|Death: ||1974, USA|
Frank Howell and Norma Jean Hoskins Lehew, a divorcee, wed on November 29, 1927 in Wetzel Co., WV. By September 1929, they were renting a house from C.W. Edgell near New Martinsville. With the couple lived three children from Norma's prior marriage to Clarence Lehew: Eldora, age 14; Clarence Ronald, age 12; and Betty, age 10.
Approximately 11:00 pm on September 5, 1929, as he was locking up, Jack Cotts' Standard gasoline filling station located three miles east of Moundsville in Marshall Co., WV, on Waynesburg Pike was robbed. Mr. Cotts identified the robbers as a tall, gaunt man and a short, heavy-set, round-faced woman. On September 12, 1929, both Frank and Norma were arrested for the crime and found themselves in jail in New Martinsville. Mr. Cotts positively identified them as the robbers and both Frank and Norma were transferred to the Moundsville jail.
Mr. Cotts stated that on September 5, 1929, a large, dark-colored, two-seater, closed car drove up and asked for "Esso." He then pumped three gallons of gasoline into the vehicle and then went inside the station to make change for the purchase. The man followed him in the station and asked for some soft drinks. Mr. Cotts went to his ice chest and retrieved two bottles of "Orange" and it was at that time that he was ordered to "stick ‘em up." When he turned, he saw that both the man and woman had revolvers pointed at him. He was robbed of $35 from his pocket and approximately $27 from the cash register.
Circumstantial evidence began to mount against Frank and Norma. On the evening of September 5, 1929, the three children were with their natural father, Clarence Lehew, and they all went to the movies. Also on that evening, the landlord C.W. Edgell claimed that Frank promised to get him some fish bait and when Edgell's son arrived the next morning to retrieve it, Frank did not have it. Edgell also claimed that Frank was always late with the rent and was sometimes several months behind, but on that September 7, two days after the robbery, Norma paid him $10.
Both Frank and Norma denied any knowledge of the robbery but were indicted by the Grand Jury in Marshall County and brought to trial before Judge James F. Shipman on November 4, 1929. They were granted separate trials with Frank's trial proceeding first. The prosecution established that Frank owned a closed Ford vehicle and possibly another car. Mr. Cotts then positively identified Frank as the bandit.
The defense was an alibi. Both Frank and Norma testified that on September 5 they helped George Coburn move. Mr. Coburn corroborated their alibis. The three children arrived home from the movies around 9:00 pm after which the entire family went to bed. Frank denied owning a revolver.
After the defense rested, the prosecutor recalled Norma to the stand and asked her to identify a small black hat and a black coat. She identified them as belonging to her. Then Mr. Cotts was recalled and identified the articles of clothing as being worn by the woman robber. Sanford Wright testified that Frank once told him that he owned a .38 revolver and Jess Greathouse testified that he heard Norma comment that the descriptions of the robbers that appeared in the newspaper accounts fit the descriptions of herself and Frank. He then claimed that Norma said "Probably me and Frank done it," but later admitted that he took it as joking.
The jury returned a verdict of guilty against Frank. He was sentenced to the maximum penalty, fifteen years. Upon sentencing, Frank stated "Judge, you are sentencing an innocent man."
Norma's trial began November 6, 1929. The same testimony was given in her trial; however, she was acquitted of the charge. As she was leaving the Marshall County Court House, Norma was arrested on another robbery charge, this time for an inn owned by W.A. Willett in Cadiz, Ohio. Willett claims he was robbed by a tall, slim man and a short, stout young woman. She maintained her innocence and was extradited to Ohio. Once there, Norma was indicted and tried in the Harrison County Court. She was acquitted and returned to West Virginia.
After the trials, Norma found work as a waitress and raised her three children.
On January 5, 1931, some two years after Frank was convicted of robbing Cotts' filling station, Irene Crawford Schroeder and Walter Glenn Dague confessed to the robbery as well as the robbery of the inn in Cadiz, Ohio. Frank Howell was pardoned for the crime on January 14, 1931 by Governor Conley.
(Information found in the book Convicting the Innocent: Errors of Criminal Justice, Edwin M. Borchard, Chapter 18, pp. 105-111)
Norma Laveta Hoskins Howell (1897 - 1967)
Margaret Joan Howell Barnhart (1932 - 2013)*
Sandra Leslie Howell Davis (1937 - 2011)*
West Virginia, USA
Created by: kellybean
Record added: Jul 21, 2014
Find A Grave Memorial# 133131950