A Murder on Thanksgiving
With Thanksgiving approaching, we thought now would be a good time to talk about a fascinating local true crime case that took place right around this time of year (but we didn’t want to do it on Thanksgiving because, well…that would be a bummer). But it’s right about now when we all try to think of something that we are thankful for, and one thing we can all be thankful for is that we haven’t been brutally murdered on a dairy farm, on Thanksgiving (well, technically, it was Thanksgiving eve). Sadly, this was the fate of the four members of the Germond Family of Stanford in 1930. This case caused such a stir in Dutchess County and across the country that it even got the attention of fellow Dutchess County resident and Governor of New York, Franklin D. Roosevelt.
It was a quiet evening on November 26th, and 18-year-old Bernice Germond was sitting on a bus traveling from Poughkeepsie, where she was studying at the Eastman Business College. Bernice was headed home to her family’s farm in Stanford, on the Salt Point road. When the bus stopped in front of the property, Bernice mentioned to the driver, Mr. Dennis Haggerty, “looks like nobody’s home. The house is dark.” Those would be the last words that anyone would hear her utter (except for perhaps the killer). The house was just off the road and behind it was a shed, even further behind that was a cattle barn. As the Eagle News proclaimed, they were not a wealthy family but certainly comfortable, with a modest home, a brand new high-priced radio in the parlor, and freshly baked pies for the holiday still sitting in the pantry.
The officials at Borden Milk Company were perplexed on Thanksgiving day when James Germond failed to show up with his standard delivery of milk. The next day, November 28th, he was once again a no show. Willard Coons was sent to the Germond house at 9am to see what the holdup was. When he arrived, he immediately noticed the odd stillness of the farm, with the exception of the sound of distressed cows in desperate need of milking. Coons decided to venture off to the barn, where he noticed that one of the cows still had a milker attached to it. He then ventured to the shed, where he discovered the bloodied bodies of James, 47 and Raymond, 10. Terrified, Coons drove to James’ brother Paul’s farm, to inform him of this tragic discovery. He then rushed back to the Borden factory to inform the staff. Paul Germond, his father in law, and neighbor A.J. Curry decided to enter the house before the sheriff. There they found the bodies of Mrs. Mabel Germond, 47, on the floor near the stove, and Bernice, wedged under the kitchen table.
Within hours the farm was awash with police, coroner, doctors, neighbors, and the press. It was determined that all of the victims had been stabbed at least three to four times each (23 stab wounds all together), with each receiving a stab wound directly near the heart. There were cut marks on Bernice’s hands which shows that she tried to fight off her attacker. The entire scene was unlike anything the local police had ever encountered. The first suspect was a foreigner who had been spotted walking along the road. The possibility was also raised that it had been done by workers who had been down the street, but there was no evidence to link any strangers to the murder. They also chased theories of possible disgruntled boyfriends of Bernice, but still nothing made sense.
Franklin D. Roosevelt was interested in the case both as Governor and as President, and even the Pinkerton Detectives got involved. In March of 1933, A.J. Curry, a farmer and roadhouse operator who had accompanied Paul Germond to the scene of the crime, was accused of committing the murders. Less than a month later, on April 3rd, he was released, as his defence claimed there was “too much suspicion and too little evidence.” However, recently a new study was conducted by Dr. Vincent Cookingham (a distant relative of the Sheriff who worked on the case). He was given access to the records and what little evidence remains, and it is his opinion that A.J. Curry was in fact the murderer. His book, The Germond Family Murders: A Forensic Conclusion to a Cold Case, was just published this week. In it he goes through every detail of the scene of the crime, all of the rumors, and why this crime could not have possibly been committed by a stranger. Cold case no more? You be the judge.
Poughkeepsie Eagle News: 29 Nov 1930, 15 Dec 1930, 31 Dec 1930,
New York Times: 8 Oct 1932, 10 Mar 1933, 4 Apr 1933
The Germond Family Murders: A Forensic Conclusion to a Cold Case by Vincent Cookingham Ph.D. 2021
01 – Photo from Poughkeepsie Journal showing photos and the original headline, 2005
02 – Photo from Poughkeepsie Journal showing the Germond House and barns, 1975