A Harvey County Farmer Meets With Foul Play
The coroner was summoned to Richland township this afternoon to hold an inquest over the body of George Broer, who was found dead in his bed yesterday on his farm, on section 26. The evidence points towards murder, but the body was very badly decomposed and the exact manner of his death is not known. The supposition is that he was strangled. The team, wagon, and harness belonging to the dead man are missing and a small cupboard in which he kept valuables was found in a grove near the house having been chiseled open and the contents removed. Mr. Broer was last seen on Monday and it is supposed that he met his death soon after. The verdict rendered by the jury was that the deceased met his death at the hands of some persons and in some manner unknown to the jury. The body was brought to Newton today and interred in the city cemetery. The deceased was about 68 years of age. He was married but lived alone, his wife being in Germany. He had one son, living in Salem, Oregon. No clue to the murderer has been discovered. The Wichita Daily Eagle, Wichita, Kansas. Wednesday, May 14, 1890. Page 1.
Dr. McKee went to Richland township Friday afternoon in response to a summons to go and hold a coroner’s inquest over the body of George Broer who was yesterday found dead in his bed on his farm in section 26. All the evidence points toward murder, though the body was so badly decomposed that the exact manner of his death could not be ascertained. The supposition is that strangling is the cause, and a piece of rope was found that might have been used to produce his death. The dead man’s team, wagon, and harness were missing and a small private cupboard in which he was known to have kept valuables, was found in a grove back of the house, chiseled open and with the contents gone. Mr. Broer was last seen on Monday and from the decomposition of the body, it is supposed that he met his death soon after. The jury rendered a verdict that the deceased met his death at the hands of some person and in some manner unknown to the jury. J. W. Edwards was summoned to-day to get the body and it was brought to this city and immediately interred in the city cemetery. The deceased was a man about 68 years of age. He has a wife living in Germany and one son who went to Salem, Oregon, about a year ago; since then Mr. Broer has been living alone. Another son was killed on the railroad about four years ago. He was a man of some property. No clue has been found to the murder. The Newton Kansan-Republican, Newton, Kansas. Thursday, May 14, 1890. Page 1.
On The Trail
Sheriff Pollard returned last night from an eight days’ search after one Van Brunt, who is supposed to be the murderer of Broer. For days Mr. Pollard gave him a close chase through Arkansas and the Indian Territory, but the trail was finally lost in a wood so dense that it could not be entered safely without guides. Officers of that country who are familiar with its broken surface have taken the case in hand and the culprit may yet be apprehended. The Newton Daily Republican, Newton, Kansas. Saturday, June 21, 1890. Page 4.
A Murderer Caught
Sheriff Pollard, of Harvey County, returned from Peabody, Saturday afternoon, with Isaac Van Brunt, whom he lodged in the county jail here, charged with the murder and robbery of George Broer last May. A reward of $600 was offered for the guilty party by the Governor and Harvey county. The murdered man was a wealthy farmer, living alone, fifteen miles south of town [Newton], and was found dead in bed, with evidences that he had been strangled. His house had been rifled of everything of value and a fine team of horses taken from the stables. Van Brunt acknowledges having the team in his possession, but denies all knowledge of the murder. Sheriff Pollard has been pursuing him ever since the murder, tracking him through the Indian Territory and back, finally succeeding in capturing him. The Dodge City Times, Dodge City, Kansas. Friday, July 11, 1890. Page 1.
Van Brunt Makes A Confession
Isaac Van Brunt, who was arrested on the night of July 4, charged with the murder of George Broer, of Richland township, last night [July 14] made a full confession of his guilt. Since he was placed in the Harvey county jail Van Brunt has told various stories about the affair, some of which were proven to be false, and the officers have some doubt as to the truth of his confession. He says that he went to Broer’s house on May 12 and, while Broer was getting supper, watched his chance and dropped strychnine in his food. He slept in Broer’s barn that night, awaiting the death of his victim. The next morning he went to the house and finding Broer dead, covered him up and stole what things he wished from the house and then took the team and went away, traveling around until he was captured. He supposed that Broer had money in the house and that was the reason of the murder. He secured only $4.50. The county commissioners today made an appropriation for the exhuming of the body of Broer, so that the stomach may be examined for traces of poison. The Wichita Daily Eagle Wichita, Kansas. Wednesday, ,July 16, 1890. Page 2. The article actually gives the name “George Van Brunt” which is incorrect. The transcription above has been corrected.
Convicted Of Murder
Isaac Van Brunt was convicted of murder in the first degree this morning [December 5] in the district court. His victim was George Broer, a Harvey county farmer, who was found dead in his bed last May. Broer’s team was found in the possession of Van Brunt, and he was suspected of the crime. He eluded the officers, and made his escape. He was captured on the night of the 4th of July at Peabody. He confessed his crime, stating that he went to Broer’s house on the morning of the 12th of May and remained there all day. At night, while Broer was preparing supper, he put poison in his food. That night he slept in the stable, waiting for his victim to die. In the morning he went to the house and found him dead. He covered him up, ransacked the house, took his team and left. At the trial he pleaded not guilty, but the evidence was too strong against him. He is wholly unconcerned over his fate. The Wichita Daily Eagle, Wichita, Kansas. Saturday, December 6, 1890. Page 1.
Sentenced To Hang
Isaac Van Brunt was recently convicted of the murder of George Broer, a farmer living south of Newton, and sentenced to be confined in the State penitentiary for one year, and then, when so ordered by the Governor, to be hanged. The Dodge City Times, Dodge City, Kansas. Friday, January 9, 1891. Page 1.
The District Court
Isaac Van Brunt was brought into court this afternoon and sentenced for the murder of George Broer, the penalty being a year in the penitentiary and then death by hanging. In passing sentence Judge Houk took occasion to remark that he was not satisfied with the evidence produced by the state; that the body should have been exhumed and examined. While its decomposed condition would interfere with this, still he believed it might have been done. He said that the circumstances surrounding the case, which he had carefully weighted and considered, all pointed to the guilt of the prisoner; but for all of this, he thought the state should have made an enquiry in the direction mentioned. Van Brunt took the sentence complacently and seemed to regard the passing of it as one of the formalities merely. It is not known when he will be taken to Leavenworth. The Newton Daily Republican, Newton Kansas. Monday, December 29, 1890. Page 4.
Pardon Applications Received
The board today gave out a list of convicts making application this term for pardon. ….Isaac Van Brunt, Harvey county…. The Kansas City Journal, Kansas City, Kansas. Friday, January 21, 1898. Page 2.
Isaac Van Brunt was 18 years old when he was convicted of 1st degree murder, and on December 29, 1890 was sentenced to hang. He was moved from the Harvey County jail in Newton and received at the Kansas State Penitentiary in Leavenworth, Kansas on December 31, 1890. He was assigned prisoner number 5729. Isaac Van Brunt was released from the Kansas State Penitentiary in Leavenworth, Kansas in of February 1898. He had served less than 8 years in prison for George’s murder. Nothing else is known of Isaac. Prison records list his sister as Sophie Reimer.
(c) Excerpted from the book, Deadly Encounters: Murder In Harvey County by Darren McMannis. All rights reserved. Used with permission.