Saturday, December 2, 2017

The Laws of Compensation.

John Dougherty, a sixty-year-old farmer in Big Bend, Washington, decided he needed a wife and in 1892, he placed an advertisement in a Chicago matrimonial paper. He received a response from Mary E. Phillips, of Cedar Rapids, Iowa. They corresponded, and she agreed to move to Washington and marry him. It was not a happy marriage, however; for a year they “lived a cat and dog life,” constantly fighting and threatening each other.

On October 30, 1893, the body of Mary Dougherty was discovered partially hidden under a pile of straw. She had been hacked to death with such ferocity that her face was mutilated nearly beyond recognition. In a vacant building not far away, John Dougherty was found dying from exposure and hunger. He was arrested and taken to jail in Waterville. 

While in the Waterville jail, Dougherty made a full confession. He and his wife had been fighting as usual and he suspected that she had poisoned his tea. As an emetic, he drank a glass of salt and water, but it was too late. She laughed at him as he vomited saying, “You old Irish son-of-a-bitch, I’ve got you now. I’ll sit on your grave before a week.” At this point, Dougherty grabbed a butcher knife and chased her out of the house, overtook her in the straw stacks and stabbed her to death. Dougherty expressed no remorse.

Shortly after making his confession, Dougherty died in jail. A post-mortem examination of Dougherty’s stomach proved that he died from consuming rat poison.

This would have been the end of the story, but the sheriff began receiving letters from people related to both of the deceased. A young woman who had read about the murder believed that she was John Dougherty’s daughter from his first marriage. The family had sold their farm in Salem, Oregon and moved to San Francisco, where Dougherty abandoned them and moved to Chicago. A letter from Dougherty’s second wife bore this out. They had met in Chicago, married and moved to Arizona where Dougherty decamped, carrying off $3,000 of his wife’s money.

Perhaps the most interesting letter came addressed to John Dougherty from a Mr. M. D. Brown in Minneapolis. It read, “A friend of mine just handed me a paper with the account of the murder. I think Mary Phillips Brown Dougherty got what she deserved. I was her second husband and tried to live with her, but it was three years and a half of hell upon earth.”

Before meeting Mary Phillips, John Dougherty had already, bilked and deserted two wives. “In his third venture, however,” wrote the Tacoma Daily Ledger, “he appears to have met his match and by the laws of compensation they both met with terrible and tragic deaths.”

“Dougherty Dies of Rat Poison,” The Seattle Post-Intelligencer, November 9, 1893.
“Hacked Her to Pieces,” National Police Gazette, November 18, 1893.
“Killed his Wife,” Muskegon Chronicle, November 2, 1893.
“The Last Chapter Told,” Tacoma Daily Ledger, December 15, 1893.
“Murdered His Wife. ,” Idaho Statesman, November 1, 1893.
“Murderer Dougherty's Three Wives,” The Seattle Post-Intelligencer, December 1, 1893.

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