It's a murder mystery more than 100 years old.
Toledo police Patrolman Geiger (apparently in 1930 The News-Bee only used last names to identify police officers) was on his regular tour-of-duty in what we now identify as North Toledo.
The snow had stopped falling, but there was enough of it on the ground to muffle the patrolman's footsteps. All there was around him were the soft glow of streets lights and empty, dark storefronts.
The patrolman looked at his watch. 1:15 a.m.
“Time to shake a few more doorknobs before I meet the sergeant,” the patrolman said, according to The News-Bee's recount of the February 23, 1912, death of Helena Madge.
The officer checked door after door making sure each was locked. When he reached 809 Summit Street, he pushed on the handle and stumbled inside.
“Mother Madge has fallen asleep in her chair again. Bad business that – with enough coin to start a bank stacked around the place. Fine business! Anybody could walk in here and carry the whole shebang away – and I'd take the fall for it for not watching my beat,” the officer either said to no one or thought to himself, according to the News-Bee's 1930s story, which ran as part of a murder mystery series.
Madge apparently had a habit of falling asleep inside her shop where she sold jacks and other trinkets, so when Patrolman Geiger saw her in a chair at the back of the shop, he thought she had simply dozed off (although the story notes that, prior to that day, her shop had been broken into at least six times).
The officer called for Madge and got no response. He walked to her and touched her shoulder, and pulled away. The officer noticed then that Madge was dead.
Her arms were bound to the sides of her chair; the officer took off his gloves and touched Madge's wrist. No pulse.
The officer ran outside to call Sergeant Winker from an alarm box. Minutes later, the sergeant and Detective Captain Hall responded to the scene. With more light in the shop, they saw the shop had been destroyed. Clothing was strewn about. Drawers were emptied onto the floor. Spots in the plaster wall were broken open, suggesting that the motive here was robbery.
Rumor was that Madge, who made money hand-over-fist, stored her bounty in the walls of her shop. Police urged her constantly to retire and deposit her money into a bank. She refused.
The rumor wasn't all hype. In 1911, bandits broke into the shop and stole $7,000 in gold from a hiding place in a wall.
As the police further surveyed the shop, they found Madge's money belt, which had been ripped from her body, on the floor, three worn purses, and cash registers.
Whoever was culpable, police deduced, came into the shop before Madge closed for the night. The door bar rested in a corner, suggesting Madge never locked up. At some point during the investigation, police also found a key inside the shop; they tested it in all of the locks, but said it fit none.
It should be noted, however, that Madge, in addition to her shop, owned five properties which she rented out. The key could have, in theory, belonged to another of her buildings.
The then-coroner Charles Henzler ruled that Madge died of suffocation.
“The search for the slayer was continued with vigor for another week, but no further clews were brought to light,” The News-Bee article stated.
It seemed, once, that police had a break in the case. They arrested a married couple, but because the evidence was “of the flimsiest,” the couple was acquitted.
“Hwo much the murderers obtained will, perhaps, never be known. But workmen who remodeled the building months later, found the fabled walls of gold to contain nothing more valuable than dusty little gray mice that ran squeaking from the blows of the axes and crowbars,” The News-Bee story ends.
For the curious among you, 809 Summit is now owned by The Holy Trinity Orthodox Church and appears to be a parking lot.