About The Series

In 1935, a West Ender named Ray Kunselman fell in love with Dorothy Horne, a teenage factory worker. Their stormy, yearlong romance would only end in tragedy. “The West Enders: A Story of Murder in Desperate Times,” is a seven-part serial written by Park Burroughs, retired executive editor. A true story, this series is based on old newspaper accounts, local and state prison documents, the trial transcript and interviews with people living in Washington and the West End at the time.

Death on a red-dog road

The West Enders, Chapter 5

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Park Burroughs/Observer-Reporter
This area along Mounts Road in Buffalo Township is about where the body of Dorothy Horne was found on the morning of June 13, 1935.
Image description
Park Burroughs/Observer-Reporter
George Doman hurried to this house on Route 40 in Buffalo Township after discovering the body of Dorothy Horne on June 13, 1935. He knew the McLoneys, who lived on the farm, had a telephone and would call for help. Order a Print

The story so far: Ray Kunselman begins dating Dorothy Horne, a teenager half his age who sees him as a means to escape boredom and poverty, but the romance turns stormy. Dorothy moves into Swingle's West End Hotel, where the two spend nights together. Despite their jealousy and fighting, the couple plan a trip to Toledo, Ohio, but Ray, unable to find the money for it, careens into desperation.

George Doman had a long walk to his job at the Hazel-Atlas No. 2 glass plant in Washington, and so he would always leave his Buffalo Township home in darkness. He would walk two miles along a farm road, now known as Mounts Road, until he reached Route 40, the National Pike. If he was lucky, he might hitch a ride into town, but passing cars and trucks were few and far between at that hour of the day.

On the morning of June 13, 1935, at about 4:45, as the early dawn gave a faint violet hue to the red-dog road, Doman noticed a woman's shoe lying on the right side of the road. He picked it up and kept walking. About 100 feet farther up the road, he found another shoe, and as he bent to pick it up, he noticed that just ahead of him elderberry bushes had been bent away from the berm. He went to the spot, placed the shoes neatly on the side of the road and peered along the fence line.

The fence was old, its posts bent and wires rusted and sagging. And sprawled upon those wires was the body of a girl, white and nearly naked. She lay on her back, knees slightly drawn up, her head twisted toward the ground. One of her arms stretched out, the other at an acute angle. Her stockings were down around her ankles, her dress pulled up to her breasts. The arm of her suede jacked was ripped, and a piece of the fabric was visible several feet away.

“Halloo!” Doman said and took hold of her knee, and shook her. The flesh was cold. He shook again and got no response.

Doman then hurried up the road. When he reached Route 40 and the Ullom chicken farm (on land later occupied by Club 40 restaurant), he turned west and headed for James McLoney's brick farmhouse, because he knew the family had a telephone.

A bullet in the brain

County Detective Frank Creps had already put in a long day, and it was not yet 9 a.m. He had beaten on the door of Katherine Wilkinson's apartment until she awoke, and then escorted her to the A. Blaine Day Mortuary, 52 W. Maiden St., to she if she could identify the body that had been found in Buffalo Township.

The corpse lay on a steel, porcelain-topped table, covered by a white sheet, which Creps lifted to reveal a battered face: red bruises around the right eye and cheek, a badly swollen lip and a pea-sized bullet hole where the left temple meets the forehead, about an inch above the eye.

Katherine recoiled at the sight. She told Creps that the body was that of her friend Dorothy Horne. “But I can't hardly recognize her,” she said.

Shortly after Dorothy's mother, Iva Horne, also identified the body, George W. Ramsey, the doctor in charge of Washington Hospital's laboratory, arrived at the funeral home to perform an autopsy. He determined that the cause of death was the bullet that had traveled diagonally from the temple and through the lower part of the brain, from where he removed it just below and behind the right ear.

Dr. Ramsey determined that the abrasions on her legs and the bruising and swelling on Dorothy's face had occurred shortly before her death. He testified at trial months later that a vaginal examination ordered by the district attorney's office revealed no signs of gonorrhea or sexual assault.

While the autopsy was being conducted, Creps examined the clothing removed from Dorothy's body and noticed a hole burned in the area of the left knee of her cream-colored chiffon dress. He ordered a funeral home employee to box up the clothing and keep it in a safe place.

Hupmobile found

It was pretty clear to Creps from what Iva Horne and Katherine Wilkinson had told him that the person most likely to have killed Dorothy Horne was Ray Kunselman.

Kunselman! That name again! Creps had been awakened in the wee hours of the morning by a call from the city cops. It seems this same character had tried to rob a beer distributor – Walter Jacobs – at about 1 a.m. Kunselman had gotten nothing more than a dollar or two and had shot Jacobs. Miraculously, Jacobs was barely injured, the bullet having ricocheted off his belt buckle. So Kunselman was now a wanted man for two separate crimes.

Even before the autopsy was completed, Creps received a call that a car believed to be owned by Kunselman's father, Elmer, had been found about three miles from the murder scene.

The car had been found parked between two oil wells off what is now known as Route 221, or S Bridge Road, about a quarter mile south of the intersection with the National Pike and the stone bridge built in the early 1800s in the shape of an S to cross a tributary of Buffalo Creek.

Creps saw in the back seat a cap and a brown overcoat, and in its pockets found two .32-caliber shells and a box of matches. On the floor of the front seat he found another shell, and as he bent to pick it up, he noticed what appeared to be a bullet hole in the dash. Looking at the exterior of the passenger side of the car, he discovered another hole, presumably where the bullet had exited.

Both front windows had been rolled down. When he was called to testify months later, Creps said, “There was a little blood on the floor, on the right-hand side of the floor, and blood smeared on the windowsill of the right front door.”

That the Horne girl had been killed inside Kunselman's car was now a distinct probability. But where had Kunselman gone? The possibilities must have flashed through Creps' mind. Had he wandered off into the woods with the gun to commit suicide? Had he fled? If so, why had he abandoned his easiest means of escape? If Dr. Ramsey was correct that the girl had been killed most likely between 1 and 4 a.m., Kunselman would have had several hours to distance himself from Washington.

Did the killer have help? Might someone have picked him up and taken him somewhere? And why would he kill her, anyway?

When he learned the Hupmobile was nearly out of gasoline, Creps had the feeling Kunselman would not get very far. Probably the only money he had was the small change he took from Jacobs, and he had even left his coat behind. It would not take long, especially with the help of the state police, to track him down, be he dead or alive.

Little did they know how resourceful the desperate – and very much alive – Ray Kunselman could be.

Next: “I must have been crazy”

Park Burroughs has been with the Observer-Reporter since 1972. He is the winner of numerous state and regional awards for feature, column and editorial writing. He is the author of two books, “Enter, With Torches: Recollections of a Grumpy Old Editor,” and "Washington County Murder and Mayhem." He retired in September 2012 but continues to contribute to the O-R’s news pages.

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