The Murder of Dorothy Poore: The Girl in the Drawer


Dorothy Poore was nervous.

She knew that there were more opportunities for a good-paying job in Indianapolis, but now that she was here, Dorothy had already run into problems.

First there had been the man at the bus stop.

He was a little older than her, around his mid-twenties, with dark hair and a complexion to match. He had followed her when she had gotten off the bus, and had offered to carry her suitcase for her. The 18-year-old Dorothy had thought that he was good-looking, so she had let him.

Together, they walked to the Union Bus Terminal. Instead of handing it back to her when they arrived, the man carried it with him into the men’s restroom. He smiled, telling Dorothy that he didn’t want her going anywhere without him knowing about it.

When he came back out a few minutes later, a very upset Dorothy demanded that he return her suitcase. He did, and she immediately left for her hotel.

After a while, she noticed that a different man had started following her. When she was almost to her hotel, the stranger finally approached Dorothy and introduced himself. He told her that he was a bus terminal detective, and that it was his responsibility to look out for girls just like her.

She quickly broke away and went inside the hotel. He didn’t follow.

Inside, Dorothy breathed a sigh of relief. The only protection that she needed was for men like this to just leave her alone.

Dorothy had grown up in Clinton, Indiana. After her parents had gotten divorced several years prior, she and her mother, Hazel, had moved next door to Dorothy’s grandmother, Lilly Dancy.

Dorothy was determined to make a good life for herself. Her mother was a waitress at a local restaurant, and Dorothy herself had sometimes helped there when it got too busy. She had also worked as a waitress at another local restaurant, Mills Barbeque.

Dorothy had seen enough to know that wasn’t the life that she wanted for herself. She wanted something more, something that could provide a more comfortable lifestyle without being on your feet all night and putting up with rude customers.

In high school, she was an excellent student who had specialized in typing and shorthand, a way of taking dictation very quickly using special abbreviations and symbols. Her goal was to start a business career, and she felt that these skills would give her an advantage in finding a job in that field.

Dorothy also knew that she probably wasn’t going to find a great job in Clinton, either. Her eyes soon turned to Indianapolis. As she sat on the bed of her hotel room, Dorothy knew that she was right. This was the place that she needed to be, and there was opportunity for her here.

Still, the two strangers from earlier that night had rattled her.

Dorothy was about 5 feet, 6 inches tall, with a slim build, dark hair, and a winning smile. She wasn’t unused to the attention of men. But this was something different.

She turned out the light and lay on the bed, but she couldn’t calm down enough to sleep. Dorothy finally gave up and stayed up through the rest of the night.

A short time later, Dorothy went back home to Clinton. One of her first stops was to visit her grandmother next door. The two were very close, and Dorothy had always confided in her.

Dorothy told Lilly everything that had happened with the two strangers. Now that she was back home, in familiar surroundings that she had always known, things seemed better. Her experiences in Indianapolis seemed like a dream.

Afterwards, Dorothy felt better. It was just a fluke, she told herself. She could make this work.

On July 6, Hazel Poore drove Dorothy back to Indianapolis and rented her a room at the Adams Hotel. Dorothy had made an appointment to take a Civil Service Examination on July 8, just two days away. Passing it could mean access to well-paying government jobs and a step closer to the life that Dorothy wanted.

On the way back to Clinton, Hazel began to have second thoughts about having her only child living so far away. She already missed Dorothy, and desperately wanted her to come back home.

As soon as she got back to Clinton, Hazel called her daughter and begged her to come home. Reluctantly, Dorothy obeyed and went back home on July 9.

Over the next few days, Dorothy gradually became more and more restless. She knew that her mother loved her and wanted her to stay close to home, but she had dreams of her own. Dorothy just knew that she would never realize any of them in small-town Clinton.

On July 14, Dorothy said goodbye to  Hazel and Lilly and returned to Indianapolis a third time.

She had made arrangements to stay with a former classmate, Shirley Coletti. Coletti was living with her aunt and uncle, Henry Crocker, Jr.  Dorothy told her mother that she would call that Thursday and let her know how things were going.

Thursday came and went, but Dorothy never called. Hazel let it go, telling herself that Dorothy was a young, determined woman and was working hard to find a job. She had probably just gotten busy and forgotten to call.

Besides, Dorothy was supposed to come home that Saturday. She would just talk to her then.

But Dorothy didn’t come home. This wasn’t like her at all. Worried, Hazel called the Crockers in Indianapolis.

They told her that Dorothy had called them on July 14th and said that it was so late that she had decided to just get a hotel for the night. Dorothy never came to their house.  Coletti said that Dorothy had also told her that she would phone on the previous Thursday, but never had.

What had happened to Dorothy?

Ella Mae Bobby and Julia Bell, two maids at the Claypool Hotel in Indianapolis, were performing their usual duties cleaning rooms on the sixth floor of the hotel.

The Claypool Hotel was one of the most popular event venues in the city, and had been for decades. They valued their reputation, and demanded that all rooms were cleaned properly and everything in them was in good working order.

The first thing that they noticed when they entered room 665 was the smell. It was overpowering. It was a rotten smell, like something had spoiled or died. As best as they could tell, it was coming from the dresser.

Someone had to find out what it was, but they agreed that it wasn’t going to be them. They left the room and called William Kimbrough, another employee at the hotel.

Entering the room and trying his best to keep from gagging, Kimbrough carefully approached the dresser. The stench was awful. Steeling himself, he opened the top drawer.


His eyes watering, he grimaced and pulled open the middle drawer.


That meant that whatever it was, it must be in the bottom drawer.

Instead of opening the last drawer, Kimbrough decided to just remove the middle one and look down into the drawer from above.

Setting the drawer aside, he peered into the dresser. There, stuffed inside, was the dead, bloated body of a human being.

Kimbrough left the room and immediately told hotel management, who in turn called the Indianapolis Police Department.

Homicide detectives arrived, led by Captain Robert E. Reilly. They determined the body belonged to a young woman. It was wearing a bra, panties, and a slip. Although the body was too bloated to see any obvious cause of death, it was obvious that she hadn’t stuffed herself in the drawer.

The question was, who had?

They learned that Room 665 was registered to a man named John O’Shea. O’Shea had left a New York City address, and had told people that he worked for a finance company. He had rented the room for a few days over the weekend, but hadn’t ever checked out.

A few days was more than long enough to figure out a way to stuff a body into a dresser drawer. O’Shea immediately became the prime suspect in the case, and authorities set out to find him.

Witnesses described him as being a well-dressed man in his mid-30’s with a medium height and build.

A woman’s handbag made of blue cloth was found behind the room’s radiator. A pair of blue jeans, a white blouse, a pair of sandals, and a broken blue belt were found in a utility closet, shoved into the back as far as they would go.

Indianapolis had just experienced a heat wave, and there was no air conditioning on the sixth floor of the Claypool Hotel. The extreme temperatures had caused the body to decompose faster than normal.

Firemen were able to remove the body from the dresser, but the smell was so bad now that they had to wear gas masks in order to stand it. It permeated the entire floor, and hotel management temporarily evacuated the guests on the floor until the body had been taken out of the building.

At the coroner’s office, the body was identified as 18-year-old Dorothy Poore. The coroner determined that she had been dead for upwards of 36 hours, placing her death on the previous Thursday or maybe Friday.

Dorothy’s body was so badly decomposed that the doctors couldn’t tell if there were any bruises or ligature marks on her neck, both tell-tale signs that would have meant she was strangled. Regardless, as near as they could determine, she had died from either strangulation or had been suffocated with a pillow.

To rule out any kind of drugging or poisoning, the coroner’s office sent Dorothy’s internal organs off for further toxicological tests.

Detectives discovered that Dorothy had been staying at the Lorraine Hotel. Detectives found her belongings there, but nothing gave them any clues as to who her killer was.

A witness at the Lorainne had seen Dorothy leaving the previous Thursday evening wearing the blue jeans and other clothes that were found in the utility closet at the Claypool. This meant it was very likely that she had left almost directly from the Lorainne to the Claypool.

Detectives believed that Dorothy must have gone to Room 665 for some kind of job interview, presumably with John O’Shea. What they couldn’t understand is why she would have gone to an important job interview dressed so casually.

Hazel Poore was devastated. She couldn’t believe that her daughter was gone. She told detectives that Dorothy must have been forced into the room at the Claypool because there was no way she would have ever gone into a hotel room alone with a man.

Having learned all they could from the autopsy and the crime scene, detectives focused their efforts on finding their prime suspect, John O’Shea.

According to hotel staff, he had checked-in to the Claypool Hotel on Thursday. On Friday afternoon, O’Shea paid to stay in the room again.

A few hours after he paid, two maids went into Room 665 to clean. O’Shea was in the room when they did, and had a pleasant conversation with them.

As they cleaned, he casually pointed out a spot of blood on the bed linen. By way of explanation, he explained that he suffered from sinus troubles and had gotten a nose bleed. He also told them that he wanted them to clean the room because he was expecting his mother to visit him and wanted it to look nice.

On Saturday, he never checked out at the hotel desk. The room remained unoccupied until the cleaning staff entered the following day and Dorothy Poore’s body was discovered.

Witnesses had allegedly seen Poore in the elevator at the Claypool Hotel with O’Shea.

The two were very affectionate, and he told the elevator operator that Dorothy was his “sweetheart.” The two of them got off on the sixth floor. Police theorized that Dorothy might have been drugged before O’Shea brought her to the hotel room.

The next morning, Dorothy was seen leaving her own accommodations at the Lorraine Hotel after paying her room bill.

The search for O’Shea had its first breakthrough when Morris Riskin, the vice-president of a local laundry and cleaning company, contacted police about a former employee. He had seen the sketch of O’Shea in the newspapers, and thought that he looked like a man named Victor Lively.

Riskin explained that Lively had been absolutely crazy about women, even shouting at them as they walked down the street.

When they saw a photo of Lively, the resemblance to the police sketch was unmistakable. Obtaining a copy of the photo, detectives began showing it to staff of the Claypool Hotel. They all said that the photo was John O’Shea, the man in Room 665.

Now that they had a real name, the Indianapolis police shifted their focus to finding Victor Lively.

They discovered that he was staying at another local hotel, where he had checked in under his actual name. A handwriting comparison between the two signatures showed they were a definitive match.

Police learned that Lively was born in New Orleans and had been raised in Beaumont, Texas. Law enforcement officials there confirmed that Lively was a known criminal and sex offender there. On several occasions, Lively had placed “help wanted” ads in local newspapers, offering to hire women for legitimate-sounding jobs.

When they called, he would tell them to meet him in a room at a local hotel. When they arrived, the interview would start innocently enough, but always take a perverse turn. On several occasions, part of their “interview” was stripping to their underwear and walking around the room for him.

Police in LaGrange, Illinois, also contacted the Indianapolis authorities about Lively. He had lived there for a short time working as a cab driver, and several women had filed complaints with the police about him. Many of these had been of a sexual nature.

A few days after the discovery of Dorothy Poore’s body, St. Louis County Sheriff’s Deputies Robert E. Wilkerson and Carroll Rowland were driving along Route 66 west of the city of St. Louis. As they drove, they saw a man step out from behind some bushes alongside the road.

He was relatively short with red hair, and was wearing a yellow shirt and blue pants. The deputies didn’t think much of it and drove on.

As they did, something about the man nagged at Wilkerson. Looking around the car, he found a newspaper that he had kept.

Scanning the articles, he found one on Dorothy Poore’s murder, which included the last known description of their prime suspect, Victor Lively. It was a perfect match for the man they had just seen.

Turning the car around, they drove back and found the man walking on the shoulder of the road. They pulled over and went to talk to him.

When the deputies asked for his identification, he said that he didn’t have any. He said his name was Victor Lively, and he was hitchhiking his way to Texas. They had found their suspect.

Wilkerson and Rowland took him into custody and drove him back to the sheriff’s office for questioning.

They discovered that Lively had been living and working in East St. Louis, Illinois, as a salesman for a home improvement company.

He was a small, arrogant man, but seemed to get along with everyone well enough.

While working for the contracting company, Lively took a bus into Indianapolis on July 10 and 11th, then came back to Illinois for the two days after that. On July 13th, Lively told his boss, Al Cohen, that his wife was in Indianapolis visiting friends and that he was going to go see her. That was on July 14th.

From that point, Lively’s actions meshed perfectly with what Indianapolis detectives had found out about his movements in the city.

When Lively had arrived in Indianapolis, he checked into the Kirkwood Hotel. He boldly asked staff if there was a way they could have a woman brought to his room. By this, Lively was asking them if they could provide him with a prostitute. He was told no.

The next day, on July 15th, Lively checked out of the Kirkwood Hotel. Later that day, a cab driver named Wesley Ray Irvin drove him to the Claypool Hotel.

When interviewed, Irvin said that Lively had also asked him where he could find a prostitute. He said that he would pay upwards of $150 for one. Irvin refused.

A few days later, Lively had walked out of the hotel and returned to East St. Louis.

Witnesses said that he seemed more irritable when he got back, like he was always on edge. Some said it was after he had seen the headlines of Dorothy Poore’s murder.

Finally, Lively came to Al Cohen and demanded his paycheck. Cohen gave it to him, and Lively left to hitchhike his way to Texas. That was when the deputies had found him.

Lively had gained a lot of attention in the newspapers, so there was not only the sheriff and his staff present, but also a few newspaper reporters. They were even allowed to take photos.

At first, Lively was calm and collected. He was the picture of arrogant confidence, answering questions like he was just having a polite conversation. But as things continued, Lively became increasingly agitated. He didn’t seem quite as confident, and he would periodically run his hands over his face.

As the questioning continued, the pressure proved to be too much. Victor Lively confessed to the murder of Dorothy Poore.

He said that after he had checked out of the Kirkwood Hotel, the establishment he initially stayed at, he spent a good part of the day drinking. When he was done, he went for a walk. Lively eventually ended up at the Claypool Hotel, where he checked in under the name of John O’Shea. He put his belongings in his room, Room 665, then left again.

He said he ran into a couple of associates of his and drove around the city for a while. Lively said he left them and went to a local theater.

Later, he ended up talking to a cab driver who knew where he could find a prostitute. The only thing was that there were two women, and he would have to pay for them both. When Lively protested and said that he only wanted one, the cabbie told him that it either he take both of them or go without.

Lively agreed and returned to the Claypool Hotel.

Later, he said, the two women showed up to his room. Their names were Dorothy and Ruth.

Contrary to witness statements, Lively said that he had never been kissing Dorothy in the elevator of the Claypool Hotel, nor had he told anyone that she was his sweetheart.

The room was hot, so Dorothy took off her blue jeans and white blouse. He said that they talked about jobs for the next hour and a half.

Ruth was ready to leave, but Dorothy wanted to stay.

The two women began arguing. Dorothy finally told Ruth to leave, and she would stay by herself. Ruth became angrier, and the argument continued. This time they fought about Lively’s drinking. Suddenly, Ruth hit him over the head with something.

Dazed, he watched as they went into the bathroom. They carried on their argument, then Ruth came out and stormed out of the hotel room.

Now it was just Lively and Dorothy. She drank some of the gin, then got annoyed, telling him that she didn’t like it and she wanted whiskey.

Lively lied and said that it was too late to get any. He knew he could get some from one of the bellboys, but he didn’t want to spend the money.

When he told her this, Lively said that Dorothy flew into a rage, slapping him and calling him names. Lively said that he reached up to grab her arms, but somehow, he wrapped his hands around her throat instead.

He was small, but muscular, with strong working man’s hands. He clenched down tightly on Dorothy’s slim neck for first a minute, then one more. She had long since stopped struggling. He held his grip for a while longer, then finally let go.

Dorothy dropped heavily to the bed. She was still breathing. Worried, Lively went and got a wet towel and began wiping her face in order to revive her.

As he did, Dorothy “started gurgling and sucking air.” Then she stopped. He knew Dorothy was dead.

It was 2 a.m. and Lively wasn’t sure what to do. He sat up the rest of the night, drinking the remnants of the gin that he had bought.

When asked about putting the body in the dresser, he said he didn’t remember, but he figured that he must have done it. Gathering up her clothes, he hid them in the utility closet.

When he was finished, Lively gathered his things and walked out the main entrance of the hotel. He had already paid to keep the room another night, so he didn’t bother checking out. Outside, he kept walking to the bus station and returned to East St. Louis.

After signing a confession, Lively was put in jail for the night, then transported back to Indianapolis and given over to the police department there.

On the way, Lively told detectives that he hadn’t been telling the whole truth when he had confessed. He wanted to tell Indianapolis police the real story.

He said that when Ruth and Dorothy had come to his room, he had assumed that they were prostitutes. However, he quickly realized that they weren’t.

Lively explained that Dorothy had been a “good girl.” There had never been any argument, and she had never attacked him. When Ruth left, he had tried to have sex with Dorothy.

She hadn’t wanted to, but he tried to force her. Lively said he managed to get most of her clothes off, but Dorothy started screaming. When she had, that’s when he had strangled her.

On August 12, 1954, Victor Lively was indicted for the murder of Dorothy Poore.

While the lawyers prepared for trial, detectives focused their efforts on finding the mysterious ‘Ruth’ that Lively insisted was with Dorothy. Not only could she possibly shed more light on the case and what happened the night of the murder, but Lively’s defense attorney wanted her as a witness.

The first person they identified as a possible ‘Ruth’ was Ruth Marie Taylor, a young woman had worked as a clerk at the Adams Hotel.

Her and Dorothy had met while Dorothy was staying there for one of her job trips, and the two had become friends.

Ruth Taylor freely answered all the detectives’ questions, but she told them that she had no idea who Victor Lively was, let alone been to a hotel room with him. She hadn’t even been inside the Claypool Hotel.

The police were inclined to believe her, but to make sure they showed her to Lively and asked if that was the person he knew as ‘Ruth.’ Lively shook his head and said it wasn’t. He’d never seen Taylor before.

Taylor claimed that the woman he had met the night of the murder was middle-aged, with an average height and build with lighter colored hair. He thought it might have been dirty blond or red.

She also had a visible scar on her forehead, although she styled her hair in such a way as to hide it.

Taylor was released, and the search continued.

In mid-September, police found another likely candidate.

Her name was Grace A. Lawson, a burlesque dancer who lived in Indianapolis with her husband and six children. She denied ever having known Victor Lively or Dorothy Poore.

However, when Lively saw her, he told detectives he was almost positive that Lawson was the woman he had met.

Lawson was adamant. She kept telling the police that she wasn’t the one they were looking for. Finally, she demanded to be given a lie detector test to settle the issue.

Police consented. Arrangements were made, and Lawson was given the test.

Oddly, the machine didn’t react to any of the answers that Lawson gave. There was nothing definitive enough to say whether she was telling the truth or not. Although they were baffled at why the machine hadn’t worked, detectives released Lawson.

In late November 1954, Victor Lively’s murder trial began.

It was held in a small basement courtroom that was packed with spectators. A few hundred others were crowded in the halls outside, eagerly listening to what they could.

Eleven witnesses were called on the first day, including Dr. Roy Storms, the coroner who had first examined Dorothy’s body.

He stated that her cause of death was strangulation, just like Lively had confessed. A toxicology report had revealed that Dorothy hadn’t been drugged, as initially suspected. Other witnesses that day included hotel employees, doctors, police, and the firemen who had removed the body from Room 665.

The next day, Lively was put on the witness stand. To everyone’s surprise, he denied his first two confessions, saying that the police had forced him to make them.

The sheriff and deputies who had initially interviewed him denied it, but Lively insisted. When asked if he was physically abused, Lively said he hadn’t been, but he was afraid that it could happen when he signed the confession.

Unfortunately for Lively, the entire interview had been conducted in the presence of not only policemen, but also secretaries and reporters, who took several pictures during the interview process.

Lively’s accusation was dismissed.

In another surprise twist, Lively again went against his previous confessions and claimed that Dorothy had willingly had sex with him.

This time, he said that he and Dorothy had gone for a walk, and when they got back to the hotel room ‘Ruth’ had left. Lively and Poore had then started having sex.

In the middle of the act, he said that she suddenly let out a high-pitched scream and he passed out from being too drunk.

When he woke up the next morning, Dorothy was dead.

Just as he had multiple times before, Lively swore he was telling the truth.

On the last day of the trial, Grace Lawson, who Lively said was ‘Ruth’ from the night of the murder, took the stand.

The witness just before her testified that Lawson had been working at a burlesque theater on the night of the murder. There was no way that she could have been at the Claypool Hotel.

But the defense had still called her to testify. Everyone sat on the edge of their seat. Would she be able to reveal something that would change the nature of the entire case? The jury and the assembled people in the courtroom held their breath in eager anticipation.

However, the defense asked her two questions, and then dismissed her. That was the extent of Grace Lawson’s testimony. Nothing more ever came from it.

After nine hours of deliberation, the jury found Lively guilty of murder and sentenced him to life in prison. After the verdict was delivered, he turned and sobbed on his defense attorney’s shoulder. The lawyer tried consoling him, telling Lively, “I saved your life, didn’t I?”

Lively was sent to Indiana State Prison to serve out his sentence. He was paroled in 1980, and died of heart disease in Fort Wayne, Indiana, in 1981.



Janes, Paul N. ‘Fine Girl’ Had Reason to Fear City. The Indianapolis Star, 7/19/1954

3 Identify Killer Suspect. The Indianapolis Star, 7/20/1954

Girl’s Body Found in Hotel. The Indianapolis Star, 7/19/1954

Griffo, Charles G. and Anderson, Bill. Nation Hunts Hotel Killer. The Indianapolis Star, 7/23/1954

Police Return Killer Who Talked Too Much. The Indianapolis News, 7/24/1954

Police Return Killer Who Talked Too Much. The Indianapolis News, ,7/25/1954

Killer Bares Attack on Girl. The Indianapolis Star, 7/25/1954

‘Ruth’ Sought Anew in Hotel Slaying. The Indianapolis Star, 8/30/1954

Lie Detector ‘Flunks’ In ‘Ruth’ Identity Test. The Indianapolis Star, 9/18/1954

Martinez, Kimiko. Indy’s darkest local lore: Embassy Suites. Indianapolis Star, 10/5/2017

Griffo, Charles G. Lively Defense To Say He Was In ‘Gin Stupor.’ The Indianapolis Star, 11/16/1954

Roberts, Bill. Maid Tells of Finding Girl’s Body in Drawer. The Indianapolis News, 11/22/1954

Expert Gives Story of Dorothy Death. The Indianapolis Star, 11/23/1954

Confession Forced, Says Lively; No, Says Policeman. The Indianapolis News, 11/24/1954

‘We Made Love and I Blacked Out’ – Lively. The Indianapolis News, 11/30/1954

State Winds Up Lively Case Demanding Chair. The Indianapolis News, 12/1/1954

Griffo, Charles G. State Rips Holes Into Lively Story Of ‘Gin Stupor’ While Dorothy Died. The Indianapolis Star, 12/1/1954

Griffo, Charles G. Lively Convicted, Gets Life. The Indianapolis Star, 12/2/1954

Griffo, Charles G. Lively Refuses Appeal Of Life Term Decision. The Indianapolis Star, 12/3/1954

Mitchell, Dawn. True Crime: The ‘dresser drawer murder’ at the Claypool Hotel. Indy Star, 7/13/2018

United States of America, Bureau of the Census; Washington, D.C.; Seventeenth Census of the United States, 1950; Record Group: Records of the Bureau of the Census, 1790-2007; Record Group Number: 29; Residence Date: 1950; Home in 1950: Fairview Park, Vermillion, Indiana; Roll: 3054; Sheet Number: 1; Enumeration District: 83-10

Indiana Archives and Records Administration; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Death Certificates; Year: 1981; Roll: 03

Hazel Poore. U.S., Find a Grave® Index, 1600s-Current [database on-line]. Lehi, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2012.




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