Kansas City. Mo Archives
A mysterious stranger walked into the Hotel President on January 2, 1935, and specifically requested an interior room several floors above the ground level. He was a tall man with a large scar on the left side of his head leading down to a cauliflower ear. A torture filled night lay ahead. Just after midnight on January 5th he would be dead. Eighty-four years later Roland T. Owens would be one of Kansas City’s most infamous unsolved cases. This case will take a few weeks to cover all the details, conspiracies, and theories.
Roland T. Owens sauntered into the hotel President on January 2nd around 1:30 pm. He signed his name to the register, claimed he was from Los Angeles, and paid one night’s fee. The hotel staff immediately took notice of the tall, large-built man wearing a black overcoat. Although he tried to comb his hair to hide it, a large scar was visible above his left ear leaving a bald spot. His ear was misshapen in what wrestlers call “cauliflower ear.” Most people would assume Mr. Owen was a professional wrestler or boxer.
A bellboy named Randolph Probst led the strange visitor up to room 1046 and gave the gentleman a passkey. Owen walked in and surveyed the room. Walking into the bathroom, he took out a brush, a comb, and a tube of toothpaste out of his coat pocket and put them in the cabinet. Strangely, these items were the man’s only luggage. A short time later the cleaning staff arrived to clean the room and was startled to find it already occupied. Owens told Ms. Mary Soptic to go ahead and clean because he was getting ready to leave. He specifically asked her to leave the door unlocked because a friend was supposed to stop by in a few minutes. Owens promptly pulled on his overcoat and left the maid to clean. She quickly cleaned up and left the room unlocked when she finished.
The next day, Thursday, Soptic returned to room 1046 to clean. The door was locked from the outside. (I’m not sure how it locked from the outside, but it is stated this way in every police report.) She tapped on the door and received no response, so she let herself into the room with the hotel passkey. Expecting the place to be empty, Soptic was startled to find Owens sitting up in the chair in the dark. The only dim light came from a table lamp that barely illuminated the shadows. She wasn’t what surprised her more, the fact that he was sitting in the dark staring at nothing in particular or the fact that the door somehow was locked from the outside. Luckily, the phone rang freeing the poor woman from the moment of awkward silence.
“No Don, I don’t want to eat. I am not hungry. I just had breakfast.” Owen paused for a moment before repeating, “I am not hungry.”
To add to the unsettling feeling building in Mary Soptic, Owen turned to her and began to ask her details about her job duties. She answered politely and left the room as fast as possible. Unfortunately, around 4 pm Soptic would have to return to the room to deliver the fresh towels. At that time she heard two male voices through the door. She tapped quietly, and a gruff unfamiliar voice answered.
“Who is it?”
Soptic replied saying she had fresh towels only to receive the loud response, “We don’t need any.”
Seven o’clock the next morning the switchboard operator noticed the phone in room 1046 had been off the hook for quite a while. She sent up the bellboy up to room 1046. Probst knocked on the door and heard a deep voice tell him to come in. Probst tried the handle, and it was locked. He knocked again, and this time the voice said to turn on the lights. Probst knocked again and yelled through the door.
“The door is locked. Put the phone back on the hook.” With that Probst returned to the service desk. He told the operator that the man was probably drunk and no one thought anything else about it until a short time later the phone was off the hook again. It is now 8:30 am. This time another bellboy by the name of Harold Pike is sent up to room 1046. The door was still locked, but this time Pike had a key. He opened the door to the darkened room and noticed Owen was laying face down on his bed naked and a large dark shadowy stain was on the sheets around him. The nightstand was knocked over, and the phone lay strewn across the floor. Pike picked up the table and replaced the phone. He locked the door back and returned downstairs claiming Owens must be passed out drunk and spilled his alcohol on his sheets.
At 11 am the phone was again off the hook. This time Probst took the passkey and marched up to room 1046. This had been the third time of the morning. He banged on the door and then opened it. This time he switched on the lights and was horrified by the scene before him. Two foot from the door was the beaten and bloodied man. He was bound on his hands and knees with his bloody head between his hands. Blood was on all the walls and ceilings. Bleeding profusely from three knife wounds to the chest, Roland T. Owen was miraculously alive when police arrived. Police asked him who did this.
“Nobody,” was his feeble reply. Owen slipped into a coma on the way to the hospital. Reports state that due to the coagulation of the blood Owen’s torture had begun at least six hours before he was found.
There’s so much more to this story that will be covered next week including a prostitute, strange anonymous donors paying for Owen’s burial, 13 red roses annonymously sent to the funeral, oh and…his name isn’t Roland T. Owen!
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