The Coldest of Cases
The Coldest of Cases: Was the Case of the Murder of Little Clare Stone Solved at Last?
By Laura Cadden - submitted to Kenny Driscoll, Baltimore City Police Museum
My father, James J. Cadden, was a Detective Captain with the BPD in the 1970’s. I’m recording everything here as I recall my father relating it to me in the 80’s. I apologize for any errors of memory on my part and the somewhat rambling story-telling. Again, I may have many facts incorrect. The following is simply what I remember of the case and is not fact-checked. My Dad kept copies of cases that interested him and showed me old articles and police reports related to Clare Stone. All this said, here’s the story as I know it...
When 7 year old (or perhaps 8 year old) Myra Clare Stone (known by “Clare” or “Clara” Stone) was found dead on February 22, 1922, it caused a sensation in Baltimore.
She lived at 3163 Elmora Ave in what I believe we now call the Belair-Edison for Four-by-Four neighborhood. The little girl had been missing for a few days and was eventually discovered in “Duncan woods” in nearby Orangeville.
A massive investigation took place, but no murderer was identified. This resulted in great frustration and greater fear among residents.
The child had been shot in the head and though her skirts were flipped up, my father said that the autopsy indicated she had not “been interfered with”. Near her body were tire marks from a bicycle.
And the bullet that killed her was from a specific type of revolver.
Those who were born in the years following (including my father) were warned by their parents not to wander alone in secluded areas, or they’d “end up like poor little Clara Stone”. Her name and frightening end was forever seared into the memories of those children.
Fast forward to 1974, I believe it was, when my father was Captain of the Central District at the time and was shifted overnight to this new role. My father had spent most of his time with the BPD as a homicide detective.
In the days following his new appointment, my father reviewed files that had been left in the Captain’s desk.
One of the papers he came across was a letter from the Los Angeles Police Homicide Unit. The letter stated that an elderly dying man (my father believed he had something to do with the film industry out there), had contacted them with information related to an old murder case. He wanted them to pass it along to the BPD.
The letter had been sent a year or two prior and apparently had not been followed up on. My father was shocked to see that the victim in this case was Clare Stone. My father pulled the files for the cold case and reviewed the man’s letter for details.
His story went something like this…
The man told the LAPD that his father was a brutal and uncommunicative man. He owned a bicycle and a gun.
Around the time of Clare’s death, his father was behaving particularly oddly and secretively. He put his bike in the basement and never rode it again.
I don’t recall where the man lived, but it seemed my father felt it was close enough to the murder site to be of interest.
The bike the name described was of a type that either matched or could well have matched the tire marks that were found at the crime scene.
More importantly, the bullet was of the type used in the gun the man described. The man stated that when his father died, his older brother - or was it he? - took the old gun and threw it into a river (he stated where in the letter).
The man said he felt certain all these years that his father was responsible for the murder of Clare Stone and now that he was dying, he had to speak.
My father called the LAPD and asked to speak to the Captain of Homicide regarding this matter.
He was connected to the gentlemen who explained that he had recently taken over the position, just as my father had. And would have to look into the matter. When he asked my father for his name, he said… “I met a Cadden from the BPD some years ago on a train.”
Forgive the following aside here…
In one of those quirks of fate, the two had indeed met.
My father and a female detective had gone to California on extradition in the 1950’s (or early 1960’s). The homicide suspect was a young African-American woman.
My father and the other detective returned to Baltimore via a train. On the ride home, my father was seated with the two women.
A man approached my father, opened his wallet to show his badge and said something like, “My name is XXX (wish I could recall this!) and I’m a detective with the LAPD. I’m sorry to bother you, but are you by chance officers transporting a suspect?”
My father stood and shook his hand and said indeed they were and said, “My name’s Cadden. I’m a detective with the Baltimore Police.”
The LAPD detective asked my father if he wouldn’t mind, to come a few rows back with him to meet his wife. He said his wife had pointed out my father and the two women to her husband and said how sweet it was to see a young couple traveling with “their maid”.
The Californian detective told her that he’d wager they were detectives on extradition with a suspect. His wife then chided him for being so cynical. His response was to tell his wife he’d just ask the “couple” and see. My father confirmed his suspicions to the wife and they had a good laugh over it.
That very Los Angeles detective had been appointed around the same time as my father, as Captain.
Now back to the point of this story...
I believe the old gentlemen who’d provided the information had not yet died, but refused to speak any further on the topic.
My father had detectives look up the initial interviews conducted by the BPD in 1922 and returned to those addresses, trying to find anyone who may have more information on the case and this “new” suspect. They didn’t find any new information. As I recall when viewing the copies of reports my father kept, most had notated something like “interviewee deceased, no further information available from current resident or family.”
My father then had the area of the waterway the gentlemen had described dredged for the gun. With no results.
I’m not sure of all the details, but in the end, my father believed the information in the letter to be true… and that he now knew who had killed Little Clare.
Though I don’t believe he ever knew what motivated the man to commit the crime (more on this below!).
Fast-forward to the 1990’s...
In the mid-90’s, the TV series Homicide: Life on the Street was airing. I was a fan of the series and had read Dave Simon’s book on which it was based. He wrote about many detectives that had worked with my father.
I was impressed with Dave Simon, but when I mentioned him to my Dad, he scowled deeply. He said something about knowing him to be a hippy reporter who was always looking to attack the BPD. He would not watch the show or read his book. In fact, the only cop show he did watch was Barney Miller.
It was during that time that Dave Simon called my house (I lived with my parents) asking for my father. I suppose he’d heard from someone about the letter. He said he was hoping my Dad would speak with him about Clare Stone. I took the phone message, knowing that my father wouldn’t be enthusiastic to speak with him.
I believed the story should be heard and known by others who’d wondered about it all these years. After much cajoling on my part, he called Simon back and I believe he sent along to him his files and info related to the case.
Eventually, there was an episode related to it (episode 21 of the 6th season of Homicide: Life on the Street). It was called “Finnegan’s Wake”. The episode was directed by Steve Buscemi. According to Wikipedia, ‘An old man (and former BPD detective) wanders into the homicide squadroom, claiming to have information on the 1932 death of an eight-year-old girl named Clara Slone.’ As you can see, he amended the year and name slightly.
In looking for articles on this crime on newspapers.com, I came across a story from a Virginia newspaper from September of 1922 about a man who claimed to have helped kidnap Clare for ransom with a man named “Red”. Basically, according to him, things didn’t work out and “Red” killed her. I hadn’t heard about this before, and can’t say if my father knew of this either.
Perhaps the man’s story was true and this was the motive. I guess we’ll never know, dernit.
I believe there was an earlier article from one of the Baltimore newspapers - perhaps from the 70’s - in my father’s file. I can’t seem to find it online. It showed a portrait of the girl and an evidence photo of her small button up shoes.
Below is Clare’s “Find a Grave” entry, a link to a 2019 Baltimore very brief Jacques Kelly article about the case, and a photo of the 1922 article I’ve mentioned.
My thanks to Kenny Driscoll for finding a 1972 article stating that the earlier BPD captain, John C. Barnold, decided not to follow up on the lead from a 61 year old man in California. You’ll find that below, as well.
Click HERE or the above article to see full size article
Click HERE or the above article to see full size article
2019 Baltimore Sun article re the case: https://www.baltimoresun.com/maryland/baltimore-city/bs-md-ci-kelly-column-clare-20190222-story.html
Possible motive? Article from Sep 8, 1922 - maybe you can do more digging, Kenny?
Kenny found the following article from March, 1972:
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