Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoevsky wrote the classic "Crime and Punishment" in 1866.

Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoevsky wrote the classic "Crime and Punishment" in 1866.

For the modern father-daughter writing team of David Meyers and Elise Meyers Walker, first it was punishment, now it's crime.

The Clintonville residents collaborated on last year's "Central Ohio's Historic Prisons," another of the photo-driven entries into the Images of America series put out by Arcadia Publishing of Charleston, S.C.

This time around, they've come up with stories about some of the people whose exploits landed them in those very prisons.

"Historic Columbus Crimes: Mama's in the Furnace, The Thing and Others" was published last month by The History Press, which is also based in Charleston, S.C.

"The way it came about, interestingly enough, after the prisons book came out I was contacted by The History Press and they said would you pitch a book to us," David Meyers said during a recent interview.

Father and daughter didn't have to do a lot of casting about; they had the subject matter at hand.

"We already, in the process of researching the prison book, had come up with some interesting Columbus crimes," Meyers said.

"We're both very interested in history, and we've always had an interest in sort of the darker side of humanity," Elise Meyers Walker said. "For us it was just a very natural progression."

They both felt the subject matter of famous crimes would be more interesting to most people than the development of the prison system that dealt with these criminals, according to Walker.

"They want to know the exciting part, not what happens after," she said.

The first crime dealt with in the new book dates to 1839, and involved grave-robbing by professors and students at a medical college in Worthington.

The most recent took place on Dec. 8, 2004, when 25-year-old Nathan Gale ran onto the stage of the Alrosa Villa and shot six people. Four of them died, including Damageplan guitarist Darrell "Dimebag" Abbott.

"I like the stuff that I can remember," Walker said. "I like the older stuff, too, but it all kind of becomes a blur."

A decade before the Alrosa Villa shooting, she recalled, a friend's band was playing at the North Side Club and she asked her father for permission to go.

"He said, 'No, people get shot there,' " Walker recalled.

Then, people got shot there, and Walker said she thought: "Shoot, my dad was right."

Another contemporary crime among the 16 touched on in the book occurred in the neighborhood Meyers and Walker both call home, Clintonville. That was the May 17, 2003, slaying of female impersonator Gary McMurtry in his Indianola Avenue home by Michael J. Jennings, a male stripper who was dressed as a ninja and used a samurai sword in committing the murder.

"That one was interesting because I remember seeing it on the news and going: 'What?' " Walker said.

One historic crime that simply had to be included, Meyers said, if for no other reason than it seems to be of great local interest, led to the 1929 murder trial of Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine faculty member Dr. James Howard Snook. He was accused of murdering a 24-year-old student, Theora Hix, with whom he'd had an affair.

"When I mentioned that I was gong to write this, probably 50 percent of the people the first thing out of your mouths is are you going to include Dr. Snook?" Meyers said. "I included that because it's, or course, a major case, but there are a lot of ones I uncovered that were interesting because of a twist."

These included "The Case of the Invisible Detective," a Dictaphone machine left on in a room by the head of the Burns Detective Agency as part of a sting operation into graft in the state legislature. It was probably, Meyers said, the first instance of wire-tapping.

Columbus and environs have been host to many other famous and historic crimes, enough for at least another book and possibly a series, according to Meyers.

"There are a lot of stories. I uncovered ones we didn't use," he said. "I've got probably files on at least 30 others that I've started working on."

"Oh, definitely, we would love to do a sequel," Walker said. "We have about 30 more stories that we wished we could have included in this book. We always like the weird history and the strange history and the stuff that people don't always know about but should."

"Columbus Historic Crimes" is available at many local bookstores and a variety of places online.

The Bexley minister summoned his children to an upstairs room and broke the news thusly:

"Mama's in the furnace," he said.

Well, that explained the smell.

Among the odd and intriguing cases dealt with in the new book "Historic Columbus Crimes," written by the father-daughter team of David Meyers and Elise Meyers Walker is the 1930 death of the Rev. Clarence Sheatsley's wife.

It was on a Monday that the whole family had lunch together before scattering, leaving the mother behind alone. Later that day, Clarence Sheatsley returned to observe acrid smoke rising from the chimney, Meyers said.

Upon discovering his wife's body incinerated in the furnace, the minister, instead of calling the police, went next door to get his neighbor, a professor at Capital University, evidently to verify the startling find.

Then he called the children together and uttered the words that would, 80 years later, became part of the subtitle of a tome about not only the historic but also the just plain strange in terms of crimes committed in Columbus.

What so intrigued David Meyers about the "Mama's in the Furnace" episode was that the children didn't seem particularly shocked. In fact, one of the daughters had investigated the smell and thought someone had thrown rabbit skins into the furnace, and one of the sons had looked in and realized it was his mother in there, dead, Meyers said. He responded by taking a nap and later going outside to play football.

"It's just the way the whole family reacted to this," Meyers said. "The case was never solved, but there was a coroner at the time named Murphy and even though they called in several scientists at the time and they declared she had been dead when she went into the furnace, he said she was alive.

"So he called it a suicide."

Several years later, that coroner earned himself the nickname "Suicide Murphy" when he issued the same ruling in a Detroit case involving a mobster's bullet-riddled body being found in a ditch, according to Meyers.

- Kevin Parks