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COMMONWEALTH v. SAUDERS (10/07/57)

October 7, 1957

COMMONWEALTH
v.
SAUDERS, APPELLANT.



Appeal, No. 185, Jan. T., 1957, from judgment and sentence of Court of Oyer and Terminer and General Jail Delivery and Quarter Sessions of the Peace of Lancaster County, Sept. T., 1955, No. 174, in case of Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Mrs. Mary E. Sauders, alias Mrs. Mary E. Sauder. Judgment and sentence affirmed.

COUNSEL

Jacques H. Geisenberger, with him Theodore L. Brubaker, for appellant.

William C. Storb, District Attorney, for appellee.

Before Jones, C.j., Bell, Chidsey, Musmanno, Arnold, Jones and Cohen, JJ.

Author: Bell

[ 390 Pa. Page 380]

OPINION BY MR. JUSTICE BELL

The defendant, Mary E. Sauders, alias Mary E. Sauder, was indicted for the murder of William (Will) Glasgow, and was convicted by a jury of murder in the first degree with the recommendation of life imprisonment. Motions in arrest of judgment and for a now trial were filed by counsel for the defendant. The motion for a new trial was not pressed at the time of argument in the Court below; nevertheless the motion

[ 390 Pa. Page 381]

    in arrest of judgment and the motion for a new trial were dismissed by the lower Court.

The very important question raised in this case is whether the evidence, which was solely circumstantial in character, was legally sufficient to support the defendant's conviction of first degree murder.

On May 3, 1955, the date of the murder, and for a considerable period of time prior thereto, the defendant and William Glasgow, the victim, lived together, admittedly without benefit of clergy. The evidence produced by the Commonwealth clearly established that William Glasgow was murdered by being struck over the head with some blunt instrument as he lay in his bed in the very small one room house occupied by the victim and the defendant. The murder weapon was never found. Dr. O'Donnell testified that any normal adult, male or female, could have inflicted the fatal wounds if the murder weapon was heavy enough.

There was no eye witness of the murder and the exact time of death was unknown. According to the Commonwealth's evidence, the defendant was the last person known to have seen Glasgow alive. At 8 p.m. on the evening of May 3, 1955, a neighbor, Thomas Hardin, informed Glasgow that the defendant was called on Hardin's telephone. Between 9:30 and 10:00 p.m. of that same evening, defendant left the house where she and the deceased lived. She then entered a taxicab which she had ordered and which had been parked in front of the residence. The taxi was driven by James T. Browning (called "Brownie" by the defendant). There was no evidence of any one else having seen the decedent until 2:00 p.m. the following day when he was found murdered by Hardin. Dr. Stahr, the Deputy Coroner, testified that in his opinion the death occurred somewhere between 8 and 20 hours before the body was discovered.

[ 390 Pa. Page 382]

Upon discovery of the murder, Hardin called the police. Upon arrival, the police found the victim's body lying in a pool of blood on his (and defendant's) bed. Clothing hanging on pegs near the bed and other objects near the bed were spattered with blood. The foot end of the bed and the ceiling of the room were similarly spattered with blood. According to State Policeman Charles Simmons (the investigator), the room in which he found the decedent was not disorderly and did not show any evidence of a struggle. He also found a pocketbook under the pillow on which decedent was lying. It contained a $100 bill and a $5 bill. Simmons was the first to interview the defendant on the evening of May 4, 1955, at which time the defendant was taken into custody. He testified, inter alia, as follows:

"... one of the first things she asked me she said, 'Did you find Will's pocket book, he had a $100.00 bill in it and a $5.00 bill in it.' I said now where could it have been, and she said it was in his pocket book under his pillow, then I asked her several different questions, and then she turned to Brownie and said, 'Don't you remember my calling back and telling Will to put the cat in, didn't you hear him answer me?', and Brownie said 'No'. Mrs. Sauders was fairly well intoxicated as she sat there, and we took her into custody at that time. ...

"(Q) Did you question her at a later date? (A) I questioned Mrs. Sauders a number of times. (Q) What, if anything, did she tell you happened? (A) Well, the money angle was one of the first things she talked about, and when questioned how she came about this money, she said Will had given her $238.00 to buy a monument for her son who had died, and that she had $5.00 of her own. Later when she figured out what she had spent of the money, she had spent the majority,

[ 390 Pa. Page 383]

    and what we recovered, was approximately $438.000 which is about $200.00 in excess of the amount she admitted he gave her. (Q) What did she say about that? (A) She was confused, and said she didn't know what he gave her, she always had this answer."

The Commonwealth proved that the clothing hanging near the body as well as a great number of other objects situated near the bed were spattered with a pattern of blood droplets. The most incriminating evidence, as far as the defendant is concerned, was that bloodstains were found on the dress and coat which she was wearing when she left the residence on the evening of May 3, 1955. Peter Strickler, and expert chemist, testified that the dress and coat worn by the defendant contained the same pattern of blood droplets as were found on other clothing in the vicinity of the victim, and that this blood was human blood. The defendant admitted that the bloodstains found on the front left shoulder area of her dress and on the lower portion of the right sleeve and on the left front chest area of her coat were the blood of William Glasgow, the victim.

Defendant gave conflicting stories concerning how the bloodstains had gotten on her clothes. First, she told Officer Simmons that the bloodstains on her dress were received when she accompanied Glasgow to a doctor's office after Glasgow was involved in an automobile accident. When subsequently confronted with the falsity of her story of accompanying Glasgow to a doctor after an automobile accident which occurred several months prior to the murder, she then said that a man by the name of George Streeter had come to the house on the evening of May 3, 1955, and had struck Glasgow in the face thus causing his nose to bleed and the blood spattered on her dress and coat. Defendant did not produce the George Streeter whom she implicated

[ 390 Pa. Page 384]

    and could not identify a man named Streeter who was produced by the State Police. An exhaustive search by the State Police failed to disclose any other George Streeter such as described by the defendant. Officer Simmons further testified that the defendant stated at one time that she would take the entire blame for the crime because she hated to see "Brownie [James T. Browning, the taxicab driver] burn ... he is too young to die."

The Hiltons and the Hardins lived in the (same) house which adjoins that of the victim. Thomas Hardin testified that after 10:00 p.m. on the evening of May 3, 1955, he failed to see anyone around the Glasgow or Sauder residence, and likewise failed to hear any noise therein. He reiterated this testimony with regard to two periods during the early morning hours of May 4 when he arose to feed his newly born baby. Ruth Ann Hilton, age 12, recalled seeing the arrival of the taxicab driven by Browning, and stated that she did not see anyone else around the victim's residence that evening. Elizabeth Hilton testified that she did not hear or see any disturbance around the premises that night, and that her dog, who generally barked quite loudly when strangers approached, failed to bark on that evening. Leroy Hilton, the husband of Elizabeth Hilton, corroborated this testimony insofar as the dog was concerned.

Defendant consistently denied her guilt. According to her testimony on direct examination, she last saw William Glasgow when leaving their room on May 3 to take the (Browning) taxicab (between 9:30 and 10:00 p.m.). Glasgow had been lying in bed, so defendant testified, before Streeter's arrival. Defendant testified, inter alia, as follows:

"A. When George [Streeter] came in I was ready to go to town, and he said, 'Are you going away'? I

[ 390 Pa. Page 385]

    said yes. Will [Glasgow] spoke up and said 'Will you take somebody like tat along with you?' I said no, I didn't know if I was even going, and Will made remarks about him and said if I was going with somebody like that just give him back the money and we will go again, and he and George had an argument and George slapped him on the face and Will got up and sat on the front of the bed, and I got up and I took hold of Will and I told him to sit down. George had brought two bottles of beer along with him to make certain he had something in the house to drink. ...


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