Cold Anger: The Malone, Iowa Murders of 1929

   The town of Malone was originally a train depot founded in the mid-1860’s. It soon developed a general store, stockyards, and a post office. Like many rural areas, it was quiet and peaceful. Who would have thought that an event would take place there would forever mar that peaceful landscape?

   Edward Crampton was born in nearby Elvira, Iowa, in 1893, one of seven children. In 1911, he married Lillian Henry. They had two children. Unfortunately, Lillian would pass away a few years later.

 

IMG_8625 (2)
Edward Crampton

 

    Crampton remarried, this time to Dona Thomas, and had two more children. He worked at the Clinton Corn Syrup Refining Company in Clinton, Iowa, where he was known for being a hard worker.  

   But Edward Crampton was not a good husband. He regularly abused Dona, often slapping her and twisting her about. He didn’t care for his brother-in-law, Robert Vale, either. In 1928, the two had an argument over which one of them owned a particular batch of eggs. Things quickly escalated, ending with Crampton striking Vale and leaving a large gash on his face.

   Crampton was surly and unfriendly with everyone around the small community, with the exception of Thomas Mulholland, an older man who ran the local general store. By many accounts, Mulholland was Crampton’s only friend there.

   Thomas Mullholland was, in many ways, the opposite of Edward Crampon. He was known as being kind, well-mannered, and personable. Mulholland was well respected by nearly everyone in the rural community around Malone.

   After a particularly brutal beating in 1929, Dona decided that she was done with Edward Crampton. She mustered her courage and filed a petition for divorce from her husband. That night, after he had arrived back at home, Dona broke the news to him. She then told Ed that he would have to get out. With that, Dona left to stay with her sister, who lived just a short distance away.

   The next morning, August 7, 1929, she waited to hear the sound of Crampton driving to work. Soon enough, she heard her now estranged husband’s vehicle as it made it’s way down the street. Dona waited a few minutes longer to make sure that Edward was gone, then went back home to take care of some laundry.

   Unbeknownst to her, Edward had decided not to go to work that day. He wouldn’t be needing money where he was going. Ed drove to his uncle’s house in Low Moor to borrow a shotgun. He said that he was going to shoot a dog. His uncle, George Crampton, didn’t see anything wrong with the request, and gladly turned over the gun. Edward left, then went and purchased several shotgun shells. He had everything that he would ever need now. Grimly contented, Edward began to  drive back to Malone.

    When he pulled up outside of his house, Edward must have been surprised to see his wife there. After all, she had essentially kicked him out and had already filed for divorce. But now she was home. Perhaps, for a few moments, the hope that Dona was going to stay married to him and move back dawned in the dark recesses of Crampton’s mind.

   Watching her do the laundry, Edward asked his wife if she was going to come back to him. Dona, who had suffered so much at his hands, had hardened her heart toward him. She was well and truly finished. Dona gave Edward a resounding “No,” in reply.

   Any hope that had been in Edward’s heart died just then. He readied himself, then walked back out to his car and grabbed the shotgun. Dona saw her husband and ran after him, pleading with him to put the shotgun down and stop whatever he was going to do. Crampton ignored her and kept walking toward the general store.

   As he approached, Robert Vale came walking down the street, carrying a heavy bag of chicken feed. Crampton quickly put the shotgun to his shoulder and fired. The shot missed, so he quickly racked another round into the chamber and fired again. This time, the buckshot found its mark and Vale dropped to the ground.

    Apparently thinking that Vale was dead, Crampton began to run toward the general store. He quickly arrived and saw his friend, Thomas Mullholland, sitting just inside the screen door. Racking the pump-action shotgun again, he took aim and fired again, hitting the old man square in the face. Even with such a grievous wound, Mullholland rose slowly to his feet. Crampton coldly fired once more, and the older man fell straight forward, dead.  

   Through the entire event, Crampton never said a word, carrying out his foul deeds coldly and seemingly without hesitation or remorse. Silently, he went back to his home. As he approached, he stopped, then bent and set his gun down. He tied his shoe, then took the shotgun and entered the house, latching the screen door behind him.

   Once inside, he put the shotgun on a table, pointing it at himself. With the help of a stick, Crampton pulled trigger one last time, ending his life. He was only thirty-six years old.

   Vale was only wounded and was rushed to Jane Lamb Hospital in nearby Clinton, where doctors performed an operation on his gunshot wound. The Clinton County coroner, Morton Lyon, along with law enforcement officials, was summoned to investigate the crime scenes. The bodies were examined and evidence taken into custody.

 

Jane Lamb
Jane Lamb Hospital, Clinton, Iowa. Courtesy of Google Images

 

 

    A coroner’s inquest was called in order to officially determine the causes of death. It  It didn’t take long to determine that a shotgun, wielded by the unhinged Edward Crampton, had delivered the fatal blows to both Thomas Mulholland and himself.

   In the middle of the proceedings, Robert Vale’s wife was told that she was urgently needed by her husband’s bedside in Clinton. She left immediately and, when she arrived at the hospital, was met by terrible news. Initially, they thought that Vale would recover, but things took a turn for the worse and his condition quickly deteriorated. Vale succumbed a few days later.

   The people of Malone were rocked by the sudden and violent events of that early August. Everyone understood why Crampton had gunned down Robert Vale. The two had been at odds for a long time, and hadn’t spoken to each other since the egg argument nearly a year before.

   But why had he shot poor Tom Mulholland? Against all odds, the two had been good friends, and probably Crampton’s only friend in the world. Thomas hadn’t ever harmed anyone, and was just sitting at his store when he was so brutally murdered.

   Stranger still, why hadn’t Crampton shot Dona, his estranged wife? She was the author of his pain, the one who had told him to leave and filed for divorce. But he had left her unmolested. After years of abuse, Crampton had suddenly decided that he wasn’t going to harm his wife anymore.

   No one had any answers. The only thing that anyone could guess was that Edward Crampton had become unhinged after his wife filed for divorce, and the strain had made him go temporarily insane. It was out of this madness that he had killed Thomas Mulholland, his best and only friend.

   After a time, the excitement quieted down. Life moved on, and the murders were, for the most part, forgotten. While the wound that event rendered into the memory of Malone, Iowa had healed, it still caused a scar.

   Malone, while a quiet and peaceful town nestled just off of U.S. 30 in Clinton County, can never again claim to be untouched by the specter of violent deeds.

 

Sources

Davenport Democrat and Leader. ‘Malone Slayer’s Wife Says Mate Was Friend of Slain Storekeeper.’ August 8, 1929.
Clinton Herald. August 10, 1929.
DeWitt Observer. “Malone-Murder Suicide.” August 8, 1929.
DeWitt Observer. “Third Victim of Malone Shooting Died Saturday.” August, 1929

 

               

               

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