Clock Tower

Out of the Clock Tower

Hello and welcome to the Greene County Archives' blog, "Out of the Clock Tower".  Please join us as we share information on archival issues, news, special events, and highlights from our collection.

Before the archives program began in Greene County in 1996, permanent records were stored in every conceivable space, in basements, garages, and closets. Usually they were in boxes of various shapes and sizes, although seldom adequately labeled, but occasionally they were just in loose piles of books and papers. Most notable were the old records stuffed into the clock tower of the County Courthouse, where they shared their home with pigeon droppings.

Now, there is a clean, environmentally controlled, well appointed location for the county archives, where our historical records are housed in standard sized boxes on steel shelves. We have taken note of their journey in the name for our blog.

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Mar 24

The Douthett Case: Greene County's Bizarre Double Murder - Part II

Posted on March 24, 2016 at 4:56 PM by Elise Kelly

Who Were the Douthetts?
Mr. and Mrs. Jonathan Douthett were an elderly couple who lived outside the Xenia City limits. They were farmers who lived and farmed in Greene County for over forty years. The Cincinnati Enquirer reported that the elderly couple were... (See Below).
                                   Cincinnati Enquirer, April 18, 1886

Mrs. Douthett was a sister of the wife of Dr. George Watt, a prominent dentist of Cincinnati. Mr. Douthett was a graduate of the Ohio Dental College but never practiced the dental profession because he had weak eyes. It has also been noted that Mr. Douthett was a teacher by profession. x-ray
"X-Ray Skull" by Erich Ferdinand via Flickr

When the police discovered the Douthetts' bodies, Mr. Douthett was found in the foundation of the room where he and his wife slept. Mrs. Douthett was found in the adjacent room. Some speculated that this meant she made an effort to escape the flames.

The Tenant
The Douthett's tenant, Charles Morris, was arrested the day the bodies were found. Two days later, Morris appeared before the City of Xenia's Mayor and plead not guilty to grand larceny, arson and murder in the second degree.
                                Clerk of Courts, Final Record, Vol. 8 Pg. 123
Circumstantial Evidence
Although the prosecution believed they had strong evidence against Morris, it was all circumstantial.

Postmortem Pathology by Henry Cattell, 1906, via Wikimedia Commons
The doctor who performed the postmortem examination found numerous blood clots in the interior portion of both the victims' heads.

According to medical literature written at this time, the cause for blood clots found in the head were a result from repeated blows to the area.

Morris' attorney, James Winans, was not satisfied with the examination. He consulted several physicians and surgeons. Let's take a look at one of the letters he sent to Dr. L.E. Russell of Springfield, Ohio, requesting his help. (The letter was printed in the Cincinnati Enquirer.)


                                     Cincinnati Enquirer, April 24, 1886
Unusual Experiment
Winans goes on to ask Dr. Russell to perform an experiment for the progress of science and for truth and justice. What did the experiment entail? (See Below).

                                     Cincinnati Enquirer, April 24, 1886

 Upon receiving the letter, Dr. Russell immediately went to work to perform the experiment. He noted how four calves were killed and one sheep (their throats were cut - no damage to the brain).
After the animals expired, the doctor then acquired their heads.
 calf's head
"Calf's Head & Feet" via Wikimedia Commons

He subjected the heads to intense heat until the skulls were thoroughly charred. Dr. Russell surgically removed the brains and blood clots were discovered. Dr. Russell's experiment revealed that blows to the head were not the only reason that blood clots form on the brain.

Another Theory
One theory that was proposed was the idea that Mr. Douthett suffered a heart attack and fell. While on the ground, Mr. Douthett tried to grab the lantern and knocked it over, thus causing a fire. Mrs. Douthett tried to save her husband but both perished in the blaze.

When the jury deliberated, they had to consider the fact that Mr. Morris often changed his story and that he had on him money and valuables suspected to be owned by the Douthetts. Furthermore, the jury had to assess the differing expert analysis concerning the death of the victims. List of selected jurors, see below.

                      Clerk of Courts, Final Record, Vol. 8 Pg. 132
Jurors include: Samuel Cox, James C.G. Adams, William Luce, Dean R. Lewis, Hiram Confer, Edward Hunter (Hunster?),Thomas B. Jobe, Frank McClary, Thomas J. Daughtery, Christ (Christopher) Harshey, Jasper W. Reed, Morgan Glass.

Before the grand jury deliberated, the prosecutor decided not to prosecute Morris for Grand Larceny or Arson. Perhaps the prosecution wanted to focus solely on the murder charge. Upon deliberation, the jury found that the evidence against Mr. Morris was not sufficient.

                              Clerk of Courts, Final Record, Vol. 8 Pg. 133

He was found not guilty of second degree murder.

Next week, we will find out what happened after Charles Morris confessed to the murders.

Until Next Time!

This Week's Trivia Question:
What does the charge,murder in the second degree entail?

Answer to Last Week's Trivia Question:
How long did the original Ohio State Penitentiary operate? - Answer: 1834-1984


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