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Note: Cecil Earl Paris was the twin of Tapati McDaniels’ great-grandmother, Nona Pearl. Nona Pearl raised one of Cecil Earl’s sons, George, whom Tapati knew as an uncle although he was a cousin.
Tapati submitted the following information about Cecil Earl’s murder for use on the Iowa Cold Cases website.
Cecil Earl Paris, a 31-year-old night watchman at the Keokuk Box Factory plant on Commercial Alley, was shot and killed sometime Saturday night, February 18, 1928, by an unknown assailant who was armed with a .22 caliber revolver.
The body was discovered on Sunday morning by Walter Bryant, the day watchman.
The body had been pushed under a lumber wagon about forty feet from the doorway of the boiler room at the plant, and a sack of coal was found near the building.
Police believed Cecil was shot when he ordered someone off the premises. His own .32 caliber revolver was missing and believed stolen. Money had also been removed but a cheap watch was untouched. Three charcoal tablets had been wrapped in a paper that they think the murderer mistook for a bill and were found on the ground along with the paper.
A sister of the murdered man told the coroner who told the officers that a week ago her brother had accosted a man in the boiler room and ordered him out. Henry Faber was the police officer who responded to the call and he called Frank W. Oertel, Justice of the Peace and acting coroner.
Bloodhounds were used to follow the trail the murderer might have taken. They were given the scent from the victim’s body and also the sack of coal. Five times they led to the house of a man named Hammond in the vicinity of the Tenth street bridge, following a trail along “bloody run.”
A man named H. Lewis was taken into custody and questioned but later proved to have an alibi. He explained also that he had done some work unloading coal for a local coal dealer, and the Hammonds — with whom he was staying — confirmed that he was at their home all night.
An autopsy traced the route of the bullet as it entered the right side of Cecil Earl’s body to the left of the right nipple, between two ribs, and lodged in the pericardium. It had pierced the ascending aorta (the largest artery entering the heart) which would cause nearly instant death.
At the direction of Coroner Frank Oertel, the autopsy was performed by Dr. F. B. Dorsey Jr. and Dr. Johannes Anderson. The bullet was recovered and sealed as evidence. A three-inch spread of powder burns was found on the victim’s shirt and body once the shirt was removed.
The sheriff’s office was notified and Sheriff Hart, Deputy Sheriff Reinig and County Attorney D. J. McNamara joined the police officers already on the job under the direction of Chief J. B. Parks. Deputy Sheriff Fred Weisemann of Fort Madison also joined the officers. Deputy Sheriff H. E. Coles brought two bloodhounds who were allowed to sniff articles from the body and the bag of coal as described above. The dogs “worked furiously” when they came to a place in the creek where the ice had been broken, as if someone had plunged through.
A tag bearing the name of a local feed store was found on the sack of coal. No other mark was on it. This tag and the clothes of the murdered man were taken by the coroner for evidence. He empanelled a jury composed of R.L. Sherwood, Dr. P.E. Hanes and Henry Van Essling to hear the inquest on February 21, 1928. The body was removed to the Cunningham funeral parlor.
“Paris was said to have come here from Memphis, MO, about five years ago and was employed at the box factory. He had been night watchman for two years. He is survived by his widow and five children.”
“Earl Paris was born in Schuyler county Missouri, on August 5, 1896, and was the son of George and Laura McDaniel Paris. He came to Keokuk three years prior to his death. (This contradicts the portion above which says five years.) He was married to Rosa McKinney on September 17, 1917 at Moulton, Iowa, and to this union were born seven children, two of whom preceded him in death.”
“He was a member of the Christian Church at Downing, MO.
“He is survived by his wife, five children, all of whom live at home; his parents who live at Memphis, MO; four brothers; and seven sisters, besides other more distant relatives.
“The body will be taken to Memphis, MO., Tuesday morning where funeral services will be held from the Camp Ground church near Downing, MO., Wednesday morning.”
Aunt Pauline (wife of George Paris, Cecil’s infant son at the time of the murder) claims that there were theories about the killer but nothing was ever proven. It sounded like the implication was that gambling was involved. She says that whenever the elder family members were talking about it they’d all hush up if one of the younger generation came into the room, so she never did learn very much about his parents or the murder.
There is an interesting portion of an article that was not fully copied which talks of a Virgil Coovert, motorcycle cop who was paid one dollar by Mr. Paris earlier Saturday evening for a debt. One has to wonder if this was related to the rumored gambling. Mr. Coovert later gave this money to the widow out of sympathy.
There’s also a mention that the .32 caliber revolver used by Mr. Paris was considered “old-fashioned.” Additionally, the course of the bullet indicates that the assailant was taller than Mr. Paris and fired at close range. Mr. Paris was described as a “big well built man,” and his companions said he was a good wrestler, and “could have been a match for anyone in a fair fight.”
If you have any information regarding Cecil Earl Paris’ unsolved murder please contact the Keokuk Police Department at (319) 524-3131, (319) 524-3132 or (319) 524-2741, or contact the Lee County Sheriff’s Office at (319) 372-1152, (319) 524-1414 or 1-800-382-8900.