On the afternoon of October 21, 1885, milkman John D. Conway returned to his home to find that his world had been changed forever. In the bedroom he discovered the corpses of his wife Catherine and daughter, Katie, Both had been murdered by vicious blows to the head. The bodies were laying together in the bed, covered in blood.
The police were summoned and the investigators immediately began to focus their attention on Thomas M. Turner, also a milkman. Turner had been observed going to the home several times during the day starting about 6:00 am. The reclusive Turner had an arrangement with Mr. Conway to use his property as a distribution point for milk purchased from a Mr. Morland of Westport. Each milkman maintained a separate route, returning to the Conway property to replenish. As such Turner returned to the property several times on the day of the murder. Turner claimed to have been there at 6:00, 10:30, 12:00 noon, 12:30, 1:10, The murders were thought to have occurred at roughly 12:10 pm. Turner testified that he observed nothing out of the ordinary and there were no indications on his clothing that he might have been the guilty party.
A bloody coupling pin was found to the rear of the premisses. Turner had on occasion used such a pin as a hitching weight but could not produce his pin. The coroner's jury determined that the coupling pin was the likely murder weapon and indicted Turner for the crime.
An unusual aspect of the investigation was the attempt to retrieve an image of the murderer from the eyes of the victims. A photographer was brought in to photograph the eyes of both victims. Many believed that the last images seen by a person at the time of death were somehow preserved on the retinas (see image from The Daily Commonwealth, October 24, 1885) . Of course, this was a wasted effort.
Lacking any help from such spiritual photography as well as any physical evidence linking Turner to the murders a jury returned a verdict of not guilty, apparently directed but he judge to do so. The circumstantial case presented by the prosecution did not hold. The Columbus Weekly Advocate on February 4, 1886 describes the scene at the reading of the verdict, "After the verdict was announced, Mr. Conway, husband of the murdered wife, jumped up and warmly grasping Turner by the hand, and with tears in his eyes, congratulated Turner in the warmest terms." No further suspects were tried for the murders and the case remains unsolved.
History was not done with Turner, wagging tongues continued to weave tales about the the reclusive milkman. At the time of Turner's death (May 1888), his obituary included a complex fiction that somehow Turner and Mrs. Conway has known each other in younger days. The gossipers went on to weave a yarn where Turner was in competition for the future Mrs. Conway in which Turner fabricated a letter to Catherine, purporting to be from Turner's competitor. This letter broke things off between Catherine and the other young man. Catherine went on to marry John D. Conway and supposedly she later found out about Turner's deception and fostered a strong hatred for him after that. Turner's death of Glanders, an infection passed on by horses, donkeys, and mules, was sensationalized. The death is horrific including symptoms of pneumonia combined with painful pustules covering the body. The agent of Glanders, Burkholderia mallei, was at one time considered as a potential biological weapon.