After William Busch died on Friday, Feb. 10, 1928, as a result of a gunshot wound after an attempted robbery on Feb. 4, local citizens began donating money to fund a reward to be given to the person who correctly identified the murderers. Most of the donations were small, about $10 each, from citizens and businessmen. Other donations were larger; the men’s Bible class of First Methodist Church gave $50, the Musicians Local No. 22 gave $25, and Col. William Powell gave $50. The Sedalia Democrat pledged $250, and the members of the Chamber of Commerce, who proposed the reward, began to contribute toward the $1,000 promised by that organization.
On Saturday, Police Chief James Connor arrested cousins Walter Garrett and Lewis Garrett and charged them with murder.
On Monday, Pettis County Coroner W.G. Jones convened an inquest. The testimony covered comments by neighbor J.L. Rose, a woman with an extremely good sense of sight and hearing, and an even better ability to spy on her neighbors.
The inquest also included testimony from Lewis and Walter Garrett. Evidence continued to come to the sheriff, however, so the inquest was continued until Wednesday afternoon to allow the information to be processed. Much of the evidence was circumstantial, according to The Sedalia Democrat, which followed the crime carefully.
Wednesday’s testimony began with more information from Rose, who claimed to have found a brass rod in the Garretts’ yard on Monday afternoon. She believed that Lewis Garrett had used the rod to clean a gun in his yard a few days after the shooting.
Knowledge of forensic science was limited at the time, but the rod would have yielded little information because Rose had washed the rod and dried it with a cloth, then gave it to her child to play with. The child later threw the rod into the mud.
Mr. Rose, of 1400 E. 14th St., not the husband to the neighborly Mrs. Rose who lived at 1200 S. Stewart, testified that he had seen a man in shirtsleeves and with no hat in a car parked by the Katy tracks near 13th Street. Busch’s brother-in-law, Elmer Fingland, stated that the car was his, that he retrieved it after learning that it had been stolen from the hospital where he had been seeing Busch.
The remainder of Wednesday’s testimony concerned the Garretts’ movements the evening of Busch’s shooting. D.P. Jacks, a barber whose shop was on East Second Street, was questioned as to whether either of the Garretts had been in his shop on the evening of Feb. 4. Although he admitted he knew both of the Garretts, he did not remember whether they had been in his shop that evening.
Sam Lowery testified that he had met Lewis Garrett between 7:30 and 8 p.m. Saturday in front of a dime store. Lowery stated that Garrett had asked about Charles Carver, who lived at the same address Lowery did. Carver, Garrett and some other young men went to the late show at the Star Theatre, a storefront theater on West Second Street. Carver confirmed Lowery’s testimony, and added that he had spoken with Kenneth Moore, Earl Wright and a man named Henderson.
Walter Garrett said he had gone to town with his uncle, Charles Garrett, about 6:45 Saturday evening. Walter Heddon testified that Lewis Garrett was in his business, the Sedalia Sign Shop, about 6:50 Saturday evening. None of the testimony about the Garretts indicated they had been involved in the shooting.
The reward played a part in the inquest, as each person who testified was asked whether he or she knew of the reward when each approached the police to offer information about the crime. All witnesses denied knowledge of the reward when they went to the police with information about the crime.
At the time The Democrat went to press, the inquest was still meeting, but the article noted that more witnesses would be called that afternoon and the jury would likely give a verdict that evening.
However, the inquest did not end. While it was continuing, Sheriff Mason Lane of Johnson County claimed to have gathered a confession from two Warrensburg men. Questions about their confessions and the possibility of the reward arose as the men were questioned.
Next week’s column continues the story of the crime and its investigation.