Private John E. Fessler
Pennsylvania State Police
Years of Service: 4 years and 2 months
Cause of Death: Medical Episode
Date of Incident:
April 22, 1937
Date of Death:
April 23, 1937
John E. Fessler was born September 11, 1904, at Cressona, Schuylkill
County, Pennsylvania .
He enlisted in the Constabulary on March 1, 1933, and was assigned to Troop E, Harrisburg.
He was 28 years old; 6' tall. Before joining the Constabulary, he was employed with the
Pine Knot Colliery.
At 11:00 p.m. on April 22, 1937, Private Fessler and Private Thomas A. Hooper were
assigned to assist Montour County Sheriff E. Riley Lindner and his deputy, Joseph Wray.
The Sheriff was attempting to serve a warrant on William Yeager, a Cooper Township farmer.
Yeager, in a drunken rage, had been terrorizing his wife and family, all of whom had fled
As the Troopers approached the house, Yeager fired, wounding Private Fessler. Private
Hooper and the Sheriff rushed the house returning Yeager's gunfire and entered the
dwelling where Yeager was wounded. Yeager was taken to Danville Hospital where he
Private Fessler was taken to Geisinger Hospital at Danville where he died the following
day, April 23, 1937.
Private Fessler is buried in the Cressona Cemetery. Pall bearers were
Corporal Buckbee and Privates Murray, King, Schuster, Prior, and Ramer. Members of the
firing party were Corporal Gritman and Privates Heuer, Stansfield, Fisher, Trout, Cooper,
Johnson, Kinback, and Packler. The bugler was Private William Doll.
Private Fessler was survived by two sisters, Helen Sweigart and Annie Berger, and two
brothers, William and Sterling, all of Cressona.
At 32, he had completed four years and
two months of Constabulary service.
In the first Montour County murder trial in 40 years, Yeager was tried and found guilty.
Judge Charles C. Evans sentenced Yeager to die in the electric chair on May 28, 1937.
After several stays for appeals, Yeager was scheduled for execution on Monday, February
The day before, while officers were preparing to take Yeager to Rockview for execution,
Yeager shot himself in his prison cell and died before he could be taken to the hospital.
Visiting him earlier were family members and friends, one of whom smuggled a gun into the
prison. Yeager was to be executed with two others in a triple execution. Executioner Frank
Lee Wilson proceeded with a double execution.