The Letter from a Dead Man

…..three suspicious deaths from 1963

By Tamara Pettit

    If Helen Williamson’s death had happened today, I know the investigation would have been different.  A lot of questions would have been asked that seem to just linger in the file awaiting answers….and someone to figure it all out.  Since the only one left to do that is me, I’ve spent many years looking for something I’ve missed.  I’ve also gone on wild goose chases.  It was disconcerting at first to look at my Dad’s notes after he died.  Taken on the yellow legal pad he always kept on his office desk, I can see they were ripped off and placed in the file.   The notes are in no certain order so putting a timeline on the whole thing was difficult.  I believe he jotted things down as they came in.  Some names I see on the paper (Dwight Trushel) appear to not be connected.  Others, Helen Wilkin, are connected.

    Let’s look at Lawrence Wise, the man who died in heart surgery, and try to figure out why he would dictate such an ominous message to a priest the night before his surgery.  He was 40-years-old.  He worked at Weirton Steel.  Exactly where he lived is uncertain.  In the notes I see he sometimes stayed at the Steubenville YMCA and “took” his meals at the woman’s house where the letter was delivered.   His landlady told Dad, however, that he sometimes stayed at the mill.  He had a girl friend named Alta Minger.

     How did the Christmas card get to the landlady?  This is what I have figured out from the notes.  Wise was a Mason and Dad wrote “the message in hidden in his Masonic Bible.”   I read where his parents went to Pittsburgh to pick up his belongings.   The Masonic Bible had to have been among those belongings.  Wise’s parents lived in New Martinsville and “Wise’s dad worked for the Gas Company in Pine Grove.”

        That’s why the person who delivered the Christmas card to the landlady six week’s later was in a Gas Company truck.  That man, however, offered no explanation or identification.  Why?  I would say he was scared and wanted the letter out of his possession. 

        I tracked down the Masonic Bible.  I found a relative of Wise’s mother who had it back when I was working at the Weirton Times.  The composing manager, Larry Kush, was a good friend and went with me to Steubenville to an apartment on Sunset Blvd.  It was in 1990 and I had to flip through the Bible as the man and woman looked at us.  It was unsettling because the couple was very old and I wasn’t sure how much they knew.  They knew the Bible meant something, however, and they weren’t telling me what that was.    There were entire verses underlined most about retribution and forgiveness, and I furiously jotted down notes.   The only thing the man said that resonated was “A J Rosenshine was in the middle of this.”   As we had walked along Sunset Blvd. to the rundown apartment my friend, Larry, was enthusiastic and thought we were on to something.  “This is soooo exciting, Tamara!” he said.  As we retraced our steps back to the car in the sweltering heat dodging the cars on Sunset Blvd., he said, “You know, you are going to get us killed, Tamara.   And, for what?  You will never figure this out.”   Larry knew I had pulled at a scab, but it had produced no answers.

      I believe the answer to Lawrence Wise’s roll in the three deaths lies in why he had $10,000.00.  That is the equivalent of $89,200.00 in today’s money.   A millworker might have made $4,800.00         He didn’t own a home and it appeared have much in the way of earthly possessions.

      We have proof that there was $10,000.00 in a Citizen’s Bank Safety Deposit Box and either he or Weirton Attorney A.J. Rosenshine had the key.  Notes tell me that Lawrence made a will and AJ Rosenshine may have opened the will by mistake.  A friend of Wise’s named Ray Baker told Dad that Lawrence told him he was going to buy a Cadillac.  He had come into a lot of money and as a laborer at Weirton Steel, the way he got that money is a big question. 

        I’m having someone who is versed in Latin take another look at the Christmas card message.  Both Harry West, Latin teacher at Oak Glen High, and a priest at St. Paul’s in Weirton gave their translations, but they vary in their interpretation differing on one phrase.  Is it “I am a MADE man” or “I am a NEW man.”

        Either way, I think Lawrence Wise received the money for his participation in three deaths and his deathbed message was a confession.  Oh, and the $10,000.00 survived Lawrence, because that was the exact amount offered if the landlady would turn over the Christmas Card.  That’s no coincidence.  Who had the key to the safe deposit box beside Lawrence?  Attorney A.J. Rosenshine.

         Next week:  the man who faked his own death in Ohio and Dad’s trip to visit him on death row.

Lawrence Wise died July  24 63 at the age of 40.  He was a Mason  He stayed at the Y in Steubenville   a month after Mrs. Williamson’s death she “got a letter from a dead man”  “You didn’t get a letter from Fort Lauderdale or Fort Myers or from Stewart Williamson

Go to the address in Steubenville, the catholic church on 4th street.  In sept of 63 got a call offering me 10,000 for letter.

One girl, kept house alta minger   tended bar at weirton bar   lived near the race track   stoldemyer lived next door.    Heard you had gotten letter from a dead man   some boy delivered 6 weeks after death   st

…..Let’s take a look at the date of the second   doner                 and the license plate.  It was an Ohio license plate and tracking it down was pretty simple.   Dad found that the owner of the car was in the Ohio State penitentiary for murder.  The date beside the license plate was when Domer had attempted to fake his own death. 

Filled out a will with  a.j.rosenshine, 3-4 months before  right after his license revoked  will opened by mistake hoped he didn’t have to go to court.   Letter is in the masonic bible.   Mother has it.  Mother and  father went to hospital to geet his things

Norma s. powers was his girlfriend

Grace shields   Robert powers

Mention an arabian girl in east Liverpool

George mcfadden died in ymca

In jan. 63 there was supposed to be 10,000 in a safety deposit box in citizens bank 1090 a j rosenshine or wise has key

Joe rainey said he knew about the 10,000 – it went in someone’s pocket  ray baker said Lawrence was going to buy a Cadillac

In looking over the list of the 1960 invicta    pair of sun glasses, $3.16 in chage, life savers, kent cigarettes, powder compact, lip stick, bayer aspirin, matches, pencil, red button, emery board, 1 stick chewing gum, comb, catholic medallion, airline ticket on united airlines, pitts. To Miami,  set of car keys

Why did priest write the message latin

But we’ve jumped ahead to helen Williamson.  Her death was the second in the the first took place April 23, 1963 and the license plate was an ohio license plate – it was a bizarre murder that Dad and deputy Tom Matthews would go to Columbus, Ohio to the Ohio State Penitentiary to visit a man named    Domer on death row.

Domer had hatched an elaborate scheme to get out of the financial trouble he was in.  He faked his own death.  On         Domer met a man called Riddle. He took him to the Top of the Mart motel in Canton, Ohio and got him drunk.  Domer claims that he left the motel and when he came back to the room the man was dead  (alcohol blood levels would later determine riddles level was .21.)  He dressed Riddle in his clothes and placed his id on him; put him in his car and drove to a hill overlooking the train tracks.  He put Riddle in the Drivers seat; doused the car with gasoline; and sent in down the hill at the time the train was supposed to come down the tracks.  His plan:  the train would hit the car and go up in flames making the body unrecognize.  The problem:  He miscalculated and the body was discovered.

…..What was domer’s motive and what did Lawrence wide know about this murder?

…..Was purportedly in financial trouble and sought a way out.  H