Young Man Has A Tragic Death
Orion Duncan Found Dead With Bullet Wound in Temple. Case is Mystifying. Facing Bright Prospects he Was to Be Married in June.
A gloom of sadness has been cast on many homes and the sympathy of the community is extended to Mr. and Mrs. H. C. Duncan in the tragic death of their son, Orion, age 23 years, which occurred this morning soon after midnight. His body was found at the corner of Broadway and Pine just across the intersection of the sidewalk at the Gertz Mill, with a bullet wound to the Temple, about 12:30. A revolver was found nearby. Orion had had all happy anticipations to which to look forward in life. Just recently he had a residence erected on his property on Pine Street between eighth and ninth in the day had been determined as early as in June for his marriage to Ms. Edna Martin, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. C. T. Martin who reside on East Broadway. The young man was on his way home from a visit at the Martin home last night when the tragedy occurred. The family has stated that he was in his usual good spirits and left the home without any indication of any despondency that would lead him to plan the end of his life. The first suggestion of anything that might seem alarming was when someone called it the Martin home to determine if Orion was not going to the Santa Fe baggage room where he was employed in the latter hours of the night. Orion was known to have a host of friends but no one can remember of his having had an enemy. He was a likable boy who had suffered some severe hardships in regaining health following asphyxiation which occurred eight years ago when the gas pipe in the bathroom stove leaked. Complication had resulted from this accident, but with much steadfastness, patients, and cheerfulness which was the admiration of his friends, he became able to resume his employment and for some time has been employed at the Santa Fe baggage room. He has been efficient and conscientious in his work and his associates deeply deplore this termination of his life. A bad bruise under the chin of the young man gave indication that he might have been struck by the butt of the revolver or with a cudgel. This and on account of the number of thefts, robberies, and holdups that have occurred, made it seem expedient that an inquest be held, and such an inquiry was instituted at 2 o’clock this afternoon at the Sprinker Chapel. In the immediate family circle are the parents and sisters, Mrs. Bernice Pearson and Mrs. Lois Merrithew, of Kansas City, and little Catherine at home. Inquest was in progress behind closed doors at the time of going to press this afternoon. The Evening Kansan-Republican, Newton, Kansas. Wednesday, May 4, 1921. Page 1.
Jury Failed To Solve Mystery
Verdict That Orion Duncan Came to Death by Unknown Hands. Suicide Theory Is Not Established by Evidence Adduced. The coroner’s jury which was summoned to make investigations of the death of Orion Duncan which occurred Wednesday morning, rendered the following decision: “That the deceased met his death between the hours of midnight and 12:30 Wednesday morning, May 4, at the corner of Broadway and Pine, by a revolver shot wound inflicted in the right temple by a 32 caliber automatic, by whom inflicted unknown to the jury.” The jurors were John Getz, W. E. Adair, J.M. Fugate, C. Lehman, James Steinkirchner, and Jake Strauss. The inquest, which was begun Wednesday afternoon at two o’clock, was concluded in two hours and after discussion by the jurors, they made a request for a continuance of the investigation this morning, at which time one additional witness testified and jurors had further opportunity of questioning witnesses called yesterday, which included officers who were summoned when the body was found, and associates of the young man at the baggage room where Orion had been employed. The testimony of Gen. gave indication that Orion had not really been despondent over any finances in regard to the building of his residence, and that he had at all times evidenced the greatest happiness in planning for his home in marriage, and was happy in his parental home, so no real motive could be found for him to terminate his life. The position of the body and revolver being unusual for a self-inflicted wound that must have caused instant death, according to statements made, and the bruised spot under the chin, were the mysterious points which had caused corner F. L. Abbey and County Attorney A. E. Morgan to make an inquest. These features made the jurors feel that the investigation should be as thorough as possible and that they give it due deliberation. The decision, which was rendered at noon, after a session of two hours this morning, was indicatory that the evidence heard was not of the nature that could make it possible to establish definitely any conclusion that would lead to the cause of the death. The Evening Kansan-Republican, Newton, Kansas. Thursday, May 5, 1921. Page 1.
Funeral of Orion Duncan
A very beautiful and impressive funeral service was held for Orion Duncan at the Congregational Church yesterday afternoon at three o’clock, the Church being crowded with friends of the young man and his family. Rev. C. C. McCoy delivered the sermon, and a quartet composed of Mrs. W.R. Proctor, Miss Melba Napier, Albert Plumb, and J. L. Napier sang favorite hymns of the family with William Hagan at the organ, and Mrs. Proctor sang as a solo, “Sometime We’ll Understand.” Numerous beautiful floral tokens bespoke the sympathy of friends and the esteem in which the young man was held the pallbearers were Will Johnson, Clifford Irby, Chester Walker, Archie Baird, Donald Robinson, and Frank Myers. The Evening Kansan-Republican, Newton, Kansas. Monday, May 9, 1921. Page 5.
F. M. Johnson’s Nephew Killed
Orion Duncan, Newton, Shot From Ambush. Jealous Suitor Suspected. Frank Johnson, our clerk of the court, was called to Newton, Kan., Wednesday, by a telegram which stated that his nephew, Orion Duncan, had been killed. Frank left on the night train for Newton and found on arrival that such was indeed the case, and the coroner’s verdict was that he had been killed with a bullet which had been aimed at him, probably from behind a big tree, along which he had passed, about 10:30 the night before and death had been instantaneous. Young Duncan had been calling on his fiancée, about three blocks from his home. They were to have been married early in June. In fact, the home was built and furnished complete. It is thought in Newton by relatives and friends, that jealousy was the cause of the killing. He would have been 23 years old July 4. Mr. Johnson and family attended the funeral service Sunday at 3:00 o’clock at the Congregational Church of which he was a member. The large Church would not hold more than half of those who had come to pay their respects. The Olathe Mirror, Olathe, Kansas. Thursday, May 12, 1921. Page 1.
Before adjournment, the board of commissioners ordered the following resolution spread upon the minutes of the “Journal of Commissioners’ Proceedings.” “Whereas, it has been brought to the attention of the Board of County Commissioners that the crime of murder has probably been committed in Harvey County, and whereas no clue to the perpetrators of the crime has been discovered, we, the Board of County Commissioners, do hereby offer a reward of Five Hundred Dollars for the arrest and conviction of the party or parties responsible for the death of Orion Duncan on the night of the 3rd day of May, A.D. 1921.” The Evening Kansan-Republican, Newton, Kansas. Thursday, June 9, 1921. Page 3.
Offer Reward In Orion Duncan Case
$1,000 Posted and Governor Asked to Add to That Amount. Since the coroner’s jury was unable to place the responsibility for the death of Orion Duncan, which occurred in this city on the night of May 3, 1921, the board of Harvey county commissioners has deemed it advisable to offer a reward of $500 for the arrest and conviction of the party or parties responsible for the act. This action was taken at the meeting of the board, Tuesday. Since the above was put into type, it has been learned that relatives of Orion have also posted an additional reward of $500 for the arrest and evidence leading to the conviction of the party or parties responsible for the young man’s death. Also it was stated today that Governor Allen had been requested to augment the amount of the reward by offering an additional amount of state funds. It will be remembered that the death occurred under peculiar and unexplained circumstances, and a coroner’s jury failed to establish to its satisfaction the theory of suicide which at first was entertained by some. So far as known Orion had not an enemy in the world, and it was practically determined that robbery was not the motive as his effects were not disturbed, so far as known. Yet there was no known cause for suicide, and it has been thought possible that he might have resisted a hold-up and was shot by the would-be robbers who fled after firing the fatal shot. In any event, every effort is to be made to clear up the mystery. The Evening Kansan-Republican, Newton, Kansas. Thursday, June 9, 1921. Page 3.
Offers Reward In Duncan Case
Governor Allen today issued a proclamation offering $300 reward for the arrest and conviction of the slayer of Orion Duncan, son of H. C. Duncan of Newton, who was mysteriously shot and killed on May 3. The county commissioners of Harvey County have offered $500 reward on the same case. Also, it will be remembered that relatives of Orion here posted a reward of $500, being the first to post a reward. This makes an aggregate amount of $1,300 offered in the case. The Evening Kansan-Republican, Newton, Kansas. Monday, June 27, 1921. Page 1.
Gordon Oliver has sold the Orion Duncan property at 919 Pine street to John L. Cox. The Evening Kansan-Republican, Newton, Kansas. Friday, August 5, 1921. Page 2.
(c) Excerpt from the book, Deadly Encounters: Murder In Harvey County by Darren McMannis. Used with permission.