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Dean Murder discussed at Amos Fortune Forum

  • The 72nd season of the Amos Fortune Forums kicked off on Friday with speaker Mark Bean, who devoted his talk to discuss the 100th year anniversary of the unsolved murder of William K. Dean in Jaffrey. Staff photo by Nicholas Handy—

  • The 72nd season of the Amos Fortune Forums kicked off on Friday with speaker Mark Bean, who devoted his talk to discuss the 100th year anniversary of the unsolved murder of William K. Dean in Jaffrey. Staff photo by Nicholas Handy—

  • The 72nd season of the Amos Fortune Forums kicked off on Friday with speaker Mark Bean, who devoted his talk to discuss the 100th year anniversary of the unsolved murder of William K. Dean in Jaffrey. Staff photo by Nicholas Handy—

  • The 72nd season of the Amos Fortune Forums kicked off on Friday with speaker Mark Bean, who devoted his talk to discuss the 100th year anniversary of the unsolved murder of William K. Dean in Jaffrey. Staff photo by Nicholas Handy—

  • The 72nd season of the Amos Fortune Forums kicked off on Friday with speaker Mark Bean, who devoted his talk to discuss the 100th year anniversary of the unsolved murder of William K. Dean in Jaffrey. Staff photo by Nicholas Handy—

  • The 72nd season of the Amos Fortune Forums kicked off on Friday with speaker Mark Bean, who devoted his talk to discuss the 100th year anniversary of the unsolved murder of William K. Dean in Jaffrey. Staff photo by Nicholas Handy

  • The 72nd season of the Amos Fortune Forums kicked off on Friday with speaker Mark Bean, who devoted his talk to discuss the 100th year anniversary of the unsolved murder of William K. Dean in Jaffrey. Staff photo by Nicholas Handy—



Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Tuesday, July 10, 2018 10:41AM

The world may never know who brutally murdered Dr. William K. Dean on his Jaffrey hilltop farm on Aug. 13, 1918.

Was it the mentally-ill and potentially jealous wife? German spies? Perhaps it was the best friend who showed up the next day with a black eye or maybe even partying hoodlums.

Mark Bean, a third-generation owner of Jaffrey’s D.D. Bean and Sons, understands that the story may be “dark and uncomfortable” for many in town – the unsolved murder created a number of divisions in town when it happened almost 100 years ago – but that didn’t stop him from sharing his research during the first Amos Fortune Forum of the season at the Jaffrey Meetinghouse on Friday night.

“My hope is that the retelling of this story can be cathartic for the community. We need an accurate and historical perspective on why this case became so divisive,” said Bean, who began researching the murder a few years back for a Keene State College writing course he was taking.

The most accepted version of the story, said Bean, begins with Dean – who moved to Jaffrey in 1889 with his wife Mary to become a farmer – leaving his home on Aug. 13, 1918. While out and about, Dean ran into an old friend Georgiana Hodgkins. The two talked for a while and Dean would eventually take Hodgkins home before returning home himself.

A man who often stayed up late and woke late, Dean had a penchant for milking his cows around midnight and noon. Upon returning home, Dean asked his wife to make him dinner while he milked the cows. He would never return.

After sending out a search party the next day, Dean was eventually found in a cistern on the property. He had been struck in the head with a club-like object, strangled to the point that his neck broke, and tied up. A burlap sack with a 27-pound rock inside had been placed on his head.

“Whether it was a confrontation or a surprise attack, we don’t know,” Bean said.

Four main theories developed throughout the investigation.

The first theory was that Dean’s wife had committed the murder.

While people were searching the property, Mary kept saying that Dean was dead, that his head hurt, and that he was in deep water, Bean said.

It was eventually ruled that Mary couldn’t have murdered Dean, as she did not have the physical or mental fortitude required. She was frail and was said to be suffering from senile dementia.

Theory two involved Dean being murdered by German spies, who realized he had caught onto their activity in town.

It was speculated at the time that German spies may have been using the height of Mount Monadnock to their advantage, sending signals about troop movements from the mountain to German submarines in the Boston Harbor.

Dean was even in the process of trying to speak with a federal agent about something important. It was never revealed what that something was, as he was killed before he had a chance to meet with anyone.

No one was charged in this theory as the main suspect, Lawrence Colfelt, had an alibi.

Dean’s best friend, Charles Rich, was also tied to the case.

Rich, head of the Monadnock Bank and the town moderator at the time, told a number of conflicting stories about his whereabouts during the time of the murder. He also had a black eye, and told conflicting stories about how he got it.

“The research group has struggled to understand, there was never a motive established for Rich. There’s a lot of suspicious behavior, but no motive,” said Bean, who is part of the Dean Murder Research Group, which has recently been conducting individual research on the case.

There is also a theory that Rich influenced Russell Henchman to go to Dean’s house the day after the murder to clean up any inside evidence. Henchman swept and cleaned up the barn, and also flushed the pipes at the property’s larger house, which no one was living in at the time.

The fourth theory claims that hoodlums killed Dean.

At the time, hoodlums had been using vacant houses as places to party. It is thought that a group of partying hoodlums could have become scared by Dean going out to milk the cows, prompting them to strike and accidentally kill him.

“It’s a stretch to think that a murder as cold-blooded and deliberate as that would’ve been done by a group of young people partying,” Bean said.

With the murder going unsolved, Bean said the case began to tear the townspeople apart at the seems. A number of theories came out against a number of different groups in town, with some accusing the more well-to-do people in town of trying to cover up the murder.

“Its more than just the story of an unsolved murder that happened in Jaffrey, it really is a story of the people of Jaffrey,” Bean said.

Bean said that it took a while for the divisions to subside, something that was in part lessened after people agreed to stop talking about it.

“It’s hard to imagine the impact that this most deplorable situation would’ve had on the citizens of Jaffrey beginning on that day in mid-August in 1918. The country was at war – these were already extreme times. And then this unimaginable crime happens. It was an unprecedented event in a countryside town like Jaffrey,” Bean said.

Nicholas Handy can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 235 or nhandy@ledgertranscript.com. He is also on Twitter @nhandyMLT.