A Thoroughly Desperate Criminal: Installment Four

While police were on a manhunt for McVey and Burns, Utah newspapers published more information about the murder victim, William Sandercock. According to the Evening Standard, Sandercock’s life “reads like fiction.” Initial reports claimed that he was a few months away from moving out of Utah to get married, but his friends later denied he was engaged. Then shortly after his death one of his friends received a letter from a woman claiming to be Sandercock’s daughter in England. She explained that Sandercock had abandoned his wife and two daughters in England 20 years before. After several years with no word from Sandercock, his wife decided to have him declared dead so she could remarry. Even though he had been legally dead for many years, his long lost family expressed surprise over his murder. His daughter asked that if he left anything behind it be sent to her and her sister. Sandercock’s friend tried to put a positive spin on the story, claiming that Sandercock always intended to return to England but received word of his wife’s remarriage and didn’t want to mess things up for her (by making her a bigamist), so he stayed away.

Friends of Sandercock and business owners in Garfield, including Sandercock’s boss, raised money to add to the reward offered for information on the murderers. They added $500 to the $500 offered by the Governor of Utah and the $500 approved by the Board of Commissioners of Salt Lake County. $1500 was a very hefty reward in 1911.

While papers were offering a more complicated view of Sandercock, they also offered a slightly more sympathetic view of McVey when they reported that the Sheriff had received a letter from his mother expressing concern for her son and a hope that he would be rehabilitated. While McVey’s mysterious woman never came forward (to provide the alibi he told reporters she would), there was one woman in his life that remembered him. When Sheriff Sharp showed him his mother’s letter during an interrogation in New Orleans, McVey reportedly broke down and sobbed.

McVey’s alibi witness never materialized, but a couple of other witnesses did. Frank Miller (the man who masqueraded as a deaf/mute) agreed to testify as well as George H. Quigley. Both men provided evidence that McVey had been in on planning the robbery gone wrong, tried to recruit them to help, and had shown up the next day in bloody clothes. McVey told Quigley that he had no choice but to shoot Sandercock, it was “his life or mine.” Quigley went on to claim a portion of the reward money. Two officers from New Orleans also received a cut. Quigley reportedly told police he need the money to get out of town as he was worried that McVey’s friends might seek revenge. Miller, aka Lewis, may have also tried to make a claim for money, but his likely reward was a light jail term for the crime of petty larceny.

Contrary to his claims of confidence that he’d be exonerated, McVey quickly became convinced that he’d be found guilty and given the death penalty. Therefore he agreed to plead guilty to second degree murder and received a life sentence instead. The newspapers expressed surprise at this turn of events since it seemed almost certain that there would be a long drawn out trial. One the other hand the Sheriff expressed relief, since much of the evidence against McVey was circumstantial, though all together it was a strong case.

Stop by Thursday to find out what happened to Robert Burns…

William Sandercock

William Sandercock

Entry contributed by Dr. Michaele Smith,  Archivist,  Salt Lake County Archives.


Evening Standard, 1912-1-4, Sandercock’s Life Reads Like Fiction

Salt Lake Tribune, 1912-2-15, Mother’s Letter Makes M’Vey Weep

Salt Lake Telegram, 1912-2-15, McVey Will Return without Trouble

Evening Standard, 1912-3-1, Claimants for M’Vey Reward

Salt Lake Tribune, 1912-3-14, Quigley Gets Part of Reward Money

Salt Lake Telegram, 1912-3-2, Gets Jail Sentence for Petty Larceny

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