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A Burglar's Tale About the Luetgerts
The Chicago Inter Ocean published this article on December 31, 1897, about a man who had some potentially important information about the happenings of May 1, 1897, the night of Louise Luetgert's disappearance. He apparently never testified, and the truthfulness of his story is questionable.
A witness will be produced who will testify he saw Mrs. Luetgert leave her residence on the night of May 1 with a bundle under her arm. Merton Lewis, a plumber, living on the West Side, is willing to swear to this fact, though he may be obliged to confess that he deliberately planned to rob the Luetgert sausage factory on the same night.
It is known that he came to the former attorneys in the case, ex-Judge Vincent and Albert Phalen, and offered to go on the stand. Ex-Judge Vincent refused to allow him to appear in the case, and this formed one of the points on which the counsel in the first trial clashed.
Lewis has been anxiously sought for ever since Mr. Harmon came into the case. He has but recently been located, and the search is now being made for a companion, who will corroborate his story of being in the neighborhood of the factory on the night in question. His whereabouts are being kept a secret, the defense fearing that the police may induce him not to testify.
The story as told by Lewis was considered too improbable by ex-Judge Vincent to use in the case. Mr. Harmon considers him a most important witness.
Lewis claims he is a plumber, but has since drifted into less honorable business methods. He went to the factory, so his story goes, on the night of May 1 for the purpose of robbing the office safe. He and his companion loitered about the corner of Hermitage avenue and Diversey street until about 11 o'clock. They took several drinks in Tosch's saloon.
Lewis says that he went up to the windows of the factory office and saw some one moving around the place with a light. He also saw that the factory was well watched, and so they changed their plans.
They remained in the neighborhood for some time longer. About 11 o'clock they went down Hermitage avenue toward the Luetgert residence. While they were considering it as a possible place for operations a woman came out of the front door carrying a bundle. Her description tallies with that of Mrs. Luetgert.
The woman, according to Lewis' story, went south on Hermitage avenue, past the terra cotta works.
James McGarry, an agent of the defense, has made several trips to St. Louis searching for the other man, who will back up Lewis' story of being about the factory on the night of May 1.
Mr. Harmon admitted last evening that he was expecting to use Lewis as a witness. He denied that the man was around the factory for the purpose of robbing it.
His version of Lewis' story is that the man was waiting on Hermitage avenue and Diversey street in order to catch a milk wagon to take him to the country. Lewis, he said, had formerly worked for a farmer near Wheeling, and, being out of means, was waiting for some acquaintance that might come along on his wagon to give him a lift.
"Yes, he will be an important witness for the defense," said Mr. Harmon last night. "We also expect to get the story of a man who was with him at the time."