• Thu. Mar 30th, 2023

The unsolved locked room murder of Joe Elwell, 1920


Jan 28, 2023

On June 11, 1920, shortly after dawn, Elwell was shot within the head by a .45 computerized pistol in his locked New York Metropolis home. That morning, housekeeper Marie Larsen arrived as she usually did at Elwell’s elegant condo. Nevertheless, this time she was confronted by a grotesque sight that momentarily shocked her.


A care-free Joseph B. Elwell reclining on the Florida sands shortly earlier than his homicide in 1920. © Library Of Congress

She hurriedly exclaimed that there was a stranger in Mr. Elwell’s condo, and that he was useless. Upon additional inspection, it was found that the stranger was Joe Elwell, solely with out his designer wigs and gleaming dentures, which he used to reinforce his look in public.

Elwell is believed to have been shot within the head, however suicide isn’t a possible clarification. There was no signal of the weapon within the room, however the homicide weapon seems to have been fired at a distance of 1–2 metres (3–5 ft) away.

Crime scene

The news of Elwell's mysterious death
The information of Elwell’s mysterious demise © Library of Congress

The police have been stumped by the crime scene. There was no gun discovered on the crime scene, however the bullet that killed him was discovered neatly positioned on a desk. It’s doable that the bullet ricocheted off a wall and onto the desk, however the placement regarded staged. The bullet’s cartridge was mendacity on the bottom.

The killer was crouched in entrance of Elwell when he pulled the set off, so he may see the angle of the wound. Nothing was stolen, and no overseas fingerprints have been discovered on the scene. There was no signal of a battle or pressured entry into the home. All the things was locked, together with the room and the home.

Elwell should have identified his killer and freely allowed her or him into the home. He sat down and ignored a customer whereas opening his mail. Did he chat amiably together with his visitor whereas doing this mundane job? There was no indication as to the crime within the letters or on the bottom.


Elwell dined with Viola Kraus, a just lately divorced lady, on the Ritz-Carlton Lodge the earlier night. Elwell was romantically concerned with many ladies, together with Kraus. Helen Derby, who married Elwell in 1904, launched him to her well-connected buddies and acquaintances.

Helen Derby Ewell, wife of Joseph Elwell
Helen Derby Ewell, spouse of Joseph Elwell © Entrance Web page Detectives

Although Elwell turned a millionaire from bridge video games, his spouse assisted him make connections together with her well-connected buddies and acquaintances. They divorced in 1920. Though Derby was a chief suspect at first, her alibi was hermetic, and he or she wasn’t implicated in her ex-husband’s demise.

Based on District Legal professional Edward Swann, Elwell was chatting in his condo simply earlier than he was shot, and subsequently he in all probability knew his assassin. The assassin’s sole function was to kill him. No valuables have been stolen. In actual fact, valuables have been strewn round Elwell’s corpse.

Elwell's apartment building
Elwell’s condo constructing © Library of Congress

Regardless of all of the proof was collected by the investigators, however they have been by no means capable of decide who shot Joe Elwell, and the case stays an unsolved thriller.

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