David's Reformed Church Congregation

David's Reformed Church Congregation
Congregation of David's Reformed Church, Montgomery Co, Ohio, Circa, 1900

Friday, February 11, 2011

Thriller Thursday - The Tragic Story of Grace Emert

Just when I thought I had uncovered all of the family events that could shock me, I stumbled upon the death of my second cousin, once removed, Grace Emert. 

One evening this week, I discovered that while I had done quite a bit of research on my great great grandfather, Henry Mathias Routsong, I had neglected to look into the life of his sister, Catharine Routsong Emert.  Knowing from the book, "From Rauenzahner to Routson, A Family on the Move" and from United States Census records, that Catharine and her family had lived here in Montgomery County,  I decided to go to Familysearch.org to run a search on Ohio Death Certificates. I have found that death certificates can provide a wealth of family information and it was from that database that I discovered Catharine's date of death in Miamisburg, Ohio on 26 June, 1919.  I also discovered death records belonging to many of her family members, including her son, David Edward Emert, his wife, Charlotte,  and their daughter, Grace.   Like most people with limited time, I was locating documents and hitting "print" over and over without much regard to exactly what appeared on the paper, thinking that I would go through later and enter the information into my family tree.  That is, until I read the vital statistics on the death of Grace Emert.

Upon reading the opening information, I discovered that she was only 34 at the time of her death. Surprised by that fact, my eyes quickly moved over to the column containing the cause of death and I was stunned by what I read. "Compound skull fracture" came first.  My thoughts were that maybe it was some kind of accident until I read the next line.  "Severed jugular vein and carotid artery" was written next.  I think I had to read it several times before it sunk in.  I may have actually actually said "What?" out loud.  Farther down on the certificate, next to the question "Accident, suicide, or homicide?"  was written, "Homicide  1/6/1936". 
The document then listed that she was killed in her home. 
The information only got worse as  the final shock came on one of the last lines of the column where is stated she was "beat and cut by her brother."   Her brother?  How could that happen and who was her brother? 

At that time, I didn't have any of the names of her family members other than those of her parents. I went back to my original search of certificates to locate any other "Emerts" who may have had Edward Emert and Charlotte Myers listed as parents.  It didn't take very long to find "Raymond ".   Although there was no death certificate available to view, there was information about his date of death, which was 6 January, 1936, the same day as his murdered sister.  That was too much of a coincidence not to have been a piece of this tragic puzzle. Could it have been a murder/suicide and what could inspire that kind of rage? I had to find more information.

I started with a quick email to the librarian here at the Dayton Montgomery Public Library.  I requested any information she might be able to find in the Dayton Daily News on 7 January, 1936 regarding the crime.  Since I am impatient and I haven't received any response from her yet, I decided to head back to Ancestry.com for a short term membership again so I could access newspaper records from other cities in and around Ohio.  Within 5 minutes of searching, I had my answers and they were not only shocking, but very sad.

The first article I found appeared in the Mansfield (Ohio) News Journal on 7 January, 1936.  The headline read "Woman Found Dead on Farm"; "Throat Slashed, Head Battered, Brother's Body Sought".   The short story went on to describe how Grace's battered body had been found in the living room of her own home.  The neighbors had been attracted to the farm when they saw the barn in flames.  The article went on to say that Grace had lived in the home with her brother, Raymond, who was 29 years old.  The sheriff stated that the ashes of the barn would be "sifted".   After reading this article, it seemed as though I was on the right track regarding the murder/suicide, but it still didn't explain why her own brother would kill her.

The second article I located told me a little more.  On the same date in the New Castle (Pennsylvania) News, the headline read "Woman and Man Found Dead on Farm in Ohio"; "Woman slashed to death, Brother of Victim Burned to Death"; "Murder-Suicide is Theory Given".  This article went on to explain that the charred body of Raymond Emert had been found in the still smouldering barn.  He had hanged himself from a rafter in the barn, after killing his dog and setting the blaze.  The story gave more specific details regarding Grace's death, explaining that her head injuries were caused by a "heavy file" and her neck wounds were created with a razor.  The final paragraph expressed the theory of Coroner H.W. Harris that Raymond had "suddenly become demented" and had killed his sister and then committed suicide.  A third article which appeared in the Hamilton (Ohio) Daily News Journal also on 7 January, 1936  restated the above information, but also added that when Grace was found her clothes were torn and the room where her body was found was in disorder.  The story concludes with a statement from the coroner that Raymond had been "weak minded" and "had acted strangely for several days." 
A subsequent article in the same newspaper stated that Raymond had locked all the doors to the house and had used gasoline to ignite the fire in the barn.  

Could Raymond have been a victim of some type of mental illness?  The coroner's statement that he was "weak minded" and "had acted strangely" seems to lead in that direction, but it's obviously something that we will never know.  According to the 1930 United States Census, Grace and Raymond were living with their parents, Edward and Charlotte, on the farm on Benner Road in Miamisburg, Ohio.   Grace was 27 years of age, Raymond  was 25 and their sisters Dorothy and Florence were 18 and 11 years old respectively.   Interestingly enough, even though both Grace and Raymond were well into their adult years, neither one is married and although Raymond is listed as being a "farm-hand", Grace is not listed as having a profession.
So far, this is the only other documentation I have found on the lives of these siblings.  We may never know what caused Raymond to slip into the madness that caused him to take the life of his sister and to end his own, but at least now I know the story behind the lines on her death certificate.

My next planned step is to visit and photograph Grace's final resting place at Hillgrove Cemetery in Miamisburg and to pay my respects to my second cousin, once removed; The woman  I didn't know existed until the night I decided to do "just a little research."