Marshal Duckworth was notified and he immediately started to hunt for them. During the forenoon Sheriff Barnes telephoned Mr. Duckworth that he was holding three negroes as suspicious characters and Messrs Duckworth and Petrie went over to Crown Point. One of the negroes has a $100 Liberty bond and a knife, but Mr. Petrie was unable to identify the bond until he could get into the bank and find out the number of his bonds, and when he did he found that the bond belonged to him. Monday morning the marshal of St. John telephoned that he had found the balance of the bonds, so Mr. Petrie will come out without much loss. The negroes deny being at Lowell, but having the bonds in their possession should be evidence enough to convict them. They are being held in the jail at Crown Point awaiting trial.
Gene has been running the filling station for the past year or more and it has been his habit to close the place about six o'clock in the evening and go to his home. When he did not come, his wife beame uneasy and came to town and asked Milford Neidert, Ralph Wood and Harold Fuller to go up to the filling station and see why her husband had not come home. They proceeded to the filling station and on arriving there found the door locked and all lights out. With lighted matches they were able to see inside the building and saw the body of Gene lying on the floor. They immediately came back to town and reported what they had seen. It was at first thought that he had just fallen over, but on officers forcing their way into the building, a terrible sight met their gaze. They found the body of Mr. Duckworth lying on the floor face down in a pool of blood. Medical aid was summoned, but it was soon found that he was dead from a bullet wound in his forehead. Deputy Coroner Sheets was called and he then notified the coroner. The body was then removed to the Weaver Funeral Home. The next day the coroner's physician came down and probed for the bullet, which was found against the skull in the back part of his head. Death had been instantaneous.
Sheriff Holley was immediately notified of the murder and his deputies were soon on the ground seeking evidence as to who has committed the murder. Everyone having knowledge of the affair or who might give any light on the terrible affair were questioned. Among those questioned were Byrl Fish, who lives a short distance from the station on the north and Arthur Fuller, who lives just south of the station. Fish reported that he had met a young lad, Perry Swank, going toward the station, as he was coming down town and Fuller reported that he had seen the same boy pass his house. Ruby Fish, daughter of Mr. Fish, was sitting on the porch of their home and saw a man come out of the station and lock door and start toward town. This man answered the description of the boy the two men had met. Suspicion at once centered around the Swank boy. About 2 a.m. Deputy Sheriff Joe Martin and another deputy went to the home of the Swank's parents, who live in the Douglas Fuller house at Creston and on arriving there found the boy and were informed that he had gone to bed, but this proved not true for he soon showed up. He was informed that he was suspected of the murder, but he stoutly denied any knowledge of it, nevertheless he was taken to the county jail for questioning. It was not until late Monday after being questioned at great length and confronted with the evidence that the two men had met him and that the Fish girl had seen him come out of the station and lock the door, did he break down and confess that he committed the crime. His confession is substantially as follows, as given to us by Chief Deputy Sheriff Joseph Martin.
My name is Perry Swank and I live with my parents at Creston. I am 16 years of age and a sophomore in the Lowell high school. On Sunday night, as I was leaving for Lowell, I made up my mind to hold up the filling station operated by Gene Duckworth in the north past of Lowell and took a revolver I had previously stolen from the Vinnedge store in Creston.
I started to walk to town and was on the concrete road running into Lowell and had reached the point opposite the house occupied by Harry Taylor when a car caught up with me in which were Thomas Hamacher and Gerald Surprise. They invited me to get in the car and ride to town with them, which I did. They drove to the business part of town where I left them. I immediately started back up the road toward the filling station. Arriving at the station I found Duckworth getting ready to go home. I entered the building and pointing my revolver at him ordered him to stick up his hands. Instead of doing it, he reached for his hip pocket to get a gun and I pulled the trigger and shot him in the forehead. He fell to the floor and I knew he was dead. I rolled his body over on his face and proceeded to take his money. I then walked out of the place and locked the door and started to town. While on the bridge over the creek, I threw the gun I had taken from Duckworth and his bunch of keys, into the creek. I then went to the Christian church and attended a meeting of the Christian Endeavor and when I got a chance I went to the basement of the church and put the wallet containing the money I had taken from Duckworth into the furnace. (This statement was borne out by the finding of the wallet by the sheriff.) After church I started for home, riding with Mr. and Mrs. James Hill. When we got to the filling station where the murder had been committed, Mr. Hill stopped his car and got out to investigate. I got out of the car but did not mingle with the crowd much but stayed on the outside, thinking someone might think I had something to do with the case. Later we went home and when I got there I hid the revolver that I had done the shooting with and went into the house. Later when I saw a car stop in front of the house, I suspected that it was the sheriff and they had come for me. I did not want the money found on me, so I went to the stove and lighted a paper and put the money on top of the fire so that it would be burned. This statement was also borne out by the sheriff as he, when told what had become of the money, went to the stove and saw the ashes of the money lying in the stove.
Every statement Swank had made has been found true with the exception of the revolver and keys and so far they have not been found.
When questioned by Deputy Martin, the boy did not seem to realize the enormity of the crime he had committed and when asked if he would do it again, said he probably would. When asked if he was sorry he replied, "Oh, yes, in a way I am."
Young Swank seems to be a bit hard boiled in the matter of crime, but a few weeks in jail before his trial may bring him to the realization that he is in a terrible predicament. When asked about his wrestling, he said that he had the reputation of a good wrestler and a minute later said, "I suppose I'll be wrestling with the angels before long," meaning that he would go to the electric chair.
When asked by the sheriff if anyone helped him in the job, he said that he did it alone. Asked if he knew of any other boys in Lowell that were doing things they should not, he replied that he did and gave the sheriff their names. The Swank case should be a lesson to these and all other boys to do the right thing at all times or they may get into trouble.
The trial of Swank will come up at a later term of the Criminal court and owing to extreme youth, the outcome is in doubt.
Gene Duckworth, who for over fifteen years served as marshal of Lowell, was a man who was a friend to everyone and his passing has removed from our midst a man who was highly esteemed by everyone who knew him. He was a man who was always ready to help those in need and was ever ready to advise and counsel the young folks and for this reason, he endeared himself to them in a manner they will never forget. We consider Gene Duckworth one of our close personal friends and it was with a great deal of feeling of regret that we learned of his untimely death.
This is the second murder ever committed within the corporate limits of Lowell, the first one being the murder of Cornelius Blatchley* by John Meyer*, a man 74 years old. In March 1877, Meyer was sent to the penitentiary for life and died there a great many years ago.
Much credit is due Sheriff Roy Holley and Chief Deputy Martin for their untiring work in bringing the murderer of Gene Duckworth to face trial for murder.
The funeral services of Gene Duckworth, who was marshal of Lowell for many years and deputy sheriff under Sheriffs Olds, Strong and Kyle, were held yesterday afternoon.
* NOTE -- The 1877 newspaper version of the first murder within the town of Lowell spelled the names of the two men involved as "Blachley" and "Myers."
The second article appeared on page 4, column 2 of the same issue:
Gene Duckworth loved boys and he was shot by a boy.
But the boy whose finger jerked against the fatal trigger was not a boy who really knew Gene Duckworth. No boy whose feet raced happily on Lowell soil would have faced him with a weapon in his hand.
Marshal Duckworth, alone with his years, stood facing a boy with crime in his heart. We can only make an assumption of what occurred in Gene's mind when he faced the boy. There was his own service revolver at hand, but whether or not there was time to use it, may never be ascertained, but what is known is the character of Gene Duckworth and that he knew his own weapon would bring death. And it seems logical to believe that Gene did not consider the robbery but that he did consider the boy. That he attempted to counsel him, warn him that such action was a crime and its commission a felony.
But the boy with the gun did not know Gene Duckworth, and the finger on the trigger contracted.
Such a tragedy does not belong alone to Lowell. It is a problem of every city and every parent. There will be editorials on child welfare, lectures in schools, sermons in churches, discussions by parents' clubs, and reports by juvenile societies. And so, out of sacrifice and martyrdom of Gene Duckworth others boys will be saved.
Gene Duckworth has shown that he loved boys.
In the little town of Lowell, Ind., the thirteen hundred inhabitants are marching past the coffin of Gene Duckworth, former marshal, shot by Perry Swank, Jr., 15 year old high school boy who sought to rob him.
And on the lips of every townsman is the declaration: "Gene loved boys."
For fifteen years while Gene was marshal, the boys who grew up in the happy village knew him as a friend, a counselor and an officer of the law who tempered guidance with justice. Their troubles and escapades were handled by Marshal Duckworth and none of them ever entered the town jail. Gene knew boys, although he never had a son himself.
And during those fifteen years, hundreds of boys marched out of the little town to the corners of the world, with the memory of their childhood linked definitely with Marshal Gene.
Then Gene was killed by a boy. But he was not a town boy who had known Gene, but one who moved into the quiet village of Creston from a big city.
The townspeople explain that Gene still carried his service pistol when Perry tried to rob him. Gene might have shot the boy himself, but instead, he tried to counsel him.
And in this last effort by Marshal Gene, there remains the sole explanation of the townsfolk: "Gene loved boys."
The foregoing article was written by Ike Gershman, formerly of Lowell but who now resides in Chicago and is a reporter for the City News Service, and who knew Gene when he was a lad in Lowell and shows his appreciation of the deceased.
The courtroom was crowded Monday when the boy entered court and it was thought that in the face of a previous confession that he would plead guilty as he had said before he was going to plead guilt and get it over with, but on the advice on his attorney, John Haller, who entered the case a few days ago, he changed his plea and as the matter stands now there will be a trial and the court has set October 12th, as the date.
Attorney Haller promptly asked the court that a continuance of a couple of weeks be granted so that he could complete investigations of new evidence which might throw a different light on the youth's act.
"No one knows better than Swank what happened," said Judge Smith. "If he has made a confession and is willing to plead guilty, his word will be sufficient."
Haller declared that the new evidence which he is considering shows the boy was not involved alone in the slaying of Mr. Duckworth and added that he had not had time to look into the details thoroughly.
Judge Smith replied "that even if other persons were implicated it would not aid the defense of this boy, and I want no monkey business in this case."
The same sentiments were expressed by the Deputy Prosecutor Underwood who said that whatever additional evidence is uncovered, will not take from or add to the crime with which the boy is charged. Underwood insisted on the arraignment of Swank and Judge Smith overruled Haller's objections.
Perry was conducted to the witness stand and the indictment, charging him with first degree murder and murder in perpetration of a robbery, was read. The state had said last week that the second count would not be presented if the boy pleaded guilty to the first. The death penalty is mandatory on a finding of guilty to the second.
"How do you plead?" asked Judge Smith.
"Not guilty," replied Swank promptly.
"When did you change your mind?" asked the court.
"This morning, your honor," interposed Haller.
Judge Smith then asked if the defense wanted a trial by jury and Haller said that was demanded. After consulting his calendar, the judge finally selected October 12 as the trial date. Haller wanted more delay but the court insisted upon the date he had set.
Deputy Prosecutor Underwood, immediately after the plea of not guilty has been entered, declared that the state would go ahead with its plans to prosecute the youth on both counts that he would plead not guilty using insanity grounds.
Still nonchalant in the face of possible death in the electric chair or life imprisonment, Perry showed an absolute disregard of his fate as he awaited arraignment.
"I don't care what happens. I'd just as soon take whatever's coming to me. But I'll do what my lawyer says," Perry said. "I'm not afraid, not a bit."
However, he showed some signs of nervousness as he waited until another case was disposed of.
Of Perry's family, only his father appeared in court. Not a word was passed between them, however.
Miss Alma Long, a trained nurse, whose home is in Hammond, and who has been staying at the Swank home, is being held as a material witness. It is said that she testified before the grand jury that Petty confided to her that he was going to stage a hold-up. It has developed that Swank did not burn the money as he first stated, but turned the money over to Miss Long and later she brought it to Lowell and turned it over to Mrs. Duckworth.
Go to Eugene Duckworth, "Pioneer History Index," for further information.
Return to Lowell Biographies.