Charred Skull Found In Straw Stack May Solve Death Mystery
The finding of a charred skull in a burned straw stack a mile north of Newton may solve the mystery of the disappearance of George Klein, 56, wealthy Okeene, Oklahoma cattle man, Harvey County officers believe.  The skull, some buttons, overall buckles, the rim of a man’s pocketbook and some twisted wire were found in the strawstack on the farm of Sam Brown, of Wichita, which burned July 28.  J. N. McIntire, sheriff, and R. F. Carter, deputy, said the wire was to such a position as to indicate the fire victim had been bound by it and was unable to escape the blaze.  Klein took a shipment of cattle from Oakwood, Oklahoma, to Wichita and was last seen there July 4.  The chance of identifying the skull depends on dental work found intact in it.  The Emporia Gazette, Emporia, Kansas.  August 22, 1927.  Page 1.

Charred Skull Found On Farm West Of Newton
Discovery May Solve Disappearance of An Oklahoma Cattle Man.  Skull Found in Ruins of Burned Strawstack on Henry Reber Farm.  A charred skull of a man, found Sunday evening in the ruins of a burned strawstack on the Henry Reber farm, one mile west of Newton, may solve the mysterious disappearance of George Klein, 56, from Wichita on July 26.  At least the Harvey county officers are working on the theory that the remains are those of the missing Okeene, Okla., cattleman, who dropped from sight and whose case has baffled police thruout the country for the past six weeks.  The skull was discovered by Earl Reber, 21, a son of the occupant of the farm, as he was driving cattle thru the pasture about five o’clock Sunday evening.  Taking a piece of the jawbone to the house with him, the young man called his father’s attention to the discovery, and Sheriff J. M. McIntire was notified.  Mr. McIntire and R. L. Carter, undersheriff, then made a detailed search of the burned strawstack.  Aside from the skull, many bits of charred bone were found along with several buttons, a metal clasp of a man’s purse, two overall buttons, and a dime and four pennies.  A strip of barbed wire, twisted in such a manner as to make the officers believe it bound the legs of the dead man, was also found.  A badly scorched gasoline can, the top of which was found near the skull, was also nearby.  The strawstack was set afire by some unknown source, early on the morning of July 28, according to Mr. Reber.  The straw was threshed out on July 27, and when Earl went to the field to plow about four o’clock the following morning, he saw the straw burning.  He recalled this morning that he had seen the lights of a car on the road near the strawstack as he went to the field.  The car was facing north, but turned around and headed south.  This evidence, together with the finding of the gasoline can, points to a conclusion that the dead man was a victim of foul play.  Klein came to Wichita on July 24 with a load of cattle and sold them at a Wichita market.  He was last seen in that city on July 26, about 36 hours before the burning of the Reber strawstack.  His continued absence from his home alarmed his family, and the police have been looking for him ever since.  The only chance to identify the skull hinges on some gold bridge work in the teeth, found to be intact.  Six front teeth were bridged in gold, and several other teeth were crowned in gold.  County Attorney J. Sidney Nye will pursue this clue in an effort to ascertain the identity of the man.  William S. Lorenz, of Okeene, Okla., son-in-law of Klein, was in Newton this morning in an effort to identify the remains.  “I cannot say whether or not it is Mr. Klein, for I never paid much attention to his teeth,” the young man stated to reporters this morning.  According to Mr. Lorenz, Klein was undoubtedly wearing overalls at the time of his disappearance.  The money received by Mr. Klein for the cattle was mailed to an Okeene bank in the form of a check, so Mr. Lorenz believes that his father-in-law could not have had much money on his person while in Wichita.  Mrs. Klein and three daughters live near Okeene.  In the absence of Coroner R. H. Hertzler, C. H. Stewart, justice of the peace, acted as coroner at an inquest held last evening.  G. L. Reber, W. W. Cochran, James Lagree, S. E. Neuhauser, W. E. Thalman, and E. M. Shomber composed the jury chosen.   After visiting the scene of the discovery, the inquest was postponed until nine o’clock this morning.  Considerable more evidence was introduced at this morning’s session, and the inquest was continued until the officers can investigate further into the case.  The Evening Kansan-Republican, Newton, Kansas.  Monday, August 22, 1927.  Page 1.

Continue Probe Mystery Case
Authorities Endeavoring to Establish Identity of Dead Man.  There were no new developments in the murder mystery arising out of the finding of the charred remains of a man in a straw stack on the Henry Reber farm Sunday night.  Acting Coroner C. H. Stewart, is still holding his jurymen subject to call pending development of further evidence.  It has been given out that the authorities have submitted the teeth found to a dentist of Enid, Okla., who worked on the teeth of George Klein, missing stockman of Okeene.  The dentist is Dr. C. T. Gillespie, who formerly practiced in Okeene, and he is quoted as having stated that as he recalls the facts, Mr. Klein’s teeth were at least very similar to those found in the burned straw stack, but that he would have to consult his records, which he had left in Okeene when he moved from that city to Enid.  The lower jaw had six front teeth bridged in with gold, and they were bridged to teeth on either side crowned with gold.  At the preliminary inquest held here Monday, Klein’s son-in-law, W. S. Lorenz, was unable to identify anything about the meager remains as that of his father-in-law, tho he stated that there were strong indications that the victim of what appears to be a foul murder was none other than his father-in-law.  He corrected one statement that has been repeatedly made, that Klein was last seen, and the straw stack burned late on the night of July 27 or early on the morning of July 28.  He also stated that Klein wore overalls, and never carried a watch, ring, lodge pins, nor any considerable amount of money.  Nothing of this kind was found in the ashes of the straw stack.  Klein was said to have mailed the check which he received from the sale of cattle to his home bank at Okeene.  A statement was made yesterday relative to the finding of the charred remnants of the human body, that Earl Reber, son of Henry Reber, had taken a small piece of bone to the house, when he acquainted his father of what he had found, which Mr. Reber says was a mistake, as not a thing was touched until Sheriff McIntire arrived and the coroner’s jury was empaneled, then Undersheriff Carter, under the direction of the jury and in the presence of all the official party, made the examination, removed what few remains there were, and searched for evidence.  Dr. E. D. Goheen, dentist, was consulted and he states that a chart of the teeth and remnants of jaw bones can be made and published in dental magazines and that undoubtedly in this manner the dentist who did the work would be able to identify his work and thus establish the identity of the victim, in case it should develop that they are not the teeth of the missing stockman.  One detail which leads Dr. Goheen to believe that identification will be possible in the manner he suggests, is the fact that there is an extra tooth in the chart that he has developed from the teeth and parts of bone to which he has access.  The Evening Kansan-Republican, Newton, Kansas.  Tuesday, August 23, 1927.  Page 1.

Skull Identified As That of Okeene Rancher
Enid, OK – Following the identification here late yesterday of the skull found in a burned straw stack near Newton, Kan. as that of George Klein, wealthy Okeene ranch owner, who disappeared from Wichita in July, authorities have started on the task of untangling the mystery which surrounds the death of Klein.  The skull was brought here by Mrs. Klein and other relatives and the identification was made possible by dental work, which had been done by an Enid dentist and a Watonga dentist.  Klein was last seen July 26.  The straw stack, in which the charred skull was found, was burned two days later.  The Ada Evening News, Ada, Oklahoma.  August 25, 1927.  Page 1.

Identify Teeth of Missing Man
Dentists Believe George Klein of Oklahoma Met Death Near Newton.  Harvey County Farm Youth Intends to File Claim For Reward Money.  Enid, Okla. – Following the identification here late yesterday of the skull found in a burned straw stack near Newton, Kan., as that of George Klein, wealthy Okeene ranch owner who disappeared from Wichita in July, authorities have started on the task of untangling the mystery which surrounds the death of Klein.  The skull was brought here by relatives and the identification was made possible by dental work which had been done by an Enid Dentist and a Wotonga dentist.  Mr. Klein was last seen on July 26.  The straw stack in which the charred skull was found was burned two days later.  County Attorney Nye talked with the sheriff at Okeene, Okla., this afternoon and was told that the family of George Klein had not accepted the identification of the teeth and other articles found in a burned straw stack near here as belonging to Mr. Klein, and there was no assurance that such identification would be established.  A report was received this morning that the dentists in Oklahoma had positively identified the teeth as having belonged to Mr. Klein.  A report came thru Wichita sources this morning that Dr. C. T. Gillespie of Enid and Dr. T. H. Tyler of Okeene, dentists, had positively identified the teeth found in a burned straw stack on the H. E. Reber farm near Newton, as being that of George Klein, wealthy Okeene stockman, who disappeared from Wichita, July 26.  County Attorney Nye will endeavor to communicate with the dentists or Oklahoma authorities today and secure the sworn testimony in some form.  The next move in the mystery would be the summoning of the coroner’s jury to receive any further evidence in the case, and endeavor to reach a verdict.  The jury is still under oath and admonition not to discuss the case or the evidence that has been presented.  The remains of the burned body was found quite by accident by Earl Reber, son of H. E. Reber, the afternoon of Aug. 21 as he was driving the cows thru the stubble field near where the straw stack had burned.  He immediately notified his father, and they called Sheriff McIntire, without touching a thing about the spot.  In the absence of Coroner R. H. Hertzler, Justice of the Peace C. H. Stewawrt acted as coroner and summoned a jury, and the official party went to the scene, where Undersheriff R. L. Carter personally gathered up every bit of evidence that could be found.  This included principally a part of the jaw bones and some of the teeth, a buckle from overalls and the metal clasp from a wallet of some kind.  There was hardly enough of the bones left to speak of, and everything that was found was placed in a scoop shovel.  The teeth were taken to Enid to Dr. Gillespie, and it appears that the identification has been possible.

George Klein disappeared from the stock yards in Wichita July 26, according to W. S. Lorenz, his son-in-law, of Okeene, who attended the inquest here Monday, instead of on July 24, as had been previously stated in Wichita papers and dispatches.  The search for him has been almost nation-wide, and a reward amounting to what is said to be $2,500 has been offered for information leading to finding him.  Whether the reward will be paid, should the victim of the burning here prove to be Mr. Klein, remains to be seen.  If it is, certainly Earl Reber will be entitled to it, and it was indicated today that he will file his claim for it in case the terms are such as would make him entitled to it.  It is now thought that Klein was murdered by thugs who evidently thought he had the money from the sale of cattle on his person.  He however, had received pay for his cattle in a check which he had sent to his home bank.  If the remains found here proves to be him, how his assailants happened to bring him here is a further part of the mystery.  The body found had been bound about the ankles with a piece of barbed wire, and then carried about a third of the way up the loose pile of straw, saturated with gasoline, and then the stack set on fire.  The gasoline can was found a short distance from the stack and the screw top was found directly by remnants of the body.  When found the outlines of the skull were plainly discernible, tho badly charred and fell to pieces easily.  Over the left eye there was a huge, jagged hole, indicating the victim had been slugged with a heavy, blunt instrument.  It is said that the dentists were asked to pick out the work they had done on the teeth of George Klein, each viewing the teeth separately.  Tyler designated the teeth on which he had worked, then they were all placed together before Gillespie who readily indicated three gold bridges and one gold crown that he had done, which tallied with a chart of the teeth made at the time the work was done.  Sol Klein a nephew is said to have accepted the identification as positive and also said that the buckle from the overalls also tallied with the trademark buckle on those his uncle wore when he left Okeene.  It was stated however, that Mrs. Klein and a daughter declared they do not believe the teeth are those of the husband and father.  Another part of the mystery not heretofore publicly mentioned, is a rumor that parties living not far from the scene of the straw stack, had heard a commotion near their home and outcries which seemed to come from some man begging for his life on the night of July 27, prior to the burning of the straw stack.  This rumor will of course be investigated, an effort will be made to find out where the piece of barbed wire came from, and also to trail Klein’s movements after he was last seen in Wichita.  Immediately upon the finding of the remnant of skull, Harvey county officers notified Sedgwick county authorities realizing the possibility that it may be Klein, and by working together they might be able to piece together the story that will eventually solve the mystery and even lead to the identity of the perpetrators of what appears to have been a most cold-blooded, dastardly crime.  The Evening Kansan-Republican, Newton, Kansas.  Friday, August 25, 1927.  p. 1.

Arrest Made In Murder Of Rich Rancher
Benjamin Brown Held in Jail at Newton.  Faces Another Charge.  Recent Killing at Wichita Believed Intended to Hide Previous Act.  Belief that Benjamin Brown, accused slayer, shot and killed an associate here because he knew that Brown had robbed and burned alive George Klein, wealthy Okeene Okla., cattle rancher, was expressed today by I. B. Walston, chief of police.  Denying any knowledge of the crime, Brown was taken to Newton late yesterday to face a charge of murder in connection with the finding near there several months ago of charred bones which have been identified as those of the missing Oklahoman, who disappeared last July.  Chief Walston asserted Nev Smith, a Wichita police character, was killed because “he knew too much” in connection with Klein’s disappearance the latter part of July.  Brown, formerly a special agent for a railroad, is charged with murder in connection with Smith’s slaying, which occurred October 10, some two months after Klein’s disappearance after selling some cattle here.  In a statement given police by a woman associate of Smith, Brown was seen with Klein during the latter part of July,[1] and he is said to have told Smith that he had “done away” with Klein.  Finding of loops of barb wire which were believed to have circled the ankles and wrists of the victim led Chief Walston to believe that rancher was burned alive.  The Hutchinson News, Hutchinson, Kansas.  November 2, 1927.  Page 1.

Awaiting Arraignment
Benjamin F. Brown, of Wichita, was held in the Harvey County jail here today awaiting arraignment on a charge of murder in connection with the disappearance July 26, of George Klein, 56, a wealthy Okeene, Okla, rancher.  Charred bones, found in a burned strawstack near Newton last August, were identified as the remains of Klein, who disappeared after selling a shipment of cattle at Wichita last summer.  Brown, who already faced another charge of murder, was returned to Newton last night by county authorities to face the second charge following his arrest late yesterday in Wichita.  The accused slayer had been at Liberty under bond awaiting trial in connection with the slaying at Wichita, on October 10, of Nev Smith, a police character, during an alteration in which the name of a woman, Mrs. J. S. Smith, a companion of Nev Smith, was linked.  A statement given to police by Mrs. Smith tended to implicate Brown in a double slaying, first as the slayer of the stockman and then as the slayer of Smith.  Brown, in the opinion of I. B. Walston, Wichita chief of police, shot and killed Smith in order to keep secret the slaying of the missing rancher.  According to the woman’s statement, Brown was seen with Klein during the latter part of July, about the time of the Oklahoman’s disappearance.  Later, Brown, the statement said, told Smith he had “done away” with the rancher.Brown formerly was employed as special agent of a railroad.  The Newton Kansan, Newton, Kansas.  November 2, 1927.  Page 1.

Alleged Slayer of Ranchman Is Bound Over
Benjamin Brown, charged with the murder of George Klein, wealthy Okeene, Okla., rancher, found dead in a burned straw stack near here last summer, was bound over for trial in the February term of the Harvey County District Court here today following his preliminary hearing before Justice of the Peace C. H. Stewart.  Protesting that the $25,000 bond under which Brown was held was excessive, defense attorneys sought to have a bond of $7,500 fixed by the court, but this he refused to do, setting the bond instead at $10,000.  A surprise witness, Mrs. Ben Royston, who lives a short distance from the burned strawstack, was introduced by the State.  Mrs. Royston testified that shortly after midnight before the strawstack was burned, she heard a terrorized scream.  The man, who seemed to be in great terror, she testified, shouted “Help” twice.  The scream was followed by a series of shots.  The next morning Mrs. Royston noticed the smoldering haystack, but thought nothing of it until after the corpse was found, she said.  The Newton Kansan, Newton, Kansas.  November 12, 1927.  Quoted in the San Antonio Express, San Antonio, Texas, November 13, 1927.  Page 1.

Bond Is Furnished For Accused Slayer
Benjamin F. Brown, Wichita man held in connection with the slaying of George Klein, wealthy Okeene, Okla., rancher, was released, late yesterday afternoon, from the Harvey county jail on $10,000 bond provided by a number of Wichita, Kan., business men.  Brown was held on the strength of statements made by friends and relatives of Nev Smith, who was killed by Brown six weeks ago.  Brown pleaded self defense in the Smith slaying and is out on bond awaiting trial on the charge.  The Hutchinson News, Hutchinson, Kansas.  November 16, 1927.  Page 1.

Ben Brown’s Case Goes To the Jury
Wichita – The case of the State versus Benjamin Brown, charged with first degree murder for the killing of Nev Smith last fall was given to the jury in district court here today.  Brown, a former Rock Island special agent, admitted killing Smith but pleaded self defense.  Judge Thornton W. Sargent examined in his instructions to the jury that Brown might be found innocent, guilty of first or second degree murder, second, third, or fourth degree manslaughter, or assault and battery.  Ben Brown was formerly a member of the police force in Hutchinson, serving as a detective under Chief of Police Burgess.  The Hutchinson News, Hutchinson, Kansas.  May 9, 1928.  Page 2.

Murder Charge Against Ben Brown Dismissed
Newton – The murder charge against Benjamin F. Brown of Wichita in connection with the death of George Klein, wealthy Oklahoma cattleman, whose charred body was found in a straw stack near here last August, was dismissed today on motion of J. Sidney Nye, prosecuting attorney.  Nye said there was insufficient evidence on which to prosecute.  Brown, former Rock Island detective, was acquitted in Wichita last week of the murder of Nev Smith.  The Hutchinson News, Hutchinson, Kansas.  May 14, 1928.  Page 1.

[1] The detail of “having been seen with Klein” is not given in the Hutchinson News article, but does appear in a nearly identical article found in the Emporia Gazette of the same date.  It has been added to this transcription.  (c) Excerpted from the book, Deadly Encounters: Murder in Harvey County by Darren McMannis.  www.PrairieTales.US.  Used with permission.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email