September 2, 1906
Near Davenport, Iowa
A 30-year-old man murders a 17-year-old girl he was infatuated with, wounds her friend, then kills himself
The girl, Grace Reed, was orphaned and had been living with her killer’s brother and his family for a few years before her murder. The murderer, Harry Drenter, had become obsessed with Reed to the point it caused a rift between Harry and his brother Ora, who told him to leave Reed alone as his attentions were unwanted. Harry went so far as to threaten to kill Ora, as well as his wife and children. Neighbors reportedly lived in fear over the summer, concerned Harry would attempt violence.
On September 2, Drenter saw Reed and her male companion, Samuel Moore, leave Ora’s home to attend church. He waited until the couple returned and hid behind a tree to ambush them. As they approached, he jumped from hiding and aimed at Reed. Moore yelled “don’t shoot” and pulled his horse to the side as Drenter fired. The side of Reed’s head was destroyed with a shot from a pump action shotgun — The Daily Times (Davenport Iowa, Sept 3, 1906) reported “The left part of the head had been blown entirely away and her brains were scattered over her body and the seat in the buggy” — while Moore was injured in the ribs by the same shot. Drenter then fled the scene.
Moore managed to crawl to Ora’s home and report the murder. Fearing Drenter would make good on his previous promise to kill them, they began calling neighbors to warn them of Drenter’s actions.
A group formed to stop Drenter. They arrived at his home to find his housekeeper fearing for her life. She later stated he had told her to remain in the house “on pain of death.” The group was able to coerce her to flee the home and, once she was safe, they departed. Officers arrived on the scene shortly after, and the crowd and police waited with bated breath for hours, believing Drenter would kill the first person to enter the home. When they believed Drenter was no longer a threat, police entered to find his body on the floor, dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. He had placed the shotgun’s muzzle in his mouth which destroyed the top of his skull, ending his life with the same weapon he used to kill the girl he claimed to have loved.
The Daily Times (Davenport Iowa) Sept 3, 1906
Horrific history from today:
1885: The Rock Springs Riot (2017)
1919: Mysterious call points to equally mysterious death (2017)
1938: Man executed for murder/dismemberment of wife (2017)
1983: Child rapists/murderer dies in botched execution (2017)
Today in Horror History: September 2