Story of the Day for Thursday August 4, 2011
The Greater Accomplishment
How you have fallen from the sky, O morning star, the son of the dawn! You, who once brought down other nations, have been thrown down to the earth.
Ellis played fiddle for barn dances and found his horse stolen afterward. He did such a brilliant job of discovering the thief that he was asked to find other people’s stolen horses. Ellis Parker’s skill was so uncanny that, in 1892, he became the Chief of Detectives for Burlington County, New Jersey – despite being only twenty-one and lacking a high school education.
Without access to modern forensic technology, Parker relied on his wits. And he could notice incongruities and odd details like no one else. Soon, he became known as a real-life Sherlock Holmes.
In his forty year career, Parker took on 236 murder cases, and solved all but ten of them. Ellis boasted that he never used an ounce of force on any suspect, yet, in over half of his cases, he talked the guilty party into signing a confession of guilt before the trial.
During World War I, federal agents had been unable to find a wireless station that would interfere with public broadcasts. The Department of Justice hired Parker, who not only deduced that the wireless was operated from a car running up and down the coast, but actually located the car itself.
Yet, none of his fame went to his head. He turned down many high-profile cases and better paying positions to stay in his sleepy town of Mt. Holly – where everyone called him by his first name. Instead of cashing in on his fame, he allowed writers free access to his files.
But, late in his career, something changed in him. Charles Lindbergh’s toddler was kidnapped, and it immediately became known as The Crime of the Century. The detective who solved this case would be world famous and covered in glory. Yet, even though the kidnapping took place only miles from Parker’s hometown, no one invited him to help solve the crime.
Something seemed to snap. Ellis Parker became obsessed with the Lindbergh baby kidnapping, and, even though he had no access to police records, tried to find the killer based on details reported in the newspaper.
Convinced the police had arrested the wrong suspect, Parker became a criminal himself. He had another suspect kidnapped in order to extort a confession.
Ellis Parker Sr., who will always be known as America’s greatest detective, was tried and convicted for kidnapping. He died in federal prison.