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Saturday, January 12, 2019

Who Shot Meierhoffer?

The Execution.
John and Margaret Meierhoffer had a small farm in West Orange, New Jersey, about seven miles from Newark. They had been married many years, had two sons—28-year-old Joseph and 14-year-old Theodore, who still lived at home—but by 1879, John and Margaret were not on friendly terms. They no longer slept together or had meals together; John slept in a small room in the barn and picked up his meals in the house when no one else was around.

Margaret said the fault was John’s; she called him “a fretful, hard-to-please man” who badly mistreated her. Others, though, said that 40-year-old Margaret, who was nearly six feet tall, had long ago subdued John who was ten years her senior, slightly built and in poor health. He found it easier just to avoid her. 

In September 1879, a man named Frank Lammens came to the farm and John gave him a job as a farm hand. Lammens was an immigrant from Holland in his 40s, an intelligent man, but was considered to be a professional tramp. John was soon dissatisfied with Lammens work and wanted him to leave but Margaret made sure that he stayed. 

John C. Pierson, a schoolteacher who boarded with the Meierhoffers, said that on the morning of October 9, he heard John Meierhoffer arguing with Lammens and heard John say, “Get out of my house, you loafer.” When Pierson returned after work, he could not find John and asked Margaret where he was. She pointed to the cellar stairs and said, “Dead.” Later on though, both Margaret and Frank said John had gone to Newark to buy a new suit of clothes.  She changed her tune again when Frank was out of earshot and told Pierson to fetch the constables.

The police arrived to find John Meierhoffer lying dead at the foot of the cellar stairs with a gunshot wound in his throat. Frank Lammens and Margaret Meierhoffer were found lying together in Margaret’s bed. Both were arrested for John Meierhoffer’s murder.

When Lammens was asked how he happened to be in Mrs. Meierhoffer’s bed when arrested, he gave a long rambling response which shined a bit more light on Margaret’s situation.

“Soon after I got on the place I noticed that Mr. Meierhoffer did not live or sleep with his wife. She kept a club for him, and he slept in the barn. I noticed that she had three lovers; one was a fat livery stable keeper form Newark, the other was a Frenchman, and the third was a man I had seen very little of before. Mrs. Meierhoffer was very attentive to me. When I saw her sleeping with different men, night after night, I asked if I could not occupy her room, as her husband was sleeping in the barn. Mrs. M. said ‘Yes, but don’t let the boy (Theodore) know it.’ I, therefore, got through the window and went to Mrs. M’s bed. I do not know anything about the shooting of that man.”
Mrs. Meierhoffer knew all about the shooting and told a different story about the sleeping arrangements. She said that on October 9, Lammens had secretly entered her chamber but she ordered him out. That morning John Meierhoffer came in with a box of potatoes, Lammens drew a pistol and fired; John fell dead and Lammens kicked the corpse down the cellar stairs. He told Margaret he would kill her too if she told on him. “Your mine,” he said, “and I will do with you as I like.” He got hold of a bag of John’s money and said, “That’s the nicest job I ever done; I didn’t do it for nothing.”

She said Lammens’s plan was to cut the head off the corpse and burn it then throw the body in the Passaic River. A number of people visited the farm that day; John provided eggs and produce to neighbors and the local grocer and they came to take delivery. Margaret made no attempt tell any of them of the murder, no one noticed anything wrong. She said Lammens held her in mortal dread, preventing her from telling anyone. She agreed to let him “occupy her couch” in order to disarm him before the police came.

In custody, each claimed complete innocence to the murder committed by the other. They were tried together in February 1880 but retained separate counsel—Margaret Meierhoffer was represented by a prestigious legal firm and Frank Lammes by a court-appointed public defender. They made no attempt at a unified defense, continuing to accuse each other of the murder, which made the prosecution’s work easier. The trial lasted four weeks, the closing arguments took four days, and the jury took seven hours to find them both guilty of first-degree murder.

When the verdict was read Lammens protested, claiming to be the victim of “a put up job.” Margaret Meierhoffer who had been calmly stoic throughout the trial burst into tears and as the officers led her away she cried, “I’m not guilty! I’m not guilty! Lammens did it! Lammens did it!”

The pair was sentenced to death but the execution day was delayed when a new witness was found who could testify that Lammens was not at the farmhouse the morning of the murder but on the highway some distance from the house. Lammens was granted a new trial but was found guilty once again. Margaret Meierhoffer was not granted a new trial but both she and Lammens appealed to the Court of Pardons; they were denied mercy there as well.

As execution day approached, each still maintained innocence imploring the other to confess. Both were good Catholics and it was hoped that before the execution the guilty party would confess for the sake of his or her immortal soul. Swearing his innocence, Lammens wanted to confront Margaret, saying, “Take me before that woman; that black devil.”

Joseph Meirhoffer visiting his mother in her cell said, “Mother if you are guilty, I would rather you would make a confession.”

 “My God!” she responded, “is it possible you think I am guilty.”

 “That settles it,” said Joseph.

In her last public statement Mrs. Meierhoffer said she knew if she was guilty and did not confess, she would be killing Lammens as well as her husband. “Yet,” she said, “all that I want to say is that I am not guilty. The statement I made to the officers the night of the murder is the same statement that I have always made. I could make no other statement and tell the truth. The circumstances attending the murder I could not help. I could not help being in my own house at the time and could not control Lammens."

Frank Lammens, in the most solemn manner possible, declared, “I know nothing about this murder more than I have already stated. I did not kill Meierhoffer. That woman once in my presence tried to poison her husband. She is the guilty one and knows I am innocent of the crime laid to my charge.”

New Jersey used the hanging method where a counterweight is dropped, shooting the condemned person upward, causing the neck to break. Only one person at a time could be executed and Margaret Meierhoffer would be first. The execution was scheduled for 10:00, on January 6, 1881, but Sheriff Van Rensalaer delayed the hanging in hopes that the governor would issue a reprieve. At 10:25 he could wait no longer and Margaret Meierhoffer was launched into eternity. An hour later Frank Lammens followed her.


Sources:
“Dead Dead Dead,” The National Police Gazette, January 22, 1881.
“The Double Execution to Day ,” Trenton State Gazette, January 6, 1881, 2.
“Guilty of Murder,” New York Herald, February 14, 1880, 4.
“Into the Jaws of Death,” Boston Herald, January 6, 1881, 1.
“The Jersey Hangman,” Philadelphia Inquirer, January 7, 1881, 2.
“Mercy Denied,” New York Herald, December 14, 1880, 10.
“Murder in West Orange,” The Buffalo Sunday Morning News, October 12, 1879.
“On Trial For Their Lives.,” New York Tribune, January 23, 1880.
“[New trial for Lammens],” Jersey Journal, July 20, 1880, 1.
“The Orange Murder,” Jersey Journal, October 13, 1879.
“A Scene in Court,” Jersey Journal, December 17, 1879.
“Who Killed Meierhoffer? ,” New York Herald, January 21, 1880, 10.
“Widow Meierhofer's Story,” New York Herald, January 24, 1880, 8.

Saturday, January 5, 2019

The Rockville Tragedy.

21-year-old Alfred Egbert, better known as Pete, lived with his parents, a brother and a sister in Rockville, Indiana. He was a quiet man who led an exemplary life; when not working as a carpenter he was a voracious reader, often reading well into the night. April 1896, his sister Florence was dying of typhoid and Pete was under considerable stress from worry and lack of sleep.

The morning of April 25, Pete Egbert was outside chopping wood when he saw the next door neighbor, Mrs. Haske walk through the alley to get her cow for milking. Something suddenly enraged him and he attacked Mrs. Haske with the axe. He knocked her to the ground then gave her another blow to the head, killing her. He walked back to the house got his shotgun and left the house again. 

Saturday, December 29, 2018

The Pelican Point Murders.

George Wright.
Albert Hayes left his parents’ home in Eureka, Utah in December 1894, and went to work on the family ranch near Pelican Point on the west side of Utah Lake, some thirty miles away. He took a team of horses and a new wagon filled with supplies, planning to fix up the ranch and make it a going concern. 22-year-old Albert was later joined by two of his cousins, Andrew Johnson, aged 21 and Alfred Nielson aged 18.

The ranch belonged to Albert’s mother and Albert Hayes, nee Engstrom, was her son from a previous marriage. Albert’s step-father, Harry Hayes, placed little value on the ranch and wanted to get rid of it, but he was also upset that Albert “wanted to boss the place too much.”

The boys were seen working the ranch throughout December and January by neighbors on Pelican Point and John Barnes, a young man living nearby spent several hours with the boys at the ranch on February 16. But on February 18, 19, and 23, neighbors who passed the place remarked that it seemed to be deserted. Cattle, pigs, and sheep were running loose, and chickens were dying; some of the neighbors visited the cabin and found it locked and deserted. 

Saturday, December 22, 2018

Neal Devaney.

Neal Devaney.

In the summer of 1866, newlyweds Neal and Catherine Devaney left Ireland for New York City. Catherine worked as a domestic servant and had saved enough money to book passage to America for both of them, but they had very little left upon their arrival. They knew no one in New York but Neal had friends in Hazelton, Pennsylvania and planned to find work there while Catherine stayed in the city to work as a servant. Neal thought it would be easier for Catherine to find work if the employers thought she was single, so they agreed to pose as brother and sister. Neal then left for Hazelton promising to send for Catherine when he was established.

In July 1867, Neal wrote to Catherine and asked her to meet him in Easton, Pennsylvania on Monday, July 22. From there he took her to Hazelton and left her at John McKelvy’s boarding house. It had not been a joyous reunion. Catherine confided to Mrs. McKelvy that Neal confessed that he had met and been intimate with a woman named Mary Callahan. She became pregnant and the following Sunday Neal and Mary were to be married. Neal told Catherine that if Mary’s family found out he was already married they would kill him. Neal urged Catherine to return to New York, but she refused. Catherine told Mrs. McKelvy that Neal had shown her a two-barreled pistol and said he had considered shooting himself. 

Saturday, December 15, 2018

The Wash-House Murder.



An excerpt from Wicked Victorian Boston. 

When a Chinese man was found brutally murdered in his laundry on Shawmut Avenue in Boston’s South End, in July 1886, the Boston Police—who usually steered clear of Chinese affairs—were forced to delve into city’s aloof Chinese community. Chinese immigrants, who first arrived in Boston in the 1840s, settled in a small, densely populated stretch of Harrison Avenue and its side streets, which soon became known as Chinatown. From the start, they preferred to handle matters of crime and justice in their own way, without outside interference. The police were happy to oblige but a murder, especially one outside the confines of Chinatown, could not be ignored.

Saturday, December 8, 2018

The Act of a Mad Man.


Mrs. Emma Marrs and her sister-in-law, Ida Marrs, were preparing breakfast the morning of February 13, 1897, in their home at 129 South Upper Street, Lexington, Kentucky. Around 7:45 Mrs. Marrs sent the servant girl upstairs with a bowl of warm water so her husband John could wash up. When she entered the room, John jumped out of bed with such a peculiar expression on his face that she quickly set the water down and hurried out of the room. She was halfway down the stairs when she heard a pistol shot from the bedroom.

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Did Ida Do It?

Mrs. Ida Quinlan and her 9-year-old son Johnny went out to buy a pair of stockings at around 9:00 the night of February 1, 1896, leaving her baby in the care of her sister, Mrs. Sophia Grant. They took a streetcar to the store, several miles away, purchased the stockings and other sundry items, returning to the house at around 11:00. Ida rang the bell but there was no response, so she went the landlord who lived nearby and got a key to the house. Entering the sitting room, she was surprised to see the drawers of the chiffoniers pulled out and the contents spread on the floor. She called for Sophia and getting no response went into the kitchen where she found her sister lying dead on the floor, covered with blood. Horrified, Ida ran from the house to seek assistance from the neighbors. At least that was the story she told the police. The following day Ida Quinlan was arrested for the murder of her sister.

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Righteous Retribution.



Shortly after the Civil War, Christian Meiar secured a questionable title to a farm in Ripley County, Indiana and moved there with his wife. The farm was located outside of Elrod, a town so small and isolated it was described simply as a “Post Office located fifteen miles northwest of Aurora.”

Mrs. Meiar was amiable and lived peaceably with her neighbors, but Christian—known locally as Devil Meiar—was regarded as the wickedest man in that part of the state. For twelve years he would bicker and fight with anyone he met, he never bathed and was horribly ugly, he frightened children, and women shunned him, not just because he was ugly but because he could not open his mouth without spewing the vilest blasphemy and vulgarity. When neighbors’ livestock strayed on his property Meiar would attack and kill or cripple the animals. And he would beat his wife, sometimes so badly that she would seek sanctuary at the home of their nearest neighbor, a quarter mile away.

Saturday, November 17, 2018

The Stillwell Murder.


Amos and Fannie Stillwell returned home from a party at a neighbor’s house on December 29, 1889. It was a small gathering of Hannibal, Missouri’s high society and the Stillwells were among the wealthiest and most prominent guests. Mr. Stillwell grew tired at around 11:30; the couple left the party and took the short walk back to their house. They had left their three young children in the care of two servant girls. Mrs. Stillwell dismissed the servants and took the children upstairs with her. The Stillwells slept in separate beds, and that night Mrs. Stillwell shared her bed with the children. Another daughter, 14-year-old Mollie normally slept in the room next to her parents, but that night she was away visiting friends.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Miser Henry’s Murder.

Charles W. Henry was a cruel and heartless miser. In 1895 he was 70-years-old, living in Brooklyn with his wife and 39-year-old son William. Though Henry was a wealthy man, he kept his family in a state of poverty, spending little on food and the most basic amenities. Their house was large, but the inside was filthy with dust and clutter. Mrs. Henry’s room had a bare floor and a single cot, while Charles slept on four chairs in a row, alternating back and front held together by tape. Mrs. Henry was frail and emaciated, wearing the same clothes she had for twenty years. Charles kept a daily ledger of household expenses, each day on a separate card, the cards were tied together in bundles and the stacked bundles went back many years. An example of an extravagant day was Christmas 1894 when 54 cents was spent on dinner for three.

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Where is Alice Sterling?

Mrs. Alice Sterling of Boston’s Dorchester neighborhood, traveled to Everett, Massachusetts the morning of Wednesday, April 10, 1895, leaving her daughter Alice in the charge of her husband George Sterling. Mr. Sterling took young Alice along to his barbershop and while he cut hair he could see her playing outside on the steps, but when it was time to go home, Alice was nowhere to be found.

8-year-old Alice Sterling—named after her mother and known as Mamie at home—was a popular and highly regarded child. She was described as “the pride of a household, the pet of a school, and the idol of her brothers and sisters and playmates." Her disappearance caused considerable excitement throughout the neighborhood. Alice was still missing at 5:00 when her mother returned, and her siblings were sent out to look for her. When they were unsuccessful, Mrs. Sterling stopped Officer Perkins as he walked his beat; he made some inequities but found no trace of Alice.

Saturday, October 27, 2018

A Murder in Pantomime.


Lizzie Lochner returned home from a night on the town sometime after midnight the morning of June 2, 1894. Her husband Joseph, who stayed home with the children—4-year-old Rosa and her infant brother— berated Lizzie for her for coming in so late. They began to loudly argue the matter as they had done many times before.

Their lodger, Gus Englund, was used to being awakened by the Lochner’s arguing but this night was different. The voices grew to a crescendo followed by a few minutes of silence, then the sound of a gunshot. Joseph Lochner burst into his room and said, “Oh, Gus, Gus, I have done it. I have killed my wife.” He then ran out of the building by the back door.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

A Most Horrible Affair.


A report from Vicksburg, Mississippi stated that William Montgomery, a citizen of Harrison County, Indiana, was murdered in Vicksburg around the first of August, 1867. His body was found in the Yazoo River, with a grindstone tied to his stomach, apparently in a failed attempt to keep him from floating to the surface. Montgomery’s throat had been cut and his head was hewn to pieces with a hatchet.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

The Brooklyn Murderess.

When William W. Place’s first wife died, he was anxious to remarry, looking for a mature woman who was a good housekeeper and most importantly could take care of his young daughter, Ida. In 1893, he hired a servant named Martha Savcoll, a widow from New Brunswick, New Jersey, to keep house at their Brooklyn home. He was happy with her work and she seemed to lavish a great deal of affection on Ida. Soon William was showing her more attention than would naturally be given to a hired servant, and in a month or two he was seen with her at the theater.

After a whirlwind courtship, despite objections from his relatives who thought she would bring him trouble, William married Martha Savcoll. Sure enough, not long after the marriage, Martha’s true nature came out; she had a quick temper and she often quarreled with other family members. She was annoyed that William had put the house in Ida’s name. She wanted her adopted son to live at the house and William objected. But the biggest difficulty was Martha’s jealousy of William's affection for his daughter. Ida played piano and loved to accompany her father who had a fine tenor voice. They also shared a passion for amateur photography. Martha resented the time they spent together and had been heard to say, “Ida and her father will be married someday, I suppose.”

Saturday, October 6, 2018

The Mysterious Murder of William Wilson.

Major William C. Wilson was a dealer in old manuscripts and proprietor of Wilson’s Circulating Library on Walnut Street in Philadelphia. He had fought in the Civil war with the 104th New York Infantry and received two field promotions for bravery, first to captain then to major. After the war, he settled in Philadelphia where he led a solitary and somewhat eccentric life. He had few acquaintances outside the Franklin Chess Club which he visited each evening between 7:00 and 10:00—the Philadelphia Inquirer would later call him “one of the most lonely characters in the city.”

Around 7:30, the night of August 16, 1897, Officer Smith of the Philadelphia Police found the back door of Wilson’s store open and suspected burglary. Investigating by candlelight, Smith found the store in disarray and saw a pool of blood on the floor with a trail of blood leading behind the counter. There he found Major Wilson’s body, with a towel around his neck and his face and head “beaten to a jelly” by a hammer which lay near the body.

Saturday, September 29, 2018

Rum, Jealousy and Murder.

George Widman and Thomas Brownlee accompanied a young lady name Miss Norris on an excursion up the Hudson River from Yonkers, New York to Newberg, aboard the steamer Grand Republic on Sunday, October 5, 1879. Widman, a 25-year-old carpenter, and Brownlee, a 27-year-old blacksmith were good friends, members of the same hose company of the Yonkers fire department. Widman was a steady man with quiet, temperate habits; Brownlee was a hard drinker known to become quarrelsome when drunk.

As the trip progressed, it became clear the Miss Norris favored the attention of Widman, who had taken her to the circus the previous Friday. Brownlee drank heavily on the boat and expressed his feelings toward Widman in very intemperate language.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

The Annie Dorman Mystery.

John Dorman left the farmhouse to work in his fields at about 1:15, the afternoon of September 1, 1897. His wife, Lizzie, had some banking to take care of and left for Philadelphia at about 2:00. As usual, they left their children in the care of John’s half-sister, Annie. 18-year-old Annie Dorman had lived with John and his wife at their Cobb’s Creek home off and on for the previous five years, working as a nurse to their four children. Around 3:00 that day a neighbor, Mrs. Myers, came by to chat with Annie leaving about ten minutes later. At 4:30 one of the children found Annie lying on the floor of the second story front room, dead from a gunshot wound.

The children ran for their father who returned to the house with Al Myers, stable boss at nearby Melbourne Mills. They found Annie stretched out on the floor with a pistol lying by her hand. There was no sign of a struggle and nothing had been taken; the men could only conclude that Annie had taken her own life.

But suicide was unlikely for a number of reasons. No one who knew Annie could imagine what would have driven her to kill herself. She was bright and pretty, with an even and sweet temperament and was always cheerful. Her boyfriend, Ernest L. Pendlebury, was steady and honest. She was a religious girl, healthy in mind and body; a favorite among the congregation of Sarah D. Cooper Methodist Church.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Disorder in Court.



Henry Miller went to the home of his doctor, Zachariah Walker, in Brownsburg, Virginia, to pick up some medicine on Wednesday, November 13, 1889. Dr. Walker was under the weather and could not see Miller, but his wife, Bettie, knew the prescription and she took him to the office while she prepared the compound. Though 50 years old, Bettie Walker was a strikingly attractive woman, delicate and refined, her black hair sprinkled with silver. Henry Miller, nearly 70 years old, could not control himself alone with Mrs. Walker; he tried to kiss her, “offering other indignities which were repulsed.”

Mrs. Miller did not tell her husband what had happened until Friday morning when the doctor was fully recovered.  He was immediately incensed and went out with his manservant and his shotgun looking for Henry Miller. He made it generally known that he intended to kill Miller on sight. 

Saturday, September 8, 2018

Girl Killed in Elevator, A Mystery.

(From New York American, January 3, 1898.)


Girl Killed in Elevator, A Mystery.


Engineer Farrell Can’t Explain the Strange Facts, and is Held.



RECALLS SMITH MURDER.

Janitor Titus Is Now Serving a Life Sentence for he Hackettstown Crime.

Queer Evidence in the Case.

Al the explanations made by Marten Ferrell, engineer of the building No. 119 Mercer street, to account for the strange death of Ellen Ryan, a pretty girl of 22, who was found dead and mangled at the foot of the elevator shaft are regarded with a great deal of skepticism by the police.

This case, in its mystery and its dramatic features, strikingly recalls the murder of Tillie Smith, eleven years ago in Hackettstown, N.J. She was employed in the seminary about a quarter of a mile form Hackettstown, and was found choked to death in the basement of the seminary.

James Titus, the janitor of the seminary, was convicted of the crime and is now serving a term of life imprisonment in the New Jersey State Prison.

THE PRIONER REMANDED.

He protested his innocence when taken to the Jefferson Market Police Court today, but was remanded by Magistrate Meade into the custody of the Coroner.

Coroner’s Physician O’Hanlon testified that the dead woman’s injuries were such as could only have been produced by powerful machinery, such as an elevator.

WHY DID ELEVATOR START?

No case of violent death in this city within a long period has held such elements of mystery or such tragic possibilities. There is, of course, no positive evidence against the prisoner, but his story is regarded as possessing many weak spots.

The police see no reason why he gilr should have tried to start the elevator which he suggested as the cause of the accident, unless she may have been trying to escape from him.

KNEW HER MANY YEARS

Farrell and his wife and two children live on the top floor of No. 226 East Ninety fifth street, and Ellen Ryan has been living with them.

Years ago, when Farrell lived in Carlow, Ireland, he knows a family named Ryan, and went to school with the daughters, Ellen and Stacia.

When he grew up he married and came to this city, where he became engineer in the big feather house on Mercer street.

Six months ago the Ryan girls came to this countgy and the Farrells harbored them until they could get work. Recently Ellen, who was out of employment was again living there.

WENT TO FACTORY WITH HIM.

Yesterday morning Mr. and Mrs. Farrell and Ellen Ryan attended mass at the Church of Our Lady of Good Counsel, in East Ninetieth Street. They had an early dinner, and Farrell sad he would go downtown and look after his fires.

Mrs. Farrell suggested that he take Ellen with him and leave her off on his return at the house where Stacia was working on Fifth-seventh street. This he agreed to do, and he and Ellen went to the shop.

THREW OFF HER WRAPS.

What happened there is the question. Farrell says he raked down his fires and then hoisted the elevator from the sub-basement to the street level, so that Ellen could get to the boiler room and warm herself.

He also says that she took of her hat and cloak and skirt and put them on a chair in the elevator so they would not get soiled by the coal dust. She sat on the edge of the elevator with her feet hanging over, while he went to finish up his work.

FOUND HER DYING.

A few minutes after he says, he heard her scream. He ran to the shaft. The elevator was at top floor, and Ellen lay crushed and insensible at the bottom.

He ran out and summoned Policeman Curtin who rang for an ambulance.

Curtin and several other policemen ran into the building and saw the body of the young woman mangled frightfully. She was still conscious and between her moans and sobs policemen say they heard her say: “My God, forgive me.” She was dressed in her underskirt, her skirt, waist and coat lying on a chair in the elevator carriage, ten feet distance.

A priest from St. Anthony’s Church in Sullivan street was summoned.  The young woman had expired before his arrival.

NEARLY EVERY BONE BROKEN 

Coroner’s Physician O’Hanlon says that almost every bone in the unfortunate woman’s body was broken and almost every vestige of clothing had been stripped off. He will perform an autopsy today.
Our police theory is that Farrell quarreled with the girl and she, in trying to escape from him, started the elevator and was crushed.

Both Mrs. Farrell and the dead girl’s sister do not believe Farrell is guilty. They both say that he is incapable of doing such a thing. Both were in court this morning. The neighbors also say he has an excellent reputation.

FARRELL’S STAEMENT

To Detective Delancey, Farrell mad this statement:

“Miss Ryan, my wife and I went to church yesterday morning. After mass the girl accompanied me to the store, where I went to oil up. We had to get into the basement by means of a manhole and a perpendicular ladder.

“There was so much oil about the placed that Miss Ryan removed her coat and skirt. There was nowhere for her to sit, so I raised the elevator a foot or two from the ground that she might sit on the front of that.

“I was going about the basement doing my work when I heard a scream. I found the girl dead and ran out to fetch a friend and a policeman."

This statement conflicts slightly with the one first made by Farrell.

Saturday, September 1, 2018

The Confessions of Mickey Sliney.

Frank Hronister, the butcher boy at Lyons’s butcher shop on Cherry Street in New York City, wasworking in the rear of the store on November 25, 1891, when Michael Sliney entered the store to speak with his boss, Robert Lyons. Mickey Sliney and Bob Lyons were close friends but that day Sliney was there on business, he and his father owned a coal and ash business and the Lyons family owed them money. 

Frank heard Sliney say, “I want the $35 and I want it quick, see!”  Lyons said he did not have the money but would pay when he was good and ready. There were more angry words exchanged then Sliney left the store.

After he left, Lyons noticed an envelope near the door. He opened it and found a note in red ink saying “Please send boy up to vestry right away.—Rev. John B. Kane.” Lyons sent Frank Hronister to St. James church to see what Father Kane wanted.  Father Kane looked at the note and said it was not his signature, the note was a forgery. When Frank returned to the butcher shop he found the mother of his boss crying over his lifeless body. Robert Lyons had been murdered.

Saturday, August 25, 2018

The Thirtieth Street Murder.

Residents of West 30th Street, New York City, were startled on the night of October 26, 1858, by the cries of Elizabeth Carr, a servant of the Gouldy family as she ran from the house in her nightclothes, screaming, “Help! Help! Oh, my God! Frank is murdering the whole family. Rouse the neighbors!”

The neighbors, accompanied by several policemen responded by entering the Gouldy home where they found Mrs. Gouldy at the foot of the stairs, staggering and calling for help. She was bleeding from the head, as was her husband, Francis Gouldy, who lay on the floor not moving. Also suffering from head wounds were 11-year-old Nathaniel Gouldy, 7-year-old Charlie Gouldy, and Joanna Murphy, another of the Gouldy’s servant girls. All were alive but semi-conscious. The perpetrator of the crime, Frank Gouldy was found in his room, dead from a self-inflicted gunshot to the head.

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Waldron Woods Mystery.

Two boys looking for chestnuts in Waldron Woods near Astoria, Long Island, found the body of a man lying dead with a wound on the right side of his head on October 10, 1866. Three men hunting in the woods also went to look at the body. No one recognized the dead man. 

The man was about 5 feet 7 inches tall, about 35 or 40-years-old, with black hair, a smooth face, and a slender build. The little finger of his right hand was missing to the second joint. He was well-dressed, wearing a ribbed cassimere coat and vest and a black silk neck handkerchief. In his pocket were a box of percussion caps, a comb, a knife, a dozen buckshot, a brass key, a rosewood pipe, as small oilstone, and a steel tobacco box labeled “James Maher.” He was also holding a pistol.

Saturday, August 11, 2018

The Fort Monroe Tragedy.

Fort Monroe
In June 1891, two young men from Washington D.C., Edward A. “Ned” Hannegan and Thornton J. “Tony” Hains, traveled to Fort Monroe on the Virginia Peninsula for a few days of recreation. They were close friends; both were young men of high social standing from prominent military and political families. Tony Hains was the son of Col. Peter C. Hains of the Army Engineer Corps and the brother of Lt. John P Hains, Third Artillery, both stationed at Fort Monroe. Ned Hannegan was the grandson of former Indiana Senator Edward Hannegan and on his mother’s side Gen. Thomas Nelson, who had served as Minister to Chili and Minister to Mexico.

Saturday, August 4, 2018

A Murder Committed Three Years Ago.

(From Baltimore Sun, March 24, 1882)
A Murder Committed Three Years Ago—
A Dying Woman’s Confession

Norfolk, March 23,— About three years ago the dead body of a stranger, on which was found a card with the name “Schweiner” on it, was discovered lying near the river bank, about a mile form Elizabeth  City, N. C. There were no marks of violence upon the body, but it was apparent that he came to his death by foul means. At the coroner’s request it was shown that he had come into town from toward Norfolk, drank beer at several restaurants, and displayed a roll of money. He also stopped at a disreputable house kept by one Hickman, on Poindexter street, where also live a woman named Narcissas Miller. There were various surmises as to the murder. Among others it was whispered that Hickman had something to do with it. It was proved, however, that the murdered man had considerable money with him when he arrived in the town, and there was no money upon the dead body when found. The murdered man had a brother  doing business in Baltimore who was informed of the tragedy. A detective was sent out from Baltimore to work up the case but nothing came of it.

Soon after the murder Hickman settled in Norfolk, and the murder passed away from the minds of men. A few days ago the woman, Narcissas Miller, who accompanied Hickman to Norfolk, being sick and expected to die, made a dying declaration that Schweiner was murdered by Hicmkan in her house, in Elizabeth City.

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Unhappy Returns.

Shale Smith returned from two days away from his home near Pineville, Kentucky on September 14,1896, to find his wife conversing with his neighbor Jake Luttel. Smith entered the room and demanded to know what Luttel meant by being alone with his wife. Luttel assured him that he meant nothing improper, but as Smith drew his revolver Luttel began begging for his life. Mrs. Smith saw that her husband meant to kill them both and made a run for the door. Shale Smith began firing and she fell to the ground mortally wounded. Luttel managed to escape unharmed.




















Sources:
“Shot Down,” The Owensboro Messenger, September 16, 1896.
“This Meeting Was Fatal,” National Police Gazette, October 31, 1896.
“Without Any Chaff,” Democratic Northwest, October 1, 1896.

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Insane Jealousy.

Mildred Brewster
Mildred Brewster was the daughter of a wealthy farmer near Montpelier, Vermont. In 1897, 18-year-old Mildred decided to leave her father’s home and move to the city to make her own way. She found a job working for a tailor and took a room at a boarding house. All was going well until she met and fell in love with Jack Wheeler, a young granite-cutter who boarded at the same house. Wheeler knew of Mildred’s affections for him, but, he would later say, he did not return them.

Jack Wheeler was engaged to another wealthy farmer’s daughter named Annie Wheeler—they had the same last name but were not related.  When Mildred learned that he planned to take his fiancĂ© to Barre, the end of May for the Decoration Day celebration she became incensed. She paid a visit on Annie Wheeler and told her in no uncertain terms to leave Jack Wheeler alone. Mildred said she had a prior claim on his affections and if Annie did not give him up, Mildred would kill him.


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.

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.

IF NECESSARY, HE PROPOSED TO CLEAN OUT THE WHOLE TOWN.

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.


Sources:

“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. 

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.

Sources:
“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.

Sources:

“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.”

Sources:
“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.


Sources:
“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.