A few days before his murder, a sixty-year-old man named Clark Rea told his brother that he had had a dream in which he was dead. They thought nothing more of it. He and his brother lived alone on their farm in the fields to the north of town, just off the Coaltown road. They were reclusive and no one knew them well. Everyone said they had huge sums of money stashed on their property, despite their ragged clothes and squalid house.
On the fifteenth of January, 1930, as Clark and his brother were getting ready to go to bed, all the windows of the house were smashed, and guns were fired from every side. Clark was shot in the head and died instantly. The robbers wore masks. They came into the house and took all Clark’s brother’s money, which amounted to fifty-four cents, and the $70 or so that they found in Clark’s pockets.
A few days later, the police picked up four local boys. They had believed what they had heard about the brother’s secret wealth. The killing was an accident. They had meant to fire the guns into the air to scare the old men, but one of them must have fired too low. None of them knew who fired the shot that killed Clark. All four were charged with murder and were given life sentences.
One of the jurors who found them guilty was a young tin-mill worker named Charles Hill, who would become the father of William LaRue Hill, whose mug shot was taken in 1958, when he was the same age as the boys who had shot Clark Rea.
William had received a bad conduct discharge from the marines. After he came home to New Castle, he broke into an old woman’s house and stole a .38 revolver. He loaned the gun to some friends of his who wanted to hold up a filling station. They had to abandon the job when the youngest of them, a fifteen-year-old boy named George Kordish, got scared and refused to go through with it. The boys drove around town for an hour or so, beating Kordish with the butt of the revolver. They dumped him at his house. He crawled into the back seat of his stepfather’s car, where he was found later, covered in blood.
The boys gave the gun back to William. He and a couple of other friends spent all the following Sunday drinking. By five in the morning, they were tired and looking for somewhere to sleep. They went to the Leslie hotel, where William pulled out the gun and threatened to shoot the clerk unless he gave them a room. He refused and they left. The police picked William up shortly after, as he was standing on his own in the middle of the East Washington street bridge, gazing into the water.
All the boys were given eleven to twenty-three months in the county jail and were paroled after serving the minimum time.
William was arrested again the month he was released, when he got in a fight outside the Washington Lunch. Two months later, he was jailed for disorderly conduct when he was found to be drunk in a car that crashed into a telephone pole on Sampson street. The following year, he got a year in jail for aggravated assault and battery. In January, 1971, he was fined $350 for driving while drunk and failing to stop at the scene of an accident. There is no further record of his life.
Sources: New Castle News (15 January 1930, “Assassins Kill Man”; 18 January 1930, “Boys Confess Murder”; 10 March 1930, “William Grimm First To Face Trial For Shooting Clark Rea”; 5 May 1958, “Man Jailed On Firearms Violation”; 9 May 1958, “Police Arrest 2 In Beating Charge Third”; 29 May 1958, “2 Sentenced In Beating Of Boy, 15”; 1 July 1959, “3 Youths Jailed After Disturbance”; 27 July 1959, “Six Injured As Car Rams Utility Pole”; 28 May 1960, “Paroled Granted By County Court”; 29 January 1971, “Five Get Weekend Sentences”).
He takes a fine photo, that lad.
Puts me in mind of Nic Cage in Raising Arizona.
That’s it! I couldn’t think who he was reminding me of.
Now how did they misspell “Castle”?
It was still spelled wrongly in July, but they’d fixed it by December.
There was a William L. Hill who passed away in New Castle September 10, 2010, aged 72. There is an online memorial posted by his granddaughter that says:
i miss you and love you sooo much. i can remember when i was little we would take our hiking trips and you would teach me how to stack rocks every mile so i could follow them back to the camp….i love you…im so upset that you left me but i know your looking down on me from heaven and i hope your proud of what you see…i miss you and ill see you someday.
Maybe he turned his life around and this blurb about his police record doesn’t tell the whole story.
Thanks for letting me know, Mike! That’s really interesting. I see that the memorial page gives his birth date as October 16, 1937, which would match up with the age of the William in the photograph, so I’d guess it’s quite likely to be the same man. I hope so.
I hope things got better for him. I like to think that sometimes amidst all of these sad tales there is room for an occasional bit of redemption.
Your doing a great job with this blog, by the way, and I really enjoy your writing.
Grew up w/ some Hill’s and Kordish’s during the 80’s & 90’s, actually lived in the “projects” w/ the Kordish’s, and one stays on the same street my mom on the South side.
I wonder if they remember George…