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.

Love, in black and blue

The West Enders, Chapter 3

  • October 19, 2017
Image description
Illustration by Park Burroughs
“I remember a big car pulling up in the alley behind the Wayne Street house. It seemed like it was two blocks long. I remember talking to Dorothy – she was in the car with him.” – Joseph Horne
Image description
Photo by Park Burroughs
The Wayne Street house, as it appears today, is where Iva Horne and her children lived.

The story so far: Ray Kunselman is captured in Washington's West End, charged with the murder of Dorothy Virginia Horne more than four months earlier. They had met in the spring of 1934, in the depths of the Great Depression, and found in each other the hope for happier and less desperate lives.

It's 10:30 on a Friday night in March 1935. A door to the Eighth Ward Athletic Club – more commonly called Tucker's beer garden – swings open, and yellow light splashes onto the sidewalk along McCarrell Avenue.

John Plott, a glass worker at the Duncan & Miller factory, walks in and glances around. It's usually crowded on Fridays, but on this night only a few people are there – his buddies Val Tucker and Ernie Sickle, and Ray Kunselman standing at the bar. Plott is used to seeing Kunselman with his girl – that young kid Dorothy – and some other couples sitting in the red vinyl booths under a blue cloud of cigarette smoke and a dozen empty beer bottles on the table in front of them. He steps up to the bar next to Kunselman and asks John Tucker, the owner, for a bottle.

“So, how come you're here alone tonight, Ray?” Plott asks. “Where's your sweetie tonight?”

Ray chuckles, and scraping at the label on his bottle with his thumbnail says, “She's probably out with someone else.”

They talk a little about the news: the looming miners' strike; comedians Laurel and Hardy splitting up; and Lefty Grove likely to lead the Boston Red Sox to the pennant. But Ray is still thinking about her. “My girl, Dorothy Horne, has no business treating me the way she does, as good as I have been to her,” he says.

Ray takes a long pull on his beer and turns to Plott and says, “She is going to monkey around until I kill her.”

Plott offers a nervous laugh and excuses himself to go to the toilet. When he returns, Ray has gone out the door and is standing on the sidewalk. Plott returns to the bar and calls John Tucker to come over. Plott leans over the bar and says quietly, “Let me tell you what Ray Kunselman just said to me.”

The green-eyed monster

Many of his friends must have wondered what was going on in Ray Kunselman's head. He had changed, and that made them wary. Just a few years earlier, he had been a man with a future, with a wife and two kids and steady work building oil rigs. His father was an oil man and had more money than most folks in Washington's West End.

Maybe it was the panic that men face at midlife that made Ray take up with a woman – no, just a teenager – young enough to be his daughter.

Soon after they began dating, Ray became possessive. He was jealous of everyone else with whom she spent her free time. He and Dorothy would go out frequently with his friends Ray and Katherine Wilkinson. Katherine and Dorothy hit it off quickly, and Ray resented the time they spent together, especially when the two went out to bars and sat with other men.

Ray would come calling for Dorothy at the little house on Wayne Street, just over the city line in Canton Township. He would be driving the 1928 Hupmobile sedan owned by his father, D. Elmer Kunselman, whose initials were painted on the two front doors.

Joseph Horne, one of Dorothy's young brothers, was just 5 years old in 1935, but he recalls Kunselman's car: “I remember a big car pulling up in the alley behind the Wayne Street house. It seemed like it was two blocks long. I remember talking to Dorothy – she was in the car with him.”

Joe, a retired steelworker and Navy veteran who also tended bar at Pickle's for 31 years, spent most of his life in the West End. He had a twin sister, Cecilia, who is deceased along with all of Iva Horne's children except Joe and daughter Blanche, now in a nursing home.

“The neighborhood was better then. We used to leave the doors unlocked, windows open, no screens, nobody ever was bothered, “ Joe said.

Nevertheless, early in that fateful year, trouble intruded on the Horne home.

The gathering storm

It is an evening in early January 1935, and Ray Kunselman has come calling at the Horne household. Dorothy is sitting at the kitchen table, and he sees that she is wearing new stockings and asks her where she got them. She tells him they were a gift from her mother, Iva.

He tells her she is a liar, that another man gave her those stockings, and he pushes her on the floor and rips the stockings off.

Dorothy is crying and kicks wildly with her bare feet, striking Ray in the jaw. He punches her in the mouth.

Hearing the commotion, Iva comes into the kitchen. Seeing Dorothy on the floor and bleeding, she grabs a poker and starts after Ray, but he takes it away from her and pummels her about the face and neck with his fists.

Dorothy, no longer working at the Tygart Valley glass factory, finds work in late March as a maid for Earl and Margaret Engel. She lives in their home at 119 Woodland Ave. in Tylerdale, but the job lasts only two weeks. Iva refuses to let Ray enter her house.

Now it is April, and Dorothy has moved back home. Iva comes in at 4 p.m. to find Ray's Hupmobile parked in the alley. Ever since that day that Ray had attacked her, Iva had forbidden Ray to enter the house, and he had not. He would instead pull up in the alley and honk the horn for Dorothy. She had heard her daughter and Ray arguing in the alley the night before, again about her running around with other men, and when she enters the house, she realizes he has defied her and dreads what might come next.

Iva stands at the door and listens to Ray pleading with Dorothy to make up.

“I don't want to make up,” Dorothy says. “We're through.”

“I will be back tonight,” Ray says as he brushes by Iva on his way out the door.

At 9:30, Ray returns. Iva comes to the door, and it is obvious he has been drinking.

“Is Dorothy home?” Ray asks.

“No, no, she doesn't want to talk to you,” Iva says.

Ray pushes past her and into the kitchen.

“Dorothy, get your coat on, I want you to come with me.”

“I don't want to go.”

“Well, you are going,” he says.

“She doesn't have to go with you if she doesn't want to,” Iva interjects.

“Well, I'll show you she does,” Ray says.

He and Dorothy argue some more. Ray paces about the kitchen, his hands thrust in his pockets, his voice growing louder.

“Ray, what have you got in your pocket?” Iva asks.

Ray lunges at Iva and thrusts something hard in his pocket against her side.

“There is what I've got!” Ray says menacingly.

“Well, Mother, I will go with him,” Dorothy says as he slips on her shoes and reaches for her coat.

They can hear the younger children crying in the other room. Iva's face hardens with rage.

“If any of you make any outcry, I will shoot you all,” Ray says, grabbing Dorothy by the elbow and pulling her toward the door.

Next: Dorothy's Final Days

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