Milton and the Horne Murder – 1939

By Muriel Bristol (Transcriber) | December 5, 2019

Milton barber John H. Howland brutally murdered Miss Maude F. Horne in her Farmington Road (now Elm Street) home on Friday night, February 3, 1939, after 8:00 P.M.

Howland escaped in his victim’s black 1935 Plymouth automobile, accompanied by his teenage cousin.

The Victim

Maude Francis Horne was born in Milton, July 9, 1877, daughter of John R. and Olive R. (Corson) Horne. Her mother died in Milton, May 22, 1879 (before Maude’s second birthday).

Miss Horne attended Nute High School with one of its first classes (probably during the tenure of Principal Norton). She taught in Milton schools for several years after graduation. Thereafter, she worked in Milton’s shoe industry as a shoe stitcher, shoe repairer, shoe operative, etc.

Susan F. Horne, aged fifty-six years (b. NH), headed a Milton household at the time of the Twelfth (1900) Federal Census. Her household included her brother, John R. Horne, a widowed farm laborer, aged forty-seven years (b. NH), her sister, Martha A. Horne, aged forty-five years (b. NH), and her niece, Maude F. Horne, a school teacher, aged twenty-three years (b. NH).

John R. Horne, a general farm farmer, aged fifty-four years (b. NH), headed a Milton household at the time of the Thirteenth (1910) Federal Census. His household included his sister, Mattie A. Horne, aged fifty-five years (b. NH), and his daughter, Maude F. Horne, a shoe factory stitcher, aged thirty-two years (b. NH). John R. Horne owned their farm on the Plummer’s Ridge Road.

John R. Horne, a farmer, aged sixty-six years (b. NH), headed a Milton household at the time of the Fourteenth (1920) Federal Census. His household included his sister, Mattie A. Horne, aged sixty-four years (b. NH), and his daughter, Maude F. Horne, a shoe shop shoe repairer, aged forty-two years (b. NH). John R. Horne owned their farm on the Plummer’s Ridge Road.

John R. Horne, a widower, aged seventy-six years (b. NH), headed a Milton household at the time of the Fourteenth (1930) Federal Census. His household included his sister, Mattie A. Horne, aged seventy-five years (b. NH), and his daughter, Maude F. Horne, a shoe factory operator, aged fifty-two years (b. NH). John R. Horne rented their house on Silver Street, for $10 per month. They did not have a radio set.

Maude’s father, John R. Horne, died in Milton, April 11, 1938. Her uncle, Charles A. Horne, a retired Milton meat merchant, died in Milton, October 10, 1938. Her aunt, Martha A. “Mattie” Horne, died at Plummer’s Ridge in Milton October 22, 1938. Maude supplied the personal information for all their death records.

Miss Horne moved from her rented place on Silver Street to her late Uncle Charles’ house on the Farmington Road (now Elm Street). She was said to have felt uneasy there, which she attributed to living alone for the first time in her life.

The Murderer

John Henry “Henry” Howland was born in Stoneham, MA, April 23, 1913, son of Norman and Anna Rose (Burbine) Howland. (He sometimes used the alias John Norman Howland).

His criminal record commenced when he was about thirteen years of age. Police arrested him in Charleston, WV, on suspicion of burglary, June 26, 1927. He posted a $1,000 bond and was released pending trial. A jury convicted him of an auto theft in Monroe, WA, May 16, 1929, for which he received a three-to-five-year sentence.

John H. Howland, an inmate, aged twenty years (b. MA), was imprisoned in the WA State Reformatory in Park Place, Snohomish, WA, at the time of the Fifteenth (1930) Federal Census. Prison authorities assigned him to the building labor detail there; he was said also to have been married when he was sixteen years of age, which they took to be circa 1925-26. (In point of fact, he would have been only about sixteen years of age as of this census enumeration, and not the twenty years that he claimed).

A Bexar County, TX, jury convicted him of an auto theft in Austin, TX, January 26, 1931, for which he received a five-year sentence.

John Howland of Middletown, OH, pled guilty to stealing an automobile from Middletown auto dealer R. Shetter, July 10, 1935, and he received an indeterminate (one-to-twenty years) sentence in September 1935 (Journal News (Hamilton, OH), September 13, 1935). He received a parole from the Ohio State Farm on August 1, 1938, just six months before he murdered Miss Horne.

Several accounts describe Howland as an ex-Navy man, sailor or “gob.” One imagines his service, if any there actually was, to have been brief. He did have a tattoo of a girl’s head and the legend “San Juan,” which might suggest time spent in Puerto Rico. Of course, there are San Juans in Mexico too, and he had spent “time” in neighboring Texas. Howland claimed to have been in the Navy just before getting hired at the Salem Shoe company in Milton, whereas he had actually been just before a prisoner at the Ohio State Farm.

John H. Howland came to Milton due to the presence here of his mother, Mrs. Anna R. “Rose” ((Burbine) Howland) Abrams. She was employed in nursing Maude F. Horne’s uncle, Charles A. Horne, during his final illness. (Her sister and her sister’s family lived also in town).

Howland was in town for less than six months. He took initially a job at the Salem Shoe company factory, and resided with his mother in the ailing Horne’s Farmington Road (now Elm Street) house. Uncle Charles died in Milton, October 10, 1938.

At some point, Howland’s mother left for Reading, MA. Howland remained behind in Milton. He was working in Hervey C. Tanner’s Milton barber shop at the time of the murder.

Maude F. Horne accused him of having stolen $100 worth of household items from her late uncle’s house after his death.

The Cousin

Aida Elizabeth Butler was born in Milton, February 3, 1924, daughter of Edward T. and Margaret J. (Burbine) Butler. Her mother and Howland’s mother were sisters, which made her a first cousin to Howland.

Edward T. Butler, a leather-board mill engineer, aged forty years (b. MA), headed a Milton household at the time of the Fifteenth (1930) Federal Census. His household included his wife, Margaret J. [(Burbine)] Butler, aged thirty-four years (b. MA), and his children, Charles E. Butler, aged fifteen years (b. MA), Benjamin F. Butler, aged thirteen years (b. MA), Margaret E. Butler, aged twelve years (b. NH), John P. Butler, aged eleven years (b. NH), Walter F. Butler, aged nine years (b. NH), Patrick Butler, aged seven years (b. NH), Aida E. Butler, aged six years (b. NH), Thomas U. Butler, aged three years (b. NH), Grace A. Butler, aged one year (b. NH), and George F. Butler, aged three months (b. NH). Edward T. Butler owned their house on North Main Street, which was valued at $1,000. They had a radio set. Fred Chamberlain, a State Road commissioner, aged seventy years (b. NH), was their neighbor.

Aida E. Butler was a student at Nute High School at the time of the murder. Police did not consider her to be an active participant, although she was present at the scene and fled with the murderer on his cross-country getaway. Police arrested her with him on a sort of “holding” charge of flight to avoid testifying. She was slated to be a witness against him, but was never called, as he pled guilty at his trial.

Horne-Howland - BG390206Hunt Young Barber, Girl In Brutal Horne Murder. N.H. Warrant Charges John N. Howland With Slaying Spinster – Seen in House. Special Dispatch to the Globe. MILTON, N.H., Feb. 5. – A warrant charging John N. Howland, 25-year-old barber, with the murder of Miss Maude F. Horne, 61, was issued tonight by Sheriff Clyde R. Cotton. Police throughout New Hampshire and other New England states were immediately asked to aid in the search for the youth, who disappeared from his home here late Friday night. In the same interstate teletype broadcast, state officials asked that a 15-year-old girl who disappeared from her home here at the same time be taken into custody for questioning. Both Howland and the high school girl were placed in Miss Horne’s home here early Friday evening by a neighbor. State Police said that they believe that the girl was a witness to the murder. Three men’s handkerchiefs, used as a gag to shut off the cries of the elderly spinster-victim, were being held by Sheriff Cotton as one of the most Important bits of evidence in the case. The handkerchiefs, Cotton said, bear the initial “H.” Additional evidence was found, the sheriff reported, that the slayer washed his hands and possibly the murder weapon in the kitchen sink in the murdered woman’s home. Bits of human hair found in the sink will be examined tomorrow to determine if it is that of Miss Horne. The murder warrant was issued by Cotton soon after he received the report on an autopsy performed by Dr. Ralph Miller, state pathologist, of Hanover, and Dr. Forest L. Keay, medical referee of Stafford County, stating that Miss Horne “died an agonizing death.” Atty. Gen. Thomas P. Cheney stated that Drs. Miller and Keay said “without qualification” that Miss Horne died in the room where the body was found, from a combination of fractures of the skull and suffocation.

Neighbor’s Tale. “Three handkerchiefs were packed in her mouth,” the doctors’ report read, “displacing her tongue to the extent that it entirely cut off all supply of air. The victim bled profusely. Either the head injuries or suffocation might have caused death.” Sought with Howland is a high school girl who was last reported seen Friday night with the murder suspect in Miss Horne’s home. Earlier on the same night she had told her mother that she was going to a basket-ball game at Somersworth, but nobody has been found who saw her at the game. Mrs. Charlotte Garyait, a neighbor of the murder victim, told state officers today that she visited Miss Horne on Friday night, arriving at the Horne residence at 7:15 and leaving at 7:45. At 7:30, she said, Howland and the 15-year-old girl arrived to visit with Miss Horne. They were still there when she left, Mrs. Garyait said.

Arthur P. Garyait, a fibreboard mill moulder, aged thirty-six years (b. ME), headed a Milton household at the time of the Sixteenth (1940) Federal Census. His household included his wife, Charlotte E. [(Wiggin)] Garyait, aged thirty-one years (b. NH), and his children, Richard Garyait, aged ten years (b. NH), and Barbara Garyait, aged seven years (b. NH). Arthur P. Garyait owned their house on the Farmington Road (now Elm Street), which was valued at $700.

Familiar With House. Police said that Howland, a former sailor, was thoroughly familiar with the house in which the murder occurred. Last Fall when his mother, Mrs. Rose Abrams, now of Reading, Mass., was nursing Charles A. Horne, an uncle of Miss Horne, he stayed at the house nights to assist her. Miss Horne, a resident of this town all her life, went to live in the murder house only last October after the death of her uncle. It was believed that she inherited a sizable fortune at that time. Investigators also learned today from neighbors of the murdered spinster that for two weeks before her sudden death she lived in fear for her life. On several occasions she told friends that she feared to go to bed at night, and had slept in an armchair on the first floor of the small house. She was never alone before, she said, and she couldn’t get used to it. The missing Howland had told townspeople for a week before his disappearance that he was planning to go South. Three or four days before the murder he told the postmaster that he wished his mail held for him because he would be out of town for several weeks. Howland is described in the teletype messages sent out by the New Hampshire State Police as being six feet tall and weighing 190 pounds. He is fond of music, the message stated, and plays several musical instruments. A girl’s head is tattooed on his upper right arm and shoulder over a date and the words, “San Juan.” The 15-year-old girl, believed to be with the youth, is described as being five feet, two inches tall and weighing 118 pounds. When last seen she was wearing a brown ski suit, plaid jacket and brown overshoes. She wore no hat.

Put Suitcase in Auto. After leaving the Navy, Howland worked for a time at the Salem Shoe factory here and most recently as a barber. Fellow employees at the factory knew him little, declare that he seemed to prefer the company of women to that of men. Hervey Tanner, owner of the barber shop in which the youth worked most recently said today that Howland a few days ago offered to sell him a “Tommy-gun” for $40. Tanner was unable to tell officials whether Howland had any ammunition for the machine gun. Miss Evelyn Paey, 27, was minding Tanner’s children on Friday night, she told police when she looked out the window of the Tanner home and saw Howland packing a suitcase into the rear of an automobile. She was unable to describe the auto, which police believe may have been that of Miss Horne which has not been seen since the time of the murder. The murder weapon has not been found. Because of the type of wounds on the victim’s head, police think that the weapon may have been a heavy flashlight. The death of Miss Horne was the fourth in her family within a period of 10 months. Her father. John, died last April, and her uncle, Charles, and aunt, Mattie Horne, died last October (Boston Globe, February 6, 1939).

One wonders if Howland had ever actually had a Thompson submachine gun (“Tommy gun”) or whether that was just some sort of scam. (His $40 asking price would have the current value of about $732). Howland was a felon many times over. An actual submachine gun would have been illegal to possess under the National Firearms Act of 1934. So, it would have been impossible for him to have acquired one, right?

George W. Paey, foreman of a shoe shop finishing room, aged sixty-eight years (b. MA), headed a Milton household at the time of the Sixteenth (1940) Federal Census. His household included his wife, Josie M. [(Downs)] Paey, aged sixty-two years (b. NH), his sister-in-law, Hattie E. [(Downs)] Hartford, a widow [of Fred S. Downs], aged sixty-nine years (b. NH), and his daughter, Evelyn Paey, a private home houseworker, aged thirty years (b. NH). George W. Paey owned their house on Silver Street, which was valued at $800.

Miss Paey lived on Silver Street, but she saw Howland putting his suitcase in Miss Horne’s car from a window at Hervey C. Tanner’s house on Mill street. One might infer that Howland lived also on Mill street.

Hervey C. Tanner, a barber shop barber, aged thirty-five years (b. NH), headed a Milton household at the time of the Sixteenth (1940) Federal Census. His household included his wife, Yvonne E. [(Lessard)] Tanner, a shoe shop stitcher, aged twenty-nine years (b. NH), and his children, Hervey C. Tanner, Jr., aged four years (b. NH), and Patrick Tanner, aged two years (b. NH). Hervey C. Tanner owned their house in the “Milton Community” (Mill street) which was valued at $1,500.

Arrest Asked of Howland in N.H. Murder. ROCHESTER. N. H., Feb. 8 – Maj. Ralph W. Caswell, deputy superintendent of the New Hampshire State Police, today sent to large cities throughout the country circulars asking for the arrest of John Henry Howland on a warrant charging murder. Howland, police say, is on parole from the Ohio State Prison. He is wanted, says the circular, for the murder last Friday of Miss Maude Horne, 61, of Milton, N.H. Howland has been sought for four days, ever since Miss Horne’s battered body was discovered. Also missing is Aida Butler, 15-year-old cousin of Howland, who is believed to have gone with him. The circular says that Howland, who is 25 years old, has a record at “Charleston, W. Va.; Monroe, Wash.; Austin, Tex.; Texas State Penitentiary, and was paroled Aug. 1, 1938, from London, O., state farm.” In Ohio, Howland was serving a one to twenty-year sentence for larceny. Investigators hoped today that need of money would send Howland to acquaintances, many of whom are known (Boston Globe, February 8, 1939).

Howland, John - BG390208BLOODY PRINT SPURS SEARCH FOR HOWLAND. Special Dispatch to the Globe MILTON, N.H., Feb. 7. The imprint of a bloody hand on a door jamb in the little white house where elderly Miss Maude Horne was slain last Friday night definitely connects John Henry Howland, missing prison parolee and amateur song writer, with the crime, state officers said tonight. Since Saturday morning, state fingerprint expert Ivan Hayes has been working in the murder-house. The gruesome mark on the doorway leading from the living room to the kitchen and prints of a couple of fingers found on a water dipper are the best of those which he believes are connected with the crime. Classifications of Howland’s finger prints arrived here today from the Ohio State Prison where the suspect was imprisoned a couple of years ago on an automobile theft charge. Other prints are expected within the next day from Washington.

Nation-Wide Hunt On. After County Solicitor John F. Beamis and state and local police officials had an opportunity to check the prints received from Ohio with photographs of those found in the Horne home, the technical classification of the wanted man’s finger prints were sent to every state in the country. Deputy Supt. of State Police Maj. Ralph W. Caswell announced the finding of the prints on the door jamb and their importance in the search for Howland. Agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation searched Howland’s home here today and seized several of his personal articles, including a bundle of letters. Maj. Caswell denied tonight rumors that any of the bundle of letters taken by police from the Howland home contained “love-letters” from admirers of the missing man.

Butler, Aida E - Amazon
Sought by Police: Aida Butler, 15

Believe Girl Innocent. There is a feeling here that Howland, who so far as anybody knows had little or no money last weekend, may seek out some one of his old friends for assistance. Authorities said today that although they believe that Howland’s cousin, 15-year-old Aida Butler, was present at the. time of the murder, evidence points to the fact that she took no active part in the crime and may have been forced to accompany Howland when he quit town. The girl’s mother, Mrs. Edward Butler, sister of Mrs. Rose Howland Abrams, Howland’s mother, has repeatedly said that she was sure that Aida did not leave town of her own volition. Mrs. Butler pointed out that when her daughter left home Friday night, ostensibly to go to a basket-ball game with Howland, she wore no hat and only everyday sports clothes.

Services for Victim. Funeral services were held this afternoon in a heavy snowstorm for Miss Horne at the Edgerly Funeral Home. Only a few relatives and friends were present. Rev. Leland Maxfield of the Baptist Church officiated. After the services, the body was removed to the Rochester Cemetery. Awaited by police is the complete report of Dr. Ralph Miller, state pathologist, who performed an autopsy last Saturday and has since had the vital organs of the murdered woman and also bits of hair found in the sink of the Horne home in his laboratory at Hanover. The hair, police said, was apparently washed off the murder weapon in the kitchen sink by the murderer before he quit the house. There is a chance, the authorities declare, that there may be further proof of the identity of the murderer in the pathologist’s final report.

Leland Maxfield, a minister, aged thirty years (b. NH), headed a Milton household at the time of the Sixteenth (1940) Federal Census. His household included his wife, Elizabeth [(Bronson)] Maxfield, aged twenty-seven years (b. NY), and his boarders, Mary E. Willard, aged twenty-nine years (b. MA), and Mary E. Sherborne, aged twenty-three years (b. ME). Leland Maxfield rented their house on Church Street, for $10 per month.

Slaying Motive Advanced. The theory that Miss Horne’s death may have been connected in some way with a series of petty thefts from the home of her late uncle, Charles Horne, who died last October, was put forward tonight by one of the state officers investigating the crime. Rumors have been circulating in this tiny town since the murder that it was because the elderly woman learned of the thefts which totaled less than $100 and threatened to expose the thief, that she was slain. When Miss Horne inherited the property of her uncle, she also inherited an inventory of all the physical goods in the estate. It was after checking the furnishings in her uncle’s house against this list, that she allegedly confronted the thief with her evidence (Boston Globe, February 8, 1939).

Five-State Hunt for Howland in N.H. Murder. MILTON, N.H., Feb. 9 – Police authorities in five states were co-operating today with county investigators in their search for John Henry Howland, chief suspect in the slaying last Friday of Miss Maude Horne, and for his 15-year-old cousin and supposed companion, Aida Butler. Acting on reports that the wanted couple were seen last Sunday afternoon in Ossipee, 36 miles from here, New Hampshire State Police this morning resumed their search of all empty camps and buildings in Ossipee seeking to uncover some clew as to their whereabouts. Meanwhile Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island and New York authorities were endeavoring to check the report of a Boston bus driver that a man and woman resembling Howland and his young cousin had boarded a New York-bound bus with another, couple in Providence last Sunday night and left at Southport, Conn., when their money ran out.

Bus driver Edward S. White’s information was inaccurate. Howland and Butler never boarded his bus, nor were they accompanied by another couple. They had Miss Horne’s automobile.

Driver Roxbury Man. The driver, Edward S. White, 30, of Roxbury, who supplied the information last night at Boston Police Headquarters, said the two couples left the bus Monday morning at 4:10 and asked him how far it was to New York. White was uncertain about the identification of Howland and said he was “positive” in his identification of the Butler girl’s picture. Although sought for questioning by investigators here, the girl, who disappeared Friday night after leaving her home to attend a basket-ball game, is believed by authorities to be innocent of all connection with the murder. White told Boston police that one of the two men wore a navy uniform and the other, dressed in civilian clothes, carried a Gladstone bag. The other girl was tall, dark and about 27 years old, the driver said. His attention was attracted to the couples at the Providence terminal, White stated, when he was told by the ticket agent that when the men purchased tickets they asked him how far the four could travel for $2.50 each. The agent told them that Southport, Conn., was the limit for that sum and the men bought tickets to that point (Boston Globe, February 9, 1939).

Plymouth - 1935SLAYER OF MILTON WOMAN STILL AT LARGE. Near a week has elapsed since the body of Miss Maude Horne, a well-known Milton woman and murder victim, was found in her home on the Farmington road early last Saturday evening. John H. Howland and a 15 years old girl, a cousin of the accused, are at large and the objects of a countrywide search, as Howland is suspected of the slaying of Miss Horne. The story of this brutal assault and the death of Miss Horne, has featured [in] daily newspapers since the finding of the body. Town, state, county and Federal officers have been working on the case. Every effort is being made to trace them together, separately, or in connection with a black 1935 Plymouth coach, the property of the murdered woman, which bore registration plates N.H. 51839, and in which it is alleged Howland and his companion made their getaway. The identification of the missing pair sought in connection with the death of Miss Horne, has definitively established Howland as an ex-Navy man and he has a long criminal record from which finger prints have been compared with those found at the scene of the crime. His companion is a high school girl, known to everybody in her home town and never before has been charged with reprehensible conduct. Miss Horne was a native and lifelong resident of Milton and one of its most esteemed women. She was 61 years old, the daughter of the late John and Olive (Corson) Horne. She was a member of one of the first classes to graduate from Nute high school in her native town, and subsequently for several years was a successful school teacher. She had never married and had always lived a quiet, yet influential, life through her affiliations with church, fraternal and young people’s work. Among the surviving relatives is a cousin, Herbert F. Horne of Farmington. Funeral services were held in Rochester on Tuesday afternoon (Farmington News, February 10, 1939).

Herbert Horne, a retired salesman, aged sixty-four years (b. NH), headed a Farmington, NH, household at the time of the Sixteenth (1940) Federal Census. HIs household included his wife, Maude D. [(Barker)] Horne, a houseworker, aged sixty-three years, and [her] sister, Ethel Barker, a houseworker, aged sixty-two years (b. NH). Herbert Horne owned their house on Lone Star Avenue, which was valued at $4,700.

Man Wanted For Murder Slips Through Officers Of McAllen. McALLEN – John Howland, alias John Allen King, was fingerprinted by the McAllen police department night of February 17 when he asked for a place to sleep, chief of police Noah Cannon said Saturday. Cannon said Howland, wanted in New Hampshire on a charge of murder and theft of a car, approached on a Main street corner bout 7:30 p.m. February 17, and explained that he had come down to McAllen from San Antonio looking for a job. The man, six feet tall and brown-headed, told Cannon he expected to get a job with a neon sign company the next day. Howland said he wanted a place for he and his “wife” to sleep. The woman with him was not questioned by local police, but Chief Cannon said he assumed she was the Aida Butler, 15, mentioned in the dispatch from New Hampshire. Cannon sent the man to the Salvation Army, where Howland was told they could provide a place for the woman but not for him. The woman said she disliked to be away from her companion, but finally decided to sleep at a place provided by the charity organization, and Howland went to the jail to sleep. The night was cold and misty. The man was fingerprinted as a routine matter by Henry Mallau, the city’s fingerprint expert. The next day, Howland went to the sign company, asked about the job, and when told the man in charge was out, he left and he and his woman companion left town, Chief Cannon said. Howland’s prints were sent to the Texas department of public safety at Austin and the Federal Bureau of Investigation at Washington, D.C. The police chief received a telegram from Joe S. Fletcher, chief of the bureau of identification and records at Austin on February 20, notifying Cannon that’ Howland was wanted in New Hampshire for murder. By that time, Cannon said the McAllen department did not know of the man’s whereabouts. Cannon said the man did not act suspicious, apparently was seeking the job in good faith, and there was no reason to hold him for further investigation. An agent from the federal bureau of investigation was in McAllen Friday seeking information on Howland, Cannon said. The G-men entered the case apparently through the Mann act which prevents a man from taking a girl across a state line, and from the act which prohibits transportation of a stolen automobile across a state line. Records sent McAllen police department by the Texas department of public safety show that Howland was arrested June 26, 1937 at Charleston, W. Va., on suspicion of burglary and entering. He made a $1.000 bond, but disposition of the case was not noted. May 16, 1929, he was arrested at Monroe, Wash., charged with taking a motor vehicle without the owner’s knowledge and sentenced to from three to five years. He turned up at Austin, Texas, January 26, 1931, arrested by state police on a charge of a car theft. He was sentenced to five years from Bexar County on the charge. On July 10, 1935, Howland again was in trouble with the law. He was arrested at Middletown, Ohio, on a charge of auto theft in Columbus, Ohio, and sentenced to from one to 20 years. He was paroled August 1, 1938. On February 10. 1939. the Concord, N.H., police department sought him for the murder of a Mrs. [Miss] Horne, 62. The last notation on the record is: “February 17, 1939. McAllen police department, fingerprinted, investigation” (Valley Morning Star (Harlingen, TX), February 26, 1939).

Howland-Butler - BB390320HOWLAND AND GIRL ARRIVE HERE TODAY. John Henry Howland, 25-year-old writer of love songs, will arrive in Boston this afternoon, nearing the end of a 2200-mile cross-country trip to face trial for the murder of Miss Maude Horne, elderly Milton, N.H., spinster. With Howland on the night of the murder was his cousin, Aida Elizabeth Butler, 15, who left the little New Hampshire mill town with him on his flight. Taken into custody with him, she will be returned on the same train from Corpus Christi, under police guard. Sometime late this afternoon Howland and his cousin will be taken across the city from the South to the North Station and start on the last leg of their return trip to Dover, N.H. (Boston Globe, March 29, 1939).

Indictments formerly employed a legal boilerplate phrase: “not having the fear of God before his eyes, but being moved and seduced by the instigation of the devil and his own wicked heart …” Was Howland insane or wicked when he bludgeoned and suffocated Miss Horne?

HOWLAND TO HAVE MIND EXAMINATION. Pleads Innocent to N.H. Murder; Goes to Hospital. CONCORD, N.H., March 31. (AP). John Henry Howland, 25-year-old ex-sailor who pleaded innocent yesterday to two indictments charging him with the murder of Miss Maude Horne, 61, Milton, N.H., spinster, entered the state hospital today for mental observation. Former County Solicitor Thomas H. McGreal, appointed by Superior Court Judge A.J. Connor as counsel for the accused man, said he would ask that Howland be kept at the hospital for a month. Mental examination is required in capital cases in New Hampshire. Staring at the floor and speaking in a barely audible voice, Howland entered pleas of innocence to both indictments in Dover yesterday. One charge said that Miss Horne died of strangulation Feb. 3, the other said a blow on the head was the cause. The whereabouts of Miss Aida Butler, his 15-year-old cousin, remained undisclosed. The girl, arrested with Howland in Corpus Christi, Tex., after a nation-wide search, will be the “principal witness” against the former sailor, Prosecutor John Beamis said. Attorney General Thomas Cheney told the court Howland had “talked freely about most phases of the case and readily admitted that he had killed Maude Horne” (Brattleboro Reformer, March 31, 1939).

Thomas McGreal, a private practicing attorney, aged forty-three years (b. NH), headed a Somersworth, NH, household at the time of the Sixteenth (1940) Federal Census. His household included his wife, Annie McGreal, aged forty-one years (b. MA). He rented their house at 29 Linden Street, for $20 per month. (He died in Boston, MA, November 4, 1940, of post-operative complications).

HOWLAND GOES TO PRISON FOR LIFE. Changes Plea to Guilty to Murder of N.H. Woman. DOVER, N.H., May 1. (AP). John Henry Howland, 25-year-old self-styled jack of all trades, pleaded guilty in Strafford county court today to the blackjack slaying of Miss Maude Horne, 61, at Milton Feb. 3 and was sentenced to life imprisonment by Judge A.J. Conner. The trial lasted only 12 minutes (Brattleboro Reformer, May 1, 1939).

John Howland, an inmate, aged twenty-seven years (b. MA), resided in the NH State Prison in Concord, NH, at the time of the Sixteenth (1940) Federal Census.


Amazon. (2019). Vintage Photos: 1939 Press Photo WW2 Era Murder Suspect Aida Butler Search Missing Crime Maude Horne. Retrieved from

University of Miami Law School. (1960, October 1). The Working of the New Hampshire Doctrine of Criminal Insanity. Retrieved from

Wikipedia. (2019, October 27). Caril Ann Fugate. Retrieved from

Wikipedia. (2019, November 2). National Firearms Act. Retrieved from

Wikipedia. (2019, November 23). Thompson Submachine Gun. Retrieved from


Author: Muriel Bristol

"Lady drinking tea"

One thought on “Milton and the Horne Murder – 1939”

  1. I am surprised by this story, my daughter and her family lived there prior to me. They had a couple of events happen in this house. I am wondering if any other people that lived in that house were ever haunted.


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