Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

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Published in the Southampton Press, 2013 Memorial Day Issue.

Horace Wells was not a gambling man by anyone’s definition, yet many who knew him were not surprised to learn, that on the evening of February 24th 1929, Horace took a risk that would end up costing him his life.

Horace Wells was enjoying a life of success. He was born in “Good Ground”, in April of 1886, his father Horace Wells Sr., ran his own farm on Springville Road and his mother Mary took care of their 7 children.

The Wells home bubbled with activity as each of the children flourished, built careers for themselves and went off to have families of their own. For Horace Wells Jr., it was obvious early on, that his life was going to  revolve around engines and cars.

The automobile industry enjoyed tremendous changes in production during the 1920s. Henry Ford developed a concept called the “assembly line”, and before long there would be an automobile parked outside of every home.  Considered a luxury item in the past and reserved for those with hefty incomes, automobiles soon became attainable to the average man and the entire country would want one. For every car, there was a reliable  mechanic to service it.

Twenty four year old Horace Wells had been working at the Southampton Buick Dealership as a mechanic, for nearly 4 years, by 1910. He was now married with 2 children of his own and his outgoing nature and knowledge of cars, landed him a sales position there. It wouldn’t be long before he and his wife Jessie would own a home. By the summer of 1928, Horace had worked his way up to manager of Southampton Buick. His children were attending college and he was a respected and successful member of the community.

Buick Ad

While 1910 was a good year for Horace Wells, six year old Harry McConardy’s circumstances were not so optimistic. Harry was growing up in Norfolk Massachusetts, under the management of his father, Peter McConardy. Peter was a 66 year old  milk man, who consistently struggled to pay the family’s bills. Peter had six children altogether and suffered from declining health himself.

Peter McConardy would not live to see 1920, and it was his wife Barbara, 26 years his junior, who would be left to provide for the family. It was a task that far exceeded Barbara’s abilities and her children would end up scattered across the country, leaving home and taking bad attitudes  with them.

In February of 1929, Horace Wells reportedly suffered from physical ailments and was prescribed rest and relaxation, by his physician. It was with his health in mind that Horace and his wife Jesse planned an escape to West Palm Beach, Florida. Their friends, Mr. and Mrs. Charles Raynor of Patchogue, would accompany them. The foursome planned to rent a home that was owned by another Southampton resident, Mrs. Vincent Hall. Laughter, and recreation would be their only agenda. Charles Raynor was not only a close friend of Horace Wells, but he was also the manager of the Buick Dealership in Patchogue.

And so it was that on Saturday February 23rd of 1929, a dinner party was in the works. The group was expecting Mrs Vincent Hall, the Southampton resident who had rented them the Palm Beach vacation home, along with a male friend. The women prepared a lovely meal and everyone enjoyed it. After dinner, all of the guests retired to the library. There, the energy was high and the lively conversation continued.

Suddenly, the door flew open and the group of friends froze, confused by what they saw. A strange man pointed a gun at them, his voice booming as he ordered the party to move towards the wall. The intruder forced the women to remove their jewelry and then proceeded to search the men individually, collecting money and credit cards from the now terrified dinner guests.

Exactly what happened next varies, depending on who is telling the story. Most news items claim that Horace Wells was a member of the volunteer police department in Hampton Bays at the time, and he made a move to grab the intruder’s weapon. This alarmed the burglar, who then shot Horace in the abdomen. Panicking, the gunman seized the male guest who had accompanied Mrs. Hall and forced him to drive to the “Pointsetta Hotel”, the gun pointed directly at him the entire time. The gunman changed his clothes at the hotel and continued to make his escape, with the frightened dinner guest in tow. To his credit, the robber would leave his hostage by the side of the road and spare his life.

The police later arrested a man who was calling himself “T Southworth”, in Stuart Florida, some 40 miles away from West Palm Beach. “T Southworth” would later be identified as Harry McConardy, Peter and Barbara McConardy’s wayward son. The newspapers described Harry as a “career crook” and claimed he had confessed to both the theft and the shooting. McConardy  plead guilty to 2 counts of robbery and was sentenced to 30 years in prison, however on March 1, 1929 all of that would change.

Horace Wells had been taken to the emergency room after the shooting and was doing quite well after his initial surgery. In fact, he received visitors the Thursday after the incident and was making plans to go back home. Hours after that visit, Horace’s condition would inexplicably take a turn for the worst. One week from the night of the robbery, Horace Wells would die hundreds of miles from home. The charges against Harry McConardy were upgraded to first degree murder.


Harry McConardy had evolved into a fellow with many bees residing inside of  his bonnet. As he sat in jail awaiting his trial his mind must have raced. At one point McConardy confided in a fellow inmate, that they would not need to execute him because he was planning to kill himself. When the guard was informed of this, he searched Harry’s cell and found a razor blade concealed inside of some folded clothing. In addition, a note was discovered, addressed to his mother. The letter stated in part:

“…Dear Mother, I should have done this job on myself long ago…”

Not insignificant, was the fact that Harry wanted the letter published in newspapers around the Boston area where he grew up. Perhaps being on death row was more rewarding for Harry McConardy then he would care to admit, since it was the only time in his life that he would feel important? For a man who lived a life, void of any positive contributions and with no real accomplishments, it would be his last chance to shine. In December of 1930, when  McConardy issued a statement to the press, demanding that the state execute him and that all efforts to save his life be disregarded, it didn’t surprise anyone who had come to know him.

On February 12 1931, 27 year old Harry McConardy got his wish. His death warrant was signed and when given the news McConardy reportedly replied:

“Well ain’t that swell.”

Harry McConardy was electrocuted at the state prison in Railford, Florida. He was reportedly “relaxed and very calm” as he walked from his death cell, down the hallway and towards the electric chair. As the story was reported, Harry glanced up at the 20 witnesses and just as the metal head piece was adjusted, he uttered but one word:


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The Murder of Mrs. Jones

Posted: December 11, 2013 in Uncategorized

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In September of 1908, local newspapers buzzed with reports of murder and mayhem on Long Island. It had been only forty years, since slavery was abolished in this country, and a diverse nation set upon on a new journey. African Americans, along with other cultures and ethnicities, worked hard to build lives and prosper together.

It seems crime is one of those subjects that crosses all boundaries, and as was customary in 1908, articles written on the subject specify the ethnicity of the people involved. Today, unless it is part of a description used to inform or enlist the help of the public, the race or ethnicity of the victim or the perpetrator, is not a major part of the story.

It was this atmosphere, that produced the headlines of September 19th, detailing crimes in the news that day. The headlines and by-lines read: “Two Poles Indicted for Extortion” and “Filipinos Kill Three.” Another item told the story of an “Italian Detective” who was on a mission to apprehend “Polish Blackmailers.”

Nestled among the accounts, was the announcement that a “Riverhead Negro” had been arrested for the murder of his wife. The newspaper article spoke in glowing terms of the defendant, James Jones, describing him in print as “an outstanding negro.” What might seem glaringly inappropriate at first glance, when taken in context, becomes quite extraordinary.

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James Jones must have been an outstanding individual indeed, judging from the descriptions provided by reporters. What happened on the afternoon of September 15th, 1908, was tragic for everyone involved,  but the press was clearly sympathetic to James Jones.  Later, the system would prove less compassionate.

There would never be a first name provided in any newspaper report, for “Mrs. Jones”, the victim in this case. She is described in one article as “…a strikingly handsome mulatto…” who was “…prepared to leave her husband and family…”, and “…had her belongings packed…” on September 15th.

James Jones had taken on two roomers that fall, Charles Johnson and G. F. Edwards. The pair traveled to Riverhead from Brooklyn, to conduct a shooting gallery at a popular local fair. Mr. Jones returned from work the afternoon of the 15th, and found Charles Johnson in the house with Mrs. Jones, who was  “dressed for the street” with suitcases ready. When Jones discovered the affair, he became “insane with jealousy” and slit his wife’s throat with a pen knife.

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Only forty years earlier, slavery was alive and well in America and yet, at the time of his arrest, James Jones had owned and operated a large ice business in Riverhead for years. It was reported that he did the work of three or four men, was frugal, industrious and both mentally and physically “exceptional.”

In spite of the evidence against him, Mr. Jones would deny his guilt and change his story over time. The father of seven children, his eleven year old daughter Virginia, would be a strong witness for the prosecution. Virginia testified that she heard her mother holler from the basement, that her father was cutting her throat. The prosecution claimed that James Jones used a pen knife to kill his wife, cut himself in the neck, and then he threw the blade into a cook stove to burn, where it was later recovered.

James Jones took the stand in his own defense and claimed that he came home and found Mr. Johnson in his house. He testified that Mr. Johnson went downstairs with his wife, and he heard Mrs. Jones tell Johnson that she would not go with him.  He then described hearing a scuffle and a shout, before he ran downstairs to find his wife dead.

A parade of prominent witnesses testified in James Jones’ defense and attested to his excellent reputation, however Mr. Jones was still found guilty of second degree murder.

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Mr. Jones later secreted a blade from a pencil sharpener, inside of his mouth, while being transported to his cell, and attempted suicide in jail. In a second suicide attempt, jailers confiscated a bottle of poison hidden in a pie, that was sent to James Jones by his sister.

After arriving at Sing Sing prison, Mr. Jones threatened a hunger strike and eventually came up with one last story, telling the guards that he was finally ready to confess.

Referring to Mrs. Jones as “the woman”, Mr. Jones told authorities that they had quarreled that evening because his wife was going to leave him. When he told her how much this hurt him, James Jones stated that she laid down on the floor and said “cut my throat”, so he did. That would be the final word on the subject from James Jones.

Everyone has a name in this story except the victim, something that would never happen today, unless the victim was unknown. The story of Mrs. Jones, besides being one that is as old as time, is also a fascinating look at change, and how that change has manifested itself, in print, throughout the years.

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The Southampton Goodnight Kiss Murder

Officer Harold Winters had finished his coffee, and was ready to get back into his patrol car and continue policing the streets of Southampton. Officer Winters was working the night shift and it was his habit to enjoy his dinner break in the company of his girlfriend, Mary.  He pushed the last bit of his sandwich into his mouth, washing it back with his coffee, gathering any loose items he needed before turning to say goodnight to his girl. Harold  took Mary in his arms and held her tight. As they embraced and kissed each other goodnight, Mary heard a loud explosion and felt Harold Winters go limp in her arms.  He dropped to the floor,  red liquid spilling from a wound in the back of his head. Mary screamed as he fell, taking in the terrible scene. Even as she  ran to the phone calling for help, she knew exactly what had happened. It was Frank. She had been afraid of this for months.

The shot that killed Harold Winters was fired at approximately 10pm on a Friday night, August 5,1949.

Earlier that evening, Frank Zieman crouched in the darkness and watched through the back window as the couple inside stood up, their arms encircling each other. As their lips met, it was more than he could bear. Everything that had happened in the past few months crashed in on him at that moment, so he aimed his rifle at the back of Harold Winter’s head and pulled the trigger. Seconds later, Frank ran towards his parked car while his heart, no doubt, pumped wildly in his chest. Once inside the car, he started the engine and took off towards Sunrise Highway, racing towards Bridgehampton, checking his rear view mirror the entire way.

Frank Zieman had one more thing to do before he was finished.

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Frank  was born in 1904 in Southampton, NY.  His father, Leo Zieman, was born in Poland and his mother Marian was from Germany. Frank Zieman was Leo and Marian’s 6th child.

Leo Zieman made his living as a driver for a coal company and could not read or write at the time of Frank’s birth.  As the years went on Leo and Marian Zieman continued having children, ending up with a grand total of eleven by 1920.

At that time, four of the Zieman children were gainfully employed and presumably helping with expenses while 15 year old Frank Zieman and the others attended school. The Zieman family spoke Polish, German and English and by 1920 Leo Zieman had learned to read and write.

Ten years later, Frank’s father, Leo, has a new job working at a “clubhouse” and the family has moved to West Prospect St.  At the same time Frank Zieman was still living at home, a single man, working as a plumber.

Between 1930 and 1935 Frank Zieman exchanged his plumbing career for a job in retail sales. It was while he was working behind the counter at a large “chain store” in Southampton, that he met a pretty red-headed young woman named Mary. Mary would eventually become Mary Zieman and in 1935 give birth to a son. For a man like Frank Zieman, this must have been the happiest time of his life.

Frank would later leave the retail sales business and take a lucrative position in the civilian branch of the Navy. The position would require Frank to work overseas for a while. With a wife and child to provide for, it was an opportunity to better himself and Frank Zieman took it.

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It was when Frank returned, after being overseas for months, that he discovered his wife of 15 years had taken a trip to Palm Beach, Florida and gotten a divorce behind his back. To make things worse, Frank eventually discovered that Mary was deeply involved with another man, Officer Harold Winters.

The series of events that followed, would dispel any doubt that this discovery devastated Frank Zieman,

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One wonders if Frank Zieman and Harold Winters might have even known each other in some capacity? Considering that they both grew up in Southampton Village, it’s not out of the question.

Even though Harold Winters was technically born on Grand St. in Brooklyn, he spent most of his life in Southampton. His father,  John Winters, worked as a machinist in a rope factory and his mother, Stella was a stay at home mom. Harold Winters had one brother growing up, 8 years his senior. His name was John Jr.

In 1920, for some unknown reason, the Winters family split apart. John Sr. and Stella Winters left Brooklyn to live in Jersey City, minus their 2 children. John Winters Jr. went off on his own and 15 year old Harold Winters moved to Southampton to live with his grandparents.

The Southampton household consisted of Cleveland Winters, his wife Eva and Eva’s mother Jane Wells, who was 90 years old at the time. Cleveland Winters was 64 and worked as a freelance farm laborer which is difficult work at any age.

Harold Winter’s grandparents had taken on the extra responsibility of raising their grandson, and they must have done a very good job. Harold made them all proud in 1929, when he became a motorcycle patrolman with the Southampton Police Department.

At the age of 25, the handsome police officer married a pretty 23 year old school teacher  named Marion. They lived on Wooley St. and were described  as the perfect family…

until Harold Winters met Mary Zieman, that is.

The Murder House


After 3 children and almost 20 years of marriage, Marion Winters divorced her husband Harold right around the same time that Mary Zieman made her trip to Palm Beach Florida and divorced her absentee husband Frank.

No one really knows exactly how long Mary Zieman and Harold Winters had known each other, but It would seem  they became serious approximately  six months before Frank Zieman returned home from the Pacific.

Frank Zieman thought he was coming home to a loving wife and instead returned, only to discover that his wife had divorced him six months earlier and he didn’t even know it. For months after his return, Frank obsessed over his marriage, expressing outrage at the fact that his ex-wife and her new lover were spending time in the very same house that the Ziemans had lived as husband and wife. Even the telephone was still listed in Frank Zieman’s name.

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After returning from overseas, where he was working hard to make a good living for his family, Frank  was forced to move out of his own house and accept the fact that his family was gone. He moved to an apartment in Islip, and was able to get a good job working for the Central Islip State Hospital, however he was never able to move on.

Zieman was spotted in Sag Harbor around 6:30 on the night of the murder, drinking with friends.

The evidence would later show that Frank Zieman arrived in Southampton around 10pm and waited in ambush outside of his house for Harold Winters to arrive. Then, as the couple embraced and gave each other a goodnight kiss, Frank Zieman shot Harold Winters in the back of the head. After the shooting Frank  got into his car and drove to a beach at the end of Ocean Avenue, in Bridgehampton. Shortly after arriving there he  took his own life.

His body was found, along with a suicide note, 9 hours after he murdered Harold Winters.

The beach  Frank Zieman drove to that night, was the same spot he had chosen to court his wife Mary and eventually the place where he had asked her to marry him.  Hw sad that a final act of desperation,  would make it the place he also chose to end his life.

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