Wellco Mobil Service, Wyalusing 1930s
Tri County Clippings- Page One Hundred Sixty Eight
Submitted by Joyce M. Tice from purchased scrapbook
TRIAL OF HAROLD B. FRISBIE
From issues of the Daily Review, Towanda, Pa. October 1940
Typed by Pat SMITH Raymond from Scrapbook supplied by Joyce M. Tice
WHERE BODY WAS HIDDEN UNDER BRIDGE
The bullet-riddled body of Edward Lee of Forksville was found stuffed under this bridge about a mile from Camp Brule late Thursday afternoon. Officers, after a check-up, started a search for Harold Frisbie, 32, an ex-convict who formerly lived in that vicinity. They say he was seen with Lee’s maroon colored Buick late Monday. Lee had not been seen from the time he started for Towanda early Monday afternoon until the body was discovered.
HAROLD FRISBIE SUSPECTED IN FORKSVILLE CASE
Armed Woodsmen and Farmers Join Officers in Search Through Forest; Movements of Stolen Car Traced for Hours
Woodsmen and farmers armed with guns and clubs joined state and Sullivan county officers yesterday in beating through the forests north of Forksville in an effort to locate an ex-convict suspected as the slayer of Edward Lee, 60, widely known lumberman, whose body was found under a small bridge on a little-used mountain road near Camp Brule Thursday afternoon.
Sergeant R. M. Stroh of Towanda and Private Delroy Banghart of Laporte said the man sought is known variously as Harold Frisbie, Harry Bacorn and Harold Backhorn, a native of the Forksville area and well acquainted with the wild territory extending from there into southern Bradford county.
Hours of searching during daylight hours proved fruitless and all last night the State Motor Police, Sheriff Raleigh Beinlich of Laporte and numerous volunteers patrolled the section where it was thought Frisbie might be in hiding. Up to an early hour this morning no success had been reported.
Finding of automobile tracks on abandoned roads through the dense woods led to the belief that the slayer of Lee might have thought it would be safest to stay near the scene of his crime temporarily and had gone into hiding there. The forest is so dense and seemingly so endless through that territory that only a systematic search for mile upon mile will be able to determine whether or not the man who pumped seven .32 caliber bullets into Lee’s body is lurking there.
The State Motor Police officers announced the name of the suspect yesterday morning after they had checked some leads which developed Thursday night.
Frisbie, they said, was seen by highway workers to enter and leave the Minersville-Laquin road three times on Monday afternoon, the day Lee disappeared after starting for Towanda with $200 in his pockets to pay taxes on some property at Lake Wesauking. Late that afternoon, they said they learned, he drove up to the Jennings store at Estella in Lee’s maroon-colored new Buick and signalled for someone to come out. When a clerk did so, he ordered some heavy rubbers and a pair of green lumbermen’s socks. These were taken to him. He obtained 12 gallons of gasoline and then shoved money for payment out on the seat of the car. As soon as it had been picked up he drove away rapidly.
In the evening a man with two toes shot off one foot appeared at the office of Dr. M. E. Hydock in Sonestown and asked for the wound to be dressed. Dr. Hydock on looking at the picture of Frisbie shown on this page this morning identified his patient as Frisbie. That was the last time he has been seen.
Frisbie is 32 years old and is described as five feet, 8 inches tall with black hair combed straight back. He wore a brown suit when seen in the vicinity of Forksville Monday.
Sergeant Stroh said his record showed that he was arrested at the age of 14 for burning what was known as the "New Union" school so that he wouldn’t have to go to school. He was sent to the reformatory for that. When he was released he stole a car at New Albany and was sentenced to the Eastern Penitentiary in Bradford county court. He had not been free long after finishing that ter, the sergeant said, before he stole a car in New Jersey. He was caught in Lancaster county, Pa., and returned to New Jersey where he was sent to prison. He only recently finished that term, the officer said, and came to Wyalusing where he worked on a farm about a week, being fired for ‘being no good".
It is believed he went to Forksville Monday thinking he might get a job at Lee’s lumber mill. Evidently he learned Lee was starting for Towanda and obtained a ride. The murder is believed to have been committed on the state highway, Route 87, between Forksville and Dushore. Frisbie’s toes probably were shot off when Lee managed to turn the weapon in his attacker’s hand during a fierce struggle that must have taken place, judging from the appearance of the dead man’s clothing.
Yesterday Harry Heinze of Forksville R.D. 1, one of Lee’s employes, who was in the group of searchers which found the body Thursday, took members of The Daily Review staff to the spot and then on out the same road about half a mile to where the basement walls of the school Frisbie fired, can still be seen. Dense underbrush now is all about the place and it is difficult to realize that children once romped and played and studied there. The nearest community now is Eldredville.
The village of Forksville was stunned by the revelation of the murder. Lee’s lumbering operations comprised the only industry there, about 40 men, many of them married and with families, being employed. If the lumbering is not continued it will be a hard blow to that community. The mill has been shut down since Tuesday, the men at first searching for their employer and since Thursday afternoon, for his slayer.
Funeral services are to be held at noon today at the home in Forksville with further services at Wellsboro, his former home, at 2 o’clock. Burial will be in Wellsboro.
FRISBIE PLEADS BUILTY TO MURDER OF EDWARD LEE – Oct. 26, 1940
Laporte, Oct.25.-Harold E. Frisbie, hitch-hike killer of Edward Lee, Forksville lumberman, pleaded guilty on a charge of murder today when arraigned before Justice of the Peace William Shoemaker here. Previously State Trooper Delroy Banghart said, he had signed a complete confession and had shown the officers the place along the Forksville-Dushore highway where the killing took place the afternoon of October 14.
Frisbie was returned to his cell in the Sullivan county jail immediately after his arraignment. Unless a special term of court is called, he will not be sentenced until January court. At that time it will be necessary for Judge E. B. Farr and his associates without a jury to hear evidence to determine the degree of guilt.
COURT ADJOURNS TO FEBUARY 15; ARGUMENTS THEN
"I Just Started Firing. I Don’t Know Why", Killer Tells Sullivan County Court; Kindness Brought Confession.
Laporte, Pa., Jan. 15.—Taking of testimony was concluded this afternoon in the case of Harold B. Frisbie, hitch-hike slayer of Edward Lee, prominent Forksville lumberman, and the Court set February 15 for the submission of briefs and arguments by opposing counsel. Whether the final decision will be made on that day or later was not indicated by President Judge E. B. Farr, who with his associate judges, George Bown and Don Hughes, have been taking evidence for the past two days without a jury.
Since Frisbie pleaded guilty on a general charge of murder Tuesday morning, the responsibility for deciding his fate rests entirely with the Court. The Judges must decide the degree of guilt and if it should be the first, must determine whether the penalty should be life imprisonment or death.
Frisbie was on the stand most of the day, telling an almost unprecedented "hard luck" story in which he described details of his life from the time of the death of his father when he was only three days old to the present time.
He was so willing to talk and answered questions even on cross-examination so frankly, that Judge E. B. Farr at one point remarked to the prisoner after he had answered several questions, "You don’t mind talking to me, do you?" On Frisbie saying he didn’t, Judge Farr said: "In fact, you really enjoy it, don’t you?" and the prisoner replied in the affirmative.
That the main argument for the defense will be that Frisbie is not fully developed mentally, was indicated by questions of the defense counsel, Joseph F. Ingham and Jairus Thayer.
On the other hand, Special Prosecutor W. G. Schrier laid the basis for argument in demanding of Dr. M. E. Hydock, defense witness on Frisbie’s mentality, whether or not the prisoner could distinguish between right and wrong. "He probably could," was the answer.
Throughout the day Frisbie’s university-graduate wife sat with him as she did yesterday, holding his hand to bolster him at times when he began to cry. She gave his hand a hard squeeze as he left to take the witness stand. When he appeared on the verge of breaking down while testifying, she gave him a look meaning "Come—brace up" and as she did so, doubled her right fist and drew it sharply toward her and to the left as one would do in saying emphatically "I will".
The spirit of the woman in standing by a man who has admitted murder and faces possible electrocution, gripped the imagination of the huge crowd that jammed into the hot, stuffy court room. Even Special Prosecutor W. G. Schrier shook hands with her as the court session ended and expressed his sympathy for her in suffering through such an experience. "It is a terrible mess", he said. And Mrs. Frisbie agreed.
FRISBIE TAKES STAND- Mr. Schrier recalled F. H. Ott, Towanda photographer, as the last Commonwealth witness ehn court opened this morning. Mr. Ott identified several pictures he took of Edward Lee’s body in the Holcombe funeral parlor at Dushore. Mr. Schrier and District Attorney Albert F. Heess conferred for a few moments and then it was announced that the Commonwealth rested. It was then 9:20 o’clock.
After a short recess requested by Mr. Ingham, Frisbie was called to the witness stand. He immediately began a recital of the story of his life which took almost two hours under the direction of his attorneys. Cross examination regarding details, his feelings concerning various happenings, and his thoughts, required two hours more. Throughout it all, the statement he gave the officers shortly after his arrest stood without serious contradiction. He explained to the Court that the reason he told the truth so faithfully, after lying freely at first, was that "the officers reated me so kindly". He said he had been treated with every consideration from the very start and had appreciated it thoroughly. "I wasn’t used to that kind of treatment", he added.
DEATH OF FATHER – Frisbie said three days after his birth 33 years ago in Towanda, his father died. He and his mother were taken to the county home at Burlington and four other children in the family were placed in private homes.
A short time later his mother went to the Ezra Webb home near Eldredville, taking him along. When Frisbie was between two and three years old, his mother married Fred Beckhorn or Bacorn and that was where he got those aliases. He did not know, he said, that Beckhorn was not his father until he was 21 years old.
Beckhorn and his mother began housekeeping on the George Hugo place and that was the first place he could remember. They lived there three or four years and then moved to the Fetherbay place near the New Union school. The step-father, Frisbie said, "was always beating me and sending me to bed without meals"" One time, he declared, the teacher had to bring a pillow to school for him to sit on because otherwise he could not sit down. The stepfather, he told the Court, used a rubber hose and a wire or steel rod "very stiff and as big around as your finger". One time, he said, he was beaten for being five minutes late coming home from school due to playing along with the other children. He was seldom allowed to play at neighbors’ homes, he testified, and "had nothing at home to play with". He did chores from as far back as he could remember, the stepfather always finding fault with everything wrong and "never encouraging anything done right".
One time when he had been beaten severely his mother took him to Towanda to live with his sister. When they returned, "he was kind to both of us for a little while".
A neighbor was quoted as saying "The only time there was any religion in the home was when someone was there".
Frisbie testified that he went to school between five and six years but never progressed beyond the third grade. He said Beckhorn was a Civil War veteran who drew a pension but he never gavehim any money to spend.
He ran away from home three times, each time being brought back.
One Christmas night the stepfather forbade him to go to a Christmas party but he sneaked out and went with "Henry Smith". As they were crossing a field, it was testified, Smith suggested that they burn the New Union School. Frisbie said he refused but Smith went back to do it while Frisbie kept watch on the road. That was on Friday night. The following Monday Frisbie, then between 13 and 14 years old, was arrested for setting the fire and taken to the Sullivan county jail at Laporte, the commitment being made by Lyman Snyder of Eldredville whose store Frisbie was planning to rob when he killed Lee. "The old man (his stepfather) said they should have killed me instead of sending me to jail", he remarked.
HE LIKES BEING IN JAIL – After being in jail from Christmas to April, Frisbie was arraigned in county court. He pleaded guilty, he told the Court today, "because I liked the jail". It was "really peaceful" there, he continued. "The sheriff treated me so well and fed me good food ad it was better than any home I ever had known so I wanted to stay." He was taken to Glen Mills reform school, however, and found that vastly different. There he found violations of rules brought severe punishment-—and he quite often broke the rules. He told of whippings, which left blood running down his legs; of how he ran away several times; and how punishment became progressively worse. Finally after two years he was paroled in his stepfather’s custody.
It was the same old story of beatings, he declared, and finally one day after he had been beaten over the head with a pitchfork he left home never again to return.
He obtained work for a time in Honesdale and then went to Sayre to live with his stepfather’s daughter and her husband, Mr. And Mrs. Irving Shaffer. Shaffer, he said charged him with stealing some cider from the cellar of a home from which he had moved. Frisbie when arraigned in Bradford county court was sentenced to six months in jail. As he walked away from the bar, the judge overheard him say: "I’d rather be dead than spend six months in the Bradford county jail". He was called back and the judge, remarking "We don’t want smart guys here", send him to Hutingdon reformatory for an indefinite term. His mother died just before he was taken away.
After two and a half years he again was released and went to Washington Crossing, N.J., where he worked about six weeks as an airport mechanic. Then he took a plane and a passenger and started South. They cracked up in the West Virginia mountains. The plane was a complete wreck but Frisbie was not badly hurt.
After working in coal mines in West Virginia for a short time he returned to Bradford county and worked a couple of months for Morris Sullivan of New Albany. Then he took Sullivan’s car and on being caught was sent to the Eastern Penitentiary at Philadelphia for three to six years. That was in 1930. He served three years, then went to the vicinity of Trenton, N.J., where a brother and sister had moved from Honesdale. He worked by the day as a carpenter.
His sister kept house for a Joe Kelly. One night something more to drink was desired and Frisbie was sent for it in Kelly’s car. He got it and kept right on going. Near Efferton, Pa., the machine broke down. He had sobered up then, he said, and telegraphed Kelly he would bring the car back on Saturday. On Friday, however, he was arrested and was sent to Trenton state prison for two to five years.
At the end of 11 months he was paroled but Pennsylvania authorities returned him to the Eastern penitentiary for violation of parole. He finally was released on January 8, 1939. Then started a long search for work, according to his story.
RECOMMENDATIONS? Everywhere he went recommendations from his last employed were asked and his "last place" was the penitentiary. He finally lived with the Salvation Army and on relief in Philadelphia. In February, 1940, he at last landed a job on a farm near Doylestown and he was working there when he arried his wife July 22 last. As fall came on, he was needed no longer and was thrown out of work.
Then he told of bills piling up and a letter received by his wife threatening suit, and he decided he "had to get some money somehow to keep my wife out of jail".
Details of his trip to this section were not gone into again they being admitted to be substantially as given in the confession introduced in evidence yesterday.
Mr. Ingham did ask, however: "Why did you shoot Mr. Lee?" and Frisbie replied: "I don’t know. I just wanted the car to use in holding up Lyman Snyder’s store. I didn’t figger on shooting or anything. When he grabbed my wrist, I tried to get out of the car myself. I started firing. I don’t know why. I haven’t any explanation".
Frisbie said he did not know Lee and would have taken a car from one of the others who had given him rides "but I couldn’t get up my courage; I just couldn’t get the nerve".
In concluding his testimony he said after he told the officers the truth he "felt better". He said he was very sorry for what had happened and "felt remorse for what took place".
CROSS EXAMINATION – On cross examination he freely told how he had deceived his wife concerning his real financial condition and his past. He said he did it to "ease her mind".
He said he had a happy home and worried for fear it would be broken up. Asked if it didn’t worry him when he thought that he might get into serious difficulties in his holdup attempt, he answered "Yes". He also said in answer to a direct question that he knew he was doing wrong.
Mr. Schrier produced the murder weapon and Frisbie, turning his head so he wouldn’t have to look at it, broke into tears. "Is that", said Mr. Schrier, "the gun from which you fired bullets into the body of Edward Lee?" The answer was "Yes". He also said he knew he had no right to have the gun on his person.
The prosecutor recalled that Frisbie told how Lyman Snyder used to give him candy as a boy and asked why he picked on him for a holdup victim. "Because I knew he would have the money I needed", was the reply.
Mr. Schrier also reminded the prisoner how he said he looked around carefully after the shooting before moving the body, and asked: "You looked around because you realized you had committed murder didn’t you?" Frisbie unhesitatingly said "Yes".
He testified he cannot read or write, except his name.
Admitting he expected to be picked up soon by the officers, he told the Court he was "willing to make that sacrifice" because "you see there was not only these bills but the milk man threatened to cut out the milk for the children if he didn’t get soe money". He left the stand just before 2 p.m.
Mrs. Frisbie took the stand and told of their marriage and subsequent life together, remarking especially how her two sons, 5 and 8 years old, thought so much of her husband. At all times, she said he was kind and gentle and played with them "as any father who loved his children". There was no cross examination.
Dr. M. E. Hydock described his visits with Frisbie while dressing his wound both at his home and at the county jail Oct. 23 and 26, and again when he was ill Dec. 25. He said Frisbie told him "I didn’t want to shoot a man. I didn’t want to hurt anybody. I thought when I flashed the gun he would get out and I’d have the car."
Did you think", Dr. Hydock said he asked him, "that he would take the gun from you and try to shoot you?" He quoted Frisbie as replying "No, I didn’t expect that. When he grabbed my wrist, I didn’t think a thought. It just happened".
Dr. Hydock described Frisbie as "the unfortunate product of abject home environment in the early growing years". While physically mature, he said, Frisbie has the mentality of a child 10 or 12 years old. At heart he is honest, he said he felt, "but the good qualities have not been developed".
The last witness was Lieut. John Funk of Harrisburg, P. M. P. ballistics expert, who described in detail the operation of the pistol used in the murder. Stress was placed on a slide fastener on the gun which must be pulled in order to shoot it. The officer said the only way it could be done with one hand would be to hold the pistol between one’s knees.
Court adjourned shortly before 2 o’clock with the announcement that arguments will be heard February 15, at 9 a.m.