What happened to Hex Murder defendants, convicted in York County 80 years ago? Part I
Norma Grace Strawbridge is shown in this York (Pa.) Daily Record/Sunday News file photo with portraits of herself, bottom, and her sister Lois. John Curry, one of three defendants convicted in the 1929 Hex Murder trials, painted the portraits about 1946. Also of interest: Genealogical society speaker to provide tips for ‘Finding Lydia’s Bottom’ and Descendant of powwow doctor: ‘Powwowing was done for good’ and Little-known facts about Hex murder trial emerge.
Yorkblogger June Lloyd tells a riveting story about a man who kept a hand-drawn charm copied from ‘Long Lost Friend’ for good luck when he hunting. It was found rolled up in the stock of a shotgun.
That reference to the book that was a text for the Pennsylvania Dutch custom of powwowing serves as a reminder that the highest-profile example of that white magic healing practice observed an anniversary this year.
The three defendants in York County’s Hex Murder cases were convicted and sentenced 80 years ago.
Which leads to the question: What happened to those defendants who killed suspected witch Nelson Rehmeyer? …
Did they languish in prison for the rest of their lives?
Hardly, as the following York Daily Record/Sunday News story (6/20/07) explains:
John Blymire was a 30-year-old drifter in 1928, and he had spent years looking for somebody to cast the demons out of his head. A well-known witch along the Susquehanna River finally told him he had been hexed by Nelson Rehmeyer, a farmer he had worked for.
If he got a lock of Rehmeyer’s hair and his copy of “Long Lost Friend,” a Pennsylvania Dutch handbook of spells for powwow doctors, and buried them deep in the ground, his mind would be cleared, she told him.
Blymire recruited 14-year-old John Curry and 18-year-old Wilbert Hess to accompany him. Hess believed his family’s failing farm had been hexed. Curry went along for the adventure.
When Rehmeyer refused to cooperate with them, they beat him to death, threw a mattress onto his body and poured his burning lantern oil over him. They closed the back and front doors and fled into the night of Nov. 27, 1928.
Detectives arrested the trio and charged them with the murder. As word of the trials spread, members of the world media flocked to York County to report on the first witch trials since Salem. County residents were portrayed as ignorant people who believed in spells.
Jurors found the three guilty. Blymire and Curry were sentenced to life in prison; Hess to 10 years.
Blymire left prison in 1953 on his fifth appeal. He moved to Philadelphia, where he worked as an apartment house manager until his death in 1977, according to J. Ross McGinnis in “Trials of Hex.”
Curry served 10 years before release. He joined the U.S. Army and was assigned to Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower as a cartographer, according to McGinnis. He helped draft the Normandy invasion maps and design the shoulder patch for D-Day. He studied art at the Sorbonne and returned home to a farm in Thomasville, where he and his wife, Leuellyn S. Curry raised two daughters. He died at age 49 in his home.
Hess served his sentence, returned to his family in Leader Heights and worked as a chain electroplater until retirement in 1970, according to McGinnis. He died at age 68 in 1978, leaving a wife and two children.
Also of interest:
To see all Hex Murder posts/photos from the start, click here.
Or if you prefer, click on these individual links with their extensive collection of photographs:
Powwowing: ‘… It was here, and it had many adherents … , ‘Powwowing was done for good’, Hex headache cure: ‘Tame thou flesh and bone’, Relative: Evil in Hex murder came from outside, Hex murder fascinating tale of mysticism, occult: Part 1, ‘Trials of Hex’ makes sense of notorious murder case: Part 2 , Little-known facts about Hex murder trial emerge, Hex murder compared to O.J.’s, Anna Nicole Smith’s cases, Hex house visit offers surprises, Visiting the scene of the crime.