Saturday, June 15, 2024

The Murderer's Attack on His Mother.


Frank Gouldy was a wild and restless young man. Unable to hold a job, he lived in idleness and dissipation in his father’s house. He was sometimes pleasant to his brothers and sisters but more often morose and vengeful, with an uncontrollable temper.

Frank came home at about ten o’clock on October 26, 1858, and his father reprimanded him about money he had taken. Frank responded with “a low chuckling laugh, full of moaning and fiendish wickedness.” He entered his stepmother's room, and as she lay in bed, he hit her several times on the head with a dull hatchet. She rose up, trying to ward off the blows, then fell to the floor. He continued his violent spree, leaving three family members wounded and one servant dead.

Read the full story here: The Thirtieth Street Murder.

Saturday, June 8, 2024

The Pokomoke Tragedy.

Ella Hearn.
Ella Hearn and Lilly Duer were two young women living in Pokomoke City, Maryland, in 1878. Accounts differ as to their exact ages, but both girls were around 19. Both were from socially prominent families and had recently graduated with honors from an academy where they lived as roommates.

Both Ella and Lilly were considered beautiful but were opposites in nature. Ella was quiet and retiring with a delicate build and ladylike manners, while Lilly was described as “a madcap, independent sort of girl, and exceedingly eccentric.” Lilly wore her hair short and, on hunting expeditions, would dress in male attire.  She enjoyed target shooting and had pockets sewn into her dresses to carry a small revolver unobserved.

As roommates, Ella and Lilly became quite intimate. In 1878, the word “lesbian” was not in common parlance, so the newspapers used elaborate explanations to describe their relationship. The New York Herald said, “The freaks of human nature which give us womanly men and manly women are among the most curious and occult because it often happens that there is little or no exterior guide to the psychic anomaly.”   

Lilly Duer.

By that November, however, Ella was far less committed to the relationship and was growing tired of Lilly’s possessive jealousy. The turning point of their relationship occurred that October when the girls took a walk in the woods to pick berries. They had gotten separated, and Ella was walking ahead. Lilly called out, asking her to stop. When Ella did not heed her, Lilly pulled out her pistol and fired three shots, narrowly missing Ella. As Lilly ran up behind her, Ella turned, knocking the pistol from her hand. 

“Did you intend to shoot me?” Ella said.

“I only intended to frighten you and make you stop,” Lilly replied.

Ella said she would never go into the woods with her again, and the relationship effectively ended.

In Lilly’s mind, the relationship was far from over. On November 4, she sent Ella a message asking her to come over that evening. Ella went, accompanied by her younger sister. Lilly tried to persuade her to go into the woods with her the next day. Ella refused.

“Before Almighty God, Ella Hearn,” said Lilly, “if you don’t go into the woods with me tomorrow, I’ll never ask you to go anywhere else.”

The next day, Lilly went to Ella’s house. She attempted to kiss her, but Ella pushed her away and started laughing. She told Lilly to go home and leave her alone. 

Lilly asked her if she loved Ella Foster, another of their schoolmates. 

She replied, “Yes.”

“Repeat that, and I’ll kill you,” said Lilly.

A moment later, a neighbor passing the house heard a pistol shot followed by a woman’s scream. He ran inside to find Ella Hearn lying on the floor with her hands clasped over her mouth to stop the bleeding. Standing over her, holding the still-smoking pistol, was Lilly Duer. Lilly asked him to run for a doctor, then she began to weep bitterly.

As Ella’s father began legal proceedings, Lilly left town. She cropped her hair, borrowed one of her brother’s suits, and, disguised as a man, took a train to Baltimore.

Ella was bedridden and treated by a physician. The bullet had gone through her lip, broken a tooth, and lodged somewhere in her head. As she slipped in and out of consciousness, she sometimes accused Lilly of shooting her intentionally. Once, she sat up in bed and, glancing wildly about her, exclaimed, “Don’t, Lilly, please don’t; I’ll marry you.”

Other times, she would speak kindly of Lilly and even requested that she be brought to see her. Lilly, who had returned from Baltimore, did call but had no sooner reached the bedside when she was promptly ordered away by the wounded girl.

Ella held on to life for a month, then died on December 5. Lilly was indicted for first-degree murder. She was released on $2,500 bail pending her trial.

Lilly told police that the shooting had been accidental. She said, “I had the pistol in my hand after giving up the attempt to kiss her and was looking at the cartridges, counting them, when the pistol went off.   I am not a murderess.”

When her trial began in Snow Hill, Maryland, on May 29, 1879, Lilly was housed in the National Hotel across the street from the courthouse. She was in the custody of the sheriff, who believed that jail was no fit place for any young woman.

Lilly would not let her attorneys plead insanity, so they argued that the shot had been entirely accidental. They also raised the possibility that the shot had not been fatal, but Ella’s death was due to chloral administered by a physician.

The people of Maryland had been evenly divided as to Lilly’s guilt, but as the trial progressed, sympathy turned in her favor. When the verdict was read on June 19, Lilly was found guilty of manslaughter. She was fined $500, but keeping with the sentiment that jail was no place for a young woman, she was given no prison sentence.


Sources: 
“A Beautiful Girl Kills Another,” READING DAILY EAGLE, December 10, 1878.
“The Hearn-Duer Mystery,” Morning Herald., December 13, 1878.
“Lillie Duer Fined $500 for Shooting Ella Hearn,” EVENING STAR., June 20, 1879.
“Lilly Duer's Passion,” New York Herald, December 13, 1878.
“Miss Duer Indicted for Murder in the First Degree,” The Sun, May 22, 1879.
“Miss Duer Indicted for Murder in the First Degree,” Smyrna Times. [volume], May 28, 1879.
“Miss Lillia Duer's Trial,” Sun, May 28, 1879.
“My Maryland,” Morning Herald., December 18, 1878.
“News Article,” Smyrna Times. [volume], November 13, 1878.
“The Peril of Playing with a Pistol,” daily dispatch., November 13, 1878.
“Pocomoke's Tragedy,” New York Herald, May 28, 1879.
“The Pokomoke Mystery,” Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper, June 28, 1879.
“A Remarkable Eastern Shore Case,” DAILY TRUE AMERICAN., May 22, 1879.
“Remarkable Tragedy,” daily gazette., December 13, 1878.
“Sensational Shooting,” Cincinnati Commercial, December 8, 1878.
“A Shooting Case,” daily gazette., December 9, 1878.
“A Tom-Boy's Terrible Love,” READING DAILY EAGLE., May 26, 1879.
“Was Miss Hearn Killed With Chloral! ,” New-York Tribune., June 10, 1879.
“Women Who Love Women,” Sunday Mercury, June 1, 1879.

Saturday, June 1, 2024

Removing the Bandages.

John Armstrong was seriously wounded but still alive when he was found on the ground in Camden, New Jersey, on January 23, 1878. He was taken to his home in Philadelphia, across the Delaware River, to be treated for head wounds. His friend, Benjamin Hunter, was among the first to visit him at home. In the guise of helping, Hunter suspiciously removed the bandages on Armstrong’s head, reopening the wound. After Armstrong died, police learned that Hunter had purchased a large insurance policy on Armstrong’s life, with himself as beneficiary.

Read the full story here: 

The Hunter-Armstrong Tragedy.

Saturday, May 25, 2024

John Wesley Elkins.

John Wesley Elkins.
11-year-old John Wesley Elkins was slight of stature—four feet eight inches tall, weighing 73 pounds. He was intelligent and well-spoken, and he had never caused trouble until the day he murdered his parents. 

At 2:00 am, on July 24, 1889, while his parents were sleeping in their Iowa farmhouse, he shot his father in the head and then beat his mother to death with a club. Under questioning, Elkins quickly broke down and confessed. He had been unhappy at having to take care of his baby sister and wanted to set out on his own. After several unsuccessful attempts to run away, he concluded that murder was his only way out. 

John Wesley Elkins was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life at hard labor in Anamosa State Penitentiary.

Read the full story here: A Boy Murderer.

Saturday, May 18, 2024

The Boss Butcher.


On December 11, 1879, neighbors searching the Harelson farm in Kerney, Nebraska, found the bodies of Mrs. Harelson and her three children inside a haystack. There was little question as to the murderer's identity. Stephen D. Richards, who had been living with the Harelsons for the previous two weeks, told them that Mrs. Harelson and the children had gone to join her husband, a fugitive from justice. The neighbors were searching because they did not believe him.

By the time the bodies were found, Richards had sold the farm and fled the state. Sheriff S.L. Martin of Hastings, Nebraska, obtained some letters Richards had written to a woman there saying that he planned to meet her in Mt. Pleasant, Ohio. Richards took a circuitous route, and Martin tracked him to Omaha, Chicago, and other points. Martin nearly captured him in Chicago, but the press got wind of his arrival and published it in the newspaper, alerting Richards. He finally captured Richards as he was walking across a field in Mt. Pleasant in the company of two young women.

After his arrest, Richards confessed to murdering the Harelsons. He continued talking, and by his second day in jail, Richards, whom the Illustrated Police News dubbed “The Boss Butcher,” confessed to a total of nine murders. The Chicago Daily Tribune published his official confession:

I was born in Mt. Pleasant, Jefferson County, Ohio, and am a Quaker by birth and religion. I lived there with nothing eventful happening to me until three years ago when a desire to roam about took possession of me. I went West and have lived in Michigan, Iowa, Wisconsin, Kansas, Missouri, Colorado, and Nebraska. 

The first murder I committed was in Buffalo County, in the latter State, where I shot a man with whom I engaged in a quarrel. I afterward murdered another man in his own house, because he cursed me, beating his brains out with a hammer. I then went to Kearney. At that place there lived a Swede, a bachelor, on a farm by himself. He had plenty of money, and I went to live with him, and soon after which I poisoned him, but, as he did not die quick enough to suit me, I one night knocked his brains out with a club and took all his money.

This Mrs. Harelson, whom I murdered along with her three children, had a dissolute husband, and a short time ago, he went away and left her. I conceived the idea of murdering her and her children and then selling off everything she had and pocketing the proceeds. For this purpose, I told neighbors I was going to take Mrs. Harelson and her children to a neighboring town and for them to come over the next day and feed the stock. That night, I murdered them, hid their bodies under a haystack, and went away myself.

After two or three days, I returned and gave out that Mrs. Harelson had gone to join her husband and that I had bought everything she had. I accordingly sold out everything and, as I saw that I was suspected, left the place and came on Mt. Pleasant. It was on the 8th of December that I committed the murders.

Richards broke Mrs. Harelson’s jaw and smashed the back of her head with a smoothing iron. He dispatched the two oldest children the same way, then dashed the infant’s head against the floor.

Sheriffs Martin and Anderson of Kearney and Buffalo counties took him to Nebraska on December 24. They anticipated lynch mobs both in Ohio and Nebraska. As they waited for the train, Richards, in iron shackles and handcuffs, was heavily guarded. 

On the train, Richards maintained an attitude of cool indifference. When asked if he feared lynching, he said he would as soon die one way as another. He held his life of no account, and regarding those he killed, he said, “I placed others at about the same importance as hogs.”

As the train approached Kearney, the sheriffs heard that a large crowd had gathered at the depot. They feared a lynch mob but were also concerned about Richards's boast that the “secret society” he belonged to would be there to free him and take revenge on the lawmen.

They got off the train two miles east of Kearney and secured him in a wagon. Sheriff Anderson went to Kearney and addressed the crowd. He said that Sheriff Martin had taken him to Grand Island, and he would not be in Kearney until the following day. Martin had not taken him to Grand Island. After the crowd dispersed, he secretly took Richards to the Kearney jail.

The court issued three indictments against Richards for the murder of six people. He was tried on January 15, 1879, for the first-degree murder of Peter Anderson, the Swede he killed prior to the Harelsons. His plea was not guilty; he claimed he had killed Anderson in self-defense. The trial lasted two days, and after two hours of deliberation, the jury found him guilty. The judge immediately sentenced him to hang on April 26.

As execution day approached, Richards lost his cool attitude. The Reading Daily Eagle reported, “Lately, he has cried like a child and cannot sleep or eat, being so thoroughly unmanned through fear that it is thought he will have to be carried to the gallows.”

The hanging was to be held privately inside a high enclosure, but a mob quickly tore down the fence, and at least 2,500 people witnessed the execution. Richards regained his composure on the gallows and made a short address saying his soul was going to God and his body to the undertaker. Then, after a prayer by his spiritual advisor, he asked the crowd to join him in singing, “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing.” 

The trap was sprung, and fifteen minutes later, Stephen D. Richards was dead.



Sources: 
“An Outlaw,” New Haven Evening Register, December 24, 1878.
“The Boss Murderer,” Illustrated Police News, January 4, 1879.
“By Mail and Telegraph,” READING DAILY EAGLE, December 23, 1878.
“Convicted and Sentenced for Murder,” Cincinnati Daily Gazette, January 17, 1879.
“A Cowardly Wretch,” READING DAILY EAGLE., April 26, 1879.
“Criminal News,” Chicago Daily Tribune., December 24, 1878.
“The Death Penalty,” Cincinnati Daily Gazette, April 28, 1879.
“A Desperado in Jail,” New York Herald., December 29, 1878.
“He Killed Children as He Would Rabbits,” New York Herald, January 7, 1879.
“The Nebraska Fiend,” Chicago Daily News, April 25, 1879.
“News Article,” Cincinnati Daily Star., December 23, 1878.
“Richards, The Murderer,” Canton Daily Repository., December 27, 1878.
“Richards, the Wholesale Murderer, Streteched Hemp Yesterday,” Cheyenne daily leader. [volume], April 27, 1879.

Saturday, May 11, 2024

Pantomime Witness.

 

4-year-old Rosa Lochner witnessed her mother’s murder, but Rosa had been deaf since birth, so no one believed she could provide any information. However, after she regained composure, she gave a detailed account in pantomime: mamma rocked the baby to sleep, then Papa woke her up, pointed a revolver at her head, and fired; mamma fell dead on the floor, papa took off her rings, then fled.

Read the full story here: A Murder in Pantomime.

Saturday, May 4, 2024

The Falls Field Tragedy.

On December 19, 1857, Nathan Newhafer slipped while crossing the Andrews Street Bridge in Rochester, New York. He fell into the Genesee River, was swept over High Falls, and disappeared. Newhafer was the president of Rochester’s Jewish Synagogue, and his congregation offered a reward for the recovery of his body. The following day, searchers found a man’s corpse on the shore of Falls Field. His skull had been fractured by blows to the head, his face had multiple wounds, and he was not Nathan Newhafer.

Falls Field, Rochester, NY

Saturday, April 27, 2024

"I Myself Have Done This Thing."

 

In 1883, Edward Rowell of Batavia, New York, suspected his wife of cheating and set a trap to catch her. He told her he would be gone for severl days on business but did not leave. That night he caught his wife in bed with their former neighbor, Johnson Lynch. Rowell burst into the room brandishing a revolver and fired wildly wounding his wife and killing Lynch. The murder caused quite a stir and had far reaching consequenes. Lynch’s uncle, Arthur Johnson was so distressed that he shot himself in the chest. He left a note saying “I myself have done this thing. Please ask no questions about it.”

Read the full story here: Caught in the Act.

Saturday, April 20, 2024

Charles and Eva.


The marriage of Charles and Eva Herman had been on the rocks for several years. Their loud and violent fights were so common that neighbors took little notice of their shouting row on November 1, 1885. A few days later, they found Eva lying on the floor with her throat cut from ear to ear. After a night in jail, Charles confessed to the murder. I thought his wife was unfaithful, and he killed her out of jealousy.

Read the full story here: The Confession of a Wife Murderer.

Saturday, April 13, 2024

Emma and Samuel.

 



Samuel Smith and his wife Emma appeared to the world as a happy and affectionate young couple. She was pretty and vivacious with a dazzling wardrobe, and he was energetic with a winning personality. But beneath the surface was a hidden turmoil that did not come to light until Emma was found dead in their apartment, her head blown apart by a shotgun blast, and Samuel nowhere to be found.
Read the full story here: A Shrewd Rascal.

Saturday, April 6, 2024

A Cowardly Assassination.

Henry Clay King and David H. Poston, two prominent Memphis attorneys, were bitter legal opponents in a scandalous civil case involving adultery and fraud. The animosity reached a peak when King shot Poston on Main Street in broad daylight. The case took on national significance when Senators, Congressmen, and even a President weighed in on King’s punishment.

Saturday, March 30, 2024

Elizabeth and Arthur.

Elizabeth and Arthur Ragan.

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

Read the full story here: Love and Arsenic.

Saturday, March 23, 2024

"Give Me Back My Children."


Margaret Howard learned too late that the man she married was a violent, two-timing gambler. After they separated, he kidnapped their children to be raised by another woman posing as his wife. Margaret snapped and took her revenge on the false Mrs. Howard.  

Read the full story here: Margaret Howard.

Saturday, March 16, 2024

The Bedford Murder.

Dr. John W. Hughes. 

Dr. John W. Hughes was a restless, intemperate man whose life never ran smoothly. When his home life turned sour, he found love with a woman half his age. Then, he lost her through an act of deception, and in a fit of drunken rage, Dr. Hughes killed his one true love.


Date:  August 9, 1865

Location:   Bedford, Ohio

Victim:  Tamzen Parsons

Cause of Death:  Gunshot

Accused:   Dr. John W. Hughes




Saturday, March 9, 2024

John and Maria.


Sudden death seemed to be John Hendrickson’s constant companion. When his six-week-old baby died suddenly, it was viewed as a tragedy. When his father-in-law died suddenly in a farm accident, it raised a few eyebrows. But when his healthy teenage wife, Maria, died suddenly with symptoms of poisoning, foul suspicions ran wild.

Read the full story here: Sudden Death, Foul Suspicions.

Saturday, March 2, 2024

His House His Castle.

Sometime after 11:00, the night of January 15, 1888, Mrs. Emma Belden was awakened by someone ringing the front doorbell. She went to the door and heard the person trying to get inside.

“Who’s there,” she called.

“Let me in,” a gruff voice responded.

“You can’t get in.”

The man outside started kicking the door, trying to break in.

Saturday, February 24, 2024

Alice and Lillie.

 

Alice Hoyle last saw her sister, Lillie, the night of September 1, 1887, in the room they shared in Webster, Massachusetts. Lillie left to use the outhouse, and Alice fell asleep. Lillie never returned. The next morning, Alice went out, thinking Lillie had already left for work. That is the story Alice told the police— as the investigation progressed, she would change it several times.

Read the full story here: The Webster Mystery.

Saturday, February 17, 2024

Katie and Albert.


A postmortem examination revealed that Katie Dugan was four months pregnant when her body was found beaten and slashed in an empty field in Wilmington, Delaware, in 1892. A two-year investigation led police to believe that Albert Stout, Katie’s former employer, was her killer and the father of her unborn child. But Stout was a prominent, well-connected businessman, and despite evidence that he and Katie had been together the night of the murder, the grand jury failed to indict him. The case remains unsolved.

Read the full story here: The Katie Dugan Mystery.

Saturday, February 10, 2024

East Side Story.

This week, we have a guest post from Howard and Nina Brown, frequent contributors to Murder by Gaslight, on matters pertaining to the 1891 murder of Carrie Brown. This article chronicles events leading to the release of Ameer Ben Ali, who was convicted of the murder but was released in 1902. 

Howard and Nina have written a book on the Carrie Brown murder, East Side Story: 1891 Murder Case of Carrie Brown, available here: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/east-side-story-howard-and-nina-brown/1144649128?ean=9798855694468

They also run Carrie Brown: Murder In The East River Hotel, a discussion site on the Carrie Brown case.




East Side Story.

It isn't often that the perpetrator in one case of murder becomes the catalyst for the revision of the narrative in another murder case.

This revision to a crucial aspect within the 123-year narrative in the 'Old Shakespeare' murder case ( the nickname of Carrie Brown, murdered in the East River Hotel on April 23, 1891) came unintentionally from James M. Dougherty when he wrote a letter to NY Governor Benjamin Odell on June 22nd, 1901. Dougherty was a convicted lunatic in Dannemora Prison in 1901.

Saturday, February 3, 2024

A Fool and His Folly.

Orange Terrell, of Terrell, Texas, had, for a number of years, been “paying his respects” to Sophia Wickson. In the spring of 1886, Sophia had another admirer, Miles Henderson, who was proving to be a successful rival to Tarrell. Around 9:30, the night of June 7, Tarrell went to the house of Austin Thomas, where he knew Sophia was stopping. Expecting trouble, he took his revolver with him.

When he got to the house, Tarrell found Henderson already there. Without a word, he opened fire on the couple. He hit Henderson in the chest then turned his attention to Sophia. He emptied his pistol, hitting her once on the leg. Then he fled.

While Tarrell was gone, Dr. J. A. Stovall was summoned to attend to the wounded. After reloading his revolver, Terrell returned to the house. He gave his pocketbook to Dr. Stovall and told him the money in it was to pay his room and board, as he did not expect to leave that house alive. He took off his shoes and lay down on a bed in the front room.

When City Marshal, Jim Keller, learned of the shooting and that Terrell was still in the house, he went with several other men to surround the place. Keller went in the back door, through the kitchen, into the front room. Seeing Tarrell lying on the bed, he ordered him to throw up his hands and surrender. Tarrell’s hands went up, but he was still holding the pistol. He fired at Keller, barely missing him. Keller then fired five or six times, riddling Terrell with bullets, killing him instantly.

Two days later, the coroner impaneled a jury. After hearing the evidence, they ruled that Marshal Keller was justified in his action. 


Sources: 
“Baffled Lover Multiplies Murder,” Akron Beacon Journal, June 9, 1886.
“A Desperate Lover,” Saint Paul Globe, June 10, 1886.
“A Jealous Lover's Act,” National Police Gazette, June 26, 1886.
“Love Leads to Murder,” Wilkes-Barre Times Leader, June 10, 1886.
“A Texas Love Tragedy,” Lancaster New Era, June 10, 1886.