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  • Writer's pictureRochelle Gridley

A Justifiable Murder in Ford County

In the summer of 1935 Martin Young, a twice-married oil field worker, and his wife, the former Margaret Ringelson of Gibson City and former county school teacher, visited Illinois from their home in Oklahoma City. The Paxton Record fairly harped on Young's marital history throughout the trial -- he had been married -- gasp-- twice. While the Youngs were in Gibson City, an auto mechanic, Oscar Rick, was shot down at a well known lover's lane in rural Ford County on the evening of August 24.

The body was found by Mr. Ringelson, Margaret's father; a neighbor, David Wallace; and a sheriff's deputy the morning of August 25 under rather strange circumstances. Ringelson had gone to Wallace, asking for a ride to retrieve his car from where his daughter and son-in-law had left it the previous evening. The neighbor did not have a car, so they went to the sheriff's office to find a ride! The car was in the lover's lane, near the dead body of Oscar Rick. Talk about leaving your father in the soup! Martin and Margaret Young had left Ford County the evening before or the morning the father went looking for a ride.

Suspicion was immediately cast on the Youngs. One witness provided testimony that Margaret Young was seen outside Oscar Rick's garage, talking with him from her automobile (shameless hussy!). Another witness, a farmwife named Adams, said that around 9 pm on the night of the killing she and her husband were awakened by a couple who requested a ride to Gibson City. The man was carrying a shotgun and Mrs. Adams identified the defendant, Martin Young, as the man who asked for the ride. They followed his directions and left the couple at the Ringelson home in Gibson City.

The Youngs were arrested in Oklahoma City on August 27 and returned to Illinois.

Margaret Young

Margaret was accused of having lured Oscar Rick, her lover, to a secluded spot for a tryst, where Martin surprised him and shot Rick five times with a shot gun, ending Oscar Rick's life.

The courtroom saw a long line of witnesses, including Margaret Young's father and mother, who each took the Fifth and refused to testify on grounds of self incrimination. Mr. Ringelson's known actions in the case were certainly puzzling.

Why did Mr. Ringelson decline to testify? Did he or didn't he know that Oscar Rick was dead and that his car was used in the murder? Why didn't the Youngs return to Lover's Lane in their own automobile and return the father's car to the family home? A startling lack of planning went into this crime.

Ford County jury at Ford County Courthouse. All are named in the paper, but not in order of the photo)

Mrs. Rick (the Pantagraph stated that she was the third Mrs. Oscar Rick, as if that had something to do with his murder) identified the clothing worn by her husband when he was murdered. No mention was made of the condition of the body, but were readers to assume that Oscar Rick was unrecognizable after being shot? Rick's brother in law and business partner testified that Margaret Young was at the garage twice that day and that late in the afternoon, Oscar Rick left with Margaret Young and was not seen again.

The evidence showed that Oscar Rick had been inside the Ringelson car when shot. The theory was that Mr. Young had been placed at the location by Mrs. Young as part of their conspiracy, and then Mrs. Young brought Mr. Rick to Lover's Lane so Mr. Young could shoot him. Expert police witnesses from Chicago compared the shotgun pellets found on the body and shotgun pellets that were found in the car and declared them to be identical by microscopic photography. The fractures in the windshield glass and damage to the lining of the top of the car demonstrated that the shots were fired from a low level outside the car.

After this storm of evidence from the prosecution, it was hardly a surprise when the defendants both entered pleas of guilty on the fourth morning of the trial. Judge Clyde H. Thompson's comments when sentencing Martin Young were reported:

"While the court believed that Young should be punished for taking another's life, Judge Thompson declared that there was much justification in his act, that he was a man of such temperament that the sanctity of his home meant more than anything else."

Judge Thompson was not so charitable toward Margaret Young:

"The court was far more severe in his remarks to Mrs. Young as she stood tall and erect with a straight forward gaze. It was her conduct . . . which was largely responsible for the sentencing of her husband to prison . Because of her folly . . . she not only made him pay with his life's blood but that she also painfully tortured her parents as they were questioned on the witness stand."

Also at fault, bearing 50 percent of the blame, was Oscar Rick. Martin Young could not be expected to control his emotions and actions when his manhood was besmirched by an unfaithful wife, but she was to be blamed for her out of control emotions that caused her to have an affair.

The Paxton Record reporter was outraged by the light sentence and the fact that Thompson excused Young's behavior because Young was from the South and therefore had a higher standard for protection of his wife's honor. This outrage was based on a couple of points -- first, Illinois men held their wives to just as high a standard as Southern men -- second, Young had placed himself as judge, jury and executioner over Rick and deserved a heavier sentence -- third, the high standard's of the South for women's chastity was an excuse for hillbilly justice and racial slayings.

Herman and Martin Young

Martin Young was sentenced to one to fourteen years for the murder -- really? he shot a man in cold blood -- and Margaret Young received just a five month sentence, which as an accessory to murder is a shockingly light term. Herman Young, the son of Martin Young from an earlier marriage, was sent back to Oklahoma City, where he entered the Sunbeam (!) Orphanage. In 1940 Herman was still living in the Sunbeam Orphanage, despite Margaret Young's protestations that she would care for him after her five months were served. So once again, an innocent child paid the price for the errors of his elders.

Herman served during World War II from 1941 to 1944. Later in life he lived in Massachusetts and was a Mason.

Although the judge stated that Martin Young would be eligible for release in eleven months, Young was still in Lockport prison in 1940, but by 1942 he was residing in Oklahoma again according to his draft card. He died in 1972 in Mississippi. Margaret Young filed for divorce in 1936 in Iroquois County. She was engaged to a man she had met in jail, T. Runyon, but Martin Young filed his opposition to the divorce from Stateville Prison, arguing that she was not entitled to a divorce because she had committed adultery. The old If-I-can't-have-her-no-one-will argument. He further alleged in the divorce proceedings that he had only shot at Rick because Rick had fired at him first when Young caught them at Lover's Lane.

Sadly, Margaret had not learned much from her experience, and was marrying again on extremely short acquaintance.

According to family trees, Martin Young had been widowed by his second wife in 1933. He married Margaret in 1934. Martin Young was 45 years old and Margaret Young was 27 at the time of the trial and much was made of the gap in their ages by the Paxton Record. If only the paper had known that he had been married three times, they would have thrown it in his teeth many more times!

Search: "Paxton trial" "crime" "Martin L. Young" "Ford County"

All photos are from the Pantagraph Negative Collection and are used with the permission of the McLean County Museum of History.

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