Saturday, March 25, 2023

The Cruel Axe.

 

17-year-old James E. Nowlin murdered George Codman in a Massachusetts stable in January 1887. Then he took an axe and chopped Codman’s body into pieces. As he traveled home in a sleigh, he threw the pieces into the snow along the road.

Read the full story here: Massachusetts Butchery.



Saturday, March 18, 2023

Francis Colvin's Skull.

In December 1873, the body of Francis A. Colvin was found floating in the Seneca River, near Baldwinsville, New York. He had a severe wound to the left side of his skull. Owen Linsday and Bishop Vader were charged with his murder. Colvin’s skull was an exhibit in the trial of Owen Linsday and was examined by several witnesses. It served to illustrate the severity of the wound. It also helped determine which defendant had delivered the death blow. The location of the wound indicated a right-handed killer and Bishop Vader was left-handed.

Read the Full Story Here: The Baldwinsville Homicide.

Saturday, March 11, 2023

Most Atrocious Murder.

On February 2, 1846, Francis Adolphus Muir went to the home of his friend Captain William Dandridge Epes. Muir and Epes were two of Dinwiddie County, Virginia's most prominent and respected men.  They had business to discuss; Muir held bonds amounting to $3,200 against Epes, the balance owed by Epes for a tract of land he bought from Muir. Muir was invited to stay for dinner when their business was concluded.

According to Mrs. Epes, her husband told Muir about a deer he had seen in the woods and asked Muir to accompany him when he went to kill it. Muir agreed, and the two men left together on horseback. Epes returned alone and told his wife that Muir had found it necessary to go to Brunswick and would not be staying for dinner. Muir was not seen again in life.

Muir disappearance was a surprise; he had not told his brother or any of his friends that he was going to Brunswick. Then, around February 11, his brother John received the following letter:

Petersburg, Feb. 4, 1846

Dear John,
I have arrived in this place and will give you a small sketch of the times. On my way here my horse threw me, sprained my wrist and got away from me, my hand is this time so painful that I am obliged to get a friend to write this letter for me. I hope my horse has returned either to your house or Peter’s—Fortunately for me a gentleman came along in a buggy and offered me a seat to town which I accepted, Capt. Epes has paid me every dollar due on his land &c. I have had an offer to go in business in this place. I shall leave immediately for the north where I shall remain for several weeks and see the prospect of laying in a stock of goods. I shall not be in your part of the country for several weeks, my love to all.

Your brother

F Adolphus Muir.

About February 27, John Muir received another letter from New York, dated February 12, and signed “F. Adolphus Muir.” He said his hand was still painful, and he planned to travel to Missouri to visit friends. Nothing further was heard from or about Adolphus Muir until early June when John Muir received a letter from a man named Junius P. Rollins informing him that a hat picked up floating in the Mississippi River had “F. Adolphus Muir, Dinwiddie, Va.” written underneath the leather lining. The letter implied that Muir had drowned.

Muir’s friends and family took out an advertisement in the Petersburg Intelligencer in July, asking if anyone could provide the following information:

1. With what gentleman F. Adolphus Muir traveled to Petersburg in a buggy after he was thrown from his horse last February.

2. What gentleman proposed to go into business with him in Petersburg in February.

3. What friend wrote the letter dated “Petersburg, February 4, 1846.”

4. What gentleman brought to Petersburg the letter dated New York, February 12, 1846

5. Whether any friends or acquaintances saw him in Petersburg around February 4.

6. Whether any gentleman living in Petersburg, Richmond, or any other part of Virginia knows such a man as Janius P. Rollins.

They did not get the answers they were looking for, but they did learn that Ross, one of Epes’s slaves who served as his carriage driver, had information on the murder. Under police questioning, Ross revealed that his master told him he accidentally shot Muir. He took Ross to the body and ordered him to bury it. Ross led police to the grave, about 500 feet from the house. The body was disinterred and recognized as that of F. Adolphus Muir. 

The police went to arrest Epes for the murder but found that he had already left for parts unknown. Friends and family of Muir offered a $500 reward for the apprehension of William Epes.

While Epes was at large, rumors began to spread that Muir was not his first murder victim. Epes benefitted financially when his mother-in-law suddenly took ill and died. Some believed he had poisoned her. Epes’s son died in a hunting accident, in similar circumstances to Muir’s death, and Epes took possession of property his son owned. Epes was also accused of murdering a hog drover and one of his servants.

After avoiding capture for a year and a half, Epes was arrested in Texas in March 1848 and brought back to Virginia. The following September, he was tried for murder.

Epes’s attorneys posited several alternative theories—maybe the body wasn’t actually F. Adolphus Muir’s, maybe he hadn’t died from gunshot wounds, maybe Ross killed him, maybe the death was accidental, or Epes shot him in self-defense. But when the case was given to the jury, they took only fifteen minutes to return a guilty verdict.

William Dandridge Epes was hanged on December 28, 1848. Before his execution he confessed to murdering Muir but denied murdering anyone else. He made the following statement on the gallows:

Gentlemen : It was not my object to have anything to say on the present occasion, but, as it may do good, I have determined to say something. I have been charged with many crimes. I have been charged with the murder of a hog drover; I have been charged with the murder of my mother-in-law; I have been charged with the murder of my son; and I have been charged with the murder of my own servant; but, gentlemen, all these charges are false—all false. Would to God I could say as much of that other charge; but of that I am guilty. I murdered Francis Adolphus Muir. I murdered him. He fell by my hand. I have regretted the act ever since it was committed; it has been before my eyes ever since. I have the gratification to state that I believe he is in heaven, and I trust I may meet him there. In his dying moments be said he hoped to meet me there. I hope I shall meet him and I believe I will meet him there, for I trust in God’s promises.

Gentlemen, I have seen better days, and many of you know it; but when the temper is aroused we know not what we may do. I hope that my fate may be a warning for you to shun my example. I leave this world at peace with all mankind. I feel that I am at peace with My God. I trust to meet you all in heaven.


Sources: 
Brunet, J.M.H., Trial of William Dandridge Epes (Petersburg: 1849.) 
“[Col Epes; Mr,” Charleston Courier, March 13, 1848.
“[Petersburg; Virginia; Mr,” Charleston Courier, March 14, 1848.
“Arrest the Murderer!,” Daily Richmond Enquirer., July 17, 1846.
“The Body of F. Adolphus Muir Found,” NEW-YORK OBSERVER., July 25, 1846.
“By Magnetic Telegraph,” Daily Evening Transcript, March 15, 1848.
“A Chapter Of Suspected Crimes,” Alexandria Gazette, August 27, 1846.
“Conviction of Epes,” Richmond enquirer., September 29, 1848.
“Epes, the Murderer Hung,” Daily Globe, December 27, 1848.
“Execution or William Dandridge Epes,” Daily National Tribune, December 28, 1848.
“Most Atrocious Murder,” Albany Argus, July 28, 1846.
“The Murder in Dinwiddie,” Alexandria gazette., July 22, 1846.
“Reward for Murderer,” American Republican and Baltimore daily clipper., July 20, 1846.
“Rumored Arrest Of Epes,” Alexandria Gazette, August 21, 1846.
“Strange and Mysterious Disapperaance and Probable Murder of F. Adolphus Muir,” Daily Richmond Enquirer., July 11, 1846.
“Trial of Epes,” Southern Patriot, September 28, 1848.

Saturday, March 4, 2023

The Colt-Adams Murder.

The Murder of Samuel Adams by John C. Colt.

An argument over money between bookkeeper John C. Colt and printer Samuel Adams, on September 17, 1841, ended in the murder of Adams in Colt’s Manhattan office. Colt tried to dispose of the body by crating it up and shipping it to New Orleans.

Read the full story here: The Corpse in the Shipping Crate.


Illustrations from "Trial of John C. Colt", New York Sun, January 31,1842.

Saturday, February 25, 2023

Maria Bickford.

Maria Bickford, a beautiful young prostitute, was found murdered in her room in Boston’s Beacon Hill. Her throat was slashed from ear to ear and her bed had been set on fire. 

Read the full story here: The Sleepwalking Defense.

Saturday, February 18, 2023

An Affair of Blood and Mystery.

Mrs. Amelia Berry (or Berri) was a German widow living in Jefferson City, Missouri. In 1864, her husband died, leaving her a sizable estate, including a drug store with a residence on the upper floors. Her brother, Edward Hofius, lived in California until 1870, when Amelia invited him to return to Jefferson City and reside with her. Mary Clarenbach, a niece of Amelia and Edward, also lived in the large house.

Around 8:00, the night of Sunday, June 11, 1871, neighbors heard gunshots from the drug store. They went inside and found Amelia Berry lying on the floor, mortally wounded. On the floor above, they found Edward, insensible, with a bullet through his brain. The room was in disarray, and some of the furniture was broken. Edward died soon after, and Amelia died around 11:00 the following night. 

The community was shocked by the tragedy. The story spread quickly, but the motive for the shooting was a mystery. Both brother and sister had always been respected members of society. Amelia was seen as kind and energetic and praised for her competence in running the drug store. Edward was steady, industrious, and sober. Both had always been on the best of terms with each other.

Two narratives circulated to explain the tragedy. One said that Edward wanted Mary to accompany him to a German picnic held on the outskirts of town that afternoon. When she refused, he became quite angry and went to the picnic alone. When he returned, he was under the influence of alcohol and still angry. He argued with his sister, then went upstairs and started breaking chairs. Amelia followed him upstairs, and the quarrel resumed. When she turned to leave, he drew a pistol and shot her in the back. He then turned the pistol on himself.

The other story said that Edward returned from the picnic and found Mr. Schirenberg, the editor of Fortschrit, a German weekly newspaper, there. Schirenberg had been paying some attention to Amelia, and Edward disapproved. The two began to quarrel and when it looked like it would turn violent, Amelia stepped between them and tried to stop it. Edward drew his pistol and shot, but the bullet intended for Schirenberg hit Amelia in the side. In a moment of desperation, after seeing what he had done, Edward rushed upstairs and shot himself. 

The next day, the coroner held an inquest on the shootings. Capt. Peisner, who lived next door, testified that he heard a loud quarrel between Edward and Schirenberg. As he went to see what was happening, he heard three shots fired in succession. On entering the drug store, he heard two more shots fired. Inside he saw Schirenberg assisting Amelia into her room.

Mary Clarenbach testified that Edward had returned from the picnic and did not want to eat the dinner Amelia had prepared for him. They began to argue. Edward said Amelia had not treated him like a brother and threatened to leave if she did not pay him the bonds that she owed him. The argument became more heated, and Edward drew his pistol and shot Amelia. He ran upstairs and made a great deal of fuss. Mary went up to try and take the pistol from him. He fired at her and missed. Then he pointed the pistol at himself and fired twice. The first shot missed him, but the second entered his eye and came out the back of his head. 

There had been no words between Schirenberg and Edward, Mary said, at the time Schirenberg was outside in the garden. 

The foreman of the jury wanted to hear testimony from Schirenberg and from Dr. Thompson, who had been present when Amelia updated her will, knowing that she was dying. The coroner refused, saying the neice’s testimony was sufficient to show how Edward Hofius died.

The jury rendered a verdict that Edward came to his death from a pistol shot fired from his own hand. However, three jurors, including the foreman, refused to sign the verdict. But, since they needed the verdict before burying Edward, they agreed to sign under protest. 

The resulting verdict did not satisfy the community; some believed that the manner of Edward’s death was open to doubt. A bullet was lodged in the wall near where the body was lying, and there was a mark on the wall showing that another bullet had glanced off. From the position of the mark, it did not appear that Edward could have fired the shot that made it. Some believed the shots had been fired by Schirenberg. A second inquest held the following day returned the same verdict.

The suicide theory was given some credence by a family history that was plagued by suicide. Amelia’s husband had died by his own hand, and another brother of Amelia and Edward had committed suicide in Switzerland. 


Sources: 
“Awful Tragedy,” Intelligencer Journal, June 17, 1891.
“Double Tragedy in Jefferson City, MO,” National Police Gazette, June 24, 1871.
“A Double Tragedy!!,” The Peoples' Tribune, June 14, 1871.
“A Dreadful Tragedy,” Warrenton Banner, June 27, 1871.
“Horrible Tragedy,” The Missouri Republican, June 14, 1871.

Saturday, February 11, 2023

Sarah Jane Gould.


Everyone in Canton, New York, learned to distrust James E. Eldredge, except his fiancĂ©, Sarah Jane Gould.  Sarah Jane remained trusting till the end, when Eldredge poisoned her to pursue her younger sister, Helen.

Read the full story here: James E. Eldredge

Saturday, February 4, 2023

Arson to Hide a Worse Crime.

Lee Heflin ran to Thomas Robinson’s farm near Calverton, Virginia, on November 10, 1891, to raise an alarm that a house on a neighboring farm was on fire. Heflin led Robinson and his son George to the burning house. When they got there, other neighbors had gathered, and the house was engulfed in flames. 

The house belonged to Mrs. J. W. Kines, a widow who lived there with three of her children. It appeared that all four were still inside. The Robinsons ventured in and were able to pull out three bodies. 8-year-old Lizzie Kines lay near the door and was only slightly burned. Annie Kines, ten years old, was so badly burned as to be unrecognizable. Mrs. Kines’s body was severely charred but not as bad as her daughter's. There was no trace of 4-year-old Gilbert Kines. 

Mrs. Kines had been having financial difficulties since her husband died and had told neighbors she did not know how she would take care of the children alone. But the coroner quickly ruled out murder-suicide; the victims had been killed before the fire started. Lizzie had deep wounds to her skull and between her eyes. Her jaw was broken as well. Mrs. Kines’s skull had been crushed.

Lee Heflin had been shucking corn at the McMillan farm, about 40 yards from the burning house. When asked why he ran to Robinson’s house a mile and a half away instead of trying to rescue those in the house, Heflin responded, “I am a stranger here. I never saw a house on fire before and was afraid.”

Heflin roomed with George Dye on the McMillan farm. Neither man could give a satisfactory account of their actions the night of the murder, and they gave contradictory statements. However, the coroner’s jury ruled that Mrs. Kines and her daughters were killed by a person or persons unknown, and the motive was believed to be robbery. The Governor offered a reward of $700 for the “detention, arrest, and conviction” of the murderer or murderers.

Heflin and Dye were arrested on suspicion in Warrenton, then taken to Alexandria for their own protection. A vigilance committee in Warrenton was formed to lynch the men. On the way to Alexandria, Heflin confessed to several witnesses that he committed the murders to secure some money. He also exonerated Dye.

Heflin said he had gone to the house at about 8:00 the night before the fire. He knocked on the door, and when Mrs. Kines answered, he asked her for some money. She told him she had none. He went into the house, picked up a heavy piece of firewood, and felled Mrs. Kines with one blow. He turned and saw Gilbert, then killed him with a blow to the back of the neck. Then he killed the other two children and secured what money he could find. He took between $25 and $75 and buried it. The next morning, he returned to the house, saturated the place with coal oil, and set it on fire. He said he needed the money because he was going to elope with the wife and daughter of a farmer who lived nearby. The police went to look for the money and planned to release Dye.

Joseph Dye was still in custody when Heflin went to trial in Warrenton that December. Heflin had changed his story and now said that Dye had done the killing and he had done the burning. On December 29, Lee Heflin was found guilty of first-degree murder. Heflin was rushed from the courtroom and barely escaped an excited mob that had gathered there. 

In January, Heflin testified against Dye at his trial. Dye was found guilty as well, and both men were sentenced to be hanged on March 18.

The day before the hanging was to take place, the Governor granted them a 60-day stay of execution. Dye was appealing for a new trial, and Heflin would be a witness. Fearing violence, the authorities placed the men in a vehicle and started for the safety of Alexandria. A party of sixty men, worried that Dye and Heflin would escape justice on a technicality, overtook the vehicle near Gainesville. They overpowered the guard, then hanged the murderers from a tree. As they swung, the mob riddled their bodies with bullets. 


Sources: 
“Arson to Hide a Worse Crime,” National Police Gazette, December 5, 1891.
“A Family Murdered,” Evening Star, November 28, 1891.
“The Fauquier Tragedy,” Alexandria Gazette, November 12, 1891.
“The Fauquier Tragedy,” Alexandria Gazette, November 14, 1891.
“Fired to Conceal Murders,” Morning news, November 11, 1891.
“Guarded in Court,” Roanoke times, December 30, 1891.
“Hanged on the Day Appointed,” Watertown Daily Times, March 18, 1892.
“Heflin Respited. ,” Shenandoah herald, March 18, 1892.
“A Murderer Confesses,” News and Observer, November 27, 1891.
“Murderes Lynched,” Evening Star, March 18, 1892.
“South and West,” Boston Herald, November 11, 1891.
“To Swing For Their Crimes,” Atlanta Journal, January 14, 1892.
“Virginia,” Weekly Union times, November 20, 1891.

Saturday, January 28, 2023

The Murderous Barker Brothers.


The Baker Brothers of Bloomingdale, Michigan, suspected Harvey Keith of having adulterous relations with both of their wives. When they caught him in bed with Marshal Baker's wife, they brutally murdered Keith and dumped his body in Max Lake.

Read the full story: Murder at Bloomingdale.

Saturday, January 21, 2023

Henry G. Green.

Henry G. Green was infatuated with Mary Ann Wyatt, leading lady of a troupe of temperance players who performed in Berlin, New York in 1844. When the troupe left Berlin, Henry followed and was soon courting Mary Ann. On February 10, 1845, they were married. Eight days after that Mary Ann Wyatt Green was dead from arsenic poisoning.  

There is little doubt Henry Green murdered his wife but his motive in doing so is an enduring mystery.

Read the full story: The Murdered Wife.

Saturday, January 14, 2023

Erring Wives and Jealous Husbands.

One afternoon in the Autumn of 1855, two young men were drinking coffee at Vinton’s, a Boston confectionary saloon. Both were bright and respectable, with promising futures. William Sumner, age 19, was a cousin of Massachusetts Senator Charles Sumner and had recently completed a course of mercantile studies, preparing to enter his brother’s ship chandlery business. His friend, Josiah Porter, was a Harvard graduate and a lieutenant in the City Guards.

A pair of attractive young ladies sat down at the table next to them. Nelly Dalton and Fanny Coburn were sisters, the daughters of John Gove, who owned a clothing store in Boston. Fanny recognized Mr. Porter and reminded him they had been introduced at a ball for the City Guards the previous February. The four struck up a conversation, and although both ladies were married, they became quite flirtatious. Before they left, they told the men that they often came to Vinton’s and hoped they would see them there again.

When they met again, all four sat at the table, and the flirting continued. Nelly Dalton secretly passed a note under the table to Charles Sumner. He later read the message  to Porter. The note was very flattering; she expressed a strong liking for Sumner. He answered her in a letter, and this began a regular correspondence. They sent each other amorous letters, including some romantic poetry Sumner sent her. Fanny Coburn tried the same thing with Josiah Porter, but he did not respond to her letters.

That November, Nelly began to worry about getting caught and asked Sumner to return her letters. He did so, but she did not destroy the letters he sent to her. Nelly’s husband, Benjamin Dalton, found them and confronted her. Nelly tried to shift the blame to Josiah Parker, but that only enflamed Fanny’s husband, Edward Coburn.

The Dalton and Coburn compelled their wives to write to Sumner and Porter, inviting them to Coburn’s house on Shawmut Avenue. Porter received the letter on November 17; the message seemed urgent, so he hurried to the house. As soon as he arrived, Dalton and Coburn seized him and began whipping him with cowhides. Porter freed himself and ran from the house before sustaining any serious injury.

Charles Sumner had not responded to the letter, so the men went looking for him. They found him in a saloon on West Street. Sumner had never met Dalton or Coburn, so he did not know who they were. They told him that Mrs. Dalton was very anxious to see him, and they would drive them there in a carriage. Sumner declined, saying he had to catch a train to his home in Milton. The men said they would take him home. The men persisted, and Sumner reluctantly agreed to go with them.

They entered the house and went to the parlor, where he found the two sisters. The men revealed themselves as their husbands. An argument ensued, and Dalton asked Sumner if he had ever taken any improper liberties with his wife or had placed his hand upon her bosom. Sumner denied doing anything of the kind. 

Dalton said his wife had made such a charge, to which she replied, “I placed his hand upon my bosom; he did not. He never took any improper familiarities with me.”

This made Dalton even more furious. He and Coburn dragged Sumner to the basement, where they began pounding him with their fists. They beat him until they were satisfied and kicked him out the back door. 

Josiah Porter filed charges against Dalton and Coburn, and they were free on bail, awaiting trial. Sumner did not go to the police and wanted to keep quiet about the beating. But Sumner was still in pain from the attack, and his health was deteriorating. On December 11, Sumner died. Dalton and Coburn were re-arrested, this time for murder.

Benjamin Dalton and Edward Coburn were charged with manslaughter; their trial began on January 24, 1856. Sumner’s doctor testified that the cause of his death was inflammation of the throat and air vessels caused by his external injuries and aggravated by exposure to the cold. The defense argued that it could not be proven that the beating caused the inflammation. Sumner would have died anyway.

They also argued that the beating was not planned. The women sent for Sumner and Porter on their own initiative. The defendants planned to confront their wives and demand an explanation of their conduct, then let the men go. But when Sumner arrived, they saw he was wearing a ring that Dalton had given his wife at their wedding. This so enraged Dalton that he began beating Sumner.

The jury was deadlocked for five hours, with half for conviction for manslaughter and half for assault and battery. The jury finally agreed on the lesser charge. Coburn was sentenced to ten months in the jail and a fine of $250; Dalton was sentenced to five months in jail and a fine of $200. The discrepancy was probably because Coburn was much older than Dalton and believed to be the instigator.

The defendants were pleased with the verdict. As their attorney, R.H. Dana, expressed it, his clients were “delivered from blood-guiltiness.”


Sources:
“Boston in 1855,” The Daily Free Press, December 15, 1855.
“Committal of Coburn and Dalton on Charge of Murder,” New York Daily Herald, December 14, 1855.
Complete Report of the Trial of Edward O. Coburn and Benjamin F. Dalton (Boston: Federhen, 1856.

“Errings Wives and Jealous Husbands,” Evening Star, September 28, 1855.
“Fatal Rsult of the Shawmut Avenue Cowhiding Affair,” Boston Evening Transcript, December 11, 1855.
“The Merry Wives of Boston,” The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, December 12, 1855.
“Sentence of Coburn and DAlton,” Bangor Daily Whig and Courier, March 8, 1856.
“The Shawmut Avenue Outrage,” Kennebec Journal, December 21, 1855.
“The Sumner Case in Boston,” New York Daily Herald, December 21, 1855.
“The Sumner Tragedy,” New England Farmer, December 22, 1855.

Saturday, January 7, 2023

Murdered at Prayer.


A.E. Ambrose was working in his yard in South Byfield, Massachusetts, the morning of January 3, 1879, when he was surprised by two of his neighbors, Mrs. Caldwell and her sister Miss Brown, excitedly running toward him. Mrs. Lucy Caldwell was known for her erratic behavior and always seemed somewhat excited, but he had never seen Miss Brown looking so terrified.

Mrs. Caldwell exclaimed, “Go up and take care of him; he threatened to kill me, and I hit him with an axe, and I don’t know, but I have killed him.”

Ambrose hurried to the neighbor’s house. In the kitchen, he found the warm but lifeless body of her husband, John Caldwell, lying on the floor, surrounded by a dark pool of clotted blood. His skull had been split open; the frightful wound was eight inches long and five inches deep. A large axe was leaning on a chair. Ambrose took his wagon into town to notify the deputy sheriff.

Miss Brown told the deputy that Mr. and Mrs. Caldwell had been arguing loudly that morning before coming downstairs to breakfast. It was their custom to eat breakfast at about 8:00 and have family prayers afterward. Mr. Caldwell read a chapter from the Bible, then knelt on the floor to pray. Miss Brown joined him, but Mrs. Caldwell did not. He was almost finished praying when Miss Brown was startled by the sound of a violent blow. She sprang to her feet and was horrified by the sight of her brother-in-law lying on the floor with his skull split open and his wife holding the fatal axe. Miss Brown fled from the house, followed by her sister, and both ran to the home of Mr. Ambrose. Mrs. Caldwell did not attempt to escape as the deputy placed her under arrest.

The Caldwells were well-known and widely respected in South Byfield, but Lucy Caldwell was viewed as “partially deranged.” She sometimes needed supervision, which was why her sister was staying with them. Some believed that her insanity stemmed from her disappointment that her husband’s prominence in the community had not led to financial success. The family physician, Dr. Huse, confirmed that Mrs. Caldwell had, for some time, suffered from “morbid excitement.” Mr. Caldwell had contacted the doctor on the previous Monday to consult him about having her confined and to get an opiate to help her sleep.

At her arraignment, Lucy Caldwell pleaded not guilty, saying she was justified in killing her husband because of his ill-treatment of her. She claimed he had threatened to kill her. The case never went to trial; Lucy Caldwell was judged insane and committed to the asylum in Danvers, Massachusetts.



Sources: 
“Arraigned for Murder,” The Boston Globe, January 2, 1879.
“Arraignment of the Byfield Murderess,” Boston Evening Journal, January 2, 1879.
“The Byfield Murder,” The Boston Globe, January 1, 1879.
“The Byfield Murderess,” Boston Evening Transcript, January 14, 1879.
“The Byfield Murderess Seat to the Insane Asylum,” Boston Evening Transcript, February 5, 1879.
“The Byfield Tragedy,” The Boston Globe, January 1, 1879.
“The Byfield Tragedy,” Boston Post, January 2, 1879.
“Eastern Massachusetts,” Springfield Daily Republican, January 1, 1879.
“Murdered at Prayer,” Illustrated Police News, January 11, 1879.
“A Shocking Tragedy,” Boston Post, January 1, 1879.
“Suburban Short Notes,” Boston Post, February 4, 1879.
“Terriible Deed of an Insane Wife,” Evening Post, January 3, 1879.

Saturday, December 31, 2022

The Murder of Ellen Lucas.

 

Ellen Lucas of Bridgeport, Connecticut, was to be married on October 3, 1874. The night before the wedding, Ellen went out to meet her fiancé. She never came home that night. Early the next morning, her family and friends began a search for her. The search ended when two workmen found her body, face down in a stream in a secluded spot called The Cedars, near Berkshire Pond in Northern Bridgeport.

Read the full story here: The Bridgeport Tragedy.

Friday, December 23, 2022

Baltimore Sorrow.


William James and Denwood Hinds of Baltimore were close friends who had served together in the Fifth Maryland Regiment. The friendship would have remained strong if William’s sister, Lizzie James, had not become hopelessly infatuated with Denwood Hinds. Lizzie’s love set off a chain of events that not only ended her brother’s friendship with Denwood but resulted in her own death and the murder of her father.

Read the full story here: The Baltimore Sorrow.

Thursday, December 22, 2022

The Best Books We Read this Year.

So Far from Home: The Pearl Bryan Murder

Included in

THE BEST BOOKS WE READ THIS YEAR (2022)

a collaborative book list by the reviewers at IBR in which they review the best books they read this year irrespective of their publication date. It consists solely of books by indie presses and indie authors.

Saturday, December 17, 2022

The Snyder-Harman Murder.

Christiana Harmon (better known as Annie, and sometimes spelled "Herman"), aged 32, lived with her father in Heidelberg Township, York County, Pennsylvania. On Saturday, December 9, 1878, she left home around noon to go shopping in Hanover. She returned to Heidelberg around 2:00 and stopped at the home of Reuben Snyder, about three-quarters of a mile from her home, where several young people had gathered for a singing party.

Reuben Snyder’s 26-year-old brother Ephriam was also at the party. Annie and Ephriam had been going together, off and on, for several years but lately had been arguing. Annie left the party around 8:00 that night. Ephriam left a few minutes later.

The next morning, Annie Harmon’s body was found by the side of the road, about a quarter mile from her home. Her skull was crushed, her jaw broken, and her face badly cut and bruised. Next to the body lay a bloodstained chestnut club. A few feet away was another bloodstained piece of wood.

Ephriam Snyder became the prime suspect. Rebecca Snyder, Ephriam’s sister-in-law and Annie’s cousin, reported that Annie told her she thought she was pregnant and did not know what she would do if Ephriam did not marry her. Ephriam refused to marry her; he was engaged to someone else. Annie threatened to take him to court.

 

On Monday, Detective Rouse made a thorough examination of the crime scene. He found a bullet embedded in the ground where Annie’s head had been. Annie’s body was already buried, and the coroner had the body exhumed. Doctors performing a more thorough post-mortem examination found that she had been shot through the eye. They also determined that she was not pregnant.

Searching Snyder’s room, the police found a single-shot pistol and a box of cartridges. The bullet found at the scene fit the muzzle of the pistol. Detective Rouse arrested Ephriam Snyder for the murder of Christina Harman.

Snyder’s murder trial in York, Pennsylvania, began on April 26, 1879. Outside of the medical testimony, most of the witnesses were relatives of the defendant or the deceased and people who attended the party on December 9. The evidence against Snyder was mostly circumstantial, with only the pistol and cartridges exhibited in court, tying him directly to the murder.


The attorneys gave their closing arguments on May 2. W.H. Kain, for the defense, addressed the jury for an hour and twenty-five minutes. He was followed by E.D. Ziegler, for the defense, who spoke for an hour and fifteen minutes. After lunch H.L. Fischer, for the commonwealth, spoke for two hours. Before giving the case to the jury, the judge addressed them for an hour.

The jury deliberated from 4:30 to 6:00 before returning a verdict of not guilty. Ephriam Snyder heartily shook the hand of each juryman and each member of his defense team before leaving the courtroom.

It was not the legal oratory that swayed the jury, one of the jurymen noticed something that even the prosecution missed. The bullets in the cartridge box were a perfect plane, while the bullet found at the scene was concaved. This was enough to convince the jury that the cartridges were not the same as the bullet. Without that, there was not enough evidence to convict Ephriam Snyder of murder.

No one else was ever arrested for Annie Harman’s murder, but the scene of the crime became a center of local superstition. A large shirt was seen stretched at full length in the top limbs of a high hickory tree. The soiled garment was known throughout the region as the “Bloody Shirt.”


Sources:

“Ephraim Snyder's Trial for Murder,” The Philadelphia Times, April 28, 1879.
“The Herman Murder,” The York Dispatch, December 10, 1878.
“The Herman Murder,” York Democratic Press, January 3, 1879.
“Miss Annie Herman and Ephraim Snyder,” Illustrated Police News, January 11, 1879.
“News Article,” Juniata sentinel and Republican., December 18, 1878.
“Not Guilty,” The York Dispatch, May 2, 1879.
“A Queer Mark,” The York Dispatch, April 2, 1880.
“Snyder-Harman Murder,” The York Dispatch, April 29, 1879.
“Snyder-Harman Murder,” The York Dispatch, April 30, 1879.
“Snyder-Harman Murder Trial Ended,” The York Daily, May 3, 1879.
“The Snyder-Herman Murder,” The York Daily, December 13, 1878.
“The Snyder-Herman Murder,” The York Dispatch, December 17, 1878.
“Snyder-Herman Murder Trial,” The York Daily, April 28, 1879.
“York County Murder,” Philadelphia Inquirer, December 13, 1878.
“The York Tragedy,” Philadelphia Inquirer, December 17, 1878.

Wednesday, December 14, 2022

So Far from Home Audiobook.

Listen to a sample...
 

Available from Audible
and Amazon

Saturday, December 10, 2022

The Cold Spring Tragedy.

 


Jacob and Nancy Young were involved in what would later be called a Ponzi scheme with Nancy Clem in Indianapolis. In 1868 the Youngs decided it was time to pull out. They took between $7,000 and $9,000 and tried to leave town. The following day they were found dead from shotgun wounds by the river near Cold Spring. 

Nancy Clem was the prime suspect. She was tried four times but due to hung juries and legal technicalities, she remained unpunished.

Read the full story here The Notorious Mrs. Clem.

Saturday, December 3, 2022

The Trial, Life and Confessions of Charles Cook.

 

When tried for the 1840 murder of Catherine Merry, Charles Cook pled innocent by reason of insanity. Despite a history of medical treatment for extreme melancholy, and strange behavior such as running through the streets of Schenectady, wearing nothing but a blanket, proclaiming himself to be the Savior of the world, the jury rejected his plea and found him guilty.

Before his execution, Cook issued a formal written confession elaborating on his mental condition: “I labored upon the control of a single passion, it was that of sexual fondness; and whenever frustrated in my attempts to gratify it, the spirit of revenge came upon me.”

Read the full story here: Charley Cook.

Saturday, November 26, 2022

Howe and Hummel.

Museum of the City of New York

William Howe and Abraham Hummel were the most successful criminal lawyers in Gilded Age New York. With a combination of skill, showmanship, and unethical practices, they defended most of the city’s significant criminals and many of its murderers. Whether they won or lost, Howe and Hummel made every trial sensational.

Here are a few of the many accused murderers defended by Howe and Hummel:

Defendant Victim Year Story
James Logan Charles M Rogers 1869
The Rogers Murder.
Jacob Rosenzweig Alicd Bowlsby 1871
The Great Trunk Mystery.
Billy Forester Benjamin Nathan 1871
Who Killed Benjamin Nathan?
Edward Reinhardt Mary Reinhardt 1879
The Silver Lake Mystery.
Thomas McCabe Catherine McCabe 1882
A Boy Murderer.
Dan Driscoll Breezy Garrity 1886
Murder Among the Whyos - Part 1.
Daniel Murphy Dan Lyons 1887
Murder Among the Whyos - Part 2.
Hannah Southworth Stephen Pettus 1889
Avenging Her Honor.
Mickey Sliney Robert Lyons 1891
The Confessions of Mickey Sliney.