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.

2 comments :

Unknown says:
June 23, 2020 at 9:06 PM

The Samford Advocate summarized the crime this way:

“The details of this diabolical crime place Lattin in the light of a merciless brute who... deliberately took her life—committing a double murder.”

At one time in the USA, the child in the womb was granted rights to Life... killing it was murder.

May God Almighty have mercy on us.

Unknown says:
July 1, 2020 at 12:31 AM

Post your backwards-ass thinking on Facebook with the other loons

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