A Case for Mittens: The Shooting of Solomon Maddock

On the morning of February 11, 1935, Solomon Maddock had a breakfast of bread and butter and tea, then left for the bluffs to chop wood.

He and his wife had moved to the Woodleigh district 29 years previous and currently lived on their farm, 10 miles north of Wapella. They had two sons and two daughters, and were considered to be of a well-to-do class, but had been thrown into poverty when Maddock bought a small farm which (unknown to him) was mortgaged. He’d become liable for the debt and the previous fall he’d sold his cattle and equipment. The funds had been put into a trust, with the family getting monthly payments of $18 to pay their expenses.

All of the children were grown and moved out expect for Gladys, their 34-year-old daughter, who’d never married. She did a large share of the labor on the farm, assisting her aging parents.

The Regina Leader-Post – April 25, 1935

On that morning, shortly after her father left to cut wood, she’d entered the bedroom of their 3-room farmhouse carrying a small rifle. When her mother asked her where she’d got it, she told her she’d borrowed it and was going to shoot rabbits.

Gladys left the farm on horseback, and a long time after, returned to say her father had been shot in the arm. She told her mother that she’d met him in the bush and he’d called her over and taken the rifle from her. “I told him to be careful as it was loaded. I started to ride away when I heard a sound like sticks cracking. I looked around and saw Dad shot.” She’d then gone for a man named Harry Klenman, who’d also been chopping wood nearby.

But Solomon Maddock wasn’t shot in the arm. When Harry Klenman testified at the Inquest, he described being fetched by Gladys Maddock and the two of them going to her father. He told the jury that he’d found Maddock crumpled over on his side, his knees bent, mitt-covered hands together at his knees, an axe handle clenched between his wrists and knees. The rifle lay on the ground on the right side of his body, about 18 inches away. He’d been shot in the right side of the head.

The Regina Leader-Post – Feb 13, 1935

His body was taken to Wapella and an autopsy was performed by Dr. Frances McGill. A funeral was held on February 14, 1935 and just two days later, Gladys was arrested and charged with murder. The next day she was taken to Regina and then on to the Battleford jail to await her preliminary hearing.

On February 28, 1935, the jury at the Coroner’s Inquest brought in a verdict, stating that Solomon Maddock had died “as a result of a rifle wound inflicted by the act of a person or persons unknown.”

The Regina Leader-Post – Feb 18, 1935

But was it murder? The police certainly thought so. Dr. McGill had found no powder marks near the wound on Maddock’s head and the bullet had passed through the brain in a straight line from right to left. According to Solomon’s family and friends, Solomon was left handed.

And then, there were the mittens. Apparently they were thick, heavy mitts. It seemed unlikely that he’d be able to pull the trigger on the rifle, and the police had done several tests with it and didn’t believe it was possible for it to have discharged accidentally.

On March 1, 1935, Gladys had her preliminary hearing before Magistrate W. B. Scott and was committed to stand trial at Moosomin.

The trial opened on April 23, 1935 before Justice G. E. Taylor. For the defense was A. T. Proctor KC and for the prosecution, H. S. Towell (also published as H. X. Lowell). Aside from Dr. McGill, Harry Klenman and the police, members of the Maddock family also testified.

The Regina Leader-Post – April 23, 1935

Mrs. Maddock of course testified to the events of that morning, but the prosecution also called on two of Gladys’s siblings, William, who lived about a mile away and Mrs. Archie Smith. While neither lived with their parents, they both testified that they’d noticed some slight friction between Gladys and their father when they visited.

William Maddock was convinced it hadn’t been an accident, given that his father wasn’t right-handed and was wearing mittens. He spoke of Gladys’s intense hatred for her relatives, pointing to the fact that she hadn’t spoken to him for a year, and in the case of their sister, two years.

The defense called on a doctor who’d examined her multiple times at the Battleford jail. He testified that Gladys had below average intelligence. He didn’t believe that she was capable of murder.

On April 24, 1935, Justice Taylor decided the case would not go to the jury. He dismissed the charge and Gladys Maddock was acquitted. He claimed the crown had not proven that the shooting wasn’t accidental.

“The man may have been watching a rabbit and leaned to the right to pick up the gun when it discharged. There were lots of twigs and shrubs around.” According to him, the evidence pointed “very strongly to misadventure.”

The Saskatoon Star-Phoenix – April 25, 1935

Gladys was released from custody and went home with her mother. But she didn’t quite manage to stay out of trouble. On May 22, 1935, she was convicted of assaulting her mother and was sentenced to two months in jail. Apparently, on the previous day, a quarrel had arisen between the two of them and she’d pulled her elderly mother’s hair and twisted her arms.

And that is the story of the shooting of Solomon Maddock. Was it murder? Or was the judge correct, and Solomon had simply fallen victim to a tragic misadventure? We’ll never know for sure.

The Regina Leader-Post – May 23, 1935

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Information for this post came from the following editions of the Regina Leader-Post and the Saskatoon Star-Phoenix: Feb 12, 1935, Feb 13, 1935, Feb 14, 1935, Feb 15, 1935, Feb 18, 1935, Feb 23, 1935, Feb 28, 1935, March 1, 1935, Apr 23, 1935, Apr 24, 1935, Apr 25, 1935, May 23, 1935

If you’re interested in more historical true crime stories from Saskatchewan, give these a try:

The Suspicious Death of Thomas Gore

The Murder of Charles Bruggencote

The Tragic Death of Viola Erickson

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