November 3, 1941
Warren Snyder (5) is killed by Leo Jordan during an attempted molestation
Snyder was last seen with a group of other students at recess, around 1:30 p.m. The teachers noticed a man “mingling” with students and rang the school bell a few minutes early to collect the pupils and draw them away from the man. For reasons left unclear by contemporary newspapers, they were not alarmed when Snyder did not rejoin the other students in class.
Snyder’s family was not immediately concerned when he did not return home from school at his usual time, as his mother believed he had gone to a relative’s house after school without first notifying her. When he still had not returned home by the late afternoon, the police were notified and a search party formed. Snyder’s body was discovered around 10:30 p.m. by a group of Boy Scouts who had aided in the search. He had been killed by having his throat slashed by a razor and left to bleed to death.
Jordan was the immediate suspect after teachers recalled seeing the man talking with the students during recess. He was brought in by law enforcement and questioned. Jordan initially denied the allegations but confessed after 4 hours of questioning when he was confronted with a piece of a pencil found near Snyder’s body. The broken pencil half matched exactly to a piece Jordan had in his coat pocket at the time of his questioning. “That broke the case,” Sheriff Roy Crook told reporters. “He confessed and now he’s very remorseful about the whole thing.”
“That broke the case. He confessed and now he’s very remorseful about the whole thing.”Sheriff Roy Crook
According to Jordan’s confession, he lured Snyder away from his school to a wooded area some 100 yards (~91 meters) away where he made an “indecent suggestion.” The attempted molestation of Snyder caused the child to scream and Jordan panicked, cutting Snyder’s throat to “prevent his telling on me.”
Jordan had had a history of sexual assault; the month before Snyder’s murder, Jordan had been indicted in a charge of statutory rape involving a 14-year-old girl. He was found not guilty on all charges, however, and released. Newspapers also noted that he had been involved in the justice system since childhood, with the Dixon Evening Telegraph reporting Jordan had “spent all but eight of his 23 years in correctional institutions.”
Jordan pleaded guilty, despite warnings that he would not be immune to the death sentence. The jury did not recommend leniency and he was scheduled to die in the electric chair.
While in prison, Jordan attempted to contact his mother whom he had not seen since he was 6 years old. His letter was returned to the prison undelivered.
On May 13, 1942, just over 6 months after Snyder’s murder, Jordan was executed. As he walked to the chair, Sheriff Crook told Jordan to “Keep your chin up.”
“I’ve got it up,” Jordan replied before he met his death at the age of 23.
Hearn, Daniel Allen. Legal Executions in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky and Missouri. Jefferson: McFarland & Company, Inc., 2016
“Leo Jordan, Slayer of Fulton Boy Pays with Life in Electric Chair.” Daily Dispatch [Moline, Illinois]. May 13, 1942
“Leo Jordan To Die Early in Morning for Murder of Boy.” Dixon Evening Telegraph. May 12, 1942
“Leo Jordan, Fulton Man, Is Given Death Penalty.” Daily Dispatch [Moline, Illinois]. January 16, 1942
“Murderer of Fulton Child Pleads Guilty to Charge Yesterday.” Dixon Evening Telegraph. January 6, 1942
“Youth Admits Slaying Boy, 5.” The Evening Leader [Staunton, Virginia]. November 14, 1941
“Whiteside Grand Jury Recalled to Indict Jordan Twice in 30 Days.” Daily Dispatch [Moline, Illinois]. November 5, 1941
“Child Murdered at Fulton; Iowa Shop Worker Confesses.” The Rock Island Argus. November 4, 1941
“Former Convict Admits Child’s Razor Slaying.” Mansfield News Journal. November 4, 1941