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Vernon Spencer, Murder Suspect

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  • Vernon Spencer, Murder Suspect

    Vernon Spencer

    Vernon Murray Spencer was born on February 4, 1894 in Wixon, Michigan. He lived there his entire life. Spencer was the only child of George D. (born in 1844 in Ohio) and May E. (born in 1860 in Michigan) Spencer. The couple was married in 1893. The Spencers owned a farm on Fourteen Mile Road. Vernon would take over the farm after his father’s death sometime in the 1920s.

    Spencer was a speedy center fielder. In 1919 he played for a Michigan club in the Michigan-Ontario League. There, he was purchased by the Toronto Maple Leaf’s of the International League.

    On July 2, 1920 Spencer was dealt to the New York Giants for Benny Kauff and $25,000 cash. The deal was clouded in mystery as sportswriters wondered why Kauff, an effective hitter, was dealt. Kauff’s legal troubles would soon provide the answer. Originally, the Giants also offered pitcher Billy Hubbell in the trade; however, he didn’t clear waivers in the National League, being claimed by the Phillies. The Giants then worked out a trade for Hubbell to Philadelphia and upped the cash in the Spencer deal.

    Spencer, a righthanded thrower and lefthanded batter, was considered one of the best hitters in the minors. At the time he was batting .327 after 66 games in the International League. The Reds and Yankees were also pursuing Spencer. Cincinnati actually though they had landed the outfielder after offering a slew of cash.

    Spencer’s major league debut occurred on July 4 with one hit and a run in four trips to the plate. After 45 games, he hadn’t shown much, batting just .200. Spencer was returned to Toronto in April 1921 with an option. The Giants called the center fielder for the 1922 season; however, he was soon released.

    In July 1922 Spencer was signed by Los Angeles of the Pacific Coast League. The rest of his minor league career:
    1923-24 Buffalo of International League
    1927 Toronto of the International League

    (If anyone could fill in the blanks of his minor league career it would be greatly appreciated.)

    In 1923 Spencer and his wife Gertrude, eight years younger than Vernon, were married. They had at least one child – daughter Doris June born at the end of 1928.

    On October 1937 Spencer, 40, took a hunting trip in northern Ontario, Canada (about 38 miles north of Sault Ste. Marie) in an isolated cabin near Long Lake. On the 28th the body of his companion, 28-year-old Helen A. Grier (The daughter of James A. and Virginai G. Grier) was found in their cabin.

    Spencer and Grier, a pretty law office stenographer from Pontiac, Michigan, had visited the cabin multiple times. Grier was found dead from a rifle shot; the rifle was found on the floor next to her. Spencer claimed that he had gone out hunting, following moose tracks, and when he returned he found Grier dead.

    Spencer was arrested pending an inquiry. He wife raced from Wixon to be with him. He remained in jail until the trial. On April 12, 1938 Spencer was acquitted. There was no evidence to suggest Spencer shot Grier.

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