Monday, September 26, 2011

The Sick Cadas

Detroit Free Press, July 15, 1947
If there was a science pertaining to words then "weird" and "Detroit" would be nearly synonymous with any mention of those hulking edifices which were collectively known as Eloise. Though miles separate our not so fair and violent city from the relatively safe confines of what used to be a mental asylum and hospital, short of a geo-political dissertation about how the suburbs and Detroit are completely different subsections of the same animal, the two go hand in hand. Another commingling phenomenon shared between the two is sudden episodic violence. On July 13, 1947 a brother and sister team provided the scenario for just that: the violent end of a life. Late that evening Henry Leo Cada plunged a jackknife into his sister's throat, severing her jugular vein causing her to bleed to death.

The Cada family of River Rouge had a history of mental illness. Both Gilbert Cada, the family matriarch, and his wife had died insane and the sickness was passed on to both son Henry, 28 and daughter Ida, 21. Ida had been in and out of mental institutions the previous months and Henry had a few stints himself after suffering shell shock during World War II, with his latest release coming just 3 months earlier from Percy Jones Hospital in Battle Creek.

Dr. Thomas K. Gruber, superintendent at Eloise, had recommended against Henry's release from Percy Jones due to his interactions with Ida during his visits to her at the Wayne County location. Both had a history of violence and Henry's surly demeanor during the visitations was enough to frighten the staff and warrant his banishment from the facility. Gruber was so troubled by Cada's behavior that he had contacted police to watch out for Henry and went so far as to intervene in getting Cada's taxi license repealed for fear that he would hurt somebody while on duty.

On July 11th Ida was given a weekend pass and released to the care of her aunt Emma DeBons from Roseville. Later in the day after finishing his shift at Murray Body Corporation in Ecorse, Henry went to the Aunt's residence to fetch his sister. The two were close companions but also had their share of difficulty in each others company. Besides the tense hospital visits they had rows concerning money, food and maltreatment with the police being called to the home that Ida shared with two brothers Gilbert and Harvey, and her sister Marie at 83 East Cicotte in River Rouge (Henry reportedly lived down the street at 28 East Cicotte.). The house was a frequent destination for the city's police to break up drunken arguments and fights and they considered the family "funny" in a not-so-flattering way.

Around 5PM that evening Henry and Ida made their way towards the Detroit River where Henry rented a 12 foot boat from a livery named Cash Colasinski. Colasinski told police after the murder that Cada was alone and surmised that he had picked up the girl somewhere along the shore. He said that Cada, still in his work clothes with a swim trunk tucked into one pocket, appeared "normal" to him and the only worry Colasinski had was Cada staying out after dark without lights on the boat. Henry left a paycheck stub and drifted downstream.

Canadian authorities suspect that after picking up Ida somewhere along the shore the two traversed the river to Ontario where they hitchhiked to Wheatley, nearly 50 miles southeast of Detroit where they next surfaced at 6:30PM on Sunday evening. A clerk witnessed them buying chocolate and soda pops from a gas station in town. Others suggested that Ida was staying at the family's summer cottage some 17 miles from Wheatley and that Henry had joined her there and the two then fled. Whichever way the saga transpired, the brother and sister duo wound up in a barn loft near Chatham on property being rented by Joseph Vankerkhoven off of No. 3 Highway. Four hours later Ida Cada was dead at the hands of her brother.

Soon after Henry confessed to a nearby farmer, John Dawson, that he had killed his sister and asked him to phone a doctor. The doctor refused to come because he either didn't believe the fantastical story or as he stated, that the details were too scant to afford a late night visit. Cada apparently returned to the barn so that he'd be present when the doctor arrived and when he didn't show, Henry returned to the Dawson farm. Now quite suspicious of Cada's motive they phoned the police. When the Ontario Provincial Police arrived Cada led them to loft where Ida's body lay mortally wounded.

It was then that Cada told police that he had killed Ida because she had "asked him to" so that she wouldn't have to go back to the Wayne County General Hospital at Eloise. He stated that she would rather die than go back for more electric shock treatments and that he had promised to facilitate this morbid option. He would maintain the "mercy killing" stance during his subsequent "petit jury" hearing even going so far as to say that his father was murdered at Eloise and that he didn't want to see his sister, after eight sessions of shock therapy, to end up the same way. Whether he meant it literally or it was just his mental instability rearing it's ferocious face is up for eternal conjecture seeing as he was an insane man fighting for his life at that point. He was taken to a mental facility at Penetanguishene and held until the next session of the court commenced the following autumn.

The OPP however believed that this was anything but a mercy killing , preferring to label it a murder-suicide gone awry by Henry's cowardice. In official reports they stated that an unnatural love occurred between the two with suggestions that they hadn't run away together in a traditional sense of escape but had actually eloped to carry out their incestuous relations. Perhaps realizing that they couldn't legally sustain the affair they opted for suicide. The fact that Ida didn't resist or struggle with her brother during the stabbing seems to confirm such a scenario.

At his trial in September before the High Court of Ontario he spoke forcefully about his experiences with electric shock treatment, he had completed 26 sessions, and said that he'd rather be hanged or put to death by electric chair since "there you only die once." He went so far as to say that if he was given further shock therapy that he would kill again to force the courts into giving him the electric chair.

Dressed in a light gray, double-breasted suit he comported himself respectfully and answered that he knew exactly what he was doing when he killed Ida and that "it was the only way out." His testimony coupled with the testimony of several psychologists that he suffered a persecution complex stemming from his earlier stints in mental hospitals convinced the court that he was unfit to stand trial. Cada was convinced that he had been railroaded from his military service due to a beating he received by fellow soldiers because he refused to join the C.I.O. A theory which doctors rebuffed claiming that he had actually suffered the injuries from leaping out of a moving train while being transferred between mental hospitals. He was also certain that the Catholic Church was out to get him because a charity affiliated with the church had recommended shock therapy, though their influence likely had no bearing on his treatment.

Cada was remanded back to Penetanguishene. What his treatments were are not known but his criminal behavior continued. Within six months he would escape the mental institution along with notorious murderer Melville Wilkie, a repeated escape artist, who had burned his wife and infant daughter to death in an intentionally set house fire in Owen Sound for the insurance money. The two were taken into custody without incident nearly a week later when they were found huddling near a brush fire in Cedar Point, Ontario, 40 miles north of Penetanguishene. Wilkie would escape several more times while Cada, just three weeks after his recapture, managed to stab guard Robert Maurice just below the eye when he brought Henry a glass of water.



Charge Man Slew Sister; The Ottawa Citizen, July 14, 1947

Murder Reveals Fantastic Story; The Windsor Daily Star, July 14, 1947

Sister Dies When Knife Slits Throat; The Windsor Daily Star, July 14, 1947

Trail Of Insanity; The Windsor Daily Star, July 14, 1947

Jury Rules Cada Unfit To Be Tried; The Windsor Daily Star, September 16, 1947

Motive Still Sought In Girl's Death; The Windsor Daily Star, July 16, 1947

Confesses Killing Sister; The Warsaw Daily Union, July 17, 1947

Untitled; The Grosse Pointe News, July 17, 1947

Cada Must Stand Trial; The Windsor Daily Star, July 28, 1947

Henry Cada Ordered To Stand Trial For Murder; The Windsor Daily Star, July 29, 1947


Officers Hunting Escaped Maniacs; The Owosso Argus-Press, March 22, 1948

Two Insane Murderers Recaptured; The Calgary Herald, March 23, 1948

2 Confessed Slayers Retaken In Ontario; The Ludington Daily News, March 24, 1948

Cada Stabs Hospital Guard; The Windsor Daily Star, April 12, 1948


Captured; The Sunday Sun, March 29, 1952


Anonymous said...

Is Henry still alive?

the said...

I suppose it's possible but highly doubtful. I've looked into but can find no answer either way.