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The Murder of Theora Hix: The Trial

Above: Uncensored transcripts sold briskly during the trial until the vice cops seized them “to protect public morals.”

When the trial finally rolled around in August, it was the hottest ticket in town. Columbus’ three daily papers vied with one another to provide the most exhaustive and detailed accounts of the developing case.  Banner headlines; special editions; photos of the body, the victim, the suspects, and the murder weapons; maps; and cartoon recreations of scenes from the case filled page after page of the dailies throughout the summer of 1929. 

The trial captured attention not only in Columbus and Ohio but across the nation. Accounts of the crime and the trial  appeared in papers in cities across the United States. The New York Times alone ran nearly 30 pieces on the Snook case and trial. The trial was also covered in the new medium of radio.

 Judge Scarlett’s pretrial ruling that no one under the age of 18 would be permitted to attend the trial excited further interest.

On the eve of the trial, the curious arrived as early as 1:30 AM and waited all night to get seats in the courtroom. For the rest of the trial, spectators camped out around-the-clock in the courthouse to guarantee their place. 200-350 people packed the sweltering courtroom every day of the trial, filling all the available seats, standing along the walls and sitting in the aisles, while an overflow of 400-600 waited outside.

The prosecution’s case was easy. Snook had confessed repeatedly and he had surrendered the murder weapons. The defense countered with Snook’s strategy of painting Theora as the embodiment of female evil who drove the inexperienced doctor insane with drugs and depraved sex then forced him to defend his family. The doctor’s friends, wife, and mother all testified what a saint he was until That Woman got her hooks into him.

Snook’s latest version of the events of June 13 added a new twist. He claimed (improbably) that she performed a perverted sex act on him and tried to bite his penis off. He was forced to strike her with the hammer to save his manhood. Then she threatened his family and he had to stop her.

The jury didn’t buy it. After just 30 minutes of deliberations, it found him guilty. The judge sentenced Snook to die in the electric chair. The doctor was executed on February 28, 1930.

  • 15 June 2012
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