The November 1914 death of Mary Fridley Price made the front page of the Minneapolis Journal: “Woman Killed in Attempt to Save Pet Dog.” Her grieving husband, Fred Price, told police she had fallen off a Mississippi River bluff in a vain attempt to keep her dog from going over. But by January 1916, that grieving husband was at the center of a sensational murder trial, accused of shoving her off the cliff for her money.
On November 28, 1914, Mary Fridley Price, thirty-eight, lay by the rocky shore of the Mississippi River, still dressed in the fine blue tailored suit and furs she had worn to a play that afternoon. It had been the final matinee performance of the comedy-musical The Prince of Pilsen at Minneapolis’s Metropolitan Theatre.
Now it was after 6 pm on a chilly fall night. Fridley Price sprawled on her back with a halo of blood around her head.
About an hour before, she had shared the roomy backseat of her 1913 Cadillac with Chum, the Cocker Spaniel she loved like the child she didn’t have. Her husband, Frederick T. Price, was at the wheel, with his friend and sometime business partner Charles D. Etchison next to him.
Etchison and Price had accompanied Fridley Price to the play. In fact, Etchison had turned up with the tickets that morning and suggested the outing. After the show ended, Price proposed that the three of them motor to St. Paul. Mary, the husband suggested, could collect Chum at the apartment and bring him along.
It was during that drive from their Minneapolis apartment near Loring Park to scenic East River Road that the Cadillac’s engine seemed to stall. Price pulled over. Since he and Etchison would be tinkering under the hood for a while, Price said, why shouldn’t Mary take Chum for a walk?
Mary Fridley Price’s decision to give her dog some air was her last. Just beyond the parkway’s thin fringe of trees, the land dropped off. Somehow, within minutes of exiting the car, both woman and dog toppled some forty feet to her death.
Fridley Price died on the way to the hospital, the fracture to the left side of her skull proving fatal. Chum died later, when police located the severely injured dog and shot him.
The police and coroner agreed with Price’s and Etchison’s story: that Chum had bolted through the trees only to find a drop off, and Mary, in an attempt to save him from going over, had lost her footing and gone down with him.
Mary Fridley Price had been the granddaughter of Abram Fridley, the Minnesota pioneer and state legislator for whom the town of Fridley was named. Her father, David Fridley, was a wealthy landowner. He was generous with Mary — and suspicious of her traveling salesman husband. Fridley had ensured that during the marriage his daughter had kept her accounts, bonds, and land holdings under her control.
David Fridley did not believe his daughter’s death was accidental. With another son-in-law, William Dye, he hired private investigator John P. Hoy, the former Minneapolis police detective who had helped solve the infamous Harry Haywood murder case in 1894.
Hoy investigated Price for ten months. The detective made his way to Price’s hometown, Neenah, Wisconsin. There he learned that a local boy who had fallen off a roof and lain unconscious for hours had grown into a teenager who beat a neighbor woman senseless with a stick of wood for the sheer “deviltry” of it. That teenager was Price. Hoy also built a case against Etchison, who, after swooning and praying to God, confessed that his friend had murdered his wife for her money.
In January 1916, newspapers from different parts of the country covered Price’s Minneapolis murder trial. Etchison, the state’s star witness, testified that Price had plotted his wife’s murder for months. That night in 1914, he had shoved her off a steep cliff in Minneapolis and thrown her dog after her. Only Fridley Price hadn’t died in the fall. So Price, after nearly an hour of scrambling, found his way down and stove in the semi-conscious woman’s head with a rock. He paid off Etchison for being his witness to the “accident.”
Price was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in Stillwater Prison. David Fridley never got over his daughter’s murder. In 1926, he hanged himself. Inmate Price, employed in the prison’s twine-making business, died four years later of pneumonia and complications from diabetes.
For more information on this topic, check out the original entry on MNopedia.