Sworn Confession Produced at Inquest
A confession under oath of the murder of his wife by Herschell Stewart at the Welland County Memorial Hospital, where he is still a patient was the main feature of the inquest held in the Thorold Township Hall at Allanburg Monday afternoon, when the coroner’s jury formally charged Stewart with the crime, as told in our last issue.
While the outcome of Stewart’s self-inflicted wound is still problematical, the last report from the hospital is that his condition shows some improvement and each day strengthens the probability of his being brought to the bar of justice to face his crime.
Coroner Dr. John Herod, of Thorold, presided, and T.D. Cowper was present on behalf of the Crown.
Provincial Constable Jorgensen was the first witness sworn. He accompanied Chief Collins to the Stewart home at the Black Horse corner, arriving there about thirty minutes after receiving a message that a shooting tragedy had occurred. He found Lilian Elsie Stewart lying on the bed on one side. Beside her was her husband, who was also shot, and the infant baby. In the house were Charles and Mrs. Stewart, parents of the man, and his two brothers, Andrew and William Stewart.
Charles Stewart, father of Herschell Stewart, was next sworn. He could not swear as to what time the tragedy occurred as he had left for work about 4:40 o’clock. When he arrived home, after being notified by a neighbor of the shooting, he found his daughter-in-law lying dead on the bed, and beside her was his son, Herschell. He asked the son why he had shot his wife, but to his enquiries he received no reply, though previously the son stated he had shot his wife. His wife was the only one up when he went to work.
Mrs. Stewart, the mother, was next sworn. She had been up early to get her husband off to work. Shortly after he had gone out Hershell took a walk out the door to the sidewalk. He was only out a few minutes when he returned and went into the room where a bed had been temporarily placed at the time the baby was born. May 24th. The next thing Mrs. Stewart heard was the report from the shot-gun. She immediately called her two other sons who were still sleeping. They went to the room as soon as they saw what had happened, told the mother she had better not go into the room. They had already seen that Lilian was dead. Mrs. Stewart stated she was very much excited and could not relate everything that did occur. The mother did not see her son to talk to until she visited him in the Welland County Hospital.
Andrew Stewart, a brother, was called to the stand, but refused to kiss the Bible, stating that he was not feeling well, and too nervous. He was told to return to his seat.
William Stewart, another brother, said he was awakened by his mother, and until that time did not hear any of the excitement. Immediately he went to the room where his brother was, he saw Herschell on the floor on his hands and knees trying to get on to the bed, Lilian was lying dead on the bed, which was on fire, caused by the shot. He extinguished the flames. He did not know of any reason why his brother should take the action he did.
Magistrate Goodwin read the statement which had been made by Herschell Stewart when visited in the Welland County Hospital, as follows:
“I hereby under oath make this statement that I shot my wife, Lilian Elsie Stewart in the Township of Thorold on the morning of June 12th with a 12 gauge shotgun. After shooting my wife I went into the other room and turned the gun on myself. I stood the gun against the wall and went back to bed. Jealousy is the only reason I can give for shooting my wife.”
Dr. Binns, one of the physicians who conducted the port-mortem examination, assisted by Dr. Boyd, gave the report of his finding. The liver had been shot to pieces. The intestines were not in any way injured, though some other parts of the body in close touch with the intestines were severed. There was a huge hole on the left side of the abdomen. Dr. Binns thought the gun would be about a foot from the woman when the shot was fired, and he was sure that the shot through the abdomen was the immediate cause of death.
Dr. Boyd was called and corroborated the report and statements made by Dr. Binns.
Herbert Robins, local grocer at Allanburg, sold shells to Herschell Stewart about a week ago. Mr. Robins was told the shells were being purchased to shoot rats.
Mrs. Reilly did not know anything about the tragedy until a neighbor wakened her and asked Mr. Reilly to go with his car and tell Mr. Stewart Sr. about the shooting. She went over and found Mrs. Stewart lying dead on the bed. Herschell Stewart was also on the bed with his two hands over his face. His body was kind of hanging over the side of the bed. Mrs. Reilly further stated she did not see the gun until it was carried out to show the constables.
John Betts was called, but did not know anything about the case.
The jury was as follows: Charles Upper, (foreman), Hugh Bouck, Raymond Skinner, Bruce Bouck, James Rees, Archie Pay, Robert Corey, Harry Theal, John Huffa, William Chambers, Bert Chambers, W.T. O’Reilly.
The Welland Tribune and Telegraph
21 June 1923