The smoking gun? Deersville man’s heirloom may factor into historic case
John Hanlon, pictured above of Deersville, shows off his family heirloom, a .38-caliber revolver believed to have been used in the shooting of a Pennsylvania State Police Officer in 1929.
Hanlon had heard the stories about the revolver his mother kept: It was supposedly given to her by a male acquaintance and used in the murder.
The Deersville-based octogenarian has vague recollections of his mother being a housekeeper in their hometown of Lansing, located in Belmont County, and playing with a young boy. While he is not entirely sure, it is possible she worked for the father of Irene Crawford Shrader (pictured left), also known as Irene Schroeder, and he played with Schroeder’s son, Donnie. The story goes that Schroeder’s brother, Tom Crawford, gave the gun to Hanlon’s mother for safekeeping in 1934 when Hanlon was only a toddler and said it was used in the slaying of Cpl. Brady Paul following a holdup five years earlier. Schroeder and her paramour, Walter Glenn Dague, were later tried and convicted in the shooting, which also wounded the officer’s partner, Pvt. Ernest Moore, and the couple was executed on Feb. 23, 1931. Schroeder became the first woman to die in the state’s electric chair.
“I remember the tale was Irene (“Iron Irene” Schroeder, one of history’s most notorious criminals) killed the cop with the gun. My mother had it. She knew Tom Crawford, who was also in the car. I thought [the case happened] in Missouri…and I should have been looking in Pennsylvania,” he said. ”I figured Tom Crawford gave her the gun. All I know is the gun is involved in that trouble.”
His mother also worked as a waitress and may have known Schroeder from the workplace. Still, Hanlon’s family never really spoke about the gun or its history.
“Back in those days, you didn’t want to get involved with any trouble,” he said.
Hanlon inherited the .38-caliber weapon but didn’t try to find out more about the case until later. His daughter, Pam Wallace, eventually obtained a copy of “Family Secrets & Lies,” a book written by Schroeder’s granddaughter, D.J. Everette.
Hanlon decided to contact Everette this past spring to tell her about the gun and his wife, Phyllis, reached the publisher, who in turn gave Everette their number. The author contacted the couple the next day.
Hanlon met with Everette, pictured above, in June. He and his family joined her at the McLure House Hotel in Wheeling, along with retired law enforcement officers and other Crawford relatives who have researched Schroeder’s case. But more than 80 years after the death of Schroeder and her lover, questions still linger as to whether she was actually innocent of the heinous crime.
Find out more about this real life murder mystery and its local ties in this weeks print edition of the Harrison News-Herald.