Saturday, March 23, 2019

With a Knife in His Heart.


Patrick S. Donovan, better known as “Snip,” began drinking champagne after the first race at Monmouth Park in Oceanport, New Jersey, on August 6, 1893. The wine continued to flow as he watched the day’s races and Donovan appeared to be in a jovial mood, but he may have been trying to drown his sorrows. “Snip” Donovan was a successful and well-known horse trainer, but he had recently been discharged from the stables of Pierre Lorillard in a dispute over training methods. Donovan was also having a run of bad luck in his betting. In spite of his problems, witnesses agreed that Donovan had been in a good mood throughout the day.

After the last race, Donovan wanted to keep drinking so he and John Chew, a stable hand who worked for Lorillard, hitched up a buggy and went to Oceanport. Chew, the more sober of the two drove the horse. They drank for several hours in Oceanport then went to the Monmouth Hotel near the track and had some more. Those who saw them that night said the men appeared to be on friendly terms, but, sometime after midnight the mood changed. Donovan had been drinking heavily, while Chew drank only three bottles of beer. Chew was ready to leave the hotel, but Donovan wanted to stay for another drink.

Chew was reported to say (censored by the New York Tribune), “You need a drink ______ bad. What in _____ do you want to keep me out all night for?”

Around 1:00 a.m. they returned to the stable where Donovan slept. No one witnessed what happened next, but several men who slept in the stable were awake and heard Donovan and Chew fighting. Donovan was sick of Chew’s company and began calling him harsh names and ordered him out of the stall. There were sounds of a scuffle then Chew ran from the stable crying, “Murder! Murder!” He ran nearly sixty yards before falling to the ground. 

Richard Radcliffe, a stable worker, ran to Chew but found him dead. He roused another trainer and told him what happened then started for the police station in Eatonton. He returned with Constable Ely who found “Snip” Donovan on his cot, either asleep or in a drunken stupor. Ely woke him up, arrested him and took him back to Eatontown. 

Ely could see that Donovan was wounded and bleeding, so at around 3:00 a.m. he took him to Dr. William B. Beach of Eatonton who dressed the wound. Donovan had been stabbed with an ice pick, leaving him with a serious wound under the left arm. Before going to Freehold jail, Eil took Donovan to view the body of his victim. Donovan had stabbed Chew with a long slender dirk; the blade went through his heart and all the way through his body, the tip emerging from his back.

Standing over the body, Donovan said, “John, John, if I had not killed you, you would have killed me.”

The timing of the murder was bad, both for Donovan and for Monmouth Park. The track was under scrutiny with charges that some of the races there had been fixed. The track was at war with the press and attempted to dictate what was published, while the New York papers united in condemnation of the “questionable and objectionable affairs at Monmouth.” It was said that very few American jockeys could be trusted to ride honestly at all times and “it is only dupes and fools who suppose that fraud is not frequent in American racing.” The murder drew attention to the lawless element attracted to Monmouth Park which included “…nearly all the criminals, high and low, of this part of the State, as well as the worst toughs of neighboring states.” All of those associated with the racetrack rallied to Donovan’s defense, while the prosecution was ready to throw the book at him as a warning to the rest of the outlaws at the track. They charged “Snip” Donovan with first-degree murder.

The coroner removed John Chew’s heart and preserved it in a jar of alcohol so the jury could see the inch and a half cut made by Donovan’s knife. They found a witness who heard Donovan say that Chew frequently angered him so much that he felt like killing him with a club. It appeared that Donovan would go to the gallows for stabbing John Chew.

But when the case went to trial in November, Donovan withdrew his plea of not guilty of first-degree murder and pled guilty to manslaughter. His attorney made a plea for mercy on the grounds that Donovan inflicted the fatal wound in self-defense. Donovan produced a long line of affidavits from friends in New Jersey and his home state of Ohio, testifying to his good nature and moral habits. In Donovan’s own affidavit he claimed that three years before he had caught Chew cheating at cards and since then Chew held a grudge against him. 

The court accepted the plea to manslaughter, but Donovan nearly fainted when the judge handed down the maximum sentence of ten years at hard labor in the New Jersey State Prison. Back at the track, bets were freely offered that Donovan would not serve two years of the term.


Sources:
“Gloom at the Race Track,” New-York Tribune, August 8, 1893.
“Horrid Murder at Long Branch,” Boston Journal, August 7, 1893.
“The Monmouth Park Murder,” New York Tribune, August 9, 1893.
“Monmouth's Murder Spot.,” New-York Tribune, August 8, 1893.
“The Murder at Monmouth,” New-York Tribune, August 8, 1893.
“"Snip" Donovan Charged with Murder,” Philadelphia Inquirer, October 11, 1893.
“"Snip" Donovan Gets Ten Years,” Sun and New York press, November 17, 1893.
“Snip Donovan Pleads Not Guilty,” Trenton Evening Times, October 11, 1893.
“With a Knife in his Heart,” Evening herald, August 7, 1893.

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Lewis Wolf Webster.

Perry Harrington and his wife, Maria, were spending a quiet evening at their farmhouse in Geneva, Ohio, on December 18, 1884, when the door burst open, and a masked man boldly entered the house. He pointed a cocked revolver at Mr. Harrington and demanded his money or his life. Seeing that he and his wife were at the mercy of the intruder, Harrington went into an adjoining bedroom to get his money. 

After hearing the man speak, Mrs. Harrington said, “I think I know you.”

“You do, do you?” he responded and fired the pistol hitting her in the left arm. As he did so, the handkerchief fell from his face and she saw to was Lewis Webster, the man she suspected. Mrs. Harrington ran to the kitchen, and he fired again hitting the same arm. She rushed out to the street and with blood streaming from her wounds ran to a schoolhouse some 40 yards away from where an entertainment was in progress. 

She gave the alarm and neighbors and friends hurried back to the house where they found Perry Harrington lying unconscious in a pool of blood, with a bullet hole in his forehead. He died soon after without gaining consciousness. A broken chair and general disorder of the room showed that a struggle had taken place before the shot was fired. The intruder was nowhere to be found.

Lewis Wolf Webster, 24-years-old, had formerly worked on the Harrington farm. The day of the murder, Mr. Harrington had sold a large quantity of wheat. Webster had witnessed the transaction and knew that there was money in the house. Marshal Carter and Night Watchman Baker arrested Webster at his Geneva boardinghouse the following morning. The officers found a revolver in his overcoat pocket. A handkerchief recently washed and not yet dry, with spots of blood was also found. They found none of the missing money.

Webster denied any connection to the crime, saying he was with his girl until 10 o’clock. His girl was a pretty, blonde dressmaker named Sophia Hall. The two were to be married on Christmas Day. 

News of the murder spread quickly through the town that morning, and the people were outraged. There was the talk of lynching Webster, but tempers cooled when Sheriff Baldwin arrived. There was no demonstration as he quietly took Webster by sleigh to jail in Jefferson, Ohio.

Lewis Webster was tried for murder in March 1885. The chief witness for the prosecution was Maria Harrington who gave eye-witness testimony of events the night of the murder and identified Lewis Webster as the killer. Webster’s attorney was eloquent but offered little evidence but a parade of character witnesses and an attack on the credibility of Mrs. Webster’s testimony. The trial lasted a month and ended with the easy conviction of Webster. He was sentenced to be hanged on October 1.

Webster’s attorneys filed an appeal on the grounds that several members of the jury had stated that they had already made up their minds before the trial began. Webster was granted a new trial and a change of venue to Warren, Ohio.

The new trial began on September 1, 1895. By this time public sentiment had begun to swing in Webster’s direction. A group of young female admirers greeted him in court each day with a bouquet of flowers and the ever-faithful Sophia Hall gave the defendant a kiss each morning before the session started.

A new defense witness, Mr. S. R. Parks, testified that he spoke with a man he believed was Lewis Webster in Geneva that night, five miles from the scene of the crime. Another witness had seen a tramp around the Harrington house who could have been the killer. But it was not enough to counter Maria Harrington’s testimony. Once again, Lewis Webster was convicted of first-degree murder.

At his sentencing, Webster gave a long diatribe condemning those who had lied about him and who had treated him poorly in jail. He ended by saying:
"I suppose I ought not to complain of the jury, but their verdict was false, and I am left to suffer the consequences of their terrible mistake. I can only trust that a just and merciful God will not permit such a cruel injustice. But if I am doomed to disappointment in this, I shall cling to the hope that the truth will sometime become known and that my name and memory be vindicated, though my body may be consigned to a felon's grave.”
Webster was sentenced to hang on February 5, 1896.

His attorneys continued to appeal and on December 29, 1895, Governor Hoadly granted Webster a reprieve to give them time to file a writ of error in the state supreme court. On May 29, the supreme court granted Webster another new trial due to technical errors in the previous trial. 

Webster’s third trial began on August 2, 1896, and this time Sheriff McKinley vowed to prevent a repetition of the “sickly sentimentalism” of the previous trial—no more bouquets and no more morning kisses. The trial followed the same course as the previous ones, but this time the defense had another witness who saw two men, one of whom was Webster, conversing in Geneva that night. But it was probably the impassioned pleas of Webster’s father and mother on the witness stand that swayed the jury. This time the verdict was not guilty.

Lewis Webster was released from custody on October 4, 1886. He had been in jail for a year and nine months, but he had not been idle. Reportedly, in that time he had become an expert banjo player. Lewis Webster and Sophia Hall were married in May 1887. The residents of Geneva were still bitter over the acquittal and still believed Webster was the killer. The newlyweds set up housekeeping in Warren, Ohio.


Sources:
“All Ready For The Trial,” Plain Dealer, September 14, 1886.
“Bad For Webster,” Plain Dealer, September 18, 1885.
“Condemned To Die,” Plain Dealer, October 15, 1885.
“The Criminal World,” Cleveland Leader, January 1, 1885.
“Gets a New Trial,” Cleveland Leader, July 4, 1885.
“Granted A New Trial,” Plain Dealer, May 21, 1886.
“Horrible Crime,” Cleveland Leader, December 19, 1884.
“Lew Webster's Third Trial,” Plain Dealer, July 7, 1886.
“Lewis Webster Granted a Reprieve,” Plain Dealer, December 30, 1885.
“Lewis Webster In Luck,” Plain Dealer, May 19, 1887.
“Lewis Webster's Second Trial,” Plain Dealer, September 1, 1885.
“Lewis W. Webster and Miss Hall,” The National Police Gazette, October 16, 1886.
“News Article,” Cleveland Leader, April 3, 1885.
“New Testimony Introduced by the Defense in the Webster Trial,” Plain Dealer, October 5, 1886.
“Plain Dealings,” Plain Dealer, May 6, 1885.
“Record of Crime,” Cleveland Leader, April 23, 1885.
“To Hang,” Philadelphia Inquirer, September 29, 1885.
“Twice Sentenced to Death,” New York Herald, October 15, 1886.
“Webster in Jail,” Cleveland Leader, December 28, 1884.
“The Webster Murder Trial,” Plain Dealer, September 15, 1885.
“The Webster Murder Trial,” Plain Dealer, September 17, 1885.
“Webster to Have a New Trial,” Plain Dealer, May 15, 1885.

Saturday, March 9, 2019

Society Well Rid of Him.

Edward Hovey, aged 22, was an idle, dishonest, violent man with dissolute habits, living in New York City in 1882. His occupation was painter, but as of April of that year, he had been unemployed for four years and had been sentenced to Blackwell Island three times for petty theft. During Hovey’s second prison term, his wife, Lizzie, decided that she had had enough.  She took their little daughter, who was sick with scarlet fever and went to stay with her 19-year-old sister, Fanny Vermilyea and her husband Jerome in their apartment on 38th Street. The landlady, Mrs. Burns, had a small grocery and candy store on the first floor and gave Lizzie a job there.

When Hovey got out of prison, he tried to get Lizzie back, and when she refused to have anything to do with him he threatened to take her life. Whether or not he was serious, he did not have time to act; soon after he was arrested for stealing a coat and was back on Blackwell Island.

Saturday, March 2, 2019

The East River Murder.

The morning of February 8, 1898, the nude, dismembered body of a man was found floating in the East River, near a ferryboat slip on Roosevelt Street, New York City. The entire front portion of the head was missing, leaving only the right ear and a portion of the back of the head. The left leg was missing from a point just above the knee and the right leg had been cut off at the hip. Both arms had been cut off at the shoulder.

The cuts were smooth and intentional, eliminating the possibility that they had been taken off by steamboat paddle-wheels. The police were convinced that the man was murdered and butchered. 

Saturday, February 23, 2019

What Next?

This cartoon from the magazine Puck, March 31, 1880, comments on the growing trend of accused murderers on the lecture circuit.

On the bill are:

Mrs. Laura Fair
Laura Fair

Laura Fair was convicted of murdering California legislator Alexander Crittenden, but the verdict overturned on the grounds of insanity. Her trial became a cause celebre for women's rights activists.





Rev. Vosburgh
Rev. Vosburgh

New Jersey Baptist minister Rev. George Vosburgh was indicted in May 1878 for attempted murder of his wife by poison. He continued his ministry after acquital.







Birdie Bell
Washington Nathan

Birdie Bell was a New York actress and mistress of Washington Nathan, the prime suspect in the murder of his father Benjamin Nathan. In 1875, when she learned he was cheating with actress Alice Harrison she burst in on them at the Colman House hotel and shot Washington Nathan in the neck.






Rev. Glendenning
Rev. Glendenning


New Jersey Presbyterian minister Rev. John Gendenning seduced and abandoned his organist Mary Pomeroy. When she died in childbirth, in August 1874, her family tried unsucessfully to have Gendenning charged with murder.





Rev. Mr. Hayden
Rev. Hayden

In 1878, Connecticut Methodist minister, Rev. Herbert Hayden was accused of stabbing and poisoning Mary Stannard, a young housekeeper employed by his wife. Many  believed that he had seduced and impregnated her. He denied it all and was released after a hung jury.

Saturday, February 16, 2019

In Flagrante Delicto.

A little before 3 o’clock, the afternoon of September 9, 1886, a man rushed into the police station in Memphis, Tennessee and said, “I have just killed a man, and I want to give myself up.”

Captain Hackett took down the information and had the man locked up, then hurried to the address he had given to see for himself what had happened. In an upstairs room, he found a man lying on the floor, very nearly dead, bleeding from a gunshot wound to the chest. “I am to blame,” the man moaned. He died soon after.

Saturday, February 9, 2019

The Cannibal of Austerlitz.

Simon Vandercook was a 55-year-old “eccentric wanderer” from Lansingburgh, New York, a fortune seeker who relatives said was always filled with “utopian schemes.” In 1882, he claimed he had discovered gold outside of Alford, in Berkshire County, Massachusetts. Berkshire County had several small iron mines, with Marble and other minerals found there as well so a gold discovery was not considered impossible. Vandercook purchased the land for his gold strike from Oscar Beckwith in exchange for shares in the company he formed to mine the gold.

If Vandercook had actually discovered gold, the mine was not producing enough to sustain fulltime operation, and he earned money by cutting trees on the property and selling lumber. Beckwith believed he had been swindled and threatened to sue Vandercook.

Saturday, February 2, 2019

The Ruttinger Mystery.

Samuel Mortin, who was employed to keep watch over six coasting schooners laid up for the winter just below Tottenville, Staten Island, New York, found the body of a man lying in the mud, half floating, next to one of the vessels on March 11, 1891. The man's arms were crossed behind his back tied together at the wrists and above the elbows with heavy packing twine. Mortin secured the body and went to tell the police.

Saturday, January 26, 2019

Jack the Slasher.

On January 17, 1892, Officer Masterson of the New York City Police arrested a man the police and press had dubbed “Jack the Slasher.” Since December 29, Jack the Slasher had been on a rampage, cutting the throats of seven men with a straight razor, leaving one of them dead. 

Friday, January 18, 2019

The Murdered Coachman.

As the family of Joseph Blair of Montclair, New Jersey, dined on June 26, 1879, their houseguest, Miss Rebeca Draper, remarked that she had seen two men in the Blairs’ wagon the previous day. The men went into a saloon and when they came out, they drove away furiously, the driver whipping the horses at least a dozen times.  Joseph was not happy to hear this and after dinner decided to go out to the stable and have a talk with his coachman, John Armstrong.

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. 

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.