Location: Lake City, Columbia, Florida, United States
Surnames/tags: Simmons Booth
Before the Murder
Newspaper coverage of the murder of George Washington Simmons by his granddaughter’s husband.
24 July 1928 MURDER VICTIM FOUND Lake City, Florida
- STEUBENVILLE MAN’S BODY IS FOUND ON ROAD - His Granddaughter and Her Husband Sought by Police. HINT ESTATE WAS MOTIVE OF CRIME - G. W. Simmons, Slain With Hammer, Belonged to Old Family. - LAKE CITY, Fla., July 25. - AP- A hammer murder which had for its victim, G. W. Simmons, aged tourist of Steubenville, O., today confronted Columbia co. authorities while officers over the state were on the lookout for Simmon’s granddaughter and her husband who were seen with him last.
- Sheriff W. B. Douglas, piecing together fragments of stories brought in by his deputies, surmised that Simmons’ skull was crushed with a hammer during a struggle in a moving automobile on the outskirts of a lake City, and his body thrown into a clump of bushes by the roadside where it was found.
- Sheriff Douglas had information from Ohio that Mrs. Helen Booth, the granddaughter, recently was made beneficiary under Simmons’ Will, but was unable to say how wealthy the Ohioan might have been.
- Meanwhile Jacksonville police were holding an unclaimed automobile bearing blood stains and identified as a small sedan in which Mrs. Booth Simmons and E. L. Booth, her husband, left a Lake City tourist cottage late Monday night or early yesterday. Although police watched the car for several hours yesterday in the hope owners would return, none came and it was seized.”
25 July 1928 CAR FOUND Jacksonville, Florida
- JACKSONVILLE, Fla.m July 25.-AP- A blood-stained automobile containing a woman’s hat and a description of the couple were the only clues local authorities had today in their search for Mr. and Mrs. E. L. Booth of Steubenville, O., wanted in connection with the death of Mrs. Booth’s 78-year-old grandfather, G. W. Simmons, whose body was found near a highway at Lake City yesterday.
- A new sedan which police said answered the description of the car driven by the Booths when they visited Simmons in a Lake City tourist camp Monday night, was found on the streets here yesterday morning. Detectives have maintained a constant watch over the machine but no one claimed it. Witnesses said they saw a man and woman leave the car early yesterday, stand on a street corner for a few minutes and then enter a restaurant.
- Police said several persons reported they overheard a conversation between the couple during which the woman pleaded with her companion to leave the city, but he declined, saying they were penniless and did not have sufficient money to buy gasoline.
- “Well, we will ride until the gasoline gives out and then take to walking,” the woman was quoted.
- Police also received a report from an operator of a filling station near Lake `city that as an automobile passed along the highway he heard cries of a man calling for police and screaming “murder.”
- STEUBENVILLE, O., July 25.- (AP)- G. W. Simmons of Steubenville, who was killed at Lake City, Fla., with a hammer, was a member of one of the oldest families in this city and lived in an exclusive residential section. He left here about two months ago, accompanied by a granddaughter, for Florida. For a number of years he had lived a retired life.
- A son, Robert C. Simmons, lives in Wheeling, W. Va.” “Dayton Daily News” (Dayton, Ohio) 25 Jul 1928 Page 1
- Steubenville, Ohio. July 25 (A.P.) - Mrs. M. M. Newburn and Mrs. L D. Bucey, daughters of G. W. Simmons, killed near Lake City, Fla., today stated that their father had sold "a large amount of valuable real estate" before leaving two months ago for Florida with his granddaughter, Mrs. E. L. Booth, and her husband.
- The granddaughter, who Is 18 years old, Mrs. Newburn said, was a favorite of Simmons. She was married to Booth a short time before starting for Florida, the trip there being the. couple's honeymoon. Mrs. Newburn said the family objected to the marriage.” “The Cincinnati Enquirer” (Cincinnati, Ohio) 26 Jul 1928 Page 3
26 July WITNESSES TELL
- RELATIVES MURDERED WEALTHY STEUBENVILLE MAN, WITNESSES SAY - LAKE CITY. Fla., July 25. (AP) C. B. Messer. filling station operator, told police today that Walter Hall and Ed Buck, mecnanics in his employ, had related to him that they witnessed the slaying Monday night of G. W. Simmons, wealthy 78-year-old Steubenvllle, Ohio, tourist.
- The Messer filling station and garage is located at the tourist camp where Simmons, his granddaughter, Mrs. E. L. Booth and her husband, lived. The Booths are being sought In connection with Simmons' death. His body, with the skull crushed, was found several miles out of Lake City in a drainage ditch.
- Messer, who found the body, said Hall and Buck told him the slaying occurred at about 8:30 o'clock Monday night, near the filling station.
- The mechanics saw the automobile used by the Booths and Simmons pass the station. Messer said they reported, with the younger man standing on the running board of the car, beating Simmons over the head. They also, heard Simmons crying for help, he said. Mrs." Booth was said to have been driving the automobile at the time,
- "When Hall and Buck came back." Messer said, "and told me what they had seen, I went over to the cottage where the three had been living and finding the door open, immediately set out in search of them.
- "I searched until about 2 o'clock in the morning, then went home and went to bed.
- "I got up at 4 a. m., . began my search again and found the body in the ditch about 5:30. I notified the authorities and the body was brought back to town. I then went over to the cottage where I found numerous papers, bills and a court summons for Simmons, along with five or six rolls of undeveloped Kodak films, which I turned over to the sheriff."
- County Judge Guy Gilles, who examined the body, said he found the head had been crushed in from the back apparently with a blunt instrument.
- Authorities here were reluctant to discuss what progress was being made in the search for the persons who drove the death car away. Practically every town in Florida and south Georgia had been advised to keep a lookout for them.
- The couple, according to evidence here, was married March 30 at Follansbee, W. Va., the woman giving her address as Steubenvllle, O., and the man as Mingo Junction, O.” “The Times Recorder” (Zanesville, Ohio) 26 Jul 1928 Page 1
- ST. CLAIRSVILLE, O., July 26 - (AP)- Edward Simmons, father of Mrs. E. L. Booth, who is sought with her husband at Lake City, Fla., in connection with the killing of her grandfather, G. W. Simmons, declared today that he was positive the girl could not have done the slaying.
- “Helen could not have killed her grandfather,” he declared. “She always liked him and I can’t think that she would do such a thing. But if she is implicated she was forced into it.”
- Edward Simmons is a son of the slain man.” “Dayton Daily News” (Dayton, Ohio) 26 Jul 1928 Page 24
27 July GRANDDAUGHTER AND HUSBAND BEING SOUGHT
- “MYSTERY - of Ohioan’s Death Is Unsolved By Florida Police - Widower’s Granddaughter Sought. - Lake City, Fla.m July 26 (A. P.).- Officials investigating the killing last Monday night of George W. Simmons wealthy Steubenville (Ohio) widower tonight faced a blank wall in their endeavours to solve the mystery.
- Simmon’s body was found early Tuesday near a highway several miles from here. His skull had been crushed.
- Authorities still are concentrating their efforts on a search for Mrs. Helen Booth, 18 years old, granddaughter of the dead man, and her husband, E. L. Booth, who disappeared from their Lake City tourist camp home the night of Simmons’s death. No trace of them has been found. An automobile belonging to Simmons and believed to have been used by his slayers was found on the streets of Jacksonville Tuesday and still is being held.” “The Cincinnati Enquirer” (Cincinnati, Ohio) 27 Jul 1928 Page 13
- “...According to friends and relatives of the elder Simmons, he had been unusually generous to his granddaughter since he first took her into his home when she was 23 months old. He sent her through school, bought her expensive clothes and provided her with everything she asked for, they said.
- In spite of family opposition, Simmons helped his granddaughter in her plans to be married to Booth, who is some years older than she, and was divorced several years ago from his first wife, the trip to Florida, which was their honeymoon, was made at the girl’s urgent insistence. All the expenses of the trip, it was said, were paid by Simmons.
- Just before the three started South, relatives of Simmons said today, there was some friction among them, and an effort was made to prevent the old man from going. He insisted, however, and the opposition was dropped.
- According to his own relatives in Mingo Junction, Booth has no regular occupation. He is the son of Ollie Booth, a local merchant.” “Press and Sun Bulletin” (Binghamton, New York) 27 Jul 1928 Page 33
28 July RELATIVES FEAR FOR NEWLYWED AND HUSBAND
- “EXPRESS FEAR FOR NEWLYWED - Bride of Yhree weeks, Mentioned in Murder, Believed Missing. - STEUBENVILLE, O., July 28.- Relatives of Mrs. Helen Simmons Booth, 23, bride of three weeks, Entangled in the murder of her grandfather, G. W. Simmons, 83, at Lake City, Fla., today expressed fear for her safety.
- At the same time relatives of her bridegroom, Elzie Booth, 27, retained Prosecutor Roy Merryman of Jefferson co. to go to care for the interests of the couple who set out on their honeymoon with the aged Simmons. They are skeptical of Lake City reports that Booth was seen beating Simmons on the head with a hammer in an automobile.
- Deputy Sheriff W. S. Steinbeck Wr has arrived here from lake City to investigate the Ohio elements of the case and to check up on reports that Simmons had had several thousand dollars in Steubenville and Bellaire banks.
- Reports received here are that police have found no trace at all of the Booths whose tourist camp quarters at Lake City were found deserted after the discovery of Simmons’ body.
- Booth’s relatives say he enlisted in the army at the age of 16 years and was shell shocked in France.” “Dayton Daily News” (Dayton, Ohio) 29 Jul 1928 Page 1
29 Jul BOOTHS CHARGED WITH MURDER IN ABSENTIA
- POLICE HUNT BRIDE AND HER HUSBAND - Witnesses At Inquest Involve Youthful Pair In Death of Kin - SEARCH UNDERWAY FOR HONEYMOONERS - Victim of Hammer Murder Was Wealthy Steubenville Resident - LAKE CITY, Fla., July 28. - (AP) - E. L. Booth and his bride, Helen Booth, today were charged with murdering the latter’s grandfather, George W. Simmons, 78, Steubenville, O., by a coroner’s jury investigating the slaying of the aged man.
- The jury found that Simmons whose body was found in the woods near here last Tuesday, came to his death “ by a deadly weapon, a blunt instrument at the hands of E. L. Booth and Mrs. Helen Booth and the same was murder in the first degree.”
- Immediately after the verdict was returned, a warrant charging the couple with murder in the first degree was issued.
- The couple escaped and despite wide search authorities have been unable to locate them.
- Witnesses testified before the coroner’s jury to seeing the Booth car traveling along the highway at a high rate of speed with the young husband standing on the running board beating the aged man over the head, while Mrs. Booth drove the machine.
- Simmons and the couple had spent two weeks in a one-room cottage at a tourist camp here and during that time witnesses related many quarrels took place. The trio left the camp Monday night and Tuesday Simmons’ body was found by C. B. Messer, operator of the camp where they stayed.” “The Lima Morning Star and Republican Gazette” (Lima, Ohio) 29 Jul 1928 Page 1
31 July BOOTHS STILL BEING SOUGHT
- “Booth and Bride Still Sought in Murder Quiz (By United Press) LAKE CITY, Fla, July 31.- Elizabeth Booth and his 18-year-old bride apparently have avoided a wide search for police, who sought them in an effort to solve the hammer murder of George W. Simmons, wealthy widower and grandfather of. Mrs. Booth.
- The two are charged with first degree murder of Simmons, whose body was found by a roadside near here a week ago. He had accompanied the newlyweds to Floride in their honeymoon. A large sum of money believed to have been on his person when he left his Steubenville, Ohio, home, is thought the motive for the crime.” “The Dayton Herald” (Dayton, Ohio) 31 Jul 1928 Page 21
- “MURDER SUSPECTS REPORTED SEEN NEW SMYRNA Aug 4 - (AP) - Policebhere today announced the description of Elize I. Booth and his wife, Helen, honeymooners sought in connection with the slaying of the bride’s grandfather, George W. Simmons, of Steubenville, O., near Lake City recently was seen here this week.
- Authorities said the couple stopped here Wednesday and deserted a half-finished breakfast when a newspaper carrying pictures of the couple sought on murder warrants was placed on the lunch counter before them. They disappeared in a new roadster.
- The Booths disappeared the night before Simmons’ body, the skull crushed, was found beside the road a mile or so from the tourist camp where the trio had spent several days.
- A coroner’s jury returned a verdict fixing the responsibility for the aged man’s death on the granddaughter and her husband.” “Portsmouth Daily Times” (Portsmouth, Ohio) 4 Aug 1928 Page 8
- “Following the hammer murder of George W. Simmons, at Lake City, Flo.m police are seeking this couple, Mr. and Mrs. E. L. Booth, who have been charged by a coroner’s jury with the crime. Simmons was the 78-year-old grandfather of Mrs. Booth, who was his beneficiary. Simmons was found dead after he had started to accompany the newly-married couple on their honeymoon.” “The Portsmouth Daily Times” (Portsmouth, Ohio) 9 Aug 1928 Page 1
5 Aug SPOTTED IN PENNSYLVANIA
“CLUE TO SLAYERS - Wanted Man and Wife Traced Through Florida. By The United Press. New Smyrna. Fla., Aug. 4.- Police were in possession today of their first real clue in the search for Elzie Booth of Steubenville, O., and his young wife since the couple disappeared after the murder of George W. Simmons, grandfather of Mrs. Booth.
The newlyweds, missing since Simmons’ body was found by a roadside near Lake City, Fla., nearly two weeks ago, were believed to have passed through here southward Wednesday.
A waitress and a filling station operator reported to police they had seen a couple resembling the booths.
Molly Deloach, the waitress, said the two had failed to finish their breakfast when they noticed a picture of the Booths in a newspaper and hastily left.” “The Pittsburgh Press” (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania) 5 Aug 1928 Page 13
12 Aug REWARD POSTED
- “REWARD POSTED FOR HONEYMOON PAIR IN SLAYING - TALLAHASSIE, Fla., Aug. 11.- (AP)- A reward of $1,000 was offered today by Gov. John W. Martin of Florida for the arrest and conviction of Mr. and Mrs. E. L. Booth, Steubenville, O., charged with the killing of Mrs. Booth’s grandfather, George W. Simmons, at Lake City, Fla.
- Mr. and Mrs. Booth disappeared immediately after the body of Simmons was found clubbed to death. The couple’s automobile later was found on the streets of Jacksonville.” “The Lima Morning Star and Republican Gazette (Lima, Ohio) 12 Aug 1928 Page 2
Elzie Booth became Jack Clifford Conway. He died in 1964 at the stated age of 62 and was buried in Rose Hills Memorial Park, Whittier, Los Angeles County, California, USA with a simple stone saying “JACK C CONWAY HUSBAND AND FATHER 1902 - 1964” https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/104536885/jack-clifford-conway
Helen Marie (Simmons) Booth became Helen Marie Conway and continued to live with Elzie for a few years. Eventually they separated and she married again, taking the name Gauger. She died in 1980 in Biggs, Butte, California and was cremated.