Murder in the Heartland
NORMAN V. KELLY
Bradley sophomore and navy veteran, Flavel Feuger, sang along with the radio in his new 1947 Pontiac as he cruised the downtown streets of Peoria, Illinois. He was a lucky guy with a pretty girlfriend, a new car, a wealthy father and home safely from the war. Folks were scurrying about under the bright Christmas lights, enjoying the mild December evening. Flavel stopped his car at a red light on Adams Street. Suddenly his passenger door swung open! A man in a navy pea coat stuck his head inside. “Could you take me to the airport?” he asked.
Mavis Bishop stood outside the Pere Marquette Hotel anxiously waiting for Flavel to pick her up. She returned to the hotel to make several telephone calls to his friends and his mother. Finally, her father picked her up and took her over to the Feuger home. Together they waited…worried and cried. Sadly they would never see their beloved Flavel alive again.
Mr. Feuger and his wife arrived at police headquarters early that December 4, 1947. The next stop was Bradley University and Flavel’s fraternity house. Within hours a massive search was organized that involved volunteer groups from every walk of life. For five days they searched, but still no sign of Flavel Feuger. While the fear mounted, police concentrated on finding the Pontiac. A Bradley student found it parked downtown and the police swarmed over it. Inside the glove compartment they found a crumpled cap bearing the printed name of Norma Weber.
WANTED: Herman Weber
After extensive talks with Mrs. Weber, the police put out an all points bulletin for Herman Weber. He was soon located in Conroy, Texas and Peoria detectives drove down there to bring him back. On the way home, Weber confessed to the killing of Flavel Feuger. The problem was he told three different stories, telling the police that Feuger’s body was probably in Saint Louis by now. The local newspaper issued EXTRAS about the news creating the biggest excitement since the Thompson murder case. It appeared that the police had their killer but where was Flavel Feuger’s body? Mavis Bishop and the distraught Feuger family prayed for help.
HELP COMES AT THE "WRIGHT" TIME
Basking in the limelight in his jail cell, Herman Weber enjoyed telling the police one lie after the other. The police web picked up several of Weber’s friends and his wife. The detectives zeroed in on Fred Wright, and his tip finally got the police on the right track. Police, along with about forty Bradley students headed down toward Dixon Mounds where they found the body of Feuger in a frozen pond. Flavel Feuger’s death had been caused by .25 caliber slugs to the head and chest.
After the coroner’s inquest Weber was indicted for kidnapping, car theft, murder and a count of rape upon the lady from whom he had stolen the gun that killed Flavel Feuger. Like so many other criminals in Peoria, Weber was just the guy next door, a war veteran, good neighbor and a friendly man. He told police the shooting was an accident and the stealing of the Pontiac was just something he did for a living. It was that simple.
On February 3, 1948 the hottest ticket in town was at the courthouse for the murder trial of Herman Weber. Like the Thompson trial in 1935 crowds flocked to the courthouse to be part of the excitement. Hundreds were turned away. The trial lasted five days and the jury took very little time finding Weber guilty on all counts and recommending the death penalty. Shortly after the verdict newsboys stood on every corner. “GUILTY DOOMED TO DIE.” Weber testified on his own behalf, telling the jury that the confessions were coerced and that a man named Crawley was the real killer.
Herman Weber stayed in the Peoria County Jail for a few days more before he was taken to Joliet where he would be held on death row. Once all of his appeals were lost the exact date of his execution was set. After seeing a few family members and a priest, Herman Weber was led from his holding cell to the electric chair, the same one that had executed Peorian Gerald Thompson in 1935. It was just a few minutes after midnight when the lights dimmed three times, indicating that the killer of Flavel Feuger had been put to death. Herman Weber was the tenth and last person from Peoria County to be executed for murder. In all, ten convicted killers have been executed from Peoria County. Six of those killers were hanged within the property of the Peoria County Jail and a dual hanging just outside Peoria’s city limits. Fittingly Thompson and Weber died in the electric chair.
Editor’s Note: Norm Kelly is a retired private investigator, historian and author of 7 books about Peoria and it’s bawdy reputation, available in our library. Norm welcomes your questions and comments. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Next Month: Norm will introduce us to Charles Otis Botts, wife killer and all around bad guy, who ended up exactly where he deserved to be…at the end of a rope.