Salt Lake (UT) Telegram
January 22, 1904
HIGH SCHOOL TEACHER OF BEDFORD, IND., ROBBED, ASSAULTED AND KILLED
Bedford, Ind., Jan. 22 – The body of Miss Sarah Schaefer, teacher of Latin in the Bedford High School, was found in a carriage house today. She had been assaulted and robbed and the body mutilated. The appearance of the shed indicated a struggle with her assailant.
Miss Schaefer came here from Elkhart, Ind., a year ago and was much admired. There is great excitement over the murder and bloodhounds will be given the scent.
Bloomington (IN) Courier
January 26, 1904
NOTE: The item below was abstracted by Randi Richardson from the original in part because of damage to the first column of a three-column article at the time it was microfilmed. It seems likely that the Bedford newspaper would have a similar story that is probably not damaged.
Joseph Heitger, a member of one of Bedford's most prominent families, was formerly a student and athlete at Indiana University in Bloomington but had been residing in Bedford at the time Sarah Schafer was murdered. It is alleged that he paid unwelcome attention to Sarah.
The police have thoroughly searched his room at the Heitger home and he absolutely denies any complicity in the murder. One of Sarah's roommates as well as another woman reported that Heitger had insulted Sarah after she spurned his advances.
Macon (GA) Telegraph
January 26, 1904
MAN IN THE OVERCOAT Believed to Be the Murderer of the Bedford, Ind., School Teacher
Bedford, Ind., Jan. 25 – Detectives at work on the mystery of the murder of Miss Sarah Schaefer believe that they have established a motive for the crime; they are satisfied that the tall man in the long overcoat that was seen lurking in the vicinity of the Johnson house is the murderer and that the man is the one who was annoying Miss Schaefer.
The police believe that this man was enamored of Miss Schaefer and that she had repulsed him. Brooding over his passion for the young woman, determined to have an interview with her, the police think the man had made up his mind to kill her if she again resented his advances.
Joseph C. Hefiger, whose name has been mentioned in connection with the case says he never called on Miss Schaefer and met her but once. Mayor Smith said tonight that the police had no evidence justifying an arrest.
Ellettsville (IN) Farm
January 29, 1904
A similar but different article appeared in the Bloomington Courier on January 26, 1904, page 1.
AWFUL CRIME AT BEDFORD
Last Friday morning Bedford was thrown into an excitement by the finding of the dead body of a young woman in a shed within two blocks of the public square. It proved to be the body of Miss Sarah Schafer, a brilliant little woman aged 23 years and a teacher of Latin in the high schools.
The murder of the young woman is surrounded by mystery that up to this time has baffled the officials and detectives who are working on the case. Miss Schafer had eaten supper at Mrs. Johnson's boarding house and at about 6:30 started to the house where she roomed about three blocks away. On her way to her room, it was necessary to pass an alley, and it was at this point where she was attacked, and a few yards down the alley under a shed was where the lifeless body was found the next morning by a cab driver who had gone to hitch to his vehicle. Who the murderer was and what was the motive are not known. It is the belief of many that she was assaulted by some vicious brute and to suppress her cries and prevent detection she was murdered. The skull was fractured in three places, the wounds having been made by a piece of fire brick. The condition of the clothing of the young woman indicated that a fierce struggle had been made by Miss Schafer and her assailant.
Judge Wilson was telephoned to at Bloomington, and he was greatly shocked at the crime and immediately offered a reward of $500 for the arrest of the murderer. The city council of Bedford offered $500 making a reward of $1,000. Judge Wilson, when at Bedford, boards at the time place where Miss Schafer did and was very favorably impressed with her.
Miss Schafer's home was Elkhart. She was the daughter of a prominent real estate dealer of that place. She has a sister and a brother who are residents of Chicago. Miss Schafer was a graduate of the State Normal at Terre Haute. It was her first year at Bedford, and she was succeeding well as a teacher.
The public schools of Bedford were not in session for several days but have reopened.
Every possible effort is being made to fathom the mystery and bring the guilty party or parties to answer.
Various theories have been advanced, and a few arrests have been made, but nothing definite has been brought out so far. A Chicago detective is assisting the mayor and county officials on the case. Suspicion has pointed somewhat to a medical student of Bedford named Joseph Heitzer, a former student of the state university, but a thorough investigation seems to clear the young man of any knowledge of the murder. He had called on Miss Schafer several times and had acted in a manner that she was disgusted with him and requested him to call no more.
The remains of the young woman were taken to Elkhart the first of this week for burial.
Springfield (MA) Republican
February 2, 1904
Coroner Plummer at Bedford, Indiana, yesterday filed his report of the inquest over the body of Miss Schafer. The coroner says that death was caused from wounds produced by a blunt instrument in the hands of a person unknown. According to his report, two weapons were used, the piece of firebrick to make the cut over the eye and some blunt instrument to produce the fractures.
Duluth (MN) News-Tribune
February 5, 1904
WILL SOON ARREST TEACHER'S SLAYER – Bedford, Ind., Authorities Say They Know Who Slew Sarah Schafer
Bedford, Ind., Feb. 4 – Those who are in touch with the investigation of the (Sarah) Schafer murder, which is being carried on by the board of inquiry and the detectives, have expected an arrest at any time, but there seems to be no prospects of an arrest before tomorrow at the earliest. People display signs of disappointment, and it is quite plain that in the event of an arrest it would be difficult to insure the safety of the prisoner.
It is believed that the crime rests on a prominent businessman not formerly suspected.
The motive for the crime was to secure letters. The suspect is trying to escape. A close guard has been placed on all outgoing trains. Late communications from Elkhart to Mayor Smith are said to be of vast importance in placing the guilt on a Bedford man.
The boarders at Mrs. Martha Johnson's boarding house are receiving threats asking that they obstruct evidence.
An official in a high position states positively that the mystery is unraveled and an arrest will follow as soon as the prisoner can be safely taken out of town.
Duluth (MN) News-Tribune
February 10, 1904
Bedford, Indiana, Feb. 9 – Deputy Prosecutor Fletcher today dismissed the charge against Elmer Browning who was held to the grand jury after a preliminary hearing jointly with Frank Evans, charged with the murder of Miss Sarah Schaefer. The prisoner was at once released.
Elkhart (IN) Truth
February 11, 1904
MCDONALD MAKES STATEMENT
Jeffersonville, Indiana, February 11 – George [sic] McDonald made the following statement to the officers at the reformatory yesterday: "My right name is William Parsons although I am known by the name of James McDonald. So far as the crime with which I am charged is concerned, I am as innocent as a man could be, but I have done wrongs in my life, and if I get forgiveness for them, I don't care what becomes of me in this case. I got into this through my own foolishness, made false statements before the court of inquiry. I can't explain why I did it, but I suppose it was because I wanted to make people think I knew something about the murder."
MADE MCDONALD KNEEL
Jeffersonville, Indiana, February 11 – Though several efforts have been made to wring a confession from James McDonald, now occupying a cell in the hospital building of the Indiana Reformatory under charge of murdering Sarah C. Schafer, the accused man stolidly protests his innocence.
After his arrest by detectives Reed and Smith, and with Sheriff Smith at his little shack on Ninth Street in Bedford last night, he was taken through the fatal L-street alley just to see what effect it would have. Detective Reed ordered McDonald to put his foot in what remained of a foot track made by McDonald near the telephone pole the night of the murder. He demurred and finally put the wrong foot forward. A moment later, he threatened Reed saying he would live to get even.
McDonald was then taken to the cab shed and told him to kneel down and ask God's forgiveness for his crime. He knelt down but would not pray, protesting his innocence.
Later, in the city hall, the torn and bloody garments of the girl were shown to him, and he was asked if he had ever seen any of them. His talk at this stage became somewhat rambling, but he said nothing to incriminate himself.
Enroute to Jeffersonville, Reed tried to get a confession. McDonald seemed solicitous about a little matter, and Reed told him that he should concern himself with making peace with God as he was on his way to the gallows a known murderer. The talk did not seem to affect the prisoner greatly.
Reed says McDonald is weakening and that when he told the prisoner he had ought to begin to pray, McDonald replied, "Well, maybe I had." McDonald asks that efforts be made to pacify [difficult to read] his wife who remains under surveillance.
Duluth (MN) News-Tribune
February 28, 1904
SCHAFER CASE AT BEDFORD, IND., MAY LEAD UP TO SUMMARY HANGINGS
Bedford, Ind., Feb. 27 – Dangling from a tree today at the entrance of the courthouse park were two ropes, each fashioned into a noose, bearing the names of persons mentioned in connection with the several investigations of the [Sarah] Schafer murder case. Among other things the inscriptions read: "If Lawrence County can't get justice, Jackson and Washington counties are ready to help."
The placards bore the names of S. B. Lowe, Eva Love, Judge J B. Wilson, Prosecutor Fletcher. The matter has created great excitement.
While many speak of the incident as a joke, others refer to the warnings of the Seymour vigilance committee in that city several years ago which was followed by the hanging of several persons known as the "Reno gang."
Kalamazoo (MI) Gazette
May 28, 1904
CLEARED OF CHARGE
Jury at Bedford, Indiana, Finds James McDonald Innocent of Murder of Sarah Schaffer
[By Associated Press]
Bedford, Indiana, May 27 – After being out three and one-half hours, the jury in the trial of James McDonald, charged with the murder of Sarah Schaffer, returned a verdict of not guilty. The verdict was reached on the seventh ballot. The first stood nine for acquittal and three for conviction. McDonald was formally discharged by the court and left the courtroom. There was no demonstration.
Typed and donated by Randi Richardson.
Webmaster notes: The murder victim's name appears with varying spellings in these articles. In the 1900 U. S. Census, a 19-year-old schoolteacher, Sarah SCHAFER, was listed at 803 Garfield Avenue, in Elkhart, Indiana, with her parents John and Elizabeth and younger sister Jennie.
The murder of Sarah Schafer was never solved and is still a subject of discussion on the world wide web. Try googling her name plus Bedford and these are just a few examples of what you'll find:
The Lawrence County History Center did a "Halloween walk" in 2011 which portrayed various persons involved in, or suspected of, Sarah Schafer's murder. History Center president Rowena Cross-Najafi generously made available to us the script which was used for this reenactment. It makes very interesting reading: