This 100+ year-old crime has no definitive conclusion.

So who was Frank Hornyak?
Why was there a $500 reward out for his capture back in 1919?

Home: Bad Axe, Michigan
Occupation: Beet weeder
Wanted for: Murder
Age: 28
Hungarian immigrant, speaks broken English, disappeared August 8, 1919.

What possibly could prompt a 28-year-old Hungarian immigrant beet weeder to commit murder? He wanted a hat.

It seems Frank killed a 29-year-old Owendale farmer named John Hooks while arguing about the possession of a hat. After being taken to a hospital, Hooks lived a few hours, long enough to tell authorities that it was Hornyak who shot him. Hooks died, leaving a wife and several children.

The search was on for this Hungarian beet-weeding hat-killer.

Among the false leads, one particular man who fit Hornyak's description was nabbed in a Saginaw cornfield...and he kept insisting he was Hornyak. But when 'identified' by a Bad Axe resident, it turned out that the suspect was William Beno (or Buno), a mental asylum escapee. Still insisting he was Hornyak, Beno/Buno was released.

Finally, the real Frank Hornyak was caught in Yosemite, California December 1921; the Huron County sheriff traveled west and brought him back to Michigan.

In court, Hornyak ended up pleading guilty by self defense; but his understanding of the English language was to his detriment and he was actually pleading guilty to first-degree murder. He was sentenced to life imprisonment in Marquette. Ten years later, he finally understood what happened and stated he wasn't aware it was first-degree of which he admitted guilt.

As a prisoner, Hornyak was a model inmate with a spotless record. He became a trustee and remained one for fifteen years until 1951 when he came up for parole. The board met in Lansing to determine the release of Hornyak and two other prisoners. Hook's family attended the parole hearing, speaking a few words probably not in his favor.

Governor G. Mennen “Soapy” Williams was to give his parole decision in January 1952, but that's where the story stops. So wait a minute.....was Hornyak released or not?

Where's the rest of this story?

In the gallery below you'll find many newspaper clippings that relate this saga.


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