PALATINE – Lewis M. Roach was convicted of murder in the McKinley area in 1914 and electrocuted at Sing Sing Prison in Ossining in December 1915-claiming to the end that he was innocent.
“I believe that God in His own time and in His own was will vindicate me,” the farmhand wrote just before his death.
Former Fonda resident Tara Hime Norman of Naples, Fla., was searching through her genealogy records and found old newspaper clippings in fultonhistory.com about Roach. She quickly became suspicious that his conviction was a miscarriage of justice.
Norman, who has an associate degree in paralegal studies, began to delve into the case and has just published a book, at her own expense, “The Vindication of Lewis M. Roach.”
The heavily sourced and footnoted book is the product of five years of research. If Norman is correct, then Roach’s dying hope will have proved prophetic.
The murder victim was 69-year-old John Barrett who was shot twice and bludgeoned to death at his home in McKinley, a part of the Palatine, in December 1913. His son, Boyd, who had epilepsy and a speech impediment, heard a ruckus downstairs, where his father was later found dead. Barrett’s daughter, Katy, said she fell asleep by 9:20 p.m. downstairs and was hit with a piece of firewood. The assailant set the house afire to cover the crime, but Katy and Boyd extinguished it.
Norman, a 1963 graduate of Fonda-Fultonville High School and Naples city clerk for 37 years, said that after the murder was discovered, the neighbors came into the house, which compromised the crime scene.
Norman said a farmer by the name of Earl Van Wie wanted to pin the murder on Roach and his employer, farmer George Potter, because he wanted the recognition for solving the crime and the reward of $5,000. He suggested to Roach that if he confess to the crime and implicate Potter, he himself would get off. George Albot, the district attorney, found no evidence against Potter, and Roach later repudiated his two confessions.
Norman said there was no proof against Roach, but a collusion of people eager to solve the crime and receive the credit. No gun was found and no one identified the perpetrator. A bloody handprint was found on the side of the house. Albert Hamilton, who claimed to be an analyst, said the blood was human even though the test he used just differentiated mammal from reptile blood, and Barrett butchered animals on his property. Roach’s hand didn’t fit the bloody print. Roach’s lawyer, Andrew Nellis, brought in three experts on blood who refuted Hamilton’s claim.
Besides all this, Roach had just returned from Canajoharie with William Ure bringing a cartload of supplies and couldn’t have been at the Barretts at the time of the crime, Norman said.
After Roach’s conviction, the judge refused to have a retrial or an appeal, and the governor denied clemency to Roach despite the pleas of 11,000 people, including eight of the 12 jurors, she said.
Norman has her own ideas about who really committed the crime and reveals that in the epilogue.
Her book was published by Dorrance Publishing of Pittsburgh and is available at www.dorrancebookstore.com. Norman conducted a book signing at Mysteries on Main Street in Johnstown on Oct. 1. She expects to have her book available from Amazon and Barnes and Noble on or about Nov. 1.
Bill Roach of Gloversville is a grandnephew of Roach. His wife, Donna, said she read the book in four days.
“I really enjoyed it, and everything was backed up by where she found the information,” she said. “It kind of proves [Lewis Roach] couldn’t have done it. I am sure he’s saying hurray to Tara.”