A coroner’s inquest was convened on June 3 with Deputy Coroner Charles F. Kennedy presiding. Hotel manager Capen insisted that Dr. Binkley had killed himself. Police testified that the body’s position and the absence of signs of a struggle clearly pointed to suicide. Dr. Binkley, Jr., testified that he had purchased his parents' train tickets and mailed them to them. He said that his stepmother had told him that his father had $50 in cash when they arrived in Chicago and added that his father had also had two checks, the spending money that he regularly sent the couple. He believed that his father was sleeping at the time of the robbery, stating that he knew that his father would have struggled if he had been awake. “I am not a vindictive man, nor do I want any notoriety,” he said. “But if the hotel people persist in trying to cast aspersion on my father by intimating that he committed suicide they will have to reckon with me. I am not asking for any remuneration for his death in his hotel, nor am I trying to hold them accountable for the robbery that was committed, but for my mother’s sake and for the sake of my family, I will not stand quietly by and see his name besmirched.”
Left: The Wellington Hotel, Chicago, in the early twentieth century.
As early as the morning of June 3, the Chicago Tribune reported that after Mary and Eleanor Upchurch discovered the doctor’s body, hotel porter Thomas Moran immediately took them to the hotel manager’s office. However, at the inquest called on that day, Eleanor Upchurch told a different story. As she ended her testimony, Dr. Binkley, Jr., asked her, “Why don’t you tell how they attempted to lock you in a room?” Replying, “Oh, yes, I must tell that,” Eleanor stated that when she ran out into the hall to get help a man grabbed her and attempted to drag her into a room. She eventually struggled free and took the stairway, the unknown man blocking her access to the elevator. Her mother had reported a similar incident in which a man had locked her in a room briefly. The impact of Eleanor’s testimony was diminished when Moran testified that he had restrained the hysterical women to separate them from the crowd that was gathering in the hall.
Most compelling was the medical evidence from coroner’s physicians Henry W. Reinhardt and Joseph Springer, who testified that Dr. Binkley was missing two fingers on his left hand and that two other fingers were so badly crippled by rheumatism that they were virtually useless. They reported that there were no powder burns around the wound, which was inflicted from some distance. Coroner Hoffman, who conducted the ballistics tests, agreed and pointed out that with a left arm only 26.5 inches long, Dr. Binkley would have found it difficult to inflict the kind of wound he suffered. Commented Hoffman, “If Dr. Binkley shot himself with the revolver held in his left hand he must have pulled the trigger with his thumb.” Furthermore, the physicians believed that death was instantaneous, making it impossible for the victim to throw the gun onto the bed where it was found.
Letters and telegrams from Evansville were introduced as well. Earlier, according to the Tribune, the Reverend H. S. Morrison, Dr. Binkley’s minister, had reported that the doctor had been eager to pay a number of debts before his trip, an eagerness that led Morrison to believe the doctor had a premonition of death. In his letter Morrison said that he had received a cheerful letter from Dr. Binkley asking the name of the automobile that Morrison had recommended to him and urging him to reply as soon as possible. The letter, postmarked at 4 p.m. on the day of the doctor’s death, made it doubtful that he was contemplating suicide. A servant at the Binkley home reported that his gun had been found there; and, in contrast to what the police had stated earlier, the murder weapon was described as the kind a thief would use. Dr. Binkley, Jr., had testified that his father had no opportunity to purchase a gun on the day of his death. False leads and rumors.Back