Salt Lake Tribune

15 January 1914

Front Page and page 2



Two More Arrested as Suspects in

     Morrison Case; Another Is Sought








Wounded Man Sullenly

  Replies to Questions,

  But Stubbornly Re-

  fuses to Explain Move-

  ments on Night of

  Murder; Links in Chain

  of Circumstantial Evi-

  dence Strengthened.







Alleged Companion of

  Suspect, Who Mys-

  teriously Disappeared

  Soon After Crime, Vig-

  orously Hunted by

  Sheriffs and Police; 

  Robert Erickson and

  W. J. Williams Held in

  County Jail.



            Robert Erickson and W. J. Williams were arrested yesterday as suspects in the Morrison murder case, and a vigorous hunt was instituted for Otto Applequist, who mysteriously disappeared soon after the murders were inaugurated.

            Erickson and Applequist were friends of Joseph Hill, or Hillstrom, the wounded man who was arrested early yesterday morning, charged with the double murder.  Williams was previously arrested by the police, but released.  He was rearrested soon after the arrest of the wounded man. 

            The officers are now convinced that there were tree and possibly four accomplices in the murders at the Morrison store, though but two were inside the store and did the shooting.  The circumstantial evidence against Erickson and Williams is not nearly so strong as that against Hillstrom and Applequist, but the officers are holding them pending a thorough investigation of the stories they tell.  Neither has yet been able to prove an alibi.


Hillstrom Talks.

            Hillstrom yesterday broke the silence that he has maintained since the shooting, and in a sullen manner answered the questions put to him in a rigid examination made by Acting Sheriff Atha Williams.  He still insisted that he was shot during a quarrel over a woman, but stubbornly refused to give any names of details of the story.  He refused to tell at what address the shooting occurred.  His answers to all of the questions were unsatisfactory.  He admitted having had a .38 automatic pistol.  He said he threw it away while riding in the automobile of Dr. A. A. Bird from the residence of Dr. F. M. McHugh to the [Eselius][1] home.

            Developments of the day wove more tightly the chain of circumstantial evidence about Hillstrom.  During the afternoon V. Cram, a resident of the neighborhood where the killing was some, called at the county jail and identified Hillstrom as the man who called at the Morrison store Saturday afternoon and conversed with J. G. Morrison, who was murdered later that day.


Whistled Twice.

            Dr. A. A. Bird, who took Hillstrom to the Eselius home, where the wounded man found refuge until his arrest, early yesterday morning, recalled that when his automobile stopped in front of the Eselius home Hillstrom whistled twice.  His whistle was of a peculiar sound, evidently a prearranged signal to someone within the house.

            When the doctor and the wounded man entered the house they were received by members of the Eselius family.  Later it was learned that Applequist had been […]


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(Continued from Page One.)


[…] in the Eselius home, but he was nowhere in sight when the doctor entered.  Less than an hour after Hillstrom’s arrival Applequist left the house and has hot been heard from since.

            Applequist and Hillstrom had been friends for some months at least.  They are said to have been working in Park City together.  Some weeks ago Applequist came to the Eselius home in Murray with Hillstrom.  The latter had been stopping at the Hillstrom place intermittently for about seven months.  He told those in the Eselius household that

Applequist was a friend with whom he had worked in Park City.  After that Applequist was a frequent visitor at the Eselius home.


Slept Together.

            On last Friday Applequist and Hillstrom went to the Eselius home.  The two slept on a folding cot in one of the rooms of the house.  They remained there all day Saturday and were still there when the Eselius boys left for Salt Lake Saturday evening.  When the Eselius boys returned after the theater, Applequist was in bed.  He had reached home, it developed, shortly before 1 o’clock.  Where he had been the Eselius family professed not to know.  They said he must have gone out early in the evening, but none say him leave the house.  Soon after the Eselius boys returned from Salt Lake Hillstrom was brought in wounded.  Within an hour Applequist dressed and left the house, after having talked quietly with Hillstrom.  

            Members of the Eselius family had known Hillstrom for a long time, two of the boys having met him in San Pedro some years ago.  He came to the home of the Eselius family for the first time on June 23 of last year.  He said he had been working as a machinist in Park City.  Since that time he has worked very little, and has spent a great deal of his time at the Eselius home.


Second Man Taken.

            The investigation of the murder case at the Eselius home yesterday by Acting Sheriff Atha Williams, Deputy Sheriff Riley Beckstead, Deputy Sheriff David Guest and Chief of Police Fred Peters of Murray resulted in the arrest of Robert Erickson, a relative of the Eselius family.  The officers believed that the description of Erickson corresponded with that of a man seen near the Morrison store immediately after the murders.  They do not believe that Erickson was one of the two who fired the shots that killed J. G. Morrison and his son, but thought it possible that he might have been the lookout.

            The officers found that the occupants of the Eselius home were John Eselius, the aged father of the Eselius boys; Ed, Vic and John Eselius his sons; Mrs. Olson, a daughter, who is the housekeeper at the home, and a Scandinavian and unable to speak any English.  The other occupants of the house individually told the stories of their acquaintance with Hillstrom and with apparent reluctance of the presence of Applequist in their house on Friday and Saturday.  The stories of the different members of the family differ in some points which the officers believe important.


Description of House.

            The house occupied by the Eselius family is a small one, containing four small rooms and an attic.  The connection with the attic is by a hinge stairway that folds up into the ceiling.  In each of two rooms there are two beds.  In the main room there is a cot.  The fourth room is the kitchen.

            Search of the premises failed to reveal any weapon of any kind, same two sets of brass knuckles which had been hidden in the rear of the house.  The members of the Eselius family professed not to know how they happened to be there.  A red handkerchief, corresponding to the description of the masks used by the murderers, was found in the home.  The occupants of the house said they did not know where it came from and said that none of them owned it.  The handkerchief is similar to one found by the police last Sunday not far south of the Morrison store.

            To the officers Ed Eselius told this story:

            On Saturday evening my two brothers and the two Erickson boys left early to go to the Utah theater.  They returned home about 1:30 o’clock.  Hillstrom and Applequist were here when the boys left for the show.  They probably left soon afterward, but I did not see them go.  Applequist was asleep on the cot which he and Hillstrom had occupied when the latter arrived.  Soon after the boys came home the doctor brought Hillstrom home.

            We got Applequist out of bed and put Hillstrom in his bed.  Hillstrom asked for Applequist as soon as he got in the house and the two talked together for a few minutes.  I didn’t hear what they said.  A little later Applequist said he was going to start out to look for work.  He told us that Hillstrom had hot shot in a row over a woman and suggested that we say nothing about it.  He then went out of the house and I haven’t seen him since.


Suspicion Raised.

            As the description of Robert Erickson was similar to that of one of the men whom Miss Nellie Mahan, 500 South West Temple street, saw crossing the street immediately after the shots were heard, suspicion was raised.  She said two men ran rapidly across the street and another followed with his hands clasped over his breast.  One of the men in front wore a light suit.  She heard the man behind cry out:

            “Hold on, Bob, I’m shot.”

            The fact that Erickson was known as “Bob” Erickson and that he wore a light suit of clothes was regarded as a circumstance that justified taking Erickson into custody.  He was questioned closely as to his conduct on Saturday evening, and told this story:

            With the two Eselius boys and my brother I went to the Utah theater.  As I was leaving the theater I saw a man who woks for the Miller-Cahoon Lumber company at Murray, but whose name I don’t know.  He called to me and asked me how I liked the show. 

            After the theater was out all four of us went to a saloon on Commercial street, drank some beer and ate some tamales.  The proprietor was there and talked to us.  He knows me well and will probably remember our being in there.  We remained there some time and then returned to Murray. 

            The story of Erickson was corroborated in all essential details by the three men whom he said were his companions at the theater.  However, the saloon man on whom Erickson relied told the officers that he was positive that he did not see Erickson in his saloon on Saturday night, though he saw and talked to the other three.  He said Erickson was in his place on Friday night, hut not on Saturday.  The Eselius boys produced three seat checks for the Utah theater dated Saturday night, but failed to find the fourth.  The seats were numbered 7, 9, and 10, number 8 being missing.  An effort to find the employee of the lumber company whom Erickson says say him at the theater proved futile.

            At the county jail Erickson and Hillstrom were permitted to see each other.  Erickson spoke in Swedish to Hillstrom, after which Hillstrom said that Erickson was not with him on Saturday night. 


Born in Sweden.

            Further than this Hillstrom volunteered no statement and it was with difficulty that the officers obtained any answers to their questions.  He told the officers he was born in Sweden and had not been naturalized.  He said he had been in America several years and had worked as a machinist.

            “I was in a fuss over a girl,” he said when urged to tell how he came to be wounded, “and I got shot.”

            “I don’t want to say where it occurred,” he added.

            He said that Applequist was not with him when the shooting occurred.  He said he had ridden to the doctor’s residence on a street car.  The Police are of the opinion that Applequist took his to the doctor’s home.

            A determined effort is being made to find Applequist.  Telegrams were sent broadcast last night by the police and they will be followed by circulars containing the picture and description of the man.

            The police yesterday found that a young woman named Hilda Erickson, sister of Robert Erickson and niece of the Eselius boys, is employed as a domestic at 1292 East South Temple street.  According to the police, Hillstrom had been paying her attention and had called on her several times there.  The name, “Hilda,” occurred in a note found on Hillstrom signed “Otto,” ka copy of which was published in The Tribune yesterday morning. 







            Otto Applequist parted company with Joe Hillstrom at the Eselius home in Murray at about 2 o’clock on Monday morning, according to information secured yesterday by members of the police department and the sheriff’s force.  This was shortly after Hillstrom was taken to the Eselius house by Dr. A. A. Bird and after Hillstrom’s wound had been dressed by Drs. McHugh  and Bird at Dr. McHugh’s residence.

            According to the story told to officers by members of the Eselius family, Applequist was in the front room of the house when Hillstrom and Dr. Bird were taken into the room through the kitchen. 

            John Eselius protested to the officers that he was much surprised to see Applequist in the room.  He was eating in the kitchen when Dr. Bird and Hillstrom entered, and showed them into the front room.

            After giving up to the wounded man the couch on which he was lying, Applequist stayed in the house only long enough to have a secret conference with Hillstrom, being left alone with him by the members of the Eselius family after Dr. Bird had gone.  Shortly, Applequist went from the front room into the kitchen, where John and Ed Eselius were sitting.  He told them that he was going to get out, according to the story of the Eselius brothers to the officers, and that he was going to find work.  John Eselius said that Applequist mentioned Garfield as his goal.  Both brothers protested, they say, that 1 o’clock in the morning was not a very good time to start in search of work, but were met with the response that Applequist had been out of work so long that he was determined to move and wanted an early start.

            The fact that the automatic pistol, which both Drs. McHugh and Bird say in the possession of Hillstrom, was not found at the Eselius place had led to the belief that the wounded man gave the weapon to Applequist.  When he was being attended at the home of Dr. McHugh, shortly before 12 o’clock on Sunday night, he took off the shoulder holster containing the pistol and laid it on a table.  After his wound had been dressed, Hillstrom stuffed the pistol and holster into his hip pocket before being taken to the Eselius house by Dr. Bird. 

            Dr. Bird was on his way home from Garfield when he saw the light in Dr. McHugh’s residence and went in to inquire if the late activity of his associate was caused by anything in which he might give professional assistance.  It was in this manner that he came to be in a position to give the wounded man a lift to the Eselius home.

            According to the story told by the Eselius family, both Hillstrom and Applequist first visited them last August.  Both Ed and John Eselius became acquainted with them two months before that time in a place known as Happy Hollow, near San Pedro, they told the police.  For a short time Applequist was employed in Park City as a cable rigger.  Later he secured work as a structural iron worker on the Eccles building in Ogden.  Two weeks ago he applied for membership in the Salt Lake local of the Structural Iron Workers.  The story that he had been employed on the Eccles building in Ogden was proved correct yesterday by the findings of Detectives W. C. Zeese and Herbert Lelchter, who were sent there to investigate.  The detectives found that he was known in Ogden and that while employed there stayed at a rooming house on Twenty-first street.  Later, a picture taken of the workmen on the Eccles building was found in Salt Lake.  It included Applequist.

            According to the Eselius family, both men visited the Eselius home frequently, and stayed two weeks in August, a week in September ad for three days just before the murders.







            That the wounded man arrested late Tuesday night and thought to be the slayer of the Morrisons is a man whom the Morrison family knew five years ago, but who since has not been heard of, is the belief of Perry Morrison, the 21-year-old son of John G. Morrison, who was slain. 

            Perry Morrison in company with his uncle, Earl Nowlin of Missoula, Mont., visited the county jail yesterday to see Hillstrom.  As soon as Perry Morrison say Hillstrom he recollected, he said, of having seen the man about five years ago in Salt Lake.  According to Mr. Nowlin, when Hillstrom glanced up at Morrison he gave a sudden start and quickly turned away from the boy.  Morrison said last night:

            I visited the jail yesterday afternoon with my uncle and my brother Merlin.  We were taken to Hillstrom’s cell, and as soon as I saw the man I recollected that I had seen him five years ago.  Since that time neither I nor anyone else in the family have heard of the man.  He passed from our acquaintance suddenly and until I say Hillstrom yesterday I had almost forgotten about the man we knew five years ago.

            I am not positive, yet I am reasonably sure that the man giving his name as Hill or Hillstrom is the same whom we knew five years ago.  Because I am not positive I will not say how well we were acquainted with the man or whether of not we could connect him with the murders of my father and brother.

            I intend to learn the whereabouts of the man whom I knew five years ago and who I think is Hillstrom.  I will have to learn through other and it will be impossible to find out tonight.  I can find out tomorrow by inquiring from persons I know are aware of where the man we knew five years ago.  I do not recall the name.  The man to whom I refer was a customer at our store and whom I remember as apparently being on friendly terms with my father.

            Because I have neither heard of the man for five years nor have heard others talk of him I am even more firmly led to believe that he and Hill are the same.  When I first approached Hillstrom’s cell the man did not look up at me.  I bent over him, however, and stared hard and attracted a glance from him.  As soon as he met my eyes he shuddered and hung back.  He refused to look at me further. 

            I am determined to find out definitely today whether or not Hillstrom is the man I think him to be.  The man I think Hillstrom is lived in Salt Lake five years ago and had a family, but I am not prepared to give out the location of the place at which he them lived because I do not wish to bring any false accusations against anyone I’m not sure of.

            Perry Morrison bears a striking resemblance to his father.  He is about the same height and has much the same features as his father.  He was uptown Saturday night when the murders occurred.  Earl Nowlin, the uncle, arrived in Salt Lake Monday.  He is a brother of Mr. Morrison. 







            Joe Hill, alias Joe Hillstrom, who is being held in the county jail for the murder of John G. Morrison and his son John Arling Morrison, resembles to a marked degree the man whom Merlin Morrison, another son of John G. Morrison, says he say murder his father and brother Saturday night.  After his visit to the county jail yesterday Merlin Morrison said:

            Hill is about the same size and height as one of the men who entered my father’s store Saturday night.  As the light was dim I could not get a lasting impression of the man’s features, but Hill appears to be very much the same build as the man who entered the store first and whom I saw fire at my father.  After my father had fallen and the murderers say that my brother intended to fire in return the man whom I think resembles Hill crouched behind the end of the counter and shot my brother.







            John G. Morrison and his son, John Arling Morrison, who were murdered last Saturday night in the Morrison grocery store at 778 South West Temple street, were laid to their final rest in the City cemetery yesterday.  More than 1000 mourners attended, with the surviving members of the Morrison family, the funeral services which were held at 2 o’clock from Eagles’ hall under the auspices of camp 53, Woodsmen of the World. 

            The services and the procession to the cemetery were most impressive.  The hearses carrying the bodies of father and son were followed by nearly 500 persons who were present at the graves for the final rites. 

            The Rev. P. A. Simpkin of the Phillips Congregational church delivered the funeral sermon at the services in Eagles’ hall, extolling the lives of Morrison and his son.

            Carl Osterloh and P. Connors delivered the ritualistic work for the Woodsmen of the World, and B. A. Reid acted as master of ceremonies.  An abundance of floral offerings and plants were placed upon the coffins of father and son at the funeral services, and were laid on the graves after the final spadeful of dirt had been turned.

[1] The Eselius name appeared initially in the coverage of the murders in the above bracketed form and will continue to be used in subsequent articles.  Gibbs Smith also spelled the Eselius name in the bracketed form in his book, Joe Hill.  The Tribune spelled it “Esilus” in this article.