Saturday, November 27, 2021

A Red Path of Jealousy.


Martha Place, driven by jealousy, strangled her stepdaughter.

Read the full story here: The Brooklyn Murderess.

Saturday, November 20, 2021

A Boy Murderer.

11-year-old John Wesley Elkins (who went by Wesley) got out of bed around 2 a.m. on July 24, 1889, went outside the family’s Iowa farmhouse, and down to the road to make sure no one coming. On his way back to the house he stopped at the corncrib a picked up a club—a heavy piece of a wooden flail—and brought it back to his bedroom. Wesley took down an old muzzle-loading rifle that was hanging on the kitchen wall, loaded the rifle, then went into the room where his father, stepmother, and infant half-sister were sleeping. He put the barrel of the gun near his father’s head and pulled the trigger. Knowing he did not have time to reload the rifle, Wesley went back for the club. Then as his stepmother was leaning over his father, trying to understand what had happened, he beat her to death.

Wesley took the infant, splattered with blood, out of the room, and cleaned and dressed her. Then he hitched up the buggy and started for his grandfather’s house, stopping on the way to tell the neighbors that an assassin had murdered his parents; he took the baby and they fled for their lives.
The neighbor went to the Elkins’s house where they found the bodies of 45-year-old Mr. Elkins and his 25-year-old wife. Mr. Elkin’s head had been blown to pieces, and Mrs. Elkin’s head was beaten to a jelly. They sent for the police who were immediately skeptical of Wesley’s story.

Wesley Elkins, around the time of the murder
Under questioning in Mason City, Iowa, Wesley quickly broke down and told the police the whole story. His reasons, however, did not seem to fit the severity of the crime. Wesley had been unhappy at having to care for his half-sister so often and wanted to set out on his own.  He had run away from home several times but each time was brought back. He thought his only way out was killing his parents. Wesley was slight of stature—four feet eight inches tall, weighing 73 pounds—and had never caused trouble. He was intelligent and well-spoken as he calmly told his story. Some believed Wesley incapable of such a deed and thought he was covering for someone else.

John Wesley Elkins was indicted for first-degree murder. At his trial the following January,
Wesley Elkins, after his release.
Wesley pleaded guilty and told his story once again. Judge Hoyt sentenced him to life at hard labor in Anamosa State Penitentiary.

Wesley was believed to be the youngest person to date to be sent to prison in America, and his life sentenced prompted heated arguments. Some felt that no 11-year-old boy belonged in prison regardless of the crime, others felt that Wesley should be sent to the gallows.

Wesley Elkins used his time wisely while at Anamosa. He worked at the prison library and at the chapel and became proficient with the written and spoken word. In 1902, twelve years into Wesley’s sentence, after bitter debate Governor Cummins issued him parole papers. Wesley left the prison a free man.

Following his release, Wesley led a full life. He first settled in St. Paul, Minnesota where he worked on the railroad. Then in 1922, he married a Hawaiian woman in Honolulu. Eventually, he became a farmer in San Bernardino, California, where he resided until his death in 1961.

Originally posted April 30, 2016.

"A Boy Murderer." Evening Star 27 Jul 1889.
"A Brilliant Beginning." National Police Gazette 9 Nov 1889.
"A Young Fiends' Confession.." New York Herald 20 Oct 1889.
"Double Murder by a Boy." New York Herald 27 Jul 1889.
"Murdered his Father and Mother." Daily Illinois State Register 27 Jul 1889.
Anamosa State Penitentiary: The Strange Case of Wesley Elkins.
"To Prison For Life." Kalamazoo Gazette 23 Jan 1890.
"Wesley Elkins." Wheeling Register 13 Jan 1890.

Saturday, November 13, 2021

Most Horrible Crime of the Age!

 William Bachmann was last seen alive at a brewery owned by Charles Marlow and Marlow was quickly arrested for Bachmann’s murder. But prosecuting Marlow would prove difficult because there were no eyewitnesses to the crime, there was no identifiable body, and Marlow’s mother-in-law, under oath, had already confessed to the murder.

Read the full story here: The Marlow Murder.

Saturday, November 6, 2021

Hamilton Y. Jones, Detective.

In September 1886, a railroad depot opened outside of Marshall, Illinois, where the Cairo, Vincennes & Chicago line crossed the Vandalia Line. The station agent and operator was George Powers, a popular young man from Marshall. On September 12, Powers was working all night, and three of his friends decided to spend the night with him. They changed their minds, and when the midnight CV&C train stopped, they boarded and returned to Marshall. Powers sat down at the telegraph operator’s table and began writing a letter to his mother.

At 8:00 the next morning, George Powers’s dead body was found lying under the table with a bullet wound in the side of his head. A hole in the window near the table indicates that the shot was fired from outside. The murderer then broke out a back window, sash and all, and entered the room. Powers was still alive, and a fearful struggle ensued. His hands were covered with mud as if he had caught hold of the killer’s boots. The killer then beat Powers’s brains out with a club.

The killer rifled through Powers’s trunk and turned his pockets inside out, but the only thing taken was his pocket watch. The description of the stolen watch was remarkably detailed: a silver open-face watch, No. 14,122, with case No. 15,399, Hoyt movement, key winder. That day, $1,000 was raised to prosecute the search for the killer.

The killer or killers were believed to have been among a group of tramps seen around Marshall that week. Their identity remained unknown until September 14, when someone from Marshall recognized them in St. Louis. William. Lyons, alias Kerr, John J. Schanner, William Staab, and William Gagon were arrested on suspicion but later released.

The early afternoon of October 26, Chief of Police Phillips of Springfield, Illinois, received the following dispatch:

Lincoln, Ill., October 26 – Arrest a man, smooth face, black overcoat, black stiff hat, low heavy set. Wanted for murder. On freight due at 2:30 this p.m.


Though the police did not know who Jones was, they arrested the described man as he descended from a boxcar. The man said his name was Martin Cratty, and among his effects were letters and papers addressed to that name. One letter, signed Kittie O’Brien, was suspicious. It spoke of a scheme and said Cratty had been recommended as one who could do the work and keep it secret. 

When the 3:50 passenger train arrived from the north, the police learned the identity of Mr. Jones, and they were none too happy. It was Hamilton Y. Jones, a self-styled detective that they knew well. “He is a notoriously hard character,” said the Daily Illinois State Journal, “and is as familiar with the walls of our county jails as he is with a drink of whiskey, and that is putting it pretty strong.” 

Jones produced a warrant for the arrest of A.C. Kerr and stated that Martin Cratty was an alias. He was wanted for the murder of George Powers in Marshall. Jones claimed that Cratty had pawned Powers’s watch in Lincoln the previous day. Cratty claimed he had purchased the watch from a jeweler in Bloomington and had the dealer’s certificate at home. Jones said he had been working the case for over a month and had captured the killer. From the State Journal again, “Hamilton, however, is a liar of proportions that Baron Munchausen never dreamed of and is a man whom the police regard as a sneak thief and petty crook of the worst stripe.” The police tended to believe Cratty’s story, but to be on the safe side, they held him in jail.

Jones left but planned to return on October 30 to take charge of the prisoner and return to Marshall. In the meantime, the police recovered the pawned watch and found it was not Powers’s—it had a Millan movement, not a Hoyt movement, and neither of the numbers matched. Cratty’s stepfather arrived in Springfield with a statement from Cratty’s employer proving he was in Bloomington at the time of the murder. 

Hamilton Jones returned to Springfield on October 30, and as soon as he entered the police station, he was arrested for the false imprisonment of Martin Cratty. Cratty was released, and Jones occupied his old cell.

When his investigations began, Hamilton Jones convinced authorities in Marshall that he was on the right track. They furnished him with $15 cash, a pair of handcuffs, and a good revolver. From time to time during his travels, Jones telegraphed for more money which Marshall provided. On November 12, Jones was arrested in Marshall for securing money under false pretense.

On December 15, Hamilton Y. Jones was arrested again in Springfield on an unrelated matter. He was charged with impersonating a United States Post Office Inspector and stealing mail. This time he would serve a term in the penitentiary.

The murder of George Powers remained unsolved.

“'A Dungeon Cell'", Daily Illinois State Register, October 30, 1886.
“Arrested for the Powers Murder,” Chicago Daily News, October 27, 1886.
“Deeds of Blood,” Juneau County Argus, September 23, 1886.
“A Foul Murder,” Daily Illinois State Journal, September 14, 1886.
“Hamilton Y Jones' Vagaries,” Daily Inter Ocean, December 16, 1886.
“Illinois,” Indianapolis Journal, November 11, 1886.
“Martin Cratty,” Daily Illinois State Register, October 29, 1886.
“Minor Mention,” Daily Illinois State Register, November 12, 1886.
“A Mysterious Murder,” National Police Gazette, October 2, 1886.
“News Article,” Daily Illinois State Journal, October 28, 1886.
“A Rough Experience,” Daily Illinois State Journal, October 27, 1886.
“See Saw, See Saw,” Daily Illinois State Journal, October 30, 1886.