A 67-Year Old Murder Case Revisited – Part 3. The Murder Scene – Bullet Holes and Blood
by Roy Beckemeyer
On Sunday, November 27, 1955, Harold and Arline Smith had a mid-afternoon family dinner at her parent’s farm home north of Lebanon, then a late afternoon snack with friends in Trenton, leaving there about 5:25 p.m. Harold’s employer, building contractor Ralph Mueller, called Harold about 7:30 p.m. to tell him they would not be working Monday because of the cold weather moving in. Arline’s mother tried to telephone her about 8:30 that night, but got no answer. She tried again Monday morning, but again got no answer, and thought perhaps the phone lines were down.
On Tuesday morning Rolland Hoolihan delivered a bottle of propane gas to the Smith home on one of his regularly scheduled calls, and noticed holes in the Smith’s picture window. Rabbit season had opened Saturday, and he thought that perhaps a hunter had shot at the house accidentally. That same morning a friend of the Smith’s, Leland Reimann, dropped by but found no one home. He did not see the holes, but when he returned in the afternoon, he noticed them. Alarmed, he phoned Ariline’s parents, and they came and together went in the house and found bloodstains. They called the sheriff’s office.
The scene was soon bustling with law officers, newsmen, and relatives of the couple. Sheriff’s officers and state police found five bullet holes in the house, three in the living room picture window, one in the front storm door, and one in a rear window. Inside, there were blood stains in every room of the house— the living room, bedroom, kitchen, utility room off the kitchen, and the bathroom. There were no bodies, but judging by the stains, it appeared the Smith’s had been dragged out the rear door of the house. Tire tracks were found in the grass outside the bedroom window, apparently made before the ground had frozen Sunday night. Congealed blood was found where it appeared bodies had been loaded into an automobile.
Photos from Belleville Daily Advocate, November 30, 1955, p. 8, unless noted otherwise.
The investigating officers theorized the couple had been fatally shot through the windows from outside the house and their bodies wrapped in a missing bedspread and white throw rug from the house, taken away in a car.
Arline had been mending a pair of Harold’s coveralls at her sewing machine in from of a kitchen window when she was slain, presumably shortly after 8:00 p.m. Sunday night. The sewing machine was still turned on and Mrs. Smith’s partial denture was lying on the machine.
It appeared that Harold had been fatally wounded when he opened the front storm door. There were powder burns on the door frame, indicating the shot was fired at close range.
There were no signs of struggle in the house, but it appeared that both Harold and Arline ran through the house after being shot, leaving trails of blood as they frantically tried to escape the gunshots coming through the windows.
Police and state troopers worked the case all night and continued Wednesday. The community at large was shocked and frightened by the suddenness, senselessness, and brutality of the attack. There was no indication of a robbery; the Smith’s were not well-to-do, but some money, jewelry, and other valuables were found undisturbed in the house.
Photo from St. Louis Post Dispatch, November 30, 1955, p. 1.
Roy Beckemeyer, December 14, 2022.
(To be continued)