Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Detroit: Murder on Marlowe St.

     Detroit 1927, Dr. Frank Remington Loomis was a prominent Detroit physician with offices at 8620 Grand River, phone number: Garfield 0800. Dr. Loomis had prominent friends in Detroit like Victor Kolar, assistant director of the Detroit symphony orchestra. He was a well respected man in his community and had a wife, Grace and two children, Frank 9 and Janet 6. Dr. Loomis graduated from the University of Michigan Medical School in 1914, serving an internship in New York, he met his wife Grace, a nurse from Sussex, NJ. Dr. Loomis had come from an old Brookyln, MI family. After New York he returned to Brooklyn for a short time. He then moved to Detroit in 1919 and began his practice.

     On Feb 22, 1927, Dr. Loomis came to his home at 13901 Marlowe St. from his office at around 8 o'clock and gave his wife $100 to buy clothes and household items the next day. He then told his wife that he was going for a walk and left down Schoolcraft Ave. When he returned about 45 minutes later, he found his wife beaten to death by a blunt object on the sun room floor. The children were not disturbed and were still asleep upstairs. The only witness, a canary in a cage in the sun room. Dr. Loomis then tried to phone the police but his phone was out of order. Dr. Loomis then went next door to the home of Mrs. Albert Twork and informed her of the murder. Upon her suggestion, he ran to the local police station to report the murder while Mrs. Twork stayed with the children.

The scene of the crime on Marlowe St.
(Click to enlarge any photo)
The infamous sun porch
(Click on enlarge. Photos are of the house today.)

     Dr. Loomis was taken into custody immediately and police said there were discrepancies in his story of the evening in question. Dr. Loomis offered an explanation that a prowler must have seen him give his wife the $100 through the sun room window and waited until he left to murder Mrs. Loomis. No weapon was ever found. Dr. Loomis told the same story which could not be broken under heavy examination. Police found blood in the inside of Dr. Loomis's coat sleeve and no corresponding stain on his shirt. Dr. Loomis explained that he had tried to move Mrs. Loomis's body and that is how the stain got there. The $100 was missing but not two rings on Mrs. Loomis's finger. Dr. Loomis theorized that in the excitement the killer did not notice the rings. Two pearl buttons were found in the ashes in the furnace and police think the doctor may have changed his shirt. The house was locked and a window in the sun room had been broken. However, the glass from the broken window was on the lawn, not on the inside of the sun room.

     A couple who were walking by the Loomis home at about 9:10 reported hearing a woman scream. Dr. Loomis swore the sun room shades were up when he left. Yet when Mrs. Loomis' body was found they were drawn. Detroit police homicide detective Fred Fraham started to investigate Dr. Loomis's life. He found that Dr. Loomis had been seen no less than a dozen times having drinks with a young stenographer, Mrs. Gertrude Newell in a Hungarian restaurant at West End and Jefferson Ave. Mrs. Newell was a divorcee from Ypsilanti, MI. Dr. Loomis was held on a murder charge but assistant prosecutor Paul O. Buckley said that he would not charge unless more evidence could be uncovered. Dr. Loomis was released and accompanied his wife's body to Newton NJ for burial on March 1st.

 The saucy young stenographer, Mrs. Gertrude Newell. A divorcee.

     Dr. Loomis was arrested again and charged with murder and given a $100,000 bond. Many of the Dr.'s friends believed in his innocence. Dr. E. T. Hoff at 817 Virginia Park mortgaged his house to raise the bond. The trial began on May 23, 1927 before Judge V. Brennan. The trial was one of the most sensational trials in Wayne County history. The story had made headlines in newspapers from coast to coast. It was the "O.J." trial of the 1920's. The trial lasted 10 days and the jury acquitted him after only 35 minutes. 

 The courtroom.

     Dr. Loomis was found to have shared an apartment with Mrs. Newell at 305 Richton Manor. They had rented the apartment under the name "Brown" which was Mrs. Newell's former married name. After the acquittal, Dr. Loomis, Mrs. Newell and Mr. Kolar would sit around the Hungarian restaurant listening to gypsy music. Dr. Loomis complained that his practice had dwindled, his finances were low and he was bitter about people pointing the finger at him. Even the other professionals in his office building were asking him to leave. He said he was shadowed by police and private detectives. The police denied this. After the acquittal Dr. Loomis had rented a house at 12019 Mendota, he said he could not stay in his former home on Marlowe.

     Dr. Loomis had confided in a friend that he wanted to marry Mrs. Newell but her parents objected to the marriage. It was after a visit to Mrs. Newell's parents in Ypsilanti that the couple had quarreled. He was afraid she was going to leave Detroit and move back to Ypsilanti. Then suddenly his brother-in-law Sumner Ladd who had been caring for his two children Frank and Janet died. Dr. Loomis was despondent over this death and did not know how he was going to care for his children. He had gone to the funeral in Brookyln and had visited with his children and his mother Dora Loomis.

     Dr. Loomis returned to Detroit and went to his office. On the morning of May 19, 1928, Jesse Hardy a janitor from his office found Dr. Loomis in the adjoining dentist's suite, dead on a mattress he had dragged from his own offices. Dr. Loomis had inserted a rubber tube and inhaled illuminating gas. He was found near a bible opened to "The hymn for the dying" and a note to the authorities stating that in 24 to 48 hours the newspapers would publish a letter he had sent explaining his actions. In his coat a photograph was found of him with his arms around Mrs. Newell in Frankenmuth taken May 6 last. He had penned two letters, one to the newspapers and one to his friend Victor Kolar.

     Mr. Kolar then made the letter public. In it he described his misery and his intense love for Mrs. Newell. "G. drives me crazy" he wrote. "Everyone in Detroit should receive consideration but myself" In the doctors letter to Kolar he expressed his love for Mrs. Newell such as "My God I love her, perhaps we will meet again when both of us will be more reasonable." Shorty thereafter the other letter was published in a Detroit newspaper, Dr. Loomis declared his innocence and said he was too miserable to go on living. He blamed his prosecution on "Cheap political maneuvering on the part of would be office holders."

     When told of her lovers death, Mrs. Newell suffered a near nervous breakdown. She twice tried to jump from her window and kill herself. It is thought that Mrs. Newell returned to Ypsilanti and was never heard from again. Dr. Loomis was buried in the family plot at Napoleon, five miles north of Brookyln. At his funeral was his mother Mrs. Dora Loomis who was 78 years old. She held up well through the service. The children did not seem to understand. Six close friends-  Frank H. Brown, banker; Frank Dermyre, farmer; Dr. C.W. Schepeler, physician; Dr. F. H. Austin, dentist; Bruce Gar, Farmer and W.L. Ford, editor of the Brookyln Exponent were the pallbearers.

     When the letter written by Dr. Loomis was read to Mrs. Dora Loomis, his mother, she said it vindicated her faith in him and proved his innocence to the world. Mrs. Dora Loomis would die about a year later in 1929. It is not known who raised the children. Mrs. Grace Burns Loomis was buried in the Newton cemetery in Newton, NJ in an unmarked grave, cemetery map number 1918, plot 151.

     I traveled to Napoleon because I wanted to see his grave. Below are pictures of his grave and his mother's. There is also a short video of the cemetery. I make no judgement about his guilt or innocence. It had been 85 years since the murder and I think it will always remain a mystery.

Dr. Frank R. Loomis

Dora Love Loomis

Video of the Oak Grove Cemetery in Napoleon, MI


  1. Anonymous

    Gertrude (Brown) Newell ultimately lived at least 30 more years and married another doctor. Her daughter, born @ 1920, grew up primarily under convent care and training in Canada, was married happily for over fifty years, and passed away in 2011.