By M. P. Pellicer | Stranger Than Fiction Stories
Bert was a busy boy, even as far back as 1895 when he was part of Ohio's Willshire Wheat thieves and was sentenced to 4 years. Unfortunately he would become known to authorities for far grimmer reasons.
Sixteen years later Wilson Bertrim "Bert" Highwarden was facing a grand jury for killing his ex-wife.
They were married in 1895, and she'd born him 7 children, 5 which were alive when he shot her dead. Mabel Ada was only 31 years old.
It seemed the populace of Springfield, Ohio felt harshly against Bert, so much so, that it was decided to arraign him at night and take him to the county jail which was deemed more secure.
The couple had a stormy married life for several years and had separated in the springtime. The police had been called several times to their home. Ada as she was known, applied for a divorce and it was granted two months before her death.
She worked in Troy as a domestic, and left her children with relatives in Springfield. She had returned the day before to Urbana to finalize monetary support for their children, and the couple had spent part of the afternoon in the office of Mrs. Highwarden's attorney. They did have a disagreement besides her refusal to reconcile with him, in which she wanted to send their 5 children to the Children's Home and he opposed the plan.
He killed her half an hour later, as she was preparing to leave back to Springfield. She even had her hat in her hand.
The only witness to the crime was Bert Highwarden, who had come to Ada's mother's house on South Kenton Street at around 4 p.m. Shots rang out, and Ada's mother, Sarah Roberts, rushed to the front room and found her daughter lying on the floor with blood gushing from her wounds.
Constable Dave Brown who lived a block away ran to the scene. When Dr. Houser arrived she was already dead.
Highwarden turned himself into the sheriff along with the .45 caliber revolver he used. It was believed that her refusal to reconcile with him caused the tragedy. He said to the chief of police, "She got what was coming to her." He added that his, "wife had caused his arrest and sold his furniture and gone to live with a neighbor where she would be near another man, and that he had said he would kill her if she didn't cut it out and that he had kept his word."
Bert Highwarden in the past was known to be addicted to alcohol, but had not been drinking when he killed Ada. During the divorce Highwarden had never claimed his wife had been unfaithful to him.
He once worked as a driver for a company called Mammoth, and he was currently employed as a hostler and would make the circuit of the county fairs in Ohio.
The autopsy found that only one bullet had caused Ada's death. It entered about an inch above the bridge of the nose and came out at the left temple, making a wound about 3 inches long and it penetrated the front lobe of the brain. The wound had powder burns which indicated the the weapon was held close to her head. It was thought that Highwarden held his wife with one arm, and operated the pistol with the other hand.
In October, 1911, Bert Highwarden which had been indicted for first degree murder entered a plea of not guilty. He went to trial at the end of the December and on January 4, 1912, he was found guilty of murder in the second degree and sentenced to life imprisonment.
In 1917, Bert Highwarden was granted clemency by Governor Grants. Within a few years, he made the governor sorry he had pardoned him because on August 1924, he killed his second wife Rovilla. She was 35 years old, and had petitioned the court for a divorce. Like the first murder, he walked to the police station and gave himself up afterward.
Rovilla was buried on August 20, at Oak Dale Cemetery.
On that same day witnesses were brought before the coroner's inquest since the crime occurred on the street.
One of them was Caroline Moss, sister-in-law of the victim.
They testified that Rovilla Highwarden fell from the first shot, and Bert Highwarden leaned over, took deliberate aim and fired a second shot.
The coroner confirmed that she had died from a facial gunshot wound from a .32 caliber revolver.
In September, 1924, Bert Highwarden pled not guilty at this arraignment to the charge of first degree murder.
On October 23, he was convicted of first degree murder without mercy, and sentenced to die in the electric chair on February 9, 1925. He was executed on that date. He was 50 years old.
Strangely enough, August seemed to be a significant month for him. He killed his first wife Mabel on August 1, 1911, and his second wife Rovilla on August 18, 1924.
Source - Lancaster Eagle Gazette
Stranger Than Fiction Stories by M.P. Pellicer