THE GIRL SLAYERS
Seconded only to the Victor Licata case, this is probably the most "Well Know" Gore File case to come out of the Reefer Madness era. The Girl Slayer’s, as they were soon to become know, were made mention of, just about everywhere. In fact it seems that just about every newspaper in American from Beloit Wisconsin, to the New York Times run one or two articles about the case. Even LOOK magazine (a very well known magazine at the time), even run a piece on the story, as did other magazines etc. The D.E.A.’s (then known as the Bureau or Narcotics) own files (now housed at the National Archives, college Park, Md) on this one case easily measure over a foot thick.
Point being made, this was a famous case and thus deserves some attention.
WARNING: the Museum has not (as yet) had the opportunity to do any in depth investigation into this case. And as can be seen from the Victor Licata affair (the kid didn’t even commit the crime), things are not always the way they were portrayed as being.
What was the truth, did Marihuana really cause this to happen? Well anything is possible, but most modern day accounts of the story seem to agree on one thing. That the defense attorneys (which were supposed to have been extremely good ones simply didn’t have any other out. The evidence was overwhelming and confessions had been made, thus they decided to use the Marihuana angle as a way of saving their clients and it worked. Both I believe served less than 20 years for a cold blooded murder – not bad.
NOTE: It also does appear that at least Mrs. Sohl was indeed using Medical Cannabis at the time to reduce the pain of a back injury she suffered in an auto accident. However, in terms of blaming the Marihuana for the incident, it should be pointed out that today ten’s of thousands of Americans are making use of Medical Cannabis WITHOUT going out an committing and such (ah) “Random Acts of Violence”. Again, she had some pretty good lawyers.
Name: - Ethel Sohl, Genevieve Owens - Location: - Newark, N. J. - Date: - 1936-37
What the Narc’s were claiming
In New Jersey, a young woman recently confessed that she and a girl companion lad held up and coldly murdered a bus driver. She had been smoking marijuana cigarettes or “reefers,” she said and didn't know what she was doing. -- The CHRISTIAN CENTURY - June 29, 1938
The story of these two New Jersey girls who, under the weird distortion of right and wrong, murdered a man for $2.10, has been re-enacted over and over with but slight variations. -- On the Trail of Marihuana the Weed of Madness (1939) By Earle Rowell
1937 - B. Sohl - 25 - F - Shot and killed bus driver, while imder influence to rob him of about $5; jury trial with her accomplice; both guilty. - Life imprisonment -- 6th conference report - INEOA 1965
A girl in Newark, N. J., got into an argument with a taxi-driver over his fare of $2.10. She refused to pay it. When he insisted, she took a revolver from her purse and killed him. "It seemed to be the only reasonable thing to do," she told the judge. -- True Story (Magazine) Dec. 1948
"In Newark, N. J., two young girls killed a bus driver for $2.10. In the trial that followed it was found that the girls were Marijuana smokers; they pleaded not guilty to the crime, under the claim of temporary insanity produced by Marijuana. The girl who fired the shot when asked why she did it said: 'It seemed right to me at the time. I guess I was 'high' on reefers."' -- War With The Underworld (Book) 1946
"It seemed the right thing to do," was the plea of Mrs. Ethel Sohl, one of the two girls mentioned previously as on trial for the holdup and murder of a New Jersey taxi driver for $2.10. Thus, in plaintive plea, she told how, while intoxicated with marihuana, she thought it was the right thing to do, and pleaded not guilty because of a temporary insanity induced by the drug that destroyed her ability to distinguish between right and wrong. -- On the Trail of Marihuana the Weed of Madness (1939) By Earle Rowell
On December 21st, 1937, twenty-year-old Ethel (Bunny) Sohl, daughter of a Newark, N.J., policeman, held up, robbed and killed a bus driver, William Barhorst. The holdup netted her $2.10. Sand her 17-ear-old companion, Genevieve (Chippy) Owens, testified on the witness stand when being tried for the murder before a Newark jury February 10 , 1938, that they were "high" on marihuana when they committed the terrible deed, and blamed their brief crime career on the use of the "loco weed." Their counsel, offering "legal insanity" as the basis of his defense arguments, stated that his clients were not normal, but were crazed addicts of the Mexican weed when they killed Barhorst. "Legal insanity" and "marihuana madness" are evidently synonymous terms. Watch for this "legal insanity" plea. It will be used often since it succeeded in saving these two young girl criminals from the death sentence. -- The Moloch of Marihuana (1945) By Robert James Devine
On December 21st, 1937, twenty-year-old Ethel (Bunny) Sohl, daughter of a Newark, N. J. policeman, held up, robbed and killed a bus driver, William Barhorst. The hold-up netted her $2.10. She and her seventeen-year-old companion, Chippy Owens, testified on the witness stand when being tried for murder before the jury that they were HIGH on marihuana when they committed the crime, and blamed reefers for their crime career. Their counsel offered "legal insanity" for defense, stating they were not normal, but were crazed by the Mexican weed. She received life imprisonment. It should have been the chair. – Enemies Of Youth (Book) 1939
In almost every big city and in many small towns reefer smoking is considered "smart" by young and foolish patrons of questionable, so-called night clubs. It was in such a place that Ethel Sohl took up the habit together with her girl friend, Genevieve Ownes. One night while riding on a bus in New Jersey, the "Devil's Weed" released all of Ethel's inhibitions. She had needed money but had always been afraid of punishment if she stole any, but on this night marihuana had removed her fear. When the bus had reached a lonely spot, she shot the driver, William Barhorst, and robbed him of exactly $2.10. Ethel and Genevieve drew life sentences. -- American Weekly [Sunday supplement] – S.F Examiner - July 28, 1940
In several cases where marihuana has apparently played a heavy role in murders or holdups, investigation has shown the statement to be a mechanism of defense attorneys, or newspaper invention. For instance, in the killing of a bus driver by Ethel Sohl and Genevieve Owens, two female bandits in Newark, New Jersey, last year, one of the girls insisted that marihuana had so distorted her sense of right and wrong that she had no true knowledge of what she was doing. A nearer approach to the truth, according to officers, was that Krafft-Ebing elements were involved and that Ethel Sohl, masculine of manner and appearance, dominated her feminine partner, and led the way into crime like a gangster with his moll. -- DESIGNS IN SCARLET By Courtney Ryley Cooper 1939
Twenty-year-old Ethel (Bunny) Sohl, daughter of a Newark, N. J., policeman, held up, robbed and killed a bus driver, William Barhorst. The holdup netted her $2.10. She and her 17-year-old companion, Genevieve (Chippy) Owens, testified on the witness stand when being tried for the murder before a Newark jury that they were "high' on marihuana when they committed the terrible deed, and blamed their brief crime career on the use of the "loco weed." Their counsel, offering "legal insanity" as the basis of his defense arguments, stated that his clients were not normal, but were crazed addicts of the Mexican weed when they killed Barhorst. "Legal insanity" and "marihuana madness" are evidently synonymous terms. Watch for this "legal insanity" plea. It has been used since it succeeded in saving these two young girl criminals from the death sentence. -- “Assassin of Youth” (Book) 1954 By Robert Devine
In Newark two girls, one the daughter of a highly respected policeman, held up and murdered a bus driver for some small change. "It was marihuana," they pleaded. -- DETECTIVE WORLD (magazine) – Dec. 1947
NEW YORK TIMES
[e]- Feb. 11,1938 pg. 46 “Mrs. Sohl Admits Hold-up Shooting”
[e]- Feb 12, 1938 pg. 7 “Parents Feared Mrs. Sohl Insane” – (She describes girl’s strange behavior – expert explains effects of marijuana) (James Munch testimony- must read)
[e]- Feb 13, 1938 pg. 26 “Insanity Stressed in Mrs. Sohl’s Case”
[See Reefer Madness Newspaper Index pamphlet for more references]
NOTE: Due to extremely long download times, we’ve had to reduce the quality of this magazine article to what we term “barely readable”. In addition anything written about in a “TRUE DETECTIVE” genre magazine should be treated with great skepticism. However, this is a (so-call) first hand account and (if true) does give some inside details into the murder.
WANT TO KNOW MORE:
Due to space / download time considerations, only selected materials are displayed. If you would like to obtain more information, feel free to contact the museum. All our material is available (at cost) on CD-Rom format.