April 2, 2016

Murder in Andrew County Missouri

Savannah, an historically small town and seat of Andrew County, MO near the Nebraska line was the scene of some excitement from mid-1914 until early 1915.  Some accounts report the county as "...thoroughly stirred up over the mysterious murder of Mrs. D. Boone Fancher, 27 years old. wife of a wealthy retired farmer..."[1]

It seems that Mrs. Fancher, divorced wife of Harvey Elliott and mother of a small child, was found murdered outside her home with "deep finger prints on the throat after she had taken a motor ride to St. Joseph" with two men and another woman.  Mr. Fancher told the authorities that his wife was frequently away from home until late at night and that they often slept apart,

Within an hour of authorities learning of her death, they were actively questioning R. B. Coffey, a married man and merchant in Stanberry, MO, W. S. Sommers, a car salesman and Mrs. Jane Mann, a widow, about the death of Mrs. Fancher.  The information gathered from the trio was that the four had gone to St. Joseph in Coffey's car to see a movie. They had lunch there and on the way back to Savannah had stopped for "refreshments at wine gardens." They said they had dropped Mrs. Fancher off at home sometime around midnight and knew nothing of her death.

Coffey told the authorities that he had not previously known Mrs. Fancher and did not know that she was married.  He reportedly let her out of the car a block from her home and that was the last time he had seen her.[1]

The next day Coffey was arrested and charged with her murder.  The coroner's jury decided not to charge any person with the crime but recommended that Coffey, Sommers and Jane Mann "be investigated."[2] Coffey went to trial on Feb. 8, 1915. With a jury made up mostly of farmers[3]

On Feb. 10, the jury returned a "not guilty" verdict in the trial of Richard B. Coffey for the death of Mrs. Myrtle Fancher.[4]

Richard Bell Coffey was born Dec. 2, 1860 in Alanthus Grove, Gentry Co., MO to Lawson Howard and Eliza Ann Campbell Coffey. He was married to Ella Ross on Aug., 28, 1895 in Stanberry, Gentry Co., MO.  Ella was born in 1873 Missouri to John A. Ross and Margaret Howell.

Lawson Coffey was a native of Owen Co., IN while Eliza was a native of Missouri.  Before his marriage to Miss Campbell, Lawson had been married to Mary Adeline "Polly" Litton in 1850 Indiana. Polly died in Alanthus Grove in 1857. He descended from Edward through his son John, his son Reuben and his son Benjamin who married Exie Sapronia Stell.  Eliza was a daughter of William Campbell and Artie Roundtree.

Unfortunately, I have been unable to find any further information about who may have been ultimately found guilty of her death but, I suspect either the ex-husband or, her new husband. 

[1]1914, Aug 18, Joy Ride Death a Mystery, Kansas City Star, http://tinyurl.com/hhvjahe
[2]1914, Aug 18 Arrest in Fancher Murder, Kansas City Star, http://tinyurl.com/zyv9rng
[3]Ibid, 1915, Feb. 8 Accused of Joyride Killing, Kansas City Star, http://tinyurl.com/gtgg5bx
[4]1915. Feb. 11 Coffey Freed By Jury, The Arkansas Gazette, Little Rich, AR, http://tinyurl.com/zr5lejl, p12

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