Community Treasure Series Recalls Infamous 1911 Murder
The last weekend of August 1911 was a busy one for local police. A drunk man stabbed another in a fight on East Washington Street near Noble Street. Police responded to reports of a man with “a big revolver” near the intersection of Locust and Pike streets. Officers found the man asleep on his couch at home, and his wife said he had been “drugged” during a trip “uptown.” “She begged the officers to allow him to remain at home, but as they talked (the man) awoke from his apparent lethargy, cursed the officers and started to reach for the gun under the settee to make a killing,” The Republican reported. Officers jumped on the man, who “fought like a wild animal,” and made the arrest. But nothing compared to that weekend's murder of prominent attorney Charles H. Tindall, which was covered nationwide by papers ranging from The New York Times to the Los Angeles Times.
It appeared the trouble had been long-standing between the victim and the murderer, C. Edward VanPelt, before the murder outside Schroeder’s Drug Store on South Harrison Street that Friday.
“They quarreled frequently, but none of their friends ever suspected the incident would end in such a tragedy as the one today,” the Shelbyville Democrat reported. “(VanPelt) said he seldom met Mr. Tindall on the street or elsewhere that Tindall did not make faces and insulting signs at him.”
The disagreement started when Tindall reportedly accused VanPelt’s wife of embezzling and then re-paying funds into the Court of Honor lodge account, of which she served as elected recorder. (There is no direct evidence Tindall made these comments nor that Alice VanPelt was guilty of the accusation. Grover Center Director Alex Krach noted at this week’s Community Treasure Series, hosted at The Strand Theatre, that multiple investigating committees found funds were accounted for.)
Despite Tindall’s reported complaints, Mrs. VanPelt was reelected to the recorder position annually for seven consecutive years. Then, the lodge’s Supreme Court, of which Tindall was on the board of directors, refused to accept her appointment. “From that time till the firing of the fatal shot, Mr. VanPelt and Mr. Tindall were enemies,” the Democrat said.
Tindall, 38, practiced law alongside his cousin, John Tindall. VanPelt, 61, had moved to Shelbyville 20 years prior and worked as a solicitor for the Democrat newspaper. The Democrat’s subsequent coverage tended to give VanPelt the benefit of the doubt, while the Shelbyville Republican published details that questioned VanPelt’s insanity pleas.
For example, The Republican reported VanPelt had been denied the opportunity to purchase a gun from the J.G. DePrez store, which Krach detailed on Wednesday.
“(Tindall) explained to the store owner that he desired some form of protection for himself and his family due to concerns about the boarders living in his home, who occasionally wandered into his living quarters,” Krach said. “However, one of the boarders later revealed that the housing arrangement resembled a duplex with no direct access between the two sides.” Tindall had also proposed 30-day financing while store management wanted half the money upfront. Tindall left and went to the Doble & Griffey store, located where PNC Bank is now, where he bought a revolver on terms of $1 a week.
On the day before the shooting, VanPelt later said, Tindall had passed him on the street and, as printed and redacted in newspapers at the time, reportedly said, “You G-- d--- s-- of a b---, your wife is a G--- d--- embezzler.”
On August 25, VanPelt was supposed to meet with a business associate representative near the Big Blue River bridge, but the man said he would save VanPelt the walk and transact business there. With time to kill, literally, VanPelt sat outside Schroeder’s store alongside friends until Tindall and Thomas Whitaker, secretary of the Court of Honor lodge, walked past.
South Harrison St. was nearly deserted, but Deputy Sheriff Henry Terry happened to be across the street. Schroeder, Borus Adler, and Madison Montgomery were chatting at the front of the store, looking out the front window when VanPelt, without a word exchanged between the men, rose from his chair and fired two shots at Tindall.
The flurry of activity knocked Whitaker’s hat into Harrison Street. Whitaker ran for his hat and Tindall ran inside the drug store, trying to flee VanPelt. Tindall sat on a chair and told Schroeder, “He’s killed me.” Tindall was moved to a cot, and doctors, including Dr. Charles A. Tindall, cousin of the murdered man, were called. While the first shot had merely grazed Tindall’s arm, the second likely severed an artery. The Democrat said Tindall was dead in well under 20 minutes; the Republican reported it took 45 minutes and called the murder “no doubt premeditated for several weeks.”
Meanwhile, VanPelt started running toward Public Square but was overtaken by Deputy Terry, who had witnessed the shooting. Mayor Thomas Hawkins charged VanPelt with second degree murder. The defendant requested to be represented by attorneys Kendall Hord and Ed Adams and entered a plea of not guilty.
On the day of the funeral, representatives of various lodges marched to the Tindall residence headed by a band and followed by members of the Shelby County Bar Association. Tindall was survived by his wife, Cora (Wright).
Even coverage of the funeral was likely biased.
The Indianapolis News reported Tindall’s body was taken past the county jail, and “from a cell window of which Edward VanPelt, Tindall’s slayer, gazed, yesterday. The funeral procession from the house to the cemetery passed in full view of the prisoner, who watched it with no apparent emotion.”
The Democrat called that fake news. “VanPelt was on the second floor on the north side back of the residence part and of the woman’s department of the jail,” it said. “It is absolutely impossible for him or anyone in that cell to see within 100 feet of Harrison Street, down which the Tindall funeral procession passed.”
The Democrat angrily concluded: “Because the family connections of the dead man are among the powerful and wealthy, while those of Mr. VanPelt are of the poor and less influential, is no reason why any newspaper should be swayed from the truth, especially when a trial will bring out all of the conditions surrounding this deplorable tragedy.”
Tindall’s supposed powerful and wealthy connections, however, failed to produce a harsh sentence for VanPelt.
In what the Los Angeles Times called “one of the bitterest trials in Shelby County history,” VanPelt took the witness stand in November 1911 to describe Tindall’s theft accusations against Alice VanPelt. Tindall allegedly made faces at the VanPelts in passing. On his way home from church one time, Tindall knocked VanPelt in the gutter, the defendant said. And another time, when Tindall made a face at him at the corner of Broadway and Harrison, VanPelt said, “Stop that, Charley; stop that.” Tindall’s response: “Your wife is a damned old embezzler.”
Seating an impartial jury proved to be a challenge for Judge Alonzo Blair. Everyone in town, it seemed, knew Tindall. Numerous potential jurors were passed over. Herbert Myers, a Hanover township farmer, said he had already formed his opinion based on the Bible. He was excused.
A jury composed of all farmers was finally seated. Jury members were Edgar Money (who was also a veterinarian), Frederick Scheffler, Mason Farley, Martin Cherry, Martin Jones, Louis Rose, Warren Buck, Peter Reinhardt, John Neibert, James Sever, David Creek, and Clarence Craycraft.
With a Rushville prosecutor sent to try the case, assisted by John Cheney and Tindall’s lawyer cousins, U.E. Tindall and John Tindall, VanPelt’s defense team was composed of Hord and Adams, Elmer Bassett, and a cousin from Indianapolis. VanPelt pleaded not guilty by reason of temporary insanity.
Mr. Bassett told the jury that “any man with a spark of manhood would feel the same way if he or his wife were treated in the manner Tindall treated VanPelt and his wife.” Bassett also shared an anecdote about how Mrs. VanPelt had served ice cream to the Court of Honor supreme court delegates at Tindall’s house, “blistering her hands in working for the glorification of Shelbyville and Charley Tindall.”
Mrs. VanPelt was said to have told her husband, “Eddy, if we don’t quit worrying about this trouble, we are both going crazy. You must quit it, Eddy, or someday your mind is going to snap.”
With crowds packing the courtroom and hallways for 15 days, experts and witnesses debated the sanity of Edward VanPelt. After hours of deliberations, the jury found VanPelt guilty of manslaughter - noting he was of a sound mind - and Blair sentenced him to two to 20 years in prison.
All parties seemed reasonably satisfied with the verdict. Not even VanPelt could complain, telling The Democrat: “I am going to prison, boys, but I do not feel that I leave here disgraced. It was for the sake of my wife. When you have a good woman, stick to her to the last.”
Sheriff James Moore escorted VanPelt to the Big Four train, where they headed to state prison in Michigan City. One year later, 1,025 Shelby County residents, including city and county officials, two bank presidents, the judge and prosecutor, and 10 of the 12 jurors who returned the verdict, signed a petition requesting VanPelt’s parole. But John A. Tindall argued that no action should be taken until the minimum sentence was served, to which the parole board agreed.
Despite the Democrat newspaper complaining about Tindall’s connections and VanPelt’s lack thereof, VanPelt proved he had outside influencers. A year later, two U.S. Senators urged the parole board to release VanPelt despite him serving only the minimum sentence. Turns out, Alice VanPelt’s brother was U.S. Senator John D. Works from California.
The parole board released VanPelt and he immediately returned to Shelbyville, where he remained for the next 20 years.
But a coincidental twist of fate occurred in 1934.
VanPelt, then 83, was walking on North Harrison St., just blocks from where he had shot and killed Tindall on S. Harrison, when a vehicle hit and killed him.
“Shortly after he died, the newspaper article remembered Eddy as ‘one of the city’s most beloved residents,’” Krach said. “‘His death was a great loss.’ Charley’s murder was not mentioned."
VanPelt’s widow, Alice, passed away seven years later. Both of them had been living with their successful son, G.W. VanPelt, who eventually served as president of Shelby National Bank. G.W. VanPelt had been a charter member of the Shelbyville Kiwanis Club and, at the time of his death in 1966, had been one of two surviving Shelby County veterans of the Spanish-American War.
Despite Charles Tindall’s early demise, his wife, Cora Elizabeth (Wright) Tindall, never remarried. She died on the 48th anniversary of his death, August 25, 1959, at 82 years old. She had taught in Shelbyville and county schools for 49 years. A graduate of Indiana University, Mrs. Tindall studied at several prestigious schools, including one in Italy. Since her sister, Mary Orebaugh, had died the year before, her only survivors were a niece, Elizabeth O. McNeely, and two grandnephews, Lee and Mark McNeely.
- It's fair to say the first three months of PK U.S.A.'s Associate Referral Program, which awards current associates for referring any number of new employees, were successful. Both the referring employee and new employee earn $1,000 after the first milestone. With the first three months in the books, all 10 associates in the program collected $1,000 checks. "We plan on carrying on this Referral Program for years to come," Vice President Bill Kent said in a statement. "This milestone shows that this program works, and our Associates are our best recruitment tool.” Future incentives are also available, with a total of $5,000 to be paid to both the current PK associate and the new associate after the 12-month time frame.
- Burglary was reported in the 1400 block of Allen Court and thefts were reported in the 500 block of Saraina Dr., 700 block of Hale Road and 1800 block of W. 400 N., Shelbyville. Residential entry was reported in the 900 block of Hale Road.
- STATE NEWS: A new $600 million cement plant opened in Mitchell Tuesday, with claims that it has significantly lower CO2 emissions than similar plants. Heidelberg Materials said the plant is the second largest cement plant in North America and one of the most technologically advanced and sustainable ever built. Chris Ward, president and CEO of Heidelberg Materials North America, said that not only is the new plant more sustainable, but it is also more productive. “This plant now will do three times the amount of cement and generate three times the amount of economic benefits that our legacy plant has,” he said. “We think this will really spur a lot of further investment as companies look to support this plant now for years to come.” Heidelberg is adding more than 50 full-time jobs to the already 120 employed at the site. (Indiana Public Media)
This Day in Shelby County History
2018: Morristown head basketball coach Scott McClelland served as assistant coach for the Indiana Junior All-Stars. Shelbyville's Zach Kuhn played on the team.
2013: In Triton Central's first season in the Indiana Crosssroads Conference, three Tigers were named to the conference's postseason baseball and softball squads: Emily Lahne, Lucy Straber and Dakota Nelson.
2008: Members of Blue Ridge Christian Union Church organized an ice cream social on Public Square to benefit tornado and food victims. Cheryl Palmer, 15; Tasha Palmer, 16; their mother, Mary Palmer; and church youth group director Buffy Powers led the effort.
2003: Ethan Burton was named Grand Champion Boy at the Shelby County Fair Baby Show. He was the son of Travis and Michelle Burton. Cierra Williams, daughter of Derrick and Teresa Williams, was named Grand Champion Girl. Don and Darrell Current were crowned Grand Champions of the twins and triplets division. Their parents were Don and Dyan Current.
1998: Three Shelbyville volleyball players, Melanie Wiley, Jamie Bowen and Sallie Nicholson, played for the South Central Indiana Volleyball Association team at U.S. Junior Nationals in Dallas.
1993: The Fairland Volunteer Fire Department honored retiring firefighters Skip Gilley, Garnet Dennison, Steve Howard and Maerl May by making them marshals of the Fairland Fish Fry parade. When the parade ended, the four went to work in the food tent. "So much for the royal treatment," The Shelbyville News said. "Not that they wanted it anyway."
1988: Fred Boger was named Morristown's new boys basketball coach. Boger had been an assistant coach at Butler University. The previous coach, Chuck Sears, would continue teaching math at the school.
1983: A 4,000-square-foot "party room" was open for receptions, reunions and other gatherings. Harry Meeke, owner of Mickey's T-Mart, announced the opening of Party Inc., located around the corner from Mickey's on Howard St. Nick Ciarletta was manager of the facility. The facility featured a main room with a 900-square-foot dance floor, a kitchen and a room for smaller groups.
1978: The Shelbyville Central School board discussed building a new elementary school, possibly on ground already owned at the high school site and renovating the Marion grade school. Building a new school would mean closing Thomas A. Hendricks, Addison and possibly Lora B. Pearson elementary schools. A board report in 1974 had recommended building an elementary on McKay Road, just west of the high school's newly developed athletic facilities.
1973: Exterior work was finished on the new home of Brownies Marine Sales. Large plate glass windows were being installed on the front display area. The firm had been located downtown Fairland and was moving out near the interstate.
1968: Felt-tipped gold pens engraved with "Shelbyville Class of 1958" were given as favors to 90 members of the class at their reunion, held at the Durbin Hotel in Rushville. Mr. and Mrs. Richard Carron traveled the farthest, from Texas. Planning committee members were Mrs. Ed Adams, Mrs. George Barger, Mrs. Larry Dennis, Margaret Clements, Jim Brown, George Fox, Barry Smith, Mrs. Ted Lux, Mrs. Rudy Thoman, Mrs. George Morgan, Gayle Wickliff, Miles Richard and Richard Wetnight.
1963: Loren "Pat" Murphy, founder of Murphy Funeral Service, sold his interest to his nephew and partner, Duane Murphy. Pat was retiring after 45 years in the business. He had started the funeral home in 1933 on W. Franklin St. before moving to the current S. Harrison site in 1938.
1958: County Councilman Ralph Worland resigned due to a new state law prohibiting councilmembers from holding liquor licenses. "I have held a permit since the repeal of prohibition," Worland said in his resignation letter.
1953: W.F. Loper resigned as superintendent of the Shelbyville school system due to health issues. Loper was named principal of Shelbyville High School in 1927 following the death of Principal A.S. Peters. Loper then became superintendent in March 1934, and during his tenure enrollment had grown by several hundred to 2,100. Building improvements under his leadership included construction of a new Colescott school, addition of a two-room wing at Charles Major, combining the auditorium and gymnasium facilities at Major and Colescott schools, and adding vocational shops to the local high school and seating capacity at Paul Cross Gym.
1948: Plans for the construction of a $200,00 war memorial civic center in the 100 block of W. Washington St. - developed in a series of public meetings during the previous 18 months - were given a jolt by city hospital officials who asked city council to reconsider its recent decision to deed two pieces of city-owned property to the Shelby Community War Memorial Inc. Several doctors at the meeting said at least one of the two lots would be needed in the near future for a nurses' home. An upstart nonprofit group had just secured title to a third residential property adjoining the two Tindall homes and planned to use all three of the lots as the site for the civic center. Major Hospital had been over capacity for over a year, but hospitals were under construction in Rush, Hancock and Johnson counties, leading local officials to believe patient counts would likely decrease in the future.
1943: A Kennedy Park Boys' Club was formed as a "means of helping to curb growing juvenile delinquency throughout the community," The Republican reported. City officials also asked parents to prevent their children from swimming in the river near Kennedy Park until a qualified lifeguard could be found.
1938: Local WPA officials announced plans for a pet parade at Laura Morrison Park. Prizes would be given for largest pet, smallest pet with four legs, oddest pet, cutest pet and pet with the greatest number of tricks. The 1937 Pet Parade had attracted hundreds.
1933: The McCabe Dairymen beat the Blue River Blues and Walkerville Garage downed the Blues in local baseball action. Kaufman's Market crushed Krebs Grocers, the 1932 city champs. In other action, Broadway Service beat the Public Service Company Kilowatts, 11-1, and Five Points Filling Station defeated Zeller Bakers, 21-3.
1928: City Council announced plans to discuss paving Broadway St., installing sanitary sewers on Harrison Avenue and Locust Street, and a potential contract for a new City Hall.
1923: "Stinking smut," a wheat fungus, was prevalent throughout the county, farmers reported. They were attempting to treat their crops with hot water.
Kenneth N. Skaggs, 67, of Shelbyville, passed away Wednesday, June 14, 2023. He was born August 14, 1955, in Russell Springs, Kentucky, the son of Omer and Mary (Wooton) Skaggs. Kenneth is survived by his wife, Kathy; sons, Kenneth E. Skaggs, and wife, Nicole, of Waldron, and Joshua Skaggs and wife, Michelle, of Trafalgar; daughter, Christina Decker of Shelbyville; brothers, Oliver Skaggs of Amity, Freddy Skaggs and wife, Barb, of Shelbyville, Larry Skaggs and wife, Dawn, and Gary Skaggs and wife, Theresa, both of Milan; sisters, Mary Lathren and husband, Clark, and Nadine McCorkle, both of Indianapolis; Peggy Smith and husband, Dick of Shelbyville, Patricia Bontrager and husband, Larry, of Kokomo, and Anna Corsair and husband, Brian, of Dunedin, Florida; seven grandchildren; and numerous nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by his parents.
Kenneth was an auctioneer, he formerly owned The Auction House and Skagg’s Auctions. He enjoyed horse racing.
Graveside services will be at 2 p.m. Friday, June 16, 2023, at Winchester Cemetery in Shelby County, with Rev. Bill Horner officiating. Services have been entrusted to Freeman Family Funeral Homes and Crematory, 819 S. Harrison St. in Shelbyville. Online condolences may be shared with Kenneth’s family at www.freemanfamilyfuneralhomes.com.
Kim N. Conover, 69, of Waldron passed away June 12, 2023. He was born in Shelbyville on December 11, 1953 to Max Conover and Marion Tookie (Avery) Conover. Kim and his wife, Karen, have been together since 1989 and married in 1999. Kim’s greatest joy was being his late son Dustin’s Dad and his grandson Axel’s Papaw. Kim was most proud of his grandson Axel, he loved to watch him play football and become a hardworking young man.
Kim was a lifelong resident of this area and he graduated from Southwestern High School in 1972. In his early years he operated his own business and later became a union crane and heavy equipment operator for Beaty Construction, retiring in 2015. In 2018 he received a US patent for an equipment track cleaning system he designed. Kim was equally talented in several forms of art which included painting, drawing, air brushing, woodworking (if Karen imagined it, Kim could build it), and he especially enjoyed strumming his guitars. He was also an avid music lover which paired well with the fast cars he like to drive.
Mr. Conover will be most remembered by his wife, Karen (Helt) Conover; grandson, Axel Conover (Waldron); sister Vicki Skillman, Georgia; and numerous nieces, nephews, cousins, and more close friends than ever imagined. Kim was preceded in death by his only child, Dustin Conover; his parents; a sister Kathy Kessler and a brother Michael Conover.
A Celebration of Life will be determined at a later date. Memorials may be made to Axel’s college education fund at First Financial Bank, 1850 Marketplace Blvd., Shelbyville, IN. 46176, or any First Financial Bank branch under Axel Conover Memorial Fund savings account, last four digits #0897 c/o Karen Conover. Burial will be in Garland Brook Cemetery in Columbus, IN. Funeral Directors Greg Parks, Sheila Parks, Stuart Parks, and Darin Schutt are honored to serve Kim’s family. Online condolences may be shared at www.murphyparks.com