Originally published in The Rock River Times.
There was a point in Floyd Leach’s life when he must have felt that he led a charmed life. He really had it all. His wife was smart, beautiful and her family was financially well to do. Her family came from Austria where they were considered nobility. Floyd had met Alice at Northwestern University where he was studying to be a doctor. He was charmed in that too. That degree led him from a distinguished time as a Doctor the Medical Corps during World War I where he earned many medals to a prestigious dental practice.
The time during the war was difficult for his family, of course. Alice’s family fought for the Central Powers alongside Germany and Bulgaria while Floyd’s family was loyal to the Allied Powers. Looking back these were the first cracks in the life Floyd was creating.
Floyd and Alice settled in Chicago and had two children. Their son Campbell, was born in 1913 and their daughter Betty was born in 1916. By 1926, the family lived in Hollywood California and Floyd was living the dream of a life he always wanted. His career as a “dentist to the stars” made it possible for him to rub elbows with some of the biggest names in the Hollywood Motion Picture Colony as the newspapers later called it. But the cracks that had started in his marriage during the war kept deepening.
Alice became an invalid during 1915, shortly before the birth of her daughter. Facts are vague now but during the trials that took place in the late 1920’s alluded to an attack by Floyd that caused Alice to become paralyzed. She would be confined to a wheelchair for the rest of her life.
It later struck some as ironic that Floyd, who moved in the circles of famous actors and actresses seemed to be playing a part himself. But the cracks in his perfect world became chasms in 1927 and Floyd fled. He left behind his flourishing dental practice, his beautiful home, his wife and his children.
Floyd’s family lived in this area and it was here that he came. He settled in Rockford and opened a new dental practice in the Blackhawk Building at the corner of West State and Wyman Streets. His life here was definitely a step down for Floyd. He went from a beautiful home in California to a three room shack located on North Second Street. Floyd was trying to rebuild his life and he made friends with the local veterans. He decorated his little cottage with his war medals and pictures of his new found friends.
Those same friends were shocked when news started to spread about Floyd’s odd behaviors. He was seen at all hours of the night downtown by his new office. Floyd would wander the downtown area and spend the early hours of the mornings in several all-night diners. He often fought with neighbors and caused scenes with his anger.
Those same friends grew very concerned when they woke on the morning of December 9, 1929 to headlines speaking of their friends arrest in the murder of a popular high school teacher. Cordelia Gummersheimer was found dead in her bed by friends on December 8, 1929.
Floyd was arrested when police went to question him about his whereabouts during Sunday night. Authorities knew that the Floyd had been seen often in the vicinity of Cordelia’s apartment. His office was located not far from the place and he was seen sitting in his car facing the back of the building the day of the murder.
The police had reports of Floyd’s strange behavior and were shocked when they finally caught up with him the day after the murder. Floyd’s car contained the bodies of several dead cats and dogs. When they searched his cottage, they found even more dead animals. He even had a dead mouse in the pocket of the suit he wore to work that day.
The authorities questioned the dentist about this bizarre find. He stated that he was interested in taxidermy and was making a fur rug from the pelts of the dead animals. When they mentioned the mouse that they found in his pocket, Floyd said he carried because it felt nice.
Floyd was arrested and held for a few days and the local veterans grew afraid for him. They were afraid that Floyd who was obviously not in his right mind would stand no chance if the police decided to pin the horrible murder on himd. Emotions ran high in the town and Cordelia’s friends, colleagues, students and their parents all were demanding that the police find the killer of the young teacher.
Floyd’s friends banded together and got him released based on the fact that there was no evidence that tied Floyd to the murder. The police couldn’t even prove that the two knew each other. The courts agreed and freed Floyd.
Floyd’s friends saved him from the police but they couldn’t protect him from himself. The scandal of his arrest and the stories of his strange behavior caused his dental practice to suffer and Floyd’s drinking increased. Authorities from California finally were able to get Floyd extradited back to California to face trial for the abandonment of his family. Floyd reacted badly during the trial and the court was astonished when Floyd stated that he shouldn’t have to support his family. Alice’s family tried to have Floyd declared insane but the courts didn’t agree with that diagnosis. The judge felt sorry for Floyd but had no choice but to put him in jail. The judge stated that maybe some time in San Quentin would change his mind about his family. Floyd Leach arrived there in 1932.
Captain Floyd Dewitt Leach was buried in 1941 in Los Angeles National Cemetery. The murder of Cordelia Gummersheimer was never solved.
Copyright © 2018 Kathi Kresol, Haunted Rockford Events