The History of An Unsolved Murder in North Omaha

Kellom School in Omaha in the 1910s.

Adam’s note: I’m a little hesitant to share this story, but I’m going to. Bad things happen in communities, and this story is part of North Omaha’s history. I’ve removed family names out of respect for the families involved.

Kellom School, N. 24th and Paul Streets, North Omaha, Nebraska
This is Kellom School at North 24th and Paul Streets. It was built in 1914, and demolished circa 1954.

In September 1909, an 11-year-old African American boy named Othello was murdered in North Omaha. In a particularly gruesome murder, his body was found underneath some exterior stairs at the original Kellom School, then located at North 22nd and Nicholas Streets.

The day before his body was found, Othello’s sister Emma, who was 16-years-old, talked with an African American member of the cast of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show, which had performed at the circus grounds at 23rd and Paul Streets the day before.

In a police report, she said that she had went with Othello to the show. However, after she talked with an African American show performer and her brother came over to talk with them, she left separately and went home alone.

Othello’s body was found the next morning. He was naked and there were strangle marks around his neck. His ripped clothes were beside him, and blood was around the whole scene. Newspaper accounts said that bloody wounds on his face made identifying him a gruesome thing.

An 1887 photo of the cast of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show may include the murderer.

The Omaha Negro Business Owners League immediately offered a $200 reward for information leading to the arrest of the murderer.

After his examination by the city coroner, a performer named John was arrested while traveling with the Wild West Show in Shenandoah, Iowa. Dorsey came to Omaha on his own, and during questioning he admitted to having a conversation with Emma, but said he had no knowledge of the boy’s murder.

Later that week, police released Dorsey since they had no evidence he murdered the child. Without any further leads, the case of Othello went cold and was never solved.

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