No murder in the history of Ann Arbor was as shocking to the community as was the murder of Nurse Pauline Campbell, on September 16, 1951. This murder not only shocked the local community, but made national news as well.
Nurse Campbell worked at St. Joseph's Hospital, which was then located on E. Ann Street. Ms. Campbell was walking home from work after completing her shift at 11:50 P.M. As she neared her rooming house at 1424 Washington Heights, she was viciously struck in the head with a heavy object. Campbell died instantly from the blows which crushed her skull.
Campbell was found in the street and it appeared she stumbled into it and died, or her attacker attempted to drag her to a nearby field, when he fled for reasons unknown. Taken from Ms. Campbell was her red leather purse and it did not appear her attacker had attempted to sexually assault her.
Due to the violent nature of the crime and Ann Arbor's low murder rate, there was great fear within the community. The hospital immediately established an escort service for their employees. Campbell's boyfriend, William Montgomery, stated that Campbell was afraid of walking home from the hospital late at night. Two other nurses had been robbed prior to Campbell's murder and both of them were physically assaulted. One of them was struck with a rock, which caused deep lacerations to her head.
It was later found that one of these nurses, Shirley Mackley, was assaulted by the same suspect that murdered Ms. Campbell. A patrol car had been assigned to the area after the attack on Mackley, but officers could not foresee how dangerous the suspects were.
After the murder more than 30 officers were assigned to the case. Since there were three attacks on nurses, it was feared that the suspect was specifically targeting them. Detectives had no suspects and turned to the public for help. Captain Al Heusel issued a plea for anyone that saw someone with blood on their clothing, to notify the police. He stated, “Whoever killed that girl was covered with blood. He will have to dispose of those clothes somewhere. If anyone saw a man wearing cloth with blood on them or finds any abandoned bloody clothing, we want to know about it immediately. It's our best chance to find the killer.”
The investigation began in earnest with the help of the officers from the State Police, Detroit, Ypsilanti, Milan, and Trenton Police Departments. The investigation first centered around 50 known “sex deviates” that lived in the city. Suspects were investigated if they had been convicted of any type of sexual crime, within 10 years preceding the murder. Chief Enkemann stated all employees of the hospital, that were working when the murder occurred, would be asked to account for their time.
Mayor Brown offered a $500 reward for the arrest of the killer stating, “I can't help but feel that someone else, besides the killer, knows about this brutal slaying. He would be doing this community a great service by coming forward.” The mayor was also shocked at the lack of lighting at the murder scene and vowed the problem would be corrected with more street lights.
The break came in the case just as Mayor Brown thought it might. Detective Duane Bauer was at the police station when a citizen came in, stating he had information about the murder. The Detective Bureau was receiving hundreds of tips about the case and initially there was no reason to believe that this would be the break they were looking for. As Detective Bauer questioned this citizen, it was clear he knew information that would lead to the arrest of the killers of Nurse Campbell.
The citizen told Detective Bauer that he knew who assaulted Nurse Shirley Mackley on September 12, just three days before Nurse Campbell was killed. The citizen told Detective Bauer that David Royal, Jacob Pell, and William Morey were involved in the attack on Mackley. He saw the three suspects a day after the attack on Mackley and Morey admitted it to him. He stated Morey laughed when he talked about the attack and thought it was “funny” the way Mackley screamed when he hit her with a wrench. While he did not know if they were involved in the murder of Campbell, the detective had reason to believe they were.
The three suspects were quickly arrested for the assault of Mackley and the suspicion of murdering Nurse Campbell. Detectives interviewed all three and the three eventually confessed to both crimes. The motive for the attacks was simple robbery and the murder and robbery of Nurse Campbell netted the trio less than $5.00.
The three gave the following account of the incident: On the night of the murder the three suspects all had dates which they dropped off earlier in the evening. The three began cruising around in Pell's father's 1948 Chevrolet Club Coupe. They bought a case of beer and drank it all and needed money to buy more. They were cruising around the hospital area when they observed Nurse Campbell walking southbound on Observatory and then turn onto eastbound Washington Heights.
They parked the car and Morey exited it and began to sneak up behind Campbell while she walked. Royal and Pell stayed in the vehicle following, as Pell extinguished the headlights. Morey then walked up behind Campbell and without saying anything to her, began striking her in the head with a hard rubber mallet. Morey beat her so hard with the mallet that brain fluid came out and part of her head splattered on the door on a nearby parked car. This type of mallet is used to bump out dented fenders of automobiles and was taken from Pell's place of employment.
After Morey was finished with the attack, Royal exited the vehicle and they began to drag her body into it. Pell yelled at them to throw her body out of the vehicle which the two did. This was why Campbell's body was found in the street and a large amount of blood was left in the vehicle. Campbell's purse was stolen and its contents were emptied before it was thrown into the Huron River from a bridge. The mallet was recovered at Pell's employers, as he had taken it back after the killing. It was also found that Morey struck Nurse Mackley with a wrench, in a botched attempt to rob her.
On October 31, 1951, the trial began for the three suspects. The three were charged with “feloniously, willfully and with malice aforethought, the murder of Pauline Campbell.” The trial opened with Prosecutor Douglas Reading admitting the confessions of the suspects into the record. Morey admitted to the killing using the mallet that was in Pell's car. The mallet was in the vehicle as Pell had intended to use for repairs. Morey was asked if it was wrong to carry out the attack and stated, “Sort of. I mean I knew it was wrong but no one seemed to care.”
During the reading of the confessions, all of the suspects' mothers were in the courtroom and wept throughout.
In Prosecutor Reading's opening statement he stated, “The three were equally responsible for the murder as they aided Morey in the crime. Any persons who aid in the commission of a crime are equally responsible.”
He also asserted stalking the victim and driving down the street with the car lights out, was “lying in wait within the fullest meaning of the law.”
Morey testified in his own defense stating he did not remember the blows that killed Campbell. He went on to say that he did not mean to do anything to her. Reading asked Morey to examine the mallet used to murder Campbell. When Morey declined to take the mallet, the prosecutor threw it in his lap. Morey re-coiled and brushed it onto the courtroom floor.
Morey claimed that he signed his confession only because he was tired and would have signed anything to be left alone. He further stated that on the night of the murder he drank 10 or 11 bottles of beer and could not recount the exact events that occurred.
It was clear that Morey's defense attorney, Ralph Keyes, was hoping the jury would find Morey guilty of second degree murder, so his client would have a chance for parole. Keyes claimed the effects of the beer rendered Morey unable to account entirely for his actions.
David Royal also testified in his own defense and stated the motive in the crime was robbery. Pell's defense was that he was waiting in the car when Morey murdered Campbell and they were not following her, but were looking for Morey after he exited the car.
As they drove upon Morey, he heard him call for help. Exiting the car, he observed Campbell on the ground and Morey told him to grab one of her arms. He did so and they began dragging Campbell into the car. Pell then told them not to bring Campbell into the car, and they threw her body into the street. He then observed Morey pick up the mallet and Campbell's purse.
On November 13, the jury returned with the verdicts. William Morey and Jacob Pell were convicted of first degree murder, while David Royal was convicted of second degree murder. Morey and Pell were sentenced to life in prison and Royal was sentenced to 22 years. They would not fulfill these sentences, as Morey was paroled after serving 19 years, while Pell and Royal served shorter sentences.
As I noted earlier this case drew national attention. A book by John Martin titled, “Why do They Kill” was published after the convictions of the three. The book dealt with the shock of three average youths, from “good homes,” committing a murder for no apparent reason. In today's world, nothing seems to shock us, but in 1951 this truly sent shockwaves through the community.
An interesting fact about this case is the attempted jail break of William Morey and Max Pell. They conspired with another convicted murderer, Marcelo Velasquez, to break out of the county jail. Informants within the jail reported them to the staff and the attempt was stopped. A key had been fashioned from a coat hanger and it actually worked in the cell doors.
Another interesting tidbit involves one of the detectives that worked the case. He did not want his name used, but told me that years later he was at church, when he observed Royal outside with some other people. Turns out the detective and Royal are members of the same church.
Chief Krasny, upon his retirement in 1980, stated that of all the events he worked during his 40 year career with the department, this murder was the one that he was most struck by. He said the murder of Nurse Campbell had more of an effect on the community, than the murders of seven co-eds and the subsequent trial of John Norman Collins, in the late 1960's.