Two young lovers were murdered Oct. 1, 1950, at Phillips Park in the town of Florida; a Schenectady man went to prison eight months later for killing them.
Located east of Amsterdam on Pattersonville Road off Route 5S, Phillips Park was a popular place for family outings and sports during the day. At night the secluded park attracted couples in cars.
Jeanne Stone, 17, of Cady Street in Amsterdam, and Arthur Waterman, 18, of Gloversville, were shot to death with a .22-caliber rifle. Stone was raped. At the time of the attack, Waterman was living with the Stone family and the couple intended to marry.
“The murderer apparently fired into the window killing his victims, then beat Waterman over the head with the rifle butt before he ravaged the dead girl,” The Schenectady Gazette reported. The couple saw the murderer approach and tried to escape by backing up, but their car hit a tree.
Within 24 hours, authorities focused their probe on a 38-year-old employee of a scrap yard in Schenectady named Ernest Albert Stone, not related to the female victim.
Hundreds had come forward with what The Gazette called “tales of real or imagined terror” at Phillips Park. A man from Schenectady and a man from Amsterdam provided authorities with license plate numbers for vehicles driven by park prowlers. Both cars had been rented from Ryan’s Garage in Schenectady. Garage records provided Stone’s identity.
As thousands attended the funerals in Amsterdam and Gloversville, police found Ernest Stone, suffering from pneumonia and probably a sleeping pill overdose, at the unoccupied Tippecanoe boys’ camp on Princetown Road in Rotterdam.
Stone had a rifle but police said that it was not the murder weapon. Stone reportedly told authorities he had chopped the murder weapon into small pieces at Buff and Buff, the junkyard where he worked on Schenectady’s Edison Avenue, and put the pieces in different piles of auto scrap.
Originally from Ghent, Stone had served with the Army in the Pacific in World War II. Co-workers, relatives and his landlady described him as polite, hard working, slightly built, single and well-dressed. He lived on South Ferry Street in Schenectady.
Stone admitted to being at Phillips Park but said that another man he identified only as Mike did the shooting. Authorities apparently planted an undercover agent as a jail inmate in Fonda who got Stone to admit details of the crime.
A jury was selected with great difficulty in June 1951. More than 500 people were called before 12 jurors and two alternates were chosen. As the trial was about to begin, Stone pleaded guilty to first-degree manslaughter.
Judge Willard Best explained that the plea to the lesser count was acceptable to the prosecution in that prosecutors never found the murder weapon and had no evidence of premeditation. Stone was sentenced to 20 to 40 years at Clinton state prison in Dannemora. It’s not known if he is still alive but if so, he would be over 100 years old.
After the murders, one local resident recalled her father always warned her before she went on a date not to visit Phillips Park. When a Union College student who was taking her out suggested a trip there, she left her date on the spot.
The park does not exist today. According to historian Hugh Donlon, John P. Phillips left the park to the city of Amsterdam when he died in 1911. It was considered but ultimately rejected as a site for the Amsterdam municipal golf course in the 1930s.
Bob Cudmore is a freelance columnist. Opinions expressed in his column are his own and not necessarily the newspaper’s. Reach him at 346-6657 or firstname.lastname@example.org.