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The Love and Crime of Clinton Thomas Hovious

David Lemon, one of our volunteers shared a very interesting story he uncovered while researching his family. His discovery is detailed below:

Clinton Thomas Hovious Clinton Thomas Hovious – Michigan City, IN Prison

“If all genealogists research their family long enough they usually find some interesting characters in their family tree. I suppose Clinton Hovious would probably be considered a ‘black sheep’ in most families. I consider him a spicy addition to our otherwise mostly boring family.

Clinton’s great grandfather John Lemon is my 3rd great grandfather. John was an early 1824 settler in Bean Blossom Township in Monroe County, Indiana. Clinton Thomas Hovious was born on 20 Jan 1876 in Monroe County Indiana.

Clinton and Lillian Belle Wilson Massy married on April 28, 1906 in Monroe County, IN. Lillian and Clinton has a rocky marriage to say the least. Lillian had filed for divorce but withdrew the suits twice before finally having her third divorce suit granted in April 1912. The divorce was granted on the grounds of abuse and insult by Clinton towards Lillian.

On September 23, 1912, Clinton confronted Frank Todd, a former fire chief, at Frank’s home. Clinton has worked with Frank at the fire department as a driver and in fact was working as a special police officer that night while the 23rd Army infantry visited Bloomington. Frank and Clinton struggled and Clinton pulled a revolver and shot Frank in the hip area. Even after being shot, Todd asked his recently wedded wife to get a police officer.

The new Mrs. Todd was the former Mrs. Clinton Hovious. Clinton and Lillian had only been divorced 5 months.

Clinton was arrested and Frank Todd was taken to the hospital and seemed to be improving but in November Frank’s condition worsened and he died at his home November 30, 1912. Clinton Hovious was rearrested (he has been bonded out of jail) and charged with first degree murder. He was tried, convicted, and sent to the Michigan City, Indiana State prison.

What little is known about Clinton Hovious comes from newspaper accounts and Clinton’s prison record. According to that record, Clinton was a Teamster by trade who left home when he was 10 years old. He was a chain-smoker with a 3rd-grade education who’d been arrested once before in 1907, for “disorderly conduct,” although those charges were dismissed. He was 5’6” tall and weighed 136 pounds. In answering the prison questionnaire Clint displayed little knowledge of his father, somewhat more of his mother who was still alive at the time.

By 1917 Clinton was out of prison (his attorney must have been very good) living in Muncie, Indiana and working as a truck driver. Clinton also was married. He remarried Lillian Belle Wilson Massy Hovious Todd on November 4, 1918 in Delaware County, Indiana. Lillian must have really been enamored with Clinton to marry him after he had killed her last husband.

Clinton lived in Muncie the rest of his life. He was employed as a County Humane Officer in 1930. He was buried in Muncie in 1936 in Beech Grove Cemetery. Lillian lived until 1963 when she dies at the age of 87. She never remarried. Clinton and Lillian are buried side by side. Must have been true love.”

Comments (0)

  1. Anonymous


    David, Thanks for the story. Clinton Thomas Hovious is my 3rd cousin, 2x removed.
    Connie Shotts

  2. David Lemon


    Thank you. I believe you have helped me with my research in the past. He’s my 2nd cousin 2X removed. We must be related!

  3. David Lemon


    Follow up on Clinton Hovious:
    I wondered how it was that Clinton was tried for first degree murder but was out of jail in such a short period of time. He was not in jail by 1917 working in Munce, IN and married again to Lillian Wilson. I wondered how this could be possible if he was found guilty of first degree murder. I made a trip to the Indiana Room of the Monroe County Library and checked microfilm newspaper articles. From the “Bloomington Weekly Courier’s” account of the trial: On 28 Jan 1913, Clinton Hovious pleaded not guilty to first degree murder of Frank Todd before Judge Wilson. His attorney’s, R.H. East and J.E. Henley, asked for more time to prepare their case and that was granted.
    The trial began 10 April 1913 and on 11 April Clinton testified on his own behalf. Lillian had moved out and divorced Clinton in April of 1912 and very shortly afterward married Frank Todd. In June 1912 Lillian called Clinton and asked that he find her a place to live which he did. She told him that she was afraid of Todd and that he had threatened to kill her. Lillian had moved out of Todd’s house and was rooming with Clinton he told the court. Somehow, Lillian moved back in with Todd and took some of Clinton’s personal items with her and he testified that he went to Todd’s house to retrieve his things not knowing that Todd and Lillian were there. Todd knocked Clinton down and hit him with his mace. Lillian pleaded with Todd not to kill Clinton. A scuffle ensued and Clinton’s concealed pistol discharged twice hitting Todd once. Chief Hensley testified that Todd confessed on the ambulance drive to the hospital that “he (Todd) was to blame for this. I broke up his home.”
    After 15 hours of deliberation the jury found Clinton Hovious guilty of manslaughter (not first degree murder) and was sentenced to 2 to 21 years in prison. He would be eligible for parole after two years. The answer to the question of his short incarceration. A correction to the above article posted in Jan 1915 shows that Lillian and Clinton were remarried per Delaware County records on 16 Nov 1916. I’m guessing this was about the time Clinton Hovious became a free man.

  4. Reply

    Lillian is my mother’s grandmother. Lillian was the mother of Frank, Harry and Celia Massey. My grandmother was Celia Massey, her daughter, Barbara, was my mother. I always found this fasinating. Lillian lived with my mom and her mother (Lillian’s daughter) for many years around 1942.

  5. Carolyn Kantz


    No, I Am almost poditive it did not happen in Muncie. Something makes me think of Newcastle although I’m not certain. They went back to Muncie after he got out of prison because that’s where my great grandmother’s family was her grandson,Frank Clinton Massey and daughter Celia no live there. I know my great-grandmother lived with both of them after Hovius passed away

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