In 1935 a man gave the name Roland T Owen when he check into the Hotel President. But days later, he was found beaten in his room and died shortly after. The police started looking into the man and discovered he wasn’t who they thought he was.
January 3rd 1935, Robert Lane was driving late one night when up the road he saw something strange. There was a man running down the street, he was wearing an undershirt, a pair of trousers and shoes. It was the middle of winter, and while it had been mild that day. Robert thought the man must have been cold. The man had spotted Robert and began waving his hands around to get him to stop. The man slowed and walked up to the window, he was out of breath and looked disappointed.
I’m sorry, I thought you were a taxi… Will you take me to where I can get a cab?
Robert nodded to the man and watched as the man walked over and opened the door.
I’m going to kill that son of a bitch tomorrow
The man grumbled as he climbed in and shut the door. Robert noticed that the man looked rough, he had a deep scratch on his arm and it looked as though he was cupping his hand over a deeper wound. Robert drove to the intersection of 12th and Troost where most of the Taxis would be at. The man thanked him and got out. He got into a cap and they drove off.
January 2nd around 1pm, a man walked into the lobby of the Hotel President. He carried no luggage with him. The man went to the front desk and requested an interior room a few floors up. When he signed the register, he gave the name Roland T Owen and gave a Los Angeles home address. He paid for a single day.
Owen was described as having a cauliflower ear, he could have been a professional wrestler or a boxer. He had dark brown hair and a large horizontal scar on the side of his scalp. He looked to have been between 20-35.
The clerk gave Owen the key to room 1046. Bellboy Randolph Propst helped him to the room and he noticed that he was neatly dressed and wore a black over coat. Propst and Owen made small chat on the way. Owen said he was staying at the Muehlebach the night before, but he price was outrageous.
When they got to the room, Propst opened the door, it was a modest room. It measured about 9 feet by 12 feet. The bed was to the right and a nightstand was to the left with a telephone on top, next to it was a writing desk and a dresser.
Propst watched as Owen took a brush, comb, and toothpaste out of his coat and placed it in the bathroom. After a few moments, Owen and the bellboy left the room together, Propst noticed they didn’t shut the lights off or lock the doors and asked to go back. After they locked up the room, Owen left the building and Propst returned to his duties.
Later that day the maid, Mary Soptic had returned to work after having the day off. She made her rounds and walked to room 1046, before entering she knocked on the door. When the door opened she saw Owen and was taken aback. Before she took her day off a woman had occupied the room. She apologized and said could return later.
Owen told her that it was alright and let her in. He asked her to not lock the door, that he was expecting a friend in a few moments. Mary noticed that the curtains were drawn and that Owen looked like he was worried or scared about something. As she was cleaning Owen put on his overcoat and walked to the bathroom to brush his hair. Before he left he reminded her to not lock the door.
Mary didn’t see him until after 4pm when she went back with fresh towels, the door remained unlocked. When she entered, the curtains were still drawn and the room was dark. She was only able to see in the room with the help from the hallway. Owen was lying on the bed completely dressed. As she was leaving she saw a note on the desk that read. “Don, I will be back in 15 minutes… Wait”
The following morning, Mary headed to room 1046 in order to clean. Assuming that Owen was out, she used her passkey to unlock the door and went inside. She was startled to see Owen sitting in the dark. She realized that someone had locked the door from the outside. The telephone ran and Owen picked up the Receiver.
No Don, I don’t want to eat.. I’m not hungry, I just had breakfast… No, I’m not hungry
As Mary was cleaning he asked her about her job. Was she in charge of the entire floor? Was it a residential Hotel? She answered his questions, grabbed the used towel and left the room.
Around 4pm, she was bringing back fresh towel from the laundry. She stopped short when she heard two men talking. Instead of letting herself in, she gently knocked. She heard a different voice than Owen’s it was deep and rough.
Who is it?
Mary stated that she was the maid and she was bringing fresh towels.
We don’t need any…
Mary was confused, she knew there were no fresh towels, since she took all the ones that were in there earlier that morning. But didn’t say anything more and walked away.
Across town, 30 year old Jean Owen (No relation to Roland T Owen) came to Kansas City from Lees summit where she lived to do some shopping. She was planning to meet her boyfriend who worked at a flower shop in town. After a few hours of shopping, Jean began to feel ill and didn’t want to go out that night. She apologized to her boyfriend and told him she was going to get a room for the night at the Hotel President.
Jean arrived at the Hotel a 6pm and was registered a half hour later. She was given room 1048.
Unfortunately, Jean didn’t sleep well that night and later had given this statement:
I heard a lot of noise which sounded like it was on the same floor. It consisted of mainly men and a few women talking loudly and cursing. When it continued, I just about called the desk clerk, but decided not to.
Another statement about that night came from Charles Blocher who worked the graveyard shift as the elevator operator. The first hours of his shift were busy but had slowed down a little after 1. However, there seemed to be a rowdy group who were having a party in room 1055, Charles said:
I took a woman that I recognized as being a woman who frequents the hotel with different men in different rooms. It is my impression from this woman’s actions that she is a commercial woman. I took her to the 10th floor and she made inquiries for room 1026- about five minutes after this, I received a signal to come back to the 10th floor.
Upon arriving there I met this same woman and she wondered why he wasn’t in his room, because he had always been prompt in his appointments.
She wondered if he might be in room 1024 and because the light was on in there, the transom was opened. She remained for about 30 or 40 minutes then I received a signal to go back to the 10th floor.
I went back and this same woman appeared there and came down the elevator with me and left at the lobby. About an hour later, she returned in company with a man and I took them to the 9th floor.
I later received a signal to go to the 9th floor at about 4:15am and this same woman came down from the 9th floor and left the hotel.
In a period of about 15 minutes later this man came down the elevator complaining that he couldn’t sleep and was going out for a while.
The woman raised some question, was it possible she was looking for Owen in room 1046 instead of 1026? Did she have anything to do with what happened that night in room 1046? No one knew her name but they described her as about 5 foot 6, slender, about 135 pounds, she was wearing a coat of Black Hudson Seal, or possible imitation seal. She was also noted by the hotel clerk. He recognized her because she was in and out of the Hotel often at various hours of the night and early mornings. But no one knew the man she was with.
It wasn’t until Friday morning that anyone saw Owen. It was a little after 7am when telephone operator Della Ferguson started her shift. She noticed that on the switchboard that the phone in room 1046 was off the hook. After 10 minutes, the phone was still off the hook. With no one on the line, she requested that bell service to send someone up to the room to have the occupant hand up the phone.
The bellboy who was sent was Randolph Propst, he was familiar with the room and the occupant as he was the one who showed him the room when Owen checked in.
When he got to the room he noticed a ‘do not disturb’ sign on the door knob. He sighed and knocked on the door. There was no response, he waited a moment then knocked again, this time louder. A response came in a deep rough voice.
Randolph tried the door, but it was locked. So, he started to knock again, this time the deep voice said.
Turn on the lights.
He knocked again, and again, and again. After 8 or 9 times, frustrated, he yelled through the door.
Put the phone back on the hook!
With no response, he returned to the lobby. He told Della that he was probably drunk and she should wait an hour, then send someone else up. It was between 10:30 and 10:45 when another operator reported to the head operator that the phone was again off the hook. At 11am after the 3rd time, they sent Randolph back to the room. The ‘do not disturb’ sign was still on the door knob. After knocking three times with no response, he used his keypass to unlock the door and entered the room. What he saw shook him. In his statement to Police he stated:
When I entered the room, this name was within two feet of the door. He was on his knees and elbows holding his head in his hands. I noticed the blood on his head. I then turned the light on, placed the telephone receiver on the hook- I looked around and saw blood on the walls, on the bed and in the bathroom- this frightened me and I immediately left the room and went downstairs.
Propst quickly found the assistant manager M.S. Weaver, a but they were and told him what he found. They rushed back to the room, but they were only able to open the door about 6in. Owen had collapsed and was blocking the door.
The police were called and soon after Detective Ira Johnson and William Eldridge along with Detective Sgt. Frank Howland arrived at the hotel. Around the same time, Dr. Harold F Flanders arrived from General Hospital. They were later joined by Detective D.C King.
Owen looked as through he had been tortured. He was restrained with a cord around his neck and ankles. There were knife wounds that bled on his chest over his heart and a knife wound that had punctured his leg. His skull was fractured on the right side where he had been hit more than once.
He had bruising around his neck which suggested that he had been strangled. There was a significant amount of blood on the bed, which had splattered on the wall next to the bed. Blood was even found in small amounts on the ceiling. When the doctor arrived, he began cutting off all the cords on Owen.
The detectives asked him who had been in the room with him. Owen, being semiconscious and barely able to speak said just the word. ‘Nobody’. They asked him how he had gotten hurt. “I fell against the bathtub.” He replied. They asked if he had tried to commit suicide to which he said no before slipping into unconsciousness.
They quickly got him into the ambulance, the doctor started to examine his wounds and noted that the wounds would have had to been from 6-7 hours early due to the hardening of the blood. So, it would had happened before the bellboy’s trip to the room at 7am that morning.
Back at the Hotel, the detectives were searching the room for anything that would help them determine what happened. What they quickly realized that what they were able to find would not be as telling as what they didn’t find. No clothing was found in the room, the closest thing was a label from a necktie. There were also items that belong to the hotel that were missing as well, such as the soap, shampoo and the towels. No signs on a knife or weapons were found.
The investigation of the attempted murder of Owen, soon would turn into a murder investigation. Owen slipped into a coma and died on the way to the hospital and he had died shortly after midnight. Police contacted the LAPD to see if they able to get any information on Owen. After searching through their records, there was nothing on him. They then sent his fingerprints to the Justice departments Bureau of investigation, which is now the F.B.I.
It was becoming clear that Owen was under an assumed name because nothing could be found on him. They continued searching Owen’s room for any clues, they found two water glasses. One of which was broken but they found small fingerprints likely from a woman on the glass.
Jean Owen was held for questioning, she gave her statement and her days events were corroborated by her boyfriend. She was soon let go.
That’s when things started to ramp up.
A woman called the Hotel President asking for a description of Owen. She claimed he was a man who had lived in Clinton Missouri. 50-300 people (no accurate number is ever given) came to view Owen’s body at the Funeral home.
One person recognized him, he had given him a ride after seeing him running in the middle of the road. Robert Lane spoke to the police about that night, he told them that the man had waved him down and needed a taxi. He described what he was wearing and that he was bleeding. Robert was sure that it was the same man, however police dismissed his story. How could Owen have gotten out of the hotel without anyone noticing him?
The story continued to spread and people began contacting the Kansas City Police in hopes to find out if Owen was actually their missing relative. Many didn’t give a description, and for those who did, it didn’t match Owen. They advised people to start sending photographs to speed up the identification process. Letters and telegrams were sent to police departments across the country, to see if he was in any of their records. Nothing was ever confirmed.
Police were frustrated with the lack of movement in the case, they wanted one last look at the room Owen was staying in to see if they had missed anything at all. But when they got there, they found that the hotel staff had already cleaned the room.
They remembered a statement that was given to them about Owen staying at a different hotel, the night before coming to the Hotel President. The police headed to the Muehlebach, after giving the clerk a description of Owen. The clerk couldn’t really recall, however when he was shown a picture he remembered the man. He pulled out the Register and found the entry. He remembered the man asking for an interior room a few floors up and show the police the entry. He had given a Log Angeles home address, but the name he had given wasn’t Roland T. Owen. It was Eugene K. Scott.
A new search was started, from calling the LAPD to sending more correspondence to other police stations. They still came up empty, the search for any information on Owen was put aside for a moment and they turned their attention to finding out who the man called Don was. They had many questions.
Was he the same man who was in Owen/Scott’s room with the unnamed woman Thursday night and Friday morning? Was he the man that was seen with the working girl wearing a seal skinned coat? Was he the man with the rough voice who told the maid through the door that “he didn’t need towels?” Could he have been the man that Robert Lane overheard Owen/Scott say he was going to kill?
All they knew so far was that Owen/Scott was expecting a visitor, because of the Maids statement. Many more people came to view and identify the body of the mysterious man.
Ernest Johnson of Kansas City identified him as his cousin Harvey Johnson, later that day Mrs. Anderson, Ernest Johnsons sister came to confirm the identity. But she said, that Harvey had died five years ago.
Tony Bernardi of Little Rock Arkansas came to view the body next. Bernardi was a wrestling promoter and said that Owen/Scott had approached him several weeks earlier. He wanted to sign up for some matches. he said that Owen/Scott had given him the name Cecil Warner and that he had wrestled for Charles Locke. The police got ahold of Charles Locke, and he came to the station. After looking at some photographs, Charles said that he didn’t recognize him as someone he had worked with before.
Time went by, but the police were still looking for answers. The case grew colder. Two months later they released the body to be buried. It was scheduled for March 3rd, however, it didn’t go as planned. Right before he was buried, the funeral home received an anonymous call. The unnamed person requested that the funeral be delayed. The funeral home protested, but the caller said that they would send money for proper funeral.
Twenty days later, the funeral home received an envelope containing cash wrapped in newspaper. It was enough to cover all of the expenses. Even though the Donor remained anonymous the funeral home still reached out to the police station about the situation.
The following Wednesday, the Journal Post received a phone call from a woman, she refused to give her name. But she told the paper:
“Roland Owen, was not buried at the Potters Field. Call the undertaker and the Florists and you will learn that Mr. Owen’s funeral expenses were paid, and that a floral tribute was placed on his grave”
So that is what the paper did, they found that the flowers were secured from the Rock Flower Company. It was the same circumstances as the funeral home. The money was sent anonymously and it paid for a bouquet of thirteen roses. They went to the grave and located the bouquet, there was a note attached that said, “Love forever, Louise.”
The police still searched to find out who Don was, or any information on who Owen/Scott was. It wouldn’t be for another year and a half that the police would any answers.
It was the fall of 1936, when a woman cam across Owen/Scott’s picture, that she was sure she knew who he was. It was the son of a friend of hers. Ruby Ogletree, explained to the police that she hadn’t heard from her son Artemis in three years. They shared several letters back and fourth, but they stopped coming. She even wrote to J. Edgar Hoover, to help find her son. She wrote back and forth to the police for some time and then other facts came out.
Ruby said that her son was 17 years old and he had a scar on the side of his head, much like Owen/Scott. She told them it was from a childhood accident where he was burned by hot grease. The police also learned that he had stayed at a third hotel, the St. Regis. With a man that could have been the mysterious Don. So, Owen’s identity was finally solved. But unfortunately, his murder still remains unsolved to this day. The police still had so many questions.
Who killed him? Why was he killed? What exactly happened in room 1046 that night? Was Don the rough voiced man? Who was Louise? Was she the woman whose voice was heard?
Maybe one day this case can be solved, but for now the mystery of room 1046. Still remains.