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the murder of margaret martin

When 19-year-old Margaret Martin agreed to attend a meeting to talk about a job offer little did she know she was actually going to meet the person who would ultimately take her life. Here is the story of her horrific murder.

The Disappearance Of Margaret Martin

In early December 1938, Margaret Martin had just graduated from Wilkes-Barre Business College. The pretty, friendly, intelligent 19-year-old was well-liked and had many friends in her hometown of Kingston, Pennsylvania and was the eldest of four children. Having completed her secretarial training it was now time to start looking for work, however, good luck seemed to strike when Margaret was actually sought out by an employer.

On December 17th a man got in contact with Margaret Martin. The individual claimed he was in the process of setting up an insurance business in the area and was in need of a secretary. He told her he had been in touch with the college where she had graduated to see if they could recommend anyone for the role and they had passed on Margaret’s details. Intrigued by the opportunity Margaret agreed to meet the man for an interview at nearby Kingston Corners.

As the day turned into night and time began to pass Margaret’s parents began to fret. The 19-year-old devout Catholic wasn’t the sort of person that would stay out late without prior notice. Her concerned mother and father took the decision to contact the police.

Police began to search for the missing teenager. They found a number of witnesses who had been in the Kingston Corners area at the time Margaret was supposed to have her interview. Several of them gave details of a young woman matching her description entering a vehicle with a man. The car was described as a dark coloured sedan. Unfortunately, no one had taken notice of the license plate as nothing appeared out of the ordinary in the interactions between the man and woman.

Margaret Martin murder suspect

The man driving the sedan was described as:

  • Having sandy blond hair.
  • Aged in his late 20’s, possibly early 30’s
  • Slightly overweight
  • Smartly dressed

No possible name for the man was forthcoming from witnesses at the scene or those who heard the description. An ongoing newspaper hindered the hunt for the man’s identity and the search for Margaret Martin due to a lack of circulation of the story.

The Discovery Of Margaret Martin

Four days after Margaret Martin was reported missing two young men were out hunting in the woods in Wyoming County. 19-year-olds Stan Shalkoski and Anthony Rezykowski were heading across a stream under a nearby footbridge to check a snare they had set near Keelersburg Creek when the two teenagers spotted something sticking out from the water.

The boys’ curiosities got the better of them and they went over to take a closer look. Stan and Anthony discovered the item in the creek to be a burlap sack. After a moment or two spent prodding at the bag with a couple of sticks, they finally decided to see what was inside. It was the body of Margaret Martin.

Margaret’s badly beaten body was naked when it was found. The autopsy soon revealed that the poor victim had been raped before her death. Despite clear evidence of a severe beating with an item such as a rock plus a stab wound in the girl’s leg and stomach neither were the cause of her demise. The killer strangled Margaret Martin to death. No specific time of death was given, only that Margaret had been deceased at least 24 hours before her body was discovered.

The Hunt For Margaret’s Killer

Margaret Martin search for clues

In the days that followed the police stepped up their investigation. Over 75 officers and state troopers scoured the surrounding area looking for clues. None were found. The origins of the burlap sack were traced but it proved a fruitless endeavour in helping the investigation. No car tyre tracks were located near the stream in which Margaret was found but police believed the killer had parked at a spot 75 yards from the stream before carrying the body the rest of the way.

A sawmill owner named James Kedd told investigators that he had fired warning shots at an intruder at his mill in Forkston a couple of days prior to the discovery of Margaret’s body. Reports claimed a firebox on the mill that the intruder had been seen near was checked. In the firebox amongst the ashes were the charred remains of clothing matching those Margaret had been wearing at the time of her disappearance. According to the reports, James Kedd’s claim led police to believe the killer may have intended to dispose of the body in the firebox had he not been interrupted.

However, a later report in the Kane Republican, naming Third Squadron Commander Major William Clarke as its source, claimed the clothing story was false. When the ashes were analysed it was concluded that they only contained waste material. Clarke said the sawmill lead was “almost eliminated”.

Police looked into the possibility that Margaret Martin’s killer was someone involved in a white slave ring group. Members of the group had recently operated in the Wilkes-Barre area where Margaret attended college. They would lure young girls with promises of jobs, turning to threats of violence if the girls didn’t comply. Margaret’s injuries led some to theorize she had been taken by such a group and tortured before been killed when she refused to do as asked. Police were unable to find any proof or links to back up the suspicion.

Margaret Martin white slave

Investigators drove out to Orwigsburg, some sixty miles from the area Margaret Martin was murdered. They had received a report from two girls that they had seen a man disposing of a bundle of women’s clothing from a passing car. The clothes were not a match to those worn by Margaret Martin.

Who Killed Margaret Martin?

Despite their best efforts and a newspaper claim that an arrest was imminent in the next 24 hours, the police struggled to find a strong suspect. A local teenager who was believed to be infatuated with Margaret Martin was questioned but quickly released without charge due to a lack of evidence. Likewise, a teacher from the college Margaret had attended was questioned and released without charge much for the same reason.

Two men from Luzerne County were also investigated. The pair had previously attempted to attack a teenage girl after luring her to a hotel room. They were soon ruled out of playing any part in Margaret Martin’s murder.

Over the following months, the investigation continued to be no closer to finding who had murdered Margaret Martin. A number of new suspects were looked at but all were quickly dismissed. The few new clues that were garnered also failed to lead to an arrest. The case seemed to have hit a brick wall until September 1942.

margaret martin orban taylor

Almost four years had passed since the murder of Margaret Martin when a man named Orban Taylor made a shocking confession: He killed Margaret Martin. 21-year-old Orban Taylor, now of Scranton, New York, had previously been a resident at Wilkes-Barre where Margaret had studied. Unfortunately, the claim made in New York City was too good to be true. After ten hours of questioning and investigating Orban Taylor’s claims, it was clear he wasn’t responsible for this crime. Once more the case went cold.

Described as a living saint by her parents and obviously beloved by many, the senseless murder of Margaret Martin was never solved.

Sources and Further Reading