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Rose May "Rosie" Otto Skanks
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Birth: Apr. 1, 1883
Death: Nov. 25, 1909
Saline County
Kansas, USA

The Salina Semi-Weekly Journal, 26 Nov 1909.

Found By Her Husband J. H. Skank Who Had Been With Her Five Minutes Before.


With head half severed from the body, a razor lying on her chest, the body of Mrs. Rose Skanks, wife of J. H. Skanks, residing at 432 North Front street, was found lying on her bed Thursday at 9:30 a. m. by her husband, who says that he had not left her more than five minutes before. Officers, including Coroner Armstrong, were called immediately by neighbors upon hearing the screams and cries of the husband, and up until 1 o'clock Thursday no positive conclusion had been reached as to how Mrs. Shanks [sic] had met her death. Apparently it is suicide, but the officers refuse to make any statements until they make a full investigation of the case and they seem to think that they have enough evidence to warrant a full investigation.

J. H. Shanks [sic], husband of the woman, told the officers his own story of what he knew about the death. Tears streamed down his cheeks as he told the officers the story and by his side sat the mother, Mrs. Nettie Skanks, wringing her hands and sobbing.

"She had been sick so long," said the husband, "she complained all night of a pain in her side. She has been sick off and on for about a year. We had the doctor often. This morning she got up only for a few minutes. When pain got so bad she cried out. I sent for my mother, who lives just across the street. My mother poured out some asafectidy, just a little bit, and I gave that to my wife in a glass. My mother went home then and I went out to the closet. I was not gone more than five minutes. I came back into the room and saw the blood spurting up against the wall. I never touched her but called for my mother, who cam running over. Then the crowd came in."

"She told me last night," says Mrs. Skanks, mother of the husband of the dead woman, "that unless the doctor could help her that she would be better off dead. When my boy called me across the street telling me that she had cut her throat, I could not believe it. Then I remembered what she told me last night. Poor thing, she was still alive when I came in. She looked up at me and then grabbed at her throat. I couldn't do a thing for her and she died."

Found Her Teeth on Table.
The woman's teeth were found on a center table in the room. The razor box was found lying on the floor close to the bed. The body was lying cross wise on the bed, the head next to the wall, hanging over the edge. The big gash was thrown open and the blood splattered scene was horrible. Blood spurted more than a foot above the head upon the wall. Under the bed was a great pool of blood.

Some suspicion arose immediately as to the cause of her death because the police say the family has had quarrels. The family is poor. Mrs. Shanks [sic] did washing outside of her own family.

Suspicious of Murder.
It is also known by the officers that the razor which they found lying on the woman's chest had been moved from the time it was first seen. The officers claim to have the statements of one woman who claims she saw the husband handling the razor before the officers arrived. There are several other reports of a suspicious nature which the officers will thresh out. An inquest will be held.

The cut on the neck is deep and long, severing the head half way from the body. An examination of the cut shows that it must have required two slashes.

The Shanks [sic] have lived in Salina about a year, coming here from Eureka. The husband is a laborer.

Mrs. Shanks [sic] was only 25 years of age and has been married 11 years. She has one son, 9 years of age.

The house in which the Shanks [sic] reside is owned by H. F. Walker. A peculiar thing as reported by Mr. Walker, is that only five or six years ago, a Mrs. LaFever residing at the same place, built a bon fire and threw herself upon it, burning to death.

The Salina Semi-Weekly Journal, 30 Nov 1909

But Was Not Sure Whether He Had a Razor in His Hand at Time His Wife Was Killed -- Wife Claimed Husband Shot Her.

Evidence obtained by Sheriff Heck yesterday in the Skanks suicide case caused Coroner Armstrong and County Attorney Knittle to decide that an inquest was necessary to determine whether or not Mrs. Skanks came to her death by her own hand or by that of another.

Accordingly late Friday afternoon, Coroner Armstrong called together a jury, composed of W. J. Smith, T. B. Vallette, E. W. Ober, W. H. Myers, Dr. J. A. Simpson and Dr. E. Gemmill, and an investigation of the case was begun. They visited the body at the Skanks home on North Front street about 4 o'clock.

An examination of the wound on the neck and a general view of the surroundings about the place was about all the evidence shown to the jury yesterday. The case will be taken up again at 9 o'clock Monday morning at the court house before the jury, when the inquest will be continued.

Several Stories Circulated.
There are many stories in circulation and there is also some evidence which the officers have asked to be kept out of print until Monday, when everything will come out at the injuest [sic]. The officers are withholding all the evidence possible until the inquest.

Strong evidence against the character of the husband is said to have been obtained. The officers admit this, but they claim that it is a hard matter to obtain evidence against him in this case. He is suspicioned, but not enough information has been obtained, the officers say, to warrant his arrest.

Will Be Many Witnesses.
About 25 witnesses ave been subpoenaed for the inquest. None of them were examined yesterday. Most of these witnesses have been called to tell what they know of the past history of the family. The reports that Skanks made threats to his wife and that he and she quarrelled frequently are expected to be brought down to facts from these witnesses.

No Blood on Woman's Hands.
A careful examination of the cut shows that it was made by one slash, but strange to say there was not a particle of blood found on the hands of the woman. Coroner Armstrong says that there was no blood on her hands.

The examination of the cut also showed that both juglar [sic] veins were severed and also the two largest arteries in the neck. The blood on the wall came from the arteries.

The razor, found lying on Mrs. Skanks breast, has only two slight spots of blood upon it.

Officers Not Satisfied.
There are three or four things the officers cannot satisfy themselves on -- the long deep cut which looks almost impossible for a person to inflict upon one's self, no blood upon her hands, little blood on the razor, which was found lying on her chest, how much asafetida her husband gave her in the glass just before he left the room and whether or not he went outside of the house to the closet when she committed the act.

Sheriff Heck examined the closet to see if any evidence could be obtained that Skanks washed his hands while there. Thursday forenoon when the body had been found, the husband's hands were examined, even under the finger nails, for signs of blood, but none were found.

The body was turned over to an undertaker after it had first been decided that no inquest was necessary. The undertaker sewed the cut up, but Coroner Armstrong opened the cut again so that the jury could examine it. The body has been left at the home and will remain there until Sunday afternoon, when the funeral will be held. Coroner Armstrong stated this morning that it was not necessary to hold the body any longer.

Sheriff Heck, Under Sheriff Swanson, County Attorney Knittle and Coroner Armstrong have been working almost night and day on the case since Thursday night.

While there is no real evidence against the husband, the officers stated this morning that there were many things that had to be threshed out before the facts can be learned.

The officers have very little to say about the case. They are not giving out any evidence. They all say that it looks "suspicious."

The coroner's inquest over the body of Mrs. Skanks to determine the cause of her death, began promptly at 9 o'clock Monday at the court house. The forenoon was taken up in hearing the testimony of John Henry Skanks, the husband, Willie Skanks, the 9-year-old son and Mrs. Edna Black, a woman who lived in one half of the same house occupied by the Skanks family.

The testimony of Mrs. Black, who lived next door, is regarded as damaging to Skanks. It indicates that Skanks and his wife had a quarrel the morning that Mrs. Skanks' throat was cut. It also indicates that Skanks had tried to kill his wife on a former occasion. It is generally thought that Skanks made a good witness for himself. There is only one thing that is not exactly clear in his testimony. He would not swear positively whether he had or did not have a razor in his hands at the time he found his wife with her throat cut. The boy's testimony was of little importance.

Had Many Quarrels.
John Henry Skanks, the husband, was the first witness called. He stated on the stand that he was married to Mrs. Sanks [sic], whose name was then Otto, in Leavenworth, 11 years ago last October. He stated that he had many quarrels with his wife and that four or five years ago she left him for quite a while and went home to her parents. He stated that he and his wife had had no quarrels recently except a few words.

He stated that for several months his wife had been suffering from what the doctor called pleurisy and that it gave her a great deal of pain. He stated that after spending Wednesday evening with his parents just across the street from their own home, he and his wife came home and went to bed, but soon she began to complain of pain. He stated that he then got up, put on his clothes and remained up the entire night without any sleep. He stated that he tried to help his wife all he could that night by putting hot clothes on her.

He stated that on Thursday morning about 8 o'clock, his mother came over to see how his wife was feeling and that at this time, he poured about eight or nine drops of asafoetida into a glass and gave it to his wife. He stated that his mother went back home just as soon as he gave the medicine to his wife.

"What did you do then?" asked County Attorney Knittle.

"I stayed with my wife for about an hour," said Skanks. "I do not think anybody came into the room again, unless it was Mrs. Black. I stayed there until I was compelled to go to the closet."

"What time did you go to the closet?"

"About 9 o'clock."

"How long were you gone?"

"About five minutes."

"What happened then?"

Saw the Blood Spurting.
"I came to the front door and when I opened it I saw my wife lying on the floor of the bed. The blood was spurting up on the wall."

"Did you touch your wife then?"

"No, I looked at her about a minute. I don't believe she moved at all, but I could hear a grugling noise. Then I went across the street and told my mother that she had cut her throat."

"How did you know that she cut her throat?"

"I saw what had happened."

"You came right back home after telling your mother and was your wife breathing yet when you got back?"

"Yes, she breathed about four or five times after I got back."

"Did you touch your wife after she quit breathing?"

"Yes, I started to put a pillow under her head but somebody stopped me."

Uncertain About Razor.
"Did you have a razor in your hand during the time you left the room going to the closet until you saw your wife lying on the bed with blood spurting from her neck?"

"I do not remember, I cannot say."

"Did you have a razor in your hands from the time you first saw the blood until you started to put the pillow under her head?"

"I can't say for sure, I do not remember."

Skanks was on the stand nearly two hours. He is an ignorant man and the county attorney was compelled to ask him a question -- sometimes two or three questions, to get any answer.

He Had Two or Three Razors.
He was shown the razor which the officers found lying on his wife's chest Thursday morning. He stated that it ws his and that he had two others lying on the east shelf in his room. The razor was also given to the jury for examination.

Skanks was taken from the stand to allow his son to testify. Skanks will probably be re-called for a cross examination.

Could Not Confirm Father.
Willie's testimony did not add anything to the evidence. He stated that he slept in his own little bed on Wednesday night, while his father had testified the boy slept with his parents. He stated that he was playing in the back yard all morning and did not see his father go to the closet. He will probably be re-called.

Tells of a Shooting.
Mrs. Edna Black, the third witness, testified that she and her husband had since last Monday resided in the east side of the same house occupied by the Skanks.

"The first day I was there," said Mrs. Black, "Mrs. Skanks told me that her husband shot her twice with a rifle, once in the back and once in the arm. She showed me the scars. She did not tell me when it happened and I did not ask her. She told me that she and her husband did not get along together at all, that he always wanted her to work out and that she did not feel able to."

Heard Loud Talking,
Mrs. Black also testified that she heard some very loud words between Skanks and his wife, Thursday morning between 8 and 9 o'clock, the exact time that Skanks testified that he was alone with his wife. Mrs. Black said that it sounded like they were quarreling, but she could not understand what they were saying. She also stated that she was in the Skanks apartments two times on Wednesday night helping care for Mrs. Skanks, who seemed to be in a great deal of pain.

As soon as Mrs. Black was taken from the stand, Coroner Armstrong announced an adjournment until 1 o'clock Monday. There are about 20 other witnesses to examine.

The jury is composed of E. W. Ober, T. B. Vallette, J. W. Smith, Dr. E. Gemmill, Dr. J. A. Simpson and W. H. Myers.

The Salina Semi-Weekly Journal, Friday, 3 Dec 1909

Has Not Been Seen Since the Crime Was Committed -- Chances Are That Woman's Throat Was Not Cut With a Razor.

The coroner's jury decided at 5:20 Monday afternoon that Mrs. Rosa M. Skanks did not commit suicide, but that her throat had been cut by a person or persons unknown. The jury retired with the evidence at 5:10 Monday afternoon and at 5:20 the verdict was read. There are two 'suspects.'

When Mrs. Rosa Skanks was found Thursday morning lying across her bed at her home on North Front street with her throat cut from ear to ear, suicide was on the lips of everybody who saw the body, because an open razor lay on the chest of the body near the right arm which was folded over above it.

The police worked upon the case for several hours Thursday and agreed among themselves that it was suicide. Late Thursday night, Sheriff Heck came to Coroner Armstrong with newly found evidence, and upon this it was decided to hold an inquest. The inquest was begun Friday afternoon, but adjourned that afternoon until Monday morning in order to give the coroner time to obtain the evidence.

When the verdict of the jury was read Wednesday there was a feeling among those who listened to the evidence that the verdict was the right one. County Attorney Knittle stated to the jury that it was his opinion that the jury reached a fair, and proper verdict.

No Blood on Her Hands
The testimony which brought out the verdict of murder was made by the physicians who testified that it would be impossible for the hand drawing the instrument making such a cut as that which killed Mrs. Skanks to do so without coming in contact with the blood spurting from the arteries and that it would also be impssible for the instrument to not show blood. Those who saw the razor and the hands of Mrs. Skanks testified that there was no blood upon either. The testimony of Mrs. Edna BLack, who stated on the stand that she heard loud words between 8 and 9 o'clock Thursday morning and that they came from Mr. and Mrs. Skanks, in their bed room, also had weight upon the minds of the jurymen.

In all there were about 29 witnesses examined.

Bruise on the Temple.
R. V. Smith, the undertaker, who prepared the body of Mrs. Skanks for burial, was called to the stand. He testified that there was no blood on the hands of Mrs. Skanks, that he saw no blood on the razor, that there was a slight bruise on the back of the right hand and also another slight bruise near the right temple. H. C. Pritcher and E. L. Neptune, assistants of the undertaker, were called to the stand, but their testimoney was much the same as that of Mr. Smith.

Aaron Skanks and William Skanks, both brothers of the husband of the dead woman, were placed on the stand, but they seemed to know little about the case. Both testified that they were away from home Thursday morning and knew nothing about the death of their sister-in-law until told by others.

Testimony of Doctors.
Important testimony was brought out by several physicians who were called on the stand to tell what they knew to be facts from their experience in medicine.

Drs. Nordstrom, Harvey, Jenney and Winterbotham all testified that the jugular veins and the internal and external carotid arteries were probably severed in Mrs. Skanks' neck. They were given a description of the wound, its depth and length, by Undertaker Smith and others, who examined it closely.

They all testified that it would be impossible for the hand drawing the instrument across the neck making such a cut to do so without the blood from the arteries getting on it. They testified that the flow from the arteries was instantaneous. With the exception of Dr. Jenney, who testified that the instrument would also have blood upon it, that in their opinion it was absolutely impossible for the knife to not have blood upon it. Dr. Jenney testified that the high polish on a razor might prevent the blood from clinging to it.

The testimony of William Thompson, assistant marshal, L. E. Joy, a neighbor, Lottie Mayhan, another neighbor, was taken but each was of little importance. Mrs. Mahan [sic] was one of the first persons to arrive at the body of Mrs. Skanks and she testified that there was no blood upon the hands of Mrs. Skanks.

C. L. Perkins, a neighbor of the Skanks' who was one of the first persons to arrive at the body of Mrs. Skanks, testified that he was the one who prevented Mr. Skanks from changing the position of his wife's body. He stated that he told Skanks to leave thing [sic] just as they were until the officers arrived. He also testified that there was no blood on the hands of the dead woman.

Found Mrs. Skanks Dead.
Grantville Williams, another neighbor, testified that he arrived there before anyone else except the husband and the husband's mother and that Mrs. Skanks was dead at the time.

Under Sheriff Swanson went on the stand and testified that in an examination of the clothing of Mr. Skanks Thursday forenoon, one small drop of blood was found upon the left shirt sleeve. He testified to searching the premises and finding no evidence. County Attorney Knittle took the stand himself for a few minutes and stated that he had assisted in searching the contents of the stove and that he found no trace of buttons or burned clothing in the ashes of either.

Mexican Has Disappeared.
In the testimony of the little son and the husband, it was shown that a Mexican was rooming in the north part of the Skanks home last week. It was shown that Skanks and the Mexican sat up a great deal of Wednesday night in the kitchen together. It is now rumored that the Mexican has not been seen since Friday morning, the day after Mrs. Skanks' death.

The officers have refused to say anything as to what action they will take in the case now.

The Salina Semi-Weekly Journal, 11 Jan 1910





Mexican Roomer at Skanks House is Still Missing --
Husband Claims He Was Away From Home When His Wife Met Death.

J. H. Skanks was arrested early Saturday evening upon the street by Sheriff Heck upon a warrant charging him with the murder of his wife, Rosa Skanks, whose death occurred on Thanksgiving day, Nov. 25, at their home, 432 North Front street.

It was first decided by Coroner Armstrong that the case was one of plain suicide and the funeral was held the following Sunday, but owing to evidence which Sheriff Heck and Under-Sheriff Swanson succeeded in digging up, it was decided that an inquest should be held.

The inquest was held Monday, Nov. 29, before the coroner's jury, consisting of E. W. Ober, T. B. Vallette, J. W. Smith, Dr. E. Gemmill, Dr. J. A. Simpson and W. H. Myers, and at 5:20 o'clock that evening they came to the conclusion that Mrs. Rose Skanks had been murdered.

Two parties were suspected of the murder, one a Mexican, who had been rooming at the Skanks home, and J. H. Skanks, the husband, against whom there was at the time enough evidence to warrant suspicion.

Since the day of the verdict of the coroner's jury, Sheriff Heck and Deputy Sheriff Swanson, together with County Attorney Knittle, have been working on the case and gathering up all the evidence possible.

Saturday night they came to a conclusion that they had sufficient evidence to warrant the arrest of J. H. Skanks and immediately swore out a warrant for his arrest.

Skanks was found upon the street by Sheriff Heck and arrested and placed in the county jail to await arraignment in the justice court.

Willie Skanks, the 9-year-old son of J. H. Skanks, has been taken care of by his grandparents, who now live in the house in which the Skanks family lived at the time of the murder.

Story of the Crime

Rosa Skanks was found Thursday morning, Nov. 25, lying on the bed at her home with her throat cut from ear to ear. Near her on the bed lay a razor and the first theory was that the woman killed herself.

Skanks, the husband, testified that he was away from home the morning of the murder, and did not know of his wife's death until informed. Altogether it seemed likely that the woman had killed herself. It was found, however, that there was no blood on the razor, and no blood on Mrs. Skank's hands. Doctors testified that it would have been impossible for the woman to inflict the wounds on herself without getting blood on her hands. Neighbors reported that Mr. and Mrs. Skanks had quarrelled the night before the woman's death. Some blood was found on Skank's shirt sleeve.

There was also a Mexican in the case, whose whereabouts are unknown. This Mexican, it seems, roomed at the Skank's house and has not been seen since the murder.

The coroner's jury was out only ten minutes and decided that the case was not suicide, but that it was a plain case of murder.

Preliminary Set For Jan. 17.

Skanks was taken before D. R. Wagstaff, justice of the peace, at 2 o'clock Monday and his preliminary hearing was set for January 17. In default of a $5,000 bond he was committed to jail. Skanks has not at this time employed a lawyer to conduct his defense.





Justices of the Peace Wagstaff and Mitchell Were Both Hearing the Case -- Decision Was Reached at 2:45 This Afternoon.

The Skanks Murder Case.

John Henry Skanks, charged with the murder of his wife, Rose Skanks, was bound over to the district court by Justice Wagstaff Friday afternoon in the sum of $5,000, and was committed to jail.

While there was no evidence introduced to show that Skanks committed the murder. Judge Wagstaff held that the testimony of the expert witnesses showed beyond a doubt that the woman was murdered, and bound Skanks over on the grounds that, "he was the only person in the room at about that time who could have committed the crime."

Ed and Edna Black who were living at the Skanks home at the time of the murder, have sinced moved to Junction City, and they were required to furnish bond in the sum of $300 for their appearance as witnesses in the case in the district court.

The most damaging evidence against the defendant was given by Mrs. Edna Black, who with her husband was residing in the same house with the Skanks at the time of the murder. She testified that she was living in the two rooms in the rear part of the house, and had helped to attend Mrs. Skanks the night before the murder at the request of the accused man, retiring at about 1:30 o'clock the morning of the murder. "I saw Mr. Skanks at about 7:30 o'clock the morning of his wife's death sitting in a rocking chair near the bed and his wife was sitting on the edge of the bed. I heard her say to her husband, 'You can't run over me that way.' and that was all the conversation I heard between them. Then after awhile I heard a noise as if someone had fallen on the bed. Later I saw Mr. Skanks out in the yard and I heard him say something which sounded like, "O, my home.'"

After Mrs. Black's testimony the state rested. The defense offered no evidence. Judge Wagstaff overruled R. A. Lovtt's motion to dismiss the defendant, and bound Skanks over at 2:45 this afternoon. He will be tried at the next term of court.

The preliminary hearing of John Henry Skanks, charged with the murder of his wife, Mrs. Rose Skanks, in this city on last Thanksgiving day, was held at the court house today before Justice Wagstaff and Justice Mitchell, the latter having been asked to sit with him during the trial. The two justices are frequently used in a trial of this kind.

The trial was held at the court house, because the justice court room was not large enough to accommodate the large crowd of spectators which a murder trial usually attracts.

The trial began at 10:30 o'clock this morning.

Testimony of Officer.

The state first called Assistant Marshal Thompson, the first officer on the scene of the murder, who described how he found the body and the general surroundings.

The next two witnesses called were Cornoner Armstrong and City Physician J. H. Simpson. The testimony of these two physicians terminated in the point that it was absolutely impossible for any person to self-inflict such wounds as killed Mrs. Skanks, showing that she was beyond a doubt murdered by someone. Another point brought out by the testimony of the two physicians was that there was very little blood upon the razor with which Mrs. Skanks was supposed to have killed herself, and that all the blood on the razor could have been from one drop when smeared over both sides of the razor. The physicians could not say for sure that the substance on the razor was blood.

Hunt For a Motive.

The state attempted to prove a motive for which the crime could have been committed by the husband, through Samuel Skanks, the father of the defendant, who was next placed on the stand, and asked about a Mexican who was staying at the Skanks home at the time of the murder. Samuel Skanks stated that he had stayed all night at the home of his son at the request of his son, who was working on the street at night and wanted him to stay with his wife and family each night, so that it would not look wrong to the neighbors.

"I stayed there just one night," said Samuel Skanks.

"Did your son ask you to stay more than one night," asked the county attorney.

"Yes, he did, but I told him I did not want to stay because I have to get up in the night every night, and I wanted to stay where I was more at home. I had a hard time finding my way out of my son's house the night I stayed there."

Intimation of Jealousy.

"Did you not tell your son that you did not care to stay at his house because of Mrs. Skanks and the Mexican, who lived there, and that they kept you awake during the night, and did you not tell the sheriff and Mr. Stonebraker that you told your son that was the reason you would not stay there?" continued the county attorney.

Samuel Skanks stated that he would not swear that he had not told the officers that, but that he did not remember having told them anything of the kind.

Wanted to Move the Body.

C. L. Perkins, who lives near the Skanks home, testified that he and his wife were riding past the house to the city and on hearing from someone that something had happened in the house, he drove up to the house and went in to see what had happened. "When I entered the house," he said, "Mr. Skanks (the husband) and his mother were in the room where the dead woman lay, standing near the bed. When I entered the room Mr. Skanks said: 'There is a man who will help us let's move her.' I examined the razor and did not find any blood on it at all. I told Skanks that we had better not move her, but to wait until the officers came."
Family links: 
  John Henry Skanks (1871 - 1946)
The cemetery database has her date of death as 11/27/1909, but this has to be incorrect. The first newspaper account was on 11/26/1909, and it refers to her death being on Thursday, so it had to have been 11/25/1909.
Gypsum Hill Cemetery
Saline County
Kansas, USA
Plot: Block 9, Lot 22, Space 10
Created by: sister7a
Record added: Nov 30, 2009
Find A Grave Memorial# 44961689
Rose May Rosie <i>Otto</i> Skanks
Added by: sister7a
Rose May Rosie <i>Otto</i> Skanks
Cemetery Photo
Added by: Sarah Lee
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Click on image for full size.

Cold Case?
- Mayflower Pilgrim 332
 Added: Nov. 14, 2013

- Mayflower Pilgrim 332
 Added: Nov. 14, 2013
Rest in peace
- sister7a
 Added: Aug. 16, 2013
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