Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Hell Comes to Bath

Hell Comes to Bath

Bath, Michigan.

May 17, 1927.

The angry man marched over to the north end of his farm carrying a handsaw. As he approached the old maple trees, he dropped to his knees and began to saw through the bottom of each tree. When he severed the trunk, he carefully laid it back on the base so that any passer-by would not notice that it was cut. Next, he strolled over to a large peach tree and did the same. He propped the tree up with a few sticks so that if seen from the road or the driveway, it would appear to be in one piece. Cursing loudly, he hurried to the barn where he kept his remaining five horses. He reached up on the wall of the barn where he had hidden some bale wire. One by one, he wrapped the wire around the ankles of each horse so all the animals could do was to stand in the stall and eat from bags that hung from the creaking walls. As he alternately mumbled and swore at the nervous horses, he roughly tied each animal to the stall posts using the same wire. When they were burned alive the next day, the carcasses of these defenseless creatures were found exactly where they were bound.

Andrew Kehoe's Farm (New York Times)
Andrew Kehoe's Farm
(New York Times)

"Damn bastards!" he hissed. He accidentally kicked over a bucket of feed which he then picked up and threw at the wall. "Bastards!" he screamed. The horses became nervous but they could do nothing except hop from side to side. Outside the barn, the man gathered up some old pieces from the tractor that were laying in the grass. He brought the junk into the barn and threw it into a pile on the ground. While the pathetic cries of the bound horses emanated from the stables, he went back outside and picked up the branches that fell from the trees and threw them into the same pile. He gathered up all the debris around the yard and brought it to the barn. An old, rusted bicycle that lay in back of the chicken coop, he tossed it through a barn window. "They never learn! They never learn!" he repeated over and over again. As he went behind the tool shed, he loosened his belt and then re-buckled it, pulling it as tight as he could around his waist. Outside the shed, between the chicken coop and the barn, the body of a woman, freshly killed, lay in a wheelbarrow. Her arms and legs dangled from the sides of the cart as her blood flowed down onto the grass. Her head, broken in pieces by a series of heavy blows, hung over the front of the cart, her eyes staring blanking into eternity. The man lifted the wheelbarrow and pushed it roughly. "Not sick anymore?" he said to the corpse. He carted the body of his wife behind the shed near some tall bushes so anyone who might drive by would not notice it.

After he parked the hog crate, he entered the shed and took out a two foot by one foot piece of board that he had been saving. He placed the board on a workbench and, like he had done dozens of times before, sanded one side smooth. When he finished he took a can of linseed oil from the shelf and carefully poured a tiny amount of the liquid into a rag. He then rubbed the wood gently, letting the white pine absorb the oil. Then he sanded the wood again. He repeated the process several times today, like he had on previous occasions. Only today, it would be a little different. Next he clamped the plank flat side down onto his workbench. The scowling man reached into a sack and removed a letter stencil. It was the kind that children use in school and homework projects. The stencil contained all the letters of the alphabet, both in upper and lower case and a set of numbers from 1 to 10. He bought the stencil for five cents in a local store in Bath the week before. Very steadily, he began to trace the letters onto the wood. Using a new pencil, which he sharpened every third letter, in order to keep the thickness of the line uniform, he drew the letters of his message on the wood. He measured the distance between the words to ensure it was the same throughout the sign. Once he had the words inscribed on the plank, he used a one-inch brush and black paint to fill in the outline. Being extra careful not to color over the outlines, he painted all the letters. After waiting the prescribed one-hour according to directions, he repainted all the letters so none of the grain of the wood showed through. Once or twice, he thought he heard a noise outside the shed that caused him to glance out the window. He saw his wife inside the wheelbarrow, undisturbed, immobile, still dead. The man shrugged his shoulders. "It's too damn bad!" he said to no one.

A bitterness swept over him, fueled by imagined conflicts and persecutions by people he barely knew. It had long ago poisoned his soul, generating an insane anger whose dimensions knew no bounds. He cursed to himself, smugly, warmed by the knowledge that all the townspeople would soon pay for their sins against him and pay dearly. A time of reckoning was near, a day when debts would be paid and accounts would be balanced. A day when the world would be made right again and the name of Andrew Kehoe would be known by all. Images of dead children filled his brain. And he smiled.

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