February 9, 1910
That Colonel Swope's death was not due to cerebral hemorrhage or any organic cause and that more of the deadly poison was indicated by the examination of the contents of the stomach, was testified to by Dr. Ludwig Hektoen, a Chicago pathologist at the inquest at Independence yesterday afternoon.
Dr. Hektoen followed Miss Kellar, the nurse who said that Colonel Swope suffered convulsions, following the administration of a capsule. She also testified that Dr. Hyde asked her to interest herself in having Colonel Swope appoint him executor in the place of Mr. Hunton.
Mrs. Maggie C. Swope was the last witness of the day and told of the will of Colonel Swope and that he had said that as soon as he was able he would go downtown to change it.
Whether Dr. Hyde will be put on the stand today is a question that was not settled yesterday. Dr. Hyde attended Colonel Swope in his last illness and certified the cause of death as cerebral hemorrhage or apoplexy.
Whether Colonel Swope's death was due to strychnine poisoning will be a hard fought question. That the symptoms are described by the nurse in her testimony yesterday were not those of strychnine poisoning, was the assertion of a chemist who was in attendance at the inquest.
The report as presented by Dr. Hektoen as to the findings of the analysis of the liver of Colonel Swope and his report on the post mortem together with expert testimony on the effects of strychnine poisoning, will be the principal points to be considered by the jury in determining the cause of death. That the jury will ask for some expert witnesses is the general belief of those who have heard the testimony and the questions which the jurors have asked.
Dr. Hektoen and Mrs. Swope were the centers of attraction yesterday. Mrs. Swope was present at the morning session. In the afternoon she was attended by three of her daughters who stood behind a garden bench on which she sat.
She was greatly interested in listening to the testimony of Dr. Hektoen and raised her veil during this time.
Dr. Hyde seemed to evince more interest in the testimony of Miss Kellar than in any other witness. He frequently talked to his counsel, Mr. Walsh, and later smiled at portions of Dr. Hektoen's testimony.
Miss Kellar's testimony, which preceded that of Dr. Hektoen, told of Colonel Swope's last day. She said she gave him a capsule at the request of Dr. Hyde. She told of the convulsions which followed 20 minutes later and which lasted for 10 minutes of his lapsing into unconsciousness and of giving him two or three, she did not remember the number, of hypodermic injections of strychnine by order of Dr. Hyde.
She said that Colonel Swope was unconscious during the entire day and breathed hard. His legs shook convulsively, he had a high pulse, and finally died.
It was 10:30 o'clock in the forenoon when Miss Kellar, the last witness Monday, was called to the stand. A part of the questions and answers she had made were read to her and she was questioned about the food that was given Colonel Swope during his last illness.
Miss Kellar said that no one other than she gave Colonel Swope food during his last illness. The most of this food was part of the regular menu for the balance of the family and occasionally she personally prepared light foods, such as rice. She obtained the raw materials from the supply pantry next to the kitchen. The regular meals were prepared by the negro cook. Miss Kellar described the house and the location of the various rooms.
"Dr. Hyde told me h e wanted a private talk as soon as I got through with the preparation of Mr. Hunton's body," said Miss Kellar. "This was a half an hour after Mr. Hunton's death. A couple of hours later I saw him in the sitting room upstairs.
" 'Isn't it awful?' he asked me, referring to the death. Then he told me he wanted to do something for him. He said that I had a good deal of influence with Colonel Swope and he wanted me to suggest to Colonel Swope that he select Dr. Hyde as one of the executors to succeed Mr. Hunton. He said that he understood Colonel Swope favored another whom he did not like.
" 'The minute I begin to interfere with the private affairs of Colonel Swope I will overstep my bounds.' I told Dr. Hyde and I left the room. Mrs. Hyde entered the room while we were talking, but stepped out. We all retired immediately after that conversation."
Miss Kellar testified again about telling the story of Mr. Hunton's death to Colonel Swope. She ate breakfast with Dr. Hyde, but had no conversation with him. Dr. Hyde came to Colonel Swope's room and Colonel Swope greeted him. Later, she said, Dr. and Mrs. Hyde went to Kansas City. In the afternoon Colonel Swope remarked that he would have enjoyed a ride had it not been for the death of Mr. Hunton.
"Colonel Swope ate well Saturday," said Miss Kellar. "I took his food off the stove, in the kitchen. Dr. and Mrs. Hyde returned about 10 or 10:30 p. m.
Dr. Hyde asked me if I had talked to Colonel Swope about the executor matter, and I said I had not. I don't think that Dr. Hyde went to Colonel Swope's room, as Colonel Swope always kept the door bolted.
"Sunday morning Colonel Swope remarked, to my surprise, that he had spent a better night than usual. I gave him his bath and then prepared his breakfast. I presume he had toast, breakfast bacon and eggs, and probably some fruit. We had breakfast about 8 o'clock or a little after, and I had hardly gotten started when Dr. Hyde came down. After greeting me Dr. Hyde asked if Colonel Swope had had his breakfast. I said he had, and Dr. Hyde asked me to go with him. He said he had those digestive tablets and that he had promised to bring to Colonel Swope and wanted him to have one now. We went upstairs to Colonel Swope's room. Then I remembered there was no cooler on that floor and returned to the first floor for a drink of fresh water. Dr. Hyde was standing in the middle of the room. Colonel Swope was lying in his usual position in the bed with his head at the foot. He always said that he could rest better upside down. Dr. Hyde handed me what I supposed was a three-quarter grain capsule. It was not dark and I suppose it contained either white or gray matter. He took it from a pink colored box.
" 'Here is your digestive tablet,' I told Colonel Swope. He showed antagonism to taking this capsule and I finally laid it on the table and looked at Dr. Hyde with a nod which indicated that I would induce the Colonel to take the medicine later. We returned to the breakfast table and then I went back to my charge.
"Mrs. Swope handed me two Independence dailies and The Journal and the Times of Kansas City. I took them to Colonel Swope's room and he adjusted his eyeglasses. He said that he would look over the Independence papers while I found the articles in the city papers concerning the death of Mr. Hunton.
"Before I handed him the papers I gave him the capsule. It was 8:30 a. m. I noted the time for his big gold watch was on the table. He began reading the Independence papers and I had found the articles in the Kansas City papers when I noticed him breathing hard, as if blowing. His eyes were set toward the west window and as I ran to his side and called to him 'What's the matter, Colonel Swope?' he made no reply but went into convulsions.
"It was then 10 minutes of 9 a. m., or twenty minutes after I gave him the capsule. His eyes then fixed upward and the pupils dilated and his face became cyanosed. He quivered all over. His eyes assumed an expressionless appearance.
"I called for help. I cried down stairs: 'Tell Dr. Hyde to come quickly.' I returned to Colonel Swope's side. He was not groaning, but the sound was that of an 'ah-ah.' Dr. Hyde did not come quickly enough and I called him for the second time. Mrs. Hyde came up before her husband. She said he would be up in a moment. He was in his shirt sleeves when he got up to the room. Miss Margaret Swope came to the door for an instant and Mrs. Hyde came inside. Dr. Hyde looked anxious. He felt Colonel Swope's pulse and in a few minutes declared 'Apoplexy, probably brought on by Mr. Hunton's death.'
"I don't remember just what Dr. Hyde was doing meanwhile. I was busy noting Colonel Swope's condition. In ten minutes he recovered from the convulsion and cried: 'Take it away, take it away.' I moved my hands as if removing an object, and he was satiated. Dr. Hyde then ordered me to give him a hypodermic injection of strychnine, one-sixtieth of a grain. As Colonel Swope slowly composed himself he said: 'Oh my God, I wish I had not taken that medicine. I wish I were dead.'
'This was a perfectly rational expression, I thought. He was very restless and Dr. Hyde ordered me to give him another hypodermic injection. I then looked for the pink box from which Dr. Hyde had taken the capsule. There was nothing in Dr. Hyde's actions which would have caused me to question anything he ordered me to do. Colonel Swope's pulse was very rapid. It was 140 and rapid and bounding. I don't remember whether I gave him two or three injections of strychnine. Shortly after the last one he lapsed into a state of coma.
"He never recovered from this condition. His eyes half closed and became fixed and the heavy breathing continued. His knees and legs twitched and once when I pulled the covers over him I noticed that his lower limbs were bluish in color. I called Dr. Hyde's attention to this. Dr. Hyde went to dinner first and when he returned I went downstairs. About 3 p. m. Dr. Hyde told me I might go outside for a bit of fresh air. I was glad of the opportunity to get outside and I chatted for a few moments with visitors.
"When I got back Colonel Swope's condition was the same. I noticed his legs and they were purple to the knee. He lay on his back and his limbs jerked. Dr. Hyde looked at the purple limbs but made no reply."
"Shortly afterward Colonel Swope seemed to rally slightly. As he did I turned to Dr. Hyde and remarked, 'I would hate to answer for the consequences when Colonel Swope recovers.' He asked why and I told him 'Because you know that he will connect his attack of illness with the taking of that medicine.' Dr. Hyde made no reply.
"It was not long afterward when Dr. Hyde, who was on the left side of the bed, declared that Colonel Swope was sinking. I had hold of his right wrist and said that I did not think so. I could not see that there was much change and told Dr. Hyde so. He then came over to my side of the bed and took the pulse there. He reiterated his assertion that Colonel Swope was failing rapidly. I don't remember what the count was , but I held his pulse the greater part of the day.
"The hypodermic injection was given with my instrument and the drugs were taken from my case. Dr. Hyde broke his while in Kansas City, he told me, and that was the reason I used mine.
"Shortly before 7 p. m. I was called to supper. Dr. Hyde said that he would remain with Colonel Swope. The family gathered round me in the dining room and asked as to Colonel Swope's condition. I told them that he might last until midnight, that he might last for a couple of days or that he might recover. I had been downstairs about twenty minutes, it seemed to me, when I was called. Mrs. Hyde was the first to meet me.
" 'All is over,' she said. 'Uncle Tom just passed away. He died so easily.' This was about 7 or 7:15 p. m.
"I hastened up to the room to prepare the body for the undertaker. I was left in the room alone and had scarcely finished when Dr. Hyde and Mr. Paxton came upstairs. They asked me for his vest and said that Colonel Swope had said that in the event of an emergency, his will would always be found in his vest pocket. Mr. Paxton got the will, and had me swear that I saw him take it.
"Colonel Swope told me many times about the will. He said that he kept it in his vest pocket, so that it would be easily found in an emergency. He also was fond of using the expression that he had just ninety more days to live.
"Dr. Hyde predicted early in the last illness of Colonel Swope that he would never go to Kansas City again. The symptoms of Colonel Swope's death were entirely different from those of Mr. Hunton.
"Shortly after Dr. Hyde and Mr. Paxton left the room, I happened to think of a check for $5,000 which Mr. Spangler had brought him a couple of days before and which I put in a puffbox. I grabbed the puffbox and hastened to Dr. Hyde and Mr. Paxton, telling them that I forgot about it when they were in the room.
" 'Present your bill to Mr. Paxton, the executor of the estate,' said Mr. Hyde later in the evening. 'Make it $35 a week, as we think that you were of much service to Colonel Swope and he was a wealthy man and left a large estate, and it was worth that much.' I told Dr. Hyde that I would only charge $25 and that was all my bill would be for. Later Mrs. Swope talked with me about it, and said that the family desired to make me a little present, and that this was the only way that it could be done. I assented when she insisted and put in my bill for $35 a week."
Dr. Ludwig Hektoen, who conducted the autopsy and carried the viscera of Colonel Swope to Chicago for a pathological examination and chemical analysis, was the first witness after the noon recess. Dr. Hektoen arrived in the morning, but spent the time in Mr. Paxton's office. He was the guest of Mr. Paxton at dinner, and then returned to his office, getting his grip and arriving at the court house at 1:30.
The jury was ready, but Coroner Zwart had not decided whether to put Mrs. Swope or Dr. Hektoen on the stand first. Dr. Hektoen's face was slightly flushed when he entered the court room, and was called to take the stand. He was a bit nervous and sometimes repeated questions which were asked him. He carried his notes in manuscript, which he had fastened together.
Dr. Hektoen said that he was 45 years old, and that he was a pathologist. He defined the word for the jurors' benefit. He said that on January 21, at the request of Mr. Paxton, he conducted a post-mortem examination and autopsy on the body of Colonel Swope. With him at the time were Coroner Zwart, Drs. Hall, Stewart, Twyman and Adkins. Dr. Hall assisted him and Dr. Steward took notes. His description was technial and he was asked several times to explain the technical phrases and descriptions to the jurors so that they could understand just what he was talking about.
Dr. Hektoen, in his testimony, said:
"The body was that of an old but apparently well nourished man. It was frozen solid, and showed no signs of decomposition. It was naked, and my attention was first called to marks on the wrists and ankles. I was told that these were undertakers bands, and had been made after death. We tried to thaw out the body, and then made an incision. I noticed that there were two incisions in the body, one in the arm and the other in the abdomen. Both were made by the undertaker, I was told.
There was no difficulty in making the examination, only in removing the organs from the body. There were some changes in the lower part of the aorta. Portions of this had degenerated and hardened. there were slight chronic changes in the kidneys and a tumor growth on the left kidney. This was an encapsulated tumor of about two inches diameter. It was yellow on the opened side.
The brain was divided into pieces and subsequently subdivided into smaller pieces in my laboratory in Chicago. This was done to inspect it for evidence of cerebral hemorrhage. There was no evidence in the brain or about the lining of the brain of any blood clot, hemorrhage or of the blood current carrying a clot into the brain. Neither was there any evidence of any disease. Had there been a clot or hemorrhage, the embalming fluid would not have carried it away or disturbed it.
A careful examination was made of the internal capsule or ventricles for evidence of a minute hemorrhage. Sometimes a hemorrhage in this section of the brain is minute, or it may be extensive. If the hemorrhage was so minute that it could not be detected by the naked eye it would not have been sufficient to have caused death. A hemorrhage in this section of the brain would be termed cerebral apoplexy.
A very thorough examination was made of the heart. It was normal, although it was filled with blood. The aorta was smooth to the part that runs down the chest wall. Here it was thick and showed calcified areas. This is common in old age. It was not extensive, and there were also indications of degeneration. Degeneration of a blood vessel is a softening of the tissues. The calcification is a hardening through a limy deposit. The blood in the heart was due to the efforts of the undertaker to force embalming fluid through the body. The clot was formed after death. There was no evidence of an ante-mortem clot.
The lungs were practically normal, although there was some congestion in the lower left lobe, but no condition which would be sufficient to have caused death.
The stomach was found to have been punctured by the undertaker. The puncture was not so much of a consequence. The organ was small and did not appear to contain much material. It appeared considerably contracted at the end which joins the small intestine. I ligated the stomach above and below and transferred it intact to one of the glass jars. On the gross examination I found nothing to account for this.
The small and large intestines were normal. In the descending colon were found a small polypoid growth wich hung free. This was not of a serious nature and co uld not have caused any gastric or digestive disturbances.
The pelvic organs were normal. In the lower half of the left kidney there was an encapsulated growth which I referred to before. This did not interfere with any vital organ. The spleen and the liver were of normal structure and size. The bladder and prostate were also normal.
After the post mortem examination was made I could not arrive at any conclusion as to the cause of death. There was nothing in the examination we had made which would have indicated a cause for death. I then put the organs I desired for chemical analysis into four half gallon glass jars and placed them in my suit case. I put the brain in one jar, the liver in another, stomach in another and kidneys in another. I took a small section of the heart for microscopic examination.
I personally carried this suit case to my laboratory in Chicago. There after a conference with Mr. Paxton I got Dr. Walter S. Haines, professor of toxicology in the Rush Medical College, to make the chemical analysis.
On February 5 I received a reports that indicated that the liver contained about a grain of strychnine. The circumstances under which the poison was found indicate positively that the introduction of the strychnine was during the life of the subject. The liver and other organs would absorb strychine if it were injected into the body after death, but the strychnine would have to be in solution and would be in all parts of the body.
"There is no way of telling by chmical analysis whether the strychnine reached the liver by means of hypodermic injection or through the mouth and stomach. If there was an unusually large amount of the poison in the stomach nd a small amount in the other vital organs it would indicate that the poison was administered thorugh the mouth. Still we might find a greater amount of the poson in the other organs than in the stomach and it would have been administered through the mouth during life.
"The examination on the contents of the stomach are still uncompleted. I have received no written report, but have received a verbal report that the examinations are being prosecuted. The report on the liver is not final, as the examinations now being made are to confirm the findings heretofore made. I have been informed verbally that there are indications that strycnine will be found in the stomach contents.
"The use of strychnine in medicinal doses could not cause death as a sufficient quantity could not be stored up in the organs. I don't know how fast it is absorbed and eliminated, but if the drug is given three times a day there is no danger of poisoning. One might find minute tracaes of the strychnine but not in such quantities as one grain. A fatal dose is generally believed to be half a grain. Smaller doses have caused death in many instances. A man might live several hours or he might die in one-half hour after he took a fatal dose. This would depend on the contents of the stomach and whether the drug was combined with some other drug."