When I was growing up in Wolcott in the 1950s, my brother loved to scare my sister and I by telling us stories about John Crowe who was hiding in the woods and how he was going to get us. If you have lived in the town for over thirty years you might remember the story of the John Crowe murders. If not, let me share the story with you.
The year was 1934 and the place was Wolcott Road, also referred to as Wolcott Street. The Yuskis family lived in a house where the present day Rite Aid store is located. Their property crossed Wolcott Road where a barn, garage, some small shacks, and farmland were sandwiched between Potuccos Ring and Beach Roads. The family consisted of five members: 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 in a small shack across Wolcott Road on that property. The Yuskis family and Mr. Karbauskas were of Lithuanian descent.
Most of the land in Wolcott was farmland or thick brush, the 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. 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. At this time Henry Norton was the Deputy Sheriff and Bill Klitka was the Constable in Wolcott.
Mr. John Crowe owned seventy-five acres of land adjoining the Yuskis property on Beach and Spindle Hill Roads. He had a small shack on his property that he stayed in on weekends, but he lived in Waterbury during the week. Mr. Crowe made daily trips to his 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 years old.
It was Sunday, June 24, 1934. The Yuskis family and Mr. Karbauskas had finished their noon meal at about 12:30 P.M. 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. Clarence changed into his bathing suit and waited for Mildred to get changed so they could go swimming. As Clarence sat in his parked car waiting for his sister, Mr. Crowe drove past. Crowe 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 and she ran back into the house. Crowe then went to his car and drove off 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 MacCormackÕs 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 AndrewsÕs 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 said that he said ÒhelloÓ and Crowe nodded. He didnÕt think anything about the gun or gun shots because he heard there was a pheasant in that woods and maybe John had shot him and was going to get him. CroweÕs car was parked about twenty feet off of Wolcott Road and about 1500 feet away from his shack. When the police examined CroweÕs 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. YuskisÕs 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. Crowe said 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 lead to a dead end. It was believed that some of CroweÕs 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.
(F. Goodman, 2/27/08) Information for this article was taken from the complete case file provided by the State Police and by a relative of John Crowe.
Police sketch of John Crowe
Early photo of John Crowe
Yuskis House on Wolcott Road where Rite Aid is located today.
View looking west showing inside of CroweÕs house.
View looking west showing the Yuskis barn and garage. Today this is Sebastian Plaza where Dunkin Donuts is located.
Looking northeast, showing CroweÕs car and dirt road leading to the Crowe house.