Owen Ransom, “B&E Larc”, 21 March 1939

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The police described seventeen-year-old Owen Ransom as a well-acting lad who came from a good family. They were mystified about why he had broken into several houses, garages and cars to steal jewellery and cash, much of which he had thrown into the Neshannock creek. He told them simply that he had robbed the homes for a thrill. The judge placed him on probation for three years.

Owen left school and got a job as a stock clerk before he was drafted in 1942. He spent the war in army camps in New York, Florida and Oklahoma. After he returned to New Castle, he became a foreman at the Shenango Pottery factory and, a few years later, he was married in a candlelit ceremony to Phyllis Dean, a secretary at the Haney Furniture company.

A year and a half after the wedding, on Sunday 21st May, 1950, Owen waited until his wife was asleep then drove to Youngstown, where he found a woman, Helen Bernt, walking alone. He stopped and offered her a ride home. He was well spoken, and he was driving an expensive car. Helen accepted.

When they got to her house, Helen tried to get out but Owen grabbed her and drove four or five blocks to a deserted stretch of the road, where he raped her and then performed what she later referred to as an unnatural act of intercourse upon her. Afterwards, he told her he wished it hadn’t happened like it had. He said, “The least I can do is take you home.” Helen got out of the car, took off her shoes and ran until she came across a taxi. She had the driver take her back to the street where Owen’s car was still parked. She wrote down its license number and reported it to the police.

By the time the police went to check on the car, Owen had gone. They passed the details to the police in New Castle, where the car was registered. For some reason, the New Castle police did nothing about it.

Two nights later, at around ten o’clock, Gisella Morganti was walking home along East Winter avenue when Owen appeared and said something about the weather—there had been showers on and off all day, and thunder was forecast. She was nervous and walked on, calling out to her father as she approached her house. Owen grabbed her from behind and threw her to the ground—“like a sack of potatoes”, she later told police. She screamed for help and a neighbour shouted her name. Owen ran off, taking her pocketbook.

Less than two hours later, just after midnight, Helen Brasile was walking down East Washington street, near Almira avenue, when Owen attacked her. He forced his fingers down her throat and dragged her into an empty driveway. He said, “No use struggling, sister, you’re not getting away.” Helen fainted or was knocked out. Owen raped her.

When Helen regained consciousness, she was bleeding from the mouth and her clothing was torn and covered in mud. One of her shoes was missing, as was her purse, which contained $28. She knocked on the door of an old couple’s house and told them what had happened. They called the police.

Owen was arrested at half past two the following afternoon. The mayor took personal charge of the case after learning that the police had failed to act on the information that the Youngstown police had passed on.

The three women identified Owen as their attacker. Owen said that he had had consensual sex with Helen Bernt in Youngstown and had committed no subsequent unnatural act. He and his wife claimed that, on the night of the New Castle attacks, Owen had been home, listening to a ball game on the radio and had gone to bed at a quarter to eleven.

The jury believed the women. Owen received a four-to-eight year term in the Rockview prison farm at Bellefonte. He was free by 1956. He and Phyllis had a son in 1958 and a daughter in 1960. He died in 1995, in New Castle, at the age of seventy-three.

Helen Brasile married a man called Raymond Wetling the year after Owen was jailed. She and Raymond left town. Gisella Morganti never married. She moved to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, with her sister in 1970. There is no further record of Helen Bernt.

Sources: New Castle News ( 24 March 1939, “Youth Pleads Guilty To Entering Homes”; 25 March 1939, “Police Report Youth Admits More Burglaries”; 3 April 1939, “On Court House Hill”; 18 May 1940, “David Jameson Lodge Initiates”; 13 Jan 1943, “Men In US Service”; 18 March 1943, “Men In US Service”; 19 July 1943, “Men In US Service”; 12 Oct 1944, “Men In US Service”; 28 Aug 1948, “Dean-Ransom Wedding Plans”; 16 Sep 1948, “Evening Wedding Candlelight Event”; 25 May 1950 , “Police Grill Suspect In Attacks Here”; 26 May 1950, “Police Make Charges In Attack Cases”; 29 May 1950, “Deaths Of The Day”; 21 Sep 1950, “Levine Asks First Degree”; 22 Sep 1950, “Ransome [sic] Found Guilty Of Rape”; 26 Feb 1951, “Court Upholds New Trial Plea”; 1 Mar 1951, “Ransom Draws 4 to 8 Years”; 21 Sep 1953, “Ransom Seeks Release”; 18 June 1956, “Hayes Tomlinsons Take Up Residence”; 29 Nov 1958, “Births Reported”; 24 June 1960, “Births Reported”; 21 Aug 1970, “Amity Club”; 28 Mar 1975, “Deaths Of The Day”); Youngstown Vindicator, 15 March 1950, “Jury Fails To Agree: Ransom Case Continued”; The Lawrence Law Journal, Volume 10, (1951).

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