leaving Lois, a single mother, to raise her two small sons alone.
Lois spent the rest of her life at Richmond, raising both of her sons to adulthood. On December 18, 1993, Lois Darlene Williams passed away in Lawrence, Kansas at the age of 59. She was buried at the Richmond, Kansas cemetery.
As the Winfield Training School began to restructure its mission in the 1960s, the adult inmates at the Winfield facility were gradually moved to other facilities or residential facilities throughout the state. Sometime in the 1960s or early 1970s, Ruth Longaker was moved to Topeka, Kansas. Ruth M. Longaker passed away on June 19, 1975 in Topeka, Kansas.
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