Just a smalltown kid
Noble “Red” Holt was born September 9, 1891, to Elizabeth “Bettie” Surber and John M.P. Holt in Pulaski County, Kentucky. Red’s father, John, grew up on a farm in northern Pulaski County in a little community called Buncombe. Red’s mother, Elizabeth, came from a large family who also lived in Pulaski County. After marrying, Red’s parents settled on a farm in Buncombe, near John’s family. Unfortunately, sometime after Red and his brother, Joe, were born, their father goes missing from the records and is assumed deceased.
By the time Joe and Red were 8 and 10 years old, respectively, their mother was remarried to a man named Daniel Anderson. The family continued to live in the Buncombe community. Red lived with his mother, stepfather, brothers Elta and Joseph (Joe), and sister Nannie Anderson until he was old enough to leave home. From the resources we found, Red and Joe were friendly young men and very well thought of around the whole county. Later, we will see just how many people in Red’s hometown had a care for him in some way or another. In fact, the number of people who turned out for Red drew us to his story.
From "Little Queen City" to the Queen City herself
When Red was 21, by chance or circumstance, he ended up living on Plum Street in downtown Cincinnati Ohio. It is easy to imagine that Red worked for the railroad system that ran from Somerset to Cincinnati, or he traveled to Cincinnati by train and happened to find work there. Either way, in 1911, he lived in the Queen City, where he met the 16-year-old Daisy Davidson and married her on August 5 of that same year. Daisy was originally from the Cincinnati area.
Meanwhile, Red’s brother Joe married a woman named Cynthia (referred to as Syntha later on), and the two decided to remain in the northern parts of Pulaski County to raise their family. Though living more than 150 miles apart, in different states, Joe and Red remained close through the next few years. We don’t know if Red was close to the rest of his family, but if we were asked to guess, we would bet that Red maintained a strong relationship with his other family members as well as strong ties to Pulaski County. That is, for the most part.
As his nickname indicates, “Red” was known for his fiery red hair. We can assume from the story details that he had a spit-fire spunk to match his hair. We also found information that points to Red being an incredibly charismatic, easy-to-like young man, especially in his hometown. We imagine that his charisma followed him northward, too.
Note: Red’s draft card describes him as medium height, medium build, blue eyes, and red hair. His brother Joe was described as brown-haired, blue-eyed, and weighing around 155lbs.
As mentioned, we decided to draw a line of direct probability to Red moving to Cincinnati and meeting Daisy due to the railroad route that ran from Somerset to Cincinnati. To further substantiate the probability, in 1917, he was working as a signalman for the railroad, according to his draft card. While working as a signalman for the Southern Railroad Co., he was assigned to the Northern Division, or District 1, which operated out of Ludlow (KY) and ran from Cincinnati to Danville. Red and Daisy, along with one of their boys, Alvin, lived in Kenton County, Kentucky. Red was around 25 or 26 then. It is entirely possible that he had been working for the railroad for several years by this point, and it would make perfect sense for the family to live in Kenton County.
The entire Southern Railroad Company route was divided into three districts at the time:
District 1 (Northern Division), Cincinnati to Danville.
District 2 (nicknamed “The Rathole”), Danville to Oakdale, Tennessee.
District 3, Oakdale to Chattanooga
Of course, “The Rathole” named for its steep grades, tight curves, and 27 tunnels, ran through King’s Mountain, Burnside, Sloans Valley, Greenwood (McCreary County), down to Oakdale, Tennessee. There isn’t a paper trail that takes Red down the south route, but it is an interesting bit of knowledge for our fellow southern Kentuckians.
Note: To see pictures of the abandoned “Rathole” tunnels, visit the Abandoned webpage: https://abandonedonline.net/location/cincinnati-southern-railway/
It is safe to say that Red likely had a decent knowledge of how the railroad system worked, the people and positions, the connections, the routes and stops, and perhaps some inside knowledge about how the payroll got from point A to point B. The rails from Somerset went straight through to Cincinnati, with several connections along the way. It will be important to remember that the rails had several connections and ran through Georgetown and Covington (KY) into Cincinnati (OH).
Off the rails
One year after the paper trail confirms Red was working for the railroad, we located a record in an Ohio registry that logged Red and Daisy as living in Cincinnati, Ohio, with their oldest son Alvin and a newborn named Victor. Now Red was working as a “car repairer,” and the family lived at 2122 Hatmaker Street in downtown Cincinnati. Their home was just over the Ohio River and a little west of access to the railroad - in reasonable walking distance. Their home in 1917 was located across the river in Crescent Park, on the outskirts of Covington (KY). The map shows the three places Red and his family lived from 1911 to 1918 and the general location of the railroad tracks.
Wrong side of the tracks
“You’d find it easier to be bad than good if you had red hair. People who haven’t red hair don’t know what trouble is”. –Anne of Green Gables
We don’t know why Red left his job at the railroad company or why he decided to become a car mechanic. Even now, a job with the railroad is considered a solid income. Nevertheless, from later court testimony, it was stated that Red hooked up with a gang that was suspected of running a stolen car ring, with possibly up to one hundred cars involved. We found evidence of an open investigation for stolen vehicles, which mentioned Red, but he was never charged or convicted, which we could find in the records. Back in 1922, car theft was becoming a hot crime. In some of the northeastern bigger cities, for example. More car thefts occurred than we would have guessed. (See table 1)
Private detectives from the Crim & Ryan Detective Agency, Cal Crim and Paul Ryan, said they had been on Red's heels for some time pertaining to several robberies and the string of auto thefts.
Robbery of the Ludlow First National Bank messenger
It is safe to say that something happened, and Red either associated himself with a group of men that were implicated in an illegal enterprise, or he was directly involved with them. Whatever the circumstance, he could not avoid suspicion and a subsequent indictment in the robbery of a messenger and a guard carrying the railroad payroll from Ludlow First National Bank in Covington (KY) in February of 1922. The two men were robbed of the $7,000 payroll for the C. NO. & TP Railroad. Although implicated, Red would deny involvement to the end. However, Red found himself with bigger problems in the very near future.
Where did things go so wrong?
A couple of months after the February robbery, in April 1922, the Kentucky and Ohio authorities were tracking Red. They wanted to talk to him about his involvement in the holdup. Even though he knew he was a wanted man, Red wasn't doing much to hide out and remained in the Cincinnati area. The private investigation company that the First National Bank of Ludlow had hired to catch the thieves had been hard on his heels for almost a month trying to run him down. In late March or early April, the two private detectives, Ryan and Crim, said they had Red's last known residence at 2121 Storrs Avenue surrounded, but he was somehow able to escape. Red himself admitted that he was shot on the fly by a couple of railroad detectives a few days before the next run-in with the law. Ryan and Crim said that they were in the process of gathering a posse of eight detectives to charge a known rendezvous at Third and Broadway streets in Cincinnati, along with a house in Kennedy Heights where Red was known to hang out. Later they would testify that Red was known as a "heartless desperado," and detectives and the police were warned to use the utmost caution when they thought they were close to capturing him.
The Chief of Detectives for Cincinnati, Emmett Kirgan, confirmed that Red had been implicated in an auto theft ring spanning over three years. He was also a suspect in several Kroger store robberies in Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky. The authorities believed that Red started his criminal career around 1918 – about the time he left the railroad, moved back to Cincinnati, and became a car mechanic. A mechanic on paper, at least. At that time, police say, that he abandoned Daisy and their two boys, who were now ages 3 and 5. Daisy said that Red left her while they were still living at the Hatmaker Street address, and she was forced to move out of that residence and live with her sister, Mrs. Louise Messamore, who worked at a downtown bakery and lived nearby on Neave Street. Red would admit that he spent most of that time (1918-1922) unemployed and went as far as St. Louis (MO) looking for work.
Daisy and Red were married for eight years when things turned upside down. Around 1919, Daisy went to the Human Society (now called social services) at least three times to complain that Red was not providing for the family. Warrants were issued, and Red would be hauled into court each time, and each time he would promise to provide for his family. The last time Daisy went to the social services office for another warrant for Red was in November of 1921. By this time, Daisy said that her husband had forgotten her and their boys' existence, and what little support he would give her in the past had stopped entirely.
When the detectives interviewed Daisy following the February bank robbery, they said she implicated Red in the robbery (railroad payroll). Detective Ryan said that Daisy told him that after three years of mostly being absent, Red came to her later in the day after the robbery took place, and offered to go straight and live with her again if she would take him back. On that same day, Daisy took him back and left her sister's house to go with Red on a car trip to Somerset to visit family. On the day after the robbery, Red and Daisy stopped at a hotel in Frankfort (KY). Daisy told authorities that a man named William "Peck" Kolb and a woman were with them at the hotel.
While Daisy was telling this story to the detectives in Ohio, "Peck" Kolb was in Kentucky being held in custody in connection to the robbery.
Unfortunately, shortly after the trip to Somerset, things fell apart again, and Daisy was once again on her own - Red was nowhere to be found.
Shot in the dark
Finally, on April 5, 1922, Red and three other men were standing around loitering and drinking whiskey in a doorway of a residence in downtown Cincinnati when the authorities closed in on him. Red said he saw a flash a light from behind, and then someone started firing a gun at the four men as they ran. While running away, Red received a gunshot to his leg but was able to avoid capture on that day. Red was wounded but only slightly.
In broad daylight
As strange as it may seem, Red still didn't leave Cincinnati even after being shot and nearly captured or killed. Instead, it was business as usual when he turned up at a notary's office on Garfield Street to have a car bill of sale notarized. It must have slipped his mind that police were looking for him and that his red hair made him an easy target to identify.
The notary, Mrs. Amanda Blymyer, told the Cincinnati Commercial Tribune the events that unfolded on April 15, 1922:
"Holt and Harry Goldblatt came in and said they wanted to have a bill of sale notarized. Holt, who gave me a different name, had the papers. He wanted to sell an automobile.
According to orders from police, notaries are not allowed to execute a bill of sale until they get the record of the automobile from police headquarters. So I told the men to sit down, and I would telephone the police. There were three copies of the bill, one white and two yellow. When I looked through them, I found that the names were different in a couple of places. I became suspicious. But, anyway, I had to let the police know.
I can't for the life of me understand why Holt didn't run then instead of waiting until the police came. I used the telephone in the same room, and Holt heard me talking. The men were sitting not four feet from me.
The police Sergeant usually looks up the record of the automobile and then calls me back. But today, he said he would send two detectives over at once, and I should hold the men there. So, I turned around to them and told them to wait for a few minutes while the men at headquarters were finding out about the automobile. Holt seemed perfectly satisfied and said he would wait. I sat near the window where I could watch to see when the detectives came. I kept talking to Holt and Goldblatt to keep them there for a few minutes. Pretty soon, Holt said he had forgotten something. He had to have the papers recorded at the courthouse. He said he would be right back. I couldn't very well hold him, so Holt left. Goldblatt stayed behind to wait for him.
Pretty soon, a man came in who said his name was Murphy. He said he had the automobile outside that Holt was going to sell to Goldblatt. He wanted to know where Holt was. I told him, so he said he would stay.
In a few minutes, Holt came back. Then we waited.
I saw the detectives come along and then walk up the front steps. I opened the door for them. 'These are Detectives Hueftlein and Guethlein,' I said to the men in the room. 'They've come to look at these papers.'
Holt had them, and he handed them over to Hueftlein.
‘Get up,’ said Hueftlein. 'Let's see what you look like.'
And then it started; I heard nothing but shots. The three men seemed like one person; shots rang out, and all of them went into Hueftlein's body. He fell to the floor. Then Guethlein rushed at Holt. They crashed against the mantelpiece. Everything was getting torn up. Holt shot Guethlein, and he fell.
I ran to pick him up, and Holt jumped right over me. Guethlein was bleeding terribly. I don't know where on earth Murphy went. Goldblatt ran over to the window to get out of the way.
I can thank my lucky stars I wasn't hit. My, I can tell you, I heard that bullet whistle right close to my ear! I know what war is, you bet.
Look here where the shots went. Look at this door here. And here, too. I don't see how in the world Holt could have shot here. It's right in the back of where he was standing. Oh, it was all over so quickly; it was like a nightmare. I won't ever forget this as long as I live!
Hueftlein was a good man. I am sorry that such a man as Holt should have shot him."
Following the scuffle and shootout inside the notary building, Red took off running out of
the shop. He was hit in the arm, but it didn't slow
him from sprinting through the alley to Seventh street, down to Vine Street, and then south on Vine to the middle of the block
where someone grabbed him from behind. The two men struggled in the street as an officer ran up and took the gun away from Red's hand. Red said one of the patrolmen stepped back to hit him with his club, but another officer stopped him. The police officers took him into custody and led him back to Seventh and Vine Streets, where they were preparing to take him to the police station. Red said that while other police officers and a crowd gathered, he had been hit with a club four or five times before the same officer told the others to stop
and take him to the hospital as quickly as possible. Red claimed that some of the officers continued to strike him with their clubs and fists on the way to the hospital.
After they reached the hospital, Red said the officers showed him a partly undressed man in one of the wards, which he learned afterward was one of the officers he shot at the notary's office, Detective Guethlein. The hospital bandaged the cuts on Red's face and hands, and then the officers took him to police headquarters.
Red said that after getting to police headquarters, the first thing he remembered was sitting in a chair when Chief Detective, Emmett Kirgan, came in and tried to strike him with his gun. The Chief missed but kicked the chair out from under Red. After that, Red said he couldn't remember much the rest of that day or in Police Court the following day.
Three days after the shootout, the newspapers reported that Red entered a plea of guilty to the murder of Detective Hueftlein and the wounding of Detective Guethlein with a "devil-may-care" attitude. When Red pled guilty before Judge W. Meredith Yeatman in Felony Court, the courtroom was filled to capacity with curious people who wanted to get a look at Red – the cop killer. It was said that people were even spilling out of the hallways leading to the courtroom. As anyone would guess, Red had to be heavily guarded as threats were made after killing a well-known and well-liked police officer. It goes without saying that the Court and police were a bit anxious and hoping a mob didn't organize out of the crowd to wreak havoc on an already strained department.
Chief Detective Kirgan repeated to the Court the following response from Red when questioned:
"You can ask me anything you want. If I know about it, I will tell you. It doesn't make any difference to me now. I have confessed and entered a plea of guilty, so let's go to it, get the thing over with as quickly as possible and save the county a lot of money".
Perhaps Red would not have entered a guilty plea if he knew that he would be tried under a recent law enacted by the Ohio Legislature in 1921, which provides that any person who kills an officer of the law while performing his duty can be charged with first-degree murder. Red's case would be one of the first to test it.
After pleading guilty, Red was bound over to the grand jury without bond, taken to the county jail, and remained under heavy guard. Throughout the hearing and during conversations with the detectives, they reported that Red acted as though he expected to pay the price for killing and wounding the detectives. Chief Kirgan told that Red said, "I am sorry now that I killed the old man. I went for my gun, and he went for his, but he was not fast enough. That's all there was to it."
Red's attorneys argued the best they could for him throughout the trial, but there wasn't much to do with a guilty plea for first-degree murder other than to try to keep him from the electric chair. In doing so, they argued against trying him under the new law that made killing an on-duty police officer a death penalty case. However, their original arguments did not succeed, and the trial moved forward.
Hundreds of people attended and crammed in the courtroom as tight as sardines during the trial. The papers said during the proceedings that Red sat with his eyes almost closed and his head resting on his hand. Occasionally he would change position, but he never looked up to see who was in the courtroom. "He seemed to have no interest in what was going on about him."
All through the trial, Red's brother Joe was there. Before he was allowed into the courtroom, the Judge issued orders to Deputy Sheriff Stagnaro to search him for weapons. This may seem like a normal process now, but it was rare back in the early part of the 1900s before metal detectors and the scanning processes of today. Even so, Joe consented to the search and quietly took a seat as close to Red as he could get.
During Detective Guethlein's testimony, he said, "we had finished examining the bill of sale when I asked Holt if that was all he had to show and asked him to stand up. Uttering a weird noise, Holt leaped to his feet, drawing a revolver as he did so. Before I could reach for my gun, he had shot Frank (Hueftlein) and turned his gun on me. He fired twice and then knocked me down.
The noise of the shooting and the concussion deadened my senses. I had a sharp pain in my left arm, but with my right arm, I swung at Holt. Then I knocked the receiver from the telephone by butting it with my head and called for the police. As I did so, Holt ran from the room. I turned to Detective Hueftlein, who was crumpled up on the floor. His lips moved, and I read the message telling me to call the wagon."
It was during this part of the testimony that Mrs. Hueftlein collapsed. To add to the show, a physician was called to the courtroom, and women spectators helped revive her. A newspaper reporter noted the drama, "Mrs. Hueftlein turned her head slowly toward Holt, and as her eyes rested on his downcast face she collapsed and fell in the witness box". (We do sympathize with Mrs. Hueftlein)
During cross-examination, Holt said he had not been in Cincinnati very long, having been away for three years. He said he came back to Cincinnati around February (1922) and lived on Seventh Street. Red admitted that he was not employed but had tried to get work with the railroad without success. Red went on to tell that he was back and forth over the three years and went all the way to St. Louis looking for work, where he was a porter in a hotel for a short time. Red said he had a rooming house on West Eighth Street, which he sold to Murphy - the man who came into the notary shop looking for him just before the shooting. He had bought a Paige automobile for $325, which he had traded to a woman for the rooming house. Murphy was to pay him $300 for the rooming house, but he never received the money. While giving his testimony, the prosecutor made several attempts to show that all of these purchases and sales were faked, and that Holt was using various names. However, the Court sustained objections, and the prosecution couldn't get far with trying to tie Red to other crimes outside of the shooting.
The prosecution also tried to get Red to say that he knew that it was a police officer that shot him in the leg on April 5, and he was "just waiting for a chance to get even" when he shot the two detectives ten days later. Red denied the prosecutor's accusation. Red maintained that he was unaware that the two detectives were police officers since they were not in uniform during the entire ordeal.
Conviction and sentence
The trial came to a close, and Red was ultimately convicted by the jury in Common Pleas' Court and given the death penalty for killing an on-duty police officer. However, the newspapers said that "Holt accepted the sentence with an air of indifference."
Shortly after, on July 6, 1922, Red was moved from the Hamilton County Jail to the Ohio Penitentiary in Columbus to await execution by electrocution. His case was appealed to both the Court of Appeals and the State Supreme Court.
As Red moved his appeals through the courts, other cases were being heard, and other aspects of his life of crime were being brought to light.
Share of the loot
On July 6, 1922, the day Red was sent to Columbus and placed on death row, the Cincinnati Times-Star reported that a woman named Rose Kline was arrested by detectives and charged with being a fugitive from justice. Miss Kline, who said she was a waitress, was said to be a sister-in-law of Noble "Red" Holt. The paper reported that the woman supposedly received Red's share of the robbery money in the amount of $1,500. She denied the charges and fought extradition to Kentucky. She was extradited, but it is currently unknown what happened with Rose Kline's case or how she was related to Red. We think that Rose Kline may also be known as Rose Kolb, who does have a connection to one of Red's associates – William "Peck" Kolb.
William “Peck” Kolb and the Kentucky bank robbery
In October 1922, only a few months past Red's murder conviction, George Denham and Charles Davis were on trial for the Covington bank messenger robbery. William "Peck" Kolb ended up confessing to the robbery, implicating Red and the other three men with him.
Shortly after the robbery took place, indictments were issued for Kolb, Red, Denham, and Davis. Denham and Davis heard of the indictments and turned themselves in. Kolb, who didn't turn himself in, had a run-in with the law in March (1922) on an unrelated issue and ended up landing in jail anyway. At first, Kolb denied any involvement, but after being confined for months, he broke down and confessed to the authorities.
In a Kenton Circuit Courtroom, Kolb took the witness stand and stated that he participated in the robbery along with Red.
Kolb testified that Red, Denham, Davis, and Clark (only known by Clark) participated in the robbery. Kolb said that Denham talked to him over the telephone two weeks before the holdup of the bank employees, asking him to get an automobile truck to go to Georgetown (Ky) after a load of cigars and cigarettes. Kolb said Denham asked him how he would like to get in on a job that would net him $15,000. Kolb said that he could not get a truck, and this attempt was abandoned but then went on to talk about how the next plan to get money played out.
While on the stand, Kolb outlined the movement of the bandit car on the day of the robbery. He said that everything had been rehearsed carefully by Denham, Davis, Holt, Clark, and himself and that the two bank employees – one messenger and one guard - were followed when they drew the payroll from a Cincinnati bank and went with it to the Dixie Terminal to take a car to transport the payroll to the railroad.
Kolb went on to say that he and his companions saw which streetcar the bank employees entered, ran outside to their waiting getaway car, and beat the streetcar across the suspension bridge to Third Street, where they changed the license numbers on their getaway car and then sent Davis to the C.&O. bridge to keep that avenue of escape open by having him tell all who tried to cross the one-way passage that it was being repaired. They took advantage of the fact that there was a tollkeeper only at the Cincinnati end of the bridge.
Kolb said that Denham and Davis couldn't be seen near the Dixie Terminal because they would be recognized, both being well known in Covington. Denham drove the getaway car nearby while Holt, Clark, and Kolb entered the streetcar and took the money from the bank employees. The getaway car then sped to the C.&O. bridge, picked up Davis (who was on the KY side of the bridge diverting traffic), and escaped over the thoroughfare to Cincinnati, where the loot was divided.
When questioned, Davis denied knowing Red Holt but said he had been acquainted with "Peck" Kolb as a railroad man for several years. More than forty witnesses acted as alibis for Davis and Denham during the trial to no avail. It must have been true that the two men were well known and liked in Covington.
It had been expected that Daisy, Red's wife, would testify for the prosecution in this case because she had told Cincinnati detectives that she and Red met Kolb and a woman at a Frankfort hotel after the robbery, but she was not called to testify. Instead, however, Mrs. Rosa Kolb, possibly also known as Rosa Kline, testified that she had obtained a divorce from her husband because of his behavior.
After two hours of deliberation, the jury found Davis and Denham guilty and sentenced them to five years each. Unfortunately, the authorities never found Clark's real identity, and Red was already on death row for first-degree murder. It is unknown what kind of sentence Kolb received, but we guess it was likely much reduced for testifying and putting an end to the robbery case.
Appeal and outcome
Red's attorneys made an appeal on the constitutionality of the new Ohio law that made it first-degree murder to kill an officer while he is discharging his duty.
On March 23, 1923, Red was notified that his last appeal was denied, and he would die in the electric chair precisely one month later, on April 27, 1923.
Henry Street, one of Red's attorneys, accompanied by Timothy Hogan, former State Attorney General, spoke with Ohio Governor Donahey the day before the execution was to take place. However, the assistant prosecutor of Hamilton County was prepared to thwart any eleventh-hour attempt to save Red's life. Red had already been granted two stays of execution, but Governor Donahey refused to discuss a third, and he refused an audience with Red's wife, Daisy. Daisy was able to talk with Executive Secretary Russell, but Russell could not give her any hope for further postponement of her husband's death.
On Friday, April 27, 1923, Noble "Red" Holt died in the electric chair at the Ohio State Penitentiary at 12:07 a.m. for the murder of Detective Frank Hueftlein.
Holt entered the death chamber with Major Walter Collins of the Volunteer Prison League and Chaplin T.O. Reed. According to the Cincinnati Commercial Tribune, he appeared slightly nervous as he sat down in the chair and closed his eyes.
A prison official told the newspaper that one application of current for a period of one minute was sufficient to bring Red to his end. He made no final requests and volunteered no information on the crime for which he was sentenced.
The night before the execution, Red was calm and composed and talked freely of his approaching death in the death cell. "If I have to die, I'll go with a clear conscience," he said.
No member of the Cincinnati Police Department was permitted to witness the electrocution under a ruling of Warden P.E. Thomas.
Return to the "Little Queen"
More than 3,000 were in attendance at Red's funeral
Red's body was taken to his brother, Joe's, house in Eubank the day after he was electrocuted - Saturday, April 28, 1923. That Sunday, Red was laid to rest at the Freedom Cemetery in Science Hill, Pulaski County. More than 3,000 people turned out for the funeral to witness the formal proceedings and pay last respects. Red sent instructions for Reverend George Thompson to conduct the services. Joe saw to it that Red's wishes were met.
Many, if not most, of the people in the crowd were said to have known and liked Red since his birth.
Daisy told The Commonwealth newspaper that she refuted the information in the Times-Star that said Red had money from the robbery and that the newspaper said she only spent a short time with him before his death. She said she spent all of Wednesday and Thursday up to 6 p.m. with him. The only reason she did not visit longer Thursday night was that she was refused admittance. She also wanted the community to know that she was refused an audience with the governor when she requested to beg for a stay of execution on behalf of her husband.
Letters to home
In the May 2, 1923, edition of The Commonwealth, several of Red's letters to his brother were published.
After the funeral, Joe permitted The Commonwealth newspaper to print the letters from Red that he read at Red's funeral. Unfortunately, the newspapers preserved from the 1920s are in poor condition and are hard to read, but here are Red's letters to Joe, as they appear in the paper (missing or illegible sections denoted with --):
"Columbus Ohio, April 25, 1923
Mr. Joe Holt, Eubank KY
I will drop you a few lines this morning. I am feeling about the same I was when you was here. Hope all is well with you. No, Joe I haven't had a visit since you was here, and it will be alright if I don't get any, I will get along alright, anyhow.
Joe I don't want you or Syntha, or any of my friends to hold any malice against Daisy or her people. God forgives and so must we. She is suffering more now than I am, or Mr. Gutelan and -- Mr Hueftlin is not --. So I want you to treat them just the same as if nothing happened.
Joe give the boys all my love and best wishes. I hope you and Syntha have many happy years together yet. I don't know if I will write any more or not for we can't tell what the next hour will bring forth. But if I don't get to write any more, be good and prepare yourself. I will meet you in a better place. So don't worry about me, I am alright with God and there is nothing left -- that I have not done to make it right. So be good and send my best regards to all my friends and relatives.
I hope you will be blessed with Gods --- blessings forever.'
From Noble Holt"
"Columbus Ohio April 27, 1923
Mr. Joe Holt, Eubank KY
I will write you a few lines as my – (death) is in a few hours and I feel fine. I know I am going to a better place and I hope to meet you all there. Give Syntha my love and the babies as well, and my friends my best regards.
Daisy spent the day with me and we enjoyed ourselves very well and we parted with a smile. So be good and prepare to meet me in Heaven.
Joe I want you to send Daisy that watch for Alvin's birthday as he is expecting it and she has not got a divorce at all and I promised it to the boy.
I am wishing you many happy years together with peace and good health. And don't forget to get ready to meet your maker for that is the most important of all things that man can do.
With love to one and all forever, good bye. '
To Joe from Noble."
Another letter written to his brother which was not read at the funeral:
"Columbus, O., 3-23 1923 (March 23, 1923)
Mr. Joe Holt, Eubanks, KY
I will answer your letter received last evening. Glad to hear that you are getting along as well as you are. I have been sick since Sunday. I think I will be alright soon. Joe, the court turned me down and set my date for April 27. I want you to come at once, if possible. I did not get a fair chance. Come at once. I will tell you all. I will close, with love. Answer soon.
Bring this letter with you for identification.'"
Joe went to Columbus and remained with Noble several days before the execution.
Legacy – Case Law
One of the first cases tried under a new Ohio statute
Ohio passed the law that would mean the end of Red in June of 1921. The law stated, "whoever purposely and willfully kills a policeman in the discharge of his duty is guilty of murder in the first degree, and shall be punished by death."
Red's attorneys initially argued against the charge of murder in the first degree in this case, claiming that it was unconstitutional in that it discriminates between police officers and ordinary citizens and constitutes "class legislation." Judge Roettinger ruled against the argument, holding that the law was constitutional.
Red's counsel then argued whether the count of the indictment should not have set forth that Red knew at the time of the killing that Detective Hueftlein was a police officer and was in the performance of his duty. The Court took this question under advisement but later upheld the indictment. The attorneys further argued that Red did not shoot and kill Detective Hueftlein with premeditation.
After the jury returned with a guilty verdict and Red was sentenced to death, an appeal was immediately sent to the State Supreme Court. The verdict and sentence were upheld by the Supreme Court and returned to Red on March 23, 1923.
To read more about the Supreme Court decision, look up 140 NE 349 (Ohio 1923), 17722, Holt v. State.
Later in July 1923, the Ohio State Supreme Court ruling was used as case law in another trial in Cleveland, Ohio. During the trial of John L. Whitfield, who was charged with the slaying of Patrolman Dennis Griffin, Whitfield's attorneys attacked the constitutionality of the new statute and the wording of the indictment. County Prosecutor Stanton cited the ruling of the State Supreme Court in the case against Noble Holt. Holt was indicted under the old statue and the new. Judge Baer upheld Prosecutor Stanton's claim and dismissed the demurrer.
Today, not only is it a death penalty case to murder a police officer in the United States, but it is also murder in the first degree to kill a service K-9. It has been debated whether or not a police officer or K-9 has to be on duty, but as local Pulaski Countians have learned with the assignation of our beloved Sheriff Sam Catron at a pie auction, it was established that the Sheriff is always on duty.
Exhumation of Red’s remains
Ostensibly, a short time after Red's funeral, an inmate of the Ohio State Penitentiary wrote a letter to Joe indicating that Red was mistreated by being "beaten on the head" prior to his death. As a result, less than a month after being buried, Red's body was exhumed from the Freedom Cemetery and examined by a Somerset Doctor, Dr. C.R. Wright, who "found no marks of violence to prove the report."
Life after death
Alvin and Victor's last name was changed from Holt to Davidson after Red's death; Davidson was Daisy's maiden name.
Daisy married Lester White (1897-1989); they lived in Hamilton, Ohio, and later Mason County, Kentucky. In 1930 Daisy resided in Hamilton, Ohio, with Lester and her two boys on Gest Street; she worked as a waitress in a restaurant while Lester worked at the Carbonic Gas Company. Daisy died thirteen years later at the age of 47 (November 3, 1943).
Victor Pershing (Holt) Davidson, the younger of Red and Daisy's sons, died on September 14, 1933 (1918-1933) from valvular heart seizure at the age of 15, a little over ten years after his father was electrocuted. Victor died in Lewis County, Kentucky, and was buried in Burtonville, a town in the same county.
Alvin Perkins (Holt) Davidson married Elizabeth Smith in 1936, and they had three children, Glenn Allen Davidson (1942-1986) and two twin sons, Owen and Oliver, who were three months old when their father passed. Alvin died at age 31 (June 3, 1947), almost two years after the end of WWII. Alvin enlisted into the Navy on December 28, 1943, and was discharged nearly five months later on May 8, 1944. Alvin died four years after his mother's passing.
The June 3, 1947, edition of the Cincinnati Times-Star reported "Father of Twins Commits Suicide." The article is as follows:
"A 31-year-old father of three small sons was found dead Tuesday in a bedroom closet in his home, 7800 Lake Avenue, Deer Park, with a bullet wound in his right temple, Deer Park Police Chief John Hollatz reported. The victim was listed as Alvin Davidson, a salesman for the J.H. Albers Co., automobile dealers. Hollatz said he found Davidson's 22-caliber revolver, apparently the death weapon, lying beside the body. Davidson's wife, Elizabeth, told Hollatz that she discovered her husband's body after returning from the grocery and noticed that his gun was missing from its usual place in a bureau drawer. She said Davidson had been complaining because he was to have gone to a doctor Tuesday for a physical check-up. She stated that he had come home early from work Monday because of nervousness. Davidson leaves his wife and three sons, Glen, 4, and twins, Owen and Oliver, three months. The victim was discharged from the Navy two years ago, but we could not find why."
This whole story seems like one senseless tragedy after another. Even though Red's father likely died when he was young, Red seemed to have had a pretty good support system and start to life. Everything points to him being an easy-to-like guy who could maneuver around in any town. For someone to have 3,000 people at their funeral is almost unheard of in our small-town community. In fact, the only other time in recent memory that many people turned out for a funeral was when Sheriff Sam Catron was murdered during an election year in 2002. Even 90 years after Red's funeral, Sheriff Catron's visitation services had to be held at the largest venue in town. Having attended the funeral, we stood in line hours to pay our respects with a crowd that large.
I cannot imagine what impact Red's death had on the community or why. Did our community come together to mourn the loss of someone's virtue or the life of an enigmatic hometown kid? Or did his death turn into a social event? We all know those things can happen. Could it have been the hype surrounding Red's death and a high-profile case?
Red's was a high-profile case for three reasons (possibly more):
1) It was a death penalty case using a new Ohio law, which created case law,
2) it involved a well-thought-of police officer, and
3) it was an electric chair execution.
Note: Thomas Edison, a resident of Akron, Ohio, developed the electric chair. Ohio only started using the electric chair 26 years before Red was electrocuted, in 1897. Ohio only executed 315 people by using electrocution from 1897-to 1963. Ohio would switch to lethal injection in the 1990s.
This whole story is filled with misfortune. Sometimes it is hard to remember that all sides are affected by bad decisions and how far the currents of an act travel once they have been committed. No pun intended.
Why do you think there was such a massive turnout to Red's funeral? We are settled on the assumption that he was a good hometown boy, loved by his community, who sadly made many wrong choices.
Detective Frank Hueftlein was a detective for the Cincinnati Police Department when he was shot by Red on April 15, 1922. Detective Hueftlein served the agency 24 years before his death in the line of duty. Link to Detective Hueftlein's memorial page: Detective Frank Hueftlein, Cincinnati Police Department, Ohio (odmp.org)
A few months after the shooting, Detective Guethlein was forced to take an early retirement from the Cincinnati Police Department due to his lasting injuries from the gunshot he received in the notary's office April 15, 1922.
UPCOMING SPECIAL EDITION
We will have a special edition of Hometown Murders & Mysteries in April or early May to commemorate our local fallen heroes. As many of you know, Sheriff Sam Catron was brutally shot down in April 2002. Our community never fails to come together to honor his service and memory; this special edition will be dedicated to Sam – U/111.
Note: In 1962, President Kennedy proclaimed May 15 as National Peace Officers Memorial Day. Established by a joint resolution of Congress in 1962, National Police Week, which is the week May 15 falls, pays special recognition to those law enforcement officers who lost their lives in the line of duty.