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Saturday, August 29, 2015

The Guttenberg Murder.


On May 3, 1881, Mena Muller and Louis Kettler took the ferry from New York City to Hoboken, New Jersey. They were going to be married in Hoboken, although they each had a spouse already. The legality of the marriage did not concern them; they were returning to Germany and would start a new life there. But somehow their plans went awry; that night Louis Kettler returned to New York alone and ten days later Mena Muller’s body was found in New Jersey with a fractured skull.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Katie Hood's Fate.

Little Murders
Sixteen-year-old Katie Hood left the house the evening of Saturday, September 21, 1889 and never returned. She worked at Mike Schoenig’s saloon in Connersville, Indiana, and resided with her employer’s family. Katie was known to be somewhat wild, and at one point, Schoenig fired her and sent her from his home for staying out until two or three in the morning. On her promise to do better, Schoenig rehired Katie, and up until the night of her disappearance she appeared to have reformed.

Katie Hood’s reputation as a fast girl fueled speculation in Connersville that she had met with foul play. Some believed she had simply skipped town, but all she had with her were the clothes on her back, and most thought she was being held somewhere against her will. A rumor circulated that Katie had become an inmate of a brothel in the South End of Connersville, and on the night of September 27, a posse of men raided the house, sending the customers running in all directions. Reportedly, one respectable citizen jumped out of a window to avoid exposure. But when the dust settled, Katie Hood was not in the house.

As days passed with no trace of Katie Hood, suspicion began to grow that one of several prominent men often seen in Katie’s company had been responsible for her disappearance. The Connersville Daily Examiner reported that enough circumstantial evidence existed that “…the strong arm of the law will soon have a father of a fine family, and well fixed financially, entangled in its meshes.” His name was not divulged but detectives had him under surveillance.

All hopes of finding Katie Hood alive were dashed on September 30, when a train engineer found her body floating in the canal about a mile north of the city. Suicide was ruled out; she had a gash on the back of her head made by a blunt instrument, and marks on her neck and torn clothing indicated a struggle. The skirt of her dress was missing, it was believed to have been weighted down and was torn away when the body floated up.

Many in Connersville, including those who knew the victim, believed that she had died as a result of an abortion or had been murdered to cover that crime. This question was likely answered during the postmortem examination of the body, but the procedure was held in the utmost secrecy. Coroner Larimore had no intention of releasing any information prior to the inquest.

No news was coming from the coroner’s office and the anonymous, well-fixed, citizen had not been arrested, but the rumor mills were running full time. Everyone in Connersville knew that Katie Hood was murdered by her secret paramour, Henry Lee Jones. H. L. Jones was one of the richest men in Connersville, a good family man who had often been seen together with Katie Hood. According to Captain Bruce of the Indianapolis Police, who had been leading his own investigation of the murder, Katie Hood had engaged an attorney to bring suit against H. L. Jones for seduction and had met with Jones several times before her disappearance attempting to effect a compromise. Captain Bruce believe that Jones did not commit the murder himself but hired someone else to do it.

Public sentiment against Jones became so intense that the family decided to move out of Connersville. As the move was progressing, Henry Lee Jones suddenly became grievously ill and appeared to be on his death bed. “Tell baby that I lover her,” was his message to his favorite daughter. Then he bade his family Farwell and said, “I die an innocent man.”

Jones’s death was suspected to be suicide by poison, and in the postmortem examination his stomach was removed and sent to a chemist for analysis. In the public mind, suicide was the equivalent of confession. This sentiment increased when it was learned that Coroner Larimore was a friend of Jones and physician to his family. It was thought he withheld information from the public to protect his friend.

The chemical analysis of Jones’s stomach returned negative for poison but that did little to quell public belief that he had killed himself to escape prosecution for Katie Hood’s murder. Though the accused was dead, there was an attempt to try the case in civil court. The administrator of Katie Hood’s estate brought a suit against the estate of Henry Lee Jones, for $10,000, charging him with the infliction of injuries resulting in the death of Katie Hood.

It would have been interesting to hear the arguments against H. L. Jones who had died before ever being arrested or indicted for the murder, but his estate challenged the validity of the lawsuit. Two years later, the Indiana Supreme Court ruled in favor of Jones’s estate, quoting Lord Mansfield, “the wrong and the wrong-doer were buried together.”  

Sources:
"'I Die an Innocent Man.'" Connersville Daily Examiner 8 Oct 1889.
"Great Day for News." Indianapolis Sun 11 Oct 1889.
Griffiths, John L. Reports of Cases Argued and Determined in the Supreme Court of. Indianapolis: The Bowen-Merril Co., 1891.
"Justice Defeated." Cincinnati Commercial Tribune 9 Oct 1889.
"Katie Hood's Fate." The Cincinnati Enquirer 1 Oct 1889.
"Katie Hood's Murder ." Cincinnati Commercial Tribune 5 Dec 1889.
"More Evidence." Connersville Daily Examiner 10 Oct 1889.
"No Arrest Yet!." Connersville Daily Examiner 2 Oct 1889.
"Nothing New." Connersville Daily Examiner 27 Sep 1889.
"Still a Mystery." Connersville Daily Examiner 28 Sep 1889.
"The Connersville Tragedy." Cincinnati Commercial Tribune 4 Oct 1889.
"The Katie Hood Mystery." The Cincinnati Enquirer 26 Oct 1889.
"Was it Murder?" Connersville Daily Examiner 1 Oct 1889.
"Was it Suicide?" Connersville Times 16 Oct 1889.
"Who Killed Katy Hood?." The National Police Gazette 16 Nov 1889.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Trunks, Crates, and Barrels.

Disposing of the body without being captured has always been a post-mortem problem for a murderer, but in the nineteenth century there always seemed to be a large receptacle handy—steamer trunks, shipping crates, and wooden barrels have all been used to a killer’s advantage. With a little body modification, a barrel can be used as a makeshift coffin or to float a body downriver. A large trunk can conceal a body while transporting it to a dumping spot or hide it long enough for a killer’s escape. The most creative method was to crate the body and ship it to a city far away. It is not known how many times this mode succeeded, but it failed enough times to demonstrate its popularity.

The Corpse in the Shipping Crate
John C. Colt put the body of Samuel Adams in shipping crate and sent it to New Orleans c/o General Delivery. If the ship had left on schedule, his plan may have worked.
The Great Trunk Mystery
A trunk bound for Chicago by train was found to contain the body of Alice Bowlsby, put there by abortionist Jacob Rosenzweig.
The Boston Barrel Tragedy
The dismembered body of Abijah Ellis was found stuffed inside two barrels floating down the Charles River. The killer’s identity was never known for certain.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

The Mystery of Zora Burns.

Little Murders
Zora Burns
Missouri Burns, better known as Zora, was nineteen years old when she left her father's home in St. Elmo, Illinois, to work as a domestic for the family of Orrin A. Carpenter, the richest man in Lincoln, Illinois. Carpenter was a grain dealer who owned a huge grain elevator as well as a farm and other real estate in Logan County. He was fifty years old with a wife and two daughters.
In newspaper reports, Zora Burns was described as a beautiful and captivating young woman: “Abundant hair of yellow-golden tint clustered about features as perfectly regular as those which Phidias chiseled from the marble of Greece. Her form was grace and symmetry personified, and despite her lack of educational advantages, her natural tact and quickness of intellect atoned in great measure for her deficiencies.” It is not surprising that Mr. Carpenter soon became infatuated with his young servant.
 

Monday, August 3, 2015

IAN Book of the Year Finalist.

I am proud to announce that my book, The Bloody Century, has been selected as a finalist in the

2015 Independent Author Network Book of the Year Awards.

Winners to be announced later this month.



Saturday, August 1, 2015

The New Hampshire Horror.


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

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Concerning Popular Sympathy.

In January 1892, Carlyle W. Harris was convicted of murdering his wife, nineteen-year-old, Helen Potts Harris. It was a particularly ugly story—Harris had bragged about his amorous conquests, saying he had gone so far as to marry a girl to get her into bed, then dump her later. This appeared to be the case with his marriage to Helen Potts; they eloped, kept the marriage a secret, and at his insistence they used assumed names at the ceremony. When Helen’s mother found out and demanded they make the marriage public, Harris decided to murder Helen instead. In spite of an elaborate plot to make the death appear to be accidental poisoning, Harris was convicted and sentenced to the electric chair. The whole story can be found here: The Six Capsules.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

The Briggs House Murder.

Little Murders

On December 7, 1883, Sadie Reigh went into the dining room of the Briggs House, one of Chicago’s finest hotels, and fired four shots from a revolver, in rapid succession, at Head Waiter Patrick Kinsley. Sadie fled the hotel but was apprehended quickly. Two of her shots had hit their mark; Kinsley died the following day and Sadie Reigh was charged with murder. 

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Recent Homicides—The Murder Mania.

(From New York Herald, January 28, 1872)



Recent Homicides—
The Murder Mania.
The community is at present in the midst of a series of shocking murders which seem at undefined intervals to sweep over the face of our civilization, darkening it with a tinge of blood. Homicide appears for a while to be epidemic, and men talk gallows philosophy with a tinge of ferocity in sentiment which indicates all the more how the blood-spilling mania seizes mankind in some form or other, whether under the form of murder or killing for murder. Two days ago a wretch named Botts expiated the shooting of “Pet” Halsted, in Newark—moving cause jealousy. In California, Mrs. Fair, is under sentence for killing a man who was about to return to a long-neglected, much-injured wife; jealousy the cause here, too. Stokes killed Fisk—cause, jealousy indirectly; not Stokes’ but Fisk’s jealousy. Two days ago within the very hour that the murderer Botts was hurried out of the world, a girl of eighteen—a Mrs. Hyde—shot her seducer dead. Yesterday in front of St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Church, a German, named Henry Hepner, deliberately shot and killed his own son, and afterwards attempted suicide. And so the cases move out into ghastly prominence, with some hellish distortion of the divine passion, love, at their root. If gallows medicine is the only specific for this epidemic of murder, why is it so rarely administered? At the time that the crimes surge in upon society each murderer and murderess is hanged in imagination, and there only. When homicide fever passes away for a while the murder virus seems to leave the public mind too, and the criminal is forgotten with the crime. The jealous murders, or those founded on sentiment, no matter how morbid, flabby or maudlin, always find their apologists among decent people, who never saw the gashed, riddled or jellied corpse of the victim. These people illustrate the mania by applause of the murder.

The theory of a murder mania is true also of the more brutal classes of crime, such as the car-hook murder, or those that arise out of vulgar brawls in the dens of vice. Awakening unanimous condemnation at the time, they pass into oblivion, and the example idea of the law is frustrated. While in most of the murders which come to light the slayer is found at once or clearly traceable on account of the incidents of passion which were part of the murdered being’s lie, there is the class of murder which is the accompaniment of robbery. The failure to trace this class of criminal is a notorious and deplorable commentary on the efficiency of the police, whose sensibilities alone appear to be in no way quickened by the sudden increase of crime. The Rogers and Nathan murders are as much wrapped in mystery now as at the time of their committal, and the murder of the unfortunate Professor Panormo, a couple of nights ago, seems as if about to be sent to keep company with the other two mockeries of our system of detection of crime, as they all three shake our belief in the police as a protective or preventive force. There must be no effort spared to bring the assassins of Panormo to justice; but the ignorance; sloth and blundering of the Brooklyn police give us little hope of the result. As in the Rosenzweig case, some of the most important links in the chain of evidence have already been worked up by the press writers, and if so-called detectives will only follow the trail public vengeance may yet be satisfied.




"Recent Homicides-the Murder Mania." New York Herald 28 Jan 1872.



Saturday, July 4, 2015

The Silver Lake Mystery.


The discovery of a woman’s body in a barrel, buried in a ravine near Silver Lake, on Staten Island, New York in 1875 began a frantic investigation to determine who she was and how she had died. With three false identifications and at least a dozen other missing girls as candidates for the body in the barrel, it seemed as if the Silver Lake mystery would never be solved. She turned out to be Mrs. Mary Ann Reinhardt, married to a Staten Island candy store owner who decided to take a new wife and dispose of the old one. 

Saturday, June 27, 2015

The Unwritten Law.

Little Murders
Robert McBride was the wealthy operator of a cotton seed oil mill in Newnan, Georgia. He had come to Georgia from New Jersey, and quickly entered the vigorous business life of Newnan, with interests in several mills and factories. In 1893, he was a quiet and gentlemanly, 44 year-old bachelor, living in a boarding house run by Patrick Meehan and his wife.

Meehan was a successful traveling salesman for a Louisville, Kentucky, whisky distiller, whose job kept him in the road for long periods. In August 1893, Meehan was in New York City, and Robert McBride decided to use this opportunity to express his affection for Mrs. Meehan; his feelings for her had been steadily growing during the two years he spent under her roof. When they were alone on the front veranda, McBride told Mrs. Meehan that he wished to have a confidential conversation with her. Mrs. Meehan was taken aback and told Meehan that if he had anything confidential to say he should write it down and send it to Mr. Meehan, and she left the porch.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Portraits of the Nicely Brothers.

After a recent post about the Nicely Brothers, who were hanged for the coldblooded murder of Herman Umberger in Jennerstown, Pennsylvania in 1889, I was contacted by Rick Carbone who told me he had some old photographs of the Nicelys. Rick was kind enough to share these portraits of Josiah G. “Joseph” Nicely and David C. Nicely:
Josiah G. “Joseph” Nicely
David C. Nicely
It was common at the time, to sell photographs, mounted on card stock, as souvenirs of sensational murders. These portraits were produced in Indiana, Pennsylvania, near the site of the Umberger murder. They were obviously the models for the drawings below, published in the Somerset Herald at the time of the hangings - it is interesting to note that the artist did not exaggerate Joe’s mustache.


More on the Nicelys here: The Nicely Brothers.
More on murder portraits here: Souvenirs of Murder.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Lottie Volner and Jack Tinker.

Little Murders

The Murder of Lottie Volner
George and Lottie Volner ran a bakery and restaurant together in Rockville, Indiana, until one day in 1883, a customer named Charles Rutledge got a little too familiar with Lottie and George took him to the back room for a beating, Rutledge drew a revolver and shot him dead. After that, Lottie Volner ran the place alone.

Mrs. Volner hired a man named John C. Henning, also known as “Jack Tinker” to help tend to the place, allowing him to sleep in the barn. Soon he was sleeping in the house, and in October 1885, he asked her to marry him. The newspapers variously described Henning as “a trifling worthless fellow,” “a drunkard, considered insane,” and “among the lowest grade of deadbeats.” In spite of all that, Lottie Volner agreed to marry him and Henning obtained a marriage license.

But Lottie had another, unnamed, suitor who persuaded not to marry Henning. On October 24, Henning went to see Lottie and found her sewing with her friend, Miss Oliver. What happened next is unclear, either Henning asked Lottie again to marry him and she laughed in his face, or he told her to go upstairs and get him a bucket of beer and she told him to get it himself. In either case, an incensed Henning pulled out his revolver and started firing wildly. One shot hit Miss Oliver in the foot, another three went into Lottie. Henning fled the restaurant and Lottie Volner died a few minutes later.

The news spread quickly through Rockville and soon an angry mob was searching for Henning. When they found him hiding in a clump of weeds behind the restaurant, there were calls to hang him on the spot, but cooler heads prevailed and Henning was taken to jail. John Henning was tried and found guilty, and the mob got their hanging, under color of law, on May 27, 1886.

Sources:

"A Tough Choice." The National Police Gazette 14 Nov 1885.
"An Indiana Hanging." Dallas Morning News 28 May 1886.
"Cold-Blooded Murder by a Disappointed Lover." Cincinnati Commercial Tribune 26 Oct 1885.
"Shocking Crime at Rockville." Saginaw News 28 Oct 1885.
"Shot By Her Paramour." Plain Dealer 27 Oct 1885.
"Will Hang." Cincinnati Commercial Tribune 6 Feb 1886.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

The Murder of Pet Halsted.


Oliver "Pet" Halsted
Oliver Spencer Halsted Jr., better known as Pet, was a political gadfly in the Lincoln administration. Coming from a prominent family of New Jersey politicians, Pet Halsted was a political insider, both in Washington and back home in Newark. Like so many in his profession, Pet Halted was also a man of unbridled lust and in 1871 he became romantically involved with one of his legal clients. His rival for her affections, a charcoal peddler, was not impressed by Pet’s credentials and was ready to fight to the death for his lady.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Murderous Massachusetts.


Massachusetts, settled by Puritans, has long considered itself a model of morality and civilized behavior. But in spite of its lofty posturing, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts was the scene of a surprising number of gruesome and sensational murders in the nineteenth century. Here is a chronological list:




Captain Joseph White-A Most Extraordinary Case

In 1830, John and Joseph Knapp hired Richard Crowninshield to murder their great uncle Capt. Joseph White. They very nearly got away with their scheme, but the great Daniel Webster secured their convictions.

The Sleepwalking Defense

In 1845, Maria Bickford was found in murdered in her room, her throat cut from ear to ear. Albert Tirrell, charged with the crime pled not-guilty because he had been sleepwalking at the time.

Dr. George Parkman - "The Pedestrian"

Harvard professor, John Webster, murdered and dismembered his creditor, George Parkman, in 1849, shocking the residents of Boston and fascinating newspaper readers across Ameri

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Avenging Her Honor.

Little Murders
Stephen L. Pettus stepped off the Fulton ferry boat from Brooklyn, the morning of November 22, 1889 and was walking up Fulton Street when he was accosted by a nervously distraught woman. The two had angry words, then he brushed her away and continued walking. Without hesitation, the woman raised a revolver and fired five shots into Pettus’s back, killing him instantly. She was standing near the body when a police officer arrived.

“Did you do that?” he asked her.

“Yes,” she replied, “he had ruined me and dishonored my family."

Saturday, May 16, 2015

The Northwood Murderer.



Franklin B. Evans
When senseless a murder occurred with no obvious suspects, a community’s worst fear was that some transient had drifted into town, done his dirty work and left without a trace. The roads of rural America, in the ninetieth century, were filled with tramps; some were honest men looking for work in hard economic times, others were aimless ne’er-do-wells, running from or heading toward trouble. When these men turned to murder they were likely to get away without capture and were prone to kill again. But every now and then a wandering killer was caught and his whole bloody itinerary made public. Such was the case of Franklin B. Evans, known as the Northwood Murderer.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Scenes from the Murder of Mary E. Hill.

On November 22, 1868, the body of Mrs. Mary E. Hill was found on the ground outside of her Philadelphia residence. It did not take the police long to realize that she had been beaten to death and her corpse thrown out of a second story window. Following the verdict of the coroner’s jury, Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper published a full page of illustrations depicting the people, places, and events involved in the crime.

Murder by Gaslight has already covered this case in detail here: Cheating the Gallows. Following is a pictorial summary of the murder, using Frank Leslie’s illustrations.

About four years before the murder, Mary Hill’s daughter Camilla married George Twitchell and moved to Philadelphia where Twitchell started a produce business.
George S. Twitchell
Camilla Hill Twitchell 




















Friday, May 1, 2015

Shot His Wife's Paramour.

Little Murders
Lemuel Willis told his wife he had business to take care of in the town of Carlisle, Indiana, ten miles away from their home in Sullivan, Indiana. On September 1, 1893, she took him to the station in their buggy and waved goodbye as the train left the station, believing that Lem would be gone overnight. Two friends of Lem Willis were waiting with a buggy at the Carlisle depot and the three hurried back to Sullivan. Willis believed that his wife was being unfaithful and he intended to catch her in the act.

Arriving at his home about 11:00 that night, Willis rushed upstairs, burst into the bedroom, and sure enough, he found his wife in bed with his friend W. C. Hultz. Willis drew his revolver and started firing. Hultz caught a bullet in the side before jumping out the open bedroom window. The fall broke his arm, but the wound was not fatal and Hultz got away that night.

The next day Willis began divorce proceedings and the divorce decree was granted without opposition from his wife. He also filed a law suit against W. C. Hultz seeking $25,000 damages for the “debauchery of his wife.” Hultz had been nursed back to health by his sister and when the suit was filed he decided it would be a good time to move to Chicago.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Souvenirs of Murder.

Luminous-Lint, a website devoted to history, evolution and analysis of photography has a great on-line exhibition of 19th century British and American murder photographs: Murder Most Foul: A Selection of Nineteenth Century Murder Cases. These portraits of killers and their victims were sold to the public as souvenirs of the murders. Here are some photos from the exhibition, pertaining to murders already covered at Murder by Gaslight, including a young Lizzie Borden: 


Josie Langmaid
 

Jennie Cramer
Found Drifting with the Tide
 
Rose Clark Ambler
 

Harry Hayward, Claus Blixt, Adry Hayward,
Catherine Ging
The Minneapolis Svengali
 

Lizzie Borden
Lizzie Borden Took an Axe...Or Did She?

Saturday, April 18, 2015

John True Gordon.

John True Gordon
John True Gordon was convicted of one of Maine’s most gruesome crimes, the axe murder of his brother Almon, his brother’s wife Emma, and their infant daughter, Millie. Gordon denied any knowledge of the crime and maintained his innocence through two trials. When the courts found him guilty, John True Gordon attempted to cheat the gallows by stabbing himself in the heart. The result was Maine’s most gruesome execution.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

The Lizzie Borden Chronicles.

The infamous Lizzie Borden now has her own television series and for the next several weeks she will be terrorizing her hometown, Fall River, Massachusetts. Set in the months after her acquittal for murdering her father and stepmother, Lifetime’s The Lizzie Borden Chronicles, unlike their made for TV move, Lizzie Borden Took an Ax, is a self-proclaimed work of fiction. Apparently Lizzie Borden has become a generic villain, like Jesse James or Jack the Ripper, capable of adventures of her own, beyond the bounds of history. The series does not attempt to portray actual events, and those not attuned to turn-of-the-century fashion will probably not notice the anachronisms (a room full of cops and no mustaches?) so is it really necessary to point out the inaccuracies? Of course it is.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

The Medford Mystery.

Little Murders

Scene of the Debbins murder.
Walter R. Debbins was shot twice in the back, in broad daylight, on Highland Street in Medford, Massachusetts, on the afternoon of Saturday, March 27, 1897. Though no one saw the murder or heard the gunshots, there was enough traffic on Highland Street that afternoon for the police to precisely pinpoint the time of the shooting to between 1:00 and 1:05. But that was all they could pinpoint; everything else about the crime was shrouded in mystery that grew more dense with each new revelation.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Murder. Fifth Act in a Protracted Tragedy.

Little Murders
 
(From Macon Weekly Telegraph, Macon, Georgia, October 2, 1868)


Murder. 
Fifth Act in a Protracted Tragedy—
Killing of I. C. Willis.

 
From a note from our friend Capt. J. R. Pace, of Rogersville, we learn that on Sunday evening last, Mr. I. C. Willis, who it will be remembered killed the notorious Bill Sizemore, about a year a go in Hawkins county, was himself murdered on Clinch, in said county, by a man named Burton, between whom and Willis, there has been an old grudge. The full particulars of the murder are not given. Willis was shot first in the side. The wound not producing instant death, he asked that he might be permitted to see his wife, but Burton did not spare him. He then shot him in the head killing him instantly. Willis did not fire a shot. The shooting was done while both were on horseback.

This murder calls up a long train of homicides. In 1864, an old and highly esteemed citizen of Russellville (Mr. Cain) was killed by a young Federal soldier, a citizen of the same county, named Bewley. A short time afterwards Bewley was killed by one of the sons of old man Cain. But a short time was left for young Cain to live. He fell victim to the murderous hand of a friend of Bewley’s, Bill Sizemore, who shortly after the killing of young Cain, completed the list of his murders by brutally murdering Lieut. Thurman, of Hawkins county. Sizemore did not long live to gloat over his deeds of blood. The avenger was on his path, and in a very short time Sizemore was sent to eternity by a bullet from the pistol of I. C. Willis. Willis now is murdered, and we may well, in horror, exclaim: Where will the terrible tragedy end?—Knoxville Press.

 


"Murder. Fifth Act in a Protracted Tragedy - Killing of L. C. Willis." Macon Weekly Telegraph 2 Oct 1868.



Saturday, March 21, 2015

The Nicely Brothers.


Brothers Joe and Dave Nicely were the prime suspects in the robbery and murder of Herman Umberger in his home in Jennertown, Pennsylvania on February 27, 1889. They were arrested, identified by eye witnesses, convicted and condemned to death. But the Nicelys maintained their innocence and tried every means possible—legal and otherwise— to avoid punishment, including: two legal appeals, two pardon board appearances, a direct appeal to the governor, two jailbreaks, conspiracy to suborn witnesses, framing of other suspects, and feigning insanity. None of it worked.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Triple Murder in Michigan.

William Major returned from a trip to Romeo, Michigan, to his home in Mount Vernon, Michigan, on December 27, 1890, to find that his daughter and young granddaughter had come for a visit. Major, a well-to-do farmer, fifty years old, had come home in a cheerful mood and spent the evening conversing with his wife and daughter before the family went to bed. But Major could not sleep; something had unsettled his mind to the point of rage, and he needed to take action.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Murderous Pennsylvania.

The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania was the site of quite a few brutal and sensational 19th century murders. While many of the crimes occurred in secluded rural areas, the city of Philadelphia saw some of the worst. Here is Murder by Gaslight’s chronological list of Pennsylvania murders:




“…cut off in her youthful bloom”

Polly Williams was last seen alive on August 13, 1810, on her way to see her fiancé. Her battered body was found at the foot of a cliff in Uniontown, Pennsylvania.



The Cuban Con Artist

In May 1831, Cuban exile, Lino Espos y Mina begged a meal from William and Lucretia Chapman in Andalusia, Pennsylvania. A month later William had died of arsenic poisoning and Lino and Lucretia were married. .


Saturday, February 28, 2015

Caught in the Act.

Little Murders

Caught in the Act.



Edward Newton Rowell and Johnson L Lynch had been neighbors in Utica, New York. Both were successful family men; Rowell a partner in a box manufacturing company and Lynch an attorney. In 1881, the firm of Palmer and Rowell relocated their offices and Newton Rowell moved with his wife and two children to Batavia, New York.

Mrs. Rowell was a beautiful and flirtatious blonde, eight years younger than her husband. The gossip in Utica said that Mrs. Rowell was seeing other men behind her husband’s back; Johnson Lynch among them. Their affair did not end when the Rowells moved away. Newton Rowell suspected his wife of cheating and had a plan to catch her.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

“Thus She Passed Away.”


In 1872 George Wheeler met and married May Tillson in Boston. He made a home for May and her younger sister Della, first in New York, then in California. Along the way George fell in love with young Della and when she planned marry someone else he was faced with a dilemma: he could not marry her himself and he could not bear to see her wed to another. The solution he chose pleased no one.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Insurance and Arsenic.

Little Murders
 
Frankie Morris Loveland
In 1884, Kansas attorney A. A. Hurd took out a $5,000 policy with the Mutual Life Insurance Company, on his mother-in-law, Mrs. Nancy Poinsett, naming his wife Frankie as beneficiary. Frankie Hurd liked this idea so much that, on a visit to Kansas City, she stopped at the Equitable Insurance office and took out another $10,000 policy on her mother’s life. It was reported that during the same trip she bought a supply of arsenic.

Soon after, Frankie and her husband were divorced, and she took the name Frankie Morris. Her mother, who was also estranged from her current husband, J. M. Poinsett, came to live with Frankie in Chanute, Kansas. On November 5, 1884, Mrs. Poinsett died from a sudden and painful illness; she was buried the following day. The circumstances of the death were so suspicious that both insurance companies refused to pay the policy claims. Frankie sued them, with her former husband A.A. Hurd handling the case.

The County Attorney was also suspicious, and began an investigation. Mrs. Poinsett’s body was disinterred and delivered to Professor Baily, a chemist at the State University at Lawrence, for analysis. He found crystals of arsenic in her stomach and signs of arsenic poisoning throughout the body. A witness claimed that Frankie gave her mother a large dose of arsenic in a glass of beer, while they were celebrating the election victory of Grover Cleveland. The chemist believed that Mrs. Poinsett had also been given smaller doses, before and after this.

Frankie was arrested in July, 1885; the matter was brought quickly to trial, and Frankie Morris was convicted of first degree murder. Before her arrest, Frankie had been engaged to be married to a commercial traveler from Wichita, named H. D. Loveland. He had left is wife and family for Frankie. The night of her conviction, probate judge H. F. Cory was called to marry them, in the presence of witnesses, including her ex-husband A. A. Hurd. Frankie Loveland was then taken to jail. Meanwhile, her attorneys filed an appeal for a new trial, citing, in addition to “the usual law points,” a charge that the verdict was obtained by jury tampering and witness suborning.

Frankie Morris Loveland was granted a new trial, primarily due to prejudicial statements made by the County Attorney outside of court. The second trial ended in a conviction and it was also successfully appealed. While the defense was alleging a conspiracy against their client, the prosecution, for the third trial, had amended their indictment, to include Frankie, A. A. Hurd, and J. M. Poinsett, the murdered woman’s husband in a conspiracy to commit murder and insurance fraud.

On November 17, 1885 the case was called, but postponed until December 7. On December 3, the prosecution declared nollo prosequi – the case against Frankie would be dropped and she would be set free. Two of their witnesses had left the state and the prosecution no longer had the evidence needed to win the case. While the state dropped the case against Frankie, the insurance companies stood firm, and it was reported that they had no intention of honoring her insurance claims.


"Another Chance for Her Life." New York Herald 10 Sep 1885.
"Arsenic in the Body." New Haven Register 8 Jul 1885.
"As Bad as a Bender." Kansas City Times 7 Jul 1885.
"He Believes Her Innocent." Kansas City Times 16 Aug 1885.
"Her Third Trial for Matricide." New York Herald 17 Nov 1885
"Proved His Love." Daily Illinois State Register 12 Aug 1885.
"The Frankie Morris Case." Rocky Mountain News 9 Dec 1885.
"This Wicked World." National Police Gazette 12 Dec 1885.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Remarkable Murder Trial in Florida.

Little Murders
 
(From St. Albans Messenger , St. Albans, Vermont, October 22, 1875)


Remarkable Murder Trial in Florida.
 
 
A somewhat remarkable murder trial has just ended at St. Augustine, Fla., with the conviction and sentence to death or Mary Ann Keech, alias Newton, and her nephew, William Newton. Three yeas ago, Mary Ann and her husband Henry Keech, then living in Wisconsin, after a quarter or a century of married life quarreled and were divorced, when Keech to escape carrying out a decree of the court settling certain property on Mrs. Keech skedaddled to Florida, where he has since lived with a woman name Ellen Hunt, who passed as his wife. Last May, Mary Ann, learning his whereabouts, induced her nephew, William Norton, by promise of a share of the spoils, to go to Florida and murder Keech and the woman Hunt and obtain the title deeds which the Wisconsin court had decreed her. William went, and while out fishing with Keech shot him, mashed his head with a rock and, to made sure, cut his throat; then going to the house put there pistol balls through the woman Hunt’s head, and getting the desired papers fled. The murder was soon discovered and young Newton captured.

And now comes the estrange part of the affair. Keech, the victim, turned out not to be dead, and recovered to testify against his murderer; a letter which the murderer had written informing his aunt of his success, and which the officers mailed for him without opening it, brought the projectress of the murder to Florida, and another letter, as acidentally got hold of by the officers and opened proved the guilty part of the woman, and she and her nephew were, last week, convicted and condemned to be hanged, while to complete the confusion of this intricate tangle of crimes, the grand jury has sent a true bill against Keech, the half-murdered man, for living in concubinage with Ellen Hunt. The woman’s counsel have appealed to the supreme court, but there is no probability that the appeal will be allowed. The murderess is a burley woman, with a countenance that does not belie her nature. She received her sentence with the most stolid indifference, gazing at the judge with a defiant look, and seemingly anxious to get upon the platform and wring his neck.






"Remarkable Murder Trial in Florida." Plain Dealer, Cleveland, Ohio, October 22, 1875



Saturday, January 31, 2015

A Night of Debauchery.

Little Murders

A Night of Debauchery.


In 1880, Mrs. Anna Hayes was the landlady of a house at 396 State Street in Chicago. The newspapers referred to it as a “house of ill-fame,” but it was not a brothel, it was a house of assignation, renting rooms to prostitutes. On Sunday, November 7, 1880, Eva Lloyd rented room 6 on the top floor; one week for $3.00. Eva did not have the money but she had a revolver worth $4.00, and Mrs. Hayes took that as security.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Queen of the Demimonde.



Kate Townsend
In the years following the Civil War, Basin Street in New Orleans was the center of the most notorious red-light district in America, and the house at No. 40 Basin Street, run by Miss Kate Townsend, was the most elegant brothel in the country. When she was fatally stabbed in her bedroom in 1883, Kate Townsend’s death was mourned by sporting men from coast to coast, but, in accordance with Miss Kate’s wishes, no man was allowed to attend her funeral.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Another Murder in Cincinnati--“Hell’s Half Acre.”

Little Murders
 
(From Plain Dealer, Cleveland, Ohio, November 12, 1858)


Another Murder in Cincinnati--
“Hell’s Half Acre.”
 
 
Between the hours of two and three o’clock yesterday morning, another man was brutally murdered in a low doggery, called the Toledo House, on the levee, between Walnut and Vine streets, a miserable quarter known as “Hell’s Half Acre,” one of the worst localities in the city. The name of the victim was Michael Burke, an Irishman, about twenty-one years old, a deck-hand on the river boats, and recently employed on the steamer Prairie Rose; and suspected murderer one James Burns, proprietor of the “Toledo, who has long been regarded, and is known to the police, as a vicious character, and has frequently been imprisoned for different misdemeanors.
 
Circumstances of the Murder.
 
The circumstances of the murder are enveloped in mystery, and the only light, beyond the fact of the crime itself, is thrown upon the case by the evidence before the Coroner’s jury. It appears that tow men lodging over the doggery were awakened, about two o’clock, by cries of “murder!” and throwing up the window they saw the body of deceased lying on the sidewalk and Burns concealing a knife in a wood-pile near by. B. then caught hold of the body and was about dragging it to the river, which, on account of its height, was but a few feet distant, to remove, no doubt, all traces of the crime, when they hallooed at him and accused him of the murder.
 
B. made no answer, but let go of the body, and entering the house, brought a bucket of water and poured it upon the corpse, and then dragged it with the assistance of his wife, into the house. A few minutes after B. re-appeared and walked toward Walnut street, when he met a man who asked him what was the matter and the meaning of those cries. B. said some person had been hurt at his house, and that he was going after a physician. Burns was not seen after this, but the weapon, a large butcher-knife, covered with blood, was found in the place where it had been hidden.
 

Saturday, January 10, 2015

The Kittery Crime.

Little Murders
 

The Kittery Crime.

Mary Barrows
Thomas Barrows was found dead in his home in Kittery, Maine, on November14, 1883.  He was lying in his bed with six bullet wounds in his arms, legs and head. His wife, Mary, told the coroner that Thomas had committed suicide. The coroner was faced with two immediate mysteries; if Thomas Barrows had committed suicide, why did he wound himself five times before firing the shot to the head that killed him? And how had he shot himself six times with the five barrel revolver found near the bed? Closer examination determined that three of the shots to his arms and legs were fired from a distance, one to his hip was close range, the shot to the head was also from close range but probably went through his hand first—explaining the six wounds, but essentially ruling out suicide. The coroner’s jury ruled the case murder, but lacking a motive, could not determine a suspect.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

"She Died in Defense of Her Honor."

Tillie Smith
When the strangled body of Tillie Smith was found on the grounds of Centenary Collegiate Institute, where she worked as a domestic servant, the police of Hackettstown, New Jersey, began an extensive secret investigation. The absence of official information drove the press and public to create their own narrative of Tillie’s death. “She died in defense of her honor,” was public belief, and a monument was erected with this statement carved in stone. The press spun a web of circumstantial evidence around James Titus, janitor of the Institute, as the man who raped and murdered Tillie Smith. The public story soon became the official story, but there is a good possibility that none of it was true.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

A New Year's Murder.

RHODE ISLAND INEQUITY
Amasa Sprague
The body of Amasa Sprague was found shot and beaten on the road between his factory and his mansion on New Year’s Day, 1844, and suspicion immediately fell on three members of Sragueville’s Irish community. Nicholas Gordon was known to hold a grudge against Amasa Sprague; John and William Gordon would do whatever their older brother asked, but it was a conspiracy theory based more on bigotry and class warfare than hard evidence. The arrest of three immigrants would strain the already tense relations between Rhode Island’s English and Irish communities and begin an official injustice that was not rectified until 2011.

Date:
 December 31, 1843
Location:
 Spragueville, Rhode Island
Victim:
 Amasa Sprague
Cause of Death:
 Beating, Gunshot
Accused:
 John,William, and Nicholas Gordon

Read the complete story, "Rhode Island Inequity," 
in the new book
The Bloody Century