The Baffling Murder Case Of Joe Elwell Killed Inside A Locked Room In 1920

The Baffling Murder Case Of Joe Elwell : Killed Inside A Locked Room In 1920

In the domain of detective fiction, there are numerous conventions and cliches that have come to define the genre. The famous locked-room mystery frequently referred to as an “impossible crime,” is perhaps the most well-known of them. In a space that was closed from the inside, he was murdered. So how exactly did Joseph Bowne Elwell or Joe Elwell pass away? So, What exactly happened to Joe Elwell?

Joe Elwell
Joe Elwell

Elwell was killed in his secured New York City home on June 11, 1920, in the early morning darkness by A.45 automatic gunshot to the head. Marie Larsen, Elwell’s housekeeper, entered his opulent apartment later that morning as usual. What she saw next temporarily put the poor woman in shock.

She fled the apartment while mumbling incoherently that a stranger had been in Mr. Elwell’s apartment and was now deceased. Upon closer examination, it was quickly discovered that the dead stranger was actually Joe Elwell, but without the high-end wigs and immaculate dentures that let him project a much more attractive appearance to the outside world.

Despite, the fact that suicide was swiftly ruled out, Elwell had been shot in the head. The murder weapon appeared to have been fired at Elwell from a distance of roughly 1-2 meters, although there was no indication of the same in the room which is extremely strange.

The Confusing Crime Scene

The crime scene perplexed the cops. The bullet that shot Mr. Elwell dead was discovered in the room, neatly placed on a table, but to everyone’s surprise, no gun was discovered. Although the bullet’s placement suggested that it might have ricocheted off a wall and onto the table. The ammunition for the bullet was discovered on the ground. Hence, it can be concluded that the killer must have been sitting in front of Elwell when the trigger was pulled, according to the angle of the wound.

Crime Scene
Crime Scene

There was no evidence of a struggle or forced entry into the property, and no foreign fingerprints were discovered at the site. There was no theft. Both, the house and the room were locked from the inside. Elwell most certainly knew his assailant and invited him or her inside without hesitation.

However, why would he bring someone into his house, then have them sit down as he opens his mail while completely ignoring them? Or did they converse amicably while he shot him dead? There was no indication of the crime from the letter in his lap or the mail on the floor. The night before, Elwell had supper at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel with the newly divorced Viola Kraus, the most recent of several women he had a love relationship with.


Back in 1904, Elwell had married Helen Derby. Despite the fact that Elwell’s expertise at bridge helped him become a millionaire, his wife played an essential role in introducing him to her well-connected acquaintances and contacts. However, they got divorced in 1920 and in Elwell’s murder, Derby was first the main suspect. However, she had a strong alibi, and it was soon clear that she was not responsible for her the murder of her former husband.

Apartment in which Joe Elwell was murdered
Apartment in which Joe Elwell was murdered

District Attorney Edward Swann felt that Elwell was conversing in his apartment moments before he was shot and that he likely knew his assailant. It was evident that only murder was intended. No cash or valuables were missing. In reality, there were numerous treasures surrounding Elwell’s body. Despite all the information gathered by the investigators, they were unable to determine who fatally shot Joe Elwell.

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