Camden Post Telegram – July 19, 1916
Confessing Supplying Pistol, in Spike of Husband’s Denial That She Was Guiltless, Mrs. Ashbridge Is Held Without Bail on Charge of Conspiracy in Aiding and Abetting Escape From Jail
With Wilson T. Ashbridge under guard in a cell in what was formerly known as Murderer’s Row, the police and county detectives today redoubled their energies towards the capture of George E. Thompson, the forger who escaped with Ashbridge from the County Jail on Monday night after murdering one keeper and wounding another. Stirring the police of all cities in the East to renewed activity, another circular was sent out today by the authorities giving notice of the reward of $500 offered for Thompson’s capture. Attention was strongly directed in the circular due to the fact that one of the fingers of Thompson’s left hand is missing.
The gun with which Ashbridge murdered jailor Isaac Hibbs and wounded Jailor Ellis was smuggled into the jail by Mrs. Ashbridge on Saturday morning. With it went a box of cartridges. The weapon and bullets were passed to Ashbridge in a basket of fruit, being at the bottom of the basket. The jailors were busy at the time she called and as she frequently had brought her husband fruit they did not take precaution to search the basket. Mrs. Ashbridge bought the gun and cartridges on the written request of her husband.
Her confession as to the very grave part she played in the escape and murder was made to the Prosecutor late yesterday afternoon after she had first insisted she had no knowledge if how the gun got into the jail and after her husband had repeatedly declared that the revolver was supplied by Thompson. The revolver, fully loaded, was still carried by Ashbridge when he was captured in the Keystone Hotel……
….. by Recorder Stackhouse without bail for conspiracy in aiding and abetting the escape of her husband and George E. Thompson from the County Jail on Monday night.
The court room was packed to suffocation by a morbidly curious crowd, composed primarily of women. A strange silence spread through the court room when the little woman was led into the court room by Captain Schregler. The regular formality of placing prisoners in the dock was dispensed with the woman’s case.
Prosecutor De Unger pointed to the high witness chair and Mrs. Ashbridge sat in it. She evaded the gaze of the crowd, looking intently at the floor and through a window on the Washington Street side. She wore a blue skirt and a white waist. She was without her hat. her hair was carefully arranged and she wore nose glasses.
Resting her chin on her right hand her arm and hand were seen to tremble slightly. So quiet was the room that a pin dropping could have been heard.
“Mrs. Marian Ashbridge,” called the Recorder.
“Yes, Sir” was the faint reply of the woman, who did not even look up at the call of her name.
“This complaint charges you with delivering to Wilson Ashbridge and George E. Thompson a pistol and aiding and abetting them in escaping from the County Jail, where they had been lawfully committed. Do you plead guilty or not guilty,” said the Recorder as he read the complaint.
“The woman said nothing. Detective Schregler was then called as the complainant. He told of the confession made by the woman and produced the revolver which the woman purchased and which Ashbridge used in his daring escape. The gun, Captain Schregler said, was purchased in a pawnshop at Eleventh and Arch Streets, Philadelphia, on Friday of last week and was delivered to Ashbridge on Saturday morning along with a box of cartridges. “Marian, I will hold you without bail,” said the Recorder.
As the woman was being led from the court room by Captain Schregler and Sergeant Reed the crowd made a rush for the door leading from the court room, whereupon orders were given by the police to the crowd and many were prevented from rushing out. Everybody seemed anxious to secure a closer look at the unfortunate woman.
Visitors were denied Mrs. Ashbridge. Not even her children were permitted to be brought before her, although the broken-hearted mother asked for them.
“Oh, God, I don’t know why I did this; why I left the little ones to go with Wilson,” tearfully expostulated Mrs. Ashbridge to the kind-hearted matron, who spent the best part of last night with the distraught woman.
“If I could only see little Marian,” sobbed the woman in the arms of Mrs. Kirkpatrick, who informed her that perhaps she could see them today.
Last evening the only support Mrs. Ashbridge had was a cup of tea. The morning she sipped a portion of a cup of coffee. She told Matron Kirkpatrick that she was not hungry.
Everybody hounded me, I had no friends, and that’s why I went with my husband, because he was the only friend I had left,” said Mrs. Ashbridge. “He was a good boy, but was easily led.” The wife said even before her marriage that Ashbridge would run around with other girls, but he always returned to her and she forgave him. She said he seemed to have a spell over her and she couldn’t leave him.
“I love my husband, still and will stand by him to the end,” sobbed the little woman to Mrs. Kirkpatrick. She told how her relatives disowned her and how after her father’s death she went to live with strangers. When her husband fostered the plan to escape she willingly consented to aid him. She drew $100 out of the bank and purchased clothes and the gun and bullets. She never faltered in her plan.
“My heart aches for that woman,” said Matron Kirkpatrick this morning to a Post-Telegram reporter. “She’s a good girl, but was easily led into her present predicament. It only goes to show what a woman will do for the man she loves, no matter how base a wretch he may be. Mrs. Ashbridge is more to be pitied than scorned.
Recorder Stackhouse this morning produced a copy of the marriage of the couple, performed by him on July 28, 1914. The marriage was performed at the instance of Assistant Prosecutor Butler after Ashbridge wronged the girl. Constable William E. Headley and William C. Ashbridge, the latter father of the murderer, were witnesses.
As told in yesterday’s Post-Telegram, Ashbridge and his wife and their captors arrived at the City Hall from Chester shortly after 2:00 o’clock. After a brief stay they were taken to the Court House and turned over to Prosecutor Kraft, Ashbridge being taken into the Prosecutor’s private office and Mrs. Ashbridge being placed under guard in the ante room.
Taking full blame for the murder of Hibbs and the wounding of Ellis, Ashbridge declared that none of the shots were fired by Thompson.
“I shot both men,” he declared, “but Thompson gave me the gun. He had it since Saturday.” He repeated this assertion several times in the course of his examination, adding each time that his wife had no part in supplying the firearm. His voluntary insistence in…..
…. exercise corridor of their cells in response to his request that he wanted to show him a note that had been left for him, he asked the aged keeper to step inside the corridor. Evidently suspecting something was wrong Hibbs refuse to enter the corridor. When Ashbridge repeated his request that Hibbs step inside, Thompson, why was immediately behind Ashbridge, said something to the murderer. Ashbridge could not exactly recall what the expression was. At any rate it was then that he fired and Hibbs fell to the floor with his death wound. To take Hibbs keys and open the door leading from the exercise room to the corridor was the work of but an instant. It was then that Ellis confronted Ashbridge at the other end of the corridor. He refused to throw up his hands when the murderer so ordered. Instead, the plucky jailor grappled with the slayer, who again brought the gun into play, twice wounding the remaining jailor.
Ashbridge did not say why he wanted Hibbs to step inside the corridor. One surmise is that the pair had planned to get the old man into the corridor, overpower him, take his keys and after gagging him place him in a cell, depending on the gun to awe any prisoners who might make an outcry. But whatever their plan was in this respect it miscarried. Hibbs would not enter the corridor and was shot down where he stood.
Thompson carried both his own and Ashbridge’s coats when they fled. As Ashbridge had decided to do the talking with Hibbs when the jailor came to lock them in their cells it was agreed that it would not be wise for the murderer to be wearing a coat. This might look suspicious to Hibbs and in all likelihood he would refuse to open the door. Hence it was decided that Thompson should take both coats. He also carried Ashbridge’s cap and his own Panama.
The coats and harts were adjusted as they ran down the spiral stairway leading to the street. They walked slowly into Sixth Street; increasing their pace up Sixth Street after crossing Market and after turning into Cooper walked very rapidly. They turned north on Third Street to Main and thence to the Vine Street ferry, where they caught the boat leaving at 7:15 for Philadelphia. Landing on the other side the fugitives exchanged hats. They walked rapidly to Broad Street Station, where Mrs. Ashbridge was in waiting, this arrangement having been made when she smuggled the gun in to her husband on Saturday morning.
Accompanied by Thompson the Ashbridges walked out Market Street to Thirty-second Street. Here Thompson left them and after walking the street for a brief while longer the slayer and his wife boarded a trolley car for Chester, where a few hours later the murderer’s short-lived liberty was so dramatically terminated.
Although jailor Ellis still insists that three shots were fired before he was attacked and in spite of the positive declaration of Alfred Williams, the trusty, that three shots were fired at Hibbs, Ashbridge claims that Hibbs was shot only once and that two bullets were used on Ellis. He said that the three empty shells which the detectives found in his pocket contained the only bullets fired in the jail. The post mortem examination made yesterday by County Physician Stem bears out his contention as to the number of shots fired. Only one bullet was found and that had penetrated the jailor’s heart.
“That’s the truth about the shooting,” declared Ashbridge. “I fired the shots—three of them in all—and the gun was given me by Thompson. My wife had nothing to do with it. Don’t blame her.”
Enroute back to the prison from which he had made his tragic getaway on Monday night, Ashbridge passed through the ante room where his wife was under guard. He stopped, kissed her, gently caressed her cheek, told her not to worry and passed on to the jail, from whence his next exit will be to the electric chair.
Haggard and very weak Mrs. Ashbridge was at once taken before the Prosecutor. With due regard for her condition Mrs. Ashbridge was handled very gently. At first she insisted that she had no part in getting the gun, but under skillful handling she finally broke down and confessed that she had supplied the revolver.
She stated that on Friday night she received a letter from her husband telling her that he planned to escape from the jail on Monday night and that he needed a revolver to make certain that his scheme would not fail. He requested that she procure the pistol and cartridges and personally deliver them on Saturday. being anxious to aid her husband in every way possible she readily decided to do as he requested.
Accordingly she purchased the needed articles in a Philadelphia pawnshop on Friday afternoon, paying $3.00 for the pistol and 67 cents for the cartridges. She kept them over night and on Saturday safely delivered the weapon and bullets to her husband in the bottom of a basket of fruit. At the same time Ashbridge asked her to go with him and when she agreed to share his fate he told her to meet him in Broad Street Station, Philadelphia, shortly after seven o’clock on Monday night. He further told her that he had carefully studied the situation and did not see how it was possible for his plan to miscarry. On Monday morning she sent her children to the home of Mrs. Anna Dick and later in the day sent the letter to Mrs. Dick telling of her “rash deed” and enclosing $10 for the children.
As Mrs. Ashbridge told her story she spoke in a very low tone. Most of the time her eyes were cast down and as she concluded her brief narrative she sobbed convulsively and was in a state of utter collapse. Reviving somewhat when given cold water Mrs. Ashbridge was turned over to the police and taken back to City Hall to await her hearing this morning.
The prison key stolen by Ashbridge from Hibbs’ murdered body was recovered this morning by Detective Doran in the yard of Dr. Frank, 2025 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia. The recovery of the key was sue to information given by Ashbridge, after he had been locked up in jail yesterday afternoon. Ashbridge, when questioned as to the whereabouts of the key, said that Thompson had it and that he had seen him toss it over a wall of a residence near Twenty-third and Chestnut Streets on Monday night while he and his wife and Thompson were walking to Thirty-second Street.
Detective Doran and Constable Voight went to Philadelphia late yesterday afternoon and searched in vain for the key in the vicinity of Twenty-third and Chestnut Streets until darkness came on.
Detective Doran renewed the search early this morning. There is a high wall fronting the yard at the home of Dr. Frank, and a search of the grounds resulted in the finding of the key, which was returned to Sheriff Haines.
Ashbridge is confined in a large cell in what is known as Section E. As cellmates he has two persons who are being held as witnesses to the crime. Sheriff Haines has assigned three constables, Gardner, Ford, and Addison. They will work on eight-hour shifts and will see that Ashbridge does not attempt any further escape or try to end his life.
Sergeant Detective Kane of the Chicago Police Department today took to Chicago Alfred Williams, who was an eyewitness to the murder of Hibbs. Williams, an Italian, served six months here on a charge of false pretense in obtaining money from a number of Italian grocers under the pretense that he represented the Roma Grocery Company. After his arrest and sentence here the police of Chicago lodged a detainer against Williams who is wanted in the West for a like crime.
The body of Jailor Hibbs will be exposed to view tonight at his home, 913 South 8th Street. Services will be conducted by Reverend Harry Bradway, pastor of Eighth Street Methodist Episcopal Church. Members of the Seventh Ward Republican Club, Mutual Aid and the Liberty Beneficial Society will attend in a body.
Tomorrow morning the body will be taken to Langhorne, where services will be held in the Friends Meeting House, after which interment will be made in the burial ground by the Schroeder-Kephart Company. Friends may call this evening to pay their respects.
Ashbridge will not be tried until December. On the day he was listed for trial of murdering Mrs. Dunbar his lawyer, Assemblyman Wolverton, was ill. In the interim the entire panel of jurors for the April term of court was discharged following a case of alleged tampering. This makes it necessary that he be held until September for trial unless the Court should otherwise decree, which is hardly likely.
Ashbridge is 22 years old and not 27, as previously stated. His real age was disclosed by the certificate of his marriage. He was 20 when he wedded two years ago,
The Howard Marshall who mailed a letter to a woman in Baltimore is not Freeholder Howard Marshall of the Eighth Ward, as was reported to the Prosecutor yesterday. Mr. Kraft’s investigation disclosed that Freeholder Marshall does not know either Ashbridge or Thompson and that as a matter of fact the Marshall in question is an East Sider and to relative to the freeholder, who was naturally much upset at being mistakenly dragged into the case.
E.S. Fry, proprietor of the Keystone Hotel, Chester, where the couple were caught, told the story of the capture both to the city police and Prosecutor Kraft.
“Late on Monday night I received a call from another hotel, requesting that I take care of a man and his wife for the evening,” said Mr. Fry. “I waited until a little before midnight when the couple arrived. He seemed nervous and registered in a shaky hand, and I was suspicious that there was something wrong.”
“I did not pay much attention to the way he registered until the next morning when I examined the register and saw that he had neglected to register his wife. He signed ‘Mr. Smythe, Washington, D.C.’ I communicated my suspicions to my wife and told her to go observe the couple, too. Then I went out on the porch and picked up a morning newspaper. On the front page were the pictures of the two men who escaped.”
“I instantly recognized Ashbridge, but was not just sure of my identity of the man, so I decided to get a better look at him. At the breakfast table I observed him more closely and feeling sure of my ground I called Captain Schregler, afterward securing the service of two negro policemen, whom I placed on guard outside the hotel, giving them orders not to allow the couple to leave. The officers, William Padgett and William Robinson, took their positions outside the hotel, ready for the signal to enter when I gave it.”
“What’s the matter,” he exclaimed. “You know what’s the matter,” replied Mr. Fry, who brought in Captain Schregler and Detective Hunt. Schregler and Hunt instantly recognized the fugitive.
Before Ashbridge had a chance to move his arms were pinioned by his sides and Policeman Hunt had extracted the murder gun from his right hip pocket. It was fully loaded. In the same pocket were seventeen additional cartridges and in a suitcase in his room, Number 9, was a fresh box of cartridges.
“The little wife was crying bitterly,” said Mr. Fry. “She leaned her head upon his shoulder and the husband tried to console her.”
Captain Schregler sent a telegram to Chiefs Gravenor and Hyde with the startling news that Ashbridge had been caught.
On the way back to Camden Mrs. Ashbridge began to cry. She was sitting beside Captain Schregler, and he tried to console her. Her sobs increased, and Ashbridge called to her to “take it easy”.
This seemed to quiet her a bit, and Schregler spoke to her kindly, saying that she would not be blamed very much for her part in the escape. “That’s nopt worrying me” she answered. “I am worried about ‘Wil’.”
“well you women beat me” was Schregler’s comment. “What did you want to help him escape for, anyhow? He had beaten you, deserted you for another woman and when she turned him down, he killed her. Yet you make up with him, leave your kids and risk everything to help him escape. Seems to me the worse men treat you women, the more you will do for them.”
“Lots of truth in what you say’” remarked Mrs. Ashbridge, with a sigh.
Mr. Fry was the center of attention. Everybody seemed anxious to hear his story.
“I’m not going back until I collect that $500 either,” he was heard to say. The capturer was formerly coroner of Delaware County.
Scenes of excitement were prevalent when the automobile of Chief Gravenor with Detective-chauffer David Hunt at the wheel, captain Schregler and the prisoners in the rear and Chief Dodd, of the Pennsylvania Railroad police force in the front seat came from the Federal Street Ferry. E.S Fry, the hotel proprietor who caught the Ashbridges, was also in the car.
Ashbridge and his wife were instantly recognized. The news spread like wildfire and was passed along the route of the machine to police headquarters.
Thinking that the prisoners would be brought to the Prosecutors office, a battery of newspapermen and photographers were camped on the Court House plaza. When someone cried in bellowed tones “There they go,” the scribes and photographers started in hot pursuit behind the automobile.
The officers upon reaching the City Hall had to fight their way through the dense crowd which had gathered outside Police Headquarters. Many stood tiptoed to get a good glance at the prisoners who were abashed at their predicament.
Pulling her black straw hat over her face, Mrs. Ashbridge leaned on her husband’s arm. To hide his face the murderer pulled the Panama hat, which he had secured from Thompson, over his countenance.
Preliminary questioning was done by Captain A.L. James, after which the officers and prisoners were escorted upstairs to the office of Chief Gravenor.
Still clenching the stump of a cheap cigarette in the corner of his mouth, Ashbridge had a pitiful look on his face. He was much thinner than he was when he was arrested for the murder of the Dunbar girl. On his upper lip was a small mustache, which he raised during the last week.
His beautiful and baby-like eyes still retained their piercing stare. The murderer looked wild-eyed at persons in the room. He seemed to take delight in singling out persons in the room and “staring them out.” None seemed courageous enough to return Ashbridge’s strange stare. He looked distressed but the only betraying sign of nervousness was his incessant twitching of his fingers. Sweated on the couch in the chief’s room, Ashbridge talked freely.
His wife dried away the tears as they trickled down her reddened face but after regaining her composure she seemed quite calm. She intently watched Captain Schregler and Detective Hunt as they searched through her husband’s clothes.
When the trip for the Court House was being arranged the two prisoners, still handcuffed together, walked in the outer room of the chief’s office. It was then that the wife broke down slightly. She choked back a sob and leaned her head on her husband’s shoulder. Ashbridge did likewise and patted her on the back, at the same time, saying something in a suppressed tone of voice. The only persons in the room at the time were Assistant Chief Hyde and a Post-Telegram reporter. Neither was able to catch the words uttered. Captain Schregler, Chief Gravenor, and Detective Hunt later entered the room and the start for the Court House was made. Gravenor
The crowd below which was camped about the entrance to the building awaited with patient expectancy, when the news was spread that the prisoners were leaving the building.
Camera men took their positions, ready to snap the couple, but the Ashbridges fooled them. Before the door leading to the street was opened Ashbridge drew his wife to him and with their free hands pulled their hats over their faces, thus eluding the photographers, who resorted top every means to secure a photograph.
Once inside the automobile the prisoners seemed content until the Court House was reached when another large crowd was on hand to great them. Both repeated the trick of hiding their faces.
After Ashbridge was taken to his cell his wife was ordered taken to the detention department in the City Hall. Captain Schregler and Detective Hunt half-carrying the sobbing and broken-hearted woman, who has aroused some sympathy for her courageousness in taking such a desperate chance for the man she loved, the father of her children and a cruel murderer.
“What other woman would do as much as she has for her husband,” was the query advanced by one of the spectators in the Court House corridor as Mrs. Ashbridge passed through on her way to the waiting automobile.