April 3, 1908
Mrs. Sarah Morasch testified yesterday in her own behalf before the district court jury in Kansas City, Kas. She was called by counsel for the defense to tell the jury of her whereabouts at the time of the murder of little Ruth Miller of Argentine.
On direct examination the story told by the defendant in many ways differed from that told by her daughter, Blanche, in connection with the doings of the Morasch family the night before and the night following the killing of the child. Some of her statements, according to court records, were diametrically opposed to statements made by both herself and Blanche at the preliminary trial in the South city court.
The testimony of the defendant was mostly a series of negatives. She positively denied having sent the box of candy to Ella Van Meter. She had never sent Ella any candy at all, had never in her life been the possessor of a grain of strychnine, and Ella had never written for her the address of the Millers at 634 Cheyenne avenue, she said. In regard to the baby alleged to have been adopted surreptitiously by Mrs. Morasch from the U. S. G. Hughes maternity hospital last January, the defendant likewise blocked all further inquiry about details from the prosecution and defense by an emphatic denial.
The baby had been in good health while in her hands, she said. She had not at any time claimed it as her own, as her neighbors unanimously testified, nor had she, at any time, said she was about to give birth to a child.
When in cross-examination the prosecutor parried with her answers and tried to pin her down to an acknowledgement that she wrote some of the letters exhibited, her voice rose shrill in reply:
"I wrote some of that letter, not all of it!" The damaging parts of the missives, she freely swore, had been inserted by someone else. As she leaned far over in her chair to designate the questioned sentences or paragraphs, the had with which she pointed shook perceptibly, and her voice frequently broke.
"Where was I February 11?" Why at home, of course. Where do you suppose I'd be?" the witness answered to one of the queries of the county attorney.
"I had just been let out of your office, Mr. Taggart, where you know you bluffed me and nearly frightened me to death, until I could jump into a river at the sound of your voice. I went straight home after quitting the court house. You told me there to go home and to pull down the blinds, lie on my back and think over all I knew of the Hughes home and then, if I remembered anything about it that I had not told you, to come back.
"I went straight to a rooming house across the line and hired a room and paid 25 cents down on it, leaving me with a nickel. I had started with only 35 cents."
"Did I knot tell you before you left my office," interposed County Attorney Taggart, "that you would never again be arrested on the charge of mistreatment of the Hughes baby?"
"Yes, you did, but I did not place much faith in it. You also told me that if I did not return to you with full information concerning the maternity home you would see to it I got a six months' jailing. You said I would be followed everywhere I went and that I could not escape you.
"I tell you, I went out of your office a nervous wreck compared with what I was when I went in."
As to the flight of herself and daughter, Blanche Morasch, form the temporary home at Eighth and Locust streets to Harrisonville, Mo., subsequent to the murder, defendant alleged it was inspired by a fear of the county attorney, who had bulldozed her, she said continually.
She said that on the evening of Wednesday, February 12, she had left the rooming house to buy bread for the children. Before she had gone far she turned a corner of a street and came face to face with Taggart standing on the opposite side of the street with his hat pulled well down over his eyes.
In great fear she had but then turned about without buying the bread, she swore, and had then fled to her room, there stating to her daughter, Blanche, that the two of them must at once leave the city and go to Wichita, Kas., or again face the juvenile court and Taggart on a charge of child abuse.
County Attorney Taggart then showed the witness the letter purported to have been sent by Mrs. Morasch to her daughter, Mrs. May Gillin, while on the flight to Harrisonville. It is "No. 8" in the exhibit.
Witness stated that part of the letter was in her handwriting and part in that of a girl at the farm house, where the two were stopping for the night. She said she had asked this girl to finish her letter to her daughter.
"Mayme was her name," testified Mrs. Morasch, "and I don't know what she might have added to my letter. She also wrote my signature on it."
"Now, you say you wrote the forepart of this letter. Are you responsible for the line on page two of which says: 'Did the police inquire about Blanche?' "
"The line does not say Blanche," replied the witness, sharply.
"Well, it indicates it by the letters, B and L together, with a dash following."
Mrs. Morasch took the sheet referred to and satisfied the prosecutor that the two letters spell 'me' and are no abbreviation at all. The lines following practically repeat the question, using the name Blanche spelled out in full. Mrs. Morasch denied having written that part of the letter, ascribing it to "Mayme," whose last name she could not recall. The defendant will be called upon for further cross-examination this morning. Counsel for the defense, Daniel Maher, will today call upon his assistant, Attorney Wooley, in regard to the mysterious not introduced by the defense as a sample of Ella Van Meter's handwriting where on the experts disagreed.
The case may not go to the jury before Monday.