News From Terre Haute, Indiana


October 21, 2012

HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE: Unsolved homicides from 70 and 140 years ago


At about 9 a.m. on Feb. 20, 1872 — about 140 years ago — the body of Thomas Bensinger was found by two young boys some 60 feet south of Bloomington Road (now Poplar Street), three miles east of the city.

The deceased was seated on the trunk of a fallen tree with his legs crossed and his arms folded upon his breast. The brim of his hat was drawn down over his eyes.

Upon raising his hat, a bullet hole was found in the center of his forehead. Blood and brains covered his face and clothing. Bensinger’s face was camouflaged with powder burns but the hat brim was not burned.

Besieger’s killer or killers apparently shot him, arranged his position on the log and then placed his hat on his head.

Eddie Selby and Charlie Bugh, the two youths, stumbled across the grim sight while in pursuit of a rabbit. They promptly reported what they had found to authorities.

The body was brought to the city and placed in the Station House, where it was identified as Besieger, an employee of butcher Michael Lamb, father of future congressman John E. Lamb.

Besieger, about 45 years old, had been residing at the Truinett House on South Fourth Street, opposite the Market House. He was last seen Feb. 14, at which time he was said to have a watch and a small amount of money on his person.

When he was found, the only thing on his person was a plug of tobacco.

According to acquaintances, Besieger he seemed depressed and frequently talked about going to a poor house.

A half-empty bottle of whisky and another bottle partially filled with some kind of medicine lay nearby. A half loaf of bread, wrapped in a piece of calico, was found 30 feet from the body.

Coroner Charles Gerstmeyer summoned a jury, which found that “the deceased man came to his death at the hands of a person or persons unknown.”

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