Monday, January 1, 2018

New Year's Day Murder

 
The Girl from the Wrong Side of the Tracks 
by Robert A. Waters 

One cold night in Cleveland, seventy years ago, Sheila Ann Tuley pulled a heavy coat over her sweater and headed out the door of her home.  Holding a handful of quarters, the eight-year-old bounded down the dark street toward D & N Drugstore.  Sheila's father, Edward, had asked her to make a quick trip to buy him three packs of cigarettes.  Sheila often walked to the store, less than two blocks away, to run errands for her parents.  This night, however, she never returned. 

By eleven o'clock on New Year's Day, 1948, the shabby house on 1333 East 124th Street was teeming with cops.  Known for gangsters and a corrupt police force, crime in Cleveland rated among the highest in the nation.  Still, it was rare for a child to disappear. 

Within the hour, dozens of cops had begun a door-to-door search for the missing girl, while others combed the streets and rat-plagued alleys using high-powered searchlights.  If she was lost or injured, Sheila wouldn't last long in that frigid night.  Or, God forbid, if she was being held captive by some unknown predator, time was of the essence. 

Before police could even get a full-blown search underway, they received a call from the C. James Endicott residenceAt around 11:30 P.M., after having visited relatives in another town, the Endicott family arrived home.  When fifteen-year-old James Endicott stepped up onto the porch, he discovered a body.  The search for Sheila Ann Tuley had ended before it really began. 

Sheila had been stabbed seven times, then left for dead.  A blood-trail showed that she had managed to crawl a hundred feet to the home of her classmate, Beverly Endicott.  Blood seemed to be everywhere.  The Endicott family had not yet removed their Christmas decorations, and the dead girl lay face-up beneath three decorative wreaths.  Christmas lights from surrounding homes bathed the pathetic body in red and green huesBloody handprints on the porch windows indicated that Sheila had attempted to gain the attention of her friend. 

The coroner later reported the cause of death to be a fatal thrust of the knife that caused a deep brain-penetrating wound to the head.  Even so, it had taken Sheila 2-3 hours to die. 

Detectives began canvassing the area for known child molesters.  It turned out there were more "perverts" than on-the-take cops in Cleveland.  More than a thousand former sex offenders were interviewed, but all were quickly eliminated. 

On January 5, Sheila was laid to rest at Calvary Cemetery.  Her family sobbed through the service, before returning to a house that now held a forever-empty spot. 

For more than a week, cops chased phantoms.  Then the Cleveland Press offered a $5,000 reward.  Added to an already existing $2,000 reward, seven grand opened some tongues. 

A call came in fingering Harold A. Beach, 22, a diminutive convicted sex offender who lived just blocks from the Tuley family.  One day after Sheila's murder, the informant said, Beach had fled to Baltimore.  A strange, friendless character who constantly bragged about his supposed prowess with pre-teen girls, the snitch stated that Beach had served time "in the joint." 

Sure enough, cops learned that in 1942, their suspect had kidnapped an eleven-year-old boy and forced himself on the child.  Less than a year before Sheila's murder, after serving a five-year sentence, Beach had been released from prison.  Until his flight to Baltimore, the suspect lived with his mother. 

When picked up by Baltimore detectives, it didn't take Beach long to confess.  He stated that on New Year's Day he'd taken a knife with him and set out to find a woman he could rape.  He encountered Sheila and offered her a quarter if she would accompany him.  Ducking through an alley filled with refuse and rodents, he came to the back of a residence that looked unoccupied.  There he attempted to sexually assault Sheila, but she fought doggedly.  Beach said he panicked when she wouldn't stop screaming.  He pulled the knife, and began "jabbing" her.  Finally, he stabbed her behind the ear, producing the wound that punctured her brain. 

On February 2, 1948, Harold A. Beach, now convicted of Sheila's murder, walked toward the electric chair.  He clutched a crucifix and prayed out loud for God's forgiveness.  Once he was strapped down, the executioner slammed nearly 2,000 volts of electricity into his body.  The process, repeated twice more, made sure that Beach was dead. 

While the whole city of Cleveland mourned the demise of Sheila Ann Tuley, only Beach's mother showed any regret for his passing.  "I'll stick by him till the end," she had said.  And she did. 

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