John Wilmer (Martine) was convicted of grand larceny in the first degree in the County Court of Westchester. He was charged with having stolen from Belle Schreyer, a wealthy widow, diamonds and jewelry of the value of $1500 on October 16, 1912. Wilmer had no record at the time but had been charged with theft by his former employer, haberdasher W.A. McLaughlin Fine Shirt Maker of Fifth Avenue, New York City, where he was a salesman in 1906. Because at the time he was popular with wealthy New York society and rumored to have been engaged to the daughter of a fomer U.S. Senator, Ruth Mason of Illinois, he received parole. His subsequent employer also accused him of embezzlement however no formal charges were ever brought. Wilmer was well known in New York society, a stage performer of multiple talents, actor, vaudevillian and contortionist among them. A 1913 letter from attorney, Matthew Stern, enlisted for assistance in Wilmer's appeal, described him as "about 32 years old, married with 3 children, a graduate of the University of Virginia, spoke three or four languages, is a licensed aviator and a man of some histrionic ability". Letters from Wilmer confirm Stern's assessment of a penchant for the dramatic, images of him in this collection confirm his ability as an aviator, however his command of languages, education and number of children could not be verified. Wilmer's crime has all of the trappings of an early 20th century stage play. The cast of characters include: Belle Schreyer, the wealthy Westchester widow in her late fifties who enjoyed the company of younger men and Robert Miller, the naive young man who was acquainted with Schreyer and taken under the wing of Wilmer and convinced to be party to robbing her. The crime involved premeditated planning, coordinatiion with trolley and train schedules, elite establishments in Westchester, including the Park Hotel in Larchmont and the Robin Hood Inn in New Rochelle, disguise (a mustache worn by Wilmer as he stalked the widow), chloroform for drugging Schreyer and a host of accomplices who provided false alibi's for Wilmer. Wilmer served a light sentence for his crime after Miller turned State's witness against him and was released in 1915 after suffering health complications in prison.
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Courtesy of the Westchester County Archives
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