Articles taken from the Andover Newspaper - Submitted by William A. Greene - Not all of the articles were printed in their entirety.
W. ROY WAGNER KILLS TWO
Double Murder Most Terrible Crime Ever Committed In Allegany County. All County
Officials, State Constabulary and Many Citizens Search for Criminal, so far With
No Success----$2,250.00 Reward Offered.
Probably the most sordid crime ever committed in Allegany County was that pulled of by one Wilmot Roy Wagner, near Caneadea on September 8th, 1927 at about noon, when he sot down in cold blood two New York State Troopers, Arnold Rasmussen of Jamestown and Robert Roy Steinbock of Dobbs Ferry, N.Y., both working out of the Batavia barracks.
The troopers went to the home of Wagner’s father, a little over a mile from the village of Caneadea to serve a warrant to the slayer, charging him with the trivial offense of petite larceny. Arriving, Trooper Roy entered the home, found the family at dinner and after serving his paper, sat down in the dining room while his prisoner might finish his meal. Rasmussen did not enter the building but was standing nonchalantly nearby, awaiting the return of his partner.
The meal finished, young Wagner asked permission to go to his room for a change of clothing and according to affidavits, Roy replied, “Make it snappy, I’ve waited a half hour for you now.” Ascending the stairs it would seem that the fellow snatched a shotgun and pointing it thru a nearby window fired point blank at Rasmussen, standing a few feet away talking to the man’s sister. The charge apparently struck the trooper in the side of the head and he fell dead at the woman’s feet. Her affidavit states that she stood sufficiently close to the trooper as to be blinded by the flash and smoke of the gun in her brother’s hands.
In the meantime, Trooper Roy, hearing the report bounded up the stairway after his prisoner and it is supposed that the now crazed man merely leaned over the railing and placing the muzzle of the same gun, reloaded with another shell, against the man’s head, pulled the trigger, killing him instantly.
Members of the family state that their son and brother displayed little nervousness after his double crime and reloading the gun for the second time, placed it over his arm bid them all goodbye and quietly slipped from their sight.
During the early morning hours the fugitive is credited with stealing a Ford commercial car from the streets of Belfast and heading south stopped at his uncle Daniel Wagner, a tenant, on the Young farm near Belvidere and after leaving the weapon with which he had earlier killed the two troopers, on a veranda he is supposed to have continued on his way into Pennsylvania where he has many relatives living.
Wagner, despite his 23 years, had had an eventful career, having been twice married and has mixed it with the law on numerous occasions. He will be remembered as being arrested in Almond a year ago, following his return from a ride where he had taken a seven-year-old girl. The child was unharmed. An armed posse met Wagner and for a few minutes it appeared as though they would take matters into their own hands. Wagner was acquitted. Thru his attorney he then brought action against Sheriff Fuller for 56 ---- damages which action was later dismissed.
Trooper Steinbock was only 24 at the time of his death. He had enlisted in the Canadian Army at the age of 14 and was one of the youngest WW I veterans. He was decorated twice for bravery under fire. He also served in the U.S. Army and the Royal Northwest Mounted Police.
Trooper Rasmussen had just joined the Troopers in July. He had served two years in the U.S. Navy during WW I. His widow, Margaret and a small child survived him.
On September 13th, acting on a clue gained thru a message from Harrisburg, Pa., which stated that the state constabulary of Pennsylvania had in custody a suspect which they believed to be Wilmot Roy Wagner, fugitive murderer, Sheriff Edson A. Brigham dispatched Deputies Sheriff D. W. Witter of Wellsville and Harry Kemp of Andover to that city that night to identify the prisoner.
The deputies reached the Pennsylvania city at about 2 o’clock, only to find that the man was not Wagner, as a telegram received by the sheriff from Deputy Witter stated.
Probably there are no two officers in the county better acquainted with the fugitive that Deputies Witter and Kemp, who have had numerous legal dealing with him for petty crimes for a period of several years and who since the murder, have been on the job night and day searching various localities wherever the faintest clue developed.
Sheriff Brigham stated that while the hundreds of false, and sometimes fanatical clues received at his department would tend to create consternation, he and the head of the State Police department were working in perfect co-operation along lines, the nature of which are not being made public, and believes that Wagner will be captured, even if starvation or the rigor of coming winter drives him form the scene of his hiding place, which he also believes is not far form the scene of the murder.
September 30th, 1927
WAGNER WAS CAUGHT NEAR CANTON, PA.
After Three Weeks Search, Alleged Murderer of Two State Troopers
Was Captured Monday by State Troopers.
He Made No Resistance To Arrest.
Wilmot LeRoy Wagner, the alleged murderer of two state troopers, Arnold Rasmussen and Robert Roy, was captured near Blossburg, Pa., Monday evening at about 5 o’clock. He was cutting brush for a farmer by the name of John Allen.
The arrest was made by Corporal Herbert Soughworth and Trooper Jacob Topoloski of Troop A. The search for Wagner has been relentless since September 8th, nineteen days ago. He was found unarmed and made no resistance when handcuffed.
Troopers Southworth and Topoloski, who have been stationed at Tioga, Pa., for some time, received a tip four days ago that a man believed to be Wagner was working on a farm between Blossburg and Canton. Quietly the troopers followed the clue until they ran down their man cutting brush in the woods. His appearance closely tallied with the description of the murderer and the troopers lost no time in placing him under arrest. Wagner first denied that he was the man wanted and gave his name as John Hart, claiming no knowledge of the murder of the troopers. He was at once packed into the sidecar of the motorcycle and the two troopers took him to the home of Mrs. Mabel Hughes, a sister of Wagner, living at Tioga, Pa. Mrs. Hughes is said to have declared the man was not Wagner, but after considerable questioning by the troopers she admitted his identity and the man then confessed that he was the one for whom they were searching.
Word was at once phoned to other state troopers out on the search and to Sheriff Brigham at Belmont and state troopers’ headquarters at Batavia, N.Y., and without waiting for any formality in taking a prisoner from one state into another, the happy troopers started immediately for Belmont, coming up thru Woodhull and Jasper, arriving at the county jail at Belmont at 10:30, where an excited crowd had congregated and where numerous deputies and state troopers with Sheriff Brigham were awaiting the arrival of the notorious prisoner.
Wagner was wearing overalls and a light shirt, had a coat and cap and another pair of overalls under the overalls. When first apprehended the prisoner had been hurriedly searched and no fire arms found on him, but when he was brought into the county jail the troopers too particular pains to search him thourely and in his trousers pocket was found his car license and operator’s license, which he had neglected to throw away and which at once added to the positive identity of the prisoner.
Wagner was found by Mr. Allen on September 13th, five days after the double murder, while Allen was blackberrying in the woods near his home. The man was walking slowly at the time. Greetings were exchanged and the result of a chat was the employment being arranged.
Southworth crawled along thru the open field on the ground, his approach to the wanted man hidden by knolls. Trooper Topoloski took a circuitous route in behind Wagner, from the woods, to cut off escape.
Suddenly Corporal Solughworth, with drawn pistol, arose, covered Wagner and advised him not to move. Wagner had in his hands a double-bitted axe, which he had no time to use, because almost simultaneously when covered by the gun in the hands of Soughworth, Topoloski, unheard, pinioned Wagner’s arms and snapped handcuffs on them.
Wagner was taken thru Andover about 10 o’clock, handcuffed with Southworth and Trooper Topoloski driving a motorcycle.
To Be Tried on October 3rd.
District Attorney Renwick was at Belmont this morning and for an hour he and Sheriff Brigham were closeted in the cell with Wagner, but they had no information to give out to the public, and it is not known whether or not Wagner has made a formal confession. That there will be a speedy trial is a forgone conclusion. Supreme court was in session at the time the double murder was committed on Thursday September 8th. One week later a special grand jury was impaneled and Wagner was indicted for the murder of both troopers. At the end of the court, in the place of Justice Lytle, who had opened the term, adjourned supreme court until Monday October 3rd, in the hopes that in the meantime Wagner would be run to earth.
The legal machinery is all set and ready to go, and when Supreme Court convenes again at Belmont on Monday, October 3rd, Wagner will be brought to trial and is should not take many days to finish the case and have him sentenced.
November 25th. 1927
WAGNER’S SIDE TO THE STORY
Denies Shooting Trooper Rasumssen and Shooting of
Roy Was an Accident; Attacks Evidence.
Taking the stand in his own defense at his trail on a murder charge, Wilmot Leroy Wagner today swore that he had not killed State Trooper Arnold T. Rasmussen on September 8th and that he accidentally shot Trooper Robert Roy after the latter had fired at him.
The witness denied much of the testimony by prosecution witnesses. He swore that he had taken an automobile to flee to Pennsylvania because he heard a trooper say he would be killed if he were arrested; that he was beaten, kicked and abused by troopers and Allegany County officials and that he had never confessed the crime except to stat to one prosecution witness that he had shot Roy accidentally.
The defendant swore he never had seen Rasmussen for whose murder he is under indictment, and that he had no knowledge that a first person had been killed prior to the shooting of Roy. He also swore that he was unaware that the man he shot in the stairway was a state trooper. He explained his concealment of his identity by stating that he feared for his life.
Tells of Visit
Wagner said that he was eating dinner in the farmhouse when a trooper entered. The trooper told Wilmot that he wanted him on a warrant, but refused to state what the warrant was for. He said that he asked permission to go upstairs and change his clothes and that this permission was granted.
Having changed clothing he swore he started to go down stairs when he heard shooting and screaming outside; the he returned to his room and picked up his shotgun and then went to the head of the stairs. A bullet whizzed by his head. He backed up, he swore, bumped into the door and the gun went off.
A second time he ran to the room, the witness testified, and picked up some shotgun shells, but did not reload his weapon. A short time later he went downstairs, passing the body of the trooper. He went out the front door and to a pasture where he hid until dark.
Wilmot identified a singled barreled shotgun as his. He admitted having placed it on the porch of the home of his uncle, Daniel Wagner, ten miles away from the Wagner home the night of the killing of the troopers.
He said he did not know if the man in the stairway was dead when he left his home.
“At any time did you know there were two troopers at your home?”
“No,” he said.”
Continuing his story, the witness testified:
“While I was in the pasture I saw several troopers and men coming to the house. Two troopers passed near where I was. I heard one say, “I don’t see how he could shoot both of those fellows.” The other one said, “Well, we won’t take a chance with the son ------. We’ll kill him anyhow.”
“Up to the time that you heard that conversation did you know that two persons had been killed?”
“Then what did you do?”
“I Was Scared”
“It was getting dark. I was going back to the house but I saw all the people and I was scared, and decided to go to Uncle Dan’s.”
Wilmot then told of leaving the gun at his uncle’s, of throwing the shells away. He finally came to a garage, he said.
I was scared so I goes in and takes the car to get away for a while. I didn’t intend to keep it. I didn’t know whose car it was,” testified Wagner.
The defendant then related that he put the car in the woods in Pennsylvania. He denied that he had damaged the car or cut one number off the license plates. State troopers had sworn that this damage had been done before they found the machine.
After abandoning the machine, Wagner said he went to work on the farm where he was arrested.
January 20th 1928
APPEAL BY ROGERS STAYS EXECUTION
Fate of LeRoy Wagner, Allegany County’s Slayer
May Not be Known In Two Months.
Although Wilmot LeRoy Wagner, convicted of murdering State Trooper Robert Roy and indicted for the killing at the same time of Trooper Arnold T. Rasmussen, was sentenced to die in the electric chair this week, District Attorney Walter N. Renwick who prosecuted him, said he expected it would be two months before the fate of the condemned man was decided.
An appeal filed by Thomas F. Rogers, defense counsel, automatically stayed execution, and the district attorney reports that he has been unable to reach the defense attorney to communicate with him regarding the argument of appeal.
Renwick said he believed Rogers had not filed a motion for a court order to have Trooper Rasmumssen’s body exhumed, as the defense attorney previously announced he would do. The district attorney said he had received no notification, at any rate, that such a motion had been made. After the trial Rogers said he expected an exhumation would give evidence sufficient to warrant a new trial. The Corning lawyer said he believed the position of the wounds in Rasmussen’s body would go far toward establishing the defense’s theory of the shooting as the truth.
Wagner has been in the death house at Ossining since a few days after he was convicted at a special term of Supreme Court. If his appeal is denied, a new date for his execution will be fixed by the court.
June 1st, 1928
WAGNER TO PAY PENALTY, JUNE 21ST, 1928
The execution of Wilmot LeRoy Wagner has been set for Thursday, June 21st. The Court of Appeals refused him a new trial, which was the last resort of his attorney, Thomas Rogers of Corning.
There are no further articles in the Andover News about the fate of Wagner. So I have to believe that he took a ride on the “Hot Seat Express” to meet his maker.
(Note: from records of the Town of Caneadea Historian's Office -- Wilmont LeRoy Wagner was put to death in the electric chair in Sing Sing Prison on June 21, 1928