Columns, Weeks Gone By

Then Again: Search for Missing Eleven-year-old Continues, Part II

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image via Newspapers.com
Ray Chase, left, and George Jerd, right, found Lucille Chatterton and her suspected kidnapper Earl Woodward with the help of police dog Deeka and his hander, Winfield Dubois. Chase and Jerd split the $200 reward money. Dubois declined his share, saying the publicity his dog received was reward enough. Deeka continued to make headlines by successfully tracking missing persons and criminal suspects in other cases. When he died, newspapers ran obituaries for the famous dog.

Part One is here.

VERMONT – Eleven-year-old Lucille Chatterton has disappeared from her Granville home on April 24, along with hired hand Earl Woodard. A state-wide search was launched for the pair, with Woodward assumed to be the abductor.

On Wednesday, the Rutland Herald reported the scene around Granville: “All day every road within miles of this village was patrolled by heavily armed parties of men eager to capture or kill Woodward and return to her grieving parents frail little Lucille Chatterton, and all day other men penetrated more deeply into the dense woods in search of the missing pair.”

The search area expanded as the days passed, mostly to areas just north and south of Granville, which is hemmed in by mountains to the west and east. Some law enforcement officers theorized that Woodward might be headed north to Warren, where his adopted mother lived.

The heavy newspaper coverage and reward money generated a flurry of possible leads: Lantern light was seen one night near a barn on Braintree Mountain; a deputy said he believed he had tracked Woodward and Chatterton to Studson Hollow in Warren; at the same time another report suggested they had crossed to the west side of the mountains, heading toward the Rutland train line. 

A series of reports started arriving that clustered around the town of Brookfield. Early on Tuesday morning, a Brookfield area farmer had the strange experience of discovering that one of his cows had already been milked. And that night, a West Brookfield store owner, who had somehow missed all the news reports about the search, sold food, including crackers and oatmeal, and a lantern wick to a young man who fit Woodward’s general description.

Then at 2 a.m. Thursday, a husband and wife whose farm was located between Brookfield and North Randolph were awakened by their dogs’ barking. The couple couldn’t see what had set the dogs off, but later that morning they discovered that a can of cream they had left to cool in a watering trough was missing. Nearby, they saw a man’s footprints.

Simultaneously there seemed to be a break in the case from a different part of the state. In Rockingham, deputies detained a couple spotted picnicking near the road. Noting that the man’s arms were tattooed and that he carried a pair of galoshes like those Lucille had been wearing, the deputies summoned Attorney General Archibald to Springfield, where the picnickers were being held. Fortunately for the sake of their careers, the deputies had time to cancel the request to Archibald when they determined the woman was actually a 23-year-old farmwife and mother of four from South Londonderry who was apparently running away with a farmhand.  

By this point, the army of searchers had expanded considerably. Joining the sheriff department officers and citizen volunteers on Thursday were 125 cadets from Norwich University in Northfield. Led by Norwich’s cadet corps commandant and three regular Army officers who taught at the school, the young men formed a skirmish line, with 10 yards separating each. Armed with Springfield rifles, the cadets composed a line three-quarters of a mile wide that marched through the woods of West Brookfield.

A possible sighting occurred midday on Thursday. George Jerd of Randolph spotted two people in the woods in Brookfield who seemed to resemble Woodward and Lucille. They were “running like deer,” he said. Jerd fired twice with his revolver at the man, but he was too far away. Jerd did find a possible clue, however: two blankets abandoned by the fleeing pair. 

At first light on Friday, May 1, one week after Lucille and Woodward disappeared, a large Doberman pinscher police dog named Deeka joined the search. Deeka’s handler, Winfield Dubois, hoped the dog, which had tracked down a number of fugitives in Germany and more recently in the United States, would succeed where hundreds of men had failed. 

Jerd and his friend Ray Chase took Dubois and Deeka to the area where the missing pair had been sighted. Deeka sniffed the blankets and set off. Within about half an hour, the dog had led the men to a derelict farm, where Deeka went to the hay mow. Though the place appeared deserted, the dog kept barking, so the men kept looking. They walked over the strewn hay several times before discovering that Woodward and Lucille were hidden within the pile. 

Though he was armed, “Woodward was arrested without resistance,” the Rutland Herald reported. The person who did resist was Lucille, who “clung to his (Woodward’s) hand and shrank in fright from her captors.” 

Then, she burst into tears and said she didn’t want to return home.

The Herald and News of Randolph noted that the search “had absorbed the energies of thousands and enlisted the interest of millions of people, all over the nation.” As if the story was over.

The public was left to puzzle over Woodward and Lucille’s unexpected reactions to being discovered: he appeared almost relieved, and she was clearly distraught. 

The disappearance and reappearance of Lucille Chatterton would be reanalyzed in court and in newspapers during the coming weeks. Soon much of what the public thought it knew about the case was deemed to be false, and a new picture of events began to emerge.

This is the second of a multi-part story. Part Three is here.

Mark Bushnell, VTDigger

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