Saturday, September 23, 2023

Political Protection.

William Farrell, Patrick Muldoon, and “Tonce” Joy played cards in Muldoon’s Cincinnati saloon on November 30, 1896. They were secretly colluding to cheat a fourth man. After skinning their victim, Joy’s job was to steer him away, but when he returned for his share, his partners wouldn’t pay. A fight ensued, a pistol fired, and “Tonce” Joy stagged out of Muldoon’s saloon to die. Farrell and Muldoon were politically connected, and after their arrests, a policeman named James Welton came forward with another story. He claimed that Joy, drunk and abusive, grabbed his revolver during a scuffle, and it accidentally fired. Regardless of which account was true, the DA did not have enough evidence to prosecute anyone.

Read the full story here: Who Shot "Tonce" Joy?

Saturday, September 16, 2023

The Modern Cain and Abel.

Read the full story here: Cain and Abel.

Saturday, September 9, 2023

Harry and Elizabeth.

Elizabeth Beecher married Henry King Jr. (known as Harry) in October 1886. Harry wanted to keep the marriage a secret from his father, a wealthy Chicago clothing wholesaler, so they lived under assumed names. The marriage was not a happy one, and the couple often fought. They separated for a while but could not stand to be apart. When Henry Sr. learned of the marriage, he offered Elizabeth $1,500 to give up all claims upon his son. Though her attorney advised her to take the money, Elizabeth stayed with Harry in Chicago.

In 1888, Harry moved to Omaha, promising to send Elizabeth money and bring her along when he was settled in business. The money stopped coming, so Elizabeth followed him to Omaha, only to learn he had married another woman. She and Henry spoke briefly in the parlor of the Paxton Hotel, then, as he turned to walk away, Elizabeth shot him four times in the back. Public sympathy was on Elizabeth’s side, and when the case went to trial, the jury deliberated for only thirty-five minutes before finding her not guilty.

Read the full story here: "I Have Shot my Husband."

Saturday, September 2, 2023

The Groton Tragedy.

Joseph Crue returned from work to his farm in Groton, near Ayer, Massachusetts, about 8:00 on the evening ofvening of January 18, 1880. He was surprised to find all the doors locked and curtains closed. His wife, Maria, should have been inside, but there was no response when he knocked on the door. He found the hatchway to the cellar partly opened, so he entered that way. He lit a lamp in the kitchen and searched the dark house for his wife. He found her lying dead in the bedroom, shot three times in the face and once in the chest.

He ran to his neighbor, who notified the police. The Deputy-Sheriff arrived with officers who attempted to trace the murderer. A tramp in the vicinity that afternoon stopped at the house of the Crues’ neighbors, the Bradleys,  and at several other places asking for water. Under the pretense of buying a farm, he inquired about the Crue place. A young man named Henry Hewin called at Crues’ at about 2:15 on an errand, and Mrs. Crue told him she had a caller who wanted to buy their farm. Around 3:00, Miss Jennie Carr called and found the door locked and the curtains closed. A strange man came to the door, and when she inquired about Mrs. Crue, he told her she had gone to town. 

The Medical Examiner performed an autopsy and found that the pistol shots to her face had been fired so close as to burn her eyebrows and skin. His examination determined that Maria Crue had been raped. She was still wearing a thimble on her finger, so she must have been sewing when attacked. The Examiner would later conclude that she was shot first, then her body dragged to the bedroom where she was raped after death.

Suspicion fell on Stearns Kentall Abbott, who had been applying for a job at a nearby woodworking shop. The previous November, Abbott was released from New Hampshire State Prison, where he had been serving time for larceny. He had also served time for robbery and forgery in Massachusetts and Connecticut. Abbott had been boarding in Cambridge and hastily departed, leaving behind a hat and a pair of shoes. Detective Jones of Cambridge and Inspector Richardson of Boston arrived in Ayer with photographs of six or seven “noted rogues,” including Stearns Abbott. The Bradleys both identified Abbott as the man they had seen that afternoon, and Mrs. Bradley recognized the Abbott’s hat. Jennie Carr and Henry Hewin also picked out Abbott from the photographs.

The community was understandably outraged by the murder, and the Ayer Police commenced a manhunt for Stearns Abbott. The Selectmen of Ayer offered a reward of $300 for the arrest and conviction of the guilty party and put Detective Hill of the Salem Police in charge of the case. They sent Abbott’s photograph to police departments throughout New England. Ayer Chief of Police, Samuel Reed, commenced his own investigation, though the town had not given him any authority in the case. 

On January 28, a man named Charles Ford Chamberlin stopped at the farm of B. F. Cilley of East Weare, New Hampshire, looking for work. Cilley told him he could stay the night, but he was suspicious of the stranger. Abbott’s photograph was posted at the depot, and viewing it convinced Cilley that the man who came to his house was the fugitive. He telegraphed Ayer, and Chief Reed, accompanied by officers from Manchester, New Hampshire, arrived in East Weare the following day. A large crowd was waiting at the station in Ayer when Reed returned with his prisoner on January 30. At the preliminary proceedings in Ayer, Abbott pled not guilty; afterward, the authorities took him to jail in Lowell. 

The fact that Reed was not officially acting for Groton or Ayer, raised the question of who will pay his expenses and who will be liable for the $300 reward that the East Weare farmer expected. Not everyone was happy with Reed’s methods, and some were suspicious of his motives. There were bad feelings toward him extending back to his tenure as deputy under the former High Sheriff when Reed was an unpopular and inefficient officer. Adverse opinions of Chief Reed were said to drive a growing sympathy for Stearns Abbott. A newspaper editor and a prominent minister set up a subscription fund to hire ex-District Attorney George Stevens for Abbott’s defense.

The courtroom was “packed to suffocation” when Abbott’s trial began in Cambridge in December 1880. The defense offered evidence of another man at the Crue residence that day. They also tried to introduce testimony that Mrs. Crue’s reputation had been bad when she lived in Lexington and that she and her husband had been fighting prior to the murder. The judge disallowed it. Many considered the evidence against Abbott to be thin and circumstantial, but despite able representation by Attorney Stevens, the jury found Abbott guilty of first-degree murder after deliberating less than two hours.

Stearns Abbott was sentenced to hang on April 22. His attorney filed an exception on the gounds of the excluded testimony but Abbott was not granted a new trial. By that time, public opinion was strong against the verdict.  A great body of pettioners, headed by abolitionist and civil rights activist, Wendell Phillips, called for a commutation of the sentence. The Governor granted Abbott a respite until June 3, 1881 for further study of the case. Before signing the death warrant, Governor Long sat with Abbott in his cell for three hours, trying to reach the truth of the crime. Then, three days before the scheduled hanging, he commuted Abbott’s sentence to life in prison.

In 1895, after serving fourteen years of his sentence, Abbott petitioned the Governor for a pardon. His request was denied. Finally, in 1911, after thirty years in prison, the Governor pardoned Stearns Abbott, and on April 27, Abbot left Charlestown State Prison a free man. He never wavered in his assertion of innocence.

“Abbott Arrested,” Boston Post, January 31, 1880.
“Abbott Convicted,” The Boston Globe, December 19, 1880.
“Arrested,” Fall River Daily Evening News, January 30, 1880.
“The Ayer Murder,” The Boston Globe, December 18, 1880.
“Commuted,” The Philadelphia Inquirer, June 1, 1881.
“Criminal,” Boston Post, December 20, 1880.
“For his Life,” The Boston Globe, December 12, 1880.
“The Groton Murder,” Boston Evening Transcript, January 22, 1880.
“The Groton Murder,” The Boston Globe, February 6, 1880.
“The Groton Tragedy,” Boston Post, January 23, 1880.
“Is He Innocent?,” Illustrated Police News, July 6, 1895.
“The Murder at Groton,” The Boston Globe, January 23, 1880.
“New England News,” Boston Evening Transcirpt, February 5, 1880.
“News Article,” Daily Kennebec journal. [microfilm reel], April 19, 1881.
“No Pardons Today,” The Boston Globe, November 28, 1895.
“On Trial for Murder,” Weekly Easteen Argus, December 16, 1880.
“Ravished and Murdered,” Chicago daily tribune., January 19, 1880.
“S. K. Abbott,” The Boston Globe, January 31, 1880.
“Saved From the Gallows By Prayer,” Boston Morning Journal, April 28, 1911.
“Stearns K. Abbott,” The Fall River Daily Herald, January 23, 1880.
“Telegraph Brevities,” The Evansville Journal, January 31, 1880.

Saturday, August 26, 2023

Morbid and Melancholy.

Cora Marston.

On September 1, 1865, Dr. Carlos Marston, his wife Susannah, and their adopted daughter Cora were found shot to death in their bedrooms. Susannah Marston was said to have a “morbid and melancholy disposition” and suffered for years with depression. Her behavior was increasingly erratic and on that morning she snapped. Susannah drugged her husband and Cora with chloroform then shot them both. She then lay down beside Carlos and shot herself.

Read the full story here: The Dedham Tragedy.

Saturday, August 19, 2023

A Courtroom Melee.

In November 1889, Henry Miller, of Brownsburg, Virginia, went to the home of Dr. Zachariah Walker to pick up a prescription. The doctor was not available, so his wife Bettie prepared the medicine. While alone with Bettie Walker, Miller could not control himself. He tried to kiss her, “offering other indignities which were repulsed." When Dr Walker learned of this he grabbed his shotgun intending to kill Henry Miller on sight. But before Walker could act Miller brought charges against him.

Both families were prominent and well respected but on the day of the hearing neither showed any sign of civility. As tensions mounted, the full courtroom erupted into a general melee. Guns and knives were drawn and by the end of the battle Zachariah Walker, Bettie Walker and Henry Miller were all dead, and three others were seriously wounded.

Read the full story here: Disorder in Court.

Saturday, August 12, 2023

Bartholomew Burke's Murder.

On July 18, 1856, the naked body of Bartholomew Burke was found on the floor of the New York tailor shop where he worked. His skull was fractured, and his throat slashed; the floor and walls were covered with blood. Despite a large reward offered for information, the police found no motive for the murder and no suspects to arrest. Bartholomew Burke’s murder remains one of the city’s great unsolved crimes.

Read the full story here: Horrible and Mysterious Murder.

Saturday, August 5, 2023

A Youthful Patricide.

16-year-old Herbert Warren woke to the sound of his parents fighting at 2 a.m. on June 13, 1890. His father, J. Frank Warren, was frequently out of town, traveling for the Oswego Wagon Company, but he was abusive and often violent toward his wife when he was home. Herbert looked forward to the domestic peace of his father’s long absences.

Yesterday had been strange; Frank told the family he would be gone for ten days but returned the same night. He handed his wife a letter he had written to her. It was tender and remorseful, promising that Frank would change his ways. The bickering and quarreling between his parents had gone on throughout Herbert’s life. The fights were loud and very public; the family moved several times to protect their reputation before settling in Elmira, New York. Mrs. Warren thanked Frank for his new-found kindness and promised to do whatever she could to make their household happy.

They talked for hours, but by 2:00, they were fighting again. Their problems stemmed from Frank’s philandering, and he could not fix them that easily. Mrs. Warren knew that Frank stayed with other women during his long absences. She found love letters sent to Frank by other women, and when she confronted him, he turned violent.

Herbert had a cheap 32-caliber revolver. When he heard his father threatening his mother that morning, he grabbed it and ran into their room. As his father raised his fist to strike his mother, Herbert fired a shot into his chest. Frank died almost immediately. Herbert gave himself up quietly to the police.

The trial of Herbert Warren for the murder of Frank Warren began the following December. The most compelling testimony came from Mrs. Warren, who testified in a slow and stilted voice and wavered as if on the verge of fainting. She related years of violence from her husband, whom The New York World characterized as “sanctimonious, perfidious, hypocritical, and abusive.” During spells of mad anger, he would choke and beat her. He threatened to kill her and their son.

The proceedings in court were extremely contentious, and the judge had to warn the attorneys against clashes of personality. One sarcastic remark by the defense attorney cost him $50 for contempt of court.

But generally, the judge was sympathetic to the defense. In his instructions to the jury, he said he did not believe the charge of first-degree murder was appropriate in this case. When they returned a verdict of not guilty, the judge made no move to suppress the cheering that erupted in the courtroom. He praised the jury for their judgment.

“"Not Guilty.",” The San Francisco Examiner, January 4, 1891.
“About a Simple Matter,” Nashville Banner, June 13, 1890.
“Bonds That Gall,” The Fort Scott Weekly Tribune, January 29, 1891.
“A Boy on Trial for Murdering His Father,” sun., December 30, 1890.
“Fined One of the Counsel,” sun., January 4, 1891.
“Herbert Warren Acquitted,” sun., January 4, 1891.
“KIlled His Father,” The evening world, June 13, 1890.
“A Mother's Sacrifice,” evening world., January 3, 1891.
“Shot Dead by His Son ,” Philadelphia Inquirer, June 14, 1890.
“Shot His Father to Help His Mother,” New York Herald, June 14, 1890.
“A Youthful Patriccide,” The Holyoke Daily Transcrip, June 13, 1890.

Saturday, July 29, 2023

Anna Wheeler's Killer.

18-year-old Mildred Brewster left her parents' farm to make her own way in Montpelier, Vermont. She met and fell in love with a young man in her boarding house who seduced Mildred but did not return her affections. When Mildred learned that he was engaged to Annie Wheeler, she bought a revolver to take her rival's life as well as her own. She succeeded in killing Annie Wheeler but failed her suicide attempt. At her trial for premeditated murder, Mildred pled insanity.

Read the full story here: Insane Jealousy

Saturday, July 22, 2023

"With My Knife I Cut Her Throat."

Jesse Pomeroy was 14 years old in 1874 when he stabbed and killed 10-year-old Katie Curran in South Boston. Less than a month later he stabbed and mutilated 4-year-old Horace Millen. Prior to the murders, Jesse had been sentenced to the reformatory for torturing and sexually abusing several other children but was released on probation. After conviction for murder, Jesse Pomeroy would spend his next 53 years in prison.

Read the full story here: Jesse Pomeroy - "Boston Boy Fiend." 

Saturday, July 15, 2023

A Rejected Suitor.

Dr. Samuel Johnson was a successful physician in Borrah, Connecticut, a quiet little town not far from Norwich. In 1872, the Johnson family was well known and respected in Borrah. Around 1860, a man named William Erving was hired by Dr. Johnson, and boarded in his home. Erving was a good worker and they treated him as one of the family.

Erving’s only flaw was that he was quick to anger and would act out of passion. This was a problem when Erving became infatuated with Dr. Johnson’s daughter, Jane, a highly educated and refined young lady. He repeatedly asked her to marry him and each time she told him, in no uncertain terms, that she was not interested. The family, too, discouraged any notion of a courtship between Erving and Jane. Each rejection increased Erving’s anger.

On February 5, 1872, a peddler stopped by the Johnson home to display his wares. He spoke with Jane, and before he left, he gave her a small brush broom as a gift. 

This enraged Erving who remarked to Jane, “You treat even a peddler better than you treat me.”

He appeared moody and sulky that morning. About 10:30, after Dr. Johnson had left for his office, Erving went into the sitting room where Jane lay on a sofa talking with her mother. He came within eight feet of Jane, raised a shotgun and fired both barrels into her head. Mrs. Johnson jumped up and Erving hit her in the head with the butt of the shotgun so hard that she later died as a result of the wound. A servant girl ran from the house and gave the alarm, screaming “murder.”

Erving was gone when neighbors arrived and saw the bloody scene. They thought he had run to Norwich. But when they went upstairs, they found Jane’s room locked. They broke the door open and found Erving lying on Jane’s bed. His throat was cut from ear to ear and a razor was tightly clutched in his hand. 

“At Large,” Chicago Evening Post, February 6, 1872.
“Love, Murder and Suicide at Borrah, Conn.,” Illustrated Police News, February 15, 1872.
“Murder and Suicide,” Burlington Free Press, February 6, 1872.
“Terrible Tragedy,” Bangor Daily Whig and Courier, February 6, 1872.

Saturday, July 8, 2023

A Murderer Murdered.

Charles Jefferds shot and killed his stepfather John Walton, in New York City, the night of June 30, 1860. He also killed John Mathews, who chased him after Walton’s murder. Jefferds was acquitted of killing Walton due to lack of evidence. 

Jefferds later bragged that his mother paid him to murder Walton. He correctly assumed he could not be retried for Walton’s murder, but Jefferds forgot he had also killed Mathews. His confession to Walton’s murder provided enough evidence to convict him of Mathew's murder.

Charles Jefferds was sentenced to hang. But as he awaited execution, Jefferds made some enemies in Sing Sing Prison, and one of them, who had been chopping wood in the prison yard, turned his axe on Jefferds and killed him.

Read the full story here: The Walton-Matthews Tragedy.

Saturday, July 1, 2023

The Schoonmaker Tragedy.

Harry and Edith Schoonmaker of Brooklyn, New York, appeared to have a perfect marriage in 1888. Henry D. (Harry) Schoonmaker was from a prominent Brooklyn political family. He had a substantial job as a salesman for a gas fitting company and had recently received a pay raise. The couple had a 14-month-old son.

“No more happy and loving couple could be found,” said Harry’s father, Col. John B. Schoonmaker, “So far as I knew, they never had a quarrel, and all was love and happiness.”

But in December 1888, Harry began acting strangely. His parents noticed he was irritable, and his talk was flighty. Others said he was “…alternately excited and depressed as if he was addicted to the use of opium or some other drug.” 

On December 24, his family received a telegram from Harry:

Mama and Henry, Come down as soon as possible. If you find doors locked, force the front parlor door. Harry

Disabled with rheumatism, Col. Schoonmaker was unable to go, so he sent his wife and her brother, Henry Van Winkle, to Harry and Edith’s flat. They found the young couple lying in bed, tightly clasped in each other’s arms and covered with blood. Edith had two gunshot wounds to the head and one to the abdomen. Harry was dead with a bullet in his temple. Edith, unconscious but still alive, was taken to the Long Island College Hospital.

Within a day, the image of the happy, loving marriage began to tarnish. Harry was deeply in debt and constantly worrying about finances. Edith was often jealous of her athletic young husband. The previous week, they took a weekend off without the baby and stayed at Romain’s Commercial Hotel in Asbury Park, New Jersey. Other guests at the hotel overheard their loud arguments. 

After supper one night, Harry put on his hat and coat to go out. 

“Stay with me,” his wife was heard to ask.

“Can’t do it, my pet,” he answered.

He went out, and when he returned, he went to the billiard room for several hours rather than returning to his wife. She stayed up waiting for him and was overheard reproaching him when he came in. After breakfast the next morning, the proprietor overheard another loud altercation. 

At one point, she screamed, “Don’t, Harry; for God’s sake, don’t.”

The animosity continued when they returned home, climaxing on December 24. It was clearly a case of murder and suicide, but because the couple was found in a loving embrace, some believed it was a suicide pact, and they had decided to leave the world together. Most, however, agreed with Police Capt. Campbell, who was convinced that Harry did the deed while insane, without her knowledge. 

The story would have ended here, but on December 26, a 19-year-old woman named Mamie Wood went to the hospital to see Edith Schoonmaker. Harry had known Mamie for about three years, and the two were intimate before he married. Mamie had moved to Newburg, New York but had recently returned to Brooklyn. She reconnected with Harry, and he found her a job in the building where he worked.

Edith Schoonmaker was only semi-conscious at the hospital, so Mamie told her story to Edith’s sister. She said that she accompanied Harry to Asbury Park. Though he registered as Mr. Schoonmaker and wife, Mamie was the woman with him. 

“We went at once to our room.” She said, “What ensued is too terrible to tell. I resisted the best I could, whereupon he produced a pistol and said that he had about made up his mind to kill the both of us.

“‘For God’s sake, don’t, Harry.’ I screamed.

“Then he laughed, and while he kept me closely embraced, he removed two cartridges from the revolver right in front of my face and said:

“‘One of them is for you. The other for me.’

“After that, I let him do as he pleased. I became as cheerful as possible so as to divert his mind from the subject of murder, but during that entire night, I suffered horror untold.”

Harry would not let her leave the room the following day because he feared someone would see he was not with his wife. That night was a repetition of the one before.

On the way back to Brooklyn, he constantly talked about committing suicide. He told her he was burdened with debt and saw no hope of pulling out.

“Whatever my fate may be,” he concluded, “I want you to meet the same.”

They corresponded by mail, and Harry asked her to meet him on Monday on the Brooklyn Bridge. While waiting for him on the bridge, Mamie learned of the murder and suicide. 

Edith Schoonmaker died on December 26. Mamie Wood disappeared, leaving everything behind except some jewelry Harry had given her. Her relatives feared she had committed suicide.

Mamie arrived in Newburg on December 27. She had taken a steamer and, during the voyage, suffered from convulsions. Mamie admitted she had taken arsenic. But when diagnosed, physicians determined she suffered from hysteria due to nervous exhaustion. She thought she had purchased rat poison at a Brooklyn drugstore, but the druggist suspected her suicidal intentions and substituted Fuller’s earth, a non-toxic substance, for the rat poison.

When the Newburg Police took charge of her, Mamie was holding a packet of letters, including one addressed to her mother. She intended it as her suicide note, and in the letter she said:

“I am not crazy, neither was poor Harry. Tonight, one week ago, I laid eyes on him for the last time. I made a promise to him, for you do not know the harm done me. Still I love him dead as alive. He asked me to share his fate, which I wish had been done to me at the same time as he, and spared his suffering wife.”

“Brooklyn's Strange Case,” New York Herald, December 28, 1888.
“Gay Young Schoonmaker,” Sun., December 27, 1888.
“Has She Killed Herself,” Evening world., December 27, 1888.
“His Folly,” National Police Gazette, January 12, 1889, 7.
“Mamie Wood Still Alive,” Evening capital., December 29, 1888.
“Mamie Wood Takes Rat Poison,” Sun., December 28, 1888.
“Mamie Wood's Secret,” New York Herald, December 29, 1888.
“The Schoonmaker Tragedy,” evening world., December 25, 1888.
“Shocking Tragedies,” Boston Daily Journal, December 24, 1888.
“Shot His Wife And Himself A Suicide And Probable Murder,” New-York Tribune., December 24, 1888.
“Solv ed,” evening world., December 26, 1888.
“Young Schoonmaker's Crime,” New-York Tribune., December 25, 1888.

Saturday, June 24, 2023

A Mafia Murder?


In 1896, Salvatore Serrio was killed in a shootout at the Brooklyn saloon of Joseph Catanazaro. The police arrested several Italian men allegedly involved in the melee. Throughout the summer, the police and newspapers referred to the case as a Mafia vendetta. Saloonkeeper Catanazaro and other prominent members of Brooklyn’s Italian community vehemently denied the existence of any such organization as the Mafia.

Read the full story here: Italian Vendetta.

Saturday, June 17, 2023

A Convenient Murder.

Amos J. Stillwell, a wealthy and prominent businessman in Hannibal, Missouri, was 65 years old in 1889. His wife, Fannie, was 30 years younger. On December 29, 1889, someone crept into their bedroom and murdered Amos with an axe while Fannie lay sleeping in a separate bed with their children.

Dr. Joseph C. Hearne, who lived nearby, had been treating Fannie since before the murder. He and Fannie were married the following December. After a long investigation, the police arrested both for Amos’s murder. Neither was convicted.

Read the full story here: The Stillwell Murder.

Saturday, June 10, 2023

The Murder of Uri Carruth.


Charles Landis and Uri Carruth had been feuding for years. Landis founded the town of Vineland in 1861. It was a teetotaling community built on 50,000 acres of New Jersey wilderness which Landis owned. Carruth, the publisher of the Vineland Independent, was critical of Vineland’s policies and printed articles to humiliate Landis. In 1875, Carruth went too far when a story he published offended Landis’s pregnant wife. Charles Landis went to Carruth’s office with a revolver and shot the publisher. Though it took Carruth four months to die, Landis was charged with his murder.

Read the full story here: Tragedy at Vineland.

Saturday, June 3, 2023

Escape from the Death-House.

The death-house of Sing Sing Prison, on the Hudson River in New York State, was a separate building attached to the south end of the main prison. It housed up to eight condemned men in 8’x10’ cells along the south wall in groups of four separated by a corridor. The cells were 8 feet high with iron bars on the front and brick partitions between the cells and on the top, with space between the top of the cell and the roof of the building.

At the south end of the corridor was a lean-to building called the death-cell, which housed the electric chair. Sing Sing installed the electric chair in 1891, and on July 7 of that year, four condemned murderers were electrocuted. The chair sat idle for nearly two years, but in April 1893, the death-house had five inmates awaiting execution— Carlyle W. Harris, John L. Osmond, Michael Geoghegan, Frank Rohle, and Thomas Pallister.

Saturday, May 27, 2023

With a Butcher’s Keen Blade.

The night of April 30, 1892, Policeman McGrath of the Prince Street Station, New York City, heard cries of pain coming from Grand Street, two blocks away from where he was patrolling. He ran to the source of the screams and found a man unconscious on the ground in a pool of blood and another bleeding man walking around as if in a daze. The policeman saw a third man throw a knife into a butcher shop and take off down the street. McGrath ran after him and subdued the man after a brief struggle and arrested him.

Saturday, May 20, 2023

Murderer Quickly Caught.

In 1892, Frank Paulsen was a 55-year-old retired carpenter living off his Union Army pension. He lived alone in a rented room on Hester Street, New York City. Paulsen was a man of frugal habits, leading some to believe he had a large sum of money hidden in his room.

The night of September 29, 1892, Paulson’s landlord, William S. Byrnes, saw a man enter Paulsen’s room. Twenty minutes later, he heard a door slam. Then, he and his wife saw a man run out of the house. Byrnes went to Paulsen’s room and found him sitting in a chair with his skull crushed. Paulsen had at least eight deep gashes in his head—blows from an axe.

Saturday, May 13, 2023

Annie Harman and Ephraim Snyder.


Annie Harman (sometimes spelled "Herman") of York County, Pennsylvania attended a singing party in December 1878. The next morning her body was found by the side of the road, her skull was crushed, her jaw was broken, her face was badly cut and bruised, and she was shot through the eye. The prime suspect was Ephriam Snyder who allegedly seduced Annie and refused to marry her. But the facts did not match the narrative and the evidence against Snyder was purely circumstantial.

Read the full story here: The Snyder-Harman Murder.

Saturday, May 6, 2023

The Moody-Tolliver Feud.

I am pleased to introduce this week’s guest blogger, Bob Moody, author of The Terror of Indiana: Brent Jones & The Moody-Tolliver Feud. Bob is the great-great-grandnephew of Tom Moody, who was murdered during the Moody-Tolliver Feud.  He is a retired radio personality, programmer, and corporate VP.  Bob served on the board of directors of both the Country Music Association and the Academy of Country Music.  He was inducted into the Country Radio Hall of Fame in 2007.  Bob and his wife, Karen, live in Jeffersontown, Kentucky.

The second edition of The Terror of Indiana: Bent Jones & The Moody-Tolliver Feud is available at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

For more information:



Date:  March 2, 1875

Location:  Orleans, Indiana

Victim:  Thomas Moody

Cause:  Shotgun blasts with poisoned buckshot

Accused:  Alonzo “Bent” Jones; Lee Jones; Parks Toliver; Tom Toliver; Eli Lowry

In 1868 the Moody and Toliver families owned adjoining farms in Lawrence County, Indiana, just north of the Orange County line.  William Toliver (some family members and most newspapers preferred “Tolliver”) was the father of thirteen children, three of whom were living at home when his wife died that year at the age of 53.  The Moody farmhouse was shared by four elderly bachelor brothers and their 51-year-old never-married sister, Mary Ann, known as “Polly.”  The Toliver family was shocked when William unexpectedly married Polly and put her in charge of his household.  Matters got considerably worse when he was killed in a wagon accident eighteen months later.  William Toliver did not leave a will, meaning that Polly – who quickly moved back in with her brothers to avoid the hostility— was entitled to at least one-third of his property.

At the subsequent estate sale one of the Toliver boys shouted, “The black-hearted sons-of-bitches have stolen more than they ever brought here!”  That resulted in a brawl, with Tom Moody being attacked and seriously injured by four Toliver sons and son-in-law Alonzo “Bent” Jones.  Each of the assailants was at least twenty years younger than their victim.  This led to a series of lawsuits that only increased the anger as the Moodys prevailed in court and annexed sixty acres of the Toliver family farm.

Shortly after midnight on Sunday morning, June 25, 1871, as the family was sleeping, the Moody farmhouse was firebombed with jugs of burning benzine.  A group of unknown assassins surrounded the house and fired at those attempting to escape the flames.  Polly suffered severe burns and a hired man was seriously wounded.  Tom Moody was climbing a fence to run for help when he was hit with a load of buckshot.  The next day’s edition of the New Albany Ledger called it a “Dastardly Attempt to Assassinate a Whole Family.”  The attack generated headlines across the U.S. and Great Britain, including a front-page story in the New York Times.  It was reported that there was “no possible chance” that Tom would survive his gunshot wounds – but he did.

The Moody family hired private detectives to find those guilty of the attempted murders and there were more trials and hearings that served only to build frustration on both sides.  Meanwhile, the Moody brothers and Polly sensibly relocated to a two-story house in nearby Orleans.  It was claimed that they rarely left home after dark and turned their dwelling into a virtual fortress.  After more than three years of threats but no additional violence, Tom Moody decided to participate in a card game at a shop in the Orleans business district on the night of March 2, 1875.  After walking home, he stopped to open the gate and someone hiding behind a hedge across the street shot him in the back with both barrels of a double-barreled shotgun.  After hours of excruciating pain, he died the next morning.

The Moody family offered a $3000 reward, while the Indiana governor and local officials added another $1600, resulting in a bounty amounting to a total of more than $125,000 in 1923 dollars.  That enticed additional self-styled private detectives to arrive in the area.  Local citizens were outraged and there were rumors that they might call upon the euphemistic “Judge Lynch.”    

The following year a grand jury indicted five men for the murder of Thomas Moody.  They were: Toliver son-in-law Bent Jones, his younger brother Lee (also married to a Toliver daughter), a young employee of Bent’s woodworking factory named Eli Lowry, local pharmacist Parks Toliver, and his younger brother, self-described “sporting man” Tom Toliver.  Lowry, the only member of that group not related to the Toliver family by blood or marriage, initially tried to escape but soon realized that he had been selected as the “fall guy” and confessed with the hope of a lighter sentence.  He provided explicit details about the plot, including the allegation that Parks had pre-soaked the buckshot used in the murder weapon in a poisonous solution.  According to Lowry’s testimony, Lee Jones had fired the fatal shots (in the company of Parks Toliver), while he, Bent Jones, and Tom Toliver waited outside of town.  When the two killers returned Bent asked if they were sure Tom Moody had been killed.  Parks replied, “Yes, he hollered willfully.”  Eli also implicated some Toliver family members and friends in the 1871 firebomb attack on the Moody farmhouse.  Lowry was spared the death penalty for his cooperation but was sentenced to life at the Indiana State Prison South in Jeffersonville. 

While the remaining prisoners were confined in a common cell in the Orange County jail in Paoli, an apparent lynch mob held the sheriff at gunpoint at midnight and took control of the jail.  As the mob approached the cell, the prisoners fired out at them from behind bars with a pistol smuggled to them by friends of the well-connected Bent Jones, dispersing the crowd.  That episode resulted in a change of venue to Bloomington, where the murder trials began in 1877.  The press reported that nearly five hundred people had been subpoenaed to testify and rooms were so difficult to find that some potential witnesses were provided free accommodations in the Monroe County jail.  It was an event characterized by elaborate Gilded Age legal orations, with some closing statements reportedly exceeding eight continuous hours.  Daily trial updates appeared in major newspapers across the nation.

Bent Jones and his brother, Lee, were quickly convicted of murder in separate trials and were both sentenced to life terms at the Indiana State Prison South, where Eli Lowry was already an inmate.  Parks and Tom Toliver were tried jointly in Bloomington the following year, but the jury was deadlocked, and the judge declared a mistrial.  Their second trial was held in 1879.  Jury deliberations were underway when Parks Toliver was allowed to return to his wife’s rooming house to change clothes, accompanied by a deputy.  While his beautiful wife and her sister distracted the guard, the defendant walked out the back door, mounted a horse waiting in the alley – and rode off into the sunset.  A posse was quickly summoned to conduct what became a fruitless search.  If Parks had waited for a verdict, he would have learned that this jury, too, had been unable to agree, with seven reportedly in favor of conviction and five voting “not guilty”.  The judge dismissed the jury on the grounds that one of the defendants could not be present for the verdict.  Two years later, amidst complaints about the amount of time and public money already spent on the previous trials, all charges were dropped against Parks and Tom Toliver.

It was later revealed that Parks had made his way to Arkansas, where he was a fugitive until it was safe for him to return home.  Now styling himself as Dr. Milton Parks Tolliver, he established a medical practice in Elnora, Indiana, although there is no evidence that he ever graduated from medical school.  He outlived three of his four wives and was arrested for selling illegal drugs and operating a phony diploma mill for medical students before his death in 1926.  Tom Toliver was shot and killed in 1900 following a dispute over allegedly loaded dice in Washington, Indiana.  Eli Lowry worked in the prison office and was on duty when a telegram arrived on Christmas Day of 1890 informing him that he had been pardoned by the governor.  Lowry went from prison to a job with the Vigo County sheriff’s office in Terre Haute.  That ended when he was accused of being involved in a plot to rob inmates.  Lowry died of consumption (tuberculosis) in 1895, less than five years after his pardon.

Lee Jones, who fired the shots that killed Tom Moody, was pardoned in 1893 after serving sixteen years.  He returned to Mitchell, Indiana, and was killed in a gruesome accident at the city new electrical plant less than four years later.  His older brother, Bent Jones, who was regarded as the kingpin behind the murder, was also paroled in 1893.  He joined his brother in Mitchell and bought a saloon.  Called “The Terror of Indiana” by the Louisville Courier-Journal, Bent was constantly in trouble and was finally ordered to leave Indiana permanently in 1898 to avoid prosecution after an innocent young farmer was killed by someone who had mistaken him for Jones.  After a short stay in Louisiana, he used his service in the Union Army during the Civil War to enter the National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers outside Los Angeles, where he died in 1918.  His personal effects were valued at thirty-five cents.  Alonzo “Bent” Jones is buried in the Los Angeles National Cemetery.

Saturday, April 29, 2023

The Murdered Congressman.

The Honorable Cornelius S. Hamilton was the Congressional Representative of the Eighth District of Ohio. In December 1867, he received word that his son Thomas was in a bad way, so the Congressman hurried back from Washinton, DC, to his home in Marysville, Ohio.

18-year-old Thomas Hamilton had been experiencing some mental problems—“mild insanity,” the newspapers said, “such as would only be readily detected by medical men.” But recently, Thomas had been exceedingly melancholy, prompting his teacher to take Thomas to Columbus to be examined by his uncle, Dr. J.W. Hamilton. After meeting with his nephew, Dr. Hamilton advised his brother and the teacher to watch Thomas closely. The diagnosis prompted the Congressman’s return. 

Saturday, April 22, 2023

The Dansville Poisoning Case.

David J. Wood and his wife Rhoda lived happily in Dansville, New York until David's younger brother Isaac came to live with them. In 1855, David died of a mysterious illness. Rhoda died the same way a few days later, and Isaac took control of their estate. When the coroner determined that the Woods died of arsenic poisoning, Isaac was arrested and convicted of Rhoda's murder.

The newspapers called Isaac L. Wood's hanging in 1858 a "theatrical execution." Sixty witnesses viewed the hanging inside the Genesee jail, while 500 spectators waited outside. Two military companies maintained order, and a band was playing. Wood's long-winded, self-righteous last words added to the drama.

Read the full story here:

A Theatrical Execution.

Saturday, April 15, 2023

A Trunkful of Trouble.

On November 24, 1883, Thomas Samson went to the home of his friends James and Rosa Ruddy, wheeling a huge trunk that he said was full of household goods. Mrs. Ruddy agreed to temporarily store it for him. What she didn’t know was the trunk actually contained the body of Jane Ford, the first victim of a murder spree that would take the lives of her husband, her infant son, and very nearly herself.

Read the full story here: The New Hampshire Horror.

Saturday, April 8, 2023

Cowardly and Unprovoked.

The night of April 26, 1871, while stepping off a Manhattan horse-car, Avery Putnam was struck from behind and killed by William Foster wielding an iron car-hook. This cowardly and unprovoked attack outraged the people of New York but before its ultimate resolution, outrage over “The Car-Hook Tragedy” would be overshadowed by a bitter public debate on the morality of the death penalty, and allegations of political corruption and bribery to prevent Foster’s execution.

Read the full story here: The Car-Hook Tragedy.

Saturday, April 1, 2023

A Husband's Vengeance.

John Kolesko, a Slavonian laborer, met Lizzie Mattis in a small town in Hungary in 1884. Six weeks later, they married and sailed at once to America. They settled in Denver, Colorado, where John found work in a glass factory.

The couple appeared to live happily together until Paul Weber, a friend of John’s, came to board at their house. After a few months, Paul began paying undue attention to Lizzie. Then, one night in 1889, John came home to find that Paul and Lizzie had left together for parts unknown. 

It took John Kolesko two years to track Paul and Lizzie to Cleveland, Ohio. On the morning of November 16, 1891, he went to their house and begged Lizzie to return with him to Denver. She refused, claiming John had beaten and otherwise ill-treated her. When his pleading failed, he went to the police department and tried to obtain a warrant to force his wife to return to him, but he was not able to prove that they were married.

That afternoon he went back to the house and commanded Lizzie to return with him. When she refused again, he shot her four times killing her instantly. Kolesko did not try to escape. He cooly walked to the police station and gave himself up.

“A Deliberate Murder,” Jersey Journal, November 17, 1891.
“A Husband's Vengeance,” National Police Gazette, December 5, 1891.
“Killed His Wife,” Bucyrus Evening Telegraph, November 17, 1891.
“Shot His Truant Wife,” Delaware gazette and state journal, November 19, 1891.

Saturday, March 25, 2023

The Cruel Axe.


17-year-old James E. Nowlin murdered George Codman in a Massachusetts stable in January 1887. Then he took an axe and chopped Codman’s body into pieces. As he traveled home in a sleigh, he threw the pieces into the snow along the road.

Read the full story here: Massachusetts Butchery.

Saturday, March 18, 2023

Francis Colvin's Skull.

In December 1873, the body of Francis A. Colvin was found floating in the Seneca River, near Baldwinsville, New York. He had a severe wound to the left side of his skull. Owen Linsday and Bishop Vader were charged with his murder. Colvin’s skull was an exhibit in the trial of Owen Linsday and was examined by several witnesses. It served to illustrate the severity of the wound. It also helped determine which defendant had delivered the death blow. The location of the wound indicated a right-handed killer and Bishop Vader was left-handed.

Read the Full Story Here: The Baldwinsville Homicide.

Saturday, March 11, 2023

Most Atrocious Murder.

On February 2, 1846, Francis Adolphus Muir went to the home of his friend Captain William Dandridge Epes. Muir and Epes were two of Dinwiddie County, Virginia's most prominent and respected men.  They had business to discuss; Muir held bonds amounting to $3,200 against Epes, the balance owed by Epes for a tract of land he bought from Muir. Muir was invited to stay for dinner when their business was concluded.

According to Mrs. Epes, her husband told Muir about a deer he had seen in the woods and asked Muir to accompany him when he went to kill it. Muir agreed, and the two men left together on horseback. Epes returned alone and told his wife that Muir had found it necessary to go to Brunswick and would not be staying for dinner. Muir was not seen again in life.

Saturday, March 4, 2023

The Colt-Adams Murder.

The Murder of Samuel Adams by John C. Colt.

An argument over money between bookkeeper John C. Colt and printer Samuel Adams, on September 17, 1841, ended in the murder of Adams in Colt’s Manhattan office. Colt tried to dispose of the body by crating it up and shipping it to New Orleans.

Read the full story here: The Corpse in the Shipping Crate.

Illustrations from "Trial of John C. Colt", New York Sun, January 31,1842.

Saturday, February 25, 2023

Maria Bickford.

Maria Bickford, a beautiful young prostitute, was found murdered in her room in Boston’s Beacon Hill. Her throat was slashed from ear to ear and her bed had been set on fire. 

Read the full story here: The Sleepwalking Defense.

Saturday, February 18, 2023

An Affair of Blood and Mystery.

Mrs. Amelia Berry (or Berri) was a German widow living in Jefferson City, Missouri. In 1864, her husband died, leaving her a sizable estate, including a drug store with a residence on the upper floors. Her brother, Edward Hofius, lived in California until 1870, when Amelia invited him to return to Jefferson City and reside with her. Mary Clarenbach, a niece of Amelia and Edward, also lived in the large house.

Around 8:00, the night of Sunday, June 11, 1871, neighbors heard gunshots from the drug store. They went inside and found Amelia Berry lying on the floor, mortally wounded. On the floor above, they found Edward, insensible, with a bullet through his brain. The room was in disarray, and some of the furniture was broken. Edward died soon after, and Amelia died around 11:00 the following night. 

Saturday, February 11, 2023

Sarah Jane Gould.

Everyone in Canton, New York, learned to distrust James E. Eldredge, except his fiancĂ©, Sarah Jane Gould.  Sarah Jane remained trusting till the end, when Eldredge poisoned her to pursue her younger sister, Helen.

Read the full story here: James E. Eldredge

Saturday, February 4, 2023

Arson to Hide a Worse Crime.

Lee Heflin ran to Thomas Robinson’s farm near Calverton, Virginia, on November 10, 1891, to raise an alarm that a house on a neighboring farm was on fire. Heflin led Robinson and his son George to the burning house. When they got there, other neighbors had gathered, and the house was engulfed in flames. 

The house belonged to Mrs. J. W. Kines, a widow who lived there with three of her children. It appeared that all four were still inside. The Robinsons ventured in and were able to pull out three bodies. 8-year-old Lizzie Kines lay near the door and was only slightly burned. Annie Kines, ten years old, was so badly burned as to be unrecognizable. Mrs. Kines’s body was severely charred but not as bad as her daughter's. There was no trace of 4-year-old Gilbert Kines.