An unsolved rape and murder in Leonardtown Maryland
  • 12/6/1959 - BALTIMORE SUN, Baltimore MD
    WIDOW FOUND STRANGLED, RAPED IN BED
    Body of Leonardtown Woman, 44, Discovered By Employer


    Leonardtown, MD., Dec. 6 - A 44 year old widow was found strangled and raped in her bed yesterday.

    Police said Henrietta W. Ragan was found by her employer when she did not appear for work at the Thrift Oil company, across the street from her home here.

    There was evidence of a struggle, police said. Her wallet was missing.

    Dr. C.S. Petty, a Baltimore Medical Examiner, said she died of strangulation, with evidence of rape.

    AUTOPSY COMPLETED

    Police discovered the killing when an autopsy was competed today in Baltimore.

    Mrs. Ragan, a petite brunette, had lived alone since the death of her husband, Francis, last February.

    Mrs. Ragan’s employer, Maurice T. Thrift, told police he found the back door of the four bedroom house unlocked. Neightbors said they heard no noises or outcries.

    The St. Mary’s County Sheriff, Robert Miedzinski, and a deputy sheriff, George Sanger, said Mr. Thrift told them he was int he habit of calling Mrs. Ragan, an employee for seventeen years, whenever she overslept. When she did not answer his call, he went to investigate, he said.

    SUSPECT RELEASED

    The sheriffs said they questioned one man last night but released him. They said robbery may have been a motive since they could not find the wally, but they cannot be sure Mrs. Ragan did not hide it before going to bed Friday night. They reported that they had no clues to the murder.

    Dr. William D. Boyd, St. Mary’s County Medical Examiner, who made a preliminary examination, said Mrs. Ragan apparently died between midnight and 2:30 am Saturday morning.

    Assisted by Cpl. Carl H. Muchow of the State Police, the sheriffs questioned neighbors, relatives, friends and acquaintances.

    Mrs. Ragan, a native of Leonardtown, and a graduate of St. mary’s Academy here, was well known for her musical activities as a girl. She sang and played the piano and organ, appearing at weddings and other church functions.

    Her husband had been a Civil Service employee at Patuxent Naval Air Stations until his death. Her mother, an invalid for who Mrs. Ragan had cared, died last year.

    Mrs. Ragan is survived by four half-sisters and their children. The sisters are: Mrs. John Gardiner, of Leonardtown; Mrs. Robert Hunt, Sr., of Compton, and Mrs. Russell Howard and Mrs. Eleanor Greenwell, both of Waldorf.

    Prayers will be said at 8pm tomorrow at Mattingley funeral establishment here. There will be a Requiem Mass at 11:30 am Tuesday at St Alysius Church here. Burial will be in the church cemetery.
  • 12/7/1959 - WASHINGTON POST, Washington, DC
    RAGAN, HENRIETTA WILMER - Suddenly, on Saturday, December 5, 1959, at her home, Leonardtown Maryland, Henrietta Wilmer Ragan, the beloved wife of the late Frances Patrick Ragan and sister of Mrs. Christine G Gardner, Mrs. Maria E Hunt, and Miss Eleanor Greenwell, and Mrs. Wilhemina G Howard.

    Friends may call at the Mattingly Gardner Funeral Home where prayers will be said tonight at 8 o’clock and mass will be said tomorrow, Tuesday, December 8 at 11:30 AM internment church cemetery.
  • 12/7/1959 - HAGERSTOWN MORNING HERALD, Hagerstown, MD
    LEONARDTOWN WIDOW SLAIN

    LEONARDTOWN Md (AP) - An attractive 44-year-old widow was found strangled and raped in her bed Saturday.

    Police said Henrietta W Ragan was found by her employer when she did not appear for work at the Thrift Oil Co. across the street from her home.

    There were bruises on her neck and ear and evidence of a struggle, police said. Her wallet was missing.

    Dr. CS Petty, Baltimore medical examiner, said she died of strangulation with evidence of rape. Police disclosed the murder when the autopsy was completed Sunday.

    Mrs. Ragan, a petite brunette who had lived alone since the death of her husband Francis last February, was wearing pajamas. The bed was askew with pillows and bedclothes disarranged.

    Mrs. Ragan's employer Maurice Thrift, told police he found the back door of the year old four room house unlocked. Neighbors in the Tudor Hall Estates development, overlooking Breton Bay, said they heard no noise or outcries.

    St. Mary’s County Sheriff Robert Miedzinski and Deputy Sheriff George Sanger, said Thrift told them he was in the habit of calling Mrs. Ragan, employed for 17 years, whenever she overslept. When she didn't answer his call, he went to investigate.
  • 12/7/1959 - CUMBERLAND EVENING TIMES, Cumberland MD
    POLICE SEEK FOR MOTIVE IN SLAYING
    ATTRACTIVE WIDOW STRANGLED IN BED AT LEONARDTOWN

    LEONARDTOWN, Md (AP) -


    Police searched for a motive today in the slaying of an attractive brunette who was found strangled and raped in her bed Saturday.

    St. Mary’s County Sheriff Robert Miedzinski reported no clues in the murder of 44 year old Mrs. Henrietta W. Ragan. The sheriff questioned on man Saturday night but released him.

    Miedzinski said robbery may have been the movie for the killing because her wallet was missing. However, the Sheriff added that Mrs. Ragan could have hidden the wallet before retiring Saturday night.

    Dr. C.S. Petty, Baltimore medical examiner, said Mrs. Ragan died of strangulation with evidence of rape. The murder was not disclosed until after an autopsy yesterday. The body was found by her employer, Maurice T. Thirft, after she failed to show up for work at the Thrift Oil Co. across the street from her home in the Tudor Hall Estates development.

    Police said there were bruises on her neck and evidence of a struggle. neighbors said they heard no commotion or screams.

    Mrs. Ragan, a widow who lived alone in her four bedroom house, was wearing pajamas. The bed pillows and clothes were disarranged.

    Police quoted Thrift as saying he found the rear door of the house unlocked. He said he was accustomed to calling for Mrs. Ragan, an employee for 17 years, whenever she overslept.

    Dr. William D. Boyd, St. Mary’s County medical examiner, who made a preliminary examination, said Mrs. Ragan apparently died between midnight and 2:30 Saturday morning.

    Mrs. Ragan’s husband, a civil service employee at the Patuxent Naval River Air Station, died last February. her mother, an invalid, died last year.

    A requiem mass is scheduled at 11:30 am tomorrow at St. Aloysius Church here with burial in the church cemetery.

    The only survivors are four half sisters and their children.
  • 12/7/1959 - HAGERSTOWN DAILY MAIL, Hagerstown, MD
    SEEK MOTIVE IN SLAYING OF BRUNETTE

    LEONARDTOWN, Md (AP) -


    Police searched for a motive today in the slaying of an attractive brunette who was found strangled and raped in her bed Saturday.

    St. Mary’s County Sheriff Robert Miedzinski reported no clues in the murder of 44 year old Mrs. Henrietta W. Ragan. The sheriff questioned on man Saturday night but released him.

    Miedzinski said robbery may have been the movie for the killing because her wallet was missing. However, the Sheriff added that Mrs. Ragan could have hidden the wallet before retiring Saturday night.

    Dr. C.S. Petty, Baltimore medical examiner, said Mrs. Ragan died of strangulation with evidence of rape. The murder was not disclosed until after an autopsy yesterday. The body was found by her employer, Maurice T. Thirft, after she failed to show up for work at the Thrift Oil Co. across the street from her home in the Tudor Hall Estates development.

    Police said there were bruises on her neck and evidence of a struggle. neighbors said they heard no commotion or screams.

    Mrs. Ragan, a widow who lived alone in her four bedroom house, was wearing pajamas. The bed pillows and clothes were disarranged.

    Police quoted Thrift as saying he found the rear door of the house unlocked. He said he was accustomed to calling for Mrs. Ragan, an employee for 17 years, whenever she overslept.

    Dr. William D. Boyd, St. Mary’s County medical examiner, who made a preliminary examination, said Mrs. Ragan apparently died between midnight and 2:30 Saturday morning.

    Mrs. Ragan’s husband, a civil service employee at the Patuxent Naval River Air Station, died last February. her mother, an invalid, died last year.

    A requiem mass is scheduled at 11:30 am tomorrow at St. Aloysius Church here with burial in the church cemetery.

    The only survivors are four half sisters and their children.
  • 12/9/1959 - EVENING SUN, Baltimore MD
    TOWN PRESSES FOR SOLUTION OF MURDER

    Leonardtown, MD -
    The citizens of this small semi-rural Southern Maryland community today were demanding a solution to the baffling murder-rape of a pretty 44-year old widow, Mrs. Henrietta Ragan.

    Robert Miedzinski, St. Mary’s County Sheriff, is leading the investigation, aided by Lt. Thomas S. Smith.

    STAINS, PRINTS CHECKED

    Sheriff Miedzinski said today that police are trying to check out bloodstains on the sheet of the bed in which Mrs. Ragan’s body was found, It is different from her blood type.

    The Sheriff said there is one very good palm print on the headboard of the woman’s bed.

    Lieutenant Smith said other prints were found in the bathroom.

    The bed closing will be sent to the medical examiner’s office in Baltimore for checking.

    The last person known to have seen Mrs. Ragan alive was her brother-in-law John Gardiner. Mrs. Ragan had dinner with her sister, Mrs. Christine Gardiner, Friday night.
  • 12/10/1959 - THE ENTERPRISE, St. Mary’s County MD
    INJURED MAN SOUGHT AS SLAYER AS PROBE OF MURDER IS WIDENED

    BLOOD STAINS NOT WIDOW’S, MASS FINGERPRINTING STARTS

    by Val Hymes

    A maze of fingerprints promised to engulf virtually hundreds of suspects this week as a blood spattered bed sheet led investigators to search for an injured man is the mysterious slayer of Henrietta Ragan.

    A sample of the blood did not did not match the victim’s indicated to the sheriffs and police that the killer and rapist had been hurt in the attractive Leonardtown widow’s futile struggle for her life sometime early Saturday morning.

    A full-scale operation to fingerprint and question the widow’s fellow employees, friends and relatives was begun Wednesday. At the same time, a squad of troopers started a second canvass of homes near the Ragan house on Washington Street.

    Tuesday, the neat, year-old four-bedroom white house overlooking Breton Bay had been given a microscopic examination by state police crime lab technicians, sheriffs and state police officers. For nearly 12 hours expert fingerprint and photography specialists moved slowly through the rooms.

    FIND FINGERPRINTS

    Fingerprints were brought out with a black powder, then lifted with tape or photographed. Individual hairs were collected for scrutiny by lab specialists. Bedclothes, floors, towels and walls were studied for blood samples.

    “I am counting on what those boys turned up, “ Lieutenant Thomas S Smith of the State Police Bureau of Identification and Investigation said about the collection of technical evidence.

    The police detective and technicians were brought into the investigation at the request of Mrs. Ragan's family, the sheriffs office and States Attorney Joseph A. Mattingly through Maryland’s Attorney General and Governor.

    Sheriff Robert Miedzinski, Deputy George Sanger, Cpl. CH Muchow and met County Medical Examiner Dr. William D. Boyd begin the investigation on Saturday morning after the body of the 44-year-old weather was found.

    A suspect was picked up and questioned Saturday night. He was reported to have scratches on his neck, but was released after about four hours of questioning the same night.

    “He has not been eliminated as a suspect,” Deputy Sanger said

    WORK METHODICALLY

    With the arrival of the lieutenant detective with Waldorf Barracks Sgt. Richard Stallings and technicians Michael Kradtz and Donald Robinson, the sheriffs office, Navy intelligence investigators, and Dr. Boyd began a methodical coordinated assault on the multi-faceted case.

    “We have every reason to believe the killer was injured during the struggle.” Lieutenant Smith said.

    St. Mary's and the NAS hospitals were notified to report anyone with an injury that may be connected with the crime. Tuesday night a man was examined who had asked for medical help for a cat bite. He was released after examination by Dr. Boyd

    A report from the Chief Medical Examiner's Office show that some of the blood on a bedsheet was of a different type than Mrs. Ragan’s.

    The investigator said they were awaiting a more complete report from the autopsy that may identify any foreign matter under the nails or about the body that could lead to the identification of the killer.

    QUESTION EMPLOYER

    Lieutenant Smith said he had questioned Mrs. Reagan's employer, Maurice T. Thrift, owner of the Thrift Oil Company in Leonardtown, Tuesday morning. The investigators said they would have to question relatives of the victim, including John Gardner, brother-in-law, and Mrs. Christine Gardner, Mrs. Ragan sister.

    Gardner was the last known person to see the widow before her death, which has been set as “any time after midnight” according to Deputy Sanger.

    A search for an unidentified green Ford was begun early in the investigation after an 18-year-old Leonardtown youth saw a car that didn't belong in the neighborhood about 2:15 AM Saturday.

    The car was identified as a two-tone 1955 Ford, with a green bottom and light green, cream, or white top, with “light” plates, by William G Holly Jr., who was driving his family to their home near the Ragan house. The vehicle was parked across the street from Mrs. Ragan's, pointing down the hill.

    Mrs. Mary Agnes Butler, wife of jailer Howard Buckler, told police she saw a similar car driving up the hill about 3 AM.

    The search for a new gray pullover sweater and a grey wallet continued. Sheriff Miedzinski said the sweater is believed to have been used to gag Mrs. Ragan during the assault. There were no reports of neighbors hearing screams or other sounds.

    Robbery has not been officially ruled out as a motive, although jewelry the widow was wearing, and other jewelry in the house was not missing, the family told police

    SEEMED HAPPY

    The neat, well like Mrs. Ragan seemed happy and excited about Christmas plans Friday. At lunch with a friend, she talked of many things. Indicating no worries repercussions.

    About 5 PM, she attended mass with Mrs. Gardner at St. Francis Xavier Church, Compton, returned to the Gardiner home for dinner about 6:30 PM, then said she was going to the bank on the way home.

    Cashier of the County Trust Bank, Kennedy Abell Jr., said she only ordered some new checks.

    Before leaving the Gardiner home about 7:30 PM, she invited her brother-in-law to watch television with her while Mrs. Gardner attended a card party. About 9 PM Gardiner told police he arrived at Mrs. Ragan's, watched television while she address Christmas cards, then left at 10:30 PM. Mrs. Olive G Camalier, neighbor, told police she saw lights on Mrs. Ragan's at 11 PM.

    At 9:30 AM, the widow’s employer for 17 years, Maurice Thrift, told police he became worried about the victim, and telephoned twice, receiving no answer. Mrs. Ragan always telephone when she was expected to be late at the office, Thrift said.

    The oil distributing company owner said he thought she may have been sick, so he headed across the street to her house with a key she kept in her desk drawer. Going to the back door, through said, he found it unlocked, walk in and called to her.

    When he heard nothing, Thrift said, he walked into the bedroom and saw Mrs. Ragan lying in bed, covered neatly. “She didn't look right to me.”

    CALLED FOR DOCTOR

    He ran back to his office and called for a doctor and police. “I didn't stay there long enough to find out if there was a brother breath of life left,” he said. “I just wanted to get a doctor there as fast as I could.”

    Medical Examiner Boyd and State Medical Examiner Dr. C.S..Petty attributed Mrs. Ragan’s death to strangulation, apparently manual, and said there was evidence of criminal assault. Dr. Boyd said he found bruises on her neck, ear and wrist.

    Chewing gum was found on her teeth.

    One slipper had been apparently kicked under the bed. The other was lying beside the bed. A pajama button had been found on the floor, as was a miraculous medal, which she had worn pinned to her pajama top.

    There was little evidence of a struggle away from the bed, the doctor said. The foam rubber caster under one of the bed legs had been knocked loose, and the bed was slightly askew.

    The killer apparently made an obvious effort to straighten the bed by pulling the bedcovers up neatly, the examiner noted, and said the front of her pajamas was pulled up, although the back part was down. One pillow was jammed against the headboard, another was pushed beneath her back.

    The victim told her friends and relatives she was nervous about living alone since the death of her husband, and was accustomed to locking doors and pulling down shades whenever at home.

    “It looks like someone who knew the lay of the land,” examiner said. He was backed up by statements made by the sheriffs.

    Lieutenant Smith said the Thrift company employees were to be fingerprinted first, because the key in the desk was accessible to all of them. A key to the main building of the company was also accessible from the outside.

    “We are all suspects,” Thrift said.

    Gardiner announced Monday night a $5000 award which was offered by the family to anyone giving information information that would lead to the arrest and conviction of killer.

    Lieutenant Smith said he was awaiting the results of an examination of a palm print found on the headboard of the bed. A print of Mrs. Ragan’s palm was sent to State Police headquarters for comparison.

    A more recent estimate of the time of death by the Baltimore Medical Examiner's Office was put at 3 to 5 hours after she dinner, Smith said.

    A green sweater and a black purse found near McIntosh Road, was discounted as belonging to Mrs. Ragan. “There was nothing in her background indications of anything other than good morning character,” Smith said.

    A native of St. Mary's County and the daughter of the late General and Mrs. L. A. Wilmer, Mrs. Ragan was widely known throughout the county has a kind, vivacious, charitable and hard-working woman. She was the widow of Frances Patrick Ragan, who died at the age of 46 on February 14. He was a civil-service transportation supervisor at Patuxent at the time of his death.

    Mrs. Ragan and her husband had resided with her mother, until her death last year. They built and moved into their new home in Tudor Hall Estates shortly before he died. As a child she lived that Rose Cottage, one of Leonardtown's oldest homes.

    She was an alumni of St. Mary’s Academy in Leonardtown, and was active in its alumni association. She was a serious musician, gave her own recital as a student, and sang and played the piano for choirs, weddings, and other organizations.

    She also directed the St. Mary's Choral Group several years ago. She played the piano within the past two months for the Leonardtown Lions Variety Show.

    The day before death, she was planning on attending Elks Memorial Serivces honoring her husband and Ernest Slusser that were held Sunday.

    Prayers were said at the Mattingly Gardner Funeral Home, Leonardtown, at 8 p.m. Monday night. A Requiem Mass was offered Tuesday at St. Aloysius Church, Leonardtown, followed by interment in the church cemetery.

    A twin sister of the late Lemuel Allison of Leonardtown, she is survived by four sisters: Mrs. John Gardner of Leonardtown, Mrs. Robert Hunt Sr. of Compton and Mrs. Russell Howard Sr., and Miss Eleanor Greenwell of Waldorf. Several nieces and nephew also survive.
  • 12/10/1959 - HAGERSTOWN MORNING HERALD, Hagerstown MD
    RAPE-SLAYING POSES PUZZLE

    LEONARDTOWN Md (AP) - Authorities investigation the slaying of Mrs. Henrietta Ragan reported Wednesday that bloodstains found on her bed were of a different type than that of the victim.

    The 44 year old widow was raped and strangled last Saturday and the new clue gave rise to the theory that Mrs. Ragan may have bitten or scratched her assailant in a violent struggle.

    The bed clothing was to be sent to the State Medical Examiner’s Office in Baltimore for further tests. Strands of hair found in the house were sent to the FBI in Washington for comparative tests with samples of hair taken from the body.

    Mrs. Ragan lived alone in a four room home across the street from Thrift Oil Co., where she had been employed for 17 years. Her employer, Maurce T. Thrift, found the pajama clad body when he went to find out why Mrs. Ragan had not reported for work. Thrift said the back door was unlocked.

    State Police Wednesday began taking finger prints and palm prints of about 14 Thrift company employees, relatives and associates of Mrs. Ragan.

    Thrift told investigators a key to Mrs. Ragan’s home was kept in the oil firm’s office in case of an emergency. He said he did not know how many people know about the key.

    “We have found more than 50 clear prints in the house, many of the in the rom where the crime took place,” said Lt. Thomas S. Smith of the State Police Bureau of Criminal Identification.

    “These prints include a nearly perfect palm and fingerprint on the foot of Mrs. Ragan’s bed, and a similar print high on the wall of the bathroom,” Smith said.

    The last person known to have seen the victim alive was her brother in law, John Gardiner. Mrs. Ragan had dinner at the Gardiner home Friday night. After Mrs. Gardiner went to a friend’s house to play cards, her husband went to the Ragan home.

    Gardiner said he watched television until about 10:30 pm. He said when he left, Mrs. Ragan was addressing Christmas cards.

    Dr. William D. Boyd, St. Mary’s County Medical Examiner, said Mrs. Ragan apparently died between midnight and 2:30 am Saturday.

    Police said bruises on her neck and an ear gave evidence of a struggle. Her wallet was missing.

    Mrs. Ragan, an attractive brunette, had loved along since the death of her husband, Francis, last February.
  • 12/10/1959 - THE DAILY TIMES, Salisbury MD
    POLICE PROBE WIDOW’S SLAYING

    LEONARDTOWN, Md (AP) -


    Police investigation the slaying of a Leonardtown widow, Mrs. Henrietta Ragan, have come up with some new clues.

    The 44 year old attractive brunette was raped and strangled last Saturday in the bedroom of the house where she had lived along since the death of her husband, Francis, last February.

    Lt. Thomas S. Smith of the State Police Criminal Identifaction Bureau said yesterday that more than 50 clear fingerprints have been found in the house, as well as bloodstains not from the victim.

    Bedclothing bearing the bloodstains was sent to the FBI laboratory in Washington for further tests, along with strands of hair found in the house. The new developments gave rise to the theory that Mrs. Ragan may have bitten or scratched her assailant in a violent struggle.

    Lt. Smith said the fingerprints “include a nearly perfect palm and fingerprints on the foot of Mrs. Ragan’s bed, and a smiler print high on the wall of the bathroom.”

    State police have begun taking fingerprints of about 14 employees of Thrift Oil Co., the place where Mrs. Ragan worked, across the street form her residence. A key to her house was kept at the company office in case of an emergency, but her employer, Maurice T. Thrift, could not say how many persons knew about the key.
  • 12/10/1959 - EVENING SUN, Baltimore MD
    CLUES FOUND IN SLAYING

    LEONARDTOWN Md (AP)-

    Authorities investigation the slaying of Mrs. Henrietta Ragan reported Wednesday that bloodstains found on her bed were of a different type than that of the victim.

    The 44 year old widow was raped and strangled last Saturday and the new clue gave rise to the theory that Mrs. Ragan may have bitten or scratched her assailant in a violent struggle.

    The bed clothing was to be send to the State Medical Examiner's office in Baltimore for further tests. Strands of hair found in the house were sent to the FBI in Washington for comparative tests with samples of hair taken from the body.

    Mrs. Ragan lived alone in a four room house across the street from Thrift Oil Co., where she had been employed for 17 years. Her employer, Maurice T. Thrift, found the pajama clad body when he went to find out why Mrs. Ragan had not reported for work. Thrift said the back door was unlocked.

    State Police Wednesday began taking finger prints and plan prints of about 14 Thrift company employees, and relatives and associates of Mrs.Ragan.

    Thrift told investigators a key to Mrs. Ragan's home was kept in the oil firm's office in case of an emergency. He said he did not know how many people knew about the key.
  • 12/10/1959 - FREDERICK NEWS, Frederick MD
    DIFFERENT BLOODSTAINS FOUND ON VICTIM'S BED

    LEONARDTOWN Md (AP)-

    Authorities investigation the slaying of Mrs. Henrietta Ragan reported Wednesday that bloodstains found on her bed were of a different type than that of the victim.

    The 44 year old widow was raped and strangled last Saturday and the new clue gave rise to the theory that Mrs. Ragan may have bitten or scratched her assailant in a violent struggle.

    The bed clothing was to be send to the State Medical Examiner's office in Baltimore for further tests. Strands of hair found in the house were sent to the FBI in Washington for comparative tests with samples of hair taken from the body.

    Mrs. Ragan lived alone in a four room house across the street from Thrift Oil Co., where she had been employed for 17 years. Her employer, Maurice T. Thrift, found the pajama clad body when he went to find out why Mrs. Ragan had not reported for work. Thrift said the back door was unlocked.

    State Police Wednesday began taking finger prints and plan prints of about 14 Thrift company employees, and relatives and associates of Mrs.Ragan.

    Thrift told investigators a key to Mrs. Ragan's home was kept in the oil firm's office in case of an emergency. He said he did not know how many people knew about the key.
  • 12/12/1959 - BALTIMORE EVENING SUN, Baltimore MD
    RAPE - SLAYING CLUE FOUND

    Leonardtown, MD, Dec. 12 -

    A significant clue in the murder - rape of a 44-year old widow here last Saturday was found last night by investigators.

    Robert Miedzinski, St. Mary’s County Sheriff, said a sweater Mrs. Henrietta Ragan was wearing on the night of her murder was found discarded along a side road near here.

    He said investigators have been looking for the sweater all week.

    The Sheriff said the sweater may have important significance in the case since it apparently was thrown from a car on the St. John’s Road about four miles outside this Southern Maryland community.

    SWEATER WASHED

    The sweater was found by a farm family and had been washed by them before they realized it might be connected with the murder case, the Sheriff said.

    The washing may have destroyed any evidence that might have been on the sweater, but the investigators now want to know who discarded it by the road.

    Sheriff Miedzinski said the sweater recovered is definitely the one worn by the woman on the night of her death.
  • 12/13/1959 - BALTIMORE SUN, Baltimore MD
    WOMAN’S SWEATER IS FOUND NEAR LEONARDTOWN

    Leonardtown, MD, Dec. 12 - A gray cashmere sweater that belonged to a victim of rape and murder has been recovered 5 miles east of here.

    Police said the garment was among items missing from the home of Mrs. Henrietta W. Ragan, 44, found strangled in her be in her Leonardtown home last Saturday.

    Relatives of the dead woman, a widow, have offered a $5000 reward for information leading to the capture of her slayer.

    The sweater was found in a ditch beside a country road off Route 245 near Hollywood, in St. Mray’s County.

    Sheriff Robert Miedzinski said the sweater was among items known to be missing from Mrs. Ragan’s home.
  • 12/13/1959 - CUMBERLAND SUNDAY TIMES, Cumberland MD
    SLAIN WIDOW'S SWEATER FOUND

    LEONARDTOWN Md (AP)-

    A grey cashmere sweater which belonged to an attractive victim of rape and murder has been recovered five miles east of here.

    Police said the garment was among items missing from the home of Henrietta W. Ragan, 44, found strangled in her bed in her Leonardtown home last Saturday.

    Relatives of the dead woman, a widow, have offered a $5000 reward for information leading to the capture of her slayer.
  • 12/14/1959 - HAGERSTOWN DAILY MAIL, Hagerstown MD
    PRINTS FOUND IN BEDROOM OF MURDER VICTIM
    Hagerstown Daily Mail - December 14, 1959

    LEONARDTOWN, Md (AP) -


    Police investigation the slaying of a Leonardtown widow, Mrs. Henrietta Ragan, have come up with some new clues.

    The 44 year old attractive brunette was raped and strangled last Saturday in the bedroom of the house where she had lived along since the death of her husband, Francis, last February.

    Lt. Thomas S. Smith of the State Police Criminal Identifaction Bureau said yesterday that more than 50 clear fingerprints have been found in the house, as well as bloodstains not from the victim.

    Bedclothing bearing the bloodstains was sent to the FBI laboratory in Washington for further tests, along with strands of hair found in the house. The new developments gave rise to the theory that Mrs. Ragan may have bitten or scratched her assailant in a violent struggle.

    Lt. Smith said the fingerprints “include a nearly perfect palm and fingerprints on the foot of Mrs. Ragan’s bed, and a smiler print high on the wall of the bathroom.”

    State police have begun taking fingerprints of about 14 employees of Thrift Oil Co., the place where Mrs. Ragan worked, across the street form her residence. A key to her house was kept at the company office in case of an emergency, but her employer, Maurice T. Thrift, could not say how many persons knew about the key.
  • 12/17/1959 - THE ENTERPRISE, St. Mary’s County MD
    cc-hrsweater
    HINT SWEATER CLUE MAY BE A ‘PLANT’

    POSSIBLE SUSPECTS QUIZZED IN SEARCH FOR WIDOW’S KILLER


    by Val Hymes

    The gray cashmere sweater worn by Henrietta Reagan the day before her death may have been planted in a roadside ditch by the killer, sheriffs office and state police investigators said.

    Relayed by State Police to a laboratory for examination, the pullover had been located on a county road connect the State Routes 245 and 235, the “Hollywood Road” and Three Notch Road.

    Meanwhile, the schedule questioning of scores of persons continued.

    “We're questioning all known associates, former associates, members of the family, neighbors, delivery and repair man and any persons of questionable character in the area,” Lieutenant Thomas Smith and Deputy George Sanger said.

    The officers also continue to check out suspicious cars or vehicles resembling one described as being in the area of the night of the murder:; persons with cuts or scratches, and other leads or tips brought in by the $5000 award offered by the widows family.

    LOOK FOR WALLET

    Last weekend a squad of troopers and sheriffs repeatedly return to Hollywood to look for the still missing wallet.

    Mrs. Ragan sweater has been found at 8 AM Saturday, the morning after the murder rate nearly 4 miles from Leonardtown, in a ditch beside the St. John's Road off Route 245.

    Several houses border the road where the garment was found. Reporting to Sheriff Miedzinski Friday night, the finder, a 16 year-old boy, said he had been unaware of the seven day search until reading The Enterprise.

    The sweater was washed in the interim, the sheriff reported, but wasn't but was apparently not stained or dirty when found, from the finder’s description.

    “We're waiting a report from the Medical Examiner's Office in Baltimore on the sweater,” Lieutenant Smith said. The state police investigator added the two small hairs had been found on the sweater were identified as those apparently from a male or female.

    ELIMINATE FINGERPRINTS

    Elimination of fingerprints continues. More than 35 persons have been fingerprinted, but some prints were still unidentified, Tuesday, the Lieutenant said. They had been found in the Ragan house where the attractive 44 you're a widow's body was found on the morning of December 5.

    Blood samples of also been taken from several people for comparison with the blood found on the deathbed sheets.

    The search for the wallet extended not only to searching the wooded areas of the grounds nearby the ditch where the sweater was located, but into the toilet traps in the Ragan house.

    A plumbing contractor was requested by the investigators Tuesday to search the pipes and traps of the plumbing facilities at the Ragan home.

    “The wallet is very important to this case,” Deputy Sanger said. “We are extremely interested in recovering the wallet, and any information we received will be treated confidentially,” the sheriff added.

    SET TIME OF DEATH

    The final determination of the time of death, according to Lieutenant Smith, has been set by the state Medical Examiner's Office between 10 PM to midnight.

    The crime was first believed to of occurred sometime after midnight.

    One particular car that was rumored to have been the vehicle seen parked across the street from the Ragan house the night of the murder has been discounted as being connected to the crime.

    The car, traded into an auto dealer before the murder, is not involved, the investigators reported.

    In 1955 or 1956 green and white Ford, however, is still sought by officers as a possible lead in the case.

    The police look out for mysterious Ford was broadcast in four counties Wednesday night.

    The area broadcast asked state troopers to stop in 1955 Ford sedan with a dark green top and dark green bottom with a cream or light green center.

    The auto was described as having a mirror or mirror spotlight on the driver side; light license plates and diamond shaped reflector tape on the rear bumper.

    Officers were asked to stop any such car, and “note wheher or not the operator has any marks on the face or hands. If so, hold,” the broadcast said.

    Thursday, several drivers were brought in for questioning and released.

    STATE WIDE HELP OFFERED

    Wednesday afternoon, Capt. E.W. Reith, commander of Troop A, which includes the Waldorf and Waterloo Barracks areas, seven counties, visited Leonardtown and offered the assistance of the facilities of the state law enforcement agencies. “If there's anything we need from the outside, it is available,” Capt. Reith said.

    “I’ve ordered I have been ordered to ask for any assistance we may need,” Lieutenant Smith said.

    All state police leave in the county were temporarily cancelled, Cpl. C.H. Muchow reported. The sheriffs office also worked its men full-time toward the solution of the killing.

    Captain E.W. Magaha, commander of the State Police Division of Investigation and Identification, visited the county to address a high school Friday, and reviewed the case with investigators the same day.

    Lieutenant Trueman Moon, commander of the Waldorf Barracks, met with investigators Tuesday.

    Contrary to rumors sweeping the county, no suspects have been jailed by the investigators.

    A joint statement by the St. Mary's County Sheriff’s Office and State Police was released Thursday denying that any official statement concerning the arrest of a suspect had been made to newspapers, television or radio.

    “We are continuing to fingerprint everyone that had been in the house since Mrs. Henrietta Reagan was killed and those known to have been there in recent months.”

    “We're also continuing the questioning of anyone we feel may have information that may lead to the solution of this case.”
  • 12/17/1959 - THE ENTERPRISE, St. Mary’s County MD
    IT CAN HAPPEN HERE

    What happened in Leonardtown two weeks ago was a terrible thing, to say the very least. It was the type of crime we haven't seen around here many years, if ever, and it rightfully stunned the people into realizing that things like this don't always happen somewhere else.

    The case has all the trappings of a murder mystery, complete with tiny clues, innuendos and vague suspicions. The only trouble is, we can't find a Peter Gunn on Ellery Queen to solve it in half hour. These feats are only done on television programs.

    The authorities are hard at work reconstructing the crime and the incidents which may have led up to it. In doing so, they're letting us see firsthand the modern methods of detection.

    The first thing we notice about these methods is that they are slow, methodical and highly scientific. Haste could be very costly, jumping to a conclusion could easily tear down everything that works so hard to build up over the weeks.

    We have little doubt that their efforts will prove successful, and we will continue to help the authorities in every way possible to make their job easier.

    One of these ways, what some people find it hard to realize, is to cover the story is completely and accurately as we can, be careful, of course, not to divulge anything that might tend to hinder the investigation.

    Take, for example, the discovery of the missing gray sweater. This clue was turned into the sheriff after the finder read about it in The Enterprise. Without this type of coverage, the readers would not know what missing pieces were being sought, and if they came across something important, they probably would probably ever look at.

    The only other danger and a case of this kind is for the public to solve it without knowing all the facts. This, we are sorry to say, has a tendency here, and it should be avoided at all costs.

    We prefer to leave the work in the hands of those this profession is detecting, confident that with the collaboration of the public, they will bring the killer to justice.
  • 12/22/1959 - THE ENTERPRISE, St. Mary’s County MD
    PAINT SPOTTED CAR SOUGHT AS CLUE IN THE RAGAN SLAYING

    A paint splotched car was sought this week by investigators as they started their fourth week in the relentless track down of a killer.

    The car, seen by several Leonardtownians the night Henrietta Ragan was brutally murdered, became one more unexplained lead in the thousands follow-through by sheriffs and state police.

    “It may not be connected but we must check out everything,” Deputy Sheriff George Sanger said.

    “The car, a 1949 or 1950 black Plymouth, was seen cruising slowly around Leonardtown,” the deputy said. Two sandy haired men were also in the car. The vehicle is also splotched with rust colored primer paint and has blue or green license plates, the officer said

    LIE TESTS GIVEN

    Want investigators continued the massive questioning and fingerprint elimination process, several lie detector test were given to volunteers in Baltimore.

    The test, which administered by a State Police expert, we're given to several persons at their request and agreement.

    Several fingerprints have not yet been identified from the scores that were lifted by State Police experts from the Ragan home. Because fingerprints last indefinitely, the sheriffs have been forced to locate every person who may have had reason to visit the recently built Tudor Hall Estates home where the rape-slaying occurred. “We are still questioning people daily,” Deputy Sanger said.

    Assisted by Deputy Ben Burrows, Sanger has started a canvass of homes on the St. Johns Road where Mrs. Ragan cashmere sweater was found.

    “We're looking for anyone who may have seen anything suspicious on that road the night of the killing,” Sanger said.

    States Attorney Joseph A Mattingly and Sheriff Robert Miedzinski emphasized again this week, that the sheriffs office must not rest until the person responsible for this crime is arrested and convicted.

    High State Police officials kept their crack investigators on the case, assigned to assist the sheriffs until the gruesome murder is solved.
  • 1/6/1960 - BALTIMORE SUN, Baltimore MD
    TWO MEN HUNTED IN RAPE-SLAYING

    Leonardtown, MD., Jan. 6 - A thirteen state alarm has been out by police for two “rough looking” white men wanted for questioning in the rape slaying of Mrs. Henrietta W. Ragan last December 5.

    State Police Lt. Truman Moon and Sheriff Robert Miedzinski declined to disclose whey the men are sought.

    The men were last known to be traveling in a 1949 model sedan bearing Tennessee license plates.

    The body of Mrs. Raga was found in her home by Maurice T. Thrift, when she failed to report for work at the oil company across the street from her house.

    The body of the 44 year old widow was found on a bed. She had been raped and strangled. The woman had lived alone since the death of her husband, Francis Ragan, in February, 1959.
  • 1/7/1960 - FREDERICK POST, Frederick MD
    13 STATE ALARM OUT FOR SUSPECTS IN RAPE-MURDER

    LEONARDTOWN Md (AP)-

    A 13 State alarm has been out by police for “two rough looking” white men wanted for questioning in the rape slang of Mrs. Henrietta W. Ragan last December 5.

    State police Lieutenant Truman Moon and Sheriff Robert Miedzinski declined to disclose why the man are sought.

    The men were last known to be traveling in a 1949 model sedan bearing Tennessee license plates.

    The body Mrs. Ragan was found in her home by her employer Maurice Thrift when she failed to report for work at the oil company across the street from our house.

    The body of the 44-year-old was found on the bed. She had been raped and strangled. The woman had lived alone since the death of her husband Frances Ragan in February 1959.
  • 1/7/1960 - THE ENTERPRISE, St. Mary’s County MD
    INVESTIGATORS SEEK ALL RAGAN VISITORS

    HOPE TO ELIMINATE MORE FINGERPRINTS IN THE HOUSE


    An appeal to the public was made by sheriffs and State Police this week, as the grueling task of solving the motor Henrietta Reagan continued.

    At the same time, a statewide alarm for a paint splotched car was broadcast to all law-enforcement agencies.

    The investigators asked the public to cooperate in an effort to eliminate the scores of fingerprints found in the Leonardtown bungalow where the 44 year old widow was raped and strangled early December 5.

    “We want anyone who is been in the house to contact the sheriffs office,” the investigators said, describing the urgency to eliminate the non-vital fingerprints found in the house by State Police technicians.

    “More than two thirds of the fingerprints lifted have been identified,” Cpl. Bernard Weimer said. He and Deputy Sheriff George Sanger, aided by Deputy Benjamin H Burroughs Jr., are daily rounding up and bringing in for fingerprints persons have been in the house.

    More lie detector test have been given and blood samples taken.

    Police and sheriffs are still alerted to search for the 1955 to two toned green Ford and the primer paint spotted 1949 or 1950 Plymouth.

    A statewide lookout was sent out Tuesday for the Plymouth on a State Police teletype, as investigators widen their search for the car that was seen cruising through Leonardtown the night of the motor.

    Two or three sandy haired “rough looking” men were seen in the car, the investigators reported.

    Two fire departments come the edges of more than 4 miles of roads Tuesday for the still missing drywall to Mrs. Ragan.

    Under the direction of Sheriff Miedzinski, volunteer members of the Hollywood and Leonardtown fire departments walked the length of the St. John's in Cedar Lane Roads. The men began at either end of St. John's Road and moved three abreast along the sides. They also covered the intersecting Cedar Lane Road.

    The dead widow’s cashmere sweater has been found in a ditch beside St. John's Road.

    Deputy George Sanger repeated that any information brought in concerning the motor or the location of the wallet, will be treated confidentially.

    The families offer of a $5000 reward for information still stands.

    Lieutenant Thomas Smith, state police investigator, assigned to assist the sheriffs office in the case continues to commute several times a week between Baltimore and Leonardtown. Corporal Weimer travels from the Waldorf barracks.

    The fingerprints taken here have been sent almost daily to State Police headquarters for the expert scrutiny of a fingerprint expert.
  • 3/1960 - THE ENTERPRISE, St. Mary’s County MD
    SHERIFFS, STATE POLICE PLAN TO TAKE RAGAN MURDER CASE BEFORE GRAND JURY

    The Ragan case will go before a grand jury this month.

    The long-investigated murder of prominent 44-year-old widow Henrietta Reagan of Leonardtown is scheduled to be placed before 23 grand jurors the week of March 21, State’s Attorney Joseph A. Mattingly said this week.

    Thousands of pieces of evidence may be presented by sheriffs, and State Police after they were painstakingly gathered following the death of the widow December 4.

    Investigation, meanwhile, continues with county sheriffs assisted by State Police criminal technicians and Lieutenant Thomas S. Smith of the State Police Bureau of Identification and Investigation.

    “We will continue to investigate this case until it is solved,” Deputy George Sanger said. Although leads are thining out, the sheriffs office will not close the case. The deputy, and Sheriff Robert Miedzinski began the initial investigation of the case when the attractive woman was found strangled and assaulted in her bed.

    Hundreds of fingerprints were taken hundreds of persons questioning connection with the case. Some fingerprints taken from home have not yet been identified, Lt. Smith reported.
  • 3/24/1960 - THE ENTERPRISE, St. Mary’s County MD
    RAGAN MURDER PRESENTED TO NEW GRAND JURY

    The 23 man Grand jury was expected to finish its deliberations Wednesday after hearing the secret testimony of nearly 20 witnesses in two days.

    Instructed by Circuit Court Judge Philip H Dorsey Monday morning, the new jurors were told that State’s Attorney Joseph A. Mattingly would present to them for consideration a murder case, a fraud case, three bastardy cases, for disorderly house cases and wanted decent show charge.

    After the jury and Foreman William A. Burch of Mechanicsville was sworn in by Clerk C.B. Greenwell, Judge Dorsey related the history of Maryland's grand jury; told them their investigative powers are limited; that any 12 can build an indictment or presented, and emphasize that the provisions of the oath of constitute the cornerstone of justice.

    …among the witnesses summons before the jury work: Welfare Department Official Curtis C. Larrimore 2nd, Ethel Goddard, Mr. and Mrs. Milton Adams, Janet Rice, Julia Calhoun, Nellie Suite, Hazel Knott, Arnedia Redmon, Lt. Thomas Smith, Dr. William D. Boyd and members of the sheriffs office.

    The jury was expected to spend a major part of its deliberations hearing testimony about the murder of Leonardtown widow Henrietta Reagan...

    The following were drawn to serve as grand jurors for the March term of Circuit Court:

    William A. Burch (foreman), Joseph E. Raley, Pauline D. Adams, , Lawrence L. Cobb, Samuel B. Davis, Louis H. Mayor, J. Douglas Bowles, Ann Schneider, John S. Bean, Mina O’Brien Baxter, Thomas Burroughs, John R. Drury, Sr., Robert Bennett and George W. Merson.
  • 4/1960 - THE ENTERPRISE, St. Mary’s County MD
    GRAND JURY RETURNED SEVEN INDICTMENTS, PRAISES OFFICERS FOR RAGAN INVESTIGATION.

    The March term Grand Jury completed three days of deliberations last Wednesday by handing seven environments and giving a vote of confidence to the investigators of the Ragan murder.

    …The jury also heard testimony from the authorities who have been investigating the murder Mrs. Henrietta Ragan in Leonardtown in December. In their report, the jurors noted that all law-enforcement authorities concern have diligently work on this case and have thoroughly explored every lead.

    Before committing the authorities on their diligence, the jury made one recommendation- “that should there be any future cases of suspected murder the authorities insure by a guard or other means, that the premises not be disturbed prior to a complete inspection for clues.”


  • 6/30/1960 - THE ENTERPRISE, St. Mary’s County MD
    SUSPECT IN MURDER OF JACKSONS TO FACE QUIZ ON RAGAN DEATH

    REES FREQUENTED COUNTY TO PLAY IN BAND IN PARK

    The suspect in the Jackson murder case will be questioned for any possible connection with the rape-slaying of Mrs. Henrietta Reagan last December Leonardtown, police said this week.

    Melvin D. Rees, Jr., 31, has already been linked to the quadruple murder of the Carroll V. Jackson family in January 1959 and with the slaying of Mrs. Margaret V. Harold, 36, of Arbutus Maryland on June 26, 1957.

    A federal grand jury returned a two count indictment against Rees the kidnap-salying of Mrs. Jackson and her five-year-old daughter. Foreman of that jury was Ernest A. Dickey, retired banker who lives on Tippety Wichity Island in Great Mills. Mills. Local authorities however were skeptical about the connection although it was learned this week that Rees had visited St. Mary's County on weekends to play saxophone with Jerry Mahoneys band in Rue’s Roost, Lexington Park, and is reported to have played a Great Mills Road bar last year.

    Mahoney placed Rees’ employment here in a two month period around the end of 1958 and the beginning of 1959. Mahoney, who owns a Lexington Park music company, said that Rees often stayed overnight at his home.

    “I thought it was real nice guy,” Mahoney said this week, echoing the reports of many Rees’ friends. Mahoney added that he never mentioned anyone he knew down here.

    He noted that Rees also played in Waldorf, an area frequented by Mrs. Ragan, whose sister has an interest in a club there.

    Deputy Sheriff George Sanger noted however that the mode of operation of the Ragan killing was different from those already already linked to Rees. He added that nothing from Mrs. Ragan’s billfold had turned up along Rees’ possessions.

    The FBI is currently tracing Rees’ movements during last year, and is currently up in April. When they reach December, Sanger said, St. Mary’s authorities will be informed. Mrs. Ragan, a 44-year-old widow died on December 5, 1959

    Thursday the unidentified fingerprints found in the Reagan home will be taken to Baltimore to be compare with Rees’ prints.

    Captain Charles W. Magaha, Commander of the Maryland State Police Bureau of Investigation and Identification, said Tuesday that “we will explore every possibility that Rees had anything to do with the Ragan slaying.”

    When Rees is returned to Baltimore, county sheriffs and state police will definitely quiz him on the unsolved murder here, Sheriff Robert Miedzinski said.

    In addition to the Ragan case police are also considering a connection between Rees and the strangling of a Calvert County woman, Mrs. Johh A. Brady, 44, in her home in Dunkirk, January 10, 1959, the day before the Jackson family vanished. Reports, however, placed him in Norfolk Virginia on that day.

    Rees was also employed at the Kitt’s Music company store in Washington. Mrs. Reagan was a piano teacher.
  • 12/3/1970 - THE ENTERPRISE, St. Mary’s County MD
    11 YEAR OLD RAGAN MURDER REMAINS A MYSTERY


    The most famous unsolved murder in St. Mary's County was committed 11 years ago Saturday in a neat four room white house in Leonardtown. That murder darkened the holidays of 1959 for everyone including police, family and more than 100 people who were fingerprinted in an intensive search for clues that lasted for months and quited it only when a Grand Jury, late the following March return the report that the complemented the investigation, but returned no indictments.

    The still unsolved murder-rape of 44 year old Henrietta Reagan is occasionally still a topic of discussion St. Mary's County. Over the years, Grand Juries have looked into the case, but no one has ever been named.

    It was early on a Saturday morning when the crime occurred, police said and it was at about 9:30 AM when Mrs. Ragan’s employer, Maurice Thrift reportedly went to her house after becoming concerned when she did not arrive at work. He took with him a set of keys she kept in her desk drawer, entered the home, and saw her lying in bed. At that time he said, “She didn't look right to me.” He summonsed doctors, ambulances and soon the Tudor Hall home was swarming with policeman. The state Medical Examiner Dr. C.S. Patty said in that first report of the crime, that Mrs. Reagan had died of strangulation, that there was evidence of evidence of a criminal assault and that he had discovered bruises on her neck, ear and wrist. Robbery, at that time was not ruled out as a motive for the murder, since a grey wallet was missing from the house and intensive searches of the county failed to produce it.

    The body was found in bed, the covers pulled over her and it was determined that she died between 10 PM and midnight.

    Blood stains on the bed sheets, the Medical Examiner's Office reported, we're not all the victims blood type, so suspects were not only fingerprinted and asked to take polygraph test, but also blod samples were taken in the investigation to eliminate suspects.

    Then Sheriff, Robert Miedzinski was first called investigate the case, but his office along with Mrs. Ragan's family and then State’s Attorney Joseph a Mattingly through the Attorney General’s office and Governor J. Millard Tawes, brought the State Police Bureau of Identification and Investigation into the investigation.

    Heading that team was Lieutenant Thomas Smith, who just this past year, was named Superintendent of the Maryland State Police. He work at that time with the local Sheriff’s Department and head of the Leonardtown State Police Post, Cpl. C.H. Muchow, who is now a First Sergeant on the force and is once again in charge of the Leonardtown Post. Those men joined Sheriff Miedzinski, Deputy Sheriff Georg Sanger, Sgt. Richard Stallings who is now a Lieutenant in the State Police to being the investigation that would run through the Christmas holidays and well into 1960.

    Initially Smith determined that there was a reason to believe the killer had been injured and so local hospitals were notified to be on the lookout for persons with scratches that might have occurred during the struggle. That lead proved futile. Two cars, one a green Ford and later a paint splotched auto were sought, but to no avail. The family of Mrs. Ragan, in the meantime, offered a $5000 reward to anyone producing clues to her mysterious death.

    In the December 10, 1959 issue of The Enterprise, a lengthy story, accompanied by pictures of the investigation, related these facts as reported by the police at that time, “The neat, well liked Mrs. Ragan has seemed happy and excited about Christmas plans Friday. At lunch with a friend, she talked to many things, indicating no worries or apprehension.”

    “About 5 PM,” the story continued, “she attended Mass with Mrs. John Gardner, her sister, at St. Francis Xavier Church in Compton, return to the Gardiner home for dinner about 6:30 PM, then she was going to the bank on the way home.”

    “Cashier at the County Trust Bank, Kennedy Abell, Jr., said she only ordered some new checks.”

    Before leaving the Gardiner home about 7:30 PM, she invited her brother-in-law to watch television with her while Mrs. Gardner attended a card party. About 9 PM Garter told police he arrived at Mrs. Ragan's, watched television while she addressed Christmas cards, then left at 10:30 PM. Mrs. Olive G. Camalier, neighbor, told police she saw the lights on at Mrs. Ragan’s at 11 PM.

    It was at 9:30 that next morning when her body was discovered by Thrift.

    Dr. Petty, the medical examiner report to The Enterprise at that time the room was slightly askew, but said “the killer apparently made an obvious effort to straighten the bed by pulling the covers up neatly.” The bed was slightly off angle, he reported, adding that one pillow was jammed up against the headboard and the other was pushed beneath her back. At that time Dr. Petty said, “it looks like someone you knew the lay of the land.”

    It was several days later when he missing gray sweater was located in a roadside ditch on a County road connecting Route 245 and 235 but police thought that it had been “planted” there.

    Sheriffs Department and State police leaves were cancelled as squads of men, including volunteer fireman, were formed to search for the all-important missing wallet.

    It was a time, during those first three and four weeks after the investigation, or rumored speculation as police continued to question, fingerprint suspects and search for more clues.

    Each person visit Mrs. Reagan at her home was urged to come forward to the fingerprints to be eliminated and those 100 persons include friends, workmen and members of her family.

    To those people who mourned civic minded Mrs. Ragan it was a time of great tragedy, for they related how she had earned a reputation as a woman of good moral character, a hard-working woman who had impressed her friends and acquaintances as kind, vivacious and charitable.

    A musician, she was alumna of St. Mary's County Academy and was active and it's alumnae association, she directed a coral group and was always available for charitable events.

    In an editorial appearing in an issue of The Enterprise two weeks after the murder, the editorial captured the mood of the St. Mary's County concerning the crime.

    “…The case has all the trappings of a murder mystery, complete with tiny clues, innuendos and vague suspicions… the`` authorities are hard at work reconstructing the crime and the incidents that might have led up to it. In doing so, they are letting us see firsthand the modern methods of detection. The first thing that we notice about these methods is that they are slow methodical and highly scientific. Haste cpuld be very costly, and jumping to the conclusion could easily tear down everything that they have worked so hard to build up over the weeks.”

    “We have little doubt that their efforts will prove successful, and we will continue to help the authorities in every way possible to make their job easier.”

    “One of these ways, which some people find it hard to realize, is to cover the stories completely and accurately as we can, being careful, of course, not to divulge anything that might tend to hinder the investigation… The only other danger in a case of this kind is for the public to solve it without knowing all the facts. This, we're sorry to say, has been a tendency here, and it should be avoided at all costs.”

    “We prefer to leave the work in the hands of those who profession is detecting, confident that with the cooperation of the public they will bring the killer to justice.”
  • 6/24/1987 - THE ENTERPRISE, St. Mary’s County MD
    GETTING AWAY WITH MURDER
    1959: TOWN WOMAN FOUND DEAD IN BED

    Leonardtown residents flocked to the home of Henrietta Ragan after the was found dead in a bed at her home on Washington Street on Dec. 5, 1959. Banner headlines in St. Mary’s County newspapers mourned her death and trumpeted the intense criminal investigation that followed. No arrests were ever made.

    Former Sheriff Robert Miedzinski still believes political interests interfered with his probe of the case and may have prevented an arrest. Debate continues as to whether Ragan was suffocated by a rapist or died from a heart attach, and the former sheriff agreed it was hard to determine how the 44 year old widow died.

    “She was laying in bed like she was asleep,” Miedzinski said. “The only thing we could find in the room that was disturbed was one of her slippers beside the bed and one under her bed.”

    The medical examiner couldn’t find anything at all, “ the retired lawman said. “He told us to search the house for a bottle, to see if she had taken something to put herself to sleep.”

    Authorities eventually decided that Ragan had been raped and smothered, Miedzinski said.

    John Gardiner, the woman’s brother in law, watched the television at her home until 11pm, the night before the former Sheriff said, but Gardiner was eliminated as a suspect.

    “After he took the (polygraph) lie tests, I was sure it wasn’t him,” Miedzinski said. “He helped us out every way he could to try and solve it.”

    Miedzinski said investigators found no signs of an intruder, but he added that Ragan may have left her home’s back door unlocked when she went outside to look at her newly paved driveway. She re-entered her home through the front door and went to bed.

    The intruder later came in through the unlocked door, Miedzinski surmised.

    “There was no struggle in the house,” he said. “There was one little blood spot on the pillow and we figured whoever came an and raped her…put the pillow over her face so she couldn’t see who it was. I really think that’s what smothered her.”

    According to press accounts from that time, Ragan’s body, dressed in bedclothes, was discovered by her concerned employer, Maurice T. Thrift. Ragan worked at a bookkeeper at Thrift Oil Company.

    Investigators found a sample of blood that did not match Ragan’s blood type, press accounts stated. Officers questioned a man with scratches on his neck the day Ragan’s body was found, and they interrogated another man seeking treatment of a bite wound that he said came from a cat. A boy found Ragan’s gray cashmere sweater in a ditch along St. John’s Road near Hollywood and law officers told reporters the killer may have planted it there.

    Some town residents told the sheriff they suspected another woman killed Ragan, he said, but he dismissed that theory because of evidence that Ragan had intercourse shortly before her death.

    “I spent three days and nights without closing my eyes working on that case,” Miedzinski said.

    Joseph Seiner, a former circuit court judge who was in private practice when Ragan died, disputed the theory that the woman was murdered.

    “I think she had a heart attack,” the lawyer said. “I never did think she was raped or killed. Evidently, somebody had come to see her that night and went on out. I guess they were scared.”

    If Ragan’s home was the scene of a crime, Weiner said, it was not properly secured for investigators.

    “The next day was like a circus,” he said. “Everybody went into the house. You couldn’t get any fingerprints because the whole town was there. They say she was strangled, (but) I didn’t see any marks on her neck.”

    A week after Ragan’s death, Miedzinski said, the county commissioners intervened and ordered that George Sanger, the department’s chief deputy, be put in charge of the case. The commissioners backed Sanger when he earlier ran against Miedzinski for the Sheriff’s job, according to Miedzinski.

    “They wanted their side of the ticket elected and they couldn’t beat me. They tried to get even with me,” Miedzinski said. “If they have left us alone, we might have solved that case. Politics has always been rough, but back in those days, it was worse.”

    Maryland State Police also were called into the prove, but no arrests were made.

    Former Circuit Court Judge Joseph Mattingly, then the county’s state’s attorney, said he believes it was his decision to ask the state police and FBI to help in the case.

    “I don’t recall the county commissioners getting in this at all, but maybe they did,” he said.

    “I do have some recollection which created a doubt in my mind as to murder,” he said. “I was exploring it to the ‘nth’ degree to see if it was murder. I had no opinion one way or the other.”

    Concerning the handling of the crime scene, the former prosecutor said, “There was some talk about certain things being disturbed…fingerprints and all that kind of stuff. I don’t believe I went to the house, (except) later on just to get the layout.”

    Miedzinski said he developed suspects on the case.

    “There could have been as many as two involved,” the former sheriff said. “They were youngsters at that time.”

    He declined to identify the suspects.

    “One of them lies around town,” he said. “The other was from Hollywood. I have no idea where he is.”

    Mattingly said he never developed a suspect in the case.

    “There were several talked about, but there was nothing to back it up, as far as I was concerned,” the former prosecutor said. “I took it before at least two grand juries and neither one brought out an indictment. I said if you’d like to hear the evidence, I’d be glad to bring the investigators in and they came up with nothing.”

    “I’m not critical of the grand jury,” he said. “I don’t think they had enough evidence to indict on.”
  • 3/28/2001 - THE ENTERPRISE, St. Mary’s County MD
    Over the last century, St. Mary’s has logged a number of homicides that either went unsolved or ended with a conviction overturned.

    Dec. 5, 1959

    Banner headlines in St. Mary’s newspapers announced the death of Henrietta Ragan, 44, who was found in a bed in her Leonardtown home. Evidence may have been lose when friends of the socialite flocked to the crime scene, debate continued as to the cause of her death and the Sheriff at that time (Miedzinski) later said political interests interfered with his investigation that lead to no arrests.
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Who Killed Henrietta Ragan - PRESS