MYSTERY SURROUNDS SHOOTING OF GEORGE MacNEAL- TWO MEN WERE ON MOST FRIENDLY TERMS- PRISONER TAKEN TO PETERBORO
NOV 1, John Schell now finds himself behind bars in the city of Peterboro. Schell is charged with the murder of another resident of the little northern hamlet; namely George MacNeal , age 56 years. What at first was assumed to be a case od accidental shooting, which took place during the midnight hours of Saturday Oct 27th; or earlier on the Sabbath morning, later developed into a case of man slaughter, this charge being changed to one of murder at the preliminary hearing held before Reeve W.C.Moore JP yesterday afternoon. . Constable Storey reached the cottage accompanied by George Schell a son of the accused, about 5:30 on Tuesday afternoon.–Two days after the incident His investigation commenced immediately. He was able to secure a good diagram of the interior of the cabin and where the two men were located in the cabin when the shooting took place . Schell was apparently sitting on the bed in one corner of the room, while MacNeal was apparently in the diagonal corner at the extreme distance of the room. MacNeal gun, a shot gun, was found standing alongside of where he appeared to be sitting, leaning against the wall. Schell gun was carried out by the accused and was later secured by Constable Davis of Bobcaygeon. Officer Storey remained in the cabin over night and located the fatal bullet the following morning. It had apparently travelled a low height from the floor, passed through MacNeal body, entering just below the abdomen and passing out the back of his hip., thru the wall of the cabin and was found outside. A quantity of blood was found on the floor where MacNeal’s body had be stricken. Further investigations by the officers gleaned the information that two men had been drinking. The stories of Roy MacNeal, son of the deceased, and of George Schell, were also secured. It appears that the party of four went into hunting ground Saturday, had lunch together, the two young men leaving around 5 o’clock for their homes at Silver Lake. While leaving they were told to return Sunday afternoon with car and the two men would meet them
Coroners Report—–Examination disclosed that the ilium was fractured, witness said. The bullet mark in the skin was 0.4 of an inch above the bone, so it is altogether likely the man was stooping so as to bring the skin down over the bone. Dr. Young said he believed the burn on the body was caused subsequent to death by the flames of the rifle. The clothes smouldered slowly, burning the skin. Where there any blisters? “No.” What would that indicate? “That the burning took place after death.” Yes said the coroner
John Schell’s statement to Constable Storey said “was to the effect that he was in camp on the 27th October, and the deceased came in company with George Schell and Roy MacNeal. He stayed there that night , and the accused had an awful night with him when he suffered from cramp, and he died about 9 o’clock.” McNeal seemed to be in fine health. I saw no signs of liquor, and we were perfectly sober. I never shot a shot out of the rifle All the time we were there. McNeal complained of gripe, and he groaned all night. About 9 o’clock in the morning he drew up his pant leg, and gave a yell. I went to him two minutes afterwards and found that he was dead. He was never out if sight of hearing from Saturday night until he died on Sunday morning. I keep my rifle loaded at the head of the bed. I never saw any blood although I rolled over twice
.It is alleged that he made another statement to the effect that when he (Schell) was on his way to the spring for a pail of water, he heard three rifle shots and when he returned he found McNeill dead upon the floor. Further investigations by the officer gleaned the information that the two men had been drinking
Constable Storey said–I found blood on the floor near the stove and blood in the south west corner of the shack. A bullet hole was found 6 inches from the roof or 4 feet 6 inches from the floor. On reviewing the bullet hole I concluded that it had been fired from the inside. In looking through the hole from outside I could see the far side of the shack, looking in a line directly across the blood stains on the floor .On stepping backfrom the hole, the lasst object seen was Shcell’s bed in the corner. One empty shell and two loaded ones were found in one of the bunks Storey said he was the first to enter the cabin and did not smell gunpowder There were no signs of a fight
Those who have known the man Schell for years past have nothing but regrets and sympathy to offer. Just what brought the shooting has yet to be learned, but the consensus of opinion appears to be that both men, who were apparently on the most, friendly terms, and who entered the little hunting cabin with their sons on Saturday last to enjoy a day or two preparing for the opening of the hunting season, had a few social hours together. What happened can only be conjectured.
COMMITTED FOR TRIAL : Peterboro Nov. 2 1923
John Schell was committed for trail today. In the absence of direct evidence the Crown called attention to conflicting statements made and signed by the accused, in which he says he turned the dead body over and saw no blood or wounds. He stayed in the shack all night of the tragedy and heard no shot. Police testified the prisoner locked the door of the shack with dead man inside. The clothes of the dead man was saturated with blood and the floor stained. The remains of George W MacNeal were intered in Peterboro
The priciple point brought out this morning at the trail of John Schell charged in the murder of George MacNeal before Justice Mowut assizes at here, related to the discovery of a bullet four inches in a basswood tree twenty feet from the ground and some distance from the cabin
The case for the defence opened ???????????? (that’s all we have found –stay tuned)
Rae Flemming’s book on Victoria County says Schell was aquiited —This from ???
THE FROSTS TO THE DEFENCE by Brian McFadzen p 211 of Looking For Old Victoria
In February 1924, the unfortunate John Schell of Dalrymple, an otherwise upright citizen of seventy one, went on trial in Peterborough for the October murder of hunting companion George MacNeal at a “lonely” isolated hunt camp at Galway Township, north of Bobcaygeon near Bass Lake. The forensic evidence was clear. MacNeal was shot at very close range with Schell’s Winchester model 86 rifle.The prosecution maintained that Schell did the deed, then attempted to cover it up.
Lindsay Post (23/24)February 1924
In a dramatic stillness that held the crowd…C.G. Frost, a brilliant young Lindsay lawyer, eloquently pleaded the case of John Schell…in which he reenacted, moment by moment, the events of that tragic weekend. In a triumph of forensic oratory, he painted the picture of Schell’s return from the spring…the thumps which he heard as he approached the cabin, the startling rifle report he as he reached the corner of the shack, the heavy thud and the lighter rattle that succeeded, and Shell’s perturbation as he approached to look on MacNeal’s death agony…The piercing death-shriek, how it affected his injured heads as to throw him, temporarily in a panic… to rush to civilization with his awful tidings…
Cecil introduced the detail site investigation conducted by brother Les Frost, who had been a battalion musketry officer in the Great War and by surveyor A.G. Havana, from Orillia. Cecil also brought forth engineer Martin Robinson, representing Winchester Arms, New Haven, Connecticut, all of them to demonstrate that by far the most logical exploration was that the inebriated and desperately ill MacNeal had somehow pulled the rifle from the wall rack by its barrel. jarred the hair trigger, the bullet then passing through his hip and out the shack wall. Cecil surprised the court by presenting a section of the tree, with the bullet hole, along with Cavanna’s diagram of the bullet’s trajectory. Testimony from Dr. Phillis Young and Dr. Johnston about Schell’s head injury age 14 and subsequent treatment of head aches and sensitivity to noise, lent credibility to Schell’s confusion.
“Not guilty” Brought general relief to the court room, the Frosts and Crown Attorney A. B. Cunningham immediately congratulating Schell. A free man, he and his son George made their way home from Peterborough to Lindsay by car, train to Fenelon Falls, horse to Dalrymple.