March 27, 1931
It was Friday night in Beechy, Saskatchewan and an old-time dance was being held at the village hotel. Harry Payne, a local butcher, was in attendance with his wife, as well as one of their boarders, eighteen-year-old Myrtle Beckler. She’d come to Beechy only two months before, having just finished high school and then shorthand school in Saskatoon. Myrtle had gotten a job as the stenographer at the local Bank of Nova Scotia and was already popular among the villagers with her sunny disposition and sweet personality.
At midnight, Mervin Elliot arrived. He was a teller at the same bank, and had recently been promoted to ‘the cage’. He didn’t care for old-time dances, he was there to see Myrtle. He found her and the pair left the dance, walking to Myrtle’s residence at the Payne home about two blocks away.
When they arrived, Miss Frances Isley, another boarder, was still awake, reading her book in the sitting room. She later said that Elliot seemed normal. He spoke to her about the book she was reading, although he did not talk to Myrtle. After a while, she went to her bedroom to turn in. She could hear the two of them talking in low tones and then she heard Elliot leave. Myrtle walked to her room and started getting ready for bed, taking off her rings and placing them on the dresser. Just as Miss Isley was dozing off, she heard a knock at the door. Myrtle answered it and she could hear Myrtle and Elliot in conversation in the sitting room, but couldn’t hear what was being said, until suddenly Myrtle exclaimed, “Mervin, Mervin you don’t dare.”
The words barely made it past Myrtle’s lips before three shots rang out in quick succession. A fourth followed a moment later. Miss Isley sat up in bed, too terrified to leave her room. At the back of the house, the two Payne children were fast asleep, undisturbed by the gun shots. Edwin Taylor, who’d been sitting up with the children, ran into the sitting room and found Elliot and Myrtle lying on the floor. He ran to the hotel where the dance was still in full swing and sounded the alarm.
When Harry Payne got home, he found Myrtle dead. Elliot was lying on the floor, having crashed against the radio, which had crushed through the wallpaper. There was a bullet lodged in the wall and a Scott & Webley .38 revolver on the floor.
Harry’s father and overseer of the village, George Payne, took charge of the scene immediately and posted guards at the entrances of the house to keep the throngs of people from the dance from trampling through the scene. He notified the RCMP and sent his son to fetch the coroner from Lucky Lake. Upon Coroner Leckle’s arrival, a jury was empanelled to view Myrtle’s body and an inquest was set for the following Monday afternoon.
Myrtle had been shot three times by Elliot with one of the bullets going right through her heart. She was dead almost instantly. Elliot, after murdering her, had placed the muzzle against the right side of his head and pulled the trigger. The bullet had passed right through and lodged in the wall. He was shockingly not dead, but didn’t survive very long. He was taken to hospital and died late Saturday afternoon, with his sister by his side, never regaining consciousness.
The Bank Manager, Mr. Bell, identified the revolver as one belonging to the bank. It was kept in the middle drawer of his desk and he was positive it had been securely locked. The only key he knew of was the one he carried on his person. In fact, Mr. Bell had ordered that the revolvers be kept under lock and key because Mervin’s attitude toward life made him uneasy, especially since Mervin’s older brother, Hervey had shot himself the previous July.
Too bad that caution didn’t keep Mr. Bell from saying yes when Mervin came to him the Sunday before the murder and asked for permission to practice shooting with the revolver. He’d been given the gun and some ammunition to use, but Mr. Bell argued that the gun had been safely returned.
Eager to find out what had caused Mervin Elliot to viciously murder Myrtle Beckler, they went through his trunk. There was a bible, a mass of clippings about the John Schumacher arrest for the murder of Scotty McLachlan, which had recently scandalized the district (you can read about it here), a news story about a suicide at The Pas, and a poem. Mervin, as they would find out, wrote a lot of poetry. All of it lovesick and delusional, painting himself as an unending victim of unrequited love. This particular poem ended with the line: “my heart is getting used to this, I wonder who will break it next?”
In the teller’s drawer at the bank, the manager found another poem, this one ending with “I don’t know why I feel this way, but I’ve always been the same, there’s always trouble on my mind, I’m really not to blame.”
Finally, at the murder scene, was a hastily scrawled note with a stub of pencil addressed to Edward Taylor, another accountant at the bank and fellow boarder of Mervin at another local home. It read: “Dear Ed, this is goodbye for Myrtle and myself. God bless them all.”
On the back was yet another typed poem by Elliot, titled “My Sorrow”.
Elliot, despite only knowing Myrtle for two months, believed he was in love with her and had become obsessed. Everyone at the bank could see that Elliot was very fond of Myrtle, but she’d been clear from the start that she did not have romantic feelings for him and considered him a friend. By all accounts, she was a very good friend to him as well, but instead of returning the friendship, Mervin clung to his delusion.
And on the night of the dance it seemed he had already made up his mind to retrieve the revolver and kill Myrtle, proving that he never really cared about her to begin with. If he did, it never would have crossed his mind to hurt her, especially since she hadn’t actually done anything aside from being kind to him. She was merely a prop in the tragic delusion he’d created for himself, where he was the long suffering, misunderstood hero.
Myrtle Beckler’s family lived in Lucky Lake, which is where they held her funeral. Hundreds turned out for her funeral, with a multitude of floral tributes being sent to the church. Her old schoolmates were her pallbearers. She was buried in the Vera Cemetery just south of Lucky Lake. On her tombstone it reads, “God alone understands”, a testiment to the pain and disbelief her senseless killing must have caused to those who loved her.
And that is the story of the senseless murder of Myrtle Beckler in Beechy, Saskatchewan.
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