By the sixth day, the people of Coles County were tired. The suicide-or-murder question still hadn’t been answered. Cora Stallman’s curious death had made national papers, bringing 19 press agents to Mattoon. They chased the story, and the locals, like a honking flock of geese. For the journalists, too, their time in small-town Illinois was getting old. Telegrams in their pockets barked: Get a story or get home.
Fortunately for everyone, on Thursday, Coroner FS Schilling and the other investigators — State’s Attorney Charles Fletcher, Sheriff Tom McNutt, and Deputy Sheriff Frank Shirley — were ready to talk.
Just who is responsible for a “tip” to the metropolitan papers that a possible murder had been committed is a matter of conjecture. There were nineteen out-of-town reporters in this city on Saturday afternoon, it was reported by officials. All of these were from recent scenes of sensation and crime, equipped with cameras and prepared for a continued stay in investigating the Humbolt township tragedy to a finish. This city was their headquarters. Officials and citizens alike, town and country were the targets for questions and pictures, and details of which these people little dreamed were keenly illustrated in the work of the “newshounds.” Though the object of their search was not to be attained in the environs of this city on this occasion there was afforded a good closeup of metropolitan writers in action. A good idea was formed by many as to how sensational stories are written and the notes for them secured, a number of these questioned said today.
One of the city newswriters even went so far as to say that “he hoped this would hold on for another two or three days,” evidently intending to convey the impression that the assignments accorded them by their papers had proven a real “holiday.”
By the mid-1930s, Dorothy Eagles’ North Side Animal Shelter was thriving. The new location on Damen Avenue had a two-story brick building at its center. It featured offices, medical care, an annex housing 70 cats and dogs — even pet cremation services. Every year, hundreds of animals came in, were cared for, and found new owners.1
But care cannot save everything.
Dorothy’s husband, Lester Eagles, never got much mention in the newspapers. I know he built the first shelter’s cages, and that he would go out on calls to pick up strays. But beyond that, he’s a bit of a mystery.
Also a mystery is why their marriage ended. While I couldn’t find a divorce date, by 1936, Dorothy was vacationing in Palm Springs with a man named George Harz.2
By August 5, Cora Stallman had been dead for five days, but investigators seemed no closer to finding out how that had happened. The truth continued to evade them like a silver fish in a summer pond, always a second beyond their grasp.