Love is a Fleeting Thing

Robert Rutledge Guilty

The 1948 murder of Byron Hattman by the angry husband of a woman he either seduced or raped (and the evidence at trial leans toward rape) occurred during a sad morality play involving infidelity, allegations of sexual violence and death. Two people ended up dead and it is unlikely that the third corner of the triangle lived happily ever after.
Hattman was a 29-year-old Pennsylvania native working as an instrument designer for Emerson Electric Co. of St. Louis, Missouri. As part of his job, Hattman collaborated on U.S. Air Force avionics projects for Collins Radio Co. (now Rockwell Collins) in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
A veteran of the Marine Corps who served in the China-Burma-India Theater during the Second World War, Hattman stood more than six feet tall and was quite athletic. The Cedar Rapids Gazette reported that he could play any position on the Emerson softball team. He was unmarried.
Working with Hattman at Emerson was Sydney Goodrich Rutledge, 23. Sydney was something rarity in the post-war 1940s; not only was she working outside the office, she was using her post-graduate degree in mathematics to work beside Hattman on Emerson’s instrument design team.
We know that in addition to being smart, Sydney was attractive: The Gazette introduced her to its readers as “a six-foot-tall honey-colored blonde.”
Sydney had been married for two years to a St. Louis doctor who was completing his pediatrics residency. The couple had no children.
Dr. Robert C. Rutledge, the third side of the love triangle and the killer in the story, was a U.S. Navy veteran and at the time an officer in the USNR, 27 years old, and just as athletic as Hattman. A native of Houston and a graduate of Rice Intitute, he and Sydney had returned to St. Louis after he finished his service at a naval hospital in the Northeast. The couple met while she was completing her master’s degree and Rutledge was in med school, which the Phi Beta Kappa completed a year early.
sydney_byronShortly after she started working for Emerson, Sydney went stag to an engineering department after-hours function aboard an excursion boat on the Mississippi. It was there that she and Hattman first talked socially.
On that three-hour cruise, the pair discovered they shared a mutual love of sailing. At an after-party at the Fairmount Hotel, Hattman told Sydney that he owned a small sailboat and invited her to go out on the lake.
“I told him I would like it some time,” she testified at her husband’s murder trial. “I taught it two summers as counselor at a girls camp, but I had been unable to do any sailing since I had been at St. Louis.”
The Emerson engineer asked Sydney about her husband and she responded that he had wanted to come, but was unable.
“Both of us planned to go,” she said later. “Then he found out it was necessary for him to be at the hospital that night.”
Hattmann followed up on his offer two days later.
“He called me at my apartment and said he was having a group of friends going sailing that day and asked if I cared to go along,” she testified. “I told him that I was home by myself and would have to phone my husband at the hospital and ask him if would be all right.”
A half-hour later, Hattman picked up Sydney at the apartment. At the yacht club they changed into bathing suits and went sailing until early afternoon; Sydney said on the stand that she and Hattman each had about 4 beers each.
“When we first went out we came back in about 2:30, and this one man, he was a friend of Hattman’s and the girl had arrived,” Sydney told the court. “so the four of us went out sailing then for most of the rest of the afternoon until about 5:30.”
After the other couple left due to a previous engagement, Sydney and Hattmann went back out on the boat for a short sail. A storm came up, Sydney said on the stand, and they decided to stay at the yacht club until it passed. Hattman drove her back to her apartment about 11 p.m.
From this point, the various stories diverge in their details. The Rutledges point to Byron Hattman as the real villian in the play, while the prosecution laid all of the blame squarely at the feet of Dr. Rutledge. The Register hedges a bit on saying Sydney willingly cheated on Robert. What happened between them was a case of “he said, she said” except that “he” was dead and could not say anything. There are plenty of witnesses to testify that the relationship of Sydney and Hattman was closer than just co-workers, a matter of gossip considering that she was married. However, Sydney denied this with an assertion that she had been plied with booze and raped.
The next weekend — July 31, 1948, Hattman called Sydney and again invited her to go sailing with a group of friends. Rutledge was at the hospital, so after she cleared the trip with her husband, Sydney rode to the St. Louis Yacht Club with Hattman. At the dock Sydney was surprised that no one else had yet arrived.
“I asked where the other people were that were coming and he said at the last minute they had been unable to make it,” Sydney testified at her husband’s trial. “We would be by ourselves that day.”
The pair sailed on the river until around 6 p.m. when Hattman suggested that they grab a bite to eat.
“He said when we got into St. Louis we would go and get something to eat,” she said. “Since I had to eat I might as well go out with him.”
To most people such an invitation implies stopping on the way home for a meal. Instead, Hattman and Sydney drove back into St. Louis to her apartment where he dropped her off around 8 p.m. She checked in with her husband, who was still at the hospital, changed into a dinner outfit and at 9 p.m. she met Hattman in front of the apartment building.
“I went in to get cleaned up,” she said. “I talked to Bob, but I did not mention the fact that I was going to get some supper afterwards.”
The pair went to the Chase Hotel, which at the time was the place to go and to be seen in St. Louis.
“When we went to the hotel he insisted on going into the hotel cocktail room for a few drinks before dinner,” she said, referring to the lounge that one contemporary report referred to as “a real top-notch class spot…with costly decorations and equipment that baffle description.”
According to Sydney the pair had “two or three” drinks before heading next door to the Park Plaza hotel for dinner. But Sydney said Hattman was not quite ready for the main course yet.
“He began insisting on going to the Merry-Go-Round, which is the cocktail lounge at the Park Plaza,” she said. “While there he ordered two more drinks.”
It was at the Park Plaza that Sydney first became cognizant that she was becoming intoxicated.
“When about half way through (the second drink) I got very dizzy and nauseated and perspiration broke out all over. I told him I was going to faint.”
Hattman helped Sydney to the car, suggesting that they head to a nearby Italian restaurant because food may make her feel better. Over dinner Hattman offered an explanation as to why Sydney felt drunk.
“At that time he said he had made a mistake, that he had been ordering double drinks.”
After Sydney took a few bites of dinner and gave up, they left the restaurant and Hattman helped the drunken woman up to the apartment. He opened the door with her key when she was unable to fit it into the lock. Hattman stepped inside the apartment with Sydney.
“I immediately told him I was sick and wanted him to leave,” she testified. Hattman, however, apparently had other ideas. “He said he wasn’t going to leave when I felt like that. He was going to stay until I was all right.”
According to Sydney’s testimony at Rutledge’s trial, Hattman put his arms around her and forced her back into the bedroom where they had intercourse, which she said was non-consensual.
However, other witnesses familiar with the incident testified that Sydney told them she shared some of the guilt.
Investigators testified she was asked later if Hattman had forcibly had sexual relations with her and she answered, “No, I guess I was as much to blame as he was. We had too many drinks after sailing and wound up at my apartment,” but who knows if her response was just the 1940s attitude toward women who were raped: She was asking for it.
Sydney was grilled by prosecutor William W. Crissman about the events of that night.

Q: You got up there (to the apartment) and got the door open with the key. Didn’t you invite him in and tell him Bob was working?
A: I did not.
Q: You didn’t? Didn’t you after you got in the apartment, while he waited in the living room of the apartment go into the bedroom and remove your clothing?
A: I did not.
Q: And lie down on the bed and call him in there?
A: (Witness begins crying and shaking her head.)

Although she testified she spurned Hattman’s approaches after July 31, fellow employees testified that until about August 10 or 11 she went to his drafting board and visited with him several times each day to such an extent as to attract attention from her coworkers. Her supervisor testified she was an adult and he said nothing about it.
“It simply appeared to me that it was strange that a presumably happily married woman would be soliciting attention from an unmarried man,” he said.
For her part, Sydney denied these allegations on the stand:

He came up to me (at work) and asked me about Saturday night. I told him I wanted to forget about it, and didn’t want him to talk to me. There was no reason he should. He wanted me to explain why. I told him I certainly had reason enough…That same night he called me and wanted to know if I was still upset about it, that I should quit being so old fashioned, and suggested going out again. I told him at the time I didn’t want to talk to him at all.

At no point did Sydney say she considered filing any charges.
The rape or hook-up remained a secret between Sydney and Hattman until August 10, when the Emerson team held a pool party at the Norwood Hills Country Club.
In the men’s locker room, Hattman was bragging to his coworkers in the design department that he had been out with Sydney. Not knowing that Rutledge was present and within ear-shot, Hattman and the others expressed their opinions about Sydney and how she was probably being neglected in the bedroom by her absent husband.
Rutledge confronted Sydney about the allegations that night.
“He asked me what he had meant by that,” Sydney told the defense attorney. “When we finally got home I told him about everything that happened the previous Saturday night.”
On the stand at his trial, the doctor related how the news affected him.
“I can’t describe the feeling I had,” Rutledge testified. “I was heartbroken, just very much upset about it. We sat up all night talking about it. Sydney woke up crying hysterically.”
The next morning Rutledge called Hattman at the Emerson plant and confronted him over the phone, but Hattman did not want to talk.
“I told him I wanted him to leave my wife alone,” Rutledge told police during an interrogation. “He kept saying he couldn’t talk; other people could hear us, wanted me to call back and gave me a phone number.”
According to the Rutledges, Hattman refused to back down and continued to call Sydney at home when he knew her husband was at the hospital. Hattman purchased a pair of woman’s slacks and sent them to Rutledge in the mail, with a note that they belonged to Sydney; the ruse failed because Hattman left the price tag on the pants. On another occasion he drunk-dialed Rutledge and said he “had never beaten a whore out of her fee.” The next day, an envelope containing a 25-cent piece arrived in the mail.
For a while it appeared that things were going to go from really bad to even worse: Sydney told her husband she thought she was pregnant. The Rutledges’ busy schedules and state of their relationship established that if she was, the baby was not her husband’s.
Hattman retained a lawyer who spoke to Rutledge. The lawyer testified that Rutledge told him his wife was pregnant and that this had been definitely established by medical tests. In addition, the attorney told the court, the doctor said Hattman had had sexual relations with her, but he had not for several weeks because they had been quarreling.
Rutledge then said he had no intention of raising a child that was not his own and demanded $200 from the attorney to pay for an abortion, which the attorney refused. It turned out to be a false alarm and was never brought up again.
The Rutledges testified that throughout autumn and winter Hattman made many telephone calls to them in which he threatened them, called them vile names and suggested that each separate from the other, etc. However, there was reliable evidence telephone calls were frequently made by Rutledge to Hattman at the place where Hattman roomed until Hattman told him not to call any more and to see his attorney.
Beginning in November, Hattman was spending the first three days of each week in Cedar Rapids working with engineers of Collins Radio Company upon a project in which Emerson Radio Company was interested.
Rutledge testified Hattman telephoned the couple demanding money to refrain from calling them; he demanded $2,000 and Rutledge told him he would pay the blackmail if he would assure Rutledge he would leave St. Louis. According to the doctor Hattman agreed to that but they could not agree on any place in St. Louis where they could meet and agreed upon Cedar Rapids.
In December Rutledge made three trips to Cedar Rapids to meet with Hattman without success.
It was on December 14, 1948 that the play reached its climax when Rutledge and Hattman finally met. The result of that meeting was discovered the next day.
On the seventh floor of the Roosevelt Hotel in downtown Cedar Rapids, Margaret Bell knocked on the door of room 729 to clean what she expected to be a room recently vacated by an engineer from St. Louis. Instead, Bell found Byron Hattman lying face down in a pool of his blood, his heart and liver punctured by a stab wound five inches deep.
It was a gruesome scene: Blood splatter covered the walls, the bedspread and floor. A bloody towel was floating in the toilet bowl. The knife used in the fatal attack was not at the scene.
The signs did not directly point to robbery as a motive: Hattman’s wallet was found with no money, but an expensive watch the designer wore was still on his wrist. His eyeglasses, however, were missing.
He had apparently been surprised by his attacker, for the key to the room was lying near the corpse as if it was in his hand at the time he was attacked.
“A blade less than five inches could not have made the wound,” The medical examiner on the case, Dr. Regis Weland told the court.
The stab wound was six inches long and the skin was split to a width of almost an inch. The cut ran from Hattman’s left side down toward the right at a 45-degree angle, passing through the right edge of his heart and puncturing his liver. It was delivered with such force that it broke one of Hattman’s ribs. There were defensive wounds on Hattman’s hands.
byton_bodyHattman also suffered a head injury from some kind of blunt object. There were lacerations, a jagged, irregular tear at his hairline, a one-inch scalp wound on the back of his head and an abrasion over the right cheek bone.
It took less than 24 hours for the police to home in on Rutledge as the prime suspect.
Shortly after 2 a.m. on December 17, 1948, police knocked on the door of the Rutledge apartment ostensibly to question the doctor.
“A tall, willowy blond, dressed in a filmy negligee, opened the door,” wrote Gazette reporter Lou Breuer, who was with police at the time. “She identified herself as Sydney Rutledge.”
She told police that her husband was in the bathroom. Rutledge emerged and either agreed to go downtown or was arrested.
On the way to the police station the doctor became violently ill and slipped into unconsciousness. He was taken to a
hospital where he remained in a coma for about twelve hours. He later admitted he had taken an overdose of prescription sleeping pills.
“You shouldn’t have brought me around,” he said as police arrived to question him. “I would be better off dead. My career is ruined now, anyway.”
Although he was still recovering from his suicide attempt, Rutledge freely spoke to police and gave a confession from which he never wavered.
“It was over attention he had been paying to my wife,” he said. “Hattman had been trying to shake me down for money as payment in return for leaving him alone.”
Rutledge, sporting a black eye and broken nose, admitted fighting with his rival.
“Hattman kicked me in the eye and he pulled a knife on me,” Rutledge said. “We kept on fighting and I managed to get the knife away from him. Then I managed to knock him out.
“I don’t remember stabbing him.”
Rutledge said that he came to Hattman’s hotel and waited until he returned from work. The two men argued in the hotel room, with Rutledge offering to give Hattman all the money in his wallet to stop the harassment. Hattman laughed at the offer, took out his own wallet and said to the doctor that he did not need the money.
This enraged the doctor and a fistfight erupted. Rutledge said Hattman pulled a knife, but the doctor wrested it from his hands. He lunged at Hattman with the knife and hit him over the head with the handle. The doctor said as he dropped the knife Hattman fell to the floor, unconscious, but not stabbed. His argument was that Hattman stabbed himself as he fell. He washed up, took the money from Hattman’s wallet, the knife, and Hattman’s glasses which he grabbed by mistake.
Prosecutors argued that Rutledge laid in wait for Hattman, surprised him and struck him from behind as his victim tried to flee the room. With Hattman on the ground, Rutledge stabbed and killed his rival.
It took the jury five hours to find Rutledge guilty of second degree murder. A not guilty verdict was never considered; instead, the jury spent its time debating the degree of Rutledge’s guilt. Two weeks later, Judge J. E. Heiserman addressed the convicted doctor.
With Sydney weeping in the gallery, Heiserman said that Rutledge’s allegation of self defense did not bear up under scrutiny.
“That theory was rejected by the jury,” he said. “Stripped of that, the defendant was left with a case of intentional murder with malice aforethought. The court feels sorry for any young, professional, talented man in your circumstances. But I am not condoning the act.”
Heiserman sentenced Rutledge to a 70-year term, with the possibility of parole after 30 years.
Rutledge served about 10 months in the state penitentiary when he was released on bond while the Iowa Supreme Court reviewed his case. The couple moved to Houston where the doctor opened a pediatric clinic while awaiting the decision.
rutledge_front_pageIn 1951 the Court upheld Rutledge’s conviction and sentence. When police went to arrest Rutledge they found his clinic closed and the doctor missing.
Five days later his body was found outside Houston. He had committed suicide by running a hose from the car exhaust into the vehicle. He left a note for Sydney.
“Sorry to run out on you like this, but I think it’s best for you this way. There is a good future for you if you can just forget about all this. Love is a fleeting thing at best and time will cure a lot of grief. I love you, Bob.”

More Questions Than Answers


The case of Domenico Galbo could also be entitled “How to Get Away with Murder (Maybe)” because while we cannot reach the legal threshold to declare that Galbo was a murderer, we all know he did it or was at least involved up to his eyeballs.
The problem is that we do not know to what extent he was involved; so even though we have a dead body that obviously got that way through nefarious acts, despite the fact that Galbo was known to want the victim dead, and eyewitness testimony that places him with the dead body in his wagon notwithstanding, Galbo’s second degree murder conviction was rightfully tossed by the New York Court of Appeals.
The Galbo case reveals an interesting Catch-22 in the criminal justice system that creates a very small loophole which a really smart criminal might be able to exploit. Bear in mind, because we are discussing this right now, chances are it has been closed.
The loophole centers around the problem of defining what is an accomplice to a crime, and determining at what point someone becomes an accomplice.
That’s a very general description and after reading the story of the strange murder Francesco Manzella in 1911, you still want to try it, go ahead. See if I care. I’ll write about it here.
The body of Francesco Manzella was found on October 30, 1911, at the bottom of a deep ravine along the Webster road near the city of Rochester. Manzella’s head and legs had been cut off, and his body forced into a barrel.
That the 35-year-old Manzella, a strong, athletic man, fought violently for his life is apparent from his injuries: The coroner described 22 wounds and bruises that bear witness to a vigorous resistance. A blow to the temple rendered Manzella unconscious, and then with a sharp knife the head had been severed. Whoever used the knife displayed a surgeon’s skill. The legs were cut off later, and again a surgeon’s skill was shown.
To say Manzella is not a sympathetic victim is an understatement. He was a blackmailer who had once served a term in prison for extortion. Manzella was known as a “blackhander,” someone who would send anonymous threatening notes to a victim demanding payment to avoid incurring the wrath of a non-existent secret society known among Italian immigrants as the Black Hand. This “organization” is sometimes thought of as a progenitor of the Mafia or Cosa Nostra — the Italian organized crime model that we’re all familiar with. In fact there was no such organization as the Black Hand: it was a scam. Blackhanders worked alone, victimizing gullible Italian peasants with the threat of physical violence coming from who knows where.
Manzella’s conviction for extortion was the result of an attempt to demand a payoff from a man described as a “Wheatland padrone” who lived on a small estate about 10 miles outside Rochester in 1908. In that crime Manzella poisoned the man’s dog and attempted to blow up his house with dynamite. For that he served 2 1/2 years of a 3-year bit. When he was released from Auburn in May 1911, Manzella, a Brooklyn resident, made his home in Rochester where he immediately went back to his old lifestyle of blackmail.
On Saturday, October 28, 1911, two days before the finding of his dead body, Manzella requested a loan of Guiseppe Galbo, but was repulsed. Joseph, as Guiseppe preferred to be called, operated a banana importing and marketing company with his brother, Domenico, who had lost both of his legs in an accident years before.
They had a store on the corner of Railroad street and the Public Market in Rochester; and in the rear was a barn where they kept their horses. Domenico was unmarried, and slept above the store. Joseph was married, and lived at the home of his father-in-law. They had some acquaintance with Manzella, who slept once, if not oftener, above the store with Domenico.
After his request for a “loan” was rejected, Manzella said he would get the money from Joseph’s father-in-law, Ollis. Later in the day he made the request of Ollis, and was told to come back in the evening. He was never seen again.
On Monday morning before dawn, the farmers driving with their burdens toward Rochester along the Webster road saw the Galbo wagon, drawn by a gray and a sorrel horse and with Domenico Galbo in the seat. It was going away from the city. In the rear there seemed to be a barrel covered with canvas. Some of the witnesses could describe the wagon and the horses only. Others had noticed the barrel. Others, though unacquainted with the driver, recalled his appearance. An hour or two later the same wagon with the same driver came back along the same road. Those who saw it then make no mention of a barrel. Two men identify the driver as Domenico. One of them jumped on the wagon and rode part of the way.
The facts in evidence also establish that by 8 a.m. on that morning the body of Manzella was at the bottom of the ravine. On Sunday, October 29, about 3 p.m., 18-year-old Frank Smith went to the ravine to set a trap for a skunk. There was no barrel and no body then. The next morning he went to the ravine, found the barrel and the dismembered body, and notified the police.
A trail of circumstantial evidence leads from the ravine to the Galbo store and by the afternoon of October 30, both Galbo brothers were in jail, arrested for the murder of Francesco Manzella.
A look at the evidence would certainly lead a rational person to believe the state’s case-in-chief, alleging that Domenico and Joseph Galbo were the killers.
The barrel that contained Manzella’s body was a wine barrel with iron hoops; in the Galbo store four barrels of the same kind were found by the police. Stuck on the barrel in the ravine was a fragment of a printed card from the Blandi wine distributorship in Pittsburg. Five barrels of Blandi’s wine were sold in March, 1910, to Joseph Galbo. The waybill and receipt produced by the railroad company establish its delivery. Five barrels reached the Galbo store; four were still there after the body was discovered.
Near the body in the ravine was a printed time card. The cards had been printed for the McCabe Electrical Company. Desks from that firm were sold to the Capon-Sullivan Company, which occupied a store owned by Joseph Galbo. Less than a week before the murder, a member of the Capon-Sullivan Company found the time cards and threw them into the Galbo yard.
Near the barrel in the ravine there was a part of a burlap sack, which had once been filled with chicken feed. It was stained with blood, and had doubtless been used to cover the top of the barrel. It was stamped with the label of the Dickinson Company of Chicago. It bore the tag of “Lathrop’s Pet Shop.” Six bags of the same kind, with the same label, were found in the Galbo store, and there was another in the Galbo wagon. A fortnight before the murder, Joseph Galbo bought from nine to twelve sacks of chicken feed from the Clark Douglass Company, which bought them from “Lathrop’s Pet Shop.”
Near the burlap sack were also parts of a rope. Rope of the same material and weight was suspended from hooks, and carried bunches of bananas in the Galbo store. The rope from two hooks was missing.
The tailboard of the wagon showed traces of white paint. White paint was found on the fence which ran along the Webster road at the top of the ravine.
Discolored shavings of wood were found in the barrel, and other shavings, apparently discolored in the same way, were found in the Galbo barn. A chemist showed that all the shavings had been colored by the same dye. In the stall of the barn there were breaks in the cement which indicated a recent excavation of a size suitable for a grave. But nothing else that even remotely suggested guilt was found either in the barn or in the store.
The police took possession at once; they ransacked the buildings from top to bottom, tore the woodwork open and searched in every nook for traces of blood and for implements of crime. Nothing was found. A detective was then stationed in a nearby cell to listen to the brothers’ talk.
Domenico said: “They are looking for the driver of the wagon.”
“You drove the wagon,” said Joseph.
“I know I did,” said Domenico.
Galbo did what a good defendant should do and adopted the “nothing/everything defense:” Admit nothing; deny everything.
He denied that he had driven a wagon along Webster Road on the morning of October 30. He often went along that road with his burden of bananas, he said, but he did not go that day. Instead, he drove to Fairport, in a different direction. He did not leave the barn till about 6 a.m., and when he left, he did not take the gray horse along as it was sick and could not go.
But a witness for the state who worked in the Galbo barn said that he reached there before 6 a.m., and that Domenico and the gray horse were gone.
Both men were under arrest within thirty-six hours of the murder; neither showed a scratch or a blood stain. The state tried to connect Domenico with the murder by evidence that he attempted to secrete the body.
A jury agreed with the state and Domenico was convicted of second-degree murder. He appealed, arguing that the state had not proved its case.
The New York Court of Appeals reviewed the case, and in 1916 admitted what everyone knew: Domenico Galbo was intimately connected to the murder of Francesco Manzella, but just what that connection was, no one could say. What the court had to say was that Domenico was not guilty of murder.
“The jury found him guilty of murder in the second degree, and to reach that verdict must have found that his narrative was false. The credibility of witnesses is not for our consideration except where the judgment is of death,” wrote Justice Benjamin Cardozo for a unanimous court, pointing out that it was not the place of the appeals court to pass judgment on whether or not the jury should have believed the state’s case.
The State of New York argued that the acts of possession and concealment prove that Domenico was a murderer. Not so fast, wrote Cardozo.

They do, we think, beyond question justify the inference that in some way and at some stage he became connected with this crime. But the question remains, in what way and at what stage? Was he a principal, and if so, did he himself commit the offense, or aid and abet its commission, or counsel or induce another to commit it? Was he, on the other hand, an accessory after the fact, aiding the offender to avoid arrest or punishment? Principals in the first and second degree at common law, and accessories before the fact, are classed alike as principals today. Accessories after the fact are classed simply as accessories. Which of these degrees of guilt attaches to the defendant?

Making the leap that possession of a dead body in such circumstances — even one that exhibits the signs of criminal activity like Manzella’s — indicates the person is a principal in a murder is a step too far, Cardozo points out.

It is the law that recent and exclusive possession of the fruits of crime, if unexplained or falsely explained, will justify the inference that the possessor is the criminal. That rule has most frequently been applied in cases of burglary and larceny and receiving stolen goods; but it is not unknown in cases of murder. The highwayman kills his victim; the purpose of the murder is robbery; the same inference that identifies the robber identifies the murderer. Possession of the dead body — the subject of the crime itself — has much the same significance as possession of jewels or money or other fruits of crime. If there is any distinction, it is one chiefly of degree.
The fruits of crime are themselves objects of desire; the possessor, at least presumably, has them because he wishes to enjoy them. But the possessor of the dead body wishes only to be rid of it. Its possession is thus associated more readily than that of money or jewels with the notion of concealment and thus with the form of guilt that attaches distinctively to the accessory after the fact.
Only half of the problem, however, has been solved when guilty possession fixes the identity of the offender. There remains the question of the nature of his offense.

Sometimes facts actually cloud the picture, Cardozo wrote.
“Is the guilty possessor the thief, or is he a receiver of stolen goods? Judges have said that if nothing more is shown, we may take him to be the thief,” he said. “But as soon as evidence is offered that the theft was committed by some one else, the inference changes, and he becomes a receiver of stolen goods. Sometimes the circumstances may make it proper for a jury to say which inference is the true one.”

The problem is a hard one. To solve it we must steadily bear in mind that the inference of guilt to be drawn from possession is never one of law. It is an inference of fact. Other facts may neutralize it, or repel it, or render it so remote or tenuous or uncertain that in a given case we should reject it. The man who secretes a body and lies about it, may be found in most cases to be concealing his own crime, and, therefore, to be the murderer. That is so because personal guilt, unless the circumstances point to some other connection, is the reasonable inference. We are not to assume without evidence that some one else is implicated. He who conceals the crime may be taken to be the perpetrator.
But how, if he proves an alibi? Are we then at liberty to infer that even if he did not commit the murder himself, he incited some one to do it, and thus, in spite of his proved absence, hold him as a principal? A is seen to shoot B, but C later has the body, and will not telle how he came by it. The law must say whether his silence is to condemn him as principal or as accessory.

If alibi can prevent the prosecution from moving forward, what about the natural ability of the suspect?
In this case a legless man is charged with killing a stronger, able-bodied ex-convict. The murder followed a fierce fight in which Manzella was beaten and wounded. It seems certain that the wounds were inflicted and the head severed as parts of a single combat.
There is no way, Cardozo argued, that Domenico Galbo could have accomplished the crime based on the evidence presented, and thus the conviction must be quashed.
“We cannot with reason say that the cripple did these things,” he said. “Least of all can we say that he was able to do them and escape without a scratch or a blood stain.”
When a court finds that something is impossible — for example, a legless man killing a stronger man without suffering any injury or getting blood on himself — it does not mean impossible in the strictest sense, but so nearly impossible that a jury ought not to believe it: beyond a reasonable doubt. But as soon as we concede that Domenico did not kill Manzella, we lose ourselves in mystery when we attempt to measure the degree of his connection with the crime.
“The guilty possessor of the body, though he did not use the weapon, may still have aided and abetted; but unless there are tokens that several joined in the affray, the likelihood of his presence is no greater than the likelihood of his absence,” Cardozo said. “He may still be an accessory; whether before the fact or after is the problem. If the circumstances make one inference just as reasonable as the other, we must give the defendant the benefit of the conclusion that would mitigate his guilt.”

We have no evidence, direct or circumstantial, that the actual perpetrator was assisted by any one. We have nothing to tell us when or where the crime occurred. We have no sign that it was committed in the defendant’s presence. He may have known of it in advance, and planned or encouraged it. He may have learned of it later, and attempted to shield the criminal. The trial judge told the jury that the burden was on the People to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant, though he did not kill with his own hand, was nonetheless a principal; he must have become connected with the crime while Manzella was yet alive. If all that he did was to help the murderer to escape, he was not a principal, but an accessory, and the jury under the charge were then required to acquit him. The charge is sound, but it propounded to the jury a problem incapable of reasoned solution.
In these circumstances we cannot see that the jury had any chart or compass by which to guide their judgment. A conviction upon circumstantial evidence is not to be sustained unless the circumstances are inconsistent with innocence. We may multiply inferences at times, but in multiplying them, we must not refine and rarefy them beyond measure.
A body is hidden. The evidence forbids the inference that the hider is the slayer. That inference excluded, something more must be shown, some probability of time or place or circumstance, before the concealment of the body can be said to prove anything more than concealment of a crime. Small things may turn the scale. But something there must be.
We are thus led to the conclusion that the defendant was not proved to be a principal in the commission of this crime. He ought to have been indicted, and might then have been convicted, as an accessory.
The People charge in the indictment that the brother, Joseph, was one of the murderers. Like the defendant, he did not show a scratch or a blood stain. If the crime was his work, the defendant had a strong motive for concealment. If it was another’s work, the mystery is deepened.
We know that Manzella had led a life of crime in which bitter enmities must have been aroused; and we cannot say how the defendant was connected with the man or men by whom those enmities were avenged. In connecting him as a principal, conjecture has filled the gaps left open by the evidence, and the presumption of innocence has yielded to a presumption of guilt.

There is no record of whether or not Domenico Galbo was retried, nor is there any indication of what happened to Joseph Galbo.