Jessie Harper Mozee, 53 – Murder, SS Seeandbee Passenger, July 29, 1940, Time of Death is unknown.
COLD CASE – 75 YEAR UNSOLVED CRUISE SHIP MURDER – Jessie Harper Mozee, 53, a resident of Nome, Alaska, who was a former teacher, boarded the steamship SS Seeandbee for a Great Lakes cruise to family in Cleveland. She was robbed, murdered and dumped overboard. Then, when her body washed ashore, police having no idea who she was, buried her in an unmarked grave. Mozee had a large amount of cash with her and expensive jewelry including three diamond rings. She also had a maid, a woman who was a crew member aboard the ship, who tended to her while she was aboard the ship. The maid disappeared immediately after the cruise ended and so did the cash and jewelry. Cleveland police say the diamond rings were not found in Mrs. Mozee’s cabin, nor on her body when her body was recovered on July 31, 1940 at Geneva-On-The-Lake. The cash she brought with her on the cruise was also missing.
Jessie Mozee’s body was found two days after she was last seen alive, she had two black eyes, as if she had been beaten. Coroner Charles Webster who examined Mozee’s body, said that he doubted the bruises around her eyes were post-mortem or from hitting the water.
Due to the fact that when her body was found, the ship had not reported Mrs. Mozee’s disappearance, the unidentified body was buried without an autopsy in Ashtabula, Ohio.
Jessie’s husband, Benjamin B. Mozee, a U.S. Marshall and former Superintendent Of Schools in Alaska, arrived to identify his wife’s body after it was exhumed. He was clearly shocked to learn that the ship did not miss his wife nor report her missing until August 13, 1940, a full 15 days after she disappeared. An FBI and Cleveland police investigation began.
O.R. Willard, passenger agent for the cruise line, said the reason the woman was not reported missing for two weeks was because her clothes were laid out on the bed everyday the maid came, making it appear the cabin was still in use.
This of course does not explain why the maid did not notice the bed was already made up each day when she arrived in Mozee’s cabin, having never been slept in for two weeks. Nor does it explain why the maid did not notice the same clothes were on the bed everyday.
Mrs. Mozee’s maid aboard was being sought for questioning, having left the ship under what authorities call “suspicious” circumstances.
A very suspicious fact was the finding that Mozee’s palms of her hands were covered in grease. This lead to speculation that Mozee had been in a crew area of the ship just before or just after her death.
Her death was ruled a homicide and federal agents took over the investigation. There is no record of any arrest, trial or conviction for the murder.
Mozee was survived by daughters Yvonne Yolande Mozee Bonnie Eloise Mozee Gelotte. Mozee’s brother was Walter Harper, an Athabascan Native who in 1913 became the first man to reach the summit of Mt. McKinley.
The SS Seeandbee was the largest and most costly inland steamer, on the Great Lakes. Launched on November 6, 1912, Seeandbee was an all-steel ship with a passenger capacity of 1,500 passengers on 4 decks.