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Sunday, July 8, 2018

Murder Houses of Philadelphia.

Roll over images to zoom:
Rear of Holmes House - 1894
Where serial killer H.H. Holmes murdered Benjamin Pitezel. Click image for more.
Deering House - 1866
Where Antoine Probst murdered the six members of the Deering family and two others. Click image for more.
Deering Barnyard - 1866
Where Antoine Probst buried two of his victims. Click image for more.
Scene of the Wakefield Gaines Murder - 1897
Where George Wilson murdered and dismembered Wakefield Gaines, his rival for the affections of Hannah Tabbs.
Scene of the Modestino Moffo murder - 1897
Where Pasquale Daddario abused and strangled 3-yr-old Modestino Moffo then threw him out a second storey window.
Twitchell House - 1868
Where George Twitchel murdered his mother-in-law, Mary Hill, and threw her out the window. Click image for more.

“Murder Houses of Philadelphia,” Philadelphia Inquirer, August 29, 1897.

Saturday, July 7, 2018

15 Corning Street.

The strangulation of Alice Brown in her room at 15 Corning Street in Boston’s South End dominated the front page of the city’s daily newspapers in the autumn of 1897. It was a sensational crime which seemed custom made for the “yellow journalism” of the era, with a mysterious victim, a colorful cast of witnesses, no clear suspect but several possibilities. The Globe, the Herald, the Post, the Journal and other Boston dailies, aggressively followed clues and gathered background hoping to scoop each other and the police in their vivid reporting of the crime. In the end, they may have been too aggressive, adding more confusion than clarity.

Alice Brown, age 25, was found dead in her room, by another resident of the lodging house, the morning of November 4, 1897. The medical examiner performed an autopsy on the body and quickly determined that Brown had been strangled, there were seven finger marks on her throat including cuts made by fingernails. The police brought in three residents of the house for questioning, Edward Hurd, the proprietor of the house; and two men who shared a basement room, John T. Stowell, and Thomas Hughes. They were examined and released.

Very little was known about Alice Brown, who had moved to the lodging house just two weeks before, and the search for her identity would become nearly as frantic as the search for her killer. Alice was known to keep late hours and was seen in the company of several different men. She had an ardent lover, over 60-years-old, who visited night after night pleading her to marry him; she always refused. Around 11:30 the night of the murder she was seen sitting on the front steps with another man who no one recognized. They spoke in earnest tones for about half an hour before he left. 

The person who seemed to know her best at 15 Corning Street, was William Leavitt, a blind man, known as “Blind Billy” who sold song streets on the street on Tremont Row. Leavitt told police that he had been awake smoking in his room above Alice Brown’s around 3:00 am the morning of the murder. His door was ajar and he could hear Alice in the hallway talking to a man whose voice he did not recognize. It was a long conversation; the man was trying to persuade Alice to marry him. Leavitt heard her say:

“No, I wouldn’t marry the best man that ever lived.”

He asked again, and she said emphatically, “No.” 

“Well, I suppose I might as well go then,” he said.

“Yes,” Alice replied.

Leavitt said he knew Alice’s lover and said he was not the man she was talking to. It was believed that Alice was murdered sometime between 3:00 and 6:00.

A magazine found in Alice Brown’s room had the name Alice O’Brien scribbled on the cover. Alice O’Brien had previously lodged at 15 Corning; when she was located at her new address, she said that Brown was somewhat reticent about her past but had told her that she grew up in a small town near Concord, New Hampshire. Her mother had died when she was 15 and within a year she ran away, leaving the farm for the city where she hoped for a career on the stage. In Boston, she had been visited by lovers from her girlhood home. 

She had left New Hampshire with another girl, Hattie Belmont, who had been her childhood friend. Alice a brunette and Hattie a blonde, were the belles of the town. Romantic novels gave them the notion to run away and they drifted between New York and Boston, working as shop girls but looking forward to a life on the stage. According to the Boston Globe, “The rouge on their cheeks told only too plainly after a while what sort of life they were living.”

Alice Brown and Hattie Belmont had been roommates at 15 Corning until Alice received a message that Hattie had been arrested and charged with undue intimacy with a married man. None of this information proved useful to the police; they were unable to find Alice Brown’s family in New Hampshire. Another resident of 15 Corning had seen letters postmarked Amherst, Massachusetts addressed to Alice Brown and believed that was her home. Someone in Gloucester believed she had been in that city under the name Redmond and had been committed to an insane asylum. 

The night of the murder, two people living on Ohio street, across from the backside of 15 Corning reported hearing a muffled scream between 4:00 and 5:00. One woman who lived at 15 Corning also heard a scream but no one else in the house did; the discrepancy made the police suspect that some of the residents were covering for the killer. There was no sign of forced entry and the only way in the front door was with a latchkey—Alice Brown’s latchkey was missing. The newspapers said the mystery was deeper than ever.

On November 6, a man from Lynn Massachusetts who was visiting Boston with his wife reported that he had overheard a loud conversation on Tremont Row. He heard a blind song vendor say:

“She can’t try that on me—she can’t try that on me! I’ll fix her!”

He was speaking with another man whose description matched that of James McMillan, the 62-year-old suiter of Alice Brown. The police scoured the city for McMillan and found him in Haymarket Square at about 1:30 the next morning. McMillan was known to be an admirer of Alice Brown, in fact, it was said that his “mad infatuation” had caused her to leave her old residence and move to Corning St, with the hope that he would never find her again. 

McMillan lived on Tremont Street with a woman named Sadie Hart, an intimate friend of Alice Brown. McMillan told police that he and Hart had gone to Corning Street to call on Alice and ask her to join them for supper, but she was not there when they arrived. He said he had known Alice for about ten years by the name of Redmond. Alice did stop at his house the night of the murder but left before 10:00. Both McMillan and Leavitt denied that the Tremont conversation ever happened.

The same day several other witnesses came forward and the newspapers printed all of their stories. A man claimed that he saw Alice Brown at about midnight on the night of the murder, dining with a man at a café, and she left with the man. At Corning Street, a strange man came with a message for Alice Dewey, room 3. The landlady, Mrs. Hurd, told him there had been three Alices in the house, but none named Dewey, and the one living in room 3 was dead. He said he had a message from Harris Gladwin, a waiter at the Parker House but when the stranger realized he was in the murder house he left without giving any more information. The Parker House denied ever having an employee named Harris Gladwin.

The former lover of Hattie Belmont, Alice Brown’s most intimate friend, said that Hattie’s name was really Alice Ward and the two Alices became friends when they were inmates of the same reformatory. Both were pretty girls, he said, but wayward. He believed they had left Boston for New Bedford but police could find no trace there of Hattie Belmont, Alice Ward or Alice Brown.

A man from Amherst, Massachusetts, came forward to say he believed the dead girl was his sister-in-law, Mary Retherham. She had lived in Amherst but had been was sent to a state reformatory. He would travel to Boston to identify the body. 

The Boston Globe discovered that the man who overheard the conversation on Tremont Row was not a visitor from Lynn but was John Hy. Kerrison, a reporter for a rival newspaper. Police said they trusted him and agreed to withhold his identity, but they also said that their reasons for arresting McMillan had nothing to do with the alleged conversation. The following day McMillan was released. Police investigations now focused on the unknown man who was seen leaving the South End restaurant with Alice Brown around midnight the night of the murder. The Boston Herald made the truest statement yet, “It is expected that developments today will go a long way toward clearing the mystery, or else it will be darker than ever.” 

What happened next surprised everybody. The police arrested “Blind Billy” Leavitt for the murder of Alice Brown. Jack Whalen, a resident of 15 Corning, came forward with another story of the night of the murder. His room was directly above that of Alice Brown and could hear nearly everything that transpired in the room below as well as on his own floor. He was awake that night and around 3:00 heard a noise coming from Leavitt’s room. He opened his door and looked out into the hallway and saw Leavitt, going down the stairs and through the hall toward Alice Brown’s room. All was quiet, then he heard the muffled scream of a woman. Immediately after, Whalen saw the blind man coming up the stairs and heading for his room.

The police had been suspicious of Leavitt from the beginning. He was a little too eager to furnish them with information and he seemed obsessed with the case, talking incessantly of it and continually furnishing them with new information. Some of his stories were contradictory. Alice O’Brien had said that Leavitt was among the men who would not leave Alice Brown alone. He made bold statements and entered her room uninvited. After driving Leavitt from her room Alice Brown told Alice O’Brien that Leavitt was “a bad man.”

Leavitt’s record in New York and other cities bore this out; he had traveled extensively before coming to Boston and had served time at Blackwell Island for petty offenses. It was said that he was not as blind as he let on and had excellent hearing. Leavitt consorted with thieves and fallen women and it was reported that he had previously spied for the police or anyone who would pay him.

The same day as Leavitt’s arrest, the body of Alice Brown was positively identified as Mary Alice Ruderhan, by Mrs. Lucy S. Brown of Cambridgeport who had employed her as a domestic servant. When she had seen the name “Mary Retherham” in the newspaper she decided to see if the dead girl could be her former servant. Mary had said little about her past but told Mrs. Brown, she had come from Rindge Center, New Hampshire where she still had a brother living. Mrs. Brown remembered Mary as a pleasant, trustworthy girl, but the family’s attitude toward her changed after they caught her smoking cigarettes in her room. She moved out soon after, and Mrs. Brown said she had stolen a gold watch when she left. She also took their last name when she moved into Corning Street.

William “Blind Billy” Leavitt took his arraignment as a joke. He declined counsel and waived examination but was still intent on explaining the situation. “I suppose I have to go through it. I might as well stand the pressure as anybody else. The statement is against me on account of the newspapers.” He was still talking as he was led out of the courtroom.

Pending the grand jury hearing Leavitt was held without bail. Seven fellow lodgers of 15 Corning Street, witnesses in the case, were also held on $500 bail, which none of them could raise.

Leavitt was well represented when he appeared before the grand jury. His attorney stressed that he had no motive for killing Mary Alice Ruderhan. While it was true that she repelled his advances, there was no evidence that he was strongly jealous. The marks on her neck were made by someone with long fingernails and Leavitt bit his to the quick. Most importantly, the only witness against him was Jack Whalen, whose nickname at 15 Corning was “Happy Jack” because his “mental force was said to be not of the strongest.”

The grand jury concluded that there was not enough evidence to indict William Leavitt. No one else was ever charged with the murder of Mary Alice Ruderhan, aka Alice Brown and the case is sometimes cited as one of Boston’s unsolved mysteries. 


“'Blind Bill' Free,” Globe, December 11, 1897.
“Alice Ruderhan's Career,” Post, November 14, 1897.
“Boy Lovers,” Globe, November 6, 1897.
“Crime Bared,” Globe, November 9, 1897.
“Foul Murder,” Globe, November 5, 1897.
“Is Believed,” Globe, November 8, 1897.
“Is Leavitt the Murderer?,” Boston Daily Advertiser, November 15, 1897.
“Leavitt Defense,” Post, November 12, 1897.
“Leavitt In Court,” Boston Herald, November 10, 1897.
“McMillan Found,” Globe, November 7, 1897.
“Murdered Alice Brown,” Post, November 6, 1897.
“A Mystery ,” Boston Daily Advertiser, November 6, 1897.
“Perhaps Murder,” Boston Journal, November 4, 1897.
“Scenes at 15 Corning St.,” Globe, November 6, 1897.
“Unavenged Women Victims of Unsolved New England Murder Mysteries,” Post, October 3, 1905.
“Who Killed These Men and Women?,” Post, October 17, 1909.

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Mysterious Murder.

(From Daily Inter OceanJanuary 11, 1875)

Mysterious Murder.
A Man Found Dead with Three Bullets in His Brain.

Special correspondence of the Inter-Ocean
 Leavenworth, Kan. Jan. 8, 1975.

An intense excitement has been created at Conner’s Station, twelve miles below this city on the Missouri Pacific Road, by the murder of John Stebbins, a former resident of Leavenworth. While here he kept a confectionery stand on Fifth Street, and, becoming mixed up in some quarrel with a woman of the town, closed up his shop and went to Conner’s Station, where he lived in a questionable manner with a widow. His conduct was so flagrant and obnoxious that it was a matter of comment among his neighbors. Finally, he turned his lustful eyes and desires upon the widow’s daughter, an innocent and pretty girl of 16. This was too much for the patience of the outraged community, and Stebbins was pointedly requested to leave town. This Stebbins did not want to do; so, arming himself he refused to depart.


A few days after this his body was found in a vacant lot, with three bullet holes though the head, and horribly mutilated by a drove of hogs that were feeding on the carcass. No one know who sent Stebbins out of the world, and the Coroner’s jury failed to implicate any one.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Reverend Green, Wife-Poisoner.

Reverend George W. Long arrived in Western New York in the Fall of 1864, presenting himself a Methodist minister from the south. He appeared to be in good standing, with credentials from several Southern and Western conferences so the presiding elder of the district stationed him at the Methodist church in Centerville. 

Long had a very agreeable personality and had soon gained the confidence of his congregation. Before long he met and married a young woman named Frances Doolittle in a nearby town and brought her to Centerville.

All seemed well except that the meager salary of a minister was not enough to meet Long’s needs. He began to borrow money from the brethren at the church. They were happy to lend him money until it became apparent that he had borrowed more than he could pay back. He told his creditors not to worry, he had money invested in Dunkirk, Ohio and would go there and withdraw some. He borrowed some more to cover his expenses then left for Dunkirk.

After he had been gone for some time he sent word back to Centerville that he had met a claim agent who offered to purchase some land he owned in Texas and had to go to New York City to conclude the transaction. From there he planned to go to Pittsburgh then return home. That was the last letter anyone in Centerville received from Reverend Long.

More than two years later, a Connecticut police detective arrived in Centerville, tracking a man named William Green. The detective was carrying a picture of Green which the Methodist congregation recognized as their own Reverend Long. They were forced to admit that they had been swindled.

When he left Centerville Reverend Long had not gone to Dunkirk, Ohio, he went to Utica, New York where he registered at the Northern Hotel as William H. Green. There, as Reverend Green, he preached sermons and made political speeches, and as Professor Green he delivered temperance lectures.

Though, as Reverend Long, he still had a wife in Centerville, on December 20, 1866, Green married a widow named Searles in Guilford, New York and moved with her to West Cornwall, Connecticut. There he claimed to be from Texas and became active in local politics and gave lectures on political affairs.

The following spring, Mrs. Green’s health began to fail; she was diagnosed with a pulmonary difficulty. On May 6, shortly after tea, she was taken with violent convulsions which continued intermittently until her death at about 12 o’clock. The physician called to attend her remarked on the unusual manner of her death, he could not explain it but suspected foul play.

Mrs. Green was buried four days later and her husband remained in town for about a month then suddenly moved to Utica. A week later he married an Irish girl who worked as a chambermaid at his Utica hotel. 

Suspicions were aroused in West Cornwall when it was learned that Reverend Green’s sudden departure was prompted by improper proposals he had made to a married lady in that town. They also found it suspect that a Methodist minister was married by a Catholic priest five weeks after the death of his wife. The body of Mrs. Green was disinterred, and her organs examined by Professor Baker of New Haven. He detected strychnine in her stomach and liver and concluded that Mrs. Green had been poisoned.

William Green was arrested in Utica and brought back to West Cornwall where he was examined by Justice Gold prior to being bound over for trial by the Superior Court. During an intermission in the examination, Green was sent to the Litchfield jail from which he escaped by jumping from a window. He was recaptured when he was found hiding in a barn where he had attempted to cut his own throat.

Before his trial, Green was confident that he could explain his position and the final determination of the jury would clear him. But his behavior in prison did not reflect this confidence, he made two unsuccessful attempts to take his own life. At the trial the evidence against William Green aka George Long was overwhelming and he was convicted of first-degree murder.


“By Telegraph,” Columbian Register, November 16, 1867.
“A Clerical Wife-Poisoner and Chevalier d'lndustrie,” National Police Gazette, September 21, 1867.
“Green the Wife-Poisoner,” Norwich Aurora, November 20, 1867.
“Rev. W. H. Green, the Wife Poisoner,” National Police Gazette, November 16, 1867.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

The Linville Murderer.

Thursday, December 13, 1877, began as an ordinary day for Alfred Jones, a 72-year-old farmer in Linville, Ohio. He walked to Brownsville and returned home about 11:00, had lunch, sat down to relax and dozed off. He awoke when he heard the sound of squeaking shoes coming from the back porch—he had heard that sound before and thought it meant his daughter was up to no good. 

Jones went out the back porch and caught a glimpse of someone disappearing down the ravine behind the house. He followed after and met his daughter, Susanna, coming back up the hill carrying three large flat stones she planned to use as stepping stones in a marshy area near the house. 

41-year-old Susana had never married. After her mother died twenty-one years earlier, she stayed to keep house for her father. She had recently joined the Lutheran Church against her father’s wishes and he suspected that she was inappropriately intimate with several of their married neighbors.

Jones helped his daughters carry the stones up the hill, then suddenly turned and said, “You had a man over there!”

“Father, you accuse me wrong,” she replied. 

Enraged, Jones picked up a hatchet lying nearby and began assaulting Susana with it. She warded off the blows and managed to run about 50 yards before he caught up to her. After a brief struggle, Jones overpowered Susana, raining blows with the hatchet until she lay dead in a pool of blood. 

He hid the bloody hatchet under the house and put his blood-stained coat and shirt in an ash barrel. Inside the house, he cleaned up and put on his best clothes, then walked twelve miles into town where he surrendered to Sheriff Scofield.

At first, the Sheriff and his men laughed at the old man confessing to murder, thinking he must be drunk. Jones denied that he was drunk, saying, “I'm a Virginian, and it’s Virginia grit when a man has broken the law to give himself up and suffer the penalty.” The sheriff took Jones into custody then went out to his farm to see for himself. He found Susana dead on the ground and he and his men located the hatchet and bloody clothes.

Alfred Jones was indicted for first-degree murder but it was assumed that he was insane. Neighbors had known Susana Jones as an industrious, amiable and intelligent woman who took good care of her father. There was not the slightest ground for her father’s suspicion of adultery. But Jones remained convinced that his daughter had done wrong and used the Bible to justify killing her. He said he had read the scriptures three times and they declared whoever committed adultery should be put to death. It was his duty to kill her. While acknowledging the enormity of his crime, Jones showed no remorse. He asked the sheriff if he would be compelled to pay for his board and lodging while in prison and thought it best if he were hanged as soon as possible. The Stark County Democrat said, “Alfred Jones, the Linville murderer, if not a lunatic is an idiot.”

At his trial the following April, Jones was treated as sane but was not sentenced to death. He was convicted of second-degree murder and spent the remainder of his life in the penitentiary.

“Crime in Licking County,” Cincinnati Enquirer, December 18, 1877.
“For His Life,” Cincinnati Enquirer, April 16, 1878.
“The Jones Murder,” Cincinnati Enquirer, December 15, 1877.
“Local News,” Stark County Democrat, May 9, 1878.
“A Queer Murderer,” Stark County Democrat, January 10, 1878.
“A Sanguinary Sensation,” National Police Gazette, April 27, 1878.

Saturday, June 9, 2018

A Hidden Skeleton.

Barton Russell and his wife were digging for ginseng in Deer Lick Hollow, half a mile north of Mooresburg, Tennessee the evening of October 16, 1886, when they made a shocking discovery. The skeleton of a young boy lay hidden under the brushwood off the road. The flesh had been torn away by birds and animals and the arm bones were missing. Near the body lay a shirt, a pair of socks, an old pair of shoes and a tattered hat. A depression in the skull indicated that the boy had been killed by a blow to the head with a club or similar weapon. 

In Mooresburg, Mrs. George Armstrong identified the shirt as one she had made for her nephew, sixteen-year-old Charley Young. She said the hat and shoes were not his and said that the missing pants were lined with the same material as the shirt. Young had left her house six weeks earlier to cross Clinch Mountain and visit his uncle and had not been seen since. 

Suspicion fell on twenty-year-old Marcellus Bunch who lived five miles from Mooresburg. About five weeks earlier he had been trying to sell a pair of shoes and a coat he claimed to have won in a game of cards. He had also told several people that he and another fellow had done something on the creek which, if known would put them in the penitentiary. When told that he had better keep it to himself he replied, “I don’t care a damn what becomes of me hereafter.” 

Bunch remained unconcerned when he was arrested for the murder of Charley Young. Young’s coat and shoes were found in Bunch’s house. The hat he was wearing was identified as Young's while the hat found with the bones was identified as one formerly worn by Bunch. 

Marcellus Bunch pled not-guilty but declined counsel. In his trial, he refused to say anything in his own defense and did not question a single witness. It was generally believed that Bunch and Young had met and played cards. With nothing left to bet, Young wagered his suit; he lost and was killed when Bunch took forcible possession of it. Bunch was found guilty and sentenced to twenty years in the penitentiary.

“Deer Lick Hollow,” Atchison Daily Globe, October 22, 1886.
“A Hidden Skeleton,” National Police Gazette, November 6, 1886.
“The Hidden Skeleton,” New York Herald, October 21, 1886.
“Two Cases Affirmed,” The Tennessean, November 14, 1888.

Saturday, June 2, 2018

The Bessie Little Mystery.

A swimmer in the Miami River outside of Dayton, Ohio, discovered the body of a young woman floating in the water on September 3, 1896. The coroner found nothing to indicate violence; the cause of death was believed to be suicide and the unidentified body was hastily buried.

When he heard of the body in the river, Dayton Police Chief Thomas Farrell believed he knew who she was, and he had reason to believe that she had been murdered. Farrell had the woman’s body disinterred and soon after she was identified as 23-year-old Bessie Little by her adopted parents and by her dentist who kept detailed records of his patients’ teeth. The coroner still could not determine the cause of death and the body was reburied.

Her parents said they did not report Bessie missing because she had left home several weeks earlier to look for work; she was living in a Dayton boarding house run by Mrs. Freese. The full story was, the Little’s had kicked Bessie out of their house when they learned she had been intimate with her boyfriend 20-year-old Albert Frantz. They told her not to return unless he agreed to marry her. 

Mrs. Freese verified that Bessie had been staying at her boarding house and that Albert Frantz had been paying her weekly rent. She said that the last time she saw Bessie was on August 27, when Bessie told her she was going for a buggy ride with Frantz. The following day Frantz came to the house asking for Bessie and Mrs. Freese told him she never came home from the buggy ride. Frantz said she was mistaken about the buggy ride; he had not seen Bessie the night before. He then paid her Bessie’s next week’s rent in advance.

Bessie Little and Albert Frantz were from different economic backgrounds. As a baby, Bessie had been an orphan at the Miami County Children’s Home; Peter Little and his wife adopted her when she was two-years-old. But the Little’s were poor and as soon as she was old enough they put Bessie to work as a domestic servant. Albert Frantz worked as a stenographer for the Mathias Planing Mill Co. He came from a wealthy family; the youngest of five children he was spoiled by his parents and siblings. Those who knew Frantz well described him as “cruel and cunning” but Bessie was infatuated by him.

Shortly before her death, Bessie consulted a physician and some believed that she had been pregnant or had even undergone an abortion. In any case, her parents knew enough about her relations with Frantz to bar her from the house until she either broke them off or married him. Among her belongings, police found an unmailed letter addressed to the father of Albert Frantz, begging him to force a marriage. It had been easy for Frantz to seduce Bessie but he had no intention of marrying her.

Frantz maintained that he had not been with Bessie on the night of her disappearance but Chief Farrell did not believe him and kept Frantz in custody pending the outcome of the coroner’s investigation. Farrell had been able to identify the body because he knew Bessie Little had been thrown in the river even before the body was found. Frantz, with a relative, had gone to see Rev. Teeter for advice, telling him that Bessie had killed herself and he had thrown her body into the river. He wanted to know how the law would view the situation, so Rev. Teeter referred him to Judge J.W. Kreitzer. They attempted to keep the matter secret, but the story leaked out. Judge Kreitzer, acting as Frantz legal counsel would not confirm or deny the story, but Chief Farrell heard it and when the body was discovered in the Miami River, Farrell knew who it was.

Farrell was convinced that Albert Frantz murdered Bessie Little, but Frantz denied seeing Bessie that night and there was no evidence to directly link him to her death. Then on September 5, someone found a freshly dried pool of blood along with two decorative combs identified as belonging to Bessie, on the Stillwater Bridge about half a mile from the spot where the body was found. There were also buggy tire tracks believed to be connected to the blood.

This was enough to justify digging up the body once more. This time the coroner’s close examination discovered two gunshot wounds in the right ear and although the bullets had been shattered by bone, enough lead was recovered for two 32-caliber bullets. The head was then severed from the body and preserved in a jar; the body was reburied. 

Ferrell went to the home of Albert Frantz to try to compare his buggy’s tires to the prints left on the bridge, only to find that the Frantz’s stable had burned down the day after Bessie was last seen. The horse was killed and the buggy completely destroyed.

Frantz now changed his story. He and Bessie had been riding in his buggy and Bessie had been somewhat despondent. When he wasn’t looking, she drew a revolver and shot herself. Panicked and afraid the story would not be believed, he threw Bessie’s body off the bridge. The obvious flaw in this story was that two shots were fired into her head. The post-mortem examination showed two entry wounds and people living near the bridge recalled hearing cries of “Murder!” that night, followed by two gunshots.  

The revolver was still missing, and Chief Farrell was determined to find it. Believing that it had been thrown off the bridge along with the body, he mounted an all-out search of the river below. He obtained twelve powerful magnets, weighing three pounds each, and using two rowboats, dragged them along the bottom of the river trying to attract the gun. When this failed he hired Ben Graham, a professional diver who agreed to work for expenses. A.E. Pate, a champion swimmer also volunteered his services. 

While the river search proved fruitless, Farrell learned that Frantz had purchased a revolver at Dodd’s gun shop in Dayton three weeks before Bessie disappeared. He also learned that while courting Bessie Frantz was also engaged to another woman. With this possible motive, the prosecutors felt they had enough circumstantial evidence to try Albert Frantz for the murder of Bessie Little.

More than a hundred witnesses testified at the trial which began on December 14, 1896. Frantz still maintained that Bessie had shot herself. The prosecution brought out Bessie’s severed head to show the jurors the two entry wounds. Several physicians testified as to the possibility that Bessie had shot herself twice in the head. The defense’s doctors saying it was possible, the prosecution’s saying it was not. The defense did not claim that Frantz had been temporarily insane, but just in case, the prosecution had six doctors examine Frantz and testify that he was perfectly sane. 

Though the evidence was circumstantial it was enough for the jury to convict Albert Frantz of first-degree murder and he was sentenced to death. On November 19, 1897, after all possible appeals failed, Albert Frantz became the fourth man to die in Ohio’s electric chair. He professed his innocence to the end.


“A Bullet in Her Head,” Philadelphia Inquirer, September 6, 1896.
“The Death Penalty,” The Dayton Herald, November 19, 1897.
“Devil's Deed,” Kentucky Post, September 7, 1896.
“Frantz's Fight For His Life,” Kentucky Post, December 14, 1896.
“Frantz's Revolver,” The Dayton Herald, December 18, 1896.
“Franz has Another Story,” Plain Dealer, September 11, 1896.
“His Love For Another ,” Kentucky Post, September 10, 1896.
“Is it Murder?,” Kentucky Post, September 5, 1896.
“Located,” Kentucky Post, September 12, 1896.
“Murder or Suicide?,” National Police Gazette, January 16, 1897, 6.
“One Link,” Kentucky Post, September 5, 1896.
“Sentenced Frantz,” Aberdeen Daily News, January 27, 1897.
“She Was Murdered,” Plain Dealer, September 6, 1896.
“Two Stories Of A Crime,” Plain Dealer, December 17, 1896.
“A Woman's Death,” Cleveland Leader, September 4, 1896

Saturday, May 26, 2018

A Grave-Robber’s Fate.

Dr. Henry W. Kendall was found in the graveyard of the Onondaga County Poorhouse with a bullet hole between his eyes the morning of May 19, 1882. He was alive but unconscious when found and died in the hospital later that day.

Exactly how Dr. Kendall met his fate was a mystery, but his reason for being in the graveyard was certain, he was there to snatch a body. He was found surrounded by tools of the grave robber’s trade—two shovels, a piece of old carpet, and a satchel containing a cant hook, a length of rope, a dark-lantern, and a bottle of whiskey. He was also found with a dirk and two revolvers. In his pocket was a card which read “Be sure 8 o’clock.”

Dr. Kendall made no secret of being a “resurrectionist” and bragged that he had stolen bodies from cemeteries in Manlius, Cicero, Cazenovia, and Syracuse and sold them to medical schools for dissection. It was not clear why he did it since he was a promising young doctor with a thriving medical practice in Syracuse. Dr. Totman, who had performed the post-mortem on Dr. Kendall, and had known Kendall in life described him as a monomaniac on the subject of grave robbing and said, “I have known him to rob a grave where there was no necessity for it and no demand for the body. He seemed to think there was something brave and daring in it.”

Kendall was known to use morphine; some believed that under its influence he became frightened and accidentally or intentionally shot himself. But the shot could not have been accidental, the angle of the wound indicated that the gun had been level with the forehead. The lack of powder burns near the wound ruled out suicide.

Perhaps Kendall had gone to the graveyard with an assistant and the two had quarreled. Kendall was described as “fearfully reckless” with a violent temper and he was always armed with a revolver. He may have drawn his pistol on the assistant who fired back in self-defense. But if Kendall had an assistant, no one could say who it was.

An organization called the Grave Protectors had recently been formed to combat the rash of graverobbing around Syracuse. Kendall might have lost a gunfight with one of its members, he had boasted that he would shoot any person who had the temerity to disrupt his right to steal a corpse. Even if Kendall had been caught in the act of robbing a grave, his shooter would face murder charges, and no one came forward.

None of these theories could be proved. With the lack of any suspects, the coroner’s jury found that Dr. Henry Kendall “came to his death from the effects of injuries received from a pistol shot in the hands of some person unknown.”

“Body-Snatcher Shot,” Cleveland Leader, May 19, 1882.
“The Coroner in the Dark,” Syracuse Standard, June 12, 1882.
“Dr. Kendall's Death,” Syracuse Herald, May 21, 1882.
“A Ghoul's Death,” Critic-Record, May 20, 1882.
“A Grave Robber's End,” Evening Star, May 20, 1882.
“A Grave-Robber's Fate,” Indianapolis Indiana State Sentinel, May 24, 1882.
“Shot in a Graveyard,” National Police Gazette, June 10, 1882.
“Topmost Topics,” Middletown Daily Argus, May 19, 1882.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Who Shot “Tonce” Joy?

Fireman Doherty was on duty at the 3rd Street engine-house in Cincinnati in the early hours of Monday, November 30, 1896. A little after 3:00 a.m. he heard a gunshot coming from Muldoon’s Saloon across the street. He went to the door to see what had happened and was met by Pat Muldoon himself who rushed in and told Doherty to call a patrol wagon, someone had been hurt. Doherty sent for the wagon then looked across the street and saw two other men he knew—Billy Farrell was holding up “Tonce” Joy as if Joy was about to fall over.

Joy was unconscious when the wagon arrived to take him to the hospital. Police officers stayed behind to question Muldoon and Farrell. They told the officers that no one else was in the saloon and they were playing cards when they saw “Tonce” Joy staggering outside his hand clasped to his stomach. He told them he had been shot and showed them the wound. Muldoon and Farrell had not seen the shooting and Joy had not told them what happened. The officers took their statements and left. Joy died in the hospital at 7:48 without ever regaining consciousness.

Thomas “Tonce” Joy was a well-known sporting man in Cincinnati, likely to be seen on Vine Street at any time, day or night. Joy was 31-years-old—“a quiet, inoffensive man when sober, and even when drunk was not considered a desperate man.” But in his younger days, he had been a scrapper and carried the scars to prove it. He was a shoemaker by trade and in a melee, at a shoemaker’s ball someone drew a knife and gave Joy four deep slashes in his face. Joy was very nearly killed when a man named Smithy fractured his skull with a billiard cue. He was later stricken with paralysis; he no longer had the use of his left arm and his left leg could just bear his weight. Physically, he was not a threat to anyone.

The following day Coroner Haerr performed a post-mortem examination and officially declared Joy’s death a murder. The angle of the fatal wound indicated that either Joy was laying down when shot or the killer held the gun low down and shot up in an underhanded way. Haerr was upset that the police officers had not arrested Ferrell and Muldoon at the scene of the shooting.

In addition to being a saloonkeeper, Patrick Muldoon was a prominent ward heeler connected with the political machine of “Boss” George Cox. Billy Farrell was an ex-police officer. Friends of “Tonce” Joy said that there had been bad blood between Joy and Farrell, but no one knew the cause. Muldoon and Farrell were brought to the police station and both were quite indignant when they were put under arrest.

The story they told in police custody was essentially the same story they had told the night before, but the police knew these men and had a different theory. They believed that Joy, Muldoon, and Farrell had been playing cards with a fourth man who they were cheating. After their victim had been skinned, it was Joy’s job to steer him away. When Joy returned for his share, they wouldn’t pay, a fight ensued, and Joy was shot. The general impression was that Farrell had done the shooting and Muldoon was protecting him.

On December 3, James K. Kelly, a saloonkeeper who worked for “Boss” Cox, and Attorney Cabell paid a visit to Police Chief Deitsch. They said that they had the man who killed “Tonce” Joy but did not give his identity. The man was a city official, ready to surrender provided Muldoon and Farrell were released on bond. Chief Deitsch was anxious to talk to the man but was not willing to release his prisoners.

The following day the mystery man surrendered himself at the office of Coroner Haerr. His name was James Welton and he was a park policeman. He said he had been drinking with Joy, Joy got drunk and started to get abusive. Welton drew his revolver from his overcoat pocket. Joy grabbed him, a scuffle ensued, and the revolver went off. Joy said, “Oh, I’m shot.” Welton said, “I don’t believe you, but if you are it is your own fault.” Then Welton left him.

The police were skeptical. It came out that Welton was a friend of the prisoners and owed his city job to Muldoon’s influence. They believed that Welton had confessed to an accidental shooting to take the heat off of Muldoon and Farrell.

At the inquest, the coroner’s jury heard testimony against all three prisoners and there were a few surprises. Muldoon and Farrell changed their stories; they now said that Welton was in the saloon that night with two women. Joy came in and made some disparaging remarks about the women and Welton shot Joy in cold blood. Another witness also changed his story with contradictory results. Fred Burkhardt, a waiter who had been walking home that night, first testified to seeing Muldoon, Farrell, and Joy together on the corner but saw nothing more. But after testifying his conscience overcame his fear and he returned to the stand to say he had seen Farrell and Joy scuffling and could say without any doubt that Billy Farrell shot “Tonce” Joy. The jury decided to err on the side of caution and charged all three with murder.

When the case went before the grand jury, all the same evidence was presented but by now the police and prosecutors were convinced that Farrell was their man. But as the jury deliberated, four men known to have connections to “Boss” Cox refused to indict anyone but Welton. The District Attorney protested and managed to move the case to the next session with a less political jury. This time they followed the lead of the coroner’s jury and indicted all three.

Farrell , Muldoon, and Welton each pleaded not guilty. Though the prosecutors were convinced that Farrell was the killer there was not enough evidence to prosecute. Eventually, all three were released on bond and were never brought to trial. The identity of “Tonce” Joy’s killer remains a mystery.

“Criminal Business,” The Cincinnati Enquirer, May 20, 1897.
“Delving,” The Cincinnati Enquirer, December 2, 1896.
“Died,” The Cincinnati Enquirer, December 1, 1896.
“Ferrell,” The Cincinnati Enquirer, December 5, 1896.
“J. S.,” Kentucky Post, December 3, 1896.
“Jim Welton,” Kentucky Post, December 4, 1896.
“Murder,” Kentucky Post, December 1, 1896.
“Murder In Sporting Circles,” The Daily Herald, December 1, 1896.
“Shot to Death,” Kentucky Post, November 30, 1896.
“Startling ,” The Cincinnati Enquirer, April 9, 1897.
“'Tonce' Joy Murdered,” The Indianapolis News, November 30, 1896.
“The Women ,” The Cincinnati Enquirer, December 6, 1896.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

The Mabbitt Mystery.

Luella Mabbitt.
Luella Mabbitt and Amer Green made a handsome couple. 23-year-old Luella was an attractive,   well-formed young lady—“of the blonde type of beauty and very winning in her ways.” Amer Green, 34-years-old, was tall and good-looking with manly features. But Luella’s father, Peter Mabbitt, did not approve of his daughter’s suiter, so reluctantly, Luella told Amer that they had to break up. She would return his letters and he was to return hers.

On August 6, 1886, Amer Green, with his friend William Walker took a buggy ride to the Mabbitt home in Wildcat, Indiana. Her parents saw Luella leave the house with the letters, but she never came back.

Peter Mabbitt believed that his daughter had been kidnapped by Amer Green. Green and Walker were questioned by authorities, but both denied any knowledge of Luella’s whereabouts. In the days that followed search, parties were organized in the area around Wildcat Creek. Peter Mabbitt hired a private detective and offered a reward of $500 for the apprehension of his daughter’s kidnappers.

When it was learned that Amer Green had left town, many believed that he had murdered Luella and had fled to avoid capture. The night of August 12, a group of masked men broke into the home of Amer Green’s mother, put a rope around her neck and demanded that she either divulge the whereabouts of her son or say her prayers. She told them she did not know where Amer was and they could go ahead and pull the rope whenever they were ready. She remained defiant as the men continued to question her. Eventually, they left without doing any further harm or gaining any information.

A portion of Louella’s dress was found in the creek near her father’s farm, its torn condition indicated a struggle. While this tended to reinforce the theory that Luella had been murdered, there was a growing belief that she and Amer had eloped and would turn up safe and sound in due time. It was rumored that Amer had secretly appeared at his mother’s house and told her that all was well, and Luella was being well cared for.

Amer Green.
With a lack of anyone else to prosecute, William Walker was tried for his alleged role in the abduction of Luella Mabbitt. As the Delphi Times pointed out, “The trial was much less than a farce.” On the stand, Walker gave a detailed account of his time on the night of Louella’s disappearance and it was corroborated by Luella Mabbitt’s sister Cynthia (who would marry Walker the following year). In addition, it could not be proven that Luella was actually abducted. Walker was found not guilty.

As the months passed, the mystery of Luella Mabbitt’s disappearance came no closer to being solved. It was rumored that Luella’s body had turned up in Wildcat Creek, and it was reported that a detective had found Amer Green and Luella Mabbitt happily married in Dallas, Texas. The first story was proven false, the second could not be verified. As the Delphi Times stated, “One of two conclusions can safely be arrived at—either Amer Green is the most diabolical, infernal scoundrel or the most cruel joker that Indiana ever produced.”

In February 1887, the badly decomposed body of a woman was found in the Wabash River near the mouth of Wildcat Creek. The body was identified as Luella Mabbitt by her mother and sister, but Peter Mabbitt said it was not her and the examining doctor said the body was of a woman in her forties.

As the story of the elopement of Luella Mabbitt and Amer Green was gaining acceptance, authorities in southern Indiana remained convinced that Amer Green had murdered her. Amer Green and his brother William were known troublemakers, and William Green was already on the lam for murder. William, who was described as “a hideous hunchback” murdered Enos Broombough after a disagreement at a picnic in Young America, Indiana, and managed to escape capture. Detectives and lawmen were searching for both Green boys in Tennessee, Texas, and Missouri.

On July 15, 1887, both of the Green brothers were arrested in Fort Worth, Texas by Sheriff J. G. Stanley and brought back to Cass County, Indiana. While Amer Green was awaiting trial in Logansport, Indiana, he was visited by Peter Mabbitt. Green assured Mabbitt that he daughter alive and well. He offered no proof, however, saying that all would be made plain at the proper time.

Now that Green was captured, the people of Cass County were growing impatient with the legal process. The Circuit Court found an error in the indictment against him and a grand jury was hastily convened to draft a new one. In the meantime, Green’s attorney moved for a change of venue. With no positively identified body and no hard evidence against Green, it was viewed unlikely that he would be found guilty of murder.

Around midnight on October 21, 1887, a mob of 200 men surrounded the jail in Delphi, Indiana where Amer Green was being held. After being refused the jail keys by the Sheriff, some of the men, armed with sledgehammers battered in the door. As Green begged for mercy the mob pulled him from his cell and put him in a wagon and take to the woods. The leader of the mob told green he must either produce Luella Mabbitt or die. Green said that Luella was alive and living with a man named Samuel Payne in Fort Worth, Texas; he hadn’t said so before on advice of his attorney. Convinced he was lying, the mob hung him from a tree. It was reported that the body was viewed by thousands of people before being cut down the following morning.

The death of Amer Green did not end the mystery of Luella Mabbitt. Some newspapers reported that an innocent man had been lynched, while others sent reporters to Fort Worth but were unable to find anyone named Samuel Payne.

On the night following the lynching, a young woman, heavily veiled, stepped off an eastbound train in Delphi, Indiana. She went to the baggage room and asked if her trunk had arrived from Fort Worth. The Mabbits denied that their daughter had returned. The mystery woman was never seen again, but rumors persisted.

“[Amer Green],” Logansport Journal, August 12, 1886.
“Alleged Kidnapping,” Logansport Pharos Tribune, August 9, 1886.
“Amer Green Murdered,” National Police Gazette, November 12, 1887.
“City News,” Logansport Pharos Tribune, January 8, 1887.
“Died Lying,” Wheeling Register, November 6, 1887.
“Found in the Wabash,” The Inter Ocean, February 9, 1887.
“Found to Be Not Guilty,” Delphi Times, August 27, 1886.
“The Green Boys,” Evening Leader, July 18, 1887.
“Innocent but Lynched,” Philadelphia Inquirer, October 24, 1887.
“Is Luella Mabbitt Alive? ,” New York Herald, October 25, 1887.
“Lou Mabbett's Fate,” Elkhart Daily Review, February 11, 1887.
“Lou Mabbit Mystery,” Monmouth Evening Gazette, August 19, 1886.
“The Lou Mabbitt Mystery,” The Journal Times, August 18, 1886.
“Lou Mabbitt's Disappearance,” Daily Register, August 14, 1886.
“The Mabbit Mystery,” The Indianapolis News, August 20, 1886.
“Walker Skipped,” Delphi Times, September 3, 1886.

Saturday, May 5, 2018

A Wronged Husband's Revenge.

M. F. Boyd, the Tax Receiver of Floyd County, Georgia, suspected his wife of infidelity and had a plan to catch her in the act. On October 11, 1892 he told his wife he would be leaving town for the day, but he secretly returned home that afternoon.

Mrs. Boyd was from a good family but had been somewhat wild before the marriage; she was said to be “fond of wine and a lark.” That afternoon she lived up to her reputation, lying in bed with Walter Mitchell, owner of a steamboat line in Rome, Georgia.

Both were intoxicated with wine and sleeping soundly which was why they did not hear Boyd enter the room. Boyd was disabled and confined to a wheelchair. He had his assistant roll him into the bedroom then told him to leave the room and shut the door behind him. Boyd wheeled himself to the edge of the bed and without warning began to stab Mitchel with a sharp knife. He managed to inflict five wounds to Mitchell’s head and sever an artery in his left arm before waking Mrs. Boyd.

Mitchell was taken to his home where he died soon after. M. F. Boyd went into Rome surrendered himself to the sheriff and was released on bond. He also swore out a warrant against his wife for adultery and she was arrested and put in jail.

“A Cutting Affray,” News and Observer, October 12, 1892.
“A Cutting Affray in Georgia,” The Baltimore Sun, October 12, 1892.
“Wronged Husband,” National Police Gazette, October 29, 1892.

Saturday, April 28, 2018

The Brown Tragedy.

Mary A. Brown
A wholesale robbery operation was uncovered outside of Irvington, Indiana, four miles east of
Indianapolis. In January 1879, John G. F. Brown and Pressley Miller were convicted of grand larceny and concealing stolen goods and sentenced to one year in the penitentiary. Brown’s wife Mary was also indicted but was released on her own recognizance.

John Brown left his wife with a 40-acre farm to manage and three children to raise. She was 33-years-old—nineteen years younger than her husband—and desperately in need of help. That’s not to say that Mary Brown was helpless; she very soon found the answer to all of her problems in Joseph W. Wade, a 33-year-old Irvington saloon owner. Wade, who was in the middle of a divorce, agreed to live at the farm and manage it for Mary, and even before his divorce was final he was sharing her bed as well as her board.

A one-year prison sentence is not very long. John Brown was released from the penitentiary and returned to his farm to find a domestic situation that was not to his liking. It is not clear what transpired at the Brown farm, but John Brown expected trouble and consulted his attorney. The last thing Brown said to him was, “I may never see you again.” Less than three weeks later John Brown was found murdered.

Joseph W. Wade
At a railroad crossing, about three miles from the farm, a neighbor found a horse and buggy, its cushion and lap rug were saturated with blood. The buggy was identified as John Brown’s and a search of the area found his body lying nearby, beside the railroad track. It first it looked like he had been shot in the head, but it was later determined that his skull had been fractured with a hammer.

I didn’t take long to determine who was responsible—Joe Wade was clearly in conflict with John Brown and Mary Brown had told her friends she would do away with her husband if he ever returned, she had a younger, better-looking man and she didn’t desire to “be tied down to an old fool like Brown.” Both were arrested for the murder of John Brown.

At first, they both denied any knowledge of the murder, but after a brief incarceration Mary Brown weakened and told her story of what happened the night of the murder. She said that Wade had planned to go to Irvington to sell his horse and went out to hitch the buggy.

“I went about attending to my work as usual when I heard a dull, heavy sound, and some groans. I rushed out and saw my husband dying. I had the child in my arms and Wade said, ‘Take in that child.’ I did so, after which I came out again and exclaimed, ‘Oh, my God, what have you done?’ He came up to me and put his arms around me saying ‘This is what love will do, darling.’…My reason for making a different statement before was, Wade threated my life if I gave him away.”

After hearing Mary Brown’s confession, Wade corroborated the story of the surroundings of the murder but said it was Mary who actually did the killing. Both were charged with first-degree murder.

They were tried separately, with Joseph Wade tried first in April of that year. The issue was not whether Wade was involved in the murder, but whether he wielded the hammer and if it was premeditated. Wade could not convince a jury that he was only an accessory; he was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to hang.

When Mary Brown was tried in July, Wade testified for the prosecution. He was not offered any clemency for his testimony, he would hang regardless, so had no incentive to lie. He testified that he had been discussing the sale of a horse with John Brown that Friday evening when Mary came up behind her husband and struck him in the back of the head with a wooden mallet. He fell to the floor, knocking his head against a table. Wade grabbed a lamp from the table as Mary struck Brown again, this time in the face. Wade said, “My God, woman, what have you done?” She said, “That’s no more than he has done.”

Wade hurried out of the house and began to unhitch his horse. Mary asked where he was going and he said Irvington. “No, you ain’t,” said Mary, “Joe Wade, if you leave me now, you’ll rue the day—you’re a man and I’m a woman—you’ve been staying here and nobody will suspect me of doing this.”

She wrapped up the body in a blanket and he helped her load it into the buggy. Then Mary dressed in Joe’s clothes and drove the buggy with Joe sitting beside her. Anyone who saw them would think they were two men. They left the body by the railroad track, and Mary turned his pockets inside out to make it look like he was robbed.  Abandoning the buggy, they walked back to the farm.
The jury deliberated for forty-six hours then found Mary Brown guilty of first-degree murder. She was sentenced to hang on October 29, 1880, the same day as Joseph Wade. Two days before the scheduled hanging, Governor Williams granted them a thirty-day respite to appeal their cases to the state Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court reviewed both cases. They found the two of the jurors on Mary Brown’s case were not competent, having prejudged the defendant; she was granted a new trial. The Supreme Court found nothing wrong with Joe Ward’s trial and let the verdict stand.

On November 18, Governor James D. Williams, in his last official act before dying three days later of inflammation of the bladder, granted Wade another respite so he could bring another appeal to the Supreme Court. This time he appealed on the grounds that the judge gave the jury erroneous instructions.

While awaiting the Supreme Court’s ruling, Ward testified at Mary Brown’s second trial. This time said that Mary’s intent to kill her husband “was of a sudden conception,” the murder had not been planned. Mary Brown was again convicted of first-degree murder, but this time sentenced to life imprisonment in the women’s reformatory.

In February 1881, the Supreme Court granted Joseph Ward a new trial and in his second trial, he was also sentenced to life in prison.

“The Brown Tragedy,” Daily Inter Ocean, February 14, 1880.
“In the First Degree,” Daily Illinois State Journal, April 30, 1880.
“An Indianapolis Murder,” Cincinnati Daily Gazette, February 9, 1880.
“Joseph Wade,” Indianapolis Sentinel, July 3, 1880.
“Marion Murders,” Evansville Courier and Press, May 20, 1880.
“Miscellaneous Misdeeds,” Daily Inter Ocean, December 30, 1880.
“To the Scaffold Will Mrs.,” Indianapolis Sentinel, July 13, 1880.
"Wade and His Paramour," National Police Gazette, November 6, 1880.
“The Wade Trial,” Indianapolis Sentinel, April 21, 1880.
“Wade to Get a New Trial,” Daily Inter Ocean, February 5, 1881.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

The Bitter Fruit of a Jest.

Elvira Houghton, a dressmaker in Southbridge, Massachusetts, hired a carriage and driver to take her to her mother’s funeral in the summer of 1847. The driver, 27-year-old Milton Streeter, was instantly infatuated with Elvira. They had a pleasant conversation and when they returned to Southbridge Milton asked if he could see her again and Elvira said yes.

Also 27-years-old, Elvira feared she was approaching “that delicate and dreaded period, when, having out-maidened all her early associates, she would remain alone a withered remnant of the past.” Her fear may have clouded her judgment; After a whirlwind courtship of one month, she and Milton Streeter were married.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

A Moment of Agony.

Albert E. Hauntstine had been a fugitive for nearly two weeks before being apprehended on November 22, 1888, in Columbus, Nebraska, by Platte County Sheriff Bloedorn. After his apprehension, Haunstine was described as “a harmless, innocent looking young man of about twenty-five.” But Haunstine’s mild appearance belied the brutal nature of his crime, he shot Hiram Roten and William Ashley in the head and tried to hide their bodies in a haystack on his farm in Broken Bow. A reward of $900 had been offered for his capture. When he was arrested Haunstine was armed with two Navy revolvers, a Winchester rifle, a derringer, and plenty of ammunition but was overpowered before he could make a move.

Haunstine admitted his guilt when captured and said that Roten had been one of his best friends but could offer no reason for the murders. The story came in from Broken Bow that Roten and Ashley were school officers in Custer County who went to see Haunstine on November 9, regarding their suspicion that he had stolen a clock and some furniture from the schoolhouse. Three days later Roten and Ashley had still not returned, and their friends began a search which ended in the haystack at Haunstine’s place. Both men had been shot through the head and Roten’s face had been badly eaten by hogs.

Saturday, April 7, 2018

“I Have Shot My Husband.”

An attractive young woman checked into the Paxton Hotel in Omaha, Nebraska, just before eight
o’clock the morning of November 17, 1888. Lewis Thomas, the elevator boy, took her to her room and as they rode in the elevator she asked him if Henry W. King was boarding at the hotel. When he answered yes she asked for his room number, and Thomas told her. Then she asked if a woman lived there with him. Thomas said yes and she responded angrily, “Well, the woman he is living with is not his wife.”

Saturday, March 31, 2018

A Mysterious Murder.

The body of an unknown man with a gunshot wound to the head was found on the corner of 100th Street and 2nd Avenue in New York City, the evening of March 7, 1866. At the time, it was a lonely and isolated corner with no houses nearby; the murder could have been committed after nightfall without any witnesses. Near the wound was a large quantity of power, indicating that he was shot at close range.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Massachusetts Butchery.

Two young boys walking down a road in Lexington, Massachusetts, on January 4, 1887, found a bloody shirt atop a stone wall by the side of the road. They stopped to look around and saw a bundle of clothes lying on the crust of snow on the other side of the wall. The bundle consisted of an entire suit of men’s clothing, from undergarments to overcoat, all saturated with blood. The boys gathered the clothes and hurried back to town. The Lexington Police examined the clothing and believed that it was evidence that a murder had been committed within the previous 48 hours.

Their speculation was confirmed the following morning when L. I. Brooks, a farmer from Lincoln, Massachusetts saw what he thought was a large snowball in a patch of bloody snow. Looking closer he saw that it was a severed human head with two or three deep gashes in the left side. About four feet to the right of the head he found a severed arm. He left the body parts where he found them then drove his sleigh as fast as possible into Lexington to inform the Selectmen. A search party was sent out at once and by the end of the day, they had found the naked body of a man, half hidden by bushes in a gully about a mile from where the head was found. The head, left arm, and right leg of the body were missing. The search continued, but the missing leg was not found that day.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Murder Quickly Avenged.

George Lear, an ex-prize fighter living in Altman, Colorado, had a bone to pick with Irene Good, a pretty barmaid at the Branch Saloon on Bull Mountain, Cripple Creek, Colorado. On November 15, 1893, Lear came to the door of the saloon and called for Irene. She went out and soon after, bartender Sam James heard her screaming. James ran outside and found that Lear had knocked Irene down and run away.

Later, Lear came back and entered the rear door of the saloon, he went into the barroom and began shooting. Irene Good, who had come from behind the bar, fell to the floor and cried, “I am killed.” Sam James then emptied his revolver into George Lear. Though seriously wounded, Lear walked to where Irene was lying, shot her through the temple, then fell dead across her body.

It is not clear what Irene Good had done to enrage George Lear.

“Murder Quickly Avenged,” Muskegon Chronicle, November 17, 1893.
“A Pretty Barmaid Murdered,” National Police Gazette, December 9, 1893.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

A Duel in the Bedroom.

Will Shinall ran a small store and bar in Hackletown, Georgia, a suburb of Augusta. In the backrooms of the store, he resided with his wife and eight-year-old son. Shinall had business interests in Beaufort, South Carolina and would often travel there and stay overnight. When he was out of town, Shinall left his young clerk and bartender, Batty Buck to manage the store. Though not yet twenty years old, Buck was an honest and enthusiastic employee and Shinall had no qualms about leaving him in charge of the business.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Professional Poisoners.

Dr. and Mrs. Henry Meyer used a dazzling array of aliases to stay one step ahead of detectives as they moved from city to city engaging in lethal insurance fraud. It was their livelihood; they were professional poisoners.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

A Kentucky Courtship.

Tom Moore had been courting the daughter of Bud Reynolds, a well-known distiller of Prestonsburg, Kentucky, against the wishes of the old man. On October 29, 1896, Moore walked into town and told his friends that before nightfall he intended to either marry his sweetheart or kill her father. He did not marry his sweetheart.