March 6, 1945
Washington, D.C.
Nancy Boyer is killed by Joseph Medley in her apartment

Medley had been serving a 30- to 60-year sentence in Michigan State Prison for armed robbery and kidnapping when he approached the warden on November 27, 1944. He claimed he wanted to go downstairs to speak with the other inmates and collect $750 (roughly $11,000 today) for a war bond drive. The warden agreed, then supplied his car and a guard to allow Medley to visit the bank to purchase the bonds. Medley entered the bank while the guard parked the car. When the guard returned, Medley and the $750 were gone.

St. Louis Post-Dispatch. August 12, 1945

Medley moved frequently during his time as a fugitive, eventually making his way to New Orleans, Louisiana. There he met 28-year-old Laura Fischer (also spelled as Fisher). A hotel maid entered Medley’s room on December 24, 1944, despite a Do Not Disturb sign on the door, to find Fischer’s nude body sitting upright in the bathtub filled with about 6 inches (15 cm) of water. The coroner ruled her death as “suffocation under water” and was “probably a homicide.”

Several inmates including Medley (far left) posing
St. Louis Post-Dispatch. August 12, 1945

On February 17, 1945, the body of Blanche Zimmerman (38) was found under strikingly similar circumstances. A hotel maid in Chicago, Illinois disregarded the Do Not Disturb sign left on the door after she was informed the occupant had checked out. In the partially-filled bathtub was Zimmerman’s nude body. The coroner found no water in her lungs and ruled she had died of a combination of Benzedrine (an amphetamine used to treat various conditions including attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and narcolepsy) and alcohol. Adding to the similarities: both women were red-haired.

Blanche Zimmerman
Sunday News. March 18, 1945

By late February, both cases were linked to each other due and both had been connected with Medley.

Medley’s final known victim was Nancy Boyer, whose age was listed as either 45 or 50 and who was also red-haired. Boyer hosted a 36-hour poker party ending on March 6. Medley left with the other guests at about 4 a.m. but, as the prosecution contended, returned to Boyer’s home with the intention to rob her. Boyer’s body was found on March 8, slumped against her kitchen wall. She had been punched in the mouth then shot twice in the head and once in the right hand in what was probably a defensive wound. An assessment of Boyer’s valuables showed she was missing a fur coat valued at approximately $500 (about $7,500 today) as well as a diamond and emerald ring.

Des Moine Tribune. April 3, 1946

Medley was tracked to and arrested in St. Louis, Missouri. In his hotel room, law enforcement found Boyer’s missing fur coat. The ring was found in a Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania pawn shop where Medley admitted to selling it. Medley told police he had dated Boyer in the past and, when asked if he had killed her, replied, “I think that’s an incriminating question.”

While Medley is considered to have killed both Fischer and Zimmerman, it was Boyer’s murder which brought Medley his death sentence. He escaped from prison again briefly in April 1946 but was found by bloodhounds as he hid in a sewer pipe. “A man can’t be blamed for trying to save his life,” he told authorities. “I want to tell you boys I’m going to try again if I get a chance.” He did not get another chance. Medley was executed in the electric chair on December 20, 1946 at the age of 44.

A map of Medley’s murder scenes
via Google Maps

Reynolds, Ruth. “Murderer Picked Victims — All Redheads.” The Knoxville Journal. June 15, 1947
“Court Fight Fails to Save Slayer.” The Post-Register [Idaho Falls, Idaho]. December 22, 1946
“Three Women Slayers Die.” The Arizona Republic [Phoenix, Arizona]. December 22, 1946
Medley v. United States. United States Court of Appeals, District of Columbia Circuit. April 17, 1946. 155 F.2d 857 (D.C. Cir. 1946). No. 9057. Argued March 25, 1946. Decided April 17, 1946. Archived:
“2 Killers in Capital Jail Break.” Des Moine Tribune. April 3, 1946
Wilson, Jack. “Suave Suspect in Another Of Capital’s Unexplained, Lurid Murders of Women.” The Des Moine Register. April 8, 1945
“One Of Two Escaped Convicts Is Captured; Second Still At Large.” The Birmingham News. April 3, 1946
“Medley Dated Mrs. Boyer.” The Kansas City Star. March 20, 1945
“Police Hunt Escaped Convict In Murder of Mrs. Nancy Boyer.” Richmond Times Dispatch. March 11, 1945
“Trigger-Happy Robber Blamed.” The Spokesman-Review. March 10, 1945
“Escaped Kidnaper Linked In Slayings.” Dayton Journal. February 24, 1945
“Police Probe Two ‘Bathtub’ Murders; Techniques Same.” The Sun [Baltimore, Maryland]. February 20, 1945
“Married Woman’s Nude Body Found Slumped In Hotel Bathtub.” Clarion-Ledger [Jackson, Mississippi]. February 18, 1945
“Red-Haired Woman Found Dead In Tub Identified By FBI.” The Port Huron Times Herald. December 28, 1944

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