E-Sylum Feature Writer and
American Numismatic Biographies author Pete Smith submitted this
article on an Ohio coin collector's murder. A fascinating, sordid and sobering account. Thank you.
William Henry Rue (1911-1972)
William Rue was an eccentric Ohio coin collector. His teenage grandson became interested in his
collection. Warning: This story does not have a happy ending.
William Henry Rue was born in Darke County, Ohio, in 1911. He lived in Darke county and the
city of Bradford all his life. His father was a German immigrant and farmer, John Rue, and
mother was Iva Cassen Rue.
William married Dorthea Overla on December 30, 1933. They would have six daughters, two
sons and a 1953 divorce.
Rue was a forklift driver for Hobart Manufacturing Co. He was also an agent for the Greenville
Advocate and the Dayton Daily Sunday News. Rue was an active member of the Miami County
Coin Club but not a member of the ANA.
Rue lived in an apartment but also owned a house where he kept a dog, his coin collection,
antiques, old newspapers and hoards of other stuff. On March 13, 1972, he was found dead on
the second floor of the house, lying face down on a bed, beaten and with a gunshot wound to the
stomach. Ultimately seven people would be charged in the case with an eighth accomplice spared
as a cooperating witness.
Vaughn Rue was a grandson of William Rue and fourteen years old at the time. He testified that
he had stolen coins from his grandfather's house several times. In January he returned with
fifteen-year-old Thurman Wright to rob the house again. It took four teens to carry a foot locker
full of loot to a waiting car. This acquired treasure was shared around the school.
The boys took the coins to the house of Thurman's father. James Wright. He helped the boys
count their take. After spending some silver certificates at a service station in Medway, Ron
Mossbarger (22) followed him outside and offered to help him dispose of the notes. He put
Wright in contact with John Conley and Paul Chambers who offered to buy the stolen goods.
Conley and Chambers were not satisfied with the deal. They wanted the whole collection. They
offered the boys a 10% commission on whatever they could get and asked Vaughn to point out
the location of the house to them.
Conley and Chambers hadn't planned on committing murder and that's when the plan went
sideways. After the crime, Conley showed up at the Wright house with a bloody shirt which he
discarded in the trash. James Wright provided him with another shirt.
Prosecutors charged John Conley with first degree murder and claimed that Rue interrupted a
burglary by Conley and Cambers. Rue was shot, tied and beaten. They put him on a bed and
bounced on him until his neck was broken.
Margaret Conley, wife of John, attended the first two days of the trial. Then on July 12, 1972, she
was arrested and also charged with first degree murder.
The first trial of Conley ended in a mistrial on July 17. 1972, after three witnesses said that they
had been threatened and feared for their lives if the trial was continued.
Conley was granted a new trial with Jury selection beginning in August. During a recess in the
trial. Conley tore up pictures being drawn by a sketch artist.
On September 5, 1972, a jury found Conley guilty of second-degree murder and murder in the
perpetration of a robbery. He fired his attorneys and petitioned for a new trial. He claimed that
Paul Chambers acted alone in the commission of the crime. In December 1973, his request for a
new trial was denied. He was sentenced to two concurrent terms of life in prison but released in
1990 after serving seventeen years and five months.
Paul Chambers was the accomplice in the murder. His defense team stated that he and Conley
had worked together at Dayton Tire. Chambers suffered an industrial accident on December 19,
1967, that left him partially disabled and addicted to drugs. He cooperated with Conley because
Conley supplied him with drugs.
Chambers testified that he and Conley shot up on heroin before the burglary. Afterwards, Conley
gave two bags of money to his wife and told her to bury them.
On October 12, he pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of manslaughter. On October 24, 1972, he
was sentenced to one to twenty years in prison. In November 1972, he signed an affidavit
indicating that Conley was not involved in the murder. In December he testified that he wrote
that statement because Conley threatened his life while they were both in the Ohio Penitentiary.
He was released from prison on February 13, 1973, and placed on five-year's probation. Paul
Norman Chambers died on January 31, 1996.
Thomas Simpson was an accomplice who was never charged in exchange for his testimony
against Conley and Chambers. He testified that Conley and Chambers spent the night with him
after the murder. He and Conley went to Richmond to purchase heroin. At one point Conley got
out of the car and threw the murder weapon in a creek.
In an unrelated incident on July 17 during the trial, Ronald Mossbarger was shot in the head by a
patron of the Suburban Club in Medway. Miami County prosecutor William Huffman stated,
Mossbarger, it is rumored, moves in the type of company where being shot is not uncommon.
In September he faced an unrelated charge of attempted breaking and entering following a June
28 incident at an ice cream parlor. In the 1980's he faced various charges for drug possession. He
died in Las Vegas, Nevada, on November 3. 2009.
Did Vaughn Rue learn from his mistake and go on to lead a productive life? In 1977, at age 18,
he was married to Kathy Cotrell, age 21. In 1978 he was charged with contributing to the
delinquency of a minor. At about that time, his wife Kathy filed for divorce. He was served
divorce papers while in the Lee County (FL) jail. In 1980, at age 21, he was engaged to Dawn
Watkins, age 16. In 1984 at age 26, he was married to Cristie Baker, age 21. In 1988 at age 30,
he was engaged to Veronica Embry, age 21. He held various unskilled jobs, had two sons, and
died on June 5, 2017, at age 59.
While local newspapers had extensive coverage of the court cases for John Conley and Paul
Chambers, they had little on legal action taken against Margaret Conley, Ron Mossbarger,
Vaughn Rue, or James and Thurman Wright.
Wayne Homren, Editor
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