Patrolman Cleophus J. “Clay” Eifert | Covington Police Department

Badge 53
Age 39
Served at least 10 years
1936 to February 8, 1946

 

Clay was born August 30, 1906 in Indiana to Sylvester Victor, a church organist, and Catherine (Thines) Eifert, both of Ohio.  Before 1900, Sylvester moved his family to a church in Covington.  By 1930, Clay had married Catherine Barnhorst and worked as a Bricklayer.  Patrolman Clay Eifert began appearing in newspapers as a Covington policeman in 1936.  During 1940 his family, including Joan (9) and Paul (6), were living at 723 Dalton; 3 doors from his father and next door to his brother, Roman Eifert, and his family.

 

INCIDENT

On February 8, 1946, about 6 a.m., Patrolmen Eifert and Larry Olliges responded to a report by the landlady, Mrs. Ethel Peace, of a drunken man with a gun on the 3rd floor at 114 W. 4th Street – about 1½ blocks from where Patrolman Eifert grew up as a boy on Blakewell and ¾ of a mile from his current home.

When the officers arrived, they ascended the stairs as Lucille Coatney was descending.  She repeated to the officers that a man had a gun.  As they climbed the staircase to the third floor, Grover Cleveland Rose shot Patrolman Eifert with a German Walther P-38 World War II souvenir purchased recently in Tennessee.  The bullet entered Patrolman Eifert’s chest, and through the great vessels of his heart and his spine.  Patrolman Eifert returned six shots, striking Rose in the leg.  Moments later, Rose attempted suicide and was wounded in the chin.

Arlyn Bussell came running down the steps.  Patrolman Olliges excitedly asked him if he had done the shooting and Bussell ran back up the stairs.  Reinforcements arrived and found Rose searching the room which he and Bussell occupied.  It’s possible he was searching for his pistol, which was found wrapped in a towel, in the bathroom.

Patrolman Eifert was rushed to Booth Hospital but was dead upon arrival at 6:15 a.m.

Almost immediately, Covington Police Chief Alfred Schild told the press that the shot that killed Patrolman Eifert was fired by Grover Cleveland Rose (20) of Monroe, Michigan.  Rose was transported to the hospital with a bullet wound to his face and knee and his condition was listed as critical.  Arlyn Bussell (28), at the time a striking CIO steel worker from Monroe, was also taken into custody for the murder.  Three women were taken into custody; Lucille Coatney (18) of Monroe, her sister Helen Coatney (22) of Monroe, and Mrs. Jackie Holley (19) of the 4th Street address.  They were charged with Disorderly Conduct.  Mrs. Holley was additionally charged with Living in Adultery.

 

FUNERAL

Patrolman Eifert was survived by his wife, Catherine H. (Barnhorst) Eifert; two children, Joan Eifert (15) and Paul S. Eifert (12); father; and siblings, Philemon Eifert, Valarie Corby, Rowena Rolfes, and Melanie Petzer.  Visitation was held at John J. Radel Funeral Home on February 10, 1946.  The Covington Aerie Eagles and Fraternal Order of Police conducted services.  Funeral services were held the next morning.  He is buried in Mother of God Cemetery in Covington.

 

JUSTICE

On February 22, 1946, Bussell waived a preliminary examination and was bound over to the Kenton County grand jury and held in the Kenton County Jail under a $25,000 bond.  The preliminary hearing for Rose, who was still in the hospital, was continued until March 6.

All five suspects were indicted on various charges on February 26, 1946.  Rose and Bussell were indicted for Willful Murder, with the possibility of a death penalty.  The three women were indicted for a breach of the peace.

On March 3, 1946, with Rose recovered enough to leave the hospital, Judge Joseph P. Goodenough arraigned the five in Kenton County Circuit Court.  All five pleaded not guilty.  Judge Goodenough scheduled the trial for April 2.

By April, it was determined that Rose’s Murder trial would be held April 3, 1946 and the other trials later.  Ulie J. Howard, Commonwealth Attorney, and James E. Quill, Kenton County Attorney, prosecuted.  Bussell testified that he and Rose were out and that he returned to the rooming house after Rose; that on the way, he passed Rose’s girlfriend, Lucille Coatney (18), who said, “The police are coming.”  Bussel continued up the stairs and, seeing Rose, asked why the police were coming.  Rose responded by threatening to kill the girls and “the first cop who comes up the stairs.”  Bussell heard shots behind him has he entered a hallway and then Rose came into the hallway and said, “I just killed a cop.  I might as well kill myself.”  He put the gun under his chin and pulled the trigger as Bussell grabbed the gun.  The bullet went through Rose’s chin but exited without killing him.  The Prosecution rested their case the next day at 10:30 a.m.

The defense attorney, Stanley Chrisman, tried a few legal maneuvers; including requesting a preemptory dismissal of charges and a plea of temporary insanity, but the Judge did not allow them.  Rose testified that he and Bussell had been drinking for several hours prior to the shooting and that they then returned to their rooms to get money from Lucille.  When she refused, he said, he went to bed.  When she got out of bed, he followed her and then his next memory was of shooting himself and then waking up in the hospital.

The case was handed over to the jury that same day, April 4, at 2:30 p.m.  They deliberated for 1 hour and 20 minutes, returned a verdict of guilty with a recommendation of life imprisonment (less than 2 months after he murdered Patrolman Eifert).  Judge Goodenough announced that he would formally sentence him during the next week.  Rose wept.

It was learned after the trial that Rose had passed notes through a Kenton County Jail turnkey to the three female witnesses telling them how to testify.  On April 9, 1946, the turnkey, James Fox, was suspended.  Detectives and the prosecutors discussed charging Lucille Coatney with Perjury because on the stand she denied hearing Rose’s intent to kill a policeman though she stated as such to responding officers on the night of the murder.

Instead, all four were released on April 17, 1946 on orders of Judge Goodenough.  The women were each fined $100 and costs and sentenced to 50 days in jail.  Judge Goodenough probated the fines and sentences conditional upon them leaving town and never returning.  Bussell’s indictment for willful murder was filed with the understanding that it could be reopened at any time – and the inference that he too was no longer welcome in Kentucky.

“Life” imprisonment in Kentucky at that time meant a term of about eight years before parole was possible.  On June 2, 1955, Covington Mayor, John T. Maloney, and the Covington Police Department were outraged to find that Rose was being recommended for parole.  The mayor contacted State Parole Officer Robert Aldemeyer and James E. Quill, Commonwealth Attorney, contacted the State Parole authorities.  During their annual state convention held in Covington that year, the Fraternal Order of Police also objected to the parole.  The pleas reached the governor’s desk who remanded it back to the Parole Authority for review.  On September 1, 1955, little more than 9½ years after the premeditated murder of Patrolman Eifert, Rose was released on parole to his hometown of Tazwell, Tennessee on the condition that he stay there and have a job.  Parole officials did not notify the courts, prosecutors, police department, or the people of Covington.  About a year later, seemingly violating the terms of his parole, he married Anna Maude Williams of Miamisburg, Ohio in Wayne County, Indiana.  He finally died in Michigan at the age of 70; almost 50 years to the day after taking Patrolman Eifert’s life at 39½.

 

SURVIVORS

Catherine Eifert, after 40 years without a husband, passed away before her husband’s killer in 1986.

Patrolman Eifert’s son, Paul, joined the Covington Police Department and had a very successful career, retiring as a Police Captain.  He also died before his father’s killer in 1995.  Patrolman Eifert’s grandson, Paul S. Eifert, Jr., also joined Covington Police and finished his career as a Sergeant.

On May 8, 1998, Covington Police Chief Al Bosse retired Patrolman Eifert’s Badge Number 53 along with the badge numbers of two other Covington officers who died in the line of duty.

Patrolman Eifert’s great grandson, Chris Gangwish, also joined the Covington Police Department, was promoted to Police Specialist by 2007, served as the President of the Covington Fraternal Order of Police until 2009, and still serves.

If you have information, artifacts, archives, or images regarding this officer or incident, please contact the Greater Cincinnati Police Museum at memorial@police-museum.org.

This narrative was researched and revised February 7, 2018 by Cincinnati Police Lieutenant Stephen R. Kramer (Retired), Executive Director, Greater Cincinnati Police Museum with assistance from Cincinnati Homicide Detective Edward W. Zieverink III (Retired), Historian, Greater Cincinnati Police Museum. All rights are reserved to them and the Greater Cincinnati Police Museum.