John Peter Schafer, 60, was well-known and well-regarded in his Mt. Oliver neighborhood, where he worked as a broom and brush maker despite having lost his vision. His brother-in-law, George Meier, had a very different reputation, as friendless and disturbed. Both were German immigrants.
After loaning Schafer some money to assist him in his business, Meier brooded over the unpaid debt until shooting Schafer twice and killing him at his Arlington Avenue home on October 27, 1902. The shooting, witnessed by Schafer’s brother and neighbors, occurred in Schafer’s yard after the two men had spoken, apparently peacefully. Meier had told associates that he was going to see Schafer to collect the debt. He was arrested at the scene.
At trial, Meier’s defense was insanity. Though his testimony was said to be incoherent, he was convicted of first-degree murder on April 28, 1903, and sentenced to death a month later, on May 28.
After a lunacy commission was appointed to consider his case, Meier was declared insane on December 8, 1903. His custody was transferred to Dixmont State Hospital on December 11, 1903.
George Meier died at Woodville State Hospital on June 10, 1912. The cause of death is listed as terminal dementia.