Missouri and Ozarks History

Information and comments about historical people and events of the Ozarks region and surrounding area.

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Location: Missouri

I'm a freelance writer specializing in the history of the Ozarks and surrounding region. I've written fifteen nonfiction books, two historical novels, and numerous articles. My latest books are Bushwhacker Belles, Wicked Women of Missouri, and Yanked Into Eternity: Lynchings and Hangings in Missouri.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Murder of Stanley Ketchel

Photo of Ketchel courtesy of Wikipedia.
Another chapter of my Murder and Mayhem in Missouri book is about the murder of world middleweight champion boxer Stanley Ketchel by Walter Dipley and Goldie Smith in October of 1910 on a farm near Niangua in Webster County, Missouri. The farm was owned by R.P. Dickerson, a wealthy Springfield businessman and a family friend of Ketchel. Dickerson had hired Ketchel to stay on the farm as its foreman while training for his next fight, and Dipley and Smith, lovers who were posing as husband and wife, were hired to work at the farm as a ranch hand and housekeeper respectively.
After just two days at the farm, Dipley shot and killed Ketchel as the latter was at the breakfast table, supposedly because Ketchel had sexually assaulted Goldie the day before while Dipley was at work in the fields and because Ketchel had displayed a pistol in a threatening manner when Dipley confronted him about the assault. Both Dipley and Smith were arrested for the murder and tried at Marshfield early in 1911. The state's theory of the case was that Goldie had helped in the murder by arranging for Ketchel to be seated at the kitchen table with his back to Dipley and that robbery rather than an assault on Goldie was the motive. Both defendants were found guilty and sentenced to long terms in the state prison.
Both Dipley and Smith appealed their convictions. Dipley's was upheld, but Goldie's was overturned. The state supreme court said there was absolutely no evidence showing that Goldie was in on the murder, and she was released after serving about a year. Dipley served another twenty-five years or so before he too was finally released on parole.
This is an interesting case because of the diametrically opposed theories of the state and the defense. I tend to think that there was probably something to Walter and Goldie's story that Ketchel had assaulted Goldie and that Walter had acted at least partly in self defense. However, the prosecution successfully painted Goldie, who had been married and divorced three times, as a loose woman, and Dipley, who had deserted from the navy, was also portrayed as being of low character. Ketchel, on the other hand, was well known and well liked, and his friend Dickerson was rich and powerful.

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