Mother: Mary Eleanor Smith alias “Shoebox Annie” French; Son: DeCastro Earl Mayer, alias C. D. Montaine, C. C. Skidmore
FULL TEXT (Article 1 of 2): Walla Walla, Wash, May 5 – A 73-year-old mother accused her son of four unsolved mystery murders, prison officials said today, as they arraigned to bring the pair together for the first time in ten years.
By a ruse, Deputy Prosecutor John Schermer of King county said, investigators extracted from Mrs. Mary Eleanor Smith a gruesome tale of hew her son, Earl Decastro Mayer, hammered to death James Eugene Bassett of Annapolis, in Seattle ten years ago, dismembered his body and hid it in scattered, secluded spots.
Unexpectedly, Schermer said, Mrs. Smith wrote State Patrolman Joe McCauley, who duped her by posing as a clergyman, that Mayer previously killed two other men and a woman in Montana and Idaho.
~ Names Victims ~
The letters named the victims as Mrs. Ernest La Casse of Butte, Mont., who vanished in l923. Ole Larson of Anaconda, Mont., who disappeared in 1921, and a man named Randall whose body was buried in a stone quarry in Idaho. Both Mrs. Smith and her son are in prison here, where they were sent for grand larceny after the state was unable to prosecute them for Bassett’s murder, one of the most baffling in Washington state’s criminal history because they could not find the body.
They were convicted of stealing Bassett’s automobile. The mother was sentenced to 5 to S years in prison and was to have been released Monday. The son was sentenced to life imprisonment as a habitual criminal.
Warden James McCauley said Mrs. Smith admitted writing the confessions because she “wanted to get right with her Maker.”
~ Lured To House ~
The letters said Bassett, a former naval officer, was lured to the “little brown house” where Mayer stayed with his mother on the pretense they were to buy his automobile.
She said she took no part in the actual slaying, but she boasted of the manner in which she cleaned up everything so thoroughly that, when officers searched the house soon after the crime, they could find no trace of the slaying.
“I was sitting on the couch, where I had a rod of iron hidden in a quilt, in case of a struggle,” she said.
Bassett was forced to write a telegram to his sister in Bremerton, Wash., and then was slugged on the head with the hammer after Mrs. Smith left the room. “I heard his body fall and went hack into the room. He was gurgling. I stepped out again and Earl gave him one more blow and it was all over . . . he never allowed his victims to suffer.”
Then, Mrs. Smith said, Bassett’s body was removed to the bathtub, where Mayer dismembered it with a meat saw and a butcher knife.
“The poor boy worked so hard,” she said. “To keep up his strength I made him an eggnog.”
The dismembered body was put into a galvanized iron tub and hidden for the night in Mayer’s bedroom. “That was one night,” Mrs. Smith joked in a letter, “if Dr. Clark (owner of the home) had called I would have had to admit there were indiscretions going on in the bedroom.”
She said all the body except the head and hands were put into four sacks and hidden separately under bushes in the woods north of Seattle.
The head and hands, she said, were thrown into a woodchuck hole in a different locality.
She displayed pride in outwitting law enforcement officers, whom she termed “smart alecs.”
“They made perfect fools of. themselves,” she wrote. “No wonder Earl and I get back in the old county jail in Seattle and laughed.”
Confronted in his cell yesterday with one of his mother’s letters, Mayer showed no emotion. He said coldly. “She’s goofy.”
In Seattle, Attorney Ewnig D. Colvin, who was prosecutor when Mayer won a retrial in 1929 in the Bassett case, said both Mayer and his mother made substantially the same confessions when (submitted to the “lie detector” and “truth serum” tests. He said the confession could not be used because the court, after hearing Mayer charged he was subject to “third degree” by the tests, banned use of the devices. Bassett was a World War aviator with rank of lieutenant.
After, the war he was business manager and tennis coach at the Tome Institute, a boys’ school at Port Deposit, Md. He took a civil service examination and was en route to Manila to take a secretarial job when he vanished.
Bassett’s disappearance was blamed for the death of his father, Frank, in 1932. Mrs. Elizabeth Tigner of Detroit, a cousin of young Bassett, said last night, “if ever a father died of a broken heart, James’ father did.”
~ Reward Offered ~
Annapolis, Md., May 4 – A $1,500 reward offered by Frank P. Bassett for news of, his son. James Eugene Bassett who disappeared on the west coast nearly ten years ago, failed to bring any news to the man’s waiting family.
The son, a business man, left here in 1928 to become secretary to the commandant of. the Cavite Navy Yard in Manila. En route, he stopped at Bremerton to visit his sister and brother-in-law. Commander and Mrs. Theodore H. Winters. He left their home to sell his expensive car and never returned.
Frank Bassett. secretary of the Chamber of: Commerce, went to the west coast with his wife to prosecute the search for his son.
It was fruitless in spite of the reward he offered from his frugal resources. Three times more he visited the coast to trace down recurring rumors that his son’s body had been found. Finally, broken-hearted and worn with waiting, he died in 1932.
The family were not natives of Indianapolis. Mrs. Bassett found nothing to hold her here and she left the city shortly afterward.
[“Mother Names Son In Four Murders – Shocking Tale of Slaying of Bassett Told - Confesses Other To Officer Posing As A Clergyman - Both In Prison - Admits Writing Confession To ‘Get Right With Her Maker.’” Syndicated (AP), Daily Mail (Hagerstown, Md.), May 5, 1938, p. 1]
FULL TEXT: When skeletons are unidentifiable there’s apt to be differences of opinion.
That’s apparently the case in the matter of the skeleton of a female last Wednesday beneath the floor of the 42-year-old, downtown Seattle building.
A sketch of what the woman might have looked like was received in Butte Monday. It was drawn by a Seattle artist, Mike Falk, working from a photo of the skull and under direction of Dr. Gale Wilson, King County pathologist.
Coroner Leo M. Sowers of King County sent the sketch to Police Chief James A Clark and a copy was received by the Montana Standard in the hope that identification might be made.
The King County authorities feel that the skeleton might be the remains of Mrs. Ernest (Dorothy) LaCasse, Butte, who disappeared mysteriously in 1921.
However, another theory in Seattle, according to an authoritative source, is that it may belong to a Miss Judith Koljone of Minneapolis. She reportedly arrived in Seattle about the same lime (1921) to be married, but never met her fiance. Her suitcase later was found al a Seattle hotel, but at that time clerks said the suitcase had been left by another woman as security for a hotel bill.
A woman living in Seattle has said the sketch received here Monday “basically resembles” Dorothy LaCasse. The woman refused to let her name be released, but said she lived in Butte in 1917.
Another story out of Seattle is to the effect that Hollis Fultz, Thurston County coroner in Olympis, says he has copies of letters that Mrs. Mary Eleanor Smith wrote to her son, DeCastro Mayer, while he was in the Washington State prison in Walla Walla. The letters were intercepted and used to build the James Eugene Bassett murder case against Mrs. Smith and Mayer.
In the letters, Mrs. Smith reportedly wrote about four murders including Bassett, Dorothy LaCasse, Ole Larson and an Idaho man.
Fultz quoted the woman as saying, “we threw away her pieces. They will never be found. It was the same with Larson and he was thrown in the same places.
That would bring the case of the missing woman and of Ole Larson back to Anaconda.
DeCastro Mayer, alias C. D. Montaine, alias C. C. Skidmore, was the son of Mrs. Smith, also known as “Shoebox Annie” French, who got her name in prohibition years through the fact that she carried her bootleg produce in that kind of a package.
Mayer went to the Whittier Reform School in California in 1912. He was convicted in 1917 of stealing an automobile in Bozeman and sentenced to from four and a halt to nine years in Montana State Prison. He was paroled in August, 1920.
Courtney Ryley Cooper in his book, “10,000 Public Enemies,” reviewed the Skidmore case and that of his mother. Hollis County Coroner Fultz helped Cooper on the Mayer portion of his book. Cooper wrote that Larson disappeared shortly after he and Mayer sold some oil stocks and Mayer invited Larson to his mother’s house on East Commercial St. in Anaconda for a home-cooked meal.
~ Not Seen Again ~
Larson was never seen again. There was no corpus delecti.
Cooper also wrote that Mayer induced a woman, (believed to be Mrs. LaCasse), to come to Anaconda and visit Shoebox Annie.
“Again,” Cooper wrote, “the door on East Commercial opened and closed. Again a human being disappeared.”
At the time Anaconda and Butte police worked on the theory that both Larson, and the woman, who had been living in Seattle, had been slain, their bodies chopped up and the flesh destroyed by acid, while the bones had been burned or buried. They could not prove it.
If Cooper’s theory, and theory of officers of the era were right, the LaCasse woman came from Seattle to Anaconda and was not seen again in Seattle or anywhere else.
It was in the fall of 1928 that James, Eugene Bassett, Maryland Naval officer, arrived in Seattle in a blue Chrysler roadster. He was en route to Manila and wished to sell his car. According to records of the time, Mayer, under the name of De Castro Earl Mayer, met Bassett and offered to buy the car if the officer would drive it to the home of Mayer’s “aunt” a short distance out of Seattle. That was the last seen of Bassett.
~ Both Arrested ~
A week later in Oakland, Mayer and his mother were arrested.
They had Bassett’s car, his wrist-watch, his cuff links and a pocket-book. Again, however, there was no corpus delecti. The mother and son were removed to Seattle, where they were tried for car theft. Skidmore, or Mayer, was sent to prison for life on a habitual criminal charge. His mother said in 1933 that Skidmore had killed Bassett. Skidmore strangled himself in his prison cell in December of that year.
At Pocatello in 1920, Skidmore and his mother were taken into custody for quizzing in Idaho and Utah car thefts. Skidmore bolted as four detectives were taking him in. He was shot down and captured.
In a Pocatello hospital he was told officers had found the bones of “that woman you murdered.”
According to Tom Roan of the Pocatello force, he reportedly said at that time, “Jerry, (Jerry Murphy. Butte police chief), “can’t get my neck. They can’t find the body – or all of it.”
So? Whose was the skeleton found in Seattle?
[Frank Quinn, “Sketch of Woman Arrives Here In Probe of Seattle Mystery,” The Montana Standard (Butte, Mt.), Dec. 13, 1960, p. 1]