Once again, back with another part of this excerpt from Murder at Teal’s Pond, the true crime story that inspired the show Twin Peaks!
Here’s where we last left off.
We came very close — we briefly thought — to blowing the case wide open with the discovery that Anna LaBelle, who worked at Frear’s department store in Troy and knew Hazel Drew (the extent of their friendship remains a mystery), shared a name with a small-time prostitute in Troy (alias: Alice Davis) who was active during that time in the city’s red-light district, known as The Line. This Anna LaBelle, the prostitute left her estate, valued at about $25,000, to Abbott Jones, a powerful Troy lawyer who defended gangster Jack “Legs” Diamond in 1931 against charges of kidnapping and assault (never mind that he was gunned down the day after his acquittal following a romp in the sack with his mistress). Jones was elected district attorney of Rensselaer County shortly after the Hazel Drew murder, defeating Jarvis P. O’Brien, who had led the investigation.
Were the two Anna LaBelle’s one and the same? If so, did it have any bearing on the Hazel Drew investigation?
Question two became irrelevant once we discovered the answer to question one: no connection between the two Anna LaBelle’s.
So that’s what it felt like for the detectives trying to crack the case in 1908.
That lead came courtesy of Mark Marshall, a retired Averill Park school messenger who ran point for us on the ground in Sand Lake, and is responsible for many of the ideas and revelations that follow. Mark grew up in Griswold Heights, a housing project on the east side of Troy, about six blocks from where Hazel Drew last lived; his current house, in East Postenkill, still houses the remains of the church that the Drew family attended. Soon we were calling him “The Detective.”
If Mark had been around in 1908, the murder of Hazel Drew would have been solved..
Hazel Drew was killed in Taborton, but lived in Troy, about ten and a half miles northwest of Sand Lake. We soon discovered this was really a tale of two cities (technically one town and one city). Six years ago we hardly knew anything about Troy; now we could write a book, except it’s already been done, many times. Who knew that Uncle Sam was the namesake of Samuel Wilson, a Troy butcher who supplied meat to the troops during the War of 1812? That “Twas the Night Before Christmas” was first published in the Troy Sentinel, submitted by the daughter of a Trojan pastor? President Chester Arthur grew up in Troy; Herman Melville wrote Typee and Omoo there. George Washington Gale Ferris, Jr., inventor of the Ferris wheel, graduated from Troy’s Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.
There are scoundrels and ignominy too: Mary Alice Fahey (Mame Faye) ran her ridiculously profitable prostitute business on the streets of downtown Troy (with protection from police). Jack “Legs” Diamond was acquitted in the courthouse there, and it was Troy hatter Thomas P. “Boston” Corbett who put a bullet in the head of John Wilkes Booth in a Virginia barn in 1865.
The Final Part coming soon! 🙂
Don’t forget about the book giveaway! To enter, just email David Bushman at email@example.com.