Saturday, June 10, 2017

Kitty Mulcahey.

Little Murders

Kitty Mulcahey
A pistol shot from the churchyard of the Second Presbyterian Church, in St. Louis, at around 11:45 the night of December 18, 1881, caught the attention of several people who had been outside nearby. Alfred Tonkin, a horse-clipper, was found on the church terrace with a gunshot wound to the abdomen and was rushed to City Hospital. Witnesses said that they had seen a man and a woman run from the scene; the woman had left behind a sealskin cap.

The churchyard and adjoining cemetery were popular spots, even in December, for prostitutes and others engaging in illicit relationships. Before he died, Tonkin told police that he had seen a man and woman acting suspiciously and followed them into the churchyard where he caught them in an “improper act.” As the couple fled, Tonkin tried to stop the woman. He thought it was the man who shot him, but his statements were confused and contradictory, another witness said that it was the woman who fired.

St. Louis police detectives identified the woman as Kitty Lamont, a prostitute who lived at a brothel on South Eighth Street run by Miss Lou Allen. Allen told police that Kitty had been out that night with her lover Billy Scharlow, an eighteen-year-old pimp and thug who had previously been arrested for assault. Lamont was one of several aliases used by the woman—possibly the name of her estranged husband—she was better known as Kitty Mulcahey, though her real name was McKay or McCabe. She was eighteen years of age as well. The police arrested both Kitty and Billy; they denied any knowledge of the crime.

Working at Lou Allen’s house, Kitty Mulcahey played the “child girl” for men attracted to that sort. Her behavior was childish outside the brothel as well where she acted and spoke impulsively, occasionally flying into fits of temper, peppering her speech with blasphemous invectives and obscenities. At the coroner’s inquest, Lou Allen testified that Kitty had been drunk on the day of the murder. She claimed that Kitty had told her that a man had been watching them in the churchyard and Billy said, “That is the last watching that fellow will do.” The testimony outraged Kitty, and her angry denial was censored by the newspapers. “That’s a G-d d—n lie” screamed Kitty, “and you know it’s a lie you rotten b----h.” She did not deny she was at the churchyard, but with an adolescent’s devotion to her boyfriend, she denied that Billy was with her.

Friends and relatives of Billy Scharlow substantiated his alibi, and there was very little evidence against either of them. The coroner’s jury did not indict, finding that Alfred Tonkin was shot by a person unknown. The police released Billy but decided to hold Kitty for another twenty-four hours and see if anything developed.

Late that night, Kitty changed her story and confessed to the shooting. She said she had been walking near the church and a man came up and offered her a sealskin cap and two dollars if she would go back with him to his room. She did not like his looks and refused the offer. Later that night she met another man who offered the walk her home. He had a black mustache and wore a diamond pin, she did not know him but believed he was a traveling salesman. When police asked for his name, she told them she was not in the habit of asking the names of men she met.

Kitty sat for a while with the second man, having a pleasant talk on the church steps until the first man came up the stairs. “I’ve caught you now,” he said. The second man pulled a pistol from his pocket and put it in Kitty’s hand. “Give it to him!” he said. Kitty obliged, shooting the man in the abdomen. They both then ran from the churchyard.

The police charged Kitty with murder but were not satisfied with her story. They continued to press her to implicate Billy Scharlow, but she maintained that she alone shot Tonkin and that Billy was not there. Her lawyer Mr. McBride, wanted her to retract her confession as the police had no other evidence against her, but Kitty stuck to her story—at least through the month of December.

In the first week of January 1882, Kitty Mulcahey took her attorney’s advice and retracted her confession. She claimed that while in jail after the inquest, the police had tempted her with alcohol and tobacco:
"Pshaw, those detectives filled me up with whiskey and gave me cigars, and I wasn't going to be fool enough to refuse them, or not to say what they wanted me to say. I was drunk when I told them that story--made that confession. Anyhow, you know, I wasn't under oath, and I had said so many things, and told so many stories, and thought it wouldn't make any difference what I said."
Kitty’s trial was not held until April, and she continued to generate interest during the three months she was held in jail. She claimed she saw the spirit of Alfred Tonkin in the window and tried to stay awake out of fear that he would kill her in her sleep. She threatened to thrash at least three journalists for the treatment she had received by from the press. Along with two other female inmates, Kitty conspired to raise Cain by beating the sheet-iron walls of their cells and shouting. The papers reported that “Blood-curdling screams and the most blasphemous profanity and vilest obscenity” came from Kitty and the other two prisoners. The din continued until all three were put in the dungeon of the jail.

Kitty Mulcahey’s trial for murder was short. Without the confession, the prosecution had very little evidence against her. On April 16, Kitty was found not guilty and released from custody.

“A Clew on Kitty,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, March 27, 1882.
“Haunted,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, December 26, 1881.
“Kittie Mulcahy,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, December 27, 1881.
“Kittie's New Confession,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, January 6, 1882.
“Kitty Mulcahey,” The National Police Gazette, February 4, 1882, 7.
“A Most Interesting Character,” The Topeka Daily Capital, December 29, 1881.
“A Murder Mystery Cleared,” Cincinnati Commercial Tribune, December 25, 1881.
“Peeping Tonkin,” The Cincinnati Enquirer, December 21, 1881.
“Put in the Dungeon,” The Topeka Daily Capital, January 12, 1882.
“She Pleaded Not Guilty,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, March 17, 1882.
“Telegraphic Talk,” The Pantagraph, April 17, 1882.
“The Tonkin Murder,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, December 21, 1881.
“Who shot Tonkin?,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, December 24, 1881.
“Who Shot Tonkin?,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, December 23, 1881.


VoyagerG says:
August 23, 2017 at 8:29 PM

Another woman gets off. The law was always softer on them back in the past. And of course there's not enough evidence. :/ And looks like her beloved boyfriend let her take the whole blame. Terrible.

"Kitty conspired to raise Cain" - I've only ever heard my mother and grandmother use that expression when describing wild events and when my mom was angry. whew.

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