"In the broad of the noon-day sun, within sixty rods of her own home, Daisy Smith, aged 16 years, a daughter of Henry Smith, a well-to-do farmer of Boyle's Run, about eight miles from Sunbury, was murdered on Monday in the most fiendish and mysterious manner. Her body was found riddled with shot and there was a gaping knife wound in her throat which reached from ear to ear. The girl's clothing was not disarranged and no motive can be attributed for the execution of one of the most fiendish and appalling tragedies Northumberland county has ever known.
Edward Cressinger, an l8-year-old boy of bad character, has been arrested on suspicion and placed in jail." The Danville Morning News, 12 Oct 1898, Wed • Page 3
At the age of 15, in April 1896, Edward assaulted a girl by the name of Laura Holdren. Charged with assault and battery, Cressinger spent 30 days in jail.
By 1898, Cressinger was 18 years old, and infatuated with 16 year old Daisy Smith, his neighbors daughter. While walking home from church in 1897, the two had a disagreement and Daisy slapped Edwards face. For the next year, he held a grudge.
On October 10 1898, Henry Smith's horse was sick. He sent Daisy out to the field to collect some sweet fern, herbs to treat the ailing animal. An hour later, when it was time for lunch, Daisy had not returned. Her father went searching for her, finding her body in a field of rye, the bundle of fern laying nearby, splattered in her blood.
As news spread throughout the area, Edward was immediately a suspect. He was known to have purchased a knife and shells just that morning. And he had a history of assaulting young girls. He was found splattered in blood, washing his hands in a nearby creek.
After being questioned by the authorities Edward was taken to the jail in Sunbury, where he continued to protest that he was innocent. The evidence however, was stacking up against him. Even his half sister, Essie Keiser, had a much different story of his whereabouts on the day of the murder than he himself had.
While in jail, Cressinger asked another prisoner if they could tell the difference between rabbits blood and human blood. He then confessed to shooting Daisy, but not to slitting her throat.
J.L. Grimm and Miles Daughterty then took a knife to the jail, similar to the one Edward had purchased, telling Edward that they had found the murder weapon. It was enough to convince him to confess. He gave the following written confession:
Although Edward, in his first confession, stated that Daisy slapped him, later he admitted that she had never gotten close to him. She had slapped him a year prior, on their way home from church. "That's why I put that in there". At the trial, a doctor testified that the shots had not been lethal, that Daisy would have survived had her throat not been slit.
Newspapers outside of the immediate area reported that the murder had been pre-meditated, that Cressinger, angry over being repeatedly spurned by Daisy, had been lying in wait for her on that morning.
- Samuel Bryson of Delaware township,
- J.B. Wagner of Chillisquaque Township,
- Elmer Lewis of Shamokin,
- Austin Reed of Milton,
- Conrad Weaver of Lewis Township,
- James M. Morgan of Trevorton,
- Robert McClain of Shamokin,
- Voris Stea of Lewis Township,
- Michael P. Smith of Washington township,
- Boyd Stea of Shamokin,
- Aaron Stahl of Sunby
- Joseph Pensyl, of Shamokin.
The 1930 Dispatch article reported "In modern terms, the boy was a moron. There are institutions now for such as he."
Although perhaps mentally deficient, the Jury decided that Cressinger was also a man with a history of violence, who knew right from wrong well enough to lie and to attempt to cover up his crime. He was determined to be a danger to society.
On Saturday, May 13th, 1899 the prisoner was once again brought to court and stood before the judge. These were his words: “Edward Cressinger, you have been convicted of the murder of Daisy Smith, the jury having found you guilty in the first degree. She never done you any harm; you met her in a lonely spot, while she was in a weak and helpless condition when compared with your manly strength, and the deed, which stands almost without a parallel, was done without any provocation whatsoever. Nothing remains for the Court but, to carry out the law..…… The sentence of the Court is that you be taken back to jail and from there to the place of execution, where you shall hang by the neck until you are dead, and may the Lord have mercy on your soul.”
- September 14th - Governor signed Death Warrant, assigning Nov. 18th as day of execution.
- October 13th - Supreme Court at Pittsburg refused to set aside the verdict
- Governor respited Cressinger until December 5th to allow time to get his case before the Board Of Pardons.
- Dec 1 - another respite granted, date of execution now fixed for January 3rd 1900
- Dec 21 - Board of pardons refused Cressingers appeal
The execution took place in the corner of the jail yard next to the street. The gallows were borrowed from Dauphin County Only 125 persons were admitted, through passes, to view the execution. It was a cold January morning, with snow falling. The Daily news reported that "the snow was falling fast at this time, and they [spectators] were covered in a mantle of white"