The Murder of Lewis Collins

McDowell Recorder
June 13, 1924

Son-in-Law of Lewis Collins, Murdered at Litwar, Is Arrested

Has Been Placed in County Jail - Will Figures in Case - Conley Maintains His Innocence

George Conley, son-in-law of Lewis Collins, Litwar merchant murdered in his bed Monday night, was arrested Tuesday afternoon by Chief I. S. Cline, Iaeger, on a warrant charging murder. Conley spent the night in the Iaeger jail, but was brought to the county jail this morning by Chief Cline. Conley maintains his innocence.

At the time a warrant was sworn out against Conley another was issued for the arrest of Arthur Collins, a nephew of the slain man. Young Collins was connected with the crime by reason of the fact that tracks led from the store to his home. Further investigation, however, disclosed that he had spent the night at the Collins home, waiting on a sick home.

Suspicion was early directed toward Conley.

His first wife was the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Collins. She and her baby died about a year ago. Saturday Conley was married again, his second wife being a daughter of Elijah Vance. It is understood that at the time of the marriage of Conley to Miss Collins, who was a deaf mute, there had been an understanding between him and Mr. Collins that he would be willed a certain portion of the Collins property. Following the death of his wife, Conley had approached Mr. Collins a number of times on the subject, but no definite agreement had been reached. Recently Conley had left the Collins home, where he had made his home since his first marriage. He was induced to return, it is said, by Mr. Collins promising to build him a home on his property, it being understood that he and his second wife would make their home there.

Arthur Collins, nephew of the murdered man, came under suspicion by reason of certain shoe prints that led to and from the store and the nephew's home.

An investigation of the crime was made Tuesday afternoon by Sheriff W. J. Hatfield, Prosecuting Attorney G. L. Counts and Coroner H. G. Camper.

It was at first thought that Collins had been murdered with some blunt instrument, but an examination disclosed the fact that he had been shot twice above the left ear. A 38-calibre pistol shooting steel-jacketed bullets was used. Mr. Collins had such a pistol, and it is thought that the murder was committed with this gun, which has not been found. The murdered man was known to have kept the gun in the room back of the store, which he used for a bedroom. The theory is that the murderer was well acquainted with Mr. Collins' habits and with the surroundings; that after entering the room he picked up the pistol, which is thought to have been lying on the table, and walking round the bed from the door, to have fired. Had the murderer been a person unfamiliar with surroundings it is thought probably that he would have fired from the side of the bed next the door.

It is now believed that entrance into the bedroom was effected through the door that connects it with the store, and not through the window. That the removal of the window pane was merely a blind.

The time of the murder was first fixed at 1 o'clock, as shots were heard at this hour by a woman who lives nearby. The woman was up with a sick child.

Excitement was tense in Litwar and Ieager yesterday and today as a result of the murder. Lewis Collins was one of the best beloved men of the community, counting all as friends. He was a man of many splendid qualities, charitable and kindly disposed, and the fact of his brutal murder has arroused a strong resentment against the murderer.

Funeral services will probably be held Thursday afternoon at the home. Interment will follow in the family burial ground on what is now the Dr. Iaeger farm, but on property which formerly belonged to the Collins family.

Mr. Collins was murdered in bed early Monday morning. The body was discovered by his son-in-law, George Conley, about 7:30 o'clock, who immediately went to Iaeger and notified Chief Cline. Conley showed the officer where he had found a window pane removed, and he said he thought the murderer had entered by way of the window.

Chief I. S. Cline, Iaeger, who had been investigating the murder of Lewis Collins, found dead in his bed in a room behind his store at Litwar, Tuesday morning, had a long talk today in the county jail with George Conley, son-in-law of the murdered man, who is held for the murder. Conley maintains his innocence, but has been unable to explain away some? damaging circumstantial evidence.

For instance, he told officers that he left the store where he worked with his father-in-law at 8:30 o'clock on the night of the murder, and he named a number of people who were in the store at the time. All the persons named admit having been in the store early in the night, but say that when they left Conley was still there. He also said he went straight home after leaving the store and went to bed. The Collins residence is not a quarter of a mile from the store, yet persons in the house say that he did not arrive there until some time between 11 and 12 p. m. There were probably 20 persons in the Collins house at the time, there for the purpose of sitting up with Floyd Morgan, father of Mrs. Collins, who was very ill, and who was not expected to live.

It was learned this afternoon that a search warrant had been sworn out in Iaeger to search the home of Will Clayton, negro. The search was instigated at the instance of Conley, who suggested today to Chief Cline that the pistols belonging to the murdered man might be found there. There were two pistols on the table in the store bedroom on the night of the murder, and one of these, shooting 38-calibre, steel-jacketed bullets, was used to kill Mr. Collins.

There were no new developments in Lewis Collins' murder case today. George Conley, son-in-law of the murdered man, who is held in jail charged with the murder, has refused to make a statement. He will be questioned further this afternoon by officers as to his actions on the night of the murder.

Chief I. S. Cline, of Iaeger, who has been investigating the case, said that officers were still at loss to fully explain Conley's motives in committing the crime, if he is guilty. It is known that he had been treated as a son by Mr. Collins; that a will in his favor devising the Collins property to him, had been promised and had probably been made, though it is impossible to find this will, and Conley denies that it has been made. He will probably be asked to explain how he knows the will has not been made.

It is further known that Mr. Collins had told Conley to bring his second wife to live with him, making their home there as had Conley and his first wife, who was a daughter of the murdered man. This first wife, who was a deaf mute, died about a year ago in giving birth to a child, the child dying with the mother.

It has been said that during the life time of the first wife Mr. Collins had promised to make a will in favor of Conley. This promise had been renewed after the wife's death, and was again renewed even after Conley married last Saturday for the second time.

Mr. Collins is said to have had $200 in his pockets on the night of the murder. This was missing

So far as is known Conley has not secured counsel. No date for a preliminary hearing has been fixed.

Crime and Punishment

West Virginia Archives and History