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Saturday, January 17, 2015

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

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


Another Murder in Cincinnati--
“Hell’s Half Acre.”
 
 
Between the hours of two and three o’clock yesterday morning, another man was brutally murdered in a low doggery, called the Toledo House, on the levee, between Walnut and Vine streets, a miserable quarter known as “Hell’s Half Acre,” one of the worst localities in the city. The name of the victim was Michael Burke, an Irishman, about twenty-one years old, a deck-hand on the river boats, and recently employed on the steamer Prairie Rose; and suspected murderer one James Burns, proprietor of the “Toledo, who has long been regarded, and is known to the police, as a vicious character, and has frequently been imprisoned for different misdemeanors.
 
Circumstances of the Murder.
 
The circumstances of the murder are enveloped in mystery, and the only light, beyond the fact of the crime itself, is thrown upon the case by the evidence before the Coroner’s jury. It appears that tow men lodging over the doggery were awakened, about two o’clock, by cries of “murder!” and throwing up the window they saw the body of deceased lying on the sidewalk and Burns concealing a knife in a wood-pile near by. B. then caught hold of the body and was about dragging it to the river, which, on account of its height, was but a few feet distant, to remove, no doubt, all traces of the crime, when they hallooed at him and accused him of the murder.
 
B. made no answer, but let go of the body, and entering the house, brought a bucket of water and poured it upon the corpse, and then dragged it with the assistance of his wife, into the house. A few minutes after B. re-appeared and walked toward Walnut street, when he met a man who asked him what was the matter and the meaning of those cries. B. said some person had been hurt at his house, and that he was going after a physician. Burns was not seen after this, but the weapon, a large butcher-knife, covered with blood, was found in the place where it had been hidden.
 
Dr. F. N. Burke, who was called upon about three o’clock to examine the body, found that death had resulted from a broad and deep wound in the left thigh, severing the femoral artery, which might not have proved fatal had the flow of blood been immediately checked. The Coroner held an inquest soon after, and the opinion of the jury was that the wound was made by a knife in the hands of some party or parties unknown. Mrs. Burns made no satisfactory statement but was arrested upon a charge of harboring lewd females and committed to prison.
 
The Suspected Murderer.
Though there is no direct evidence of Burns’ guilt, no one doubts it, and taking the circumstances attendant upon the came, his character and flight, into consideration, there is little reason to question it. As we have said, he has borne a very bad name, and was suspected of the murder of a former wife, but nothing could be substantiated against him.

Character of the Locality.

One of the witnesses on the Coroner’s Jury said he believed more than one murder had been committed at the Toledo House, and the victims thrown in the river, preventing discovery or suspicions of the crime. “Hell’s Half-Acre,” is, as we have said, a horrible place, and few men with the organ of caution well developed would or did pass the locality at a late hour of the night; for it is the abode of vice in every form, from tippling and gambling to robbery and murder.
 
Burns Not Arrested.
 
It is to be hoped that Burns will be arrested, but so little concern is felt respecting murder in our city that his capture is problematical.—Up to a late hour last night nothing had been heard of him, nor any clue obtained as to the probable direction he had taken. It is generally believed, as he had abundance of time, that he has left the city. If he is still within the corporate limits he will hardly escape detection, as his face is familiar to the police.





"Another Murder in Cincinnati--'Hell's Half Acre."'Plain Dealer, Cleveland, Ohio, December 22, 1858



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