Saturday, March 31, 2012

Confessing an Awful Crime.

Little Murders
(From Oshkosh Daily Northwestern, Oshkosh, Wisconsin, April 18, 1894)
A Georgia Man describes How He Butchered His Five Children.
Waynesboro, Ga, April. 19.—Edward Dowse, who is held in jail charged with the murder of his five children, has confessed his guilt. He says his children kept accumulating upon him, while his ability to support them diminished, and on the morning of the murder he felt an uncontrollable desire to rid himself of the burden. Pretending to his wife that he wanted some necessary article in the cabin he went there, and having fastened the door behind him, he attacked the youngest child with an ax and killed it. The others held him by the legs, beseeching him to spare the child. Turning from his dead victim he grasped two others and beat their heads against each other until they became unconscious. With the ax he then killed them. The two remaining children sought refuge under the bed. Reaching for them he killed them also and left five dead bodies on the floor. Closing the door he returned to work, giving no sign of the bloody work in which he had been engaged. It is believed that his wife and sister, who have disappeared, are also guilty.

Oshkosh Daily Northwestern, Oshkosh, Wisconsin, April 18, 1894.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

George Tartar.

Little Murders:
From Defenders and Offenders:
George Tartar.

"George Tartar, who is a most desperate thief and villain, making his home in Kentucky when out of prison, and has added to his numerous crimes that of murder. A dance was given at a distillery near Summerset, Ky., and there was a large assemblage on hand. Tartar, who was out of jail only twelve days, invited himself. After arming himself with a pair of brass knuckles and a dirk, he had not been at the dance long before he showed his determination to create a fight. Tartar commenced by knocking an inoffensive young man down, and others coming to his assistance, Tartar pulled out his dirk, slashing right and left, literally hacking one man to pieces, who afterwards died."

Defenders and offenders. New York: D. Buchner & Co., 1888.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Startling Parallelisms.

Just five days before the start of Lizzie Borden’s trial for the murder of her father and step-mother in Fall River, Massachusetts, the town was shocked by another brutal axe murder. The mutilated body of Bertha Manchester was found in the kitchen of her home. The “startling parallelism” between this case and the Borden murders—the excessive number of wounds in each case, the fact that both incidents occurred in broad daylight, the lack of any apparent motive—threatened to open a new line of defense in Lizzie’s trial. It would, at very least, challenge many of the prosecution’s stated assumptions.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

51 Murder Mysteries in Two Years

The New York City newspaper, The World, printed this map in their July 18, 1897 edition, indicating the locations of 131 murders in the city during the previous 28 months. The accompanying story had some interesting statistics regarding New York’s murders. To an overwhelming degree, the killers who were captured received only minor sentences; only fifteen of the murderers were sentenced to death or to life in prison. And in fifty-one of the cases—more than a third of the total—the mystery was unsolved and likely to remain unsolved. The World assessed the situation this way:

Thus the murderer’s chances in New York, estimated from the experience of two years past, may be summarized about as follows:

Of capital punishment  ………………………………………… 1 in 18
Of life imprisonment    ………………………………………… 1 in 16
Of minor punishment   ………………………………………… 1 in 3
Of escape altogether …………………………………………… 1 in 3

Though the murder rate in New York City 1895 - 1897 seems high, according to Memoirs of a Murder Man by Arthur A. Carey—who was the head of New York’s Homicide Bureau during this period—of all the major American cities, only Los Angeles had a lower murder rate than New York. These were bloody times.

The World article lists all 131 of the murders and surprisingly, only one of them has already been covered at Murder by Gaslightthe murder of Domenico Cataldo by Maria Barbella. This is likely to change.

While there is little point in duplicating their entire list, a few selections from the unsolved mysteries may be interesting:

  • Henry Neumeister – Struck on head by an unknown person and killed at Columbus Avenue and One Hundred and First Street March 1895. A mystery.
  • William H. Bower—Killed with a billiard cue at 1502 Lexington Avenue Feb.27, 1897. John Cotter accused of the killing, has never been arrested according to the entry in District-Attorney’s office.
  • Michael Healy—Stabbed in the eye, Nov. 9, 1895, on Grove street with umbrella in hands of unknown person. Died from injuries. A mystery.
  • Dennis Hurley—Killed, May 4, 1897, by brick thrown from roof of 210 East Forty-fourth street by unknown person.
  • Prof. Max Eglau—Killed in the Institution for the Improved Instruction of Deaf Mutes. Lexington  Avenue and Sixty-Seventh Street. Feb. 10, 1896. Several of the pupils in the school were arrested on suspicion and discharged. The murder is still a profound mystery.
  • Maggie Riley, alias “Diamond Flossie” Murphy—Killed at 228 West Twenty-fourth street, April 22, 1897. Strangled. Still a mystery.

  • Carey, Arthur A., and Howard McLellan. Memoirs of a murder man,. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, Doran and Co., 1930.
  • "Fifty-One ‘Murder Mysteries’ in Two Years." The World [New York] 18 July 1897: 28.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

A Woman Scorned.

William Goodrich paid a visit to the lodging of his brother Charles, on Degraw Street in Brooklyn, on March 21, 1873. Getting no response at the door William entered the house to search for his brother, and found Charles  lying dead on the basement floor, neatly posed, as if laid out by an undertaker. Charles had been shot in the head, and lying on the floor near his hand lay a revolver, suggesting suicide. But William Goodrich knew his brother too well to believe this.

“You never did this yourself!” he said, “This is murder! Not suicide!”