Beneath the Horses’ Hooves: The Murder of Ralph Warwick

It was on the evening of November 18, 1912, that Amy Warwick showed up at her neighbour’s house, distraught. She’d gone out to the stable and found her husband, Ralph Warwick, trampled beneath the horses’ hooves in one of the stalls. The horses were still agitated and upset and she’d been too frightened to go in the stall.

John S. Reid and Jas. Irving went back with her. They found the body in the last stall of the stable, lying on its back on the floor with the legs crossed, arms outstretched and the head turned to one side so the face was almost against the floor. His hands and face were covered with blood and manure, but strangely, the soles of his shoes were perfectly clean, even though their own shoes were dirty as soon as they walked in the stall. John Reid also noticed that there was blood all the way down the south passage and quite a large stain in the stall next to the one where the body was found.

The Regina Leader-Post – Dec 16, 1912

It all read as suspicious, but at the inquest into his death, the jury came to the conclusion that Ralph Warwick died after being trampled by the horses. This verdict didn’t satisfy the Royal North West Mounted Police, who were also suspicious, and they continued to investigate, despite the verdict.

Ralph Warwick was quite a well-to-do farmer in the district. He was a homesteader north of Invermay, a settlement halfway between Moose Jaw and Lumsden and his estate was valued at between $12,000 and $13,000 (about $205,000 – $220,000 today). He was born in England and had come to Canada twelve years previous from Derbyshire. He’d married Amy only about three months before his murder. His bride was a great deal younger than him, enough so that newspapers referred to her as his ‘girl bride’. He was fifty while she was barely out of her teens.

After Warwick’s death, Amy went to stay with her friend, Mrs. Martha Alice Trodden, and her husband. Mrs. Trodden noted several things in the weeks following Warwick’s death. Stanley Price, a man Amy used to keep house for, came to visit her several times. He brought her the news about the inquest into Warwick’s death and told Amy, “you see, he was killed by horses.” Amy apparently threw it on the floor, exclaiming, “I don’t believe it.”

Mrs. Trodden didn’t like Price, she was frightened of him. He always had a gun on him and seemed fully capable of using it. And since Warwick’s death he’d been saying strange things. At one point, Price had told Mrs. Trodden, “I’ve heard news enough these last two or three days to make me open my eyes and begin to think.” Another time, he told her, “If Amy don’t carry this thing through right I’ll swing for this yet.”

As news traveled that the police were still investigating the death, Price got nervous, admitting to friends that he feared the police suspected him, before fleeing to Moose Jaw.

On December 10, 1912, Moose Jaw police received a warrant for Stanley Price’s arrest, but it was too late. Some time during the night on Sunday, December 8th, Stanley Price cut his own throat in the Cecil Hotel in Moose Jaw, apparently going so deep with the razor that he nearly cut off his own head.

The Cecil Hotel in Moose Jaw in 1910, from

When Amy Warwick found out, she was nearly hysterical in her distress. She told Mrs. Trodden that she kept seeing Stanley come into the room with his throat cut. That night, as Mrs. Trodden lay in bed with her, Amy told her about Stanley’s last visit and the confession he’d made to her.

She told Mrs. Trodden that on the night of the murder, Price claimed he’d left home at 5:30PM, arriving at their place at 8:30PM. There was no light on in the house, so he broke the door in. Seeing that they weren’t home, he went back outside and sat behind a pig pen and waited.

He watched them come home, saw Warwick put the horses in and go into the house, then go out to the stable with a lantern. He followed. Warwick had already hung up the lantern and was coming out of the little hall at the end of the stable with a pitchfork.

Seeing Price, Warwick asked, “What are you doing here at this hour of the night?”

“I’ve come to kill you.”

“What for, what are you going to hurt me for?”

Warwick started backing up. He could see Price meant business and started jabbing at him with the pitchfork. Price took the pitchfork from him and struck him on the head with it, knocking him to the ground. He kicked Warwick in the face and while he was kicking him, their little white dog, Flossie, attacked and bit him.

Price left the stable to get a piece of two-by-four scantling. When he came back in, Warwick was up on his knees, wiping the blood off his face with his handkerchief. When he saw Price, he begged for his life.

“I have come to kill you and I am going to finish it.”

Price hit him with the two-by-four, then hit him again. When he was finished, he took Warwick by the shoulders and dragged him under the horses’ feet and made them jump on him, chirruping at them until they did. Next, he went outside, got some gravel and covered up the place where he killed him. He forked some straw over it as well, then took the two-by-four and went and waited behind the pig pen. He heard Mrs. Warwick go out to the stable, singing, then scream when she saw Warwick. He stayed, watching as she took a horse out of the stable and hitched it to the buggy and left. Only then did he go home, where he burned the two-by-four.

This was the story he told Amy, which she told to Mrs. Trodden.

An inquest into Stanley’s death was held on December 11, 1912. Amy Warwick was brought to testify. The police believed she was involved, that she had conspired with Stanley Price to murder her husband. They questioned her so forcefully that her testimony at the inquest was not allowed at her trial, as the judge ruled it was not given voluntarily and though she was technically under arrest at the time (despite no warrant being issued), she wasn’t given a warning.

On December 24, 1912, Warwick’s body was ordered to be exhumed and an autopsy performed by Dr. Charlton. It was taken from its resting place in the cemetery by the Stony Beach townsite and brought to a nearby vacant farm house where it was laid out on a pine door supported by stacks of shingles.

Dr. Charlton found two large skull fractures, both severe enough to cause death and neither of which were likely caused by a kick from a horse, in his opinion. There were also broken ribs, a broken finger and crush injuries to the chest that he believed did come from the horses, as well as some of the cuts to his face and head. It was his conclusion that Warwick was murdered, his death caused by at least two heavy blows to the head.

The Regina Leader-Post – Dec 25, 1912

Amy Warwick’s preliminary hearing was held on January 2, 1913. She was charged with complicity in murder and her trial began on February 2, 1913.

The Regina Leader-Post – Feb 4, 1913

Mrs. Trodden of course testified to the story told above. As did John S. Reid and Jas. Irving about finding the body. Mrs. Howd of Dilke, Saskatchewan was another witness. She kept a store at Bethune and on the day of the murder, Mrs. Warwick had been in at about 5:00PM. She chatted with Mrs. Howd for about an hour, during which, she told Howd that Warwick was often cruel to the animals on their farm, saying that sometimes he beat them until tears came to her eyes. She told Mrs. Howd that someday he’d be found dead under their hooves. She also told her that her husband was often drunk, and that currently he was in the hotel so drunk that he could hardly stand. But a few minutes later, Warwick entered the shop, perfectly sober. Howd had seen him again before he left for home and he was still perfectly sober.

What else came out at trial was Amy Warwick’s true identity. William James Newman, a cousin of Stanley Price, testified that he’d met Amy in the later part of July in 1911. But when she started working for him on his farm near Belle Plaine, she went by Lizzie Swain. She’d met Stanley Price while she was working for him and Stanley had taken her on drives a couple of times. Amy had worked for Newman until March of 1912, when she told him she was going to Regina. Two months later, however, when he visited Price, Amy was living with him, ostensibly working for him as a housekeeper. At this point, she’d changed her name to Amy Christina Johnston.

It was alleged by the prosecution that while Amy was living with Price, he’d proposed that she marry Warwick and get him to turn all his belongings over to her and have him make a will in her favor. Whether it was on this advice or not, she had clearly married Warwick, and it didn’t seem to be a very good marriage. She’d left him for a while to live with various people and Warwick was heard to blame Price for the desertion. And although she’d returned to him, about two months before his death, Warwick had told neighbours he wanted to make a will, and that in the event of his death he wanted an inquest, no matter what the cause of death was supposed to be.

There was also the fact that Amy was clearly in love with Stanley Price. After his suicide, a suicide note of her own was found in her possessions a few days later. It was addressed to Will and Ethel Newman and stated that this would be her last letter because the boy she loved had gone to his everlasting place and her love lay with him. It went on to say that her life was nothing for her now that her dear Stanley was gone and ended with: “Stanley killed Ralph. I killed Stanley. May you all pray for me and Stanley.”

But did she collude in a plot to kill Ralph Warwick?

Amy Christina Johnston, aka Lizzie Swain, had come to Canada twelve years previous from Newcastle, England. She was described as slightly built and rather pretty. Her brother, Jack Swain testified that she was struck over the head with a pointer when she was quite young and had been strange ever since. Even during the trial, despite the courtroom being warm, she wore a heavy, fur-lined coat with a black scarf covering her head.

Mrs. Trodden was called back to the stand by the defense and she told the court of Stanley Price’s hold over Amy. Mrs. Trodden had often told neighbours that he seemed to have her hypnotized and that she clearly lived in fear of displeasing him. He had a strong influence over her, one look from him was sufficient to make her be quiet when he seemed to think she was talking too much.

Amy Warwick took the stand in her own defense, telling the court that there was no collusion. She’d never been part of any plot to kill her husband. She hadn’t told anyone of Stanley Price’s confession until after he died because she was afraid of him. It was true, what Mrs. Trodden said, that Price had a hold over her and she was terrified of displeasing him. At one point, before her marriage, Stanley had told her she should marry Warwick, that he was old and wouldn’t have many years left but she’d laughed it off thinking he was joking.

Why she’d chosen to marry Warwick when she had feelings for Price was never made clear.

On February 4, 1913, with instructions on the definition of complicity, the jury was sent away and after two hours of deliberation, they found Amy Warwick not guilty. She was free to go.

Did she plan the murder of her husband with Stanley Price? Or was she a star-struck young woman caught up in the sway of an obsessive man? Only she could say for sure.

The Regina Leader-Post – Feb 3, 1913

And that is the story of the murder of Ralph Warwick.

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Information for this post came from the following editions of the Saskatoon Daily Star, the Saskatoon Star-Phoenix and the Regina Leader-Post: Dec 11, 1912, Dec 12, 1913, Dec 13, 1912, Dec 14, 1912, Dec 16, 1912, Dec 17, 1912, Dec 21, 1912, Dec 25, 1912, Jan 3, 1913, Jan 4, 1913, Jan 30, 1913, Feb 1, 1913, Feb 3, 1913, Feb 4, 1913, Feb 5, 1913.

If you’d like to read more historical true crime from Saskatchewan, check these out:

Murder at Elstow

The Shooting of Peter Champagne

The Murder of Henry Kinakin

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