Confusing testimony at Coroner’s Inquest

Rhonda Chalfant - Contributing Columnist

On Friday, Oct. 7, 1927, the Sedalia Capital continued the story of a shocking crime that had occurred in Sedalia a few days before. Ivan McKay, a young man, had shot Andrew Thompson near the Terminal Hotel at 120 West Main Street. Thompson later died of his wounds, and the charge of assault filed against McKay were changed to a charge of murder.

Sedalia’s rumor mill, always a source of misinformation, began to churn out stories about the incident almost immediately. McKay had given a statement to the police after he turned himself in to the police and had repeated that statement to reporters the next day. The officer who responded to the scene gave a report. Some of the other information came from more interesting sources.

McKay told police and reporters that he and Thompson had been drinking “home brew” they had purchased from a bootlegger on South Ohio Street. McKay also said that Thompson had attacked him, hitting him and knocking him to the ground, once at the Sunnyside Garage on South Kentucky near West Main Street and a second time outdoors on West Main Street. The reason for the attack, McKay said, was that he refused to go down to the basement with Thompson. Thompson had “threatened” McKay, who was frightened badly enough that he had gone to get a revolver, for “protection,” though he also admitted he was not familiar with firearms. After Thompson’s second attack, McKay said the gun fell from his pocket. He retrieved it and shot Thompson, fearing he would be attacked again.

Officer Price Moffett was on West Main Street before the shooting. In his report, he said that McKay had called to him from the Sunnyside Garage, asking for protection from Thompson, who was not at the garage at that time but who had attacked and threatened McKay earlier. Moffett stayed with McKay for a time, then advised McKay to return to his home.

Thompson’s mother declared her son to be a good son who did not drink. Her statement that he did not drink may have been more than the proud comment of a temperance advocate. Prohibition was the law, and she may not have known that he frequented the bootlegger or may not have wanted to implicate him in any wrongdoing.

Thompson’s sister, Mrs. Nellie Brown, arrived from her home in Des Moines, Iowa, the day after the shooting. She told police that she had been told that Thompson was in his car when he was shot, but she would not name the source of her information.

A Coroner’s Inquest, a hearing required in cases of violent or suspicious deaths, met on October 6. The jury members represented a wide section of Sedalia’s male population. The jury included Charles Bente, a retired man who lived at 240 South Prospect Avenue; L. E. Shoemaker, a machinist who lived at 407 Hurley; Charles Hert, a drugstore manager who lived at 316 West Eleventh Street; A. M. Hoffman, hardware merchant who lived at 825 West Sixth Street, W. E. Hurlbut, a clerk who lived at 1012 West Broadway; and Elza Berry, a implement dealership clerk who lived at 821 West Tenth Street.

The jury heard testimony from a number of witnesses. Much of the testimony contradicted that given by McKay to the police after his arrest and to reporters the day after his arrest. Next week’s column recounts the inquest.

Rhonda Chalfant

Contributing Columnist

Rhonda Chalfant is the president of the Pettis County chapter of NAACP and the Pettis County Historical Society.

Rhonda Chalfant is the president of the Pettis County chapter of NAACP and the Pettis County Historical Society.

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