On a hot July 30, 1973, just before 1:00 p.m., small downtown East Liverpool, Ohio, was shattered when nurse Frances Dugan came bursting from an antique store at 759 Dresden Avenue. “Call the police!” Frances screamed at someone across the street. “Something terrible has happened!” her scream begat one of Ohio’s strangest crime cases, and a cold case yet to be solved.
75-year-old Earl Tweed owned National Furniture & Upholstery Repair Company, where Frances just visited. East Liverpool’s population was about 25,000, and National Furniture was one of its family-owned businesses, a nondescript small building full of junk and discards, furniture waiting for a makeover.
Frances Dugan, visiting from Chicago, was antique shopping. Instead, she found 22-year-old pregnant Linda Morris, dead and covered in blood, and 4-year-old Angela, Linda’s daughter, covered in blood and barely alive. Someone had beaten them with a hammer. Linda wore a blue shirt and checkered pants. Her purse was near her body, which lay about thirty feet from the store entrance. The struggle had knocked over an old mattress propped against the wall. Angela was nearby.
Linda and Angela were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. Linda was coming in to speak to Earl about a rental home. Earl owned several low-income rental properties.
The arriving police officers slipped down the narrow corridor where the Morrises laid and found the murdered Earl Tweed near the basement stairway. Earl wore dark clothing. It appeared as if he had vainly attempted to protect himself from an attack. He had suffered 27 stab wounds and numerous blows from a hammer. Earl must have been interrupted as he prepared his lunch; there were two bread pieces with some lunchmeat on his cluttered old desk. Someone had interrupted his noon meal.
The murders happened after Earl’s part-time help had departed at 11:30 a.m. Earl, at 75, was not a threat. Linda, four months pregnant, was barely five feet tall and 110 pounds. Angela was a baby. All were easy to overtake. Still, the beatings were vicious, overkill. Later, an officer at the scene would recall, “there was so much blood.”
Linda’s husband, Lew Morris, was nearby working at a construction site. He was taken to the hospital where his only child Angela was fighting, in vain, to stay alive. She would succumb to her wounds. His mother, Lettie, was shopping in the area when she learned of the murders. She knew her daughter-in-law was going to Mr. Tweed’s store to inquire about the rental. Officers described Linda to Lettie outside of the store, and Lettie burst into tears.
Police cordoned off the scene, but 1973 police training was not as advanced. The crime scene was not as controlled. People were walking in and out of the building: officers, photographers, reporters, first responders. A thin rope of police tape held back the swelling crowd, and they seemed to come from everywhere to gawk at the scene. Dresden Avenue was a busy main thoroughfare, and this was a strange crime for East Liverpool. Right on the main street and “no one saw a thing!” one officer would later comment.
A search of the area located Earl’s wallet, empty of cash, on some stone steps leading up to West Ninth Avenue. A claw hammer and a pair of carpet shears covered in blood were located in a nearby trash can. There were also papers from the store strewn about these steps. (Some reports have a man running from the store and witnesses giving a description.) And that’s all police have to go on. Some investigators shared that they knew who killed the four people but could not prove the case. The murders of Linda, her two children, and Earl remained in the “unsolved” files. Despite the advancement of forensics, DNA and other analysis have not helped further the case.
The population of East Liverpool has dwindled to less than half of 25,000. The front of National Furniture is boarded closed. Detailed information on at least 40 pieces of evidence, including bloody fingerprints, hundreds of interviews, offers of a reward, and books of reports fill two thick case file binders. Still, the case remains cold. The detectives who worked the case are now deceased. Every rookie East Liverpool officer learns about “the Tweed Case.”
Earl’s only daughter recalls her father as a kind man. As a child, she often joined him when he collected rent. She remembers him as giving renters extra days to pay if they did not have full payments. If they had children and were low on funds, Earl would bring them a few groceries.
Her daddy Earl always wore a flower in the buttonhole of his suit jacket, she recalls fondly, tearfully. Crime scene photos reveal a tiny flower in his suit jacket’s buttonhole is peeking out between the horrific blood stains on Earl Tweed’s lifeless body.
Can you help solve this cold case? Any information can help. Please contact the East Liverpool, Ohio Police Department at (330) 385-1234. Address: 126 W 6th St, East Liverpool, OH 43920. Website: https://eastliverpool.com/departments/police/
Dunlap, D. (Director). “759 Dresden” (2010). 28th Parallel Productions.
Ove, T. (January 3, 2011). Documentary details Ohio cold case from 1973. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. https://www.post-gazette.com/news/nation/2011/01/03/Documentary-details-Ohio-cold-case-from-1973/stories/201101030181
"Sister, aunt of East Liverpool triple homicide victims still hopes for arrest, 46 years later." (October 8, 2019). WKBN First News 27 Website. https://www.wkbn.com/news/cold-case/sister-aunt-of-east-liverpool-triple-homicide-victims-still-hopes-for-arrest-46-years-later/
Waight, G. Death on Dresden Avenue. “Murder Will Out!” Unpublished Manuscript. East Liverpool Historical Society. Retrieved September 24, 2020 from http://www.eastliverpoolhistoricalsociety.org/deadresden.htm