This is Part 2 of The Mysterious Disappearance of Nell Cropsey. To read Part 1, click here!
November 21, 1901. The search for Nell widened as soon as the sun came up the next morning. Initially, the town speculated that Nell and Jim had eloped, but this theory was quickly disproven when the police interviewed the young man at his parents’ home.
Why did you ask to see Nell alone? people demanded. Where is she?
Wilcox said he told Nell their relationship was over, and returned her picture and the umbrella she had given him. He said he left her crying on the front veranda at 11:15. He stopped to have a beer with a friend before going to his family house, and was asleep before midnight.
No one believed him. In part, this was because the timeline wasn’t realistic. Forty-five minutes was not enough time to break off a long-term relationship, have a drink with a friend, walk home, and fall into a deep sleep. Instead of being left in peace, as he had hoped, Wilcox found himself pummeled on all sides with questions.
“What time did you leave?”
“If Nell didn’t leave with you, what happened to her?”
“Where is she?”
“Did she follow you?”
Wild stories began to circulate, as they often do in small towns. One man even claimed to have seen Jim Wilcox carrying the limp body of a woman. Jim Wilcox was arrested on suspicion of kidnapping.
As for Nell, hope was quickly fading. All of her belongings were in the house, and she had no reason to run away.
When Nell had been missing for weeks, her father, William H. Cropsey, seemed to give up hope. He penned an open letter that was printed in the local paper.
The police officials and citizen committee have done all human agency could do to restore my daughter, without success. I never expect to see her this side of the great eternity. I shall always believe James Wilcox instrumental in my daughter’s disappearance. If dead, I believe his hand or his hireling responsible. Some time when this life shall cease and we shall stand before the presence of the Great Judge, I believe we shall learn how and when he murdered my daughter and that the justice he may escape will be dealt with then.
A month passed, and Christmas came and went. No one held out any hope that Nell was alive. Still, her family and friends yearned to know what had happened to her.