1920 Murder

100 years ago on May 27, 1920, the Guymon Herald (now the Guymon Daily Herald) published a story that brought a conclusion to a murder trial that had started nearly a year earlier. 

The headline read "Jesse Isonhart Taken to Prison"

Nearly one year prior is where the story began. On July 18, 1919 a man by the name of Shelby Robertson came to Hooker, Oklahoma from Illinois with a woman he identified as his wife. They made their home here in Texas County by living with Mr. Robertson's sister Louise Hamilton. Mr. Robertson's "wife" was in fact Myrtle Isonhart, Jesse Isonhart's legal wife. Shelby Robertson had been Jesse Isonhart's coworker back in Illinois. When Mrs. Isonhart and Mr. Robertson decided to leave Illinois together, they set their sights on Texas County. They went through Kansas, stealing an automobile in Hutchinson, and made there way down to Hooker. 

Back in Illinois, Jesse Isonhart had an idea that Shelby Robertson likely had something to do with his missing wife. Isonhart went to the home of Robertson's mother, who told Isonhart she had recently recieved a letter from her son that had been sent from Hooker, Oklahoma. Because of this, he wrote a letter to Mr. Robertson's sister, Louise Hamilton, asking if she had seen his wife with Shelby Robertson around the area. While Myrtle Isonhart and Shelby Robertson were living in her home, Louise replied to Jesse Isonhart that the couple was unknown to the area. Jesse Isonhart knew this was untrue, and arrived in Hooker on his own accord by Sunday, July 27th, 1919. 

Monday morning, Jesse Isonhart called his wife at the home of Louise Hamilton and spent the day with her and Shelby Robertson. Monday evening, he asked if Myrtle Isonhart would spend one last night with him, and if she would he would agree to the divorce. She agreed, and so him and his wife went for a stroll down the train tracks of Hooker, Oklahoma. This would be the last time anyone would see Myrtle alive, because Tuesday morning her body was found a ways down the tracks. 

Her body was laid in respectful manner; she was flat on her back, both hands folded neatly on her chest, and her clothes were in perfect order. An autopsy revealed she had two pricks directly into her heart. The coroner said it looked as if she had been stabbed one time with a hat pin. The death was instantaneous, as the pin entered the walls of the heart, which flooded the chest cavity. The coroner was the first to declare that Myrtle Isonhart had been killed by her husband, Jesse Isonhart. Besides the fact he was the last person to be seen with her, he was also an undertaker by trade and the manner in which she was killed as well as laid after her death looked to be the work of an undertaker, according to the coroner. 

The morning Myrtle's body was found, Jesse Isonhart had been seen about 6 miles East of Hooker, where he had asked a motorist for a ride to Texhoma, where it is presumed he planned to hide out. Later that day, Shelby Robertson was taken into custody because of the vehicle he had stolen in Hutchinson, KS. 

In September of 1919, Texas County Sherrif Leeman apprehended Jesse Isonhart after finding out he had made it back to Illinois. When Sherriff Leeman arrived in Illinois to bring Isonhart back to Texas County for prosecution, Isonhart agreed. This brought great distress to his new wife, whom he had married after returning to Illinois. This was just months after he had murdered his first wife, Myrtle Isonhart. 

Once back in Texas County the trial began. It took 8 months before the case concluded. The Guymon Herald wrote that they decided not to publish testimony from this trial as it would have been to demoralizing to the victim to publish in public print. In May of 1920, Jesse Isonhart was found guilty of murdering his wife, and was sentenced to four years in prison to be served at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester, Oklahoma. 

Do you like hearing stories from the past? Let us know below. Texas County has a rich history, and many stories to tell, and we would be delighted to bring these to you. 

Recommended for you