Bessie Bouton Case - CSPM

Bessie Bouton Case

We acknowledge this human jawbone might be disturbing for some guests. However, it is an important piece of scientific history, illustrating an advancement in the field of forensic science. In 1904, Colorado Springs Police, Coroner D.F. Law, and local dentist Dr. Isaac Burton used dental evidence to identify crime victim Bessie Bouton. After distributing detailed information about the unknown woman’s complicated and expensive dental work to 10,000 police departments, local officials received a telegram from Syracuse, New York, identifying the victim as Bessie Bouton.

– From the CSPM Curator of History

In December 1904, surveyors located a woman’s body on the slopes of Mount Cutler. In addition to stealing her jewelry, the murderer burned her head and upper torso, and removed her clothing to hide the woman’s identity. Initially, investigators believed they had little possibility of identifying the victim.

Police and coroner, D.F. Law, launched an investigation. While the fire destroyed facial features, some blonde hair remained intact. Local dentist Dr. Isaac Burton made a cast of her teeth and noted the dental work performed: gold bridges on the upper right and left sides of the mouth. He also noted areas of wear and the presence or absence of various teeth, gold fillings and crowns. Investigators hoped the teeth might be a way to identify the victim.

The CSPD distributed the victim’s dental history as well as other identifying information to 10,000 police departments and dentists. On December 23rd, a telegram came in from Syracuse, New York, with a description of Bessie Bouton; whose dental work, height, and hair matched that of the victim. She was last heard from on October 2nd when she told her mother of plans to leave Colorado Springs.

Once police knew the victim’s identify, they began locating a suspect. Before her death, Bessie traveled with a gambler she met in Syracuse. Tracing the pair’s movements was difficult because of the number of aliases. Investigators discovered the couple registered under the name George Barnett at the Gough Hotel. Sometime between October 3rd and October 7th, the Short Line watchman at Point Sublime reported seeing the pair head to Mount Cutler.

The man, identified as Milton Franklin Andrews, left town abruptly the night of October 4th. Workers at the hotel and the C.S. Transfer Company remember him leaving on the last train to Denver and giving conflicting excuses about his female companion’s whereabouts. Andrews purchased a ticket to Chicago, ending up on the East Coast. His movements were tracked through baggage checks and rail tickets. Chief Reynolds put together a wanted poster describing the suspect and his habits, including his stomach problems and reliance on specialty food made by the Battle Creek Sanitarium.

Finally, Andrews was located in October 1905 when he attempted to rob and murder a W. C. Ellis in Berkeley, California. Ellis survived the assault and the two went on the run until November 6, 1905, when Andrews shot Nulda and then himself after the police surrounded them. Though Bouton’s identity was discovered and her potential murderer identified, there is some doubt about the timeline and evidence against Andrews. However, the case remains significant for its innovative use of forensic dentistry to identify the victim.

Generously Submitted by Caitlin Sharpe, CSPM Registrar

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