A 67-Year Old Murder Case Revisited – Part 2. The Victims: Harold and Arline Smith.
by Roy Beckemeyer
Harold and Arline Smith “had always led the quiet and simple life that is typical of an Illinois town … [St. Louis Post Dispatch, Dec. 4, 1955, p. 6]. Yet they suddenly disappeared last Sunday [November 27th] night from their modest home near Lebanon, leaving behind them blood stains in every room and five bullet holes in the house.”
The Smiths had no children. They lived in a small four-room house Harold (a carpenter and “master cabinet maker” who worked for a building contractor) had built himself. The house was located “on Emerald Grange Road about 100 yards off U. S. Highway 50” [St. Louis Post Dispatch, November 30, 1955, p. 1] within “50 feet of Emerald Mound Grange Hall, a mile east of Lebanon” [Belleville Daily Advocate, November 30, 1955, p. 1].
His employer said that Harold was dependable, and “always on time.” The couple was not known to have any debt, they were not heavy drinkers. Harold was proud of the large picture window he had built into the living room, and the neighbors who live about 150 yards away across the road “could see them whiling the evenings away at complete peace.”
“The Smiths moved here about three years ago,” the neighbors reported, “…We thought a lot of them. They were very fond of our children, and were always lending a hand. We last saw them Sunday morning when my husband and his brother saw Harold out in the corn field picking up corn to feed his hogs. They never talked of anyone they might have been afraid of.”
Arline Smith’s parents, the Dressel’s, lived on their farm two miles north of Lebanon. They had farmed this land for 40 years, and their daughter was raised there. She was born August 26, 1920 at Lebanon, and had two sisters and a brother. She had attended Ridgewood country school, finished the eighth grade, then left to do housework jobs in the area. She married her first husband in 1940 when she was 20 years old, but there were domestic troubles, and she was divorced in 1942, when she took a job at a small arms plant in St. Louis. She was a member of the Scott Air Base fire department during the war, and at times drove a fire truck.
Harold was born December 11, 1925. His mother, Mrs. William Beck, lived in Belleville. “My Harold was born in Belleville and went to Jefferson School, then two years to Belleville High School,” she said. “When he was 14 he quit and did odd jobs around farms. For a while he drove a taxicab in Belleville. From 1942 to 1948 he was in the Navy. He always was a good boy. You couldn’t find a better one.”
Arline met Harold Smith in 1949, and they were married after knowing each other for six months. “They met at a dance at O’Fallon. They are just like kids, very happy. One wouldn’t go anywhere unless the other went too. After they were married they stayed at home pretty much,” her mother told reporters. She said “Arline never wanted for anything,” and recalled that when Arline and Harold had had dinner with them the previous Sunday, “they seemed happier than ever.”
Their happiness was not to last.
Roy Beckemeyer, 12 December, 2022
(To be continued)