The Meadows Murder, Part 4
As if staged by a Hollywood director of suspense or horror, the grave was uncovered in the dead of night, by lantern light, with a storm approaching. The body was covered only by about two feet of dirt. Nearby was the cornfield of farmer Stielitz and the Twin Creeks bite into the area located to the west of Capitol Hill and within just a few miles of the residence of Meadows.
The railroad and a river cupped the area where both the victim’s home and grave were located in southwest modern Oklahoma City. In 1907, the area was still largely undeveloped with more rural and wild environs still in place.
The working theory developed that Matthews had been in bed asleep or laying down when he was awakened and in response to someone at the door or to something heard in the yard, he rose. He either went outside, or was led outside by his surprise visitor, to his death. Given the evidence he was no doubt led to the very sport where he was buried. The story of a neighbor seeing something (or someone) in the yard and draw near the houses may be him being led to his death or attacked and then carried to the grave. Strangely, reports of a mysterious group of men seen in the area are not seriously considered.
When people investigate the next door for the missing man, certain things are noticed. The door to the house at Kentucky and “B” or “13” in Capitol Hill was ajar, there was no apparent blood, and the bed had the impression of a head on the pillow.
The body when finally discovered showed he had been shot in the back, with the bullet exiting the front just below the breastbone and another bullet went in his face just above the mouth. The trajectory of the head wound might have coincided with a short fired while he was lying down on the ground either unconscious or already dead.
Although a bloody (or dirty) piece of carpet and a woman’s dress were located nearby just north of the body, the area was one where people camped passing through and apparently debris was not too uncommon. A resident found a discarded spade as well with the suggestion it was the one used to dig the grave.
Physicians who examined the body noted the advanced stages of decomposition (from the image of the body shown in local papers that is clear), but a cursory examination revealed no matching holes in the shirt on the body. Other details were the man appeared to the doctors to be a healthy male with a full set of teeth. These details will all be issues in the trails to follow but are quickly explained by other doctors stating the state of decomposition dissuaded closer examination of the body or the clothes.
1907 Verdict : The Letters
The day of the husband’s disappearance, Dorothy Keith testified, Lila Meadows received two mysterious letters that greatly agitated her. Two other letters from a mysterious “Mother Myers” ,aka Ronie or Rose Myers, to Tegler and Meadows. The one to Tegeler, it was asserted, contained a diagram of the location for the body of the missing husband. One version of contents asserted it was only through this letter that Rudolf could take police to the body.
Strange and jumbled claims emerged about the letters: they had not been written by the woman, they had been recopied, and they had been written by some person unknown. Most of the letters, thankfully, seem to fade into the background. One remains due to the diagram informing about the body's location.
On February 13, Tegler was given a life sentence for the murder of James R. Meadows, with two jurers holding out for acquittal. Out on bail he planned to go to Rock Island, New Mexico for a visit with his step-father and uncle, George L. Tegler and his mother Hermina Tegeler before taking up residence “in the pen”. His defense team (now J.W. Johnson and A.N. Munden) had charged that Meadows had been in Panama where he had been working for the telephone company and was returning to New Orleans on the 28 but had not so far been located. The attorneys then suggested he had drowned in the sinking recently of a White Star ship in the gulf. A third trial was set to start in December.
1910 VERDICT: Shenanigans
In the courtroom of Judge Carney, the Defense lead council was Judge D.B. Welty and Morman Pruiett . The chief tactic was the claim that ‘Meadows lives.” They brought in witnesses from Kansas, a Johnson from Kansas City and a Livingston from Atchison, stating the man was alive. Livingston had known James and Lila Meadows in El Reno and claimed they had been married there and lived in the town for a while. In 1909, he was the proprietor of the Robinson Hotel in El Paso, Texas and there, two years after the murder, he entertained both Lila and James Meadows. They were using the name Mr. and Mrs. Frank Hall and urged his silence. Tegler was set to go to New Mexico again to visit relatives, took a tour of Oklahoma City, visited with his sisters Mrs. J.D. Carpenter (Ft. Worth, TX), Mrs. John Hoppleman (OKC) and his attorneys Welty and Pruiett. His bond was paid by an assortment of local business and farming people. This may indicate there was some public belief that he may have been an innocent pawn in a larger game.
In September of 1910, defense accused the victim (Meadows) of having ruined the life of a young girl (Amelia Shamcok, had a child, and had tried to blackmail him (thus explaining the initial missing $200 from the telephone company). This affair and the blackmail was what were behind the disappearance of Meadows. The Judge and the defense attorney noted a morphine problem with Mrs. Lila Meadows (whom one called a ‘dope fiend’). The defense also charged other lovers for Lila as well. A prominent, but unnamed city official, was implicated in the placement of the young girl in the north Broadway rooming house of Meadows. Tegler, it was claimed, denied leading the police to the grave and that a Webb Jones was the first man there.
The jury found Tegler guilty of first degree murder and sentenced to life in the pen by the district court of Judge Brown of Mangum in Februry. On the way to a cell, he passed Mike O’Brien who had perjured himself years before and had been sentenced the previous month. He had said under oath that he had seen Meadows alive after Teglers' arrest.
THE RED LETTER
A year later, in March, Judge Joseph G. Lowe, receives a mysterious letter in red ink. In this letter were claims that Meadows himself had sought to wreck vengeance on the couple cuckolding him by hiding the body, writing the diagram sent to Tegler, and had then left the country.
RUMORS OF PARDONS
In the fall of 1914, a year after Lila Meadows dies in Wichita, Kansas, rumors appeared in local newspapers about a secret pardon deal worked out for Rudolph Tegler. Lt. Governor J.J.McAlister was to have worked a secret deal. This followed by a short piece, almost hidden, explaining how such a thing could not happen based on various legal complications. Yet by late decade and into the 1920’s there was a veritable avalanche of pardons in Oklahoma, enough that it drew the attention of many as being possibly excessive.
END OF THE STORY
A story so rich in the dramatic and so immensely convoluted cannot be easily resolved and such is true of the Meadows-Tegler Murder Case of 1907. The basket of red herrings tossed out by the wily defense team often contained some valid and unanswered questions. The prejudicial newspapers and judges targeted some issues while others, more important, were totally ignored.
Newspapers and census records locate a Rudolph Tegler, matching the age and birth location of the Rudolph Tegler on the 1900 Oklahoma Census. There he is living with Charles W. Tegler, Hermine P. Tegler, Louise C., Paulina A., Nellie K., Otto E., Esther, Walter D. in Oklahoma city’s 2nd Ward. He was listed as 16,born in Germany and these names match later news articles mentioning his family. In 1910, he is listed as an inmate at the State Penitentiary in McAlister, Oklahoma. In 1920, in Quay County, New Mexico there is listed a Charles (57), Otto (31, son), Walter (20, son) and a William H. (34, labeled son, born in Germany). He is later living in Osage County, Oklahoma and in 1931 is buried in Fairlawn Cemetery in Oklahoma City. He is listed with a wife named Lila which raises many questions. Did he marry Lila Meadows? She is gone, possibly dead, by 1920. Later, he is with a woman named "O. Anna." Many questions remain about this complex, intriguing, and very human tale.
What , for example, was the influence of the Aggie Myers case in Missouri on the murder of James R. Meadows? The similarities are interesting enough to bear closer examination.
What was the connection between Annie Wynn Bailey, aka Big Annie, and the widow Lila Meadows? What was the connection to the strange Dorothy B. Keith, Rose or Ronie Myers, and several other women who crop up in the story? Women, interestingly enough, who often seem to have disappeared from the face of the earth or assumed new identities.
Were these women all former courtesans of the entrepreneurial madam Annie? Were they running her web of dens, houses, and intrigues that had served to keep the police, politicians, and the law in Annie’s hand for nearly twenty years? What was the connection between Moment Pruitt and Big Annie? Did he become Tegler’s attorney because of Big Annie’s relationship with Lila Meadows?
The mysterious murder of Meadows in 1907 remains a tantalizing tale of lust and intrigue in the middle of Oklahoma’s onward thrust to statehood. The sultry days of that June were shoved aside by the excitement of that November as statehood was achieved. It had simmered that summer as the sensation of pre-statehood and though shoved to the back burner by events and lengthy trials it did not go away for many years. In the end, the sights and sounds of their 1907 world have been largely eradicated and only the story, and the questions, remain.
--Marilyn A. Hudson, c2010