Salt LakeTribune11 January 1914Front Page and page 9







Obtains Revolver From Ice Chest After His Father, John G. Morri Son, Falls Shoots Once, Misses and Is In stantly Killed; Bandits Believed to Be Same Who Were Foiled by Grocer Morrison Last September.







Police Are Furnished Descriptions of Murderers and Dragnet of

Patrolmen and Detectives Scours Neighborhood for Suspects; W.  J. Williams, Restaurant Keeper, Arrested Near Scene of Murder on Suspicion.


           We’ve got you now,” exclaimed one of a pair of masked holdups as they entered the grocery store of John G. Morrison, 778 South West Temple street, shortly after 9 o’clock last night.  Both men opened fire upon Morrison, who fell mortally wounded.  John Morrison, 17 years old, a son who was behind a counter, ran to an icebox in the end of the store, grabbed a revolver and fired one shot at the bandits.  Before the boy could fire a second time he was shot three times and instantly killed by the bandits, who then ran from the store. 

            Merlin Randolph Morrison, 14 years old, was also in the store and saw his father and brother shot.  He gave the alarm to neighbors, who, almost before he was able to reach the door, were running from every direction toward the place.


Revenge Is Motive.

            That revenge was the motive for the crime is the belief of the police.  On two former occasions Morrison had had battles with holdups.  Last September Morrison was attacked by two masked thugs while on his way home from his grocery store.  Drawing a revolver he fired at the men.  Both escaped.  Morrison had often described to the family the appearance of the bandits.  The descriptions given last night of the murderers tallied in many respects with that of the men who were in the former encounter.


Was Former Patrolman.

            About eight years ago Morrison was a member of the police force, and it is thought possible that the men who murdered his last night, as well as the men who held him up in September, might have had a grudge for having been arrested by Morrison years ago.  It is suggested also that the men might have been arrested following the September holdup and had just arrived…


(Continued on Page Nine)








John Morrison and His Son

    Are Shot to Death by

     Masked Holdups in

     West Side Grocery.


(Continued from Page One)


… in the city for the express purpose of killing the grocer.  It is also suggested that the men might have been two of the three who participated in the battle with Morrison in his grocery store on February 2, 1903, in which Morrison was the victor. Morrison in a fusillade of shots drove the robbers from the store, himself escaping injury.  One of the holdups was killed that night by the police. At 1 o’clock this morning Inspector A. Carlson, Captain J.J. Roberts and Detectives Moroni Gillespie and C. C. Carstensen arrested a man who gave his name as W. J. Williams.

            Williams was found standing near the corner of the store where the murders occurred.  They watched him and followed him to Ninth South, where he turned to First West, then back to Eighth South, then east on Eighth South back to the Morrison store, where he was arrested by the officers.


Description Tallies.

            Williams said he was working as a restaurant helper and had been living at the Salvation Army lodging house.  He said that he was taking a walk before going to bed, and that he knew nothing of the shooting.  He said he had attended a motion picture show earlier in the evening.

            The description of Williams tallies in a general way with that of one of the murderers.  He was thinly clad and wore no overcoat.  The officers are strongly inclined to the belief that he may be one of the murderers and that after the shooting he became separated from his companion, whom the officers believe was wounded.  He having been near the scene of the shooting early this morning, the officers believe he returned to the vicinity to look for his wounded pal.

            A mysterious automobile was found standing at the Morrison store when the officers returned from following Williams around the block.  Captain Roberts and Detective Carstensen asked the chauffer what he was doing there and he said that he had been called on the telephone to bring his machine to the Morrison store at once.  The man who called him he said, spoke with a horse voice.  Williams denied having called a machine.  Captain Roberts requests that the chauffer of the car make himself known to the police.


Protests His Innocence.

            Williams is 28 years old and had been in SaltLake three months.  When arrested no weapon of any kind was found on him.  He was very excited and vehemently protested his innocence.

            Steve Davis, a close friend of the Morrison family, said last night that only a few days ago Mr. Morrison told him that he was reasonably certain that he knew the men who attempted to hold him up on the night of September 20, but declined to mention any names in fear that he might be doing someone an injustice.  Similar attempts are said to have been made by Mr. Morrison to a few close friends, but so far as it is known he never gave any names to them.

            That the shot fired by the Morrison youth might have found its mark may possibly be indicated by the fact that no bullet could be found at the end of the store where the robbers stood during the battle. Merlin, the son who witnessed the fight, also said that he heard one of the men shout to the other that he had been shot.  No trace of blood, however, were found outside the store to indicate that either had been hit.


Neighbors Rush to Aid.
            Mr. Morrison lived but a few minutes.  His little son, Merlin, leaned over him and asked where he was shot. His fighting spirit uppermost even in his last moments, Mr. Morrison raised on his elbow and asked where the desperadoes had gone.  A second later he dropped back and lost consciousness.  The son’s wounds had proved fatal more quickly.  For a few minutes the boy was alone with the dead brother and dying father, then J. Holt of 777 South West Temple street, who had heard the shots as he sat in his home, rushed into the store.  He was followed quickly by J. P. Mahan of 800 South West Temple street.

            When he saw what had been done, Mr. Holt went back to the door of the store to stop his wife from entering and tell her in a word of the tragedy.  The police were notified of the killing by Mr. Mahan, as was Deputy Sheriff R. M. Beckstreet at the county jail.

            Two auto loads of policemen were driven quickly to the place of the murder, while deputy sheriffs were sent out with all speed to watch outlying points that the murderers might pass in their flight. Search of the neighborhood failed to result in any clew that led further than the disappearance of the men west on Eight South street.


Boy Tells His Story.

            Merlin Randolph Morrison told the police how the murder had been committed.  The men rushed into the store, according to the boy’s story, with their weapons drawn, their faces concealed below their eyes with masks made with red handkerchiefs folded cornerwise and tied at the back, the folded corners hanging down over the lower part of their faces.

            No effort was made to rob the cash register, which is regarded as further proof that the motive of the slayers was revenge.

            Last September Mr. Morrison was on his way home from the store with more than $300 in his pocket.  At that time he opened fire on holdups, giving them such a volley that after exchanging shots with him they fled.  At least one of the murderers of last night was armed with an automatic pistol.  The shells, six of which were on the floor of the store, were found to be of the same kind as those on the ground after the battle between Mr. Morrison and the holdups- if they were holdups- last September.


Dragnet Is Out.

            As soon as it was learned which way the holdups had been running, policemen scattered in search to the west and south. A description of the slayers was taken from the boy and telephoned to all outlying points in the hope that the men would be shut off from getting out of the city unnoticed. 

            Mr. Morrison was removed from the store to the emergency hospital at police headquarters in the hope that there might be a chance that his single wound through the right side of the chest would not prove fatal.  He died before the automobile had gone far.

            The body of the son was removed immediately to O’Donnell’s undertaking rooms, there to lie beside the body of the father in whose defense he had gallantly thrown way his own life.


Wife Is Informed.

            Word of the tragedy was broken to Mrs. Morrison as gently as possible.  Told at first only that Mr. Morrison had been hurt, she was taken with several friends to the store, two blocks distant from the home, in a police automobile.  Mr. Mahan, an old family friend, who had assumed charge of the store, met her at the door and she read the truth in his face. With fearful cruelty came the second shock when she was told that her son had been killed.  She sank into a chair and shuddered silently, the while loving arms were around her.


Mother Embraces Son.

            Fighting back the sobs Merlin Morrison crowded between those about his mother and kissed her.  The touch of her little son’s lips acted like a tonic to the stricken woman and her right arm crept about his neck and was drawn jealously tight.  As soon  as she was somewhat recovered she was taken to the home of an immediate neighbor to be cared for.

            In addition to the widow, five children survive the victims of the tragedy.  They are Perry Gibson, 18 years of age; Merlin Randolph, 14; Robert Welling, 9; Blanch, 6; and John Glavis, 4.  Mr. Morrison was a native of Missouri, coming here in 1893.  He was married here.  Mrs. Morrison was Miss Harriet Marie Noulin.  Mr. Morrison started in business shortly after arriving here from the east and had conducted a grocery store for most of the time since, moving his location a few years ago to the present site.


Fire on Suspects.

            Joe Woods and C. E. Christiansen, arrested early this morning as suspects, narrowly escaped death from a fusillade of bullets fired by three police officers.

            The two men were riding on the blind baggage of the outbound passenger train on theSalt Lake Route when the officers accosted them where the train stopped at the juncture of the Rio Grande and SlatLake tracks near Ninth South street.

            Both men jumped from the train when Officers W. H. Hendrickson, Byron R. Crosby and Henry Calton, accosted them and, disregarding the command to halt ran toward a clump of weeds.  All three officers fried at them, the bullets striking the ground around them.

            When the men heard the shots they threw up their hands and came toward the policemen.  The officers said that only the clouds of steam which obscured the fugitives, saved the lives of the two men.

            Both Woods and Christiansen denied all knowledge of the shooting, and while they are being held as suspects the police are inclined to believe that they were in no way implicated with the murderers.


Looking for Ex-convict.

            The police are looking for Frank Z. Wilson, recently and inmate of the state prison, on the theory that he may know something of the murders.  Wilson is an old offender, having frequently been arrested on burglary charges.  He was seen in SaltLake yesterday afternoon by Guard H. C. Taggart of the prison force and Detective George Cleveland was looking for him before word of the murders was received at police headquarters.

            Wilson is described as being about six feet in height, smooth shaven and of a slight build.  The men who did the killing are described as being five feet nine inches in height and weighing about 155 pounds.  These descriptions were last night telephoned to the officers of all adjoining towns and counties.


Many Officers on Chase.

            Forty officers searched all night for the murderers of the Morrisons.  Immediately after the shooting, a dozen officers hurried to the scene in the police automobiles.  Detective George Cleveland remained at the scene of the shooting and interviewed the neighbors in an effort to obtain an accurate description of the murderers. The other officers scattered over the neighborhood trying to get some trace of the movements of the murderers. 

            When the afternoon and evening shift of patrolmen came off duty at 11 o’clock, they were immediately put in plain clothes and sent to the railroad yards.  Half of the patrolmen searched the north yards and the other half the south yards.


Many Arrests Made.

            The entire detective force visited the lodging houses and arrested all men who appeared to be suspicious characters. The police dragnet took in all places where the officers thought it possible that the fugitives might be.

            The police believe that it is scarcely possible that he murderers have left the city.  As soon as word of the murder reached the station, men were detailed to watch all trains and arrest all men who tried to steal a ride out of the city. All train, both freight and passenger, were thoroughly searched before they left the railroad yards.







            It was on February 2, 1903, that J. G. Morrison fought his first winning battle with holdups.  At that time Mr. Morrison was operating a grocery store at 431 South First West street.  About 7 o’clock in the evening a masked mean entered Mr. Morrison’s store and drawing a gun on him, ordered him to throw up his hands. Instead of complying, Morrison rushed into his living rooms, which adjoined the store, and secured a shotgun. Returning into the store, he attempted to give battle to the holdup and three companions who had joined him in the interval, but the gun would not work.

            In the meantime, the holdups had opened fire on the brave grocer, but their bullets did not take effect, and he rushed back into his rooms his living rooms and secured a six-shooter.  With this weapon he returned to the store and opened a fusillade upon the robbers.  One of his bullets took effect and one of the robbers fell to the floor desperately wounded. His companions, seeing the plight of the wounded man, gave up their attempt to rob the store and hastened away, bearing the injured holdup.

            During the battle between Morrison and the holdups, one of the number attempted to break open the cash register in the store, but he did not know how to operate the machine and his efforts were in vain. After the holdup, Patrolman Horace A. Heath encountered three men at First North and First West streets, who he believed were members of the gang, and attempted to place them under arrest. In doing so the patrolman killed one of the men and was shot in the foot during the battle that ensued.  The other two robbers escaped after the officer had been wounded.

            OnSeptember 20, 1913, Mr. Morrison had his second exciting experience with holdups.  He had closed his store at 778 South West Temple street and was nearing his home at 871 South First West street, when he was accosted by a thug and ordered to throw up his hands. Instead of complying with the request, Mr. Morrison hastily drew a revolver, which he always carried when out at night, and opened fire on the robber.  The robber at the same time got an automatic pistol into action.

            The holdup who fought the duel with Morrison had a companion near by, but the second man took no part in the battle. Neither Morrison nor the holdup was injured in the duel.  Mr. Morrison had $192 in cash upon his person at the time of the encounter and he still had it when the robbers had fled.  No arrests were made. 







            The murders of John G. Morrison and his son recalls two similar murders committed by holdups within the past few years.  OnMarch 26, 1910, George W. Fassell, a grocer on East Fourth South street was shot to death by a holdup while the victim’s hands were being held above his head.  Two men had entered the store late in the evening and while one forced Fassell to put up his hands, the other one attacked the cash register.  The thug who murdered Fassell always claimed that his gun was accidentally discharged and that he did not intend to kill the grocer. Within an hour after the murder Chief of Detectives George A. Sheets and his assistant had arrested four men who were charged with the crime.  Two of the men, Harry Thorne and a man named Riley were later convicted and executed. They confessed that they were the men who committed the robbery and murder.

            The other murder by a holdup was that of John T. O’Connor a druggist at Fourth South and Fourth East streets.  A holdup entered the drug store early in the evening and ordered O’Connor to throw up his hands.  At the same time the robber shot the druggist, the wound causing his death within a shot time.  No arrest was ever made in this case.




         BY L. H. KIMBALL



            L. H. Kimball, who lives at the Commercial club, and J. G. Heywood of Ogden and Mr. Kimball’s big automobile were pressed into the man hunt by three officers.  The policemen saw the machine at Third South and Main streets and called to Mr. Kimball to take them to the scene of the murder. 

            The automobile owner complied and broke the speed ordinance getting the officers to the scene of the crime.  The two men joined in the man hunt and took their machine and the officers through all of the alleys in the vicinity in the search for the murderers.  The machine was also used to good advantage in scattering the officers over the surrounding country. 

            A grocer boy told Mr. Heywood of two men whom he had seen running through an alley and the chase was taken up, but no trace of the men was found.