Wolcott Historical Society News - March 2020
By Florence Goodman
Growing up in Wolcott in the 1950s was wonderful with the exception of the scary stories my older brother would tell. To this day the one that is most vivid in my mind is that of John Crowe who "might be hiding in the woods and would jump out to get us." If you have lived in the town for over forty years you might have heard of the John Crowe murders. I wrote about them in 2008, but I felt it was time to share this story again.
The year was 1934 and the place was Wolcott Road in those days referred to as Wolcott Street. The Yuskis family lived in a bungalow type house neatly painted white and with as many modern conveniences as country life would allow. It was located where the present day Rite Aid store is today; their property crossed Wolcott Road where a barn, garage, some small shacks, and farmland were sandwiched between Potuccos Ring and Beach Roads. A good number of livestock were housed in the barn and the farmland produced flowers and the necessary vegetables for the family. There were five members in the household; George, age 55, his wife, Lucy, age 46, Clarence, age 22, Mildred, age 23, and Violet, age 19. Mr. Yuskis had a hired farmhand, Mr. Julius Karbauskas, who lived on that property across Wolcott Road in a small shack. The Yuskis family and Mr. Karbauskas were of Lithuanian descent.
At this time most of Wolcott was farmland or thick brush, roads were limited, and many of them were dirt. Wolcott Road ended at Center Street just past the Yuskis home; in fact, the State Highway Department had just purchased land from Mr. Yuskis to improve Wolcott Road and extend it north into Bristol. The population of the town was around 800 residents and our police department was small so when an incident such as this murder took place the State Police were called in to help. Henry Norton was the Deputy Sheriff and Bill Klitka was the Town Constable when this tragedy occurred.
John Crowe described by townspeople, as a fanatic owned seventy-five acres of land adjoining the Yuskis property on Beach and Spindle Hill Roads. He had a small shack on his property where he stayed on weekends, but he lived in Waterbury during the week, but made daily trips to his Wolcott property. He was a man of few words and neighbors said they would see him drive slowly by their homes in his Ford Roadster, but he never spoke to them. He was always well dressed and wore a Panama hat. Mr. Crowe was of Irish descent and had come to this country in 1926. He was about 55 to 60 years old.
It was Sunday, June 24, 1934 at about 12:30 P.M. and the Yuskis family and Mr. Karbauskas had just finished their noon meal. Mr. Yuskis had crossed the street to go up in his lot to feed the pigs while Mr. Karbauskas went to his shack to get ready for a picnic in Waterbury. Their son, Clarence changed into his bathing suit and waited for his sister Mildred to get changed so they could go swimming. As Clarence sat in his parked car waiting for Mildred, John Crowe drove past. He stopped his car just north of the driveway, got out of the vehicle with a revolver in his hand, and ran towards Clarence and shot him several times. Mrs. Yuskis was in the backyard getting water from the river when Mr. Crowe ran toward Clarence with the gun. When she realized what was happening, she ran toward Mr. Crowe, grabbed him, and hit him in the head with a pail. Crowe shoved her away and shot at her grazing her head; Mrs. Yuskis fell to the ground as Crowe ran for his car. When she came to her senses, she got up, started yelling, and ran to help Clarence who had gotten out of his car. As they were standing there Crowe came back towards them with a rifle in his hand. Clarence turned to face Crowe, but he shot him with the rifle and Clarence fell to the ground. Next, Crowe aimed at Mrs. Yuskis, but she hid behind the car and then ran behind a tree in the front yard. As Crowe started back toward his car, Mr. Karbauskas came out of the barn from across the street and yelled something to Crowe who then aimed his rifle and shot him too. He also shot at one of the sisters as she ran out on the front porch, but missed her as she ran back into the house. Crowe then went to his car and drove north towards Wolcott Center.
While all of this was happening several people had driven by and witnessed the shooting, but did not stop. Instead, they drove to MacCormack's Gas Station, about five hundred feet south of the Yuskis house, to call the police. Shortly after the shootings, one witness, William McCasland, who had been berry picking on Fred Andrews's property on Spindle Hill Road said he saw John Crowe get out of his car and start walking up the road. He said he crossed the fence and went into the brush in the opposite direction of his shack and had a gun in his hand. This witness also stated that he said "hello" and Crowe nodded. He didn't think anything about the gun or gunshots because he heard there was a pheasant in that woods and maybe John had shot him and was going to get him. Crowe's car was parked about twenty feet off of Wolcott Road and about 1500 feet away from his shack. When the police examined Crowe's car they found two wooden boxes each wrapped in wire and containing fourteen to twenty sticks of dynamite with a time fuse attached. Witnesses stated that Crowe was always blasting on his property and had an underground cave somewhere on the land.
Clarence Yuskis died at the scene of the crime. Mrs. Yuskis and Julius Karbauskas were taken to the hospital in Waterbury where Mr. Karbauskas was pronounced dead. Mrs. Yuskis's head wound was cleaned and bandaged and she was released from the hospital. State police records indicate that search parties were set up, and the woods in Wolcott were searched for months, but John Crowe was never found. For many years, on the anniversary of the shootings various newspapers would run an article rehashing the story and showing a picture of John Crowe in hopes that someone might provide a new lead. The murders and these repeated articles saddened the few Crowe family members that lived in Waterbury. They always felt that the Yuskis family had harassed Crowe over the years and that was why he committed such a horrible act. Fred Waldron of Allingtown noted similar information in the State Police files. He stated that Mr. Crowe made cider brandy in his shack and that the men in the Yuskis family were always bothering him in any way they could. A short time before the murders they talked about emptying the cider barrel and John Crowe's response was, "If the cider barrel was spilled out, he would spill their blood on the ground." From 1934 until 1956 police records indicate that many leads were followed and people were questioned pertaining to these shooting, but each led to a dead end. It was believed that some of Crowe's neighbors hid him from the authorities and then helped him to escape to Canada. Police records also indicate that many of the leads were out of state and even out of the country, but they never were able to solve this case. As of May 1956 no new evidence was added to the Crowe file.
(Information for this article was taken from the complete case file provided by the State Police; discussion with a relative of John Crowe.; 2008 article by F. Goodman in the "Wolcott Community News;" "The Waterbury Democrat, Tuesday, June 26, 1934; and "The American," Friday, April 26, 1989)Ever time I enter the Town Hall I enjoy looking to see what different artifacts of our history I might find. This month, I'd like to share with you the story of this building.
The scene of the 1934 murder on Wolcott Road. The top left photo is of John Crowe before he shaved his mustache. The cross at the bottom is where Julius Karbauskas was found. The arrow shows where Mrs. Yuskis was standing when her son was shot and the circle marks where Clarence was slain.
Trooper Harold Thomas is pointing to the spot where Julius Karbauskas was shot.
Clarence Yuskis was seated in this car when he was shot by John Crowe.
The interior of the shack that Crowe owned was jammed with debris, dynamite, some canned goods and a few articles of furniture. It was off of Beach Road.
This 1932 Roadster was owned and driven by John Crowe to the scene of the murder. Police found two crude dynamite bombs in the trunk.
Julius Karvauskas worked for the Yuskis family. He was also shot and killed by John Crowe.
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