With no clues, did anyone know who he was?
He signed the hotel guestbook Roland T Owen and gave a Los Angeles address.
Later, the receptionist would guess he was about 25.
Good-looking, smartly dressed in a black coat.
A cauliflower left ear. So maybe he was a boxer.
He paid upfront for the room.
And he had no luggage. Just a hairbrush, comb and toothpaste in his pocket.
It was just after lunchtime, on 2 January 1935, at The Hotel President, Kansas City.
Roland T Owen was handed the key to room 1046.
Two days later, staff found him naked and beaten, on his hands and knees. He also had knife wounds, had been restrained with cord and he looked like he’d been tortured.
Everything had been taken. The hotel’s towels, bedding, toiletries – even Roland’s comb and toothpaste. His clothes, too, had vanished.
In agony, Roland said he’d ‘fallen against the bathtub’.
He was rushed to hospital but later died of his injuries.
Kansas City police were dealing with a murder.
But no-one knew who the victim was...
There was no record of a Roland T Owen living in Los Angeles.
A member of the housekeeping staff claimed the man had asked her not to lock the door. She also said that shortly after he’d checked in,
she’d heard voices coming from room 1046. Two men. A guest claimed she’d also heard two voices coming from the room. Raised, arguing. A man and a woman’s. And several others claimed to have seen the man the evening before his death. Some said he’d been with an unidentified man. Others, an unidentified woman.
The angry voices, the man, the woman… investigators started to wonder if the guest had been caught up in a deadly love triangle.
A few days later, in a last attempt to identify him, the man’s picture was run in a local newspaper, along with an article saying he was to be buried in an anonymous, pauper’s grave.
Immediately, someone called the funeral home where the man’s body was being kept.
The caller wouldn’t identify himself, just said police were ‘on the wrong track’.
He asked if he could pay for the dead man to have a decent funeral.
The following morning, the cash arrived.
A local florist had received an anonymous payment, too. For a bunch of red roses to be sent to the funeral, along with a card.
The message, simply, Love forever – Louise.
But not a single person came to the man’s funeral and the case went cold.
Until, a year later, when an article appeared in American Weekly magazine.
This time, someone recognised the dead man in the photo. His sister Eleanor. She told police the unknown man in room 1046 was actually Artemus Ogletree.
The year before, in 1934, he’d gone travelling. He’d sailed to Europe, crossed into Africa and visited Egypt.
There, he’d fallen in love, and married an Egyptian woman.
The wedding was held in spring 1935.
But that was months after he’d died in room 1046.
Eleanor knew this because of the letters Artemus had sent her, dated from then.
No trace of his marriage could be found. And the letters he’d apparently sent to his
Had he been caught up in a deadly love triangle?
sister were written on a typewriter. No handwriting analysis was possible.
Perhaps someone had typed the letters pretending to be him. If so, why? And where had Artemus been after he’d told his family he was going travelling, and before he turned up at the Hotel President in Kansas City?
Was it a love triangle? A spy ring?
Who killed the man in room 1046? The man he’d argued with? The woman? Or neither?
And did the murderer pay for his funeral?
The case remains unsolved. A case with no known motive, and no real clues.
Just the body of a young man.
Artemus Ogletree – and the historic Hotel President building