Early in the morning of February 27, 1903, there was a flurry of activity at the Burdick residence on Ashland Avenue. A doctor was called. Another soon followed. Then the police came.
And in the evening, the headlines screamed:
KILLED IN HIS OWN HOME!
Mysterious Murder in Buffalo
EDWIN L. BURDICK, A LEADING CITIZEN, THE VICTIM
The Police Believe That He Was Called From His Room, and Opened the Door for Admission of Some One He Knew, Who Committed the Deed
The scene had a nightmarish quality about it. Edwin Burdick had been discovered in his smoking room, savagely murdered. The victim’s body was clad only in an undershirt, and his skull was nearly crushed by repeated blows of an unknown, missing weapon. Nearby, a small tray containing two glasses for cocktails, tarts, and cheese lay unobtrusively on a side table.
Clearly, the crime was perpetrated by someone who knew Burdick.
The only thing missing from the home was Burdick’s gold watch, his money and other valuables were untouched. There was no forced entry, nor did shouting awaken the family, sleeping peacefully in the bedrooms above the smoking room. After murdering Burdick, the killer wrapped a crazy quilt around his skull and covered his slight 5’4″ frame with sofa pillows.
In the weeks and months preceding his murder, Edwin Burdick told friends he feared for his life and some two months before the murder, he purchased a revolver, which he carried everywhere.
The police pieced together a few details about the evening. Maria Hall described her son-in-law passing her doorway in the evening and calling “Good night, Mother Hull.” Burdick had gone to his room and undressed. His clothes were found on the floor of his bedroom. Then, the police hypothesized, he heard someone tapping on the door and went downstairs to investigate. Recognizing the person, he was comfortable enough to admit them wearing only his undershirt, and to prepare refreshments to serve in his smoking room. Police found this to be telling: whoever Burdick feared, it wasn’t the person who would actually kill him.
Too late, Edwin Burdick must have realized his mistake. Evidence showed he attempted to ward off the blows – two of his fingers were broken in what were evidently defensive wounds. Clues found in the smoking room began to waft from the papers, like smoke rising over a volcano. Among the items found were:
- Several long loose hairs on the victim’s torso
- A photograph of Mrs. Seth Paine (Gertrude), a prominent socialite, and photographs of other women
- A 2-week-old newspaper clipping noting that Mrs. Helen Warren, of Cleveland, had obtained a divorce
- A letter to Alice Burdick, Edwin’s wife, from her lover, beginning “My dearest Alice” and signed “Arthur”
Edwin Burdick’s murderer remained at large, but there was no shortage of suspects, male and female, known and unknown. Reports of anonymous suspects were a dime a dozen. There was a man taken to the corner of Ashland Avenue around 10:30 p.m., by a hack man. There was a mysterious blonde woman, seen purchasing chloral after 11 p.m. the night of the murder. Reports of an unknown man and woman, spotted by an elderly neighbor, seen running away from Ashland Avenue at 1:30 a.m.
The suspects with known motives were more intriguing. A member of the Red Jacket Golf Club, was overheard threatening to kill Burdick if he came near his wife again. The mysterious Mrs. Warren may very well have had a vengeful ex-husband.
And, of course, there was Arthur Pennell, whose passionate love letters to the victim’s wife were found a few feet from Burdick’s body.