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Cracking Ashtabula's Triangle Horror

Startling Detective Adventures

Cracking Ashtabula's Triangle Horror

Sep 1931


September, 1931, Release

Adapted by JOHN H. DILSON, from


By arrangement with Startling Detective Adventures Magazine

529 South Seventh St., Minneapolis, Minn.


In order of their appearance. (Requires four male and one female principals. Rest can be doubled or read by studio assistants.)

CAPTAIN BIXLER ... (Principal) Captain of police

Played absolutely straight.


SHEPARD ... Policemen. (Brief appearances)

ATTENDANT ... Runs a gas station. (Brief appearance)

Played excitedly and almost hysterically.

TILBY SMITH ... (Principal) The husband of the murdered woman

Played at first in sort of a daze, then played matter-of-factly until accused of crime, then very nervously.

SHERIFF SHELDON ... (Principal)

Played straight until he starts shooting questions.

NAZOR ... (Principal) The prosecutor

Played rather quietly until shooting questions, then very forcefully.

WOMAN ... Middle-aged

Always ready to talk. Can make her a character.

MAN ... Middle-aged

Employer of Julia. Played very pleasantly.

JULIA ... (Principal) Half Indian, age about 30

Played stoically until her lover accuses her of the crime, then she is a mad woman--just rages.


1. Signature

Open mike on strong martial music. Diminuendo for background of announcement.


Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. Tonight we bring you another startling detective adventure. This program is presented each week at this time by (Sponsor of Program) in co-operation with the publishers of Startling Detective Adventures Magazine. Tonight we tell the story of a crime committed on the outskirts of Ashtabula, Ohio. True facts of the case are taken from police records.

It is the night of May 29, 1930. A captain of police is sitting at his desk in police headquarters, when suddenly-----

(Cue: Telephone bell rings)

Capt. Bixler: Police headquarters. Captain Bixler speaking. (Pause) What's that? A woman---murdered by highwaymen? Where you phoning from? (Pause) An oil station at the intersection of--where? (Pause) South Ridge and Saybrook Center. All right. Are you the attendant there? (Pause) Well, stay there. We'll be right out.

(Cue: Click of phone as receiver bangs up)

Captain Bixler: (Calls out) Shepard! Brudapest!

Shepard and Brudapest: Yes, sir!

Capt. Bixler: Listen, boys; there's been a murder on Center road. Jump in your car and go out there as fast as you can. Get the dope at the oil station at South Ridge and Saybrook Center. I'll get the sheriff and be right out.

Shepard and Brudapest: O.K. Yes, sir.

Captain Bixler: Look out for slippery pavements. It's been pretty wet.

(Music break or three blows on Chinese gong)

(Cue: Auto effect and police siren approaching)

Shepard: Here's the oil station. Come on. Well, what's the trouble, and where?

Attendant: (Hysterically) My brother's wife has just been shot and killed by bandits.

Shepard: What's her name?

Attendant: Mrs. Tilby Smith. They had just left here headed south on Center road for the Pierce place when two men stuck them up about half a mile down the road. They shot Tilby's wife and got away in an automobile.

Shepard: Where's your brother, now?

Attendant: Over there, lying on the ground.

Shepard: Was he hit, too?

Attendant: No, but he's in a daze. The shock's been too much for him.

Brudapest: (At a little distance) Come on, Smith. Get up. Take us to the spot where this thing happened.

Smith: They got her. Oh! She's dead! (Moans)

Shepard: Just get in the car. All right, Brudapest.

(Cue: Auto effect and short notes of siren. Run five seconds and stop. General ad lib from people at scene of crime)

Shepard: Come on you people. Get back! Give us a chance! How is she, Harry?

Brudapest: She's gone, all right.

Shepard: What happened, Smith?

Smith: Well, we were just driving along when all of a sudden two men jumped out of the bushes there and held us up. When I told them we didn't have any money, they shot my wife. She had the baby in her arms. Then they ran up the road and got in a sedan and disappeared. I lifted my wife out of the cab of the truck and laid her on the ground. When I found out she was dead, I grabbed the children, and ran back to my brother's oil station and he telephoned for the police.

Brudapest: You'll have to go to headquarters and sign a statement. Shepard, you stay here. I'll phone the coroner. Bixler and the sheriff will be along in a minute.

(Cue: Auto effect going away)

(Music break or sound of three taps on gong)

(Cue: Auto effect and police siren approaching--it stops)

Shepard: Hello, Sheriff. Over here, Captain.

Sheriff: Hello, Shepard. Hello, Captain. Come on, folks, open up there! Let me have your flashlight, Shepard. Certainly an old ramshackle of a truck. Where's the body?

Capt. Bixler: Over here, Sheriff.

Sheriff: Whoever did this was a marksman. She must have died instantly. Shepard, will you see that the body remains untouched till the coroner arrives? Now, we'll look over the truck.

Capt. Bixler: (Pause) I guess, Sheriff, there isn't any doubt she was shot here in the truck. She must have collapsed and fallen to the floor.

Sheriff: It's going to be hard to find any clues with this crowd milling around.

Capt. Bixler: I don't think we'll be able to find any footprints because of the rain. Probably washed them away.

Sheriff: Kelsey. Go up the road and see if you can find any trace of the gunmen. What's become of Smith?

Shepard: He's gone to headquarters to sign a statement.

Sheriff: I'd like to have a talk with him. Come on, Captain.

Captain Bixler: We can catch him at headquarters.

(Cue: Auto effect and siren going away)

(Music break or three taps of gong)

(Cue: Clock strikes ten. Door closes)

Captain Bixler: Now, Smith. I want you to tell the prosecutor here, Mr. Nazor--and the sheriff--just what happened tonight.

Smith: (Shakily) My wife and I left home about dusk. We were going to spend the holiday with friends on Center Road. We stopped at the gas station and talked to my brother for about fifteen minutes. Then we left and drove south on Center road. About half a mile from Ridge, just as I passed the culvert, two men stepped out of the shadows on the west side of the road. One of the men stayed in front of the truck and the other came around to me and ordered me to stick 'em up. I did. "All we want is your money," he said. My wife told him we didn't have any, not even enough to buy a loaf of bread this morning. Then he said: "Give me your watch." I told him I didn't have one. Then I reached down to get the crank on the floor of the cab. As I did so, he fired one shot. The bullet whistled past my head and struck my wife in the temple. Then they turned and ran to their sedan which was parked in a lane. I was stunned for a moment but I finally opened the door of the cab and lifted my wife to the ground. I saw she was dead and I grabbed the kids and ran back to the oil station.

Captain Bixler: And then you collapsed. What happened that caused you to do that?

Smith: I was scared. And then I was running with the two children in my arms. I ran all the way.

Captain Bixler: You waited till the sedan was out of sight?

Smith: Yes. I was kind of dazed.

Captain Bixler: Ever see the men before?

Smith: No, sir.

Captain Bixler: Can you tell us what they looked like?

Smith: Not very clearly. I was too excited. They were both young, I think, and they wore masks. One was tall.

Nazor: I don't believe we'll get anywhere this way, captain. His description wouldn't be worth much the shape he's in.

Captain Bixler: All right, Smith. You can go now.

Nazor: You've got your men out there on the job tonight, Captain?

Captain Bixler: Yes. Sure.

Nazor: Surrounding towns notified, Sheriff?

Sheriff: That's being taken care of now.

Nazor: All right. Let's be on the job first thing in the morning. Everybody in seven counties will be howling if those birds get away with this. Men, we've got to crack this case and crack it quick!

(Music break or three taps of Chinese gong)

(Cue: Car door slamming)

Sheriff: Here's where the truck stood, Mr. Nazor. Smith said the two men jumped from behind those bushes there!

Nazor: Let's look around those bushes for footprints. We should find some evidence there if the rain hasn't washed it away.

Sheriff: I don't see a trace of anything. It looks as if the grass and bushes hadn't been disturbed for quite a while.

Nazor: Smith said it was this side of the road the men came from?

Sheriff: That's what he said. But there are no signs here.

Nazor: Well, let's look on the other side. I'll stay inside the fence, you look on the outside of it. We'll walk back toward the culvert.

(After pause--some sounds of movement through brush)

Sheriff: (Calls) Mr. Nazor!

Nazor: Yes?

Sheriff: Come here, will you?

Nazor: (Coming in) Find anything?

Sheriff: It looks to me as though someone had stood around here for some little time. Perhaps last night. Here's a lot of broken twigs as though they had crouched under the bushes to escape the rain.

Nazor: Sheriff, I believe you're right, but I don't see a footprint. We'll walk through this meadow to the Munson Hill road and see if we can find anything that will help us.

Sheriff: Funny, there isn't one mark showing the person or persons going to that spot or going away.

Nazor: I'm beginning to think we are wasting our time out here.

Sheriff: Hello! What's this? A woman's rubber! Here's the other one. Now, what would a woman be doing out here?

Nazor: I don't know. They look as though they have just recently been discarded.

Sheriff: Yes. Look here, Mr. Nazor. The imprint of a woman's heel. Here's another one. Going in the direction of Munson Hill road. Come on, let's follow this up.

Nazor: (Pause) Well, that shows a woman has been in this gully

recently. Probably last night.

Sheriff: (Pause) But what of it? What's that got to do with a murder by two men? Maybe we're wasting our time after all.

Nazor: It's the best lead we have and we might as well follow it to the end.

Sheriff: Well, here we are at the road. Now which way, I wonder.

Nazor: Let's drop in at this house and see if anyone there owns these rubbers.

(Cue: Footsteps on walk. Ring door bell)

Nazor: Good morning, Madam. My name is Nazor and this is Sheriff Sheldon. We found these rubbers over in the meadow and we'd like to know if they belong to anyone in this house.

Woman: No, they're not ours.

Nazor: Did you see anyone last night in the ravine?

Woman: No, I didn't, and I have good view from here. But I'll tell you what I did see. Last night, between six and seven, I saw a car parked down near the ravine on the west side of the road. I didn't see anyone get in or get out of it. Finally, I noticed it was gone. Of course, I don't think it had anything to do with the murder over on Center road because they tell me that happened after 8:30 and this car left here two hours before that. I'm positive it was gone before seven.

Sheriff: That's all you noticed, eh?

Woman: Yes sir.

Nazor: Have you a telephone?

Woman: Yes sir.

Nazor: May I use it?

Woman: Certainly. It's right here.

Nazor: Get me Police Headquarters, please! Hello! Captain Bixler please. (Pause) Hello, Captain? This is Nazor. Get Smith right away, will you? The Sheriff and I want to talk to him again. Yes, we're leaving now. Good-bye.

(Cue: Click of receiver being hung up)

Nazor: Thank you very much, madam.

Woman: You're entirely welcome.

(Cue: Door slam)

Nazor: Sheriff, I've got a hunch.

Sheriff: You think Smith knows who owns the rubbers?

Nazor: I don't know. But I'm going to take a long shot in the dark.

(Music break or three taps on gong)

Captain Bixler: Well, boys, we've got Smith here.

Nazor: Good! Where is he, Captain?

Captain Bixler: Right in my office there.

(Cue: Footsteps and door click)

Sheriff: Hello, Smith!

Smith: How are you, Sheriff? Hello Mr. Nazor!

Nazor: How are you, Smith? How do you feel?

Smith: Pretty good under the circumstances.

Nazor: Smith, tell me. You're sure it was two men who held you up?

Smith: Of course, I'm sure.

Sheriff: You're sure one of the robbers wasn't a--woman?

Smith: Are you trying to kid me? I don't know what you're talking about.

Sheriff: (Snaps) Did you ever see these rubbers before?

Smith: I suppose you'll be saying next that they're mine. Want me to try them on?

Sheriff: You told us the robbers parked their car in the lane. There wasn't a track in that lane.

Nazor: You might as well come clean, Smith. Who was the woman?

Smith: (Now acting guiltily) Why--er--I don't know what you're driving at.

Sheriff: I know you're lying, Smith.

Smith: (Breathlessly) I ain't, Sheriff. Honest.

Sheriff: Come on. Let's have the truth!

Smith: (Pause) If I told you the truth, you wouldn't believe me.

Nazor: We'll believe you if you tell the truth, but you'll have to tell a better story than the one you have been telling.

Captain Bixler: Was it the woman I saw you with in the park the other day?

Smith: (Almost screams) No! No!

Captain Bixler: It was! Sheriff, we've hit the nail on the head!

Smith: You're wrong, I tell you, you're wrong!

Sheriff: Come on, Smith. Why carry this any further? Why don't you come clean?

Smith: Sheriff, I'll tell you the truth, but only on condition that the others leave the room.

Sheriff: All right, Smith. You wait outside, men.

(Cue: Door slam)

Sheriff: All right, now. Let's have it!

Smith: Sheriff, I've been lying to you. Now, I want to tell you exactly what happened last night. This woman you mentioned here is the person who killed my wife.

Sheriff: What?

Smith: It's true, Sheriff. I don't know her name, but I think it's Marie. I can't tell you where she lives now but she used to live on Amsden Avenue. She has been married and is part Indian. It was about ten days ago that I met her in a theatre. I saw her after the show and met her several times after that. We sat in the park or in my truck and talked. She fell desperately in love with me. She was jealous of my wife and hated her. She boasted of her Indian blood and threatened me. She said, "You're going to get rid of your wife or I'll get rid of you, because if I can't have you no woman will."

Sheriff: Do you know where she got the gun?

Smith: I think it was mine. She stole it from me.

Sheriff: How could she do that?

Smith: It was an old gun I bought from a dentist for two dollars. I told him I needed it for protection. I happened to mention to the Indian girl that I bought a gun. Right away she wanted to see it. I told her it was too much trouble to get it from under the seat of the cab. Well, I had to go in to the City Hall on business, and while I was gone she must have taken it, for the next day it was gone. A day or two later she met me and wanted to make a date with me for Thursday night. I told her I couldn't, that I was taking my wife to the country. She wanted to know when, where, and so forth. I was dumb enough to tell her. By this time, I was sorry I had ever met her, but she kept telling me of her Indian blood and Indian vengeance, and, Sheriff, she had me scared.

Sheriff: Go ahead!

Smith: Well, my wife and I started out. After we left my brother's oil station, about a half a mile down the road, the woman dashed out of the bushes on the east side of the road. She had a gun in her hand. She pointed it right at me. I stopped. She ordered me out of the truck and around to the rear. I heard a single shot. I don't know what she did after that because I was too excited. Finally, I lifted my wife out of the truck and then I ran back to the gas station with the children.

Sheriff: Why didn't you tell us this in the first place?

Smith: I don't know why I didn't. I was afraid if I mentioned her she'd kill me. So I made up the story about the robbers.

Sheriff: Are you sure you didn't have a hand in this?

Smith: Absolutely not!

Sheriff: Ever have any trouble with your wife?

Smith: No sir! My wife was a good woman and I loved her, but this woman came into my life and this (brokenly) this is what happens!

Sheriff: (Going to door and opening it) Come in, Mr. Nazor--Captain! Well, Smith has told me the whole story. The woman you saw him with, Captain, is the woman who committed the murder!

Capt. Bixler: And I think we know where she is. I've been talking to Lieutenant Snow and he says she is employed as a nurse maid over on Vine St.

Sheriff: Good! Come on, Mr. Nazor. We'll take the Lieutenant along.

(Music break or three sounds on gong.)

(Cue: Then auto effect with siren. Run jive seconds--stop. Then knock on door)

Nazor: How do you do, sir! I'm Mr. Nazor, the Prosecuting Attorney. This is Sheriff Sheldon and Lieutenant Snow.

Man: Yes sir. What seems to be the trouble?

Nazor: You have an Indian girl working for you, haven't you?

Man: I have.

Nazor: We'd like to question her about a little shooting affair. What's her name?

Man: Julia Lowther.

Nazor: Do you know where she was last evening?

Man: She left late in the afternoon and I heard her return about 10:30. I didn't see her but I heard her come in and later heard her in her room.

Nazor: Where is she now?

Man: In her room. The second door on the right.

Nazor: Come on, Sheriff!

(Cue: Steps on stairs. Knock on door)

Julia: (Calls) Who is there?

Nazor: Open the door!

(Cue: Door clicks open)

Julia: (Stolidly) Who are you?

Nazor: Julia, where were you last night? (Pause) Won't answer, eh? Well, you'd better come along with us to headquarters.

(Music break or three taps of gong)

(Cue: Auto effect with siren--run three seconds)

Nazor: We got her, Captain. They're bringing her in. Where is Smith?

Captain Bixler: Still in the office.

Nazor: Good! I'm bringing them face to face. Take her in to the office, Sheriff. Come on, Captain.

(Cue: Open door--then door slams)

Nazor: Smith, is this the woman?

Smith: (Almost a whisper) Yes.

Nazor: Julia, do you know this man?

Julia: (Calmly) No.

Nazor: Haven't you ever seen him before?

Julia: (Carelessly) Oh, I might have. But I don't remember him.

Nazor: This man accuses you of killing his wife last night.

Julia: (Unruffled) Killing his wife? I don't even know him, let alone his wife.

Nazor: Captain, take Smith out of here! And get his new statement.

Capt. Bixler: Yes sir.

(Cue: Door slam)

Nazor: You talk to her, Sheriff.

Sheriff: Julia, Tilby Smith accuses you of murdering his wife and threatening to kill him. That's serious even if it isn't true. Maybe he's trying to save his own hide by blaming you. If you have an alibi you had better get busy and start talking. Where were you last night?

Julia: I went to a picture show at Ashtabula Harbor.

Nazor: What picture did you see?

Julia: Song of the West.

Nazor: What was the comedy?

Julia: (Sneeringly) I don't know why I should have to tell you what I see at picture shows.

Sheriff: Mr. Nazor, come here a minute, will you please? (Almost in a whisper) I'm going to bring Smith in here and have them take that statement before her. If it has the effect I expect--she'll burn up.

Nazor: Go ahead!

Sheriff: (Calling out) Bring Smith in here again! Send the stenographer in too. (Pause) Officer, close the door.

(Cue: Door slam)

Sheriff: I want to get this statement myself. Are you ready there, Larry? (Pause) Smith, you said Julia here was the woman who murdered your wife, didn't you?

Smith: Yes sir.

Sheriff: You said she stole the gun from your truck.

Smith: That's right.

Sheriff: You said you loved your wife and you were sorry you ever got mixed up with Julia, didn't you?

Smith: Yes sir.

Sheriff: You've told us she is a cruel, calculating KILLER!

(Cue: At this remark Julia gives a shriek, makes an effort to get a pistol. A little commotion)

Sheriff: Stop her! She's after that gun!

Julia: (Snarling) Give me that gun! Give me that gun and leave this room and you'll have another murder case. You dirty, double dealing squaw! You rat! You talked. If you hadn't talked I never would have. You told me you'd never bring me into this. You men are all alike. You can't keep your mouth shut. Now, you are trying to hide behind my skirts to save yourself. I'll tell you men what happened, and I'll tell you the truth. I'm not afraid to die. But before I do I'll see that that rat goes first. I met him ten days ago in a theatre. He sat alongside of me and started talking to me. After the show he followed me out and insisted on seeing me often. He told me he was married and was having a lot of trouble with his wife. He worked on my sympathies. He promised me everything. One day he told me he was going to poison his wife to get rid of her so we could go to Florida. I guess he lost his nerve because last Tuesday night he met me and handed me a gun and said, "Here, use this!" At first I didn't know what he meant. Then he told me he had bought the gun for me so that I could shoot his wife. "What night will we do it?" he said. I told him I wouldn't do any such thing. He pleaded and begged. I was dumb. I listened.

Sheriff: Go on, Julia.

Julia: He told me he was going to take his wife to the country Thursday night and to meet him at the Main street subway at six that night. He picked me up and drove out to the Ridge road. We stopped there and he told me to walk across the field and follow the ravine until I came to a culvert at the next road. I was to hide in the bushes till he drove by with his wife. Then I was to jump out and shoot her. He told me he'd say robbers did it. As he left me, he said he'd be back between 8:30 and 8:45. I made my way across the field. It was raining a little. I crouched down in the shelter of the bushes near the culvert and waited. At last I saw the headlights. I ran down into the road. Pointing the gun at the cab of the truck I ordered him to stop. He got down out of the truck and I told him to get behind it. I fired once. I saw her slip to the floor with the baby in her arms. I didn't know what to do. I just stood there. Tilby came running up and said, "Get out of here! Beat it!" I ran back across the road, climbed the fence and started for Munson Hill road. On the way I took off my rubbers.

Sheriff: Are these your rubbers?

Julia: Yes.

Sheriff: What did you do with the gun?

Julia: It's out at his house. You'll find it in a hat box on the bookcase in the playroom.

Sheriff: It's true then, Smith? You and this girl planned the killing for three or four days.

Julia: Spill it, you rat.

Smith: Yes. I planned it. I admit it. They can't burn me if I admit it, if I plead guilty.

Sheriff: (With deadly emphasis) Smith, nothing can save you now from the electric chair.

Smith: (Screaming) No! No!

Julia: Yes, you squaw. We'll both burn. But you'll do the screaming and the squealing. I'm not afraid to die.

(Music break or three taps on Chinese gong)


And so Ashtabula's triangle horror case was cracked by the veteran officials. His carefully planned crime revealed when his Indian girl accomplice turned on him, Tilby Smith was tried twice and found guilty. Julia Maude Lowther, the descendant of Indian parents, was also convicted. Both were sentenced to the electric chair. Not since 1844 has the state of Ohio executed a woman. The tradition had grown up that a woman couldn't be sent to the chair in Ohio. Will the state break that tradition?

(Cue: Music--for background of announcement)

This brings to a close another Startling Detective Adventure. If you are interested in seeing the pictures of the real characters in this true life drama and reading the complete details of this strange murder plot, ask for the October issue of the magazine from which this feature takes its name.

The program is brought to you each week by (Sponsor of Program) and the publishers of Startling Detective Adventures. Until next week at this time--good night.