Sadly, no one would ever be effectively prosecuted, for the murder of Frank Tuthill, known affectionately to everyone on the East End, as the Corn Doctor. It was midnight on a Wednesday night in July of , when four young people left Sunset Beach in Sag Harbor and headed home. The foursome, two males and two females, chatted excitedly about the upcoming weekend and made plans to get together.
They approached the intersection and the teens saw a figure standing in the center of the road. The gun was aimed directly at them. As they passed the mysterious figure in white, there was a huge explosion and young Mr. Ernest can be heard to exclaim:. He died at the scene.
The other passengers were cut and bruised but released from Southampton Hospital later that morning. Ernest was born in to Thomas and Julia Ernest and appeared to be a very upstanding kid. Dominy, would have nothing but good things to say about young Mr. Ernest after the shooting. This is a case that revolves around a cast of characters, worthy of any Hollywood Film. To tell the story of the bizarre sequence of events that ended in the murder of an innocent young man, one must go back and acquaint themselves with the participants in this tragic saga.
She grew up in Texas and her father, JB, is listed as the head of the household on the census forms. His occupation however is a bit sketchy. Very unusual for a census report. The household consisted of JB Gray, his wife, Irma and their four children. No one in the home was employed with the exception of JB Gray.
Sometime after that Katherine married Harold Chapman, a manager for a local paper factory and the couple moved to Noyac Rd. The marriage lasted until July of when, for reasons that are unknown, the couple was divorced. Katherine Gray was sound asleep in her bed.
After her divorce, she remained in the bungalow on Noyac and Spring Hill Rd. She was suddenly awakened by loud banging and the sound of voices coming from the front room. The sensational headlines were splashed across the front page of newspapers all over Long Island:. That was when it began. The first indication that there was a bootleg operation on the East End of Long Island came when Federal authorities intercepted a coded message, apparently intended for rum boats lying off the Long Island Shore.
A search began in order to uncover the source of the message. Tests of wireless impulses indicated that the set was in the Sag Harbor area. Around the same time agents were raiding the home of Katherine Gray, they were also searching a farm located in Cutchogue. The farm was owned by Frank Zewenski.
Not far from the Zewenski farm, the agents discovered a well built staircase heading from the bluff, down to the Sound shore. Perhaps Katherine Gray, future rum-runner and Harold Chapman, hard working plant manager, were simply traveling in two different directions at the time of their divorce? The charges against Katherine Gray were eventually dropped and by July of she had met a handsome, 29 year old man from Southampton named Leslie Loomis.
The home he lived in was owned by 67 year old Emily Fritz and her 40 year old daughter, Elizabeth. There were only two young men renting rooms in the household and Loomis was one of them. The house was located on Hill Street in Southampton. According to Loomis, the couple lived together for a year and a half and had recently split up when the shooting occurred.. Meanwhile, Katherine had somehow, through her daily activities, come into contact with 40 year old Matteo Di Gregorio. His records indicate that he was traveling with his brother Antonino Di Gregorio and their friend, Domenico Bananno.
On that night he grabbed his shotgun and ran out into Noyac road in a rage. Matteo Di Gregorio was wearing his pajama top and his white boxer shorts when he stood in the center of Noyac road waiting for Leslie Loomis to drive by. It was at this time that the Bernard Ernest and his 3 young companions were innocently traveling down Noyac Road, on their way home from Sunset Beach in Sag Harbor. Did he realize all too late that he had shot the wrong person? Did he believe he had hit his target and become overwhelmed with guilt? He donned what clothes he had left and set out through the woods, stopping only once to sleep.
Matteo Di Gregorio eventually found shelter at the home of Mr.
Lee on Noyac Road. He explained to Lee that someone had stolen his trousers while he was swimming. He was promptly arrested and taken to the police station. Perhaps one of the most flamboyant characters to enter this sad drama is defense attorney Samuel Leibowitz. Di Gregorio hired Leibowitz immediately after the shooting and with good references. Samuel Leibowitz was an extremely well known attorney at this time and he remained in the public eye for decades afterwards.
He became the darling of the news media, beginning in when he was accused of blackmailing Maryland Governor Albert C. Ritchie, in an attempt to get charges against a corrupt prison official dropped. In Leibowitz represented Al Capone in a triple murder charge. In January of he made the news again when he represented gangster Max Becker, who was a prisoner in Auburn Prison and killed a guard during a hostage situation. In Leibowitz defended 31 year old Vera Stretz in another sensational trial.
Stretz was accused of killing her married lover Dr. Fritz Gebhardt who was the President of a German importing firm. Forty three year old Dr. Gebhardt was married and his wife was in Germany. Vera Stretz and Dr. Samuel Leibowitz created much controversy that same year by interviewing Bruno Hauptman, who was on death row for the Lindbergh kidnapping. Schlossman was a player in a bizarre side story associated with the Lindbergh kidnapping involving an abduction plot, designed to extract a confession from a disbarred New Jersey Attorney, Mr. In Leibowitz defended Robert Irwin in a triple murder charge and saved him from the electric chair.
Leibowitz successfully argued that Irwin was insane at the time of the killings.
In Samuel Leibowitz became a judge and he continued to make the news and preside over important cases. He died in at 84 years old of a stroke. Even as far back as , it was clear that Samuel Leibowitz was an extremely persuasive man. The entire defense was based on the fact that Di Gregorio was entitled to use force, if necessary, to regain his possessions. Leibowitz stated that the death was the result of an accident occurring during the pursuit of Leslie Loomis. Samuel Leibowitz continually stressed the point to the jury, that they were obligated to come back with a verdict of not guilty, if he was able to prove the accidental discharge of the weapon.
Amazingly, and to the dismay of most of the community, the jury acquitted Di Gregorio of all charges causing a great controversy. Most people felt that Di Gregorio should have at least been found guilty of manslaughter considering it was a tragic end to a sordid affair, for a person who was completely innocent of anything. Additional Info Domineering Juliet Brighton decides to have the town house done over and orders meek husband Boniface to have their summer house opened.
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He was promptly arrested and taken to the police station. As the story was reported, Harry glanced up at the 20 witnesses and just as the metal head piece was adjusted, he uttered but one word:. Tests of wireless impulses indicated that the set was in the Sag Harbor area. April 27, Sold by: To the astonishment of the prosecutors, she began screaming in open court, that they had tricked her into signing a false statement. Fritz Gebhardt who was the President of a German importing firm.
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