The Susie Beck Murder

In late June of 1887, a young wife died under mysterious circumstances. Her husband left shortly after her burial with a cryptic note indicating he couldn’t live without her.  What the authorities discovered when his employer contacted them to try to save the grieving husband’s life is almost unbelievable. 

“UNATONED AFTER THIRTY-TWO YEARS A FAMOUS ST. LOUIS MURDER.” St. Louis Post – Dispatch (1879-1922); Apr 6, 1919; ProQuest Historical Newspapers: St. Louis Post Dispatch
WILL SEND FOR REV. W. A. WEST.: SEGUIN, TEX., AUTHORITIES SURE THEY …St. Louis Post – Dispatch (1879-1922); Jun 24, 1897; ProQuest Historical Newspapers: St. Louis Post Dispatch pg. 10


“The Abbott Case.” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 29 July 1887. 

“The Death of Susie Beck.” Indianapolis Journal, 1 Aug. 1887. 

“A Dispatch from St. Louis.” Palmyra Spectator, 5 Aug. 1887. 

“It Was Murder.” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 1 Aug. 1887. 

“Mrs. Abbott and Susie Beck.” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 29 July 1887. 

“A Question of Identification.” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 25 June 1897. 

Shook, Steven R. “Crimes of ’87.” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 2 Jan. 1888. 

Shook, Steven R. “Methodist Minister Murder Mystery.” Methodist Minister Murder Mystery, 1 Apr. 2016, 

Shook, Steven R. “Still in Doubt.” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 30 July 1887. 

Shook, Steven R. “Susie Beck’s Murderer.” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 21 June 1897. 

“Susie Beck’s Murder.” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 3 Aug. 1887. 

“Unatoned After Thirty-Two Years A Famous St. Louis Murder.” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 6 Apr. 1919. 

“West Case Bungled.” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 29 June 1897. 

“West, the Absconding Preacher.” Crown Point Register, 4 Aug. 1887. 

“Will Send for Rev. W. A. West.” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 24 June 1897. 

“A Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing.” Goshen Weekly News, 5 Aug. 1887. 

The Trunk Mystery

In my very first podcast episode ever (yeah, it’s going to be a little raw), please join me, Laura, on my journey to learn more about St. Louis’s seedy past and unbelievable true crime.  While you are at it, use your own detective skills to see if you have what it takes to determine the difference between fact and fiction.

One of the most infamous stories from St. Louis’s past is the trunk mystery.  A foul smelling trunk is found in a deserted hotel room in 1885.  From the discovery of the trunk to the capture of the man responsible for its gruesome contents, this story is stranger than fiction.   Listen and decide for yourself. 




Martha Hoke’s chalk-plate illustration of Charles Arthur Preller’s body inside the trunk found at the Southern Hotel in St. Louis, Missouri in April of 1885.
Three page letter from Chas Bieger, trunk salesman, describing his account of opening the foul-smelling trunk in the Southern Hotel to find the decomposing body of Charles Arthur Preller. He wrote this letter to K. G. “Jock” Bellairs, a crime reporter for The St. Louis Star and Times, who wrote an article for that paper in 1922 recalling the details of the 1885 Preller-Maxwell case. This letter can be found at the Library and Research Center and is part of the Missouri Historical Society Collection.


“A Letter from Maxwell.” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 31 July 1888. 

“Artist, 74, Among Eight Women Who Exhibit Paintings.” St. Louis Star-Times, 4 Apr. 1935. 

Beiger, Chas. Letter to K. Bellairs. 22 June 1922. K. Bellairs Papers, Missouri History Museum Library, St. Louis, MO. Manuscript. 

“Came to Kill.” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 29 Nov. 1893. 

“Father and Son.” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 24 Oct. 1885.  

“He Killed Preller.” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 24 May 1886. 

“His Dying Statement.” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 10 Aug. 1888. 

“How Preller Died.” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 26 May 1886. 

“It Should Be Spurned.” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 23 Sept. 1887. 

Linzee, David, and Nick Openlander. Infamous St. Louis Crimes & Mysteries. Palmerston and Reed Pub., 2001. 

“Maxwell’s Defense.” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 18 May 1886. 

“Maxwell Will Rejoice.” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 10 May 1886. 

“Maxwell’s Story.” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 19 Feb. 1888. 

“Munchausen-Maxwell.” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 9 May 1885. 

“Preller’s Death Struggle.” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 16 June 1885. 

“Preller’s Murder.” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 12 Aug. 1885. 

“Still Calls It Murder.” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 19 May 1889. 

“Tell-Tale Groans.” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 18 Apr. 1885. 

“The Chalk Plate Process | Graphic Arts.” Princeton University, The Trustees of Princeton University, 

“The Criminal Court.” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 16 June 1886. 

“The Maxwell Trial.” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 11 May 1886. 

 “The Body Identified.” St. Louis Daily Globe-Democrat, 17 Apr. 1885.