On Wednesday, January 2, 1935, a man calling himself Roland T. Owen checked into the Hotel President in Kansas City in room 1046. Witnesses say he has aged anywhere from 20 to 35 with brown hair, a scar on his scalp visible above his ear, and a cauliflower ear. He was nicely dressed in a black coat.
The bellboy, Randolph Propst helped Owen to his room, where he reported that Owen seemed to have only packed a brush, comb, and toothpaste. The maid, Mary Soptic, said Owen allowed her to clean while he was in the room but asked that she not lock the door on her way out because his friend was about to visit the room very soon. Soptic said that Owen kept the shades tightly drawn and the lights off with the exception of one dim lamp.
Other staff members who entered the room also mentioned this detail. According to the maid statement to the police, she felt that Owen was “either worried about something or afraid.” Around 4 p.m., Mary Soptic returned with new towels, finding Owen laying on the bed, completely dressed in the dark with the door unlocked. She also saw a note that read “Don, I will be back “in 15 minutes, wait.”
The next day on January 3, Soptic came back to clean the room at a.m. She noticed that the door had been locked from the outside and assumed that Owen locked it as he was leaving the room. However, Owen was sitting inside, again with the lights off which meant that someone else had locked the door from outside the room.
While Soptic was still in the room, Owen answered a phone call and said, “No Don I don’t want to eat. “I’m not hungry, I just had breakfast.” What hotels allow you to lock a room from the outside?
Soptic came back around 4 p.m. to deliver fresh towels. She heard two male voices from inside the room. When she knocked, she heard a rough voice say “who is it?” When she explained that she had fresh towels, the man said “we don’t need any”, even though there were no towels left in the room.
During the night, a woman staying in room 1048 would report hearing loud voices, both male and female cursing on the same floor. Though there was apparently a party going on that night in room 1055. Now things begin to get very strange. The next morning on January 4 the hotel phone operator noticed that Owen’s hotel room phone had been off the hook for a while without being in use.
So, she sent the bellboy Propst upstairs to 1046. Despite the locked door having a don’t disturb sign, Propst knocked a few times and heard a low voice say “come in, turn on the lights.” However, the door was locked and no one was getting up to let him in. So after knocking repeatedly, Propst said “put the phone back on the hook”, assuming that Owen was drunk.
About an hour and a half later, the phone was still off the hook and another bellboy, Harold Pike let himself into the room with the passkey, using only the light from the hall, the bellboy Pike observed that Owen was in bed, naked, and seemingly drunk. He also noticed that the bedding was darkened around Owen. The phone stand was kicked over, so he fixed it and put the phone back in the receiver.
A few hours later the phone was once again out of the receiver. They sent the original bellboy Propst to resolve the situation.
When he opened the door, he stumbled upon a truly horrific scene. Here’s his statement to the police. “when I entered the room, this man was within “two feet of the door on his knees and elbows, “holding his head in his hands. “I noticed blood on his head. “I then turned the light on. “I looked around and saw blood on the walls, “on the bed, and in the bathroom. “This frightened me, and I immediately “left the room and went downstairs.”
Owen was discovered with extensive injuries. He had been tied up with the cord around his neck, wrists, and ankles. It appeared he had been tortured. Blood had even gotten on the wall and ceiling above the bed. He had been hit repeatedly on the head and his skull was fractured. He’d also been stabbed in the chest several times. His lung was punctured. There was bruising around his neck that could mean he was strangled. Remarkably, Owen was somehow still alive.
One of the detectives to arrive on the scene asked Owen about anyone else who had been inside the room. Owen responded “nobody” although he was hardly capable of talking and not fully conscious. He explained, “I fell against the bathtub.”
After this brief exchange with the detective, he was completely unconscious and was taken to the hospital. According to a doctor, the injuries on Owen’s body had occurred six to seven hours prior to Owen being discovered. That’s a long time to bleed, which means that by the time when they first went to go check on him when the phone was first off the hook, he was already injured at that point. He was already bleeding out and still said come in, turn on the lights. Unless of course, it wasn’t him, it was Don waiting to do more murdering.
Detectives found no weapon nor any of Owen’s belongings in the room, therefore removing suicide from the equation. Four fingerprints were found on the phone stand, potentially from a female. Owen would die after midnight on January 5th at the hospital. When Owen initially checked into the hotel, he mentioned he was from Los Angeles, but Los Angeles authorities were unable to find any record of a Roland T.
Owen, bringing into question whether that was the victim’s real name. His body was placed for viewing at Melody Mcgilley Funeral Home. As the story spread, more and more people began reaching out to Kansas City authorities to see if their missing loved one could be Owen, to no avail. Next police focused on the mysterious Don that Owen referred to several times while at the hotel.
Don was also conceivably the man with the deep voice that the maid heard through the hotel door. Nevertheless, the police’s search returned no results. Owen’s upcoming burial was announced by the Journal-Post on March third to be in a potter’s field. However, the Melody Mcgilley Funeral Home received a call from an anonymous individual who said they would send the money necessary for providing Owen with a proper funeral.
Somebody knows who he is and my suspicion, what if it’s Don? Why would he pay for his funeral if he killed him?
Sure enough, on March 23 money bundled in a newspaper, was delivered to the funeral home from an anonymous sender. Funeral flowers were anonymously arranged with the Rock Flower Company along with a card that said “love forever, Louise”, placed on Owen’s grave.
Skipping forward about a year and a half later, in 1936, a friend of Ruby Ogletree found an American Weekly piece chronicling the Owen case.
Upon looking at the magazine, Ruby correctly identify Owen as her son who left Birmingham in 1934. Owen’s actual name was Artemus Ogletree and he was only 17 years old. Ruby Ogletree, his mother, had actually received three letters from her son in the spring of 1935. However, these letters were delivered after Owen’s death and were typed, according to a sensational newspaper account of the murder case. This was especially suspicious because Artemus didn’t know how to type. This article also reported that the letter’s tone was “slangy and unfamiliar” to Ruby Ogletree.
After some time, it was revealed that Artemus Ogletree had also stayed at the St. Regis in Kansas City with another man, possibly Don. In the early 2000s, Dr. John Horner, the author of an exhaustive account of the murder case published by the Kansas City Public Library received an out of state call about Artemus Ogletree.
The caller claimed to find a box containing newspaper articles about the Ogletree murder in a deceased elderly person’s belongings. According to the caller, there was something else in the box that had apparently been referenced in the newspaper articles. Unfortunately, the caller did not say what that item was.
After that, the case would have no further revelations and would disappear into obscurity. And with that, let’s get into the theories.
The first theory is rather simple, that the man referred to as Don beat Artemus Ogletree to death in room 1046 and acted alone. As mentioned before, it came to light that shortly before his death, Ogletree had stayed in a different Kansas City hotel with another man, possibly Don. Don was also conceivably the man with the deep voice that the maid heard through the hotel door, but even if this theory is true, the police were never able to figure out who Don actually was.
The second theory is that the unknown Don didn’t act alone. This theory relates to an observation by Charles Blocher, the elevator operator the night of the murder. His observation also perhaps sheds a little light onto who Don could be.
On the night of the murder, Blocher saw a “commercial woman” going to the tenth floor. The elevator operator estimated that the woman was 135 pounds, and about 5 1/2 feet tall. She had dark hair and was wearing a coat of Black Hudson seal or imitation Hudson seal. She looked like she was dressed in very nice clothing, so they called her commercial woman. Anyways, I didn’t make up the name, that’s what they called her. Blocher claimed this woman was looking for room 1026 to meet a man she was unable to find. It’s possible that this woman was looking for Ogletree, and had mistaken room 1046 for 1026.
This commercial woman was also seen with a man from the ninth floor, a man that the elevator operator said was the same height and weight as the woman. Some speculate that this man could have been Don. If you’ll recall, there were fingerprints potentially from a female found on the phone stand, and a woman staying next door in room 1048 reported hearing loud female and male voices cursing, so it wouldn’t be unreasonable to suspect that this commercial woman and the man from the ninth floor could have been responsible for what happened to Artemus Ogletree.
However, there was nothing official on the woman or the man beyond what little was on the internet, and my own personal speculation.
The third theory comes from many sensational articles published in the following years that suggested Ogletree was killed for being unfaithful to his fiancee. I’d like to call to mind the announcement in the Journal-Post that Ogletree would be buried in a potter’s field, the announcement that appeared to prompt an anonymous caller to fund Ogletree’s funeral.
According to a sensational article, published in the Newcastle Sun, called Mystery Murder in Room 1046, that sequence of events went a little differently. The article states that a woman called the local paper to say “you have a story in your paper that is wrong. “Roland Owen will not be buried in a pauper’s grave. “Arrangements have been made for his funeral,” When asked to identify herself and what actually happened to the man still known as Owen at the time, she replied “never mind, I know what I’m talking about, he got into a jam” before hanging up the phone.
At the same time, a man called the funeral parlor where Owen was held and said “don’t bury Owen in a pauper’s grave. “I want you to bury him in Memorial Park Cemetery. Then he will be near my sister. I’ll send funds to cover the funeral expenses” The man apparently explained that Owen had jilted a girl he was engaged to and that in room 1046, Owen the man and the jilted girl had a “little meeting”.
Before hanging up, he said “cheaters usually get what’s coming to them”. Shortly after, the Rock Floral Company received a call asking for 13 American Beauty roses sent to Roland Owen’s funeral. The voice added, “I’m doing this for my sister”.
To this day, it is unknown what truly happened in the hotel room 1046. Was Ogletree held, prisoner? Was he actually punished for cheating on his fiancee? The case will, unfortunately, remain unsolved.