Date: Fri 09-Oct-1998
Date: Fri 09-Oct-1998
From the Case Files of Laslo Briscoe -- Installment VII
BY ANDREA ZIMMERMANN
The quietude of a library can free the mind to wander to unexpected -- even
dangerous -- places. And so it happened this week, in a windowless room of the
Booth Library, that Joanne Zang and Barbara Yarbrough came to discuss what
motivates people to commit brutal crimes. Both avid mystery readers, they
wondered how true crime in Newtown stacked up when compared to the detective
fiction they set out at the Friends annual book sale.
A good murder, they decided, would include at least one mysterious character,
a few red herrings, and a bit of gore. With this criteria in mind, they
stopped packing books and made a beeline to the police department to consult
the case files of Private Investigator Laslo Briscoe. They were filled with
fiendish delight when they came across...
No. 688 -- The Case of the
Cobbler's Crushed Skull
One Sunday last month, I met up by chance with Charles Cavanaugh on Church
Hill Road and became engaged in fine discourse about the European war. Having
had sequestered myself for the previous two days in an attempt to make current
my files and address other business, I was not in a hurry to take my leave of
such stimulating company, so I accompanied The Bee's field agent on his errand
to pick up some shoes at the cobbler shop. The German cobbler is known about
town as someone at the ready to converse about the war.
The cobbler was at his shop, indeed, but was in no condition to contribute to
our conversation having had his skull crushed in by the blunt end of an axe.
Upon entering the tiny building, it was immediately apparent some dastardly
deed had transpired. The shop was in confusion, the trunk open and articles
scattered about. We looked over the counter to see the legs of Green
protruding out, blankets, and mattress and the pillow being on top of him.
Cavanaugh hastened up Church Hill Road to give the alarm. Word was dispatched
to Deputy Sheriff Austin B. Blakeman, who had just entered Trinity Church to
attend morning service. He and the medical examiner arrived, and together we
examined the scene. The cobbler, known to be a patient and kindly old man, had
been murdered in a most brutal fashion.
The fiend who committed the heinous deed evidently struck six or seven blows
to Green's head, any of which the doctor reported might have caused his death.
The skull was fractured from the right orbit, right around the front of the
skull to the side of the skull. The brain was so pierced with splinters of
bone that it was entirely disorganized.
It seemed the cobbler had been working at his bench behind the counter. His
glasses had been on his head, and his awl was in or near his hand and a piece
of leather in his lap. The assassin surprised the man, no doubt, and then
attempted to camouflage his bloody work by dragging the mattress and clothing
from the rear and flinging it over Green's body.
Inquiry as to Green's background yielded information -- some of which is quite
Green was a fake name used by the cobbler; William Gore is his true identity.
No one knows why he changed his name.
He was 64 years old, a thick set man, who spoke English brokenly.
Two years before coming to Newtown he was located in Hawleyville having a shop
in what is now the blacksmith shop where he had all the work he wanted to do.
He removed to Church Hill road between four or five years ago.
He had been married but had separated from his wife.
He was known to be stolid in disposition and a man of few words, but had a
kindly side and did his work thoroughly and well.
During the cold weather he suffered more or less from rheumatism.
He lived alone in the little building, sleeping in the rear of the room and
cooking his meals on a stove in the basement.
He made trips to Bridgeport where he bought supplies or visited his brother or
Saturday night his paper remained on the floor of the piazza, which suggests
the murder took place between 4:30 and 5 o'clock, when the Rev J.B. Howell had
stopped at the store to see no one about. (But he did not look behind the
An amount of cash under $10 was found on the body.
Constable Thrall of Sandy Hook had detained a man by the name Michael Brennan
who was spattered with blood and his coat covered with blood. He was acting
suspiciously. On this foundation he was locked up. Then news of the murder
reached the constable and Brennan was held over for the inquest.
Brennan professed his innocence throughout. The hired hand claims not to have
known the cobbler, but admits to visiting his shop the day of the murder.
After having purchased a can of tuna, Brennan said he stopped by the cobbler's
shop hoping the owner would have a knife or other instrument with which to
open the can.
Brennan was closely questioned by the state police. After a time, he was
allowed to go as nothing of an incriminating nature was found against him.
What could be the motive for such a brutal attack? Revenge -- the work of some
former enemy attempting to get even in a back-hand style. Or was the cobbler
struck down in the heart of the borough by some degenerate crazed wild rum,
who wanted money for further debauch and did not care how he got it?
We have taken out advertisement in The Newtown Bee soliciting anyone with
knowledge of the crime or possible motive, to contact me or the state police.
It is my instinct, however, that the cobbler's murder will remain one of
Newtown's great mysteries.