A Shocking End to John Glenn Toner
By Pamela Pattison Lash
When I started this investigation into the arrest, conviction, and aftermath of John Glenn Toner for murder, I was surprised at the sheer volume of material that could be gleaned from old newspapers. Here is the tale of perhaps over-privilege, intoxication, a hammer, and a missing stomach.
Fort Wayne Sentinel (Fort Wayne, IN), Thursday, 16 August 1906 p4 c5
Toner Pays For Fun
J Glenn Toner of Edon, OH, arrested under the name of Myers, paid a fine of $5 and costs in the city court this morning for public intoxication, his arrest having been brought about by the fact that he drove his automobile through the Berry Street arcade yesterday afternoon.
He entered the arcade from the alley at the south and said he thought it was a public driveway. He gave a mortgage on his machine and a bond of $50 was put up for him. Patrolmen Paul arrested him after he had done a lot of reckless driving but no personal or property damage was inflicted.
Detroit Free Press (Detroit, MI), Saturday, 10 January 1920 p3 c8
Victim of Assault With Hammer Dies
Assailant, Who Took Poison, Will Recover
Peter Granzow, 55 years old, farmer, living near Royal Oak, who was assaulted in his home by Glenn Toner, 35 years old, a neighboring farmer, died in Harper Hospital Friday afternoon.
Toner, who is in Receiving Hospital, suffering from self-administered poison, will recover, it is believed. His story to the police Thursday night led to the discovery of Granzow in his home. He was unconscious. Toner said he had a faint recollection of assaulting Granzow with a hammer while Granzow slept. They had quarreled following several days of drinking, he said.
Toner was recently arrested in Royal Oak and was to appear before Justice McEwan of Royal Oak, Friday on a serious charge preferred by Mrs. Tonner, who left him a week ago.
Battle Creek Enquirer (Battle Creek, MI), Wednesday, 14 January 1920 p3 c2
Held For Murder, Does Not Know Victim Is Dead
Pontiac, Jan 14 – J Glenn Toner is being held here for the murder of Peter Glangow of Royal Oak Township, who died from wounds inflicted in the home of Toner. Quite a bit of damaging evidence has been found in Toner’s home, including a hammer covered with blood, a half-burned pillow covered with what is believed to be human blood, and Toner’s coat, on the sleeve of which are spots believed to be blood. Toner has not yet been informed that Grangow is dead. He claims to have suffered a loss of memory concerning what happened last Sunday.
Detroit Free Press (Detroit, MI), Saturday, 17 January 1920 p18 c5
A grand jury probe into the death of Peter Granzow of Royal Oak who was found fatally injured in the home of J Glenn Toner, was ordered today by Assistant Prosecutor Blakeslee. He intends to summon several witnesses who have been loath to tell about certain drinking parties at the Toner home just prior to discovery of the crime. Granzow died from hammer blows on the head.
Bryan Democrat (Bryan, OH), Tuesday, 16 March 1920 p1 c3
Toner Trial This Week
The trial of Glenn Toner, former Williams County citizen, for the murder of Peter Granzow, was set to open at Pontiac, MI, on Monday, CL Newcomer, Bryan attorney, will appear in the trial as one of the attorneys for the defendant. Ganzow was found nearly dead from the effects of a blow by a hammer the first week in January at the home of Toner near Royal Oak, MI, and newspapers at that time published an account of the murder. Toner is a son of J M Toner of Edon.
Detroit Free Press (Detroit, MI), Thursday, 18 March 1920 p13 c2
Lapse of Memory Murder Defense
Pontiac Man Tells His Story on Witness Stand
Pontiac, MI, March 17 – J Glenn Toner is on trial in circuit court for the murder of Ellwood Granzow, Royal Oak Township farmer, who succumbed to wounds from a hammer. Toner surrendered himself to officers and claims a lapse of memory concerning events during the alleged drinking party at his home. While at the Detroit Receiving Hospital, he claimed he dreamed of seeing Granzow sitting on the floor of the Toner home with a hole in his head. Granzow was later found in a similar position. Mrs. Toner appeared in her husband’s behalf today and there are several more witnesses for the defense.
Lansing State Journal (Lansing, MI), Wednesday, 24 March 1920 p7 c4
Pontiac – Life in Jackson Prison at solitary confinement and hard labor was the sentence imposed upon J Glenn Toner in circuit court by Judge K P Rockwell. Toner, a Royal Oak man, was convicted of having killed Ellwood Granzow, a farmer living near him, in a quarrel during a drinking bout. Toner’s defense showed he had been addicted to drink since early youth.
The Yale Expositor (Yale, MI), Thursday, 23 June 1921 p2 c2
Pontiac – An appeal to the Supreme Court is being taken in the case of J Glenn Toner, of Royal Oak, serving a life sentence in Jackson Prison for complicity in the death of Peter Granzow, who was beaten to death during a drunken orgy.
Bryan Press (Bryan, OH), 26 August 1926 p1 c4
Suspect Murder of Prisoner From Edon
Suspicious Aroused By Return Of Body Without Stomach From Penitentiary
Considerable speculation has prevailed in and about Edon for the past week concerning the death of J Glenn Toner who died at the Michigan State Penitentiary at Jackson a week ago.
Toner was found dead Sunday evening and relatives at Edon notified that an inquest would be held Monday evening at 7 PM and an undertaker was sent to Jackson from Edon to be present at the inquest. When he arrived at Jackson from Edon at 4 PM Monday he was informed that the inquest was over and that Toner had died of peritonitis.
The first report concerning his death said that he had died of ulcers of the stomach but he had not been ill as some people from Edon had been at Jackson six days before he died and they saw him but knew nothing concerning the alleged stomach ailment. They report that he looked well at that time and was working as a foreman of the department in which automobile license tags are made.
The body was brought to Edon and after arrival there a post mortem examination was held and it was discovered that his stomach was missing, leading some to suspect that possibly he had been poisoned and an effort was made to remove the evidence in case action should be taken later.
Toner was secretary to the chaplain of the prison, played in the prison band, and is reported to have been in close touch
Bryan Democrat (Bryan, OH), 27 August 1926 p1 c4
Death of Edon Man at Jackson Is Questioned
The death of Glenn Toner at Jackson Prison is being investigated, relatives not being satisfied with the report handed out at that institution following his death.
Toner was sent to prison six years ago last January for the murder of a man at Pontiac. The two had been drinking heavily. In the prison he made friends, became secretary to the chaplain, played in the prison band and in all was in close touch with prison politics.
Following his death an undertaker was sent to Jackson. He was told that Toner had died of peritonitis, the inquest being over. Another report had given his ailment as ulcers of the stomach. In Edon a post mortem examination revealed that his stomach was missing, and this aroused the suspicion that he had been poisoned and the stomach removed to do away with evidence.
Detroit Free Press (Detroit, MI), Monday, 30 August 1926 p1 c8
Free Press Is Blamed For Blocking Release
Preliminary Payment of $200 After Cleric Returned One Check Is Described
J Glenn Toner, a life termer at Jackson State Prison, died there three weeks ago, a disappointed man.
He believed his parole had been arranged. At least $200 had been paid for it.
With his death the correspondence that had marked the efforts of himself, his brother, and his counsel to cancel his sentence for murder came to light. The details of his case seem illuminating in connection with charges of huckstering of paroles during the Grosbeck administration that have been made in the course of the present governorship campaign in which the governor is seeking a fourth term – something unprecedented in Michigan. Several state officials are involved in the case.
Blare Grosbeck has been governor nearly 7,000 paroles having been granted by him. The records of the parole office, which was reorganized in 1911 bringing it directly under the thumb of the governor, have been kept from the public.
The operation of the office has been subject to widespread criticism as a result of the wholesale releases in the face of increasing crime.
In part of the correspondence the collapse of the Toner case is blamed on the Detroit Free Press but as soon as the paper’s criticism of the parole methods ceased the writ of liberty would probably ensue.
Another letter from the chaplain at the prison, Rev William Hopp, who cooperated with State Senator Barney Brower, the administration floor leader in the legislature and the others in the Toner case, urged that the arrangements be pushed as expeditiously as possible as everyone in Michigan expects the appointment of the governor as attorney general following the resignation of the present attorney general. This, of course, is mere speculation, but may prove correct, in which case your plans may miscarry.
It will be recalled that certain state officials campaigned diligently for the appointment of Grosbeck as US Attorney General and that when President Coolidge named Charles Warren instead, they sought as diligently and successfully to block confirmation of that choice.
It was Rev Hopp who directed the brother and counsel of Toner to Brower. He returned a check to Toner pointing out that is justice to his position as chaplain he could not very well enter late any arrangement that might be made with Brower.
Counsel for Toner were Augustus Gebbhard of Bryan, OH, and Bert Chandler of Hudson, MI. A third individual who was active in Toner’s behalf was Charles Wardner, director of vocational education in Jackson.
Their activity began late in 1923 and continued through 1926.
Toner was committed to Jackson in 1920, being sentenced to serve a life term by the late Judge Rockwell of Pontiac. In a drunken brawl near Royal Oak he had hit a man named Granzow with a hammer, killing him. For a time while he was in prison he was secretary to Hopp. Later he served with a road construction gang.
In a letter to Wardner, Toner’s brother reviewed at length the efforts that had been made to get his brother out of prison.
The Times Herald (Port Huron, MI), Tuesday, 31 August 1926 p2 c3
Regarding the case of J Glenn Toner, a lifer who died recently at the Jackson State prison, the Governor related the circumstances under which executive clemency was denied Toner. He said Senator Burney Brower of Jackson was retained as one of several attorneys in the case on behalf of Toner, but later withdrew, offering to return the retainer fee of $200 he had been paid.
“The only effect of the charges in the Toner case, the Governor said, is the insinuation that Senator Brower had some political influence with me. The sum and substance of the whole story is that three lawyers sought a parole which they did not get.”
Bryan Democrat (Bryan, OH), 31 August 1926 p1 c1
Toner Case Shows Corrupt Officials Sought Bribes
Highest Officials Were In Corrupt Deals, Says Free Press
Letters of Edon and Bryan Men Scattered Over Free Press In Toner Case
The death of J Glenn Toner of Edon at Jackson Prison is stirring Michigan because it brings open charges that the parole of prisoners in that state has been bartered by a ring of high officials, from governor down to prison chaplain.
In Monday’s Detroit Free Press were several fac-simile letters written by OG Toner of Edon, Attorney AL Gebbhard of Bryan, and William F Hopp, Jackson chaplain.
Mr. Toner’s letter to Mr. Warder states that he, Mr. Toner, did not grasp the situation when it was first hinted that he might obtain his brother’s release. “I was not familiar in dealing with such fellows. I never bought anybody and I did not understand conditions. He visited a Senator Brower, he writes, and paid an advance fee of $200 to that state official.
Criticism of Governor Groesbeck’s many paroles, 8,000 in all, made it seem advisable to drop proceedings for Toner’s parole in November 1925. Mr. Hop, chaplain, urged Mr. Toner to get busy with Senator Brower, and haste was also urged in 1924 because it was believed that Go Groesbeck might be appointed Attorney-General by President Coolidge, in which case the parole matter would be up to a new governor.
When the Williams County men went into Michigan to secure the parole of a prisoner they found officials working adroitly for cash for that parole, and it is now feared that Toner’s death instead of being from natural causes, was a means taken to silence the prisoner and cover up the corruption existing there.
An underground letter from James Glenn Toner to his friend Charles Warder told him “that the prisoner was in fear of being bumped off.” Mr. Warder was in NY at the time the letter was sent to him and shortly after Toner, former Deon man, died suddenly in Jackson Prison.
Investigation of the case is now being pushed at Jackson by Mr. Warder, RW Reese, another friend of Mr. Toner and the Detroit Free Press, which has been attacking the prison management for some time. J M Toner, father of the dead man, expected to be called to Jackson the first of the week in the case.
Mr. Warder, one of the men who is pushing the case, is a teacher of vocational training in the Jackson schools. At the time he received the warning letter from Toner he was in New York, where he owns a pleasure resort.
Mr. Toner, the father, said Saturday that he felt there were too many good people in Jackson to permit this case to be dropped, yet he also intimated that he is somewhat discouraged regarding the progress that it is making. It is one of the most mysterious prison deaths that has puzzled Michigan authorities for years. Friday’s News-Bee said:
“OG Toner placed some reliance in the observations of Maude Walters, Deon, who visited Toner in prison a few days before his death. She said he appeared to be in the best of health.
“It is claimed that both Toner and his family had sought pardon for the prisoner. The brother at Deon employed an agent, he said, to present his claim two years ago. That agent shortly before Toner’s death received a letter from the prisoner, complaining about the delay, the brother says.
“For some time Toner was employed on a road gang. After his complaint he was kept in closer quarters at the prison. Whether prison authorities feared it was not safe to permit Toner to remain on the road gang could not be learned.
“From present indications, however, it is not likely that a probe will be launched, unless relatives can bring other persons into the controversy. Officials here say that as far as they are concerned the investigation is closed.”