Mystery of Room 1046 -The Unsolved Murder Room - The Comprehensive Minds

Mystery of Room 1046 -The Unsolved Murder Room


The Unsolved Mystery Of Roland T. Owen’s Gruesome Murder In Room 1046

 

Roland T. Owen’s
Roland T. Owen’s| Wikipedia

There’s nothing like checking into a hotel. You can kick back, relax, and let others take care of everything. Just don’t go nuts at the mini-bar - those little bags of pretzels add up. But when you check into a hotel, above all, you’re trusting the hotel to provide safety and security. Your room is your sanctuary. This made it all the stranger when a man was murdered in the safety of his hotel room, in the middle of one of America’s oldest and most prestigious hotels. 

The year was 1935 in Kansas City, Missouri, and the Hotel President was one of the crown jewels of the city’s Power & Lights District. Less than ten years earlier, it had even hosted the Republican National Convention, nominating Herbert Hoover for President. 


The hotel was best known for its Drum Room lounge, which hosted legendary entertainers including Ol’ Blue Eyes, Frank Sinatra. Anyone who was anyone in Kansas City knew that the Hotel President was the place to go people-watching. 


Their most infamous guest, however, was still to come. Roland T. Owen was an unassuming man, walking into the Hotel President and asking for an interior room on the upper floors on January 2nd. He claimed to be from Los Angeles, and those who saw him during his stay at the hotel mostly remembered him for a nasty scar he had on his temple and a deformed ear. That led many people to assume he was a professional boxer. 


An odd, quiet man, he talked to bellhop RandolphPropst on the way up to room 1046 and claimed to have been staying at another hotel but wanted a cheaper one. But Propst noticed something odd - for a man who had been traveling, Roland T. Owen barely had any baggage. Just a hairbrush, comb, and toothpaste in his pocket, and no suitcase to be seen. 


Mr. Owen was a mysterious guest, but a bigger mystery was about putting the Hotel President in the history books. Mr. Owen continued to puzzle the workers at the hotel as he stayed there for two days. Maid Mary Soptic was shocked when she entered the darkroom and found Owen sitting there in the dark, with the shades closed and only a dim lamp on. 


He told her to go ahead and clean, but something felt odd to her about the room. No one ever saw Owen turn on the lights in his room, and he always seemed nervous. He left and asked her to leave the room unlocked- as if he was waiting for someone. Roland Owen stayed at the hotel for two days, and the first night was when things started to get really eerie. 


The President Hotel in Kansas City, Missourri.
The President Hotel in Kansas City, Missouri.|wikipedia

When Mary returned, she found Owen lying on his bed, fully dressed, and he had left a note on the bedside addressed to someone named Don. It read “Don: I will be back in fifteen minutes. Wait.” But no one had ever seen anyone else enter the room. 


Whoever Don was, Owen seemed to communicate with him more than any of the guests or staff. Mary Soptic reported many strange things, like the fact that Owen’s room was locked from the outside at one point - but the door could only be locked from the inside. When she entered, she heard the phone ring, and Owen said “No, Don. I don’t want to eat. I am not hungry. I just had breakfast. No, I am not hungry.” Owen seemed to be planning on a long-term stay, asking Soptic about the President’s residential rates. But his stay would be a lot shorter than anyone expected. 


When Soptic returned to furnish Owen’s room at 4 PM on the second day, she heard two men talking inside. When she knocked, she heard a deep voice speaking, definitely not Owen’s. She asked if they needed towels, and the mysterious man said they didn’t. But she knew there were no towels in that room. 


Jean Owen, who was staying in the room next door, said she heard many people talking in room 1046, shouting and cursing. And as the night went on, the behavior around the hotel only got stranger. A woman believed to be a prostitute wandered the halls, looking for her client. She expected him in Owen’s room but came out empty. 


Outside, a city worker observed a man wearing only an undershirt, pants, and shoes run into the street looking distressed. He was ranting, saying he would kill someone, and looked wounded. Whether he was related to the mysterious goings-on in Room 1046, no one was able to answer, but he disappeared into a taxi and was never seen again. 


The next morning, everyone would be looking for answers. It was an ordinary day on January 4th when Della Ferguson came on shift as the switchboard operator at the Hotel President. She made her planned wake-up call to Room 1046 when she noticed that the phone had been taken off the hook. 


She contacted Randolph Propst to check on the room, and he found the door locked with a “Do not Disturb” sign on it. When he called out, a voice inside told him to enter - but the door was still locked and no one was letting him in. He yelled to hang the phone up and left. Another bellboy, Harold Pike, had a key and let himself in after the phone wasn’t hung up. 


He found Pike alone, in the dark, naked, and unresponsive. There was no sign of anyone else, and Pikeput the phone on the hook and left. It was only two hours before the phone was off the hook again, and when Propst entered the room, he found something very different in the isolated, locked room. Owen was on the floor, on his hands and knees, and his head was bloody. More disturbing, there was blood all over the walls, on the bed, and in the bathroom. 


Propst ran downstairs to get help, but when they returned, the door was blocked. Own had fallen in front of it, barring entry with his body. They talked to the wounded man, and he eventually forced his way up and let them in. Doctors were called to examine him, and what they found was terrifying - and impossible to explain. 


Owen had been tied with the cord around his neck, wrists, and ankles. His neck showed signs of strangulation, and he had been stabbed multiple times in the chest. He had a nasty skull fracture from blows to the head, with the damage being so serious that blood splatters could be found on the ceiling.

 

When Dr. Harold Flanders, a local doctor asked him what happened, Owen insisted he had fallen on the bathtub. When he was asked who hurt him, he said “nobody”. His injuries were serious, and he was rushed to the hospital. But the mysterious Roland T. Owen would not be giving away any more of his secrets. By the time they arrived at Kansas City General Hospital, he had slipped into a coma and died soon thereafter. 


No one had seen anyone enter the room that morning. There was no sign of a struggle in the room. Owen had been alive, if drunk when Propsthad entered the room. How did he get brutally murdered in a locked hotel room? 


That’s what the Kansas City Police Department wanted to find out. Jean Owen was briefly detained and interviewed, but when her boyfriend backed up her story she was released. An autopsy of Owen revealed that he had been fatally stabbed and bludgeoned, but one of the oddest things was that he had apparently been wounded between 4 AM and 5AM based on the dried blood. 


A police sketch of Roland T. Owen released after his death.
A police sketch of Roland T. Owen was released after his death.|Kansas City Public Library

That meant Owen had already been dying whenPike entered his room and found him lying in bed. A thorough search of the room found few articles belonging to Owen, but they also found no evidence of the knife used to kill him. That ruled out suicide. But other odd items were found around the room, including a bottle of diluted sulfuric acid and a clothing tag from New Jersey. 


The crime scene team looked for fingerprints and found a set belonging to a woman that they didn’t match to anyone at the hotel. Was this mysterious visitor the one who spelled the end for Roland T. Owen? The murder was front-page news, and detectives soon believed that Roland T. Owen was not who he said he was. 


A phone call to Los Angeles for the next of kin came up empty, and the fingerprints of the deceased were sent to the Justice Department to await a match. But the case seemed to be going cold - until the Hotel President received a mysterious phone call. 


A woman phoned the front desk to ask what Owen looked like, and claimed to know him from a town named Clinton only fifty miles away. Sightings around the city came in, and the Muehlebach Hotel - which the deceased had left due to high rates - reported that he had checked in under another name, Eugene K. Scott. 


The LAPD confirmed that this was likely also a fake name, and the mystery only deepened. Soon, people from all around came, claiming to know the mysterious Mr. Owen under all different names. Was he the cousin of a man who came in to see the body? No, that cousin died five years earlier. Was he a pro wrestler named Cecil Werner from little Rock, Arkansas? No, the wrestling promoter couldn’t make a match. 


New murders in the city soon stole the spotlight, and the mysterious death of Roland T. Owen - whoever he was - slipped away from the headlines. The body was going to be laid to rest in a potter's field when the funeral home received a mysterious phone call saying they would pay for a grave and service at a nearby cemetery. 



Also Read: 5 Unexplained Historical Mysteries That Has Not Been Solved



The funeral director asked what they knew about the death, and the person said that the man had been involved in a sordid affair while engaged to another woman. He said “Cheaters usually get what’s coming to them” and hung up. Was the mystery man of Room 1046 killed in a lover’s spat gone wrong? And who was he? The answers would be a long time in coming. 


It was over a year later when the next break in the case would come. The images of the man were circulated around the country, but it wasn’t until a friend of Ruby Ogletree of Birmingham, Alabama saw him in the paper that the truth came out. Ruby quickly identified the man as her son, Artemus Ogletree. 


Her boy had hitchhiked to California in 1934 and he hadn’t been home since, but she knew details around the case that proved she was telling the truth. She quickly identified the cause of the distinctive scar on his temple as an accident with cooking grease he had as a child. She even showed the investigators letters her boy had sent here. 


There was just one problem. Several of the letters had been postmarked after Artemus Ogletree was murdered in Kansas City. Not just that, but Artemus was a simple boy who didn’t know how to use a typewriter and used plain language. Several of the letters were typewritten and used literary language.

 

She had also received phone calls from people who claimed to know Artemus, including one with a wild story about being in Egypt with him and Artemus saving his life in a fight. The man gave Ruby his name, and she gave it to the police, but it has never been released. Who had been writing letters to a dead man’s mother for years? 


With a new heap of evidence courtesy of Artemus’grieving mother, the police reopened the case - and soon they had their top suspect. Joseph Martin was arrested in 1937 in New York, after killing his roommate and trying to ship the body to Memphis. 


When they found his wallet full of fake identification, they also found some handwriting that matched the letters received by Ruby Ogletree after Artemus's death. But no charges were ever filed, and the case went cold. 


Who killed Artemus Ogletree in that locked hotel room in the Hotel President? Was it Joseph Martin, as part of his long career of crime? Was it an organized crime killing, and who was Don? Was it not a name at all, and instead of the title of a mob boss Artemus Ogletree had crossed? Or was it a lover’s spat gone horribly wrong, as Artemus’ broken engagement came back to end his life? Or was there something else lurking in Room1046 of the Hotel President? 


Something unnatural that Artemus Ogletreewas terrified of, that could stab a man to death with no knife to be found, from behind a locked door? The mystery is still unsolved, and investigators still puzzle over it today. But the Hotel President is still taking guests to this day. Ready to check-in? 

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