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Saturday, June 25, 2016

Murderous California.

In the early 1800s, California was a region filled with outlaws, drifters, and gold-seekers, with too many murders to document. By the end of the century, though, the Golden State began to see some eastern style murders.

The Woman in Black. -1870

A prominent California legislator was sitting with his wife and son on board the Oakland-San Francisco ferryboat El Capitain the evening of November 3, 1870. They did not notice the woman, dressed entirely in black, wearing a broad brimmed black hat with a black veil covering her face, as she approached them. From the folds of her dress the woman pulled a derringer and shot the man in the chest. The family recognized the woman in black then; it was Laura Fair and she was finally ending her tumultuous affair with Alexander P. Crittenden.

"Thus She Passed Away." -1880

George Wheeler fell in love with his wife's younger sister Della. When she planned marry someone else he was faced with a dilemma: he could not marry her himself and he could not bear to see her wed to another. The solution he chose pleased no one.

The School-girl Murder. -1886

14-Year-old Mamie Kelly, murdered by the boy next door.

Theo Durrant - The Demon of the Belfry -1895

Theo Durrant, Superintendent of Sunday School at San Francisco’s Emanuel Baptist Church, was seen entering the church with Blanche Lamont on April 3, 1895, the day she disappeared. Though several people had seen them together that day, Durant was not a suspect in her disappearance. But when Minnie Williams, another girl he had courted, was found murdered and mutilated in the church library and the corpse of Blanch Lamont was found in the bell tower, the innocent Sunday school teacher was recast as “The Demon of the Belfrey.”

Saturday, June 18, 2016

A Domestic Tragedy.

Little Murders

Annie Schau rushed from her home in Erie, Pennsylvania, on December 18, 1886, and ran to the neighbors screaming, “I am shot and Minnie is shot dead.” The neighbor ran to Annie’s house and saw her father, Christian Schau, running through the backyard with a smoking revolver in hand. Inside the house, Annie’s 22-year-old sister Minnie lay dead, shot through the heart. The girls’ mother was wild with grief, surrounded by her other six children mourning piteously.

21-year-old Annie Schau was taken to a surgeon and treated for a gunshot wound to the chest just below the heart. Mrs. Schau had also been injured, the flesh had been torn from her throat in shreds. This was the culmination of a long history of abuse by Mr. Schau against his wife. Several months previous she had been compelled to flee for her life. Schau promised to treat her better and his wife returned to him.

Mrs. Schau told the police that she and her husband were sitting to dinner with their 9-year-old son, Frankie, when Schau got up, locked the door and procured his revolver. He then made an unexpected assault upon his wife. She screamed and the two daughters seized their father just as he was about to fire the revolver into his wife’s head. Little Frankie managed to get the door open and as Mrs. Schau ran from the room her husband fired three shots at her but missed each time. Failing to bring his wife down, Schau turned the gun on his daughters and shot both then fled the house.

The killer ran for the outskirts of the city but was overtaken by Police Officer James Higgins. Schau pulled the revolver and tried to fire at the officer, but the gun was empty. He turned the revolver on his own head but there was no use. Higgins took his club and knocked Schau senseless. As Higgins took him back to the station, a crowd had gathered calling for a lynching, but they took no action.

When he first arrived at the police station, Schau was cocky, boasting of shooting at the officer, but once he was behind bars he broke down and cried bitterly. His story was that his wife was beating him badly and he drew the revolver to defend himself. His daughters, who had come to his rescue, seized the gun and accidentally shot themselves, one after the other.

Christian Schau was completely abandoned by his family. They all refused to help him and none would visit him in jail. He stuck to his story through the arraignment hearing, but on February 8, 1887, as the grand jury was deliberating, Schau tied a handkerchief to the metal frame of the upper bunk in his cell and tied the other end around his neck. He hanged himself by lifting his feet off of the floor; the jail physician said that strangulation under such conditions could not produce death in less than half an hour. On his body, the jailers found a letter, dated February 2, addressed to his family intending to make a disposition of the little property that he owned.

Sources:
"A Domestic Tragedy." Plain Dealer 19 Dec 1886.
"A Queer Case." Cleveland Leader 9 Jan 1887.
"Double Tragedy." The National Police Gazette 8 Jan 1887: 3.
"He Cheated the Gallows." New York Herald 8 Feb 1887.
"Live State Notes." Patriot 20 Dec 1886.
"Murderer Schau Arraigned." Cleveland Leader 22 Jan 1887.
"Schau Cheats The Hangman." Plain Dealer 8 Feb 1887.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Murder in a Saloon.

`
Little Murders
(From New York Herald,  New York, New York, May 8, 1876)

Murder in a Saloon.
A Cripple Beaten to Death with his Own Crutch.

Port Jervis, N. Y., May 7 1876.
.
Much excitement has been occasioned at Beach Ridge, near Stevensville, Sullivan County, by the perpetration of a murder in that usually quiet and law abiding community. The facts of the tragedy ae substantially as follows:--On Saturday James Morgan became engaged in an altercation with one James O’Hallen, the proprietor of an unlicensed drinking saloon. Morgan is a cripple, and during the trouble he
RAISED HIS CRUTCH
and struck O’Hallen a heavy blow with it. O’Hallen snatched the instrument from Morgan and knocked him down and left the saloon. Soon after, however, he returned and beat the still unconscious man until he was dead, The murderer then started to leave the village, but was arrested and imprisoned. There are said to be facts that will prove the murder to have been premeditated by O’Hallen for some time, and  the matter is to be thoroughly investigated.




"Murder in a Saloon." New York Herald, 8 May 1876.



Saturday, June 4, 2016

Chicago Tragedy.

Little Murders


Oscar Grundman and his wife Annie were living unhappily in a Chicago tenement in 1891. Annie’s excessive drinking had been a continual source of trouble for her husband. He complained that she spent all of his hard-earned wages and neglected her domestic duties; he was running out of patience.

That September Oscar Grundman had Annie arrested and wanted to have her sent to the Washingtonian Home, an institution for the treatment of alcoholism. The judge dismissed her case, however, and sent her back home. After that, Annie lived in fear of her husband and locked him out of the house.



On September 15, Oscar persuaded a neighbor boy to knock on Annie’s door and tell her the police wanted to see her. When she came to the door he struck her on the head with a hatchet. Oscar ran away, escaping arrest, leaving Annie with a serious scalp wound. At the hospital, she was told that her thick hair had probably saved her life.



A week later, Oscar called on Annie again. This time, believing he had come to reconcile, she let him in. “Annie,” he said to her, loud enough for the other tenants to hear, “I have determined that we must part. We can’t live together happily. I have put our children in good hands. Now we must say goodbye.



Annie protested, pleading with him not to leave her. But leaving her was not what Oscar had in mind. The neighbors heard him say, “It’s no use Annie, we must die. Don’t scream. It will soon be over, Annie, and we will be happier than now.”



Oscar pulled out his revolver then and shot Annie once in the head, then turning the pistol on himself, fired a second shot. The neighbors heard the gunshots and heard two bodies fall to the ground. They forced their way into the room and found the unhappy couple lying dead, their blood mingling in pools around their bodies.

Sources:
"Chicago Tragedy." Elkhart Daily Review 23 Sep 1891.
"Double Tragedy in Chicago." National Police Gazette 17 Oct 1891.
"Murder and Suicide." Daily Inter Ocean 23 Sep 1891.
"Struck with a Hatchet." Daily Inter Ocean 16 Sep 1891.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Murderous New Hampshire.

"Live Free or Die" is the motto of the great state of New Hampshire. Everyone has their own interpretation of those words, here are a few of the worst:


The Northwood Murderer. -1852

When a drifter came to town and committed murder, he was likely to get away without capture and was prone to kill again. But every now and then a wandering killer was caught and his whole bloody itinerary made public. Such was the case of the Northwood Murderer.

The Smuttynose Murders -1873

Life on Smuttynose Island, in the Isles of Shoales,off the coast of New Hampshire, was hard in the 1870's. The winter months were bitter cold and the winter storms were devastating. Maren Hontvet, her sister Karen Christensen, and their sister-in-law Anethe Christensen dreaded the loneliness and isolation of the island when the men of the house were away fishing. The night of March 6, 1873, with the men away, the women were prepared to be alone in the cold house, but nothing could have prepared them for the arrival, by rowboat, of a deranged axe murderer.

Josie Langmaid-"The Murdered Maiden Student" -1875

On October 4, 1875, 17-year-old Josie Langmaid was absent from school – The Pembroke Academy in Pembroke, New Hampshire. When her parents learned that Josie never arrived at school, they organized a search party. At 9:00 that night they found the mutilated body of Josie Langmaid in the woods near the academy. The following morning they found her head, half a mile from where the body had been. The gruesome discovery tore the community of Pembroke apart.

The New Hampshire Horror. -1883

After his wife left him in November, 1883, Thomas Samon began a weekend of drunken debauchery in Laconia, New Hampshire, with Jane Ford, the wife of his landlord. But when the beer ran out Saturday morning, events turned unexpectedly violent, ending in a horrible triple murder.

Cain and Abel. -1890

Like the Biblical brothers Cain and Able, the Sawtell brothers of Boston took divergent paths through life. While Hiram settled down and raised a family, supported by his successful fruit business, Isaac was doing time in Charlestown prison. And as with the Bible’s first murderer, Isaac’s jealousy of his brother became unbearable. Upon his release from prison, he lured Hiram from his family and killed him in cold blood.

Murder in the Vale of Tempe -1891

George Abbott was a young child when he began his career as a thief and by his thirtieth birthday he had spent a third of his life in jail. When he left prison he changed his name and tried to change his evil ways, traveling and taking honest employment. While working as a farmhand in Hanover, New Hampshire he fell in love with the farmer’s daughter, Christie Warden. When Christie did not return his love Abbot went back to his old ways and took it at gunpoint in the shady hollow known as the Vale of Tempe.

A Contract With the Devil -1897

On April 16, 1897, cashier Joseph A. Stickney was murdered during a daring daylight robbery of the Great Falls National Bank in Somersworth, New Hampshire. The frenzied investigation that followed, crossed state and national borders resulting in the arrests of Joseph Kelley, a resident of Somersworth with peculiar habits. Joseph E. Kelley confessed to the murder, leaving the court to decide whether his actions were driven by a mental disorder, whether he was feigning mental disability, or whether Kelley had in fact made a contract with the devil.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

“The Irish Giant”


Ned O’Baldwin was a heavyweight contender in the bareknuckle era of the 1860s and 1870s when a bout would continue until one man was knocked unconscious or the police arrived to shut the whole show down. Aptly dubbed “The Irish Giant,” O’Baldwin was 6’ 5”, weighed 200 lbs., and hailed from Lismore, Ireland. O’Baldwin is considered by some to be the greatest heavyweight boxer prior to John L. Sullivan, but outside the ring he was known for a violent temper which often landed him in court. He was once jailed for armed robbery after threatening to bludgeon a stakeholder.

Even for a championship contender, prizefighting as a source of income was less than reliable, so O’Baldwin partnered with a man named Michael Finnell to open a liquor store and saloon at 45 West Street in New York City. Apparently, the liquor business was not reliable either and on September 27, 1875, the partners met in the store for a vigorous business discussion. Only two men were present so it impossible to know exactly what transpired, but it was alleged that O’Baldwin was ready to sell out and leave the business and Finnell was not agreeable to this plan. The argument escalated, turned violent, and two shots were fired, attracting attention to the store.

Those who came to see what had happened found the Irish Giant on the floor, bleeding to death with a gunshot wound to the abdomen and another to the chest. The shooter was nowhere to be found. They quickly carried O’Baldwin to the hospital where he died the following day.

Those in the sporting community greatly mourned the big man’s death, but the New York press was not shedding any tears. Some editorials implied that Finnell’s action may have actually benefitted the community. The New York Herald was appalled by this advocacy of vigilante justice and, without wasting any sympathy on the dead boxer, wrote:

All large cities abound with people whose death might, in one point of view, be deemed a public benefit. If the haunts of thieves and burglars, or the streets or parts of streets given to lewd uses which make them the peril and often the ruin of young men, were blasted by lightning or engulfed by an earthquake, the moral atmosphere would, no doubt, be purified, but it by no means follows that the destruction of the vicious classes by human agency would be for the public advantage.

When the news of O’Baldwin’s death reached Finnell, he realized he either had to leave the city or turn himself in. He contacted a lawyer, and went to the police station claiming that he had acted in self-defense—not a bad plea given O’Baldwin’s size and reputed temper.  Michael Finnell was tried for first-degree murder the following February and was found not guilty for the murder of the Irish Giant.

Sources:
"Equal Justice to the High and the Low." New York Herald 2 Oct 1875.
Boxing Forum 24: Ned O'Baldwin, the Irish Giant.
"Ned O'Baldwin's Murderer "Not Guilty"." Daily Critic 19 Feb 1876.
"New York." Boston Journal 28 Sep 1875.
Jo Sports: O'BALDWIN, NED CABINET CARD ("THE IRISH GIANT").
"The Slayer of O'Baldwin." New York Herald 1 Oct 1875.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Two Murderers Murder Each Other.

`
Little Murders
(From Trenton State Gazette, Trenton, New Jersey, May 2, 1871)

Two Murderers Murder Each Other.

One of the most remarkable personal rencontres ever recorded in the annals of this city occurred on Tuesday last, resulting in the instant death of the notorious William E. Rose, and the equally notorious Jesse Robinson. Rose shot Robinson fatally through the body and then ran. The dead man (as it were) pursued, without heeding the icy hand of death upon his vitals or the dread eternity, upon whose very brink he reeled, and, with his last agonies of exertion, emptied his revolver at his enemy, inflicting wounds which proved instantly fatal, after which he himself almost instantly expired. Since the event this community breathes freer, as many citizens of Jefferson were considerably apprehensive of violence from one or the other of these men. Several suits brought against them in the name of the state of Texas will abate on account of their death. The findings in the case of Robinson were disapproved by General Reynolds and he was set at liberty. The findings in the case of Rose were either not acted on by General Reynolds or else President Grant dodged the responsibility of ordering the execution of the sentence. - Jefferson (Texas) Radical, April 8.




"Two Murderers Murder Each Other." Trenton State Gazette, 2 May 1871.



Saturday, May 7, 2016

Stranglers.


Strangulation is the most intimate form of murder, the killer takes the life of his victim with his bare hands. Perhaps this is why it is used so often to dispatch loved ones and family members.

Here, in chronological order, is the Murder by Gaslight strangers hall of fame:


Sarah Cornell was found hanging in a barn in Tiverton, Rhode Island. Was it murder or suicide?     
Mary Runkle's “cup of affliction,” was filled with tragic deaths of four family members and the suspicion that she was responsible.

An Unfortunate Organization. - 1845
A phrenologist determined that Reuben Dunbar had “an unfortunate organization” in which his moral faculties were not sufficiently large to balance his animal propensities. The diagnosis may have been influence by the fact that Dunbar had been convicted of strangling his two young stepbrothers.
After Dr. Harvey Burdell was found in his office strangled and stabbed fifteen times, 31 Bond Street was shown for what it was—a hotbed of greed, lust, intrigue and depravity.
“Little Mary Mohrman,” as she was known by all, was described as “one of those sunny-haired, bright-eyed, sylvan-like children, whose innocence, one would think, could soften the hardest soul.” This sentiment would be tested and proven horribly false.
When a drifter came to town and committed murder, he was likely to get away without capture and was prone to kill again. But every now and then a wandering killer was caught and his whole bloody itinerary made public. Such was the case of the Northwood Murderer.
A feud within Cincinnati’s German community would lead to the brutal murder and illegal cremation of Herman Schilling.
Sarah Meservey was strangled to death in her home in Tenant’s Harbor, Maine. Was Nathan Hart falsely accused?     
When George Wheeler's mistress planned marry someone else he was faced with a dilemma: he could not marry her himself and he could not bear to see her wed to another. The solution he chose pleased no one.


A web of circumstantial evidence around James Titus as the man who raped and murdered Tillie Smith. The public story soon became the official story, but there is a good possibility that none of it was true.
A series of violent home invasions on Long Island in 1883 left two people dead and four more seriously injured. The  community was thrown into a state of confusion with at least a dozen false arrests, two perjured eye-witnesses, a false confession, lynch mobs, a jail break, and for a time, two independent and equally valid lines of inquiry that could not be reconciled.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

A Boy Murderer.

11-year-old John Wesley Elkins (who went by Wesley) got out of bed around 2 a.m. on July 24, 1889, went outside the family’s Iowa farmhouse and down to the road to make sure no one coming. On his way back to the house he stopped at the corncrib a picked up a club—a heavy piece of a wooden flail—and brought it back to his bedroom. Wesley took down an old muzzle-loading rifle that was hanging on the kitchen wall, loaded the rifle, then went into the room where his father, stepmother, and infant half-sister were sleeping. He put the barrel of the gun near his father’s head and pulled the trigger. Knowing he did not have time to reload the rifle, Wesley went to his room and got the club. Then as his stepmother was leaning over his father, trying to understand what had happened, he beat her to death with the club.

Wesley took the infant, splattered with blood, out of the room, and cleaned and dressed her. Then he hitched up the buggy and started for his grandfather’s house, stopping on the way to tell the neighbors that an assassin had murdered his parents; he had taken the baby and fled for their lives.
The neighbor went to the Elkins’s house where they found the bodies of 45-year-old Mr. Elkins and his 25-year-old wife. Mr. Elkin’s head had been blown to pieces, and Mrs. Elkin’s head was beaten to a jelly. They sent for the police where were immediately skeptical of the Wesley’s story.

Wesley Elkins, around the time of the murder
Under questioning in Mason City, Iowa, Wesley quickly broke down and told the police the whole story. His reasons, however, did not seem to fit the severity of the crime. Wesley had been unhappy at having to care for his half-sister so often and wanted to set out on his own.  He had run away from home several times but each time was brought back. He thought his only way out was killing his parents. Wesley was slight of stature—four feet eight inches tall, weighing 73 pounds—and had never caused trouble. He was intelligent and well-spoken as he calmly told his story. Some believed Wesley incapable of such a deed and thought he was covering for someone else.

John Wesley Elkins was indicted for first-degree murder. At his trial the following January,
Wesley Elkins, after his release.
Wesley pleaded guilty and told his story once again. Judge Hoyt sentenced him to life at hard labor in Anamosa State Penitentiary.

Wesley was believed to be the youngest person to date to be sent to prison in America, and his life sentenced prompted heated arguments. Some felt that no 11-year-old boy belonged in prison regardless of the crime, others felt that Wesley should be sent to the gallows.


Wesley Elkins used his time wisely while at Anamosa. He worked at the prison library and at the chapel and became proficient with the written and spoken word. In 1902, twelve years into Wesley’s sentence, after bitter debate Governor Cummins issued him parole papers. Wesley left the prison a free man.

Following his release, Wesley led a full life. He first settled in St. Paul, Minnesota where he worked on the railroad. Then in 1922, he married a Hawaiian woman in Honolulu. Eventually, he became a farmer in San Bernardino, California, where he resided until his death in 1961.



Sources:
"A Boy Murderer." Evening Star 27 Jul 1889.
"A Brilliant Beginning." National Police Gazette 9 Nov 1889.
"A Young Fiends' Confession.." New York Herald 20 Oct 1889.
"Double Murder by a Boy." New York Herald 27 Jul 1889.
"Murdered his Father and Mother." Daily Illinois State Register 27 Jul 1889.
Anamosa State Penitentiary: The Strange Case of Wesley Elkins.
"To Prison For Life." Kalamazoo Gazette 23 Jan 1890.
"Wesley Elkins." Wheeling Register 13 Jan 1890.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Compelled to Die.

Little Murders
In the autumn of 1889, Mrs. Nathaniel Strang, of Moserville, Michigan, began to exhibit signs of insanity. The extent of her condition came to light on November 18 when she tried to kill herself and her eighteen-year-old daughter Maud with aconite, a poisonous herb, because she feared that murderers were after them. A doctor was called in time to save both women.

In spite of this incident, Nathaniel left his wife and daughter alone again two days later. This time, Mrs. Strang poured two tumblers of Paris green, a compound used to kill rats and insects. She drank one herself, then pointing a revolver at Maud’s head, forced her to drink the other.

When Nathaniel returned home, Mrs. Strang told him what she had done. Nathaniel quickly summoned the doctor once again, but it was too late, the poison had already begun working. Mrs. Strang died in agony at midnight. Maud, who had watched her mother’s horrible death, begged the physician to save her life, but there was nothing he could do. She died an hour later.

Sources:

"A Horrible Suicide." New Haven Register 21 Nov 1889.
"A Mother's Crime." New Castle Weekly News 27 Nov 1889.
"A Mother's Terrible Deed." Michigan Argus 29 Nov 1889.
"Compelled to Die." National Police Gazette 7 Dec 1889.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

The Butler Fratricide.

The Murder of Henry Butler - Portrait of his Killer.
On October 6, 1879, Henry Butler went to visit his younger brother, Robert, at the King farm outside of Bradford, Pennsylvania, where Robert boarded. The brothers exchanged warm greetings, they had not seen each other in four years. They made plans to visit a third brother in Hornellsville, New York, then all three would go together to see their father. But first, they would have a night on the town.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

James E. Eldredge.

James E. Eldredge
James E. Eldredge left his home in Canton, New York in the spring of 1856. He returned six months later with a new name and a duplicitous personality to match. All those around him soon learned to distrust anything the young man said—all except his fiancĂ©, Sarah Jane Gould. She remained trusting to the end, when Eldredge poisoned Sarah Jane to pursue her younger sister.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

A Heathenish Murder.

Little Murders
(From New Haven Register, New Haven, Connecticut, September 4, 1879)



A Heathenish Murder. 

A case of “voudooism” and murder is reported from the very heart of New England. On Sunday last, Freddy, the two-and-a-half-years-old son of J. W. Smith of Springfield, Mass., died of arsenical poisoning. The person who committed the murder and who has been arrested or the crime is a mulatto woman of 25 years of age, named Julia or Lizzie Shepard. She claims to have come to Springfield from Madison, Connecticut and she has for some weeks been employed as a domestic in Springfield. The facts in the case regarding the alleged poisoning are as follows: The Shepard woman, coming to this city three weeks ago in search of a friend named Smith, went to J. W. Smith’s and, though finding it the wrong family, was permitted to remain, being of respectable address. The child Freddy was much thrown in with her, as Mrs. Smith was sick and he seemed to be constantly “ailing,” vomiting much accompanied with violent contraction of the leg and arm muscles. These attacks were especially noticeable after the child had taken milk, which the woman often gave him. Miss Shepard would express great solicitation for the child, but after a time the boy conceived such a dislike for her as to scream whenever she approached him. She also said that he was too handsome to live, and would die at a certain time. The family were naturally alarmed, and secured prescriptions from two physicians, and the boy appeared to mend. But on Sunday afternoon the child suddenly died after violent spasms, and the Shepard woman left. A chemical analysis showed evident traces of arsenic, and there seems to be no doubt that the child died of the effects of that poison. After the woman’s arrest, a bottle containing arsenic was found in her trunk. What lends additional force to the charge against her is, that a robust six-year-old boy in another family, where she went on Tuesday, was the same night attacked with symptoms similar to the Smith boy’s though he recovered the next morning. A pudding she carefully prepared for the family on that day is preserved for the chemist. Miss Shepard had also washed and ironed all of her clothes, intending, she said, to leave town soon for Troy. She is an unusually smart, attractive and neat-appearing woman, and is withal rather stylish, and she protests her innocence of the cause of her imprisonment. The father of this second child says he caught her face suddenly off its guard Tuesday, and found her regarding him in a manner that he describes as devilish in the extreme; and he suspects that the pudding was for his benefit. No motive can be imagined for the crime, except that the murderess wanted to be considered a Voudoo prophetess, a character both dreaded and revered among the more ignorant colored people of the South, and that to achieve the religious honor she predicted the death of the Smith child and, to clinch the fact of her gift of prophecy, used the arsenic to secure its death. That such a horrible a crime for so shameful a motive could be committed at all seems almost incredible, but there are many well authenticated cases of similar affairs among the barbarous blacks of Africa, as well as among the southern negroes. It is to be hoped that the case will be thoroughly sifted to the bottom and, if guilt is shown, that a speedy hanging affair may occur at Springfield. The ordinary hates, malice, rivalries and lusts of men and women are plentiful enough causes of murder without counting so fanciful a reason for murder as the desire to gain the character of a prophetess. The Freeman murder at Pocasset was a religious affair. This Springfield murder seems to be a heathenish affair although the motives are not altogether dissimilar. Trifling with human life in all such cases should be punished with the highest penalty of the law.




"A Heathenish Murder" New Haven Register, 9 Sep 1879.



Saturday, March 26, 2016

Love and Arsenic.

Little Murders

Elizabeth Ragan
As Arthur Ragan lay dying of a stomach ailment, in Piqua, Ohio, on April 3, 1855, his wife, Elizabeth took the physician aside and told him she believed her husband had poisoned himself. She said she thought the cream of tartar he had been taking for his stomach was actually arsenic. Mr. Ragan died that day, and a post-mortem examination proved his wife correct, he had died of arsenic poisoning. However, there were reasons to believe that Arthur Ragan had not committed suicide, and suspicion fell on Elizabeth as his murderer.

After Ragan’s death the postmaster of Colesville, Ohio, came forward with a highly incriminating letter. The previous December, the letter had, by mistake, been given to a man named Murray. When Murray read it and realized it was not for him, he returned it to the post office. The letter had been intended for James Mowrey, and the postmaster made sure it was delivered correctly, but the contents had been so disturbing that he first made a copy which he turned over to the police:

Saturday, March 19, 2016

“But you’re stabbed, don’t you know.”

Little Murders
On Wednesday evening, October 1, 1888, Brundage H. Welton, a well-known insurance man, was standing in Wilcox Brother’s cigar store in Bainbridge, New York, when a young man came into the store, walked up to Welton and punched him in the side.

“Don’t punch a fellow that way; you hurt,” Welton said to him.

“But you’re stabbed, don’t you know,” the other man said, grinning. He punched him again and said “Look and see.”

Welton unbuttoned his coat and was horrified to see a great quantity of blood flowing from stab wounds in his side.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Cup of Affliction.


If Mary Runkle was to be believed, she lived a life of sorrow, made all the worse by false accusations. Her “cup of affliction,” was filled with tragic deaths of three of her children and the suspicion that she was responsible. When her husband John died as well, under questionable circumstances, she lost the benefit of doubt and was forced to pay the price.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Caught in Bad Company.

Little Murders


Luke Dimick was a successful livery stable keeper in Rock Island, Illinois, and the son of a wealthy Chicago real estate man. To all appearance, Luke seemed like an ideal husband, but he had one fault that his wife could not abide— a fondness for ladies of the night.

The night of July 27, 1889, Mrs. Dimick took her revolver and followed Luke to a Rock Island bawdy house, where she caught him in flagrante delicto with one of the prostitutes. In the scuffle that followed, Mrs. Dimick fired the pistol, hitting her husband. Luke Dimick died two days later and his wife was charged with manslaughter. Luke’s father, O. J. Dimick, took his daughter-in-law’s side and paid a $5,000 bond for her release.

The case went to trial the following October. Mrs. Dimick claimed that she had not intended to kill her husband, she meant to shoot the woman he was with, and Luke interfered. The women of the bawdy house disagreed, saying Mrs. Dimick had deliberately shot her husband. The jury took Mrs. Dimick’s word and found her not guilty.


Sources:
"Among Our Neighbors." Decatur Daily Despatch 14 Sep 1889.
"Court Cullings." Rock Island Daily Argus 28 Sep 1889.
"He Was Caught in Very Bad Company." The Decatur Herald 29 Jul 1889.
"Held for Murder." Decatur Daily Despatch 30 Jul 1889.
"In a Bawdy House." National Police Gazette 5 Oct 1889.
"Telegraphic Brevities." Daily Illinois State Journal 14 Oct 1889.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Murderous Missouri.

The “Show Me State” has been the scene of quite a few sensational murders, including three that inspired memorable songs.


Love and Law. -1875

The tragic love affair between Charles Kring and Dora Broemser ended in one maddened instant—he asked her to leave her husband, she refused, he shot her dead. The prosecution of Charles Kring for the crime of murder lasted eight years, included six trials and required a ruling by the United States Supreme Court.

The Talbots -1880

Dr. Perry H. Talbott was among the most prominent citizens of Nodaway County, Missouri. In addition to being a skilled physician, Talbott was state legislator, a writer and a newspaper editor. He was a civic minded citizen with strong beliefs, highly admired by friends and neighbors. But towards his family, Dr. Talbott was cold and distant. Miserly and neglectful, he had little interaction with his children beyond the occasional scolding. When Dr. Talbott was shot by an unknown assassin on September 18, 1880, in his dying breath he blamed his political enemies. The Nodaway county authorities, however, believed the killer was someone closer to home.

The St. Louis Trunk Tragedy -1885

On Sunday, April 12, 1885, the manager of the Southern Hotel in St. Louis, Missouri, entered room 144 responding to guests’ complaints of a foul odor emanating from inside. The manager found nothing amiss on Sunday but by Tuesday the stench was unbearable. He checked again and it appeared that the occupants had moved out, leaving behind several trunks. Inside one of the trunks was the decomposing body of a man wearing only a pair of white drawers. Apparently one of the two young Englishmen sharing the room had murdered the other. Though the death had been made to look like a political assassination, it was in fact the tragic ending of a “peculiar relationship.”

The Graham Tragedy -1885

Evangelist, temperance leader, author and publisher Emma Molloy opened her home to the lost and lonely the way others took in stray cats. She had an adopted daughter and two foster daughters and she found a job on her newspaper for George Graham an ex-convict she had met while preaching at a prison. But when George Graham and Emma Molloy’s foster daughter, Cora Lee, decided to marry, the result would be a murder, a lynching, and scandal for the entire family.

The Knoxville Girl -1892

Mary Lula Noel’s sister and brother-in-law were not afraid to leave Mary alone with her boyfriend William Simmons. They were going across Elk River to meet Mary’s parents and they knew Mary would soon follow, after William caught the train to Joplin, Missouri. But the river rose that afternoon, becoming uncrossable, and Mary did not meet her relatives. A week later her strangled and battered body was found floating in Elk River. The brutal murder was memorialized by an equally brutal folk ballad, "The Knoxville girl;" an American song with very deep English roots.

The Meeks Family Murder -1894

The morning of May 11, 1894, 6-year-old Nellie Meeks knocked on the door of Mrs. John Carter in Linn County, Missouri. Mrs. Carter was shocked by the little girl’s appearance; her clothes were torn, her face was covered with dirt and blood and she had a deep gash in her forehead. Her speech was barely coherent as she told Mrs. Carter that her parents and younger sisters had been murdered the night before. She had managed to escape because the killers thought she was dead. When her story was verified it became one of the most sensational crimes in Missouri history.

That Bad Man Stagolee -1895

The story of Stagolee has been sung by troubadours for more than a hundred years. Each singer seems to know a different version and tell a different story of its origin. Under a variety of names - Stagolee, Staggerlee, Stack O' Lee, Stack O' Dollars - this outlaw has become an American legend and an archetype of African-American folklore. But his story is true. When Stack Lee Shelton shot Billy Lyons, in a fight over a Stetson hat, in Bill Curtis's Saloon, on Christmas night 1895, the legend was born.

Frankie Baker - "He Done Her Wrong" -1899

“Frankie and Johnny were lovers,” true enough, but his name was Allen, not Johnny. “He was her man, but he done her wrong.” More accurately, Frankie Baker was Allen Britt’s woman, but yes, he done her wrong. He was her pimp and he abused her. Frankie caught Allen cheating with Alice Pryar and on October 16, 1899 she shot him – not in a public saloon, but in the bedroom of her St. Louis apartment. They quarreled about Alice Pryar and when he attacked her with a knife, she pulled a pistol from under her pillow. By that evening a local songwriter had composed a ballad that would immortalize the story of Frankie and Al Britt, and provide the framework for a century of misinformation.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

The Kiss of Death.

Little Murders

Frank Sharon, a young barber in Fall River, Massachusetts had some difficulty with his wife in December 1881, which resulted in his arrest. After his release, he went home and entered the room where his wife, and mother of his three children, lay sleeping. He leaned over and kissed her three times, then drew a pistol and shot her in the side of her neck. She died almost instantly.

Sharon went straight downtown and turned himself in to the police. He said something crossed his mind and told him to kill his wife. At his arraignment in January, Sharon pled not guilty to the charge of murder. He was probably planning to plead insanity, but it does not appear that the case ever went to trial.

Sources:
"Brutal Case of Wife Murder." Philadelphia Inquirer 8 Dec 1881.

"Kiss of Death." National Police Gazette 24 Dec 1881.

"Local Intelligence." Springfield Republican 23 Jan 1882.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Little Conestoga Creek.


The discovery of the murdered body of Mrs. Mary Dellinger led to the very public airing of her family’s dirty laundry. Calvin Dellinger was a philanderer, an abusive husband, and a sadistic father, but was he a killer as well?

Saturday, February 6, 2016

A Mystery in Pittsburgh.

Little Murders

Police Lieutenant Snyder, walking down Frankstown Avenue in Pittsburgh’s East End, around one a.m. on January 8, 1889, heard a gunshot from the house of Albert Davis, a well-known African American restaurant owner. The Lieutenant forced his way inside and found Davis lying dead at the bottom of a staircase. A revolver lay on a table next to several empty beer bottles. Standing near the body in their nightclothes were Carrie Palmer and Mollie White, both African American. Mollie White, a girl no older than 14, said she had been awakened by the shot and saw Davis fall down the stairs, but knew nothing of the circumstances leading up to his death. Carrie Palmer refused to give any information.