100 Years Ago Today: Murderer Ends His Life in Prison

Moffat County Courier, March 13, 1919

The tragedy of Celina Haberl reached its conclusion when her murderer, Richard H. Baugh, ended his own life by hanging himself in his jail cell in the Canon City State Penitentiary.

Miss Haberl was just 21-years-old when Baugh shot her to death on June 7, 1918. She and her sister had been visiting their grandmother when they got off their streetcar and Baugh snuck up on them from an alley, saying to Celina Haberl, “you don’t have to run, Ethel.” Police reports reveal that he’d been stalking the woman in the neighborhood the last two nights. Baugh killed Haberl with a gunshot to the head, and then Baugh attempted to kill himself by shooting himself in the head. He later recovered in the hospital.

Apparently, Richard Baugh mistook Celina Haberl for Ethel Lane, who he said wronged him, according to a conversation he had with Police Chief, Hamilton Armstrong, in the hospital. The Police Chief informed Baugh, “you got the wrong girl.” Side note: remember when a lunatic threatened to cut off Chief Armstrong’s head and send it to Governor Shoup?

One confusing complication to the story is that today’s article refers to Baugh as a “blind convict.” Does this explain why he mistook Celina Haberl for Ethel Lane? But how would he be able to identify her in the first place, let alone shoot her? Or, did the attempted suicide after her murder cause his blindness? Baugh’s blindness is not mentioned until reports of his trial, when he is referred to as “blinded in both eyes,” and his expression at his sentence is described as “immobile.”

In September of 1918, Baugh was convicted of first degree murder and sentenced to life imprisonment with hard labor. He took his own life on January 20th, 1919, although the story didn’t make it to the Moffat County Courier until March 13, 1919.

100 Years Ago Today: Small Son Tells How Father Killed Mother

Herald Democrat, January 28, 1919

Let’s fill out some key points to this terrible story. On December 2, 1918, 34-year-old Pearl(e) Centers, plow factory worker, father of nine-year-old Raymond Centers and former husband of now-deceased Daisy Myrtal Centers (34), killed his wife because she refused to reconcile their recent divorce, aka she wouldn’t take his sorry ass back (Sings: Try to control me, boy, you get dismissed). He testified in court that he also tried to shoot himself in the head. It seems he was not successful.

I’m not sure why the accused is not named specifically in this short, tragic news article, but I found a follow up article also from the Herald Democrat that ran the next day, which brought forth more details about the attempted murder/suicide.

There were only two witnesses for the prosecution, Daisy’s brother, Leonard Shields, and their star witness, her son, Raymond. Pearl Centers took the stand to defend himself in court, testifying that his son’s story was true: he shot his wife and then shot himself.

The jury took four hours to arrive at a guilty verdict, sentencing Mr. Centers to life imprisonment for first degree murder. They did, however, need to grapple with the following piece of confusing testimony from Pearl himself.

Herald Democrat, January 29, 1919

Is he saying he pulled out the gun, tried to kill himself, and then his wife grabbed the gun and accidentally shot herself? Or did he take the first shot to the head, and then kill her? How is this confirming your son’s story? And bruh, your son is asleep in the bed, right there next to your wife, WTF?

San Juan Prospector, February 7, 1919

As of the 1940 census, Pearl Centers was still incarcerated at the Colorado State Penitentiary in Cañon City, as he had been since 1919.

100 years ago today, Pearl Centers was tried and convicted of first degree murder for killing his wife, Daisy, while his young son, Raymond, slept next to her (and her brother was in the kitchen), and then he tried and failed to kill himself, but instead he spent the rest of his life in prison.