THE MEADOWS MURDER, PART TWO
According to records of the event presented in court and through newspaper articles, the events went something like this. A husband and wife were in a difficult patch, but planning to move from their downtown rooming house on North Broadway to a fresh start in booming Capitol Hill. On a warm early summer evening, a scheming false wife and her lover planned and carried out the murder of a hard working, decent man. Truth is not only stranger than fiction; it can be a lot more complicated.
Over the course of the ‘newspaper trial’ that ensued, suggestions were that Meadows had an affair (or had ruined a young woman in the very boarding house where he lived) and was blackmailed. This was what caused an estrangement between the two. Countering that would be charges that Lila Meadows, far from the gentle and frail female, had been abusive to him blackening eyes, throwing a butcher knife at him, and withholding money.
The rooming house was called the “Palace”, was situated over a saloon, and was said to be either at 116-116 ½ North Broadway or at 316-316 ½ North Broadway. At both of these locations, local stories and advertisements, suggest the area was rife with con artists (usually posing as fortunetellers or psychics). These ‘rooming houses’ or ‘boarding houses’ were also well known for their connection to the Oklahoma City criminal underground (the gambling, prostitution, white slavery, and con jobs). These locations were both very close to the notorious “Hell’s Half Acre” of Oklahoma City where brothels, saloons, and gambling houses were located.
Shortly after the disappearance, police noticed that the woman and a young man, Rudolph Tegeler, seemed to have an undue interest in each other. Initially denying they even knew each, witnesses soon recounted how she sent fruit and delicacies to young Tegeler at work. Message boys testified how they carried notes between the two. He called her pet names and carried her picture. She was seen riding in a buggy with Tegler, had some undisclosed all night escapade with him, and was often seen by Mrs. Keith talking on the back steps of the Meadows rooming house. Co-workers reported phone calls between the two. Tegler bought or leased the rooming house, located above a saloon operated by Bass Alder, for Mrs. Meadows to operate.
Although initially indicted as a co-conspirator in the murder, Miss Dorothy B. (or Dora) Keith, nurse and “boon companion” of Mrs. Meadows, would later tell authorities of the “queer actions” and “extreme excitement” on receiving two mysterious letters on the day of the disappearance. She told authorities that the day of the disappearance, the Meadows’ spoke at about 6:30 p.m. in the Oklahoma City residence. Mrs. Meadows expressed the thought she might come to Capitol Hill that night to visit her husband. He told her the door would be unlocked. That evening, it is was also reported, Mrs. Meadows and Tegler go for a buggy ride at about that same time.
Around midnight, a local hears gunfire near Meadows home in Capitol Hill. A neighbor reports her dogs were excited about some activity. Strangers lurking in the area are suspected and the next day, Meadows does not arrive for work and his supervisor calls the police. Over the coming days and weeks, co-workers and volunteers keep watch over the nearby North Canadian River, make inquires, and assist local police in trying to locate Meadows.
During the disappearance, Tegler often brings newspapers to coworker C.M. Roberts to have him read and explain them to him. This man said Tegler first said he thought Meadows had disappeared but as the time grew on he said he did not know what to think. He also said Tegler had given him a memo book with a photograph of the woman Meadows and other undisclosed items. This was in turn, handed over to Chief Post. When the medium, Mrs. Rodie, Ronie, or Rose Myers, wrote him with her vision of the missing man and where his body was buried, he of course believed this and reported it to the police. He could take them to the place, resolve the disappearance, and then the two lovers would be free to marry.
What developed was a nearly decade long courtroom drama and newspaper presence for the case of the mysterious murder of James R. Meadows.
The day after the body is found, the police begin proceeding to indict Mrs. Lila Meadows, Miss Dorothy Keith. Roy A. Baird and Edward Loughmiller identify the remains at the city morgue as James R. Meadows. As a photo in the local paper shows, the body was badly decomposed. Investigators, however, noted he had been shot in the back and the face. They could not find a matching hole in his shirt and this added to the aura of mystery that would ensue. Near the time of the funeral, Dorothy Keith claims the casket is empty and Meadows is not dead. In July of 1912, the witness of two physicians attending the body added to the debate. The body was badly decomposed, but the doctors were able to ascertain the man was a) in good health and b) had a full set of teeth. Some of Meadows closest friends, however, indicated he had been in very poor health and was missing a tooth. Further discussion of these points is missing in later accounts and no explanations are given for the disparities other than the extreme level of decomposition may have hindered findings.
Later in 1910, coworkers Harry Warrrenton, F.H. McCane, and A.J. Scott testified the body they had seen in the morgue was their missing coworker. A receipt in the pocket was to Rudolph Tegler for a meter for the Meadows rooming house on N. Broadway (but a worker later was unable to identify Tegler as the man who had gotten the meter).
Two days after the body is found, the theory of the police was clear. Tegler was a naïve young man besotted and manipulated by a lovely older woman who used her sexual charms to her advantage. The man’s belief in the supernatural powers of the medium Myers, and a sad story of an abusive husband , were used to develop a patsy (at the least) for the murder of her husband, and so soon had both Mrs. Meadows and Rudolph Tegler were facing indictments for murder.
END OF PART TWO