Bell, Former Local Man, held for Homicide in New York
Death of Cleveland financier involves prominent
folk, a Metropolitan Sensation
McKean County Democra t, April 18, 1929
New York, April 16—Samuel
E. Bell, prominent oil promoter of Baltimore formerly of Smethport, Pa.,
was held for the grand jury on a charge of manslaughter in connection
with the death of Arthur Morgan Smith, wealthy Cleveland man, when arraigned
in homicide court today.
Bail was fixed at $10,000.
The courtroom was crowed by the socially elite of fashionable Park Avenue.
A professional bondsman furnished bail. Bell’s case will be taken
before the grand jury Thursday for Friday, Assistant District Attorney
Joseph Pascoello announced.
The many local friends of Samuel E. Bell, former prominent Smethport man
and ex-Prothonotary of McKean County, regretted to learn of the unfortunate
circumstances, which lead to his being held by the New York police on
a charge of homicide as the result of the death of Arthur Morgan Smith,
wealthy Cleveland millionaire, in the metropolis
News of Me. Bells unfortunate plight was first conveyed to Smethport b
a telephone call to the Democrat editor for the city editor of the New
York American Sunday afternoon.
Circumstances of the regrettable affair are such that Mr. Bell’s
complete exoneration and vindication seems certain when his case goes
A mew York special of Monday gives the following account of the affair.
Mew York, April 15—“ The Park Avenue mystery death case,”
involving wealthy society personages, toady engrossed the best minds of
the New York police department.
The three central figures in the “love drama” as it is called
are: Samuel E. Bell, of Baltimore formerly of Smethport, Pa., a distinguished
looking gray haired oil promoter, who is under arrest and held without
bal on a charge of homicide in connection with the death of Arthur Morgan
Arthur Morgan Smith, a Cleveland business and society man and Harvard
graduate, who died under mysterious circumstances following a champagne
and cocktail party in an exclusive Park Avenue hotel.
Mrs. Robert T. Brown, attractive society matron of Lexington Ky. Mrs.
Brown is being detained as a material witness.
Bell was arrested Saturday night and after being questioned by Police
Commissioner Grover Whalen and detectives of the homicide squad was arraigned
yesterday. His attorney entered a plea of not guilty of him.
Spurred by the telegraphed appeals of the widow of the slain Smith, detectives
toady wrung what they said was a confession from Bell.
It was delivered in Yorkville court by the distinguished looking, sturdily
built financier before Magistrate Bernard Douras.
“I have known Mrs. Brown for several years,” Bell said. “Thursday
we dined together in the Plaza. We chatted of her husband—also a
fried of mine—and discussed our mutual friends.
“Around 10 o’clock I suggested it was too early to bid each
other good night and Mrs. Brown said she her friend, Mrs. Schuette, was
giving a party in her apartment in the Marguery.
“She telephoned and we went over. It was there I met Mr. Smith.
There was considerable drinking during the evening and Smith showed the
“Well, after 2 a.m. Mrs. Brown and I went down to get a taxi. When
I reached the foyer of the hotel I found Smith had followed us. He was
under the influence of liquor. I called a taxi for Mrs. Brown and myself
and when it arrived Smith insisted on entering.
“I halted him Mrs. Brown entered the taxi while I tried to argue
with Smith and persuade him to go home.
“He insisted on getting in the taxi with Mrs. Brown. When he opened
the door to enter, I placed my hands on his shoulders and pushed him back
across the sidewalk. He was intoxicated and fell. I didn't’t think
he was seriously injured—believed he had merely passed out –and
so ordered the driver to take us first to the Plaza and then to my hotel.”
New York, April 15, -- Mrs. Robert L. Brown, prominent society woman of
Lexington, Ky., was questioned this afternoon by district Attorney Joab
Banton regarding the death of Arthur Morgan Smith, a graduate of Harvard
and an executive of the Gas Machinery company of Cleveland. She is held
as a material witness to an altercation between Smith and Samuel E. Bell,
wealthy oilman of Baltimore Md., both of whom sought to escort her home
from a party.
Bell is held without bail pending an investigation of the brawl with Smith,
which occurred on the sidewalk in front of the Hotel Marguery in fashionable
After telling her story to the District Attorney, Mrs. Brown promised
to be in homicide court tomorrow when Bell is arranged on a charge of
homicide in connection with Smith’s death.
Mrs. Brown, Bell, and Smith had just left a party in the apartment of
Mrs. Robert W. Schuette, $11,000,000 Standard Oil heiress, at the Marguery
when the argument started. The police say Bell admitted pushing Smith
when he tried to enter the taxicab with he and Mrs. Brown. He denied,
however, that he struck Smith.
Bell, in his cell, was heartbroken today “I didn't’t hit him,”
he exclaimed. “I just pushed him. Oh, if there was anything that
could be done to bring him back to life.”
The strange death of Smith occurred after he, Bell and Mrs. Brown had
attended a fashionable bridge and cocktail party as the guests of Mrs.
Robert H. Schuette, $11,000,000 heiress. After the party broke up —about
10:36 p.m., Smith and Bell engaged in an altercation over who should take
Mrs. Brown home. Bell, according, to latest police information, wanted
to accompany Mrs. Brown alone and resented Smith’s intention to
go with them. Bell had brought the society matron to the party.
Smith was picked up early Thursday morning in front of the Hotel Marguery
in Park Avenue—the “street of 400.” He was charged with
intoxication and died in his suite in the Hotel Barclay Friday, after
the intoxication charge had been dismissed by a magistrate.
Assistant Medical Examiner Thos. A Gonzales announced tonight that Smith
died from heart disease and diabetes, but said death was hastened because
of the skull fracture and resultant brain laceration and hemorrhage.
Further investigation revealed that Bell and Smith had engaged in an altercation
in front of the Hotel Marguery after the party as Bell was entering a
taxicab with Mrs. Brown to accompany her home.
Bell is alleged to have knocked or pushed Smith to the curb when the latter
tried to force himself into the taxicab. Bell was arrested, arraigned
and held without bail. He was in a semi-hysterical condition in his cell
While Bell admitted to detectives that he pushed Smith, he denied that
he had struck him. At any rate, Smith staggered across the sidewalk, fell—and
lay still. Subsequently, he was picked up as intoxicated but this charge
was dropped when, in court, it seemed he was more ill than anything else.
Mrs. Brown, who had entered the taxicab during the discussion between
Bell and Smith, said today that she did not witness the struggle.
“I did not know anything about what happened to Mr. Smith. The last
time I saw him I was coming down the elevator. I felt in the company of
Mr. Bell He escorted me home to the Hotel Plaza, where I was living.”
The party that preceded the tragedy was held on the tenth floor of the
Hotel Marguery, in Mrs. Schuette’s apartments. There were about
ten guests present.
Bell escorted Mrs. Brown to the party. Smith came alone. According to
one of the members of the party, Smith did not play bridge but he did
take several drinks and was quite attentive to Mrs. Brown.
Smith was married. His wife, Mrs. Lois Rucker Smith, of Cleveland, has
been an invalid since the birth of her daughter. Smith came to New York
on a pleasure trip and was accompanied by his eight--year--old daughter,
Suzanne. He was secretary and treasurer of the Gas Machinery Company of
Mrs. Brown, “the woman in the case,” is married. Her husband,
a stockbroker of Lexington Ky., has stated that he will stand by her.
He is in Kentucky. Mrs. Brown is a diminutive brunette and quite attractive.
Mrs. Schuette, at whose apartments the party was held, was the widow of
Harry S. Harkness, millionaire sportsman, who left one of the great Standard
Oil fortunes. In 1922 she was married to Schuette.
Bell’s activities as an oil producer took him to Tulsa Okla. In
1919 and later to Louisiana and Kentucky. He is also sad to have extensive
oil holdings in these states in Wyoming where he was one of the pioneer
oilmen. For a time he operated from a Baltimore office. It is understood
that he first met Mrs. Brown during the Kentucky oil boom.
The Bell's have been estranged for several
years, according to dispatches. Two sons, Donovan Morrison, 33, a real
estate operator and Mortimer, 28, live with their mother in Baltimore.
Mrs. Schuette was formerly Florence Steuber. Daughter of a wealthy Erie
pa., shipbuilder, according to the New York Mirror. She eloped in 1906
with David H. Caines, nephew of John S. Hyler, candy manufacturer. They
were divorced in 1917. She was married shortly after Harkness, millionaire
sportsman. He died in 1919. His will leaving his estate to the widow,
was contested by the first wife, then Mrs. Kennett Cowan, wife of a stock
broker who charged Harkness’ widow with fraud. The will, however,
was upheld. Mrs. Cowan charged that faith healers and oriental soothsayers
were called in when Harkness was ill.
Bell’s attorney, Theodore F. Vandorn, issued a statement tonight
in which he attributed Smith’s fatal injury to an accident and said
that Bell’s conduct was only that of a gentleman. Describing the
trouble between the two men, Vandorn said she client did not strike Smith,
only pushed him twice.
“Neither of the pushes,” he said” was of sufficient
force to cause Mr. Smith to lose his balance, not is there anything to
show that his fall was not caused because he tripped, or that his knees
gave way because of his condition.”
Mr. Vandorn said that Bell and Mrs. Brown were old friends and that in
refusing to allow Smith to annoy her Mr. Bell was only acting “
the part of a perfect gentleman.”