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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Apr 01

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

Posted on April 1, 2016 at 2:12 PM by Elise Kelly

Sentenced to Serve 12 Years for Burglary
Just a couple of months after Charles Morris was acquitted of murder, he was picked up for burglary and was sentenced to serve twelve years at the Ohio Penitentiary.

Eight years into Morris' sentence, he injured one of his hands and became dangerously ill.

Believing that he would meet his death upon amputation, Morris confessed to murdering the Douthetts. He wanted to come to Xenia to confess and end his troubles.
"Frontispiece of a Manuscript" via Wikimedia Commons

Confession of a Heinous Crime
His first victim was Mrs. Douthett. He sadistically shot her in the head with a gun and then viciously strangled her inside the Douthett's barn. Mr. Douthett was not home at the time and did not return until later that evening from doing business in Xenia.

"Lancaster County, Pennsylvania" via Wikimedia Commons
 When he returned, Morris helped Mr. Douthett unhitch his horses in the barn. At one point when Mr. Douthett was not looking, Morris crept up behind him and struck him on the head. Morris violently pummeled Mr. Douthett's skull and then strangled him with a rope.

Pulling the rope that was around Mr. Douthett's neck, Morris dragged him and Mrs. Douthett back inside the home. He then unwaveringly set the house on fire with the couple's bodies inside.

Why did Morris commit such a monstrous act? Sadly, it was because of money. Morris wanted to take all of the money the Douthetts owned. He felt the best way to acquire it was to kill the elderly couple who had given him room and board.
Avarice - Matham's Series, The Vices, circa 1587 via Wikimedia Commons

Mystery Unsolved.... Until Now
How and why the Douthetts died were questions that went unanswered for a long period of time in Xenia. For eight years, this was a town mystery. Now that Morris had confessed, several people felt relieved, including the prosecution and the police (See Below).

   part iii
                                         Cincinnati Enquirer, March 12, 1894

For several weeks after his arm was amputated, Morris was laid up in the penitentiary hospital. He recovered and was released. Instead of returning to Xenia, he remained in Columbus. Greene County's Prosecuting Attorney requested that Morris be arrested. He was found in a house on North Third Street in Columbus and was taken to the Central Station. There he claimed that he did not remember confessing to the crime.

T.E. Scroggy
During the trial, Morris' defense attorney,T.E. Scroggy, argued that Morris had hallucinated and that his mind was impaired because he was near death. Scroggy later became Greene County's Judge of the Common Pleas Court.

Scroggy's argument lasted several hours, (See Below) during which he discussed the evidence in great detail. When Scroggy presented his case, the courtroom was filled to capacity.

                                  Xenia Daily Gazette, March 12, 1896

However, the defense case was not strong enough and this time Morris was found guilty of murdering Mrs. Douthett. The first time Morris was tried, he was found not guilty of murdering Mr. Douthett. Now Morris was sentenced to be hanged. (The electric chair was introduced the same year Morris was convicted. However, since he committed his crime prior to this implementation, he would hang from the gallows).

10th Year Anniversary
On the tenth year anniversary of the crime, the Greene County Sheriff went to Morris' cell to  take him to Columbus to be executed. In astonishment, he found Morris had... (See Below).

                                  Marietta Daily Leader, April 16, 1896

Morris had cut his throat and his body lay prostrate in a pool of blood on the cell's floor. A razor blade was found near the body.

This was an incredibly surprising ending to a story that had so many twists and turns. It truly seemed like the trial of the century in this area of Ohio. In order to understand our past, it is imperative to shed light on some of the dark moments of our history.

Until Next Time!

This Week's Trivia Question: How long did Judge Scroggy serve as Greene County's Judge of the Common Pleas Court?

Answer to Last Week's Trivia Question: What does the charge, murder in the second degree entail? Answer: An intentional killing that is not premeditated or planned.

Sources: Hill,Gillian and Deanna Ulvestad. Images of America: Greene County Ohio Time Capsule of 1901. Chicago: Arcadia Publishing, 2002.


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