Saturday, February 27, 2016

Murderous Missouri.

The “Show Me State” has been the scene of quite a few sensational murders, including three that inspired memorable songs.

Love and Law. -1875

The tragic love affair between Charles Kring and Dora Broemser ended in one maddened instant—he asked her to leave her husband, she refused, he shot her dead. The prosecution of Charles Kring for the crime of murder lasted eight years, included six trials and required a ruling by the United States Supreme Court.

The Talbots -1880

Dr. Perry H. Talbott was among the most prominent citizens of Nodaway County, Missouri. In addition to being a skilled physician, Talbott was state legislator, a writer and a newspaper editor. He was a civic minded citizen with strong beliefs, highly admired by friends and neighbors. But towards his family, Dr. Talbott was cold and distant. Miserly and neglectful, he had little interaction with his children beyond the occasional scolding. When Dr. Talbott was shot by an unknown assassin on September 18, 1880, in his dying breath he blamed his political enemies. The Nodaway county authorities, however, believed the killer was someone closer to home.

The St. Louis Trunk Tragedy -1885

On Sunday, April 12, 1885, the manager of the Southern Hotel in St. Louis, Missouri, entered room 144 responding to guests’ complaints of a foul odor emanating from inside. The manager found nothing amiss on Sunday but by Tuesday the stench was unbearable. He checked again and it appeared that the occupants had moved out, leaving behind several trunks. Inside one of the trunks was the decomposing body of a man wearing only a pair of white drawers. Apparently one of the two young Englishmen sharing the room had murdered the other. Though the death had been made to look like a political assassination, it was in fact the tragic ending of a “peculiar relationship.”

The Graham Tragedy -1885

Evangelist, temperance leader, author and publisher Emma Molloy opened her home to the lost and lonely the way others took in stray cats. She had an adopted daughter and two foster daughters and she found a job on her newspaper for George Graham an ex-convict she had met while preaching at a prison. But when George Graham and Emma Molloy’s foster daughter, Cora Lee, decided to marry, the result would be a murder, a lynching, and scandal for the entire family.

The Knoxville Girl -1892

Mary Lula Noel’s sister and brother-in-law were not afraid to leave Mary alone with her boyfriend William Simmons. They were going across Elk River to meet Mary’s parents and they knew Mary would soon follow, after William caught the train to Joplin, Missouri. But the river rose that afternoon, becoming uncrossable, and Mary did not meet her relatives. A week later her strangled and battered body was found floating in Elk River. The brutal murder was memorialized by an equally brutal folk ballad, "The Knoxville girl;" an American song with very deep English roots.

The Meeks Family Murder -1894

The morning of May 11, 1894, 6-year-old Nellie Meeks knocked on the door of Mrs. John Carter in Linn County, Missouri. Mrs. Carter was shocked by the little girl’s appearance; her clothes were torn, her face was covered with dirt and blood and she had a deep gash in her forehead. Her speech was barely coherent as she told Mrs. Carter that her parents and younger sisters had been murdered the night before. She had managed to escape because the killers thought she was dead. When her story was verified it became one of the most sensational crimes in Missouri history.

That Bad Man Stagolee -1895

The story of Stagolee has been sung by troubadours for more than a hundred years. Each singer seems to know a different version and tell a different story of its origin. Under a variety of names - Stagolee, Staggerlee, Stack O' Lee, Stack O' Dollars - this outlaw has become an American legend and an archetype of African-American folklore. But his story is true. When Stack Lee Shelton shot Billy Lyons, in a fight over a Stetson hat, in Bill Curtis's Saloon, on Christmas night 1895, the legend was born.

Frankie Baker - "He Done Her Wrong" -1899

“Frankie and Johnny were lovers,” true enough, but his name was Allen, not Johnny. “He was her man, but he done her wrong.” More accurately, Frankie Baker was Allen Britt’s woman, but yes, he done her wrong. He was her pimp and he abused her. Frankie caught Allen cheating with Alice Pryar and on October 16, 1899 she shot him – not in a public saloon, but in the bedroom of her St. Louis apartment. They quarreled about Alice Pryar and when he attacked her with a knife, she pulled a pistol from under her pillow. By that evening a local songwriter had composed a ballad that would immortalize the story of Frankie and Al Britt, and provide the framework for a century of misinformation.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

The Kiss of Death.

Little Murders

Frank Sharon, a young barber in Fall River, Massachusetts had some difficulty with his wife in December 1881, which resulted in his arrest. After his release, he went home and entered the room where his wife, and mother of his three children, lay sleeping. He leaned over and kissed her three times, then drew a pistol and shot her in the side of her neck. She died almost instantly.

Sharon went straight downtown and turned himself in to the police. He said something crossed his mind and told him to kill his wife. At his arraignment in January, Sharon pled not guilty to the charge of murder. He was probably planning to plead insanity, but it does not appear that the case ever went to trial.

"Brutal Case of Wife Murder." Philadelphia Inquirer 8 Dec 1881.

"Kiss of Death." National Police Gazette 24 Dec 1881.

"Local Intelligence." Springfield Republican 23 Jan 1882.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Little Conestoga Creek.

The discovery of the murdered body of Mrs. Mary Dellinger led to the very public airing of her family’s dirty laundry. Calvin Dellinger was a philanderer, an abusive husband, and a sadistic father, but was he a killer as well?

Saturday, February 6, 2016

A Mystery in Pittsburgh.

Little Murders

Police Lieutenant Snyder, walking down Frankstown Avenue in Pittsburgh’s East End, around one a.m. on January 8, 1889, heard a gunshot from the house of Albert Davis, a well-known African American restaurant owner. The Lieutenant forced his way inside and found Davis lying dead at the bottom of a staircase. A revolver lay on a table next to several empty beer bottles. Standing near the body in their nightclothes were Carrie Palmer and Mollie White, both African American. Mollie White, a girl no older than 14, said she had been awakened by the shot and saw Davis fall down the stairs, but knew nothing of the circumstances leading up to his death. Carrie Palmer refused to give any information.