Mystery Monday – Who Murdered John A. Witt? Part 2: The Autopsy Report

I previously wrote about the murder of my great grand uncle John Witt (here). In the intervening time, I made some inquiries to see if I could learn about this tragic event. A member of the Allegheny County Genealogy Facebook group informed me that the University of Pittsburgh Archives Service Center maintains the case files for the Allegheny County Coroner’s Office from 1887 through 1974. A quick reply to an email, a $12 check and two weeks of patience provided me with John’s autopsy report. I share it with you here with a warning that certain parts are graphic and include scientific descriptions of the bullet wounds, organs, and John’s physical condition. While it’s certainly sad to think that such a report is even necessary, it’s also a reminder that his murder is unsolved and forgotten by many. Hopefully, we can work to change that.

Sources:
“Autopsy of John Albert Witt,” Allegheny County, Pennsylvania Coroner’s Office Records, collection AIS.1982.07, box 506, record 194211-246, University of Pittsburgh Archives Service Center, Pittsburgh.

Photo of the Day: The Witt Siblings

Among the many photos that I scanned over Christmas was this amazing shot of my grandfather Howard Witt and his siblings. Based purely on perceived age, and no doubt requiring some straightening out by my aunts and uncles, are:
(l to r, back), Francis (1920 – 2002), William (1922 – 2011), Governor (1919 – 2004)
 (l to r, front) Frederick (1924 – 2009), Howard (1929 – 2001), Ruth (1926 – 1932)
The only sibling missing is Helen (1934 – 2009) who was not yet born when I estimate this photo was taken around 1930.
If you know better than I, can you help me correct the identification? Thanks! (corrected by my mom! Thanks!)

The Wedding Announcement of Howard Witt and Barbara Wolford

“Chantilly lace and a pretty face…”

After their wedding in my grandmother’s hometown of Topeka, Kansas, my grandparents Barb and Howard Witt lived in his hometown of Youngstown, Ohio. Complete with a picture, the Vindicator wrote a nice story of their return.

(click to enlarge)
Source:
“Bridal Couple To Be Honored At Witt Home,” Youngstown Vindicator, Section C, Page 3. September 14, 1952, accessed January 6, 2013. http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=2s0_AAAAIBAJ&sjid=AFgMAAAAIBAJ&dq=wolford%20topeka&pg=744%2C3287947

Mystery Monday – Who Murdered John A. Witt?

On 29 September 1942, 78-year old shopkeeper John A. Witt woke around 6 a.m. and shortly thereafter lit the furnace in his grocery store that also served as a post office substation. It was probably a routine that played itself out hundreds of times during the 40 years he was a shopkeeper in the Brushton neighborhood of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Brushton was a mostly German and Irish enclave in east-central Pittsburgh where John no doubt knew most of his customers. He may have even known his last customer.

John was born on 25 November 1863 in nearby Butler, Pennsylvania. His father Martin had emigrated from Hessen, Germany in 1832 and John grew up in a city caked in coal dust under the glow of steel mills. He married Johanna Thaner and together they had a large family of girls with son John Jr stuck in the middle.

The details are sketchy and the verdict unknown, but on that fall day in 1942, John Witt was shot and killed by an unknown assailant in his store. The motive has yet to be discovered. The cash was still in the register; the stamps still in the drawer. His daughter found him slumped against the wall, shot in the abdomen and finger. He was dead upon arrival at Pittsburgh Hospital.

My limited research on John’s death has not turned up any information on who may have committed this crime or if they were ever charged, but this is a story that I certainly hope to learn more about.

Relationship to me:
John A Witt (1863 – 1942)
son of:
Martin Witt (1830 – 1921)
father of:
Joseph F Witt (1868 – 1943)
father of:
Francis John Witt (1899 – 1992)
father of:
Howard D Witt (1929 – 2001)
father of:
Rebecca A Witt:
mother of:
Joseph P Lowry

 

(click to enlarge)

UPDATE 7/19/15: For more information on John Witt’s death, see my follow-up post here: https://lowrygenealogy.com/2013/03/11/mystery-monday-who-murdered-john-a-witt-part-2-the-autopsy-report/

Sources:
“Grocer’s Death Laid to Bandit.” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. 1 October 1942. Accessed 5 November 2012. http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=j7pRAAAAIBAJ&sjid=D2oDAAAAIBAJ&pg=5430%2C712430

“Aged Grocer Fatally Shot in Bruston.” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. 30 September 1942. Accessed 5 November 2012. http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=jrpRAAAAIBAJ&sjid=D2oDAAAAIBAJ&pg=4023%2C937851

Photo Friday: Around the Firehouse

I’ve been a volunteer firefighter/EMT since 2004. It was interesting to me to learn that it is a family profession. My great uncle Fred Witt was a firefighter in Skokie, Illinois. This photo, taken in 1956, shows firefighters in front of the Hamlin Avenue Station. They include (left to right) Captain Jaeger, Bobby Burke, Bernie Weber, Rich Baumhardt, Al Suckow, Russ Van, and Fred Witt. They are standing in front of a 1948 American LaFrance pumper with 1,000 GPM capacity.
This photo was taken in 1969. Fred Witt, now a lieutenant on the fire department, is kneeling in the center (white shirt) with his men at the Floral Avenue Station. This is the last shift for his crew before this firehouse closed later that day.
Relationship to Me:
Frederick E Witt (1924 – 2009)
son of:
Helen M Bixler (1898 – 1985)
mother of:
Howard D Witt (1929 – 2001)
father of:
Rebecca Ann Witt
mother of:
Joseph Patrick Lowry

Sources:
Illinois Digital Archive. “Skokie Fire Department Floral Avenue Station Photograph, 1969.” Accessed September 20, 2012. http://www.idaillinois.org/cdm/singleitem/collection/skokiepo02/id/2395/rec/2

Skokie Historical Society. “Firefighters of Skokie, Illinois, 1881 – 1987.” Accessed September 20, 2012. http://www.skokiehistory.info/gallery/fdfiremenf/FireDeptFirefighters.html