Saturday, November 21, 2020

Who Murdered Dr. Cronin?

 

Old Cap. Collier, the fictional dime novel detective, tries his hand at solving the murder of Dr. Cronin.

The real murder of Dr. Patrick Henry Cronin was stranger than fiction, with the good doctor found naked and dead in a Chicago sewer after confronting the corrupt leaders of an Irish secret society. As Edmund Pearson said, “It was one of those murders over which men nod their heads and look portentous and intimate that ‘everything hasn’t come out yet.’”

Read the whole story here: Clan-na-Gael and the Murder of Dr. Cronin.


Saturday, November 14, 2020

A Theatrical Execution.

David J. Wood owned a thriving leather and shoe business in Dansville, New York, in the 1850s. He and his wife Rhoda were busy raising two children but found time to be active in church and civic events, always willing to donate their time and money to better the community. They were wealthy, prominent, and well-liked citizens of Dansville, living a perfect life—until the arrival of David’s brother Isaac.

Isaac L. Wood was 34 years old in 1854, when he left his home in New Jersey, hoping to start a new life with David’s help. Isaac was only eight years old when David left the family home in New Providence, New Jersey. The two brothers had not been close, but David was happy to give Isaac a helping hand, loaning him money to buy a small piece of land. Isaac began farming, making payments to his brother when he could. 

But Farming did not suit Isaac, and within a year, he gave it up and went to live in his brother’s house. He embarked on a career speculating in fruits, butter, eggs, and other produce. It was widely known in Dansville that David was still helping him out with loans and endorsements. 

In the spring of 1855, the household consisted of David and Rhoda Wood, their two children, their hired girl, Margaret Lynch, and David’s brother Isaac. That May, Mrs. Wood took the children to visit friends in New Jersey. Shortly after they left, David became violently ill, and after four or five days of vomiting and purging, he died in agony. The physicians who treated David were at a loss in determining the cause of the sickness but finally concluded that his disease was cholera morbus.

Rhoda Wood and the children returned to Dansville, arriving the day after David’s death, and she was appointed administratrix of her late husband’s estate. A few days after their return Mrs. Wood and the children were seized with the same symptoms that David had suffered; the children recovered, but Rhoda did not. Friends and relatives of the dead couple briefly suspected poisoning, but Rhoda was quickly buried, and suspicions died away.

Isaac became the guardian of the children and took over the administration of his brother’s estate. It was valued in the neighborhood of $40,000, but upon the final settlement, relatives were surprised to learn that very little was left for the children. A promissory note for $2,650 given by David Wood to Isaac Wood was discovered to be a forgery, prompting an investigation of David’s account books. An audit found that numerous entries had been clumsily altered in Isaac’s favor.

In the summer of 1858, Joseph J. Welch, the new owner of David Wood’s house, discovered a package in the barn containing three parcels of white powder. A chemical analysis determined that one contained pure arsenic, one a mixture of arsenic and magnesia, and the third was cream tartar. This discovery, together with the initial suspicions of poisoning and the financial irregularities, prompted an inquest into the death of Rhoda Wood.

Her body was disinterred, and the stomach was sent to Prof. Hadley, a distinguished chemist of Buffalo, New York. His analysis discovered arsenic in the stomach. David Wood was then disinterred, and Prof. Hadley found arsenic in his stomach as well. A coroner’s jury was summoned and after hearing testimony as to the good character of Margaret Lynch and reviewing the entries in David Wood’s account books, the jury concluded that Rhoda Wood came to her death by poison, administered by Isaac L. Wood. Coroner Caton issued a warrant for Wood’s arrest and deputized ex-sheriff, James Brewer, to serve it.

Isaac Wood had since married and moved away. After tracing Wood to New Jersey, Brewer learned that Wood had left that state after the sudden illness and death of his wife and child. Brewer finally caught up to Wood in Rantoul, Illinois, where he was hiding his wealth and working as a farm laborer. Without mentioning the murder charge, Brewer told him there was a problem settling his brother’s estate due to some forged papers. Wood agreed to return with Brewer and address the issue. By volunteering to return to Dansville, Wood eliminated the need for a lengthy extradition process to transfer him from Illinois to New York.

The trial of Isaac Wood for the murder of Rhoda Wood began on February 1, 1858. The evidence against him was largely circumstantial, and the defense argued that much of the evidence, such as the alleged financial fraud, was not relevant to the charge of murder. 

After hearing nine days of testimony and deliberating for seven hours, the jury reported that they did not have a unanimous verdict and did not think they would ever have one. One report said the jury stood eight for conviction, four for acquittal. Another report said it was eleven to one, and the lone holdout, Moses Long, opposed capital punishment and would not vote guilty under any circumstances.

Isaac Wood’s second trial began on May 3, 1858, and this time three days were consumed empaneling a jury. After ten days of testimony, this jury returned a verdict of guilty after two and a half hours of deliberation. He was sentenced to hang on June 25.

Woods attorneys appealed the verdict on the same grounds they brought up in their defense, that testimony regarding financial fraud and the death of David Wood should have been excluded in a trial of the murder of Rhoda Wood. The appeal was denied. They petitioned Governor King, who granted a temporary reprieve while he reviewed the testimony. Governor King found no problems with the evidence, and the hanging was rescheduled for July 9.

Wood continued to profess his innocence. He found religion in prison while awaiting execution and expressed faith in his own justification before the “tribunal of eternity.” Public opinion was strongly against Wood, and as long as he refused to confess, no one believed his religious zeal was genuine.

Several newspapers described Wood’s hanging as a “theatrical execution.” It was held in a narrow enclosure attached to the jail in Genesee, New York, before 60 witnesses. Outside the jail, a crowd of 500 spectators waited to hear of his death. Order was maintained by two military companies, one from Dansville and one from Genesee, and a band was also present. At 3:00, the condemned man was brought to the gallows by two Deputy Sheriffs accompanied by three men of the cloth. A deputy loudly informed Wood that he had but twenty minutes to live and that he was at liberty to speak if he chose to. Wood chose to  speak.

“Here I am, condemned by the laws of my country to die,” Wood began, “in a few moments to end my life, and I shall pass away into another world. This world may look upon me as it pleases; but blessed be God, this is not my abiding place.”

Wood continued in this manner, with much repetition, until the Sheriff interrupted him to read the death sentence. Then Wood knelt as Reverend Birchmore of the Episcopal Church read the text Wood had selected, and Reverend Brown offered a prayer. The Deputy then announced that twelve minutes remained for Wood to live.

Wood began speaking again and ended by saying, “Take this body; it is nothing but a lump of clay. God knows that I am innocent, but you can’t know it. It is between myself and God. In three minutes, I shall be free from my persecutors. I bid you all farewell forever. Blessed be God, I can die anywhere and at any time.”

Wood was executed with the “upright jerker” method of hanging, in which a counterweight was dropped, jerking the condemned man up to break his neck. As his arms were pinioned with a silk handkerchief, Wood repeated several times, “Oh, Jesus, receive my spirit,” adding, “Let me die as easy as you can.”

The Sheriff directed Wood to sit in a chair and he adjusted the noose around Wood’s neck. When the noose was in place, the Sheriff stepped back to spring the trap and drop the weight. Isaac Wood was launched four feet into the air then fell the length of the rope. His neck was broken, but his pulse continued to beat for seven or eight minutes. After half an hour, the attending physicians declared him dead. 

As the trap was sprung, the band outside played a solemn dirge.


Sources: 
“The Dansville Poisoning Case--Arrest of Isaac L Wood,” Albany Evening Journal, September 8, 1857.
“Execution of Isaac L Wood, at Geneseo,” Albany Evening Journal, July 12, 1858.
“Last Evening's Telegraph Report,” Buffalo Commercial, July 10, 1858.
Isaac L. Wood, The Dansville poisoning case (Dansville: George A. Sanders, 1858.) 
“News Article,” Daily True American, September 15, 1857.
“The Poisoning Case,” Buffalo Morning Express, September 8, 1857.
“Shocking Murder by Poison,” Daily Illinois State Register, September 8, 1857.
“A Singular Case,” Philadelphia Inquirer, February 16, 1858.
“Theatrical Execution,” Commercial Advertiser, July 14, 1858.
“Trial and Conviction of Isaac L Wood,” Commercial Advertiser, May 20, 1858.

Saturday, November 7, 2020

Dark Kentucky Tragedy.

Col. A.M. Swope and Col. William Cassius Goodloe happened to enter the Lexington, Kentucky post office at the same time on the afternoon of November 8, 1889. They greeted each other with icy glares then went about their business. Both men were leaders in the Republican Party in Kentucky, and both had national reputations. Swope was the former Internal Revenue Collector for the district, Goodloe had been Minister to Belgium, a state senator, and was the current Internal Revenue Collector; both men fought for the Union in the Civil war, and both rose to the rank of Colonel.

Saturday, October 31, 2020

Two Shots, a Shriek.


“A dark, mean little bedroom, a woman, half-undressed, dirty and pale, and blear-eyed from long excesses, a male companion, leaning over her with a revolver at her head, two shots, a shriek, an ugly hole under the ear, and the vice and crime of Boston had added another murder to its long score.” The Boston Herald’s vivid description of the murder of Josephine Brown on Christmas Eve, 1891, served to underscore her sad and dismal life. Married and divorced by age twenty, Josephine’s family blamed her for the failed marriage and turned her away. Left to fend for herself, Josephine Brown spent the next twenty years as a prostitute.

Joe, as she was known on the street, had been working in a brothel run by Mrs. Mary Ann Fisher on Pitt Street, in Boston’s West End. The house had recently closed down with the arrest of Mrs. Fisher, and Joe was working as a street walker. The demise of Mrs. Fisher’s house meant more than the loss of shelter, it left Joe without protection from the potential violence of her profession, and without anyone to keep her away from whiskey, which, when she was left on her own, became Joe’s consuming passion.

Saturday, October 24, 2020

The Meyer Poisoning Sensation.

 


Dr. Henry Meyer, his wife Maria, and their associate Ludwig Brant devised an elaborate plan to defraud insurance companies. Maria and Brant held a mock wedding then took out several insurance policies on his life with Maria as beneficiary. The plan was to then obtain a cadaver, declare it was the body of Ludwig Brant, and collect the insurance. Unbeknownst to Brant, Dr. Meyer and Maria decided they didn’t need a cadaver; it was much easier just to poison Brant.

The plot was revealed after Brant’s death and authorities discovered that the doctor and his wife had been runnng similar scams throughout the country. Read the full story here: Professional Poisoners.



Picture from: “Sun Pictures of the Day,” Lowell Sun, July 21, 1893.

Saturday, October 17, 2020

Ameer Ben Ali & an Actor's Tale.

This week we are pleased to present a guest post from Howard and Nina Brown, experts on the Whitechapel Murders of Jack the Ripper. They are the owners of JTRForums.Com and have been Ripperologists for 20 years. Along with the website, JTRForums.Com, they also have pages on Twitter, Facebook, and a You Tube page. They're always looking for people interested in the Whitechapel Murders and can be contacted at Howard@jtrforums.com.

The article is on Ameer Ben Ali, convicted and later exhonerated of the murder of Carrie Brown in New York City in 1891, and includes a rare photograph of Ali.


Ameer Ben Ali & an Actor's Tale.

Carry Brown
Carrie Brown

On April 24th, Nina and I decided to look into newspapers for articles in commemoration of the 129th anniversary of the murder of Carrie Brown at the East River Hotel in bowels of the Lower East Side of New York City.   There's a considerable amount of newspaper coverage of her murder during 1891 and the following years already on JTR Forums & on Casebook and the thought of finding something new was not something we were sure we'd do.  

As fate would have it, we did just that.

I came across the following article in the Buffalo Courier, containing the bold headline exclaimed that Glaswegian-born thespian, William H. Thompson, expressed his understanding that that the court interpreter for Ameer Ben Ali actually revealed to him, personally, that Ali confessed to the Brown murder. 

I haven't been able to find another article in which a confession by Ali in any form is made to the murder in Room 31 and obviously none that refute the charges made within it.  That doesn't mean one doesn't exist or that if it does it won't be found.

By the time of this article, Ameer Ben Ali had been a free man for some 6 weeks.

After locating this article, Nina was able to locate the first known or at least, first shared photo of Ameer Ben Ali after his 1902 release.

It's a shame that the photo and the accompanying article are of such inferior quality. I've never attempted to Photo Shop anything before.  However, if someone with the skills to enhance the photo decided to do just that, that would be great.

The photo & article were from the New York Evening World, April 23, 1902, page 9.



Buffalo Courier 

June 12,1902

*************


            ACTOR TELLS A STRANGE STORY

Wm. H. Thompson of the Mannering-Belew Co. Says "Frenchy" Confessed Brutal Murder Of "Old Shakespeare"

------------------------------------

"Ripper" Case Which Stirred New York

------------------------------------

Ameer Ben Ali, or "Frenchy" Convicted of the Crime on Circumstantial, Evidence.

Sent to Prison and Pardoned Two Months Ago

------------------------

    William H. Thompson, a member of the May Mannering-Belew theatrical company , which appears in this city at the Star Theater tonight, states that Ameer Ben Ali, alias, "Frenchy" who was pardoned by Gov. Odell, confessed to a cell mate, to Emilio Sultan, the court reporter, and to others that he murdered 'Old Shakespeare'(1) in an East Side hotel in New York City several years ago.  Mr. Thompson's(2) statement has created something of a stir in metropolitan police circles.

    When “Old Shakespeare's” horribly mutilated corpse was found in a cheap lodging house, the discovery created a sensation not only in New York, but throughout the country.  It was about this time that 'Jack The Ripper', was startling London by his fiendish crimes.  It was about a nightly occurrence in London for the police to find the mutilated body of one of London's unfortunate women.  A few days prior to the murder of 'Old Shakespeare', Thomas Byrnes, who was then superintendent of police in New York, was quoted in several of the newspapers to the effect that it would be impossible for anyone to emulate 'Jack The Ripper's' crimes in New York.

 MUST MAKE GOOD HIS BOAST

    Supt. Byrnes had scarcely given his interview when New York woke up one morning to be shocked by the news that an old, dissipated character, who had been nicknamed, 'Shakespeare', had been found mutilated exactly similar to the bodies in London.  At once almost the entire detective force of New York was put on the case.  Supt. Byrnes was on his mettle.  He declared that he would have the murderer of 'Old Shakespeare' behind the bars within twenty-four hours.  Several suspects were arrested, and finally 'Frenchy', who was known to be in the company of the woman a few hours before she was found dead, was taken into custody.  

    The evidence against 'Frenchy' was entirely circumstantial.  He stoutly protested his innocence.  A public cry was raised that 'Frenchy' was being persecuted in order that the reputation of the metropolitan police force might be sustained.  'Frenchy' was convicted and sentenced to State's Prison for life.  A few years ago he developed symptoms of insanity, and he was transferred to the State Asylum for the Criminally Insane at Matteawan. several efforts were made to secure him a pardon on the grounds of newly discovered evidence.  None was successful, however, until Governor Odell took an interest in the case and pardoned him about two months ago.

 HARDLY A SECRET

     "I am surprised that the story of 'Frenchy's' confession was not published long ago," said Mr. Thompson.  "I know the facts are in the possession of several men. The news of the confession could not by any means be called a secret."

    "Emilio Sultan(2), an Arab, kept cigar stores in Broadway and in 42nd Street, and it was there that I knew him.  He was the interpreter at Frenchy's trial.  Frenchy was a member of a wild ruffian tribe and he spoke more Arabic than French.

    "Sultan talked with Frenchy many times in jail.  The savage prisoner was glad to see the only man in New York with whom he could talk without restraint.  I used to drink coffee in Sultan's place and buy cigars (from) him, and he told me the story.  He said that Frenchy admitted the crime to him.

    "But his admission took a curious form.  On the night of the murder, Frenchy admitted he went to the room in which the woman's body lay.  He handled the mutilated body, he said, but would not admit killing the woman. Sultan has been dead for years.  I never regarded what he told me as a secret, for he never treated it as such."

------------------------------------------------

1- Brown, as has been pointed out in other modern articles on her, was known as 'Shakespeare' and mistakenly labeled as 'Old Shakespeare'.

2- Thompson, according to the film trade magazine, Motography, February 5, 1916, was known as the 'Dean of the American Stage'.

3- Nina Brown's research on the court interpreter :

The court interpreter’s first name was Emile, not Emelio.

Born in France in 1849

New York City Directories: Occupation: cigars

1878, 1879, 1888, 1891, 1894

1880 Census in Washington D.C. waiter at Pennsylvania Avenue hotel.

Naturalization ( U.S.) : October 17, 1877



Saturday, October 10, 2020

A Night of Debauchery.



In 1880, Mrs. Anna Hayes was the landlady of a house at 396 State Street in Chicago. The newspapers referred to it as a “house of ill-fame,” but it was not a brothel, it was a house of assignation, renting rooms to prostitutes. On Sunday, November 7, 1880, Eva Lloyd rented room 6 on the top floor; one week for $3.00. Eva did not have the money but she had a revolver worth $4.00, and Mrs. Hayes took that as security.

Saturday, October 3, 2020

The End of Mina.

 

In 1831, Cuban Exile Carolino Amalia Espos y Mina conspired with Lucretia Chapman to murder her husband. When the plot was exposed, only one conspirator was executed.

Read the full story here: The Cuban Con Artist.


Carolino Estradas de Mina, The life and confession of Carolino Estradas de Mina (Philadelphia: Robert Desilver, 1832.)

Saturday, September 26, 2020

Getting Away With Murder.

American justice is largely fair and impartial, but it is not perfect; sometimes mistakes are made. It is always disturbing when an innocent person is unjustly punished, but it is far more common for a guilty party to be set free. When the crime in question is murder, this result can be equally disturbing.

In the nineteenth century (as now) accused murderers were tried in the court of public opinion before ever entering a court of law, and sometimes the verdicts did not agree. Whether through prejudice, money and influence, legal maneuvering, or simply lack of evidence a defendant is set free when the community “knows” he is guilty. Here are a few notable defendants who, very likely, got away with murder:


Richard Robinson

Helen Jewett, a high-end New York City prostitute was murdered in her bed by an axe wielding killer. Though it was fairly clear that Helen was murdered her ex-lover Richard Robinson, the jury found him not guilty. The judged was prejudiced against the testimony of prostitutes, and it was rumored that Robinson bribed at least one juror.

Minnie Wallace Walkup

James Reeves Walkup died of arsenic poisoning less than a year after his marriage to sixteen-year-old Minnie Wallace. Minnie was tried for his murder but her charm and beauty drove witnesses to perjury and jurymen to acquittal. Her second husband died under similar circumstances.

Jimmie Malley, Walter Malley, Blanche Douglas

Jenny Cramer was almost certainly raped by Jimmie Malley then murdered by him with the help of his cousin Walter and Walter’s girlfriend Blanch Douglas. Walter’s father, Edward Malley, the richest man in New Haven, Connecticut, paid for the defense that won their acquittal.

Ned Stokes

Ned Stokes, with premeditation, shot Jim Fisk in the Grand Central Hotel. Any question of his guilt disappeared when Fisk, on his deathbed, identified Stokes as the shooter. But stokes had political connections and after three trials was found guilty of manslaughter and served only six years.

Daniel Edgar Sickles

Dan Sickles shot his wife’s lover, Phillip Barton Key, in front of eye witnesses. Sickles did not deny the murder, but his attorney argued that his wife’s infidelity had driven Sickles temporarily insane. Sickles was set free in the first successful use of the temporary insanity plea in America.

Albert J. Tirrell

Albert Tiirell was acquitted for the charge of murdering Maria Bickford on the grounds that he was sleepwalking at the time and not responsible for his actions. While the “sleepwalking defense” never caught on as a legal ploy, in 1849 it was enough to free Albert Tirrell.

Lizzie Borden

Most people today believe that Lizzie Borden killed her father and stepmother in a vicious daylight axe murder. But in 1893 there was not enough evidence to convict her, and given the same evidence, she would probably be acquitted today as well. Either way, someone got away with murdering Andrew and Abby Borden.

 

Saturday, September 19, 2020

Hauling the Supposed Remains of Goss from the Fire.

 

William Udderzook and Winfield Goss conspired to defraud four insurance companies in 1873, by putting a cadaver in Goss’s workshop, setting the building on fire, and claiming the burned corpse was Goss. The plan went awry when Udderzook, fearing Goss would spill the beans, stabbed his partner to death.

Read the full story here: He Knew Too Much.



The Udderzook mystery! (Philadelphia: Barclay & Co, 1873.)

Saturday, September 12, 2020

Horrible Murder in Twelfth Street.


Mrs. Sarah Shancks owned a high-end millenary concern—“a fancy thread and needle store”—at 22 East 12th Street.  At around 10:00 AM, the morning of December 7, 1860, Susan Ferguson, who worked as a seamstress for Mrs. Shanks, entered the store but could not find her employer. She went to the back room where Mrs. Shanks resided and found her lying on the floor in a pool of blood. Her throat had been slashed, and she was surrounded by broken glass and crockery. Susan ran out of the store to alert the police.

The police and coroner examined the crime scene and determined that Mrs. Shanks was probably killed by a blow to the head that fractured her skull. Her face had been battered, her nose broken, and on the left side of her face, a deep gash ran from the cheek to the jaw. Her throat had probably been slashed after death and the cut, from ear to ear, was so deep she was nearly decapitated. Investigators found several possible weapons nearby, a small fire shovel bent and covered with blood, an axe head without a handle, and a kitchen knife. Around the body were shattered fragments of a heavy stone water pitcher and shards of glass from broken bottles. 


Marks on the linen where the killer had wiped his hands were so saturated with blood that he must have cut his hands in the attack. The box where Mrs. Shancks kept her money had been emptied of all but a single nickel; the box was covered with blood.

Mrs. Shancks had been a widow for nearly twenty years and until recently, she had a companion living in the store with her. In the days before the murder, she had been ill and incapacitated, and neighbors were cooking meals for her. Elizabeth McMann, daughter of a neighbor, brought her breakfast at around 8:20 and was the last person to see Mrs. Shancks alive.

At one point, the store had been quite lucrative, and Mrs. Shancks had been well off, but she had lost much of her money on bad investments. She had also been swindled by someone to whom she was engaged to be married. “The lady bears an unblemished reputation,” said the New York Tribune, “but seems to have lent a too willing ear to obsequious flatteries.”

She was engaged to be married at the time of the murder, to a Mr. Chambers. Chambers was briefly a person of interest in the investigation, as was Charles Hardy, a dealer who sold Mrs. Shancks’s embroidery, and an unnamed young carpenter who had done work on the store and continued to hang around to the annoyance of Mrs. Shancks. The police determined that robbery was the sole motive, and they had no clear suspects.

On December 11, a young man named Alfred Buchanan was arrested in the town of Susquehanna, about 300 miles west of New York City. Buchanan had gone to stay with Theodore Springstein, brother of a friend. Springstein welcomed Buchanan into his house but could not help but notice a bandage on the man’s hand covering bloody wounds. That, together with the young man’s agitated appearance, aroused Springstein’s suspicions, and he took the information the Justice of the Peace. 

Buchanan was arrested, and Captain Caffrey of the New York Police traveled to Susquehanna to bring him back. In the city, Buchanan was identified as the “young carpenter” who had been bothering Mrs. Shancks. 

At first, Buchanan denied any knowledge of Mrs. Shancks or her murder. He subsequently admitted he knew her but denied that he killed her, saying his hand was wounded in a fight at a Bowery saloon. A man there had called him a son of a bitch and during the brawl that followed Buchanan drew a knife cutting his hand. Buchanan was unable to give he man’s name or the name of the saloon.

The city police force was criticized in print for allowing the murder of such a violent crime to flee the city. The New York Tribune asserted that Buchanan’s arrest was entirely due to newspaper coverage. The New York Atlas claimed that the police were indifferent to murder cases unless a reward was involved. “The escape was a disgrace to the detective police force in this city,” said the Atlas, “and shows beyond question that that branch of our police department is worse than useless.”

19-year-old Alfred Buchanan was tall and slim with a sinister expression on a face that resembled a bulldog’s. He had a long history of mental illness, having been subject to fits for several years. He behaved erratically, and as symptoms of insanity increased, his parents arranged to have him committed to the Lunatic Asylum on Blackwell’s Island. After about four months at the asylum he was pronounced cured and released. Following his return, he was arrested several times for petty theft and arson.

Alfred Buchanan was indicted for the murder of Sarah Shanck, and he pled not guilty. Before he could be tried, Buchanan was examined by a jury who pronounced him insane. He was committed to a state lunatic asylum.



Sources:

“The Appalling Murder in Twelfth Street,” Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper, December 22, 1860.
“Arrest of the Murderer of Mrs,” Albany Evening Journal, December 11, 1860.
“Court of Oyer and Terminer,” New York Herald, December 23, 1860.
“Horrible Murder in Twelfth Street,” New York Herald, December 8, 1860.
“Murder in New York,” Boston Post, December 10, 1860.
“Mysterious Murder a Woman Butchered in Broad-Day No Clue to the Murderer,” New York Tribune, December 8, 1860.
“News Article,” Herald, December 13, 1860.
“News Article,” World, January 28, 1861.
“The Tewlfth Street Murder,” New-York Atlas, December 16, 1860.
“The Twelfth Street Murder,” New York Herald, December 12, 1860.
“The Twelfth Street Tragedy,” New York Herald, December 11, 1860.
“The Twelfth Street Tragedy,” New York Herald, December 14, 1860.

Saturday, September 5, 2020

The Bitter Fruit of a Jest.

Elvira Houghton, a dressmaker in Southbridge, Massachusetts, hired a carriage and driver to take her to her mother’s funeral in the summer of 1847. The driver, 27-year-old Milton Streeter, was instantly infatuated with Elvira. They had a pleasant conversation and when they returned to Southbridge Milton asked if he could see her again and Elvira said yes.

Also 27-years-old, Elvira feared she was approaching “that delicate and dreaded period, when, having out-maidened all her early associates, she would remain alone a withered remnant of the past.” Her fear may have clouded her judgment; After a whirlwind courtship of one month, she and Milton Streeter were married.

Saturday, August 22, 2020

Scene of the Murder of Mansfield Tracy Walworth.



On June 3, 1873, Frank Walworth shot and killed his father, Mansfield Walworth, in his father's room at the Sturtevant House in New York City.

Read the full story here: The Walworth Patricide.

Source:
“The Walworth Parricide,” Daily Graphic, June 27, 1873.

The Assassination of Corlis.

Charles G. Corlis kept a bowling saloon on Broadway between Leonard and Franklin Streets in New York City. On the evening of March 20, 1843, several bowlers saw a woman wearing a veil and a straw hat, enter the saloon. They saw her leave the place with Henry Colton, owner of the Colton House hotel, a few doors away on Leonard Street. Sometime later, witnesses saw Charles Corlis talking with the unidentified woman in the doorway of the Colton House.

Around 7:00 a pistol shot rang out on Leonard Street. Witnesses saw someone running from the scene—maybe a man, maybe a woman, maybe a man dressed as a woman. Lying on the ground in front of the Colton House was Charles Corlis, with a bullet wound in the back of his head. Next to him lay a five-barrel pistol with one shot fired. Corlis was carried into the hotel where he died about three hours later.

Saturday, August 15, 2020

The Baldwinsville Homicide.

The discovery of a body in the Seneca River, decomposed beyond recognition, left the town of Baldwinsville with a nearly unsolvable mystery. But the clues unraveled to revealed a dastardly plot against an honest man by a craven murderer and his hapless cohort.

Saturday, August 8, 2020

Utterly Unprovoked Shooting.


John Dilleber was a wealthy 28-year-old wholesale liquor dealer who lived and worked in New York City. In June 1975, he divorced his wife, left his home, and took up residence at the Westminster Hotel on 16th Street. 

It was Dilleber’s habit, after dinner, to wander the halls of the hotel while smoking a cigar. Romaine Dillon, another of the Westminster Hotel’s outcast residents, was much annoyed by Dilleber’s evening rambles and angrily told him so on several occasions. Dilleber ignored his complaints.

Romaine Dillon had lived in the hotel for three years and considered it his home; he could not tolerate this upstart, thinking that he could do whatever he wanted there. It was not the first time Dillon had trouble with his neighbors. Prior to living in the Westminster Hotel, he lived at the Brevoort Hotel, where he quarreled with the other boarders on the most absurd pretexts, creating such fear that the managers threw him out. He continued this behavior at the Westminster, where most tenants learned to avoid him.

Dillon was an independently wealthy bachelor, about 50 years old with gray hair and a full beard. Those who knew him considered eccentric but not irrational. Friends and relatives interviewed by the Daily Graphic described a man who was judgmental, intolerant, and mean-spirited:
He was one of those “nervous” people who go into a rage when they see a too gaudy pair of trousers or a glove drawn half way on the hand. He rated travelers in the streetcars for the way in which they sat; would shoot a man for a false pronunciation and jump through a window into a drawing-room with no other motive than to frighten ladies. 
Around 8:00, the evening of December 31, 1875, Dillon confronted John Dilleber and told him to get out of the hotel corridor. A brief argument followed, ending suddenly when Dillon drew a pistol and shot Dilleber in the left side. Two witnesses present helped the wounded man into his room; Dillon retreated into his own room.

Two police officers were in the neighborhood investigating a burglary. They hurried into the hotel and were shown to Dillon’s room where they asked him for the pistol.

“I don’t know anything about a pistol,” Dillon said, “I haven’t got any.”

A quick search of the room turned up a wooden case containing a brace of derringers. One had recently been fired.

Two doctors were summoned to examine Dilleber’s wound, and the hotel manager notified his relatives. The doctors made Dilleber as comfortable as possible, but his condition deteriorated through the night. Around 3:00 a.m., it was clear that Dilleber would die, and the coroner ordered Dillon to be brought before the dying man for identification. They brought Dillon into the room, and Dilleber made his ante-mortem statement:
My name is John R. Dilleber; I expect to die; I have no hopes off recovery; I was shot, I don’t know by whom; we had a few words; he tried to drive me out of the hall; I don’t know the name of the person who shot me; he was howling at me on Sunday; I do not know what he meant; we had a few angry words on that occasion; I thought he insulted me; he insulted me on this night by ordering me out of the hall using insulting language; I don’t remember the words; I answered that language, but I don’t remember in what way; I said I had as good a right in that hall as he had, or something like that; the first I then knew was that he shot me; I think the name of the man who shot me was Davlin or Dillon, and identify this man (Romaine Dillon) as the man who shot me.
Following the statement, Dilleber calmly dictated his will. Three hours later, surrounded by his brother, his ex-wife, and his two children, John Dilleber died.

Romaine Dillon was charged with first-degree murder, and Governor Tilden appointed a medical commission to determine whether he was sane enough stand trial. In most respects, Dillon was perfectly rational and “discussed difficult subjects with the ease and accuracy of a scholar,” but he suffered from a monomania, which led him to believe “that a number of persons were banded together to do him injury.” Without hesitation, Dr. Kitchen, of Blackwell’s Island, pronounced Dillon insane, and he was committed to the insane asylum in Auburn, New York.

Sources:
“Attempted Murder of a Merchant,” New York Tribune, January 1, 1876.
“The Criminal Record,” Hartford Daily Courant, January 3, 1876.
“Dillon Taken to Auburn,” Herald, June 23, 1876.
“He Was Crazy,” The Morning Herald, March 31, 1876.
“The Murder Of Dilleber,” Daily Albany Argus, January 3, 1876.
“The Murder of Mr. Dilleber,” The New York Times, January 23, 1876.
“The Murder of Mr. John Dilleber,” Daily Graphic, January 4, 1876.
“Terrible Murder,” The Findlay Jeffersonian, January 14, 1876.
“The Utterly Unprovoked Shooting,” Herald, January 2, 1876.

Saturday, August 1, 2020

The Death-Sentence Pronounced on Edward S. Stokes.

On January 6, 1873, Edward Stokes was sentenced to hang for the murder of financier and railroad magnate James Fisk. Stokes was well-connected politically and he awaited his appeal in a comfortably furnished cell in the Tombs with meals catered by Delmonicos.

Stokes was granted a new trial, was convicted of manslaughter and senteneced to six years in Sing Sing prison.

Read the full story here: Jubilee Jim.

Source:
“The Stokes Trial and Sentence,” Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper, January 25, 1873.

Saturday, July 25, 2020

Reverend Green, Wife-Poisoner.

Reverend George W. Long arrived in Western New York in the Fall of 1864, presenting himself a Methodist minister from the south. He appeared to be in good standing, with credentials from several Southern and Western conferences so the presiding elder of the district stationed him at the Methodist church in Centerville. 

Long had a very agreeable personality and had soon gained the confidence of his congregation. Before long he met and married a young woman named Frances Doolittle in a nearby town and brought her to Centerville.

All seemed well except that the meager salary of a minister was not enough to meet Long’s needs. He began to borrow money from the brethren at the church. They were happy to lend him money until it became apparent that he had borrowed more than he could pay back. He told his creditors not to worry, he had money invested in Dunkirk, Ohio and would go there and withdraw some. He borrowed some more to cover his expenses then left for Dunkirk.

After he had been gone for some time he sent word back to Centerville that he had met a claim agent who offered to purchase some land he owned in Texas and had to go to New York City to conclude the transaction. From there he planned to go to Pittsburgh then return home. That was the last letter anyone in Centerville received from Reverend Long.

More than two years later, a Connecticut police detective arrived in Centerville, tracking a man named William Green. The detective was carrying a picture of Green which the Methodist congregation recognized as their own Reverend Long. They were forced to admit that they had been swindled.

When he left Centerville Reverend Long had not gone to Dunkirk, Ohio, he went to Utica, New York where he registered at the Northern Hotel as William H. Green. There, as Reverend Green, he preached sermons and made political speeches, and as Professor Green he delivered temperance lectures.

Though, as Reverend Long, he still had a wife in Centerville, on December 20, 1866, Green married a widow named Searles in Guilford, New York and moved with her to West Cornwall, Connecticut. There he claimed to be from Texas and became active in local politics and gave lectures on political affairs.

The following spring, Mrs. Green’s health began to fail; she was diagnosed with a pulmonary difficulty. On May 6, shortly after tea, she was taken with violent convulsions which continued intermittently until her death at about 12 o’clock. The physician called to attend her remarked on the unusual manner of her death, he could not explain it but suspected foul play.

Mrs. Green was buried four days later and her husband remained in town for about a month then suddenly moved to Utica. A week later he married an Irish girl who worked as a chambermaid at his Utica hotel. 

Suspicions were aroused in West Cornwall when it was learned that Reverend Green’s sudden departure was prompted by improper proposals he had made to a married lady in that town. They also found it suspect that a Methodist minister was married by a Catholic priest five weeks after the death of his wife. The body of Mrs. Green was disinterred, and her organs examined by Professor Baker of New Haven. He detected strychnine in her stomach and liver and concluded that Mrs. Green had been poisoned.

William Green was arrested in Utica and brought back to West Cornwall where he was examined by Justice Gold prior to being bound over for trial by the Superior Court. During an intermission in the examination, Green was sent to the Litchfield jail from which he escaped by jumping from a window. He was recaptured when he was found hiding in a barn where he had attempted to cut his own throat.

Before his trial, Green was confident that he could explain his position and the final determination of the jury would clear him. But his behavior in prison did not reflect this confidence, he made two unsuccessful attempts to take his own life. At the trial the evidence against William Green aka George Long was overwhelming and he was convicted of first-degree murder.

Originally posted June 23, 2018.


Sources:

“By Telegraph,” Columbian Register, November 16, 1867.
“A Clerical Wife-Poisoner and Chevalier d'lndustrie,” National Police Gazette, September 21, 1867.
“Green the Wife-Poisoner,” Norwich Aurora, November 20, 1867.
“Rev. W. H. Green, the Wife Poisoner,” National Police Gazette, November 16, 1867.

Saturday, July 18, 2020

Scenes from the Twichell/Hill Murder.


George Twitchell beat his mother-in-Law, Mary Hill, to death with a poker then threw her body out an upstairs window of her Philadelphia home in November 1868.

Read the full story here: Thrown Out the Window.                                           

Source:
“The Philadelphia Murder,” Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper, December 12, 1868.

Saturday, July 11, 2020

Tragedy at Vineland.

On the morning of March 19, 1875, Charles K. Landis entered the office of the Vineland Independent and demanded to see the paper’s editor and publisher, Uri Carruth. When Carruth entered the room, Landis approached him, waving a newspaper clipping.

“Mr. Carruth, did you write that?” Landis shouted.

“I did, and I will do it again,” said Carruth.

“Will you promise not to attack my wife in future?”

“No.”

“Defend yourself then,” said Landis drawing a revolver. 

He chased Carruth into the composing room of the newspaper, and there shot him in the head. 

“I’ve killed him! I’ve killed him! I was obliged to do it. I killed him in the cause of God and humanity!” said Landis as he surrendered himself to the deputy sheriff.

The offending article seems frivolous on its face:
A prominent Vinelander sat down by the side of his loving wife on the sofa, and looked up in her eyes, and called her a duck and a birdie and rabbit, and all the other endearing names. Then he told her he wanted she should learn the use of a revolver, so that in his absence, she could protect their home and silver-ware and defend the honor of Vineland.
Then he went off and bought an elegant seven-shooter and a nice target.
Then he set up the target in one end of the parlor, and gave her a first lesson shooting. Then he told her he wanted she should practice every day. Then he went away for a week. When he returned he found the revolver on the other side of  the looking-glass; the parlor door resembled a bad case of small-pox, and the furniture looked as though it bad been indulging in a wrestle with a Burlington county hail storm. Did he walk up to his wife, and sicken her with the endearing names of all the birds and four-footed beasts? Not much! he marched out into the street in his shirt sleeves; with but one boot on and that patched over the big toe. 
Then he went galloping up and down, telling every man he met, confidentially, that his wife was crazy. Then he went off and tried to get her into a private Insane Asylum: yes he did, the wretch!
Though neither Landis nor his wife was mentioned by name, everyone in Vineland knew who the article referred to. Landis and Carruth had a long-standing feud, and the Independent had been attacking Landis and his family for years. This was the last straw.

Charles Landis was an attorney and land speculator who, in 1861, purchased 50,000 acres of New Jersey wilderness, and there founded the town of Vineland. Persuasive advertising  in America and Europe induced people to settle in the new town, but property deeds included many harsh conditions, most notably a prohibition on the sale of intoxicating liquors. Violation of any of the burdensome restrictions could result in forfeiture of the property; landowners were hardly more than tenants of Landis. 

Despite the restrictions, Vineland grew quickly and by 1875 had a population of 15,000. But as the population increased, so did discontent in Vineland. In 1868, the Vineland Independent began publishing with the goal of telling the truth about life in Vineland and “discouraging careless investment by poor people in the poor lands.” From the beginning, the Independent was in conflict with Charles Landis, but the real trouble began in 1870 when Uri Carruth purchased the newspaper.

Uri Carruth, 50 years old in 1875, was an attorney with publishing experience in Michigan who was known to be a vindictive and combative man. Attacks on Landis in the Independent went beyond criticizing his policies and were meant to humiliate Landis and his family. “He was neither witty nor humorous, nor sarcastic, nor bitter,” said the Massachusetts Spy of Carruth, “but coarsely and stupidly impertinent, telling in his paper silly, pointless stories of Landis and his family.”

In 1869, Landis had eloped with the daughter of Commodore Meade of the US Navy. Mrs. Landis had “a very excitable nature” and had spent some time in an insane asylum. The mental problems of Mrs. Landis were well known in Vineland, and she was often the butt of Carruth’s attempts at humor. Mrs. Landis found these articles so distressing that her husband worked to keep the Independent out of their house. Despite his precautions, copies of these articles were thrust under the door or thrown into windows; Mrs. Landis would read them and become dangerously violent, remaining “insane” for a week at a time.

At the time of the offending article in 1875, Mrs. Landis was pregnant, and her doctor said that her reason would be permanently overthrown if the excitement were not removed. Charles Landis viewed Carruth’s article as an attack on his wife’s health and wellbeing. According to Landis’s public statement, he became so distraught that he put a pistol to his head and pulled the trigger. When the gun missed fire, he realized he was shooting the wrong man; he took his better pistol, an English revolver, and went to see Carruth.

The shot did not kill Carruth. Though doctors continued to probe his skull looking for the bullet, it appeared that Carruth would recover and could live with the ball still in his head. Landis was released from jail on $50,000 bail and was trying to arrange a financial settlement with Carruth to drop the charges against him. He offered Carruth $5,000 and 380 acres of land, which Carruth indignantly refused.

For the next four months, Carruth seemed to be improving physically, but his finances were in shambles. Friends said he and Landis had agreed to a settlement of $12,000 in cash and securities and were waiting for Landis’s signature when Carruth took a turn for the worse and died on October 24. Landis was rearrested and charged with first-degree murder.

At his trial the following January, Landis gave a three-point defense: 1. He was insane when he shot Carruth; 2. Carruth’s death was not caused by the bullet but by unskilled treatment; 3. Carruth’s provocation was such to reduce the offense to manslaughter. Evidence of insanity was slim, witnesses testified to Landis’s excited and nervous demeanor. To the second point, an autopsy showed the bullet had become completely encysted and had not caused Carruth’s death. The immediate cause of death had been an abscess in the brain caused by physicians probing his head in the wrong area looking for the bullet. Landis’s attorneys were confident of victory and did not seriously address the third point.

The jury acquitted Charles Landis of murder, and the community remained divided over whether the verdict was just. Some saw it as an example of unequal justice, where a rich man could get away with murder. Most, however, agreed with Forney’s Weekly Press:  "Mr. Carruth's effort to be 'spicy,' unbacked by ability to be anything more than grossly indecorous, brought him to his death—and the verdict of popular opinion already registered is 'served him right.'"

Saturday, July 4, 2020

The School-girl Murder.

Mamie Kelly
Fourteen-year-old Mamie Kelly of San Francisco, had a crush on the boy next door, nineteen-year-old Aleck Goldenson. Though Aleck was the kind of boy who appeals to teenaged girls—an artist and a bit of a hoodlum—her family had no use for him at all. In spite of this, Mamie took every opportunity be near him. Aleck first enjoyed her attention, then tolerated it, then actively tried to put a stop to it. He ended their relationship for good one day in November 1886, when he met Mamie on the street and shot her in the face.

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Scene of the Murder of Mabel H. Young.


On Sunday, May 23, 1875, Thomas W. Piper, sexton of the Warren Avenue Baptist Church in Boston, lured 5-year-old Mabel Young to the church belfry on the pretext of looking at pigeons. There he crushed her skull with a cricket bat. Piper was captured after he was seen leaping from the belfry. In custody he confessed to a series of murders and violent sexual assaults.

Read the full story here: The Boston Belfry Tragedy.



Source:
“The Belfrey Tragedy -- Scene of the Murder pf Mabel H. Young,” Daily Graphic, May 27, 1875.


Saturday, June 20, 2020

The Bessie Little Mystery.

A swimmer in the Miami River outside of Dayton, Ohio, discovered the body of a young woman floating in the water on September 3, 1896. The coroner found nothing to indicate violence; the cause of death was believed to be suicide and the unidentified body was hastily buried.

When he heard of the body in the river, Dayton Police Chief Thomas Farrell believed he knew who she was, and he had reason to believe that she had been murdered. Farrell had the woman’s body disinterred and soon after she was identified as 23-year-old Bessie Little by her adopted parents and by her dentist who kept detailed records of his patients’ teeth. The coroner still could not determine the cause of death and the body was reburied.

Her parents said they did not report Bessie missing because she had left home several weeks earlier to look for work; she was living in a Dayton boarding house run by Mrs. Freese. The full story was, the Little’s had kicked Bessie out of their house when they learned she had been intimate with her boyfriend 20-year-old Albert Frantz. They told her not to return unless he agreed to marry her. 

Mrs. Freese verified that Bessie had been staying at her boarding house and that Albert Frantz had been paying her weekly rent. She said that the last time she saw Bessie was on August 27, when Bessie told her she was going for a buggy ride with Frantz. The following day Frantz came to the house asking for Bessie and Mrs. Freese told Franz she never came after seeing him. Frantz said she was mistaken about the buggy ride; he had not seen Bessie the night before. He then paid Bessie’s next week’s rent in advance.

Bessie Little and Albert Frantz were from different economic backgrounds. As a baby, Bessie had been an orphan at the Miami County Children’s Home; Peter Little and his wife adopted her when she was two-years-old. But the Little’s adopted parents were poor and as soon as she was old enough they put Bessie to work as a domestic servant. Albert Frantz worked as a stenographer for the Mathias Planing Mill Co. He came from a wealthy family; the youngest of five children he was spoiled by his parents and siblings. Those who knew Frantz well described him as “cruel and cunning” but Bessie was infatuated by him.

Shortly before her death, Bessie consulted a physician and some believed that she had been pregnant or had even undergone an abortion. In any case, her parents knew enough about her relations with Frantz to bar her from the house until she either broke them off or married him. Among her belongings, police found an unmailed letter addressed to the father of Albert Frantz, begging him to force a marriage. It had been easy for Frantz to seduce Bessie but he had no intention of marrying her.

Frantz maintained that he had not been with Bessie on the night of her disappearance but Chief Farrell did not believe him and kept Frantz in custody pending the outcome of the coroner’s investigation. Farrell had been able to identify the body because he knew Bessie Little had been thrown in the river even before the body was found. Frantz, with a relative, had gone to see Rev. Teeter for advice, telling him that Bessie had killed herself and he had thrown her body into the river. He wanted to know how the law would view the situation, so Rev. Teeter referred him to Judge J.W. Kreitzer. They attempted to keep the matter secret, but the story leaked out. Judge Kreitzer, acting as Frantz legal counsel would not confirm or deny the story, but Chief Farrell heard it and when the body was discovered in the Miami River, Farrell knew who it was.

Farrell was convinced that Albert Frantz murdered Bessie Little, but Frantz still denied seeing Bessie that night and there was no evidence to directly link him to her death. Then on September 5, someone found a freshly dried pool of blood along with two decorative combs identified as belonging to Bessie, on the Stillwater Bridge about half a mile from the spot where the body was found. There were also buggy tire tracks believed to be connected to the blood.

This was enough to justify digging up the body once more. This time the coroner’s close examination discovered two gunshot wounds in the right ear and although the bullets had been shattered by bone, enough lead was recovered for two 32-caliber bullets. The head was then severed from the body and preserved in a jar; the body was reburied. 

Ferrell went to the home of Albert Frantz to try to compare his buggy’s tires to the prints left on the bridge, only to find that the Frantz’s stable had burned down the day after Bessie was last seen. The horse was killed and the buggy completely destroyed.

Frantz now changed his story. He and Bessie had been riding in his buggy and Bessie had been somewhat despondent. When he wasn’t looking, she drew a revolver and shot herself. Panicked and afraid the story would not be believed, he threw Bessie’s body off the bridge. The obvious flaw in this story was that two shots were fired into her head. The post-mortem examination showed two entry wounds and people living near the bridge recalled hearing cries of “Murder!” that night, followed by two gunshots.  

The revolver was still missing, and Chief Farrell was determined to find it. Believing that it had been thrown off the bridge along with the body, he mounted an all-out search of the river below. He obtained twelve powerful magnets, weighing three pounds each, and using two rowboats, dragged them along the bottom of the river trying to attract the gun. When this failed he hired Ben Graham, a professional diver who agreed to work for expenses. A.E. Pate, a champion swimmer also volunteered his services. 

While the river search proved fruitless, Farrell learned that Frantz had purchased a revolver at Dodd’s gun shop in Dayton three weeks before Bessie disappeared. He also learned that while courting Bessie Frantz was also engaged to another woman. With this possible motive, the prosecutors felt they had enough circumstantial evidence to try Albert Frantz for the murder of Bessie Little.

More than a hundred witnesses testified at the trial which began on December 14, 1896. Frantz still maintained that Bessie had shot herself. The prosecution brought out Bessie’s severed head to show the jurors the two entry wounds. Several physicians testified as to the possibility that Bessie had shot herself twice in the head. The defense’s doctors saying it was possible, the prosecution’s saying it was not. The defense did not claim that Frantz had been temporarily insane, but just in case, the prosecution had six doctors examine Frantz and testify that he was perfectly sane. 

Though the evidence was circumstantial it was enough for the jury to convict Albert Frantz of first-degree murder and he was sentenced to death. On November 19, 1897, after all possible appeals failed, Albert Frantz became the fourth man to die in Ohio’s electric chair. He professed his innocence to the end.

Originally posted on June 2, 2018.

Sources:

“A Bullet in Her Head,” Philadelphia Inquirer, September 6, 1896.
“The Death Penalty,” The Dayton Herald, November 19, 1897.
“Devil's Deed,” Kentucky Post, September 7, 1896.
“Frantz's Fight For His Life,” Kentucky Post, December 14, 1896.
“Frantz's Revolver,” The Dayton Herald, December 18, 1896.
“Franz has Another Story,” Plain Dealer, September 11, 1896.
“His Love For Another ,” Kentucky Post, September 10, 1896.
“Is it Murder?,” Kentucky Post, September 5, 1896.
“Located,” Kentucky Post, September 12, 1896.
“Murder or Suicide?,” National Police Gazette, January 16, 1897, 6.
“One Link,” Kentucky Post, September 5, 1896.
“Sentenced Frantz,” Aberdeen Daily News, January 27, 1897.
“She Was Murdered,” Plain Dealer, September 6, 1896.
“Two Stories Of A Crime,” Plain Dealer, December 17, 1896.
“A Woman's Death,” Cleveland Leader, September 4, 1896

Saturday, June 13, 2020

The Bridgeport Tragedy.

Ellen Lucas of Bridgeport, Connecticut, was to be married on October 3, 1874. The typically happy 18-year-old was somewhat anxious, the evening of October 2, repeatedly looking at the clock as she hastily ate supper. Ellen changed her clothes and left the house at 7:00, telling her mother that she would not be gone long. Mrs. Lucas watched her daughter walk to the corner where she met her fiancĂ©, James E. Lattin. 

Ellen never came home that night, and early the next morning, her family and friends began a search for her. The search ended when two workmen found her body, face down in a stream in a secluded spot called The Cedars, near Berkshire Pond in Northern Bridgeport.

At first, suicide was suspected, but the water in the stream was only a few inches deep, and Ellen had shown no signs of depression and had been enthusiastically preparing for her wedding. A hasty postmortem examination verified that she had not drowned, and the only mark of violence on the body was a small bruise on her forehead. The doctors also discovered that Ellen had been six months pregnant. Foul play was suspected, and James Lattin became the prime suspect.

26-year-old James Lattin was a tall and good-looking butcher’s clerk with a terrible reputation in Bridgeport. He had been married once before when he was nineteen and his bride fifteen. The marriage lasted three months, and the wife filed for divorce. He was convicted of theft and had served a term in the New Haven Jail. He became engaged once again to a young woman who died mysteriously shortly before their wedding day. A gruesome story told by several people in Bridgeport said that Lattin had, at least once, cut the paws off a dog and dipped the stumps in turpentine to see the dog squirm and hear him howl.

Ellen’s parents had objected to the marriage, but Ellen was deeply in love with Lattin. It was likely that her parents knew of Ellen’s pregnancy, and despite their opposition, they hastened the wedding day.

Investigators learned that Lattin had purchased poison from a Bridgeport druggist on September 29. They found strychnine in an old shoe in the stable where Lattin kept his horse. With this new information, the police exhumed Ellen’s body and gave the stomach to a chemist for analysis, but he found no traces of poison. The stomach did contain grains of sand and vegetable matter consistent with the stream where her body was found. 

Lattin said that he had not been with Ellen that night but had been on board the schooner Josephine which was captained by his cousin. His alibi did not hold. At the inquest, a Miss Bassett testified to seeing him with Ellen earlier that evening near the train depot and heard Ellen say to say, “Now, you’ll be there, won’t you? If you are not there, you know what the consequences will be.” 
At 7:00 he was seen going toward Ellen’s house, at 8:30 he was seen alone in Bridgeport by Ellen’s two sisters. A crewmember of the Josephine testified that Lattin had slept on the schooner but had not come aboard until late that night.

A woman named Mattie Smith testified at the inquest that Lattin had asked her if she knew of any medicine to produce abortion; he did not want to marry, because he had some other girl he was paying attention to. He said he was engaged to a girl who was with child, and he wanted to get rid of it.

Though the cause of death was still unknown, the coroner’s jury ruled that Ellen Lucas had died by violence at the hands of James E. Lattin.


The murder generated great excitement in Bridgeport, and it was reported that the murder scene was visited by hundreds of people daily. When the trial began on February 23, crowds gathered early at the courthouse. By 10:00, the courtroom, as well as halls and stairways, were packed with spectators. The sheriff barred the front door with two long ladders to prevent any more from entering and detailed two extra police officers to maintain order in the hallways.

Believing that a fair jury trial in Bridgeport was impossible, Lattin’s attorneys took advantage of a statute recently adopted in Connecticut and elected to be tried by two judges instead of a jury.

The trial heard by Judges Beardsley and Sanford went on for two weeks. After the final arguments, the judges deliberated and returned a verdict of second-degree murder. Judge Sanford explained their reasoning in great detail. While the judges were satisfied that Lattin killed Ellen Lucas, the circumstantial evidence did not meet the standard of proof required for first-degree murder. They sentenced James E. Lattin to State Prison for the term of his natural life.

The Samford Advocate summarized the crime this way:
“The details of this diabolical crime place Lattin in the light of a merciless brute who, feigning love (a commodity of which his soul is incapable) to this unfortunate girl, gained her confidence, and having accomplished his unholy purposes, enticed her, in the midst of her trials, to an out-of-the-way ravine, and deliberately took her life—committing a double murder.”


Sources:

“The Bridgeport Mystery,” Herald, October 11, 1874.
“The Bridgeport Tragedy,” Hartford Daily Courant, October 7, 1874.
“The Bridgeport Tragedy,” New-York daily tribune, October 14, 1874.
“The Bridgeport Tragedy,” Hartford Daily Courant, October 16, 1874.
“The Bridgeport Tragedy,” Daily Graphic, October 28, 1874.
“Coroer's Verdict,” Alexandria Gazette, October 10, 1874.
“The Ellen Lucas Murder,” Herald, February 24, 1875.
“A Girl Murdered on the Eve of her Marriage,” Providence Evening Press, February 24, 1875.
“The Lattin Verdict,” Bridgeport Standard, March 9, 1875.
“Lattin, the Bridgeport Murderer,” Waterbury Daily American, November 12, 1874.
“The Murder of Miss Ellen Lucas at Bridgeport, Connecticut,” Daily Graphic, November 20, 1874.
“Murder or Suicide,” Commercial Advertiser, October 5, 1874.
“A Mysterious Murder,” Daily Inter Ocean, October 17, 1874.
“News Article,” Stamford Advocate, October 23, 1874.
“News Article,” Waterbury Daily American, October 29, 1874.
“News Article,” Stamford Advocate, November 20, 1874.
“Probable Murder,” Columbian Register, October 10, 1874.
“A Sad Story,” Cincinnati Daily Enquirer, February 27, 1875.
“Trial of Jakes E. Lattin,” Bridgeport Standard, February 23, 1875.
“Trial of James E. Lattin,” Bridgeport Standard, March 5, 1875.

Saturday, June 6, 2020

The Execution of Emil Lowenstein.


Emil Lowenstein was a barber in Brooklyn, NY who had persuaded his neighbor, John Weston, a one-armed Civil War veteran, to withdraw his life savings and travel upstate with him. The body of John Weston was found in a ravine in Watervliet, NY, soon after Lowenstein returned to Brooklyn, flush with cash.

Lowenstein denied being in Watervliet with Weston and professed innocence to the end. Nevertheless, he was found guilty of first-degree murder and on April 10, 1874, the sheriff cut the rope to drop the counterweight and launch Emil Lowenstein into eternity.

Read the full story here: The Brooklyn Barber.


Source:
“Scenes at the Execution of Emil Lowenstein,” Daily Graphic, April 11, 1874.