One of the strangest crime tangles of recent years has been solved just recently in Harris County, Texas.
On September 27, 1924, the badly decomposed body of a man was found near Goose Creek, Texas. For four months attempts were made to identify the body but with no success. From Long Island, N. Y., came Mrs. George P. Massey and claimed the body as that of her husband.
Though Mrs. Massey wept on seeing the body and insisted on burying it as such, A. T. Hamilton, deputy sheriff and fingerprint expert of Harris County, did not believe the body to be Massey's. He fingerprinted the body on January 13, 1925, exactly one hundred and twenty days after the man's death.
Massey's finger prints were sent from Washington and were nothing like the finger prints of the dead man. So the body was exhumed and new efforts were made to identify the corpse.
Finally, a woman from Groesbeck, Texas, identified the body as L. A. Ridenour of that city. Ridenour had never been fingerprinted so there was no sound evidence to prove the identity of the corpse until a dentist came from Luling, Texas, and identified Ridenour by his teeth.
After Ridenour's body was discovered, a man using the name Louis A. Ridenour had been driving through the oil fields, and later this man borrowed $118 on a car. Hamilton spent many months making this investigation, and traveled from town to town before he was able to prove that the car on which the money had been loaned was the same as the car in which the alleged murderer had been seen.
The car had meantime been sold, and Sheriff Binford and Deputy Sheriff Hamilton had to trace its various owners, look up the bills of sale, and check up the various county licenses, in order to trace the movements of the man they sought.
Later, investigation showed that this man had joined the navy. Sheriff Binford went to San Diego where he worked on the case four days and then found his man.
The man was Charles E. Hoffman, known in Goose Creek under an alias. He had met the real Ridenour in Oklahoma, where both worked in the oil fields. Ridenour purchased an automobile and the men started for Houston. On September 15, 1924, Ridenour was killed, and from that time on, Hoffman, using the name of Ridenour, traveled through the oil fields until he joined the navy.
In October, 1924, a year after his crime was committed, Hoffman was indicted for murder. The persistence and care taken by Binford and Hamilton caused the apprehension and arrest of this murderer long after his victim was buried.
1. "Takes Finger Prints One Hundred and Twenty Days After Death", Finger Print and Identification Magazine, Vol. 7, No. 7, January 1926, page 3.