The Roaring Twenties are remembered for speakeasies hidden in remote locations or the basement of a building. Slim flappers shimmy while drinking illegal hooch; perhaps you think of gangland killings as the criminal side of Prohibition but there were other dark deeds being committed, even against the innocent.
On March 8, 1921, workman John Brlich, discovered the body of a young boy frozen in a pond at the O'Laughlin Quarry (now Waukesha Lime and Stone), on the north end of Waukesha, Wisconsin. The body of water was about 100 feet below an embankment.
He immediately contacted authorities, who noted that the child was well dressed and appeared well taken care of, which led to the newspapers dubbing him Little Lord Fauntleroy.
The Milwaukee police immediately started efforts to identify him. The child was believed to be between 5 to 7 years of age, 3'6" in height, long, curly blonde hair, brown eyes. He had been struck in the head before being thrown into the water. He had no scars on his body, including vaccination marks.
David Roberts a jailer at Waukesha received a telephone call on February 22 from a man, informing him that a boy had been drowned "in the north pond". This was also known as Weber's pond, which received the overflow from the city reservoir. At that time, he contacted Coroner L. F. Lee who had Weber's pond dragged without producing a body. Later it was believed the caller had mistaken O'Laughlin Quarry’s pond to the "north pond".
Mike Cronin (also listed as Mike Koker) a pumpman of the Waukessa Lime and Cement Co went to the coroner as well with his own strange tale after the discovery of the boy's body. He recounted that 5 weeks before an automobile pulled up with a young couple. The woman was wearing a “red sweater” and was crying, and they inquired if a boy about the age of 6 had been seen in the neighborhood. He said no. The man had been looking down into the quarry. Afterwards they drove off in a Ford.
Upon hearing the story, the police speculated that the couple had met there clandestinely, and they sent the boy off for a walk while they made love. The child fell in and drowned and because of the circumstances, they failed to report his death. This theory was disproved by the coroner who confirmed the child had been struck in the head, and he had little or no water in his lungs. In other words, he had not drowned.
David Dobrick the owner of the Liberty department store told police he was sure the boy's underwear, shoes and rubbers were sold at his store during a January sale. He remembered so precisely because the clothing was not part of his regular stock, but had been part of inventory bought from another store's bankruptcy sale.
The authorities theorized that since the child was wearing summer underwear he may have been kidnapped during the fall from a nearby city and disposed of in a hurry into the quarry.
Another lead came from J.B. Belson who told them the child was his sister's son, Mrs. G. E. Hormidge. The family lived in Chicago. Her divorced husband had "stolen" their two boys, ages 3 and 5 and many time had threatened to do away with them. Mrs. Hormidge came to see the body but it was not her boy. Later on her sons turned up alive in New York.
The police decided to allow the area residents to view the body. Then the remains were taken to Milwaukee for a second autopsy, and it was displayed there as well. None came forward to give the boy a name.
Rewards were offered, as much as $1000, but still no identification was made.
Ultimately, the decision was made to bury the child and the citizens of Waukesha donated funds to pay for the interment in Prairie Home cemetery.
The years passed and the boy remained unnamed in the small Wisconsin cemetery. The sad incident was forgotten by all until 1948.
On June 15, 1948, Cecelia Lemay lived with her husband Edmond in the Milwaukee suburbs. This was the last day her neighbors saw her. In September 1948, Mrs. Lemay’s neighbors contacted the Milwaukee police to place a report about the woman’s disappearance. It turned out that Edmond Lemay had left to Newark, NJ for a job promotion and never told police about his missing wife. He had purchased a house with a woman named Eva Clark. She was a widow with a 9-year-old son, who had once worked for Cecelia Lemay.
Eva Clark for her troubles was arrested for driving Cecelia Lemay’s vehicle to New Jersey without the owner’s permission, but was subsequently released. Initially she denied a romantic relationship with Edmond, but a letter found by police proved the opposite. She told police that he promised to marry her once he secured a divorce from Cecelia.
The same as when he had married Cecelia, Eva provided the bulk of the money used to purchase the Newark home they lived in. Eva Clark died in June 1950 from cancer, leaving Edmond in possession of the property.
Without any evidence that Cecelia Lemay was murdered, police instead arrested Edmond on charges of forgery after he had falsified his wife’s signature on several checks. When they questioned him about Cecelia’s whereabouts, he said that she had walked out on him. He had not reported it because he didn’t want to discuss the circumstances where he had failed as a man and his wife had left him.
The police department searched all over the United States and could not find any trace of her. Whenever a woman’s skeletal remains were discovered they were immediately examined to verify if they belong to Cecelia Lemay. None did.
This was not the first time a person near to Edmond Lemay had mysteriously disappeared. His child by his first wife Hazel named Homer had not been seen since 1921 when he was six years old. Hazel herself had died in 1921 from tuberculosis.
He told police that the child had lived in Chicago area foster homes until adopted by Mr. and Mrs. James Norton, who two years later sent him a newspaper clipping detailing Homer’s death after he was struck and killed by a vehicle while they were visiting Argentina. By 1948, the Nortons were both deceased when Edmond told this story to police and could not be questioned about this story.
After Hazel’s death, he married a woman named Ruby with whom he had three children. He met his future wife Cecelia Sebraner who was a married woman. They each divorced their respective spouses in order to marry, however his second wife Ruby described to police where Lemay had tried various times to kill her. Once he had thrown an electrified cord into the bathtub she was in. She claimed she had narrowly escaped electrocution. He denied her story saying she had a fertile imagination. They divorced in 1941, and he married Cecelia in 1943.
It was during this time, that the case of Little Lord Fauntleroy resurfaced and police questioned if the child was Homer Lemay.
In April 1949, Detective Captain Adolph Kramer with the Milwaukee Police Department traveled to South American and could not find any record of an accident or the child’s death. Passports were not issued for the Nortons or a child in 1921.
On October 8, 1948 the same body of water where the child’s body was found in 1921 was dragged with the hope of finding Cecelia Lemay’s body. There was discussion of exhuming the boy’s remains, but it never took place.
Cecelia Lemay was never found, and by 1955, Edmond Lemay received her estate after she was declared legally dead since 7 years had passed since her disappearance.
Did Edmond Lemay get away with murder, not once but twice? Did he instead of turning, his obviously unwanted son, over to foster care, kill him in anticipation of or after his wife’s death? The answer lies in a corner of Prairie Home Cemetery under a simple tombstone that reads: “Unknown Boy Found in O’Laughlin Quarry. Waukesha, Wis. March 8, 1921.”
Source - Waukesha Daily Freeman c.1921, Star Tribune c.1949
Stranger Than Fiction Stories by M.P. Pellicer