The Murder of Margaret Martin
"our little girl fought for herself"
On December 17, 1938, 19-year-old college graduate Margaret Martin left her home in Kingston, Pennsylvania to meet with an unknown man who offered her a potential secretarial job. When she failed to return, Martin’s family reported her missing and began a search of the surrounding area. Four days later her body was discovered in the wilderness around 20 miles away. She had been horribly tortured, mutilated and strangled before her bound and trussed body was dumped in a mountain stream where it was found by a hunter. There were few clues as to her killer’s identity, except the owner of a sawmill reported interrupting an unknown trespasser, and police believe this is where the murder occurred. Witnesses came forward with a description of a man seen with Martin around the time of her disappearance but no one has ever been arrested and charged in connection with her murder.
At the beginning of December 1938, Margaret Martin graduated with honours from Wilkes-Barre Business College, having attended classes to gain secretarial skills with the intention of finding work as a stenographer. A former classmate, Betty Hopkins described her as, “a shy, studious, friendly girl who had many friends”, and she was well liked within the community of Kingston, in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania. Her parents raised Margaret and her siblings as devout Catholics, and her father John Martin, was a coal mine foreman and member of the local democratic committee. The Martin’s had four children, of which 19-year-old Margaret was the eldest and included, 17-year-old Mary, 15-year-old Helen and 12-year-old Jack.
Margaret Martin was contacted the Saturday morning of 17 December 1938, by an unknown man who offered her a job. He explained he was setting up an insurance company and was in need of a qualified stenographer and had a suitable secretarial position available. He added that he had heard of her through the Wilkes-Barre Business College. Ms. Martin was gleefully anticipating her first job since graduating college and looking forward to earning some money before the Christmas holidays, and she agreed to meet with the man at Kingston Corners, located not far from the Martin family home. When she left the house that morning to keep her appointment with the mysterious telephone caller, Margaret promised her parents she would return home immediately. It would be the last time they saw her alive. When she failed to appear by the evening, her worried family and friends contacted police and reported her missing.
Despite his admission of guilt, Taylor was unable to reveal to detectives how he disposed of the victim’s clothing, which had never been found. After more than ten hours of questioning the young man repudiated his confession. NY Detective Captain George W. Donaldson who was leading the investigation explained that the military authorities at Fort Jay joined the investigation being conducted by the State Motor Police and the Federal Bureau of Investigation because Taylor had been dishonourably discharged from the army. Although he denied murdering Ms. Martin, he did confess to other crimes, including several robberies, a stabbing in New York and of defrauding several hotels in Philadelphia, Newark NJ and Elizabeth NJ. Subsequently he was not charged with murder.
In the decades after her murder, the circumstances of Margaret Martin’s death are still unexplained and her killer has never been brought to justice. Many of those who worked the case came to believe the man responsible must have been a local, because of his knowledge of the area, whilst others suspect it might have been the work of a serial killer. Despite the advancement of forensic scientific techniques, the case remains unsolved.