Hotel Sneak Thief St. Augustine Florida Florida Times-Union Crime Stories
Unknown Robbery at St. Augustine (Florida Times-Union, Feb 21, 1885) Thursday night a theif entered three rooms in the Edwards House at St. Augustine and robbed the inmates of about $75 in cash and a diamond stud valued at about $100. One of the gentlemen robbed, we understand, is a resident of Jacksonville, as usual, there is no clue to the thief.
Charles Pierce Court (April 19, 1894) This has been a most interesting day in Judge Call's court, made so principally by Col. F. W. Pope and Judge M. C. Jordan, attorneys for Charles Pierce, alias Charles Harris and Charles Leslie, indicted for hotel sneak-thieving, etc. entering a plea that the grand jury was improperly drawn; that the act of 1891 was set aside by the act of 1893, which leaves the drawing of juries for the clerk of the circuit court, who shall make the drawings fifteen days before the term, and that this jury to try Pierce was drawn by Judge Call under the repealed law. State's attorney demurred that the plea, was not well taken. Judge Call sustained the state's attorney. The trial was ordered to proceed, and Colonel Pope produced affidavits of their client setting out that in New York was a female witness who would proved the railway tickets and the trunk found in his possession were not his property, and had only been intrusted to his care. Judge Call was about to give the prisoner the benefit of delay when State's Attorney Hartridge informed the court that the state would admit the truth of the affidavits and proceed with the trial on another arraignment, and so the trial proceeded. The jury, after forcible arguments by Jordan and Pope for the defendant, and State's Attorney Hartridge and MacWilliams for the prosecution, found the prisoner guilty of the charge of breaking and entering Miss Augusta Scheer's room in Lynn's and stealing her diamonds. This is the first of eight indictments.
One of the features of this case is the capturing, through the shrewdness of Sheriff J. C. Perry, of a little box containing a couple of suits of underwear, a pair of common socks and a pair of No. 8 shoes, and also a letter written by Pierce to "Darling Carrie." The letter is long and full of pleadings that "Carrie" might aid him, and let him out of his unfortunate position by "going to a hardware store, buying a pair of hack-saws, then go to a shoemaker and have the outer-soles of a pair of No. 8 shoes loosened, and after removing the interior of inner soles place the saws, one in each shoe, and replace the soles with paste, blackening the soles to give the appearance of having been worn, and to remove suspicion." A pair of common socks and the underwear shall accompany the shoes." And then with "liberty and the money the lawyers want" he will fly to "Carrie," and they together will go to his native land and live happy together." To excite the sympathy of "Carrie" and urge her on in aiding his escape, he tells of how while in Florida, he drank too much wine, forgetting his love for "Carrie" he quarreled with a man, drew his pistol, killed the man, but unfortunately not the man who aroused his passion, but another man, and that he is in the law's clutches, under $20,000 bonds. He says "if she will join him in the scheme of sending the articles" above mentioned he "can save the $10,000 the lawyers will want." This letter got into Sheriff Perry's hands after it had fallen into the hands of the husband of "Carrie," a well-known Boston, Mass., broker by the name of Hoyt, who had a type-written copy sent to Perry, and as Perry had previously written for "facts" to Boston, the gentleman learned how to place the letter to its best advantage. It preceded the "hack saws," and gave the sheriff the "pointer."
Pierce was convicted.
(April 28, 1894) Followed by Females Hotel Thief Pierce Popular with Women. Pals were all very pretty Two of the Women are now under arrest. Pierce gave them the plunder. Believed Some of the Women Were in Jacksonville when Pierce Was Working St. Augustine.
Pierce's Five Women. There is now, through the exclusive efforts of the Times-Union and the New York World, a bright prospect for "Dr. Decker, Dr. Morgan, Charles Pierce," and many other aliases having the society of the "five sisters" now discovered as his accomplices in either stealing from guests at the various hotels or in disposing of the plunder. The five women are the two Vogt women, the handsome and sweet "Annie Helene" Decker of Manchester, N. J., another Anna, and the :"Helen Vogt" of New York, who was to swear that "Pierce was only intrusted with the plunder" and get him out of jail here. Two of the fair creatures are in limbo awaiting the requisition and the presence of the sheriff to escort them to the Hotel St. Johns. The other three sisters will visit St. Augustine later--in time for the fall term of the circuit court.
The Time-Union's head-lines the other day said Mr. Knott was instrumental in securing the arrest of Pierce. He secured the trunk, but Mr. Joseph Lynn and Mr. McOmber alone overhauled and caused the arrest of Pierce.
No doubt the operations of Pierce as a sneak thief in St. Augustine would have been curtailed had the warning communicated to Conductor Baker of the Jacksonville run that "that man sitting there is a hotel sneak thief" been heeded when Baker related the fact to the Florida's head clerk and when the porter of that hotel had told his suspicions to an official.
Conductor Baker tells the correspondent that a porter at a Jacksonville hotel posted him about Pierce, and said he was a sneak thief. Baker told the Florida house porter to look out for him as he (Pierce) got in his bus. The man was allowed to stay in the house over night, and in the morning the porter discovered him leaving by a back window, captured him and his bag and presented him to the clerk, who accepted his excuses and the fellow remained, ate breakfast and left. This was the time that Mr. Dresser lost his watch and money. The Pullman car conductor also mentioned the fact that "a sneak thief had gone to the Florida house." Engineer Vannerman, who runs Baker's train, saw Pierce on the train leaving Jacksonville, between the time Baker brought him over and that of his arrest, and it is reasonable to suppose that one of the women was in Jacksonville receiving the plunder and sending it North as fast as delivered by Pierce. This matter was known to the correspondent and talked about to those who might have interested themselves, but the official assured his informers that it was not so, as he knew there was not a crook in town, and the hotel people were reticent. As there are now here unclaimed articles in Pierce's trunk, and lots more now in Detective MacMahon's possession in Manchester, it is fair to presume that a goodly number of tourists got "tapped" by Pierce.
Pierce as Dr. Decker How he worked (April 26, 1894) She carried with her a small hand-bag. It is now definitely learned that the bag was loaded with the plunder that Decker sent from Florida. Detective McMahon, of the Ponce de Leon hotel, at St. Augustine, who captured Decker, was in Manchester today. Before he left the South he learned that Decker had shipped two boxes addressed New York. Both of these boxes were reshipped from New York to "Mrs. Dr. Decker, Manchester." Detective McMahon does not know the exact value of the bag, but he thinks that $5,000 would hardly cover the goods stolen and not yet recovered.
Dr. Decker did not tarry very long in Manchester, but while he was there he made the acquaintance of Postmaster Robers, who also keeps a general store. Dr. Decker won the genial postmaster's confidence and owes him quite a bill. Mr. Rogers has had two attachments placed upon the "doctor's" rig. As the vehicle was, in all probability, stolen, it is not thought the attachments are of any value.
How He Worked Lukewood. What interests the people of this place particularly in Decker is the star engagement he played in this swell resort last January. He drove into town and put his horse up at the Lakewood stables. He was dressed in the height of fashion. He called at Harrison's drug-store and asked Mr. Harrison's advice as to the best place for a physician to locate. Mr. Harrison said he thought that Lakewood had all the physicians it could comfortably support. On this occasion the doctor introduced himself as Dr. Morgan. He was not at all discouraged by Mr. Harrison's adverse opinion. He looked around for a suitable place to locate and settled upon the Clifton, a boarding-house near the Lakewood.
He immediately attempted a furious flirtation with the young women in the house. His distinguished manners captivated them. He told them of his studies abroad and gave the people in the house to understand that he was a physician of no mean ability. He practiced, however, merely for pleasure.
Dr. Morgan's social career was cut very short. He was seen one night by Manager Sterry, of the Lakewood, coming through a door used exclusively by the servants of the hotel. That same night one of the guests lost a roll of bills and a diamond pin. Mr. Sterry sent for a Pinkerton detective. The day following the robbery, a woman came to Lakewood. She rode on the same train as the detective. She was met at the depot by Dr. Morgan and taken to drive. Then she returned to New York. This woman is the same Morgan subsequently introduced in Manchester as Mrs. Decker.
The night the detective arrived Dr. Morgan was seen at the Laurel hotel. That same night Dr. John Hunt, of Camden, a guest was robbed of $2,000 worth of jewels. The Detective decided that Morgan was the thief and started to the Clifton to arrest him. Dr. Morgan was in his room when the Detective called. He heard him make an inquiry and opened his window, dropped his bag to the ground and followed it. He walked around to the stable got his carriage and drove off. A week later he settled in Manchester as a physician. His subsequent career has already been told.