Untangling the events of Cora Stallman’s last day alive is no simple task.
The most obvious solution would be to get sheriff’s records or a transcript of the inquest testimony. Many years ago, I contacted the Coles County coroner’s office, hoping to do just that. The coroner himself was kind enough to search for me. Sadly, nearly all documents related to Cora’s case had disappeared in the intervening decades. “Sometimes the basement floods,” he said with some regret.
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.
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.