Editor’s note: This is the exciting finale of a special two part feature!
The random barn fires in Gilmore continued into late April, 1933. Many Gilmore residents had their suspicions of who was responsible for the fires, but nobody had any actual proof. Tuscarawas County authorities also had their own suspicions and later apprehended Gilmore farmer, David Miller in questioning about the fires. Due to continued lack of evidence, Miller was released.
On May 20, 1933 Tuscarawas County Sheriff, Abe Laird, paid a visit to Elijah & Naomi Cramblet who lived in a rented house that was located down a steep ravine, and only accessible by foot. Their landlord, David Miller, the suspect in the barn fires. Laird recalled that the Cramblet’s declined to give any details of anything they had seen, or heard concerning the fires, but commented that they were in the process of moving off of the Miller property, and would contact the Sheriff later. Elijah Cramblet was quoted as saying "I will tell plenty later on". An interview with the sheriff, published in a Columbus newspaper, quoted Cramblet’s latter comment. No doubt that this comment got out to many people in Gilmore Hollow, especially the person, or persons responsible for the fires.
It was June 8, 1933 and Gilmore residents noticed many buzzards, more than usual, circling the vicinity of the ravine leading down to the Cramblet farm and became suspicious. Clyde Jarvis, a local handyman worked for David Miller, later went with Miller to the Cramblet house to repair a chimney. When they arrived they found the decomposing body of Naomi Cramblet inside the house, lying on the floor, near the staircase. Bloody drag marks led from the front door to the staircase, indicating she had been killed at the front door, and her body dragged across the floor and placed at the foot of the staircase by someone!
Naomi’s husband, Elijah, was nowhere to be found. Miller and Jarvis then immediately drove to the Lanning General Store in Gilmore and contacted the Tuscarawas County Sheriff. Within the next hour, the sheriff, accompanied by the Tuscarawas County Coroner, Alfred Balmer, arrived on scene. A brief assessment by the coroner revealed Naomi had been shot in the face with a 12 gauge shotgun, and it was surmised that she had been deceased for at least two weeks, according to the most recent newspaper, The Daily Times (from New Philadelphia) dated May 23, and other mail, all post marked a few days prior to May 23.
A few hours later, a family member, Naomi’s brother, George Tidrick arrived at the farm to confirm the identification of his sister, and plan for her final arrangements. Naomi’s brother informed authorities that Elijah had history of having verbal altercations with his wife whenever he would consume too much alcohol. A group of neighbors also arrived at the farm and began a search for Elijah Cramblet. During later investigation, a note was found from Elijah stating that he had killed his wife, and then was going to end his own life.
About six hours after the discovery of Naomi, the group of men found Elijah’s body in a thicket of trees, and shrubs, approximately three hundred yards from the house. The body being badly decomposed, and had also been discovered by the buzzards earlier. He had apparently shot himself in the head, and his 12 gauge shotgun was lying underneath his body.
It was first determined that a murder-suicide had taken place, but upon further investigation authorities became suspicious of foul play. The first concern was that livestock that consisted of several pigs, a cow, and a flock of chickens that the Cramblets kept was noticed to be well fed, and fresh water was noted in the watering trough. Authorities thought this to be odd since it was surmised that the Cramblets had both been deceased for about two weeks. Who was tending to the livestock during this time?
Once the ballistics report was back, authorities determined that they were dealing with a double homicide, not a murder-suicide. The bullets were determined to not have come from the same shotgun owned by Cramblet, but from a different 12 gauge shotgun. It was also determined that the bullets that killed Elijah Cramblet had come from a shotgun that was fired from at least two to five feet away, not at close range as in a suicide.
Handwriting analysis was also completed comparing the note found at the scene and Elijah Cramblet’s handwriting. The letters in the note were clearly not consistent with Cramblet’s writing, and it was also known by many persons that knew the Cramblet’s that Elijah was not able to read or write, and that his wife had to read, or write all correspondence on his behalf.
With evidence now at hand, authorities could act on their earlier suspicions, and the case was turned over to the Tuscarawas County Grand Jury. On July 1, 1933, Miller, along with two of his farmhands, Clyde Bourne and Chester Smith, were convicted of first degree manslaughter. Bourne and Smith informed authorities that Miller paid them $50 to murder the Cramblets to keep them from implicating him in the earlier barn fires. All three men were sentenced to life in prison. Chester Smith briefly escaped from the prison in London, Ohio in July, 1945, but was captured and returned to life behind bars.
Famous Detective Cases magazine featured the crime, publishing it the April, 1936 edition.
Nearly ninety years later, there is no physical evidence left other than the old court records, and brittle, yellowing news clippings from the local newspapers that published the full accounts of the crime. The house and farm property where the Cramblet’s lived, and died is gone, the ravine leading to the property is overgrown, and no longer distinguishable of ever having existed. The individual’s that lived in Gilmore at the time, as well as the authorities that were involved in the case are all deceased, and their memories that were either documented, or handed down to younger generations who occasionally tell of the terror that occurred in Gilmore Hollow so many years ago.