Cab Driver Admits Killing

     On December 15, 1903, three men entered the Erie House at Fourth Street and Clark Avenue.  The men beat up cook Victor Dauson before shooting hotel clerk Charles Harding.  Dauson died from his injuries but Charles Harding recovered.  The men took $300 from the safe and fled the hotel.

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Chief Desmond Article from the Sunday, October 30, 1904 edition of St. Louis Republic

     The men entered the hotel at 2:00 a.m. and surprised Harding, who was sitting in the office.  While two men were working on the safe, the other man guarded Harding.  The men heard Dauson coming down the hall and bludgeoned him with clubs and a sledge-hammer.

     At first, St. Louis Police were unable to discover the identity of the perpetrators.  St. Louis Chief of Detectives William Desmond detailed two of his best men on the case.  Detectives Michael Cremins and Finan worked the case for months.

     In March 1904, the detectives received a tip about Willie E. Hall, a 27-year-old cab driver.   The St. Louis Detectives pursued him doggedly until arresting him at his home, 4301 Easton Avenue, on Saturday, April 12, 1904.

     Hall steadfastly maintained his innocence throughout his questioning by Chief of Detectives Desmond and Assistant Chief of Detectives Matthew Keely.  Hall lost his nerve when confronted by the man he shot.  Charles Harding denounced Hall as his attacker and almost fainted from the strain.

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St. Louis Detectives from the St. Louis Republic February 23, 1902

     Harding’s condition shocked Hall, who confessed to the crimes.  Hall stated two other men named James Duffy and Charles Stevens aided Hall in the crime.  Duffy helped Hall assault Dauson.  Duffy was the robber armed with a hammer.

     The men planned the robbery in a saloon at Eighth and Walnut Streets during the day on December 14, 1903.  Having a penchant for saloons, the men split their take in a saloon at Fourteenth and Biddle Streets.  Hall claimed he made $75 from the robbery.

     Charles Stevens was already serving a sentence in the Missouri penitentiary for another robbery.  James Duffy was still at large.  Chief Desmond and his detectives solved another serious crime but the real challenge loomed ahead.  The 1904 World’s Fair was about to begin in two weeks leading to long days and nights for St. Louis’ detective force.

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