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Saturday, November 25, 2017

Baptized in Blood and Flames.

About four a.m. the morning of February 16, 1896, Robert Laughlin appeared at his sister’s door clad in his nightclothes and bleeding from the neck. He told a harrowing story, he had been awakened by someone drawing a knife blade across his throat. He grappled with his assailant, arose from the bed and knocked him down with his fist. Then the man’s confederate hit Laughlin across the face with a burning torch. He ran to the door, chased by one of the men but was able to outrun him. His wife Emma and his niece May Jones—who was reported variously as 12, 13, or 14 years-old— were still in the house. Laughlin and his brother-in-law went back and found the house in flames. When the fire was put out, they found the bodies of Emma and May, burned nearly beyond recognition.

Laughlin had no idea who the men were or what their motive was. R. W. Fitzgerald, a detective with the C & O Railroad, working for the coroner immediately began an investigation accompanied by Marshal William Barren of Augusta. Though some of the neighbors doubted Laughlin’s story Barren and Fitzgerald sent for bloodhounds to search for the assailants Laughlin described. The bloodhounds, however, would only follow Laughlin’s trail to his sister’s house. The men tried several times to send the dogs off in different directions but they always ended up at the sister’s house. Fitzgerald began to suspect that Laughlin himself was the killer and requested the clothing he was wearing at the time of the attack. They found that his shirt and undershirt were saturated with blood.

Fitzgerald and Barren brought the evidence to Sheriff Frank of Bracken County and requested that he arrest Laughlin, but the sheriff refused to do so. Emma Laughlin was a sister of the Jones boys, who had a wide circle of violent friends and relations. May Jones was a daughter of one of them. If he arrested Laughlin without preparing, he thought it would lead to serious trouble. The coroner also decided to defer any verdict until the following Monday.

That night detective Fitzgerald, along with a Marshal Sayers of Augusta, caught up with Laughlin at his father’s house. Sayers had known Laughlin from boyhood and doubted his story from the beginning. As they sat around the fireside Sayers said to Laughlin, “Bob, you know I have been your friend. The best thing for you is to tell us all about it here in the home of your old, broken-hearted father.”

Laughlin buried his face in his hand and sobbed for several minutes, then made his confession. He said, he waited until his wife and niece were both sleeping, then hit his wife in the temple with a poker, and with one convulsive quiver she expired. The attack on his wife woke the little girl who got out of bed saying, “What are you doing, Uncle Bob?” He hit the girl with the poker, then set fire to the house. For the sake of his story, he cut a slight gash in his throat then ran to his sister’s house. He could not say what possessed him to commit the murders.

Laughlin was arrested and quietly taken to jail in Augusta. News of the confession was withheld for fear of mob violence, and for his own safety, Laughlin was moved to a strong jail in Maysville, Kentucky. Once he felt safe, Laughlin changed his confession, he said, that night he had attempted to rape his young niece and when his wife tried to stop him he murdered them both then set the fire. When news of the confession came out, hundreds of men in Bracken County pledged their help in dragging Laughlin from the jail and lynching him.

Anger increased as newspapers reported that Laughlin’s open knife was found under the body of May Jones revealing that “the murder was more atrocious than the confession indicates.” Laughlin was secretly transported to Augusta, by way of Cincinnati, just long enough to appear for a preliminary hearing charging him with murder, rape, and arson.

Laughlin was tried in July; he was convicted and sentenced to hang. While Laughlin’s attorney appealed the conviction, the mob in Bracken County grew restless and planned to storm the Mayville jail. The authorities moved Laughlin again, to the jail in Covington, Kentucky which was already well guarded as it was holding the convicted murderers of Pearl Bryan. The Court of Appeals upheld the verdict and the date of Laughlin’s execution was set for January 9, 1897.

A tall fence was erected around the gallows in Brookville, where the execution was to take place; only those holding tickets would be allowed inside. Around 7:30, the morning of January 9, a large crowd gathered outside the fence and began shouting “Bring him out! Bring him out!” The door of the enclosure was opened at 9:10, prompting a mad rush; the crowd pulled down the fence and filled the jail yard to capacity. Deputy Sheriff McAfee mounted the scaffold and asked the crowd to be quiet. His wishes were respected and the crowd stood in relative silence.

At 9:20 Laughlin was brought to the gallows. The Reverend Mr. Lee read Bible verses requested by Laughlin, then at Laughlin’s request, sang the hymn “Nearer My Home Today.” At 9:29, the trap was sprung; Laughlin fell, the noose broke his neck, and he died instantly.

“Baptized in Blood and Flames,” The Cincinnati Enquirer, February 16, 1896.
“Confessed the Murder.,” New Haven Register, February 17, 1896.
“Details,” Evansville Courier and Press, February 16, 1896.
“Doom of Death,” Kentucky Post, November 14, 1896.
“Laughlin Burned Them,” Daily Illinois State Journal, February 18, 1896.
“Mob,” Cincinnati Post, January 9, 1897.
“Mob Wanted Laughlin,” Morning Herald, September 15, 1896.
“Report of Another confession by Murderer Laughlin,” Evansville Courier and Press, April 28, 1896.
“Robert Laughlin.,” Knoxville Journal, February 19, 1896.
“Wife and Niece.,” Boston Journal, July 17, 1896.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Murder by Little Girls.

(From Macon Weekly Telegraph, September 26, 1884).

Murder by Little Girls.

St. Louis, September 24. – The story from Ottawa, Kan., that on Monday last Carrie and Bessie Waterman, aged 12 and 11 years, daughter of James Waterman, a farmer, tied a rope around the neck of a half brother, 6 years old, dragged him about and beat him with sticks until he was dead. The girls stated at the coroner’s inquest that they hated the child and wanted him dead. They were held for murder.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

First Avenue Butchery.

Charles Jacobs, a 27-year-old German immigrant, ran a butcher shop at 262 First Avenue in New York City. His business was being hampered by loafers loitering on the sidewalk outside the shop. On Saturday, January 4, 1868, one of the loafers, a man he knew only as Kelly, decided to loiter inside the  shop. Kelly was clearly drunk and loudly making his presence known so Jacobs tried to rush him back outside. In the scuffle that followed Kelly grabbed a butcher knife from the counter and plunged it into Jacob’s abdomen. Reportedly, the wound was so ghastly that Jacob’s bowels could be seen protruding.

Kelly fled, and Jacobs was taken to Bellevue Hospital. The hospital staff knew that Jacobs was beyond saving, and they sent for Coroner Schirmer to take his ante-mortem statement. Jacob declared Kelly was his killer; he died soon after. As of January 25, Kelly was still at large; it is unlikely he was ever arrested for this crime.

“Carnival of Crime,” Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper, January 25, 1868.
“City And Suburban Facts,” Commercial Advertiser, January 6, 1868.
“Murder in First-Ave,” New York Tribune, January 6, 1868.
“Stabbing Affray,” The Buffalo Commercial, January 6, 1868.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

A Fiend's Work.

Birdie Baugh, the 20-year-old daughter of C. C. Baugh, was much admired in the town of Alliance, Ohio. She was “a handsome girl of pleasant, winsome ways,” and quite accomplished for an Ohio farmer’s daughter as a student of the music conservatory of Mt. Union College. The family had a large farmhouse outside of Alliance where Birdie lived with her parents, her younger brothers Herman and Garfield, her uncle Thomas, and a farm hand named Curt Davidson.

Mr. and Mrs. Baugh went to visit some friends in Pennsylvania, on November 14, 1893, leaving the rest of the household alone. Curt Davidson had gone out that night and at 10:00 he had still not come back. This was odd because he was usually in the house much earlier, but his behavior was known to be somewhat eccentric. Birdie told her uncle and brothers that they could go to bed, she would wait for Davidson and close up the house after he came in. She was  exasperated with Davidson and said she wished her father would fire him.

It was not the first time Birdie had expressed this sentiment. 40-year-old Curt Davidson was gruff and surly and did not hide the fact that he had become infatuated with Birdie Baugh. She did not return his affections and after repeatedly fighting off Davidson’s advances she had asked her father to get rid of him.

When the boys awoke the morning of November 15, they found that Birdie had not gone to bed the night before. In the kitchen, they found signs of a struggle, a pool of blood on the floor, and bloody footprints leading outside toward the barn. On the floor of the barn, they found Birdies body. Her skull had been crushed and her face and throat had been slashed with a razor. Later, a post-mortem examination would determine that she had been ravished as well; it was unclear whether this occurred before or after her death.

The neighbors were alerted, and a search began for Curt Davidson. They found him lying near a near a neighbor’s barn about a quarter mile away. He also had a gash across his throat. The wound was self-inflicted, the bloody razor still in his hand as he lay unconscious.

Davidson regained consciousness while in police custody. He denied any knowledge of the crime, saying he had been in bed all night. He got up at 5:00 and met a man who was drunk. They quarreled, and the man slashed his throat. But Davidson's bed had not been slept in, and the razor was his own.

As the news of the murder spread through Alliance, men were calling for vengeance and a lynch mob gathered around the jail. A physician addressed the crowd saying that Davidson was near death and not worth lynching, but he was not believed and his words did nothing to reduce their anger. Neither did the arrival of Company K, Eighth Regiment of the Ohio National Guard, ordered to Alliance for Davidson’s protection.

Under a strong military guard, Davidson was loaded onto a train and taken to Canton, Ohio. He did not last long in Canton, on December 4, Davidson died from blood poisoning as a result of his wound.

“Birdie Baugh Murdered,” Daily Illinois State Journal, November 16, 1893.
“A College Girl's Throat Cut,” National Police Gazette, December 2, 1893.
“Died in Jail,” Cincinnati Post, December 4, 1893.
“A Fiend's Work,” Omaha World-Herald, November 15, 1893.
“A Foul Crime,” Cleveland Leader, November 16, 1893.
“In Cold Blood,” Repository, November 15, 1893.
“A Lynching,” Repository, November 16, 1893.