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.

McGrath summoned an ambulance for the wounded men. Adam Kane, the man on the ground, was not expected to live. A policeman found the other bleeding man, Henry Kane, wandering near the corner of Charlton and Varick Streets. He led Kane back to the scene. Both men had been stabbed with a long butcher knife, and an ambulance took them to St. Vincent’s Hospital.

The police took the fugitive to the Prince Street Station. He said he was Thomas Kelly, a 28-year-old telegraph lineman. He gave his address but refused to make any other statement after his arrest. 

Adam Kane was a new police officer, still on probation. Henry Kane—described variously as brother of, cousin of, or completely unrelated to Adam Kane—was also a policeman from the same precinct. There were quite a few witnesses on the street that night, but most of the early information on the crime came from Henry Kane. 

The Kanes and three other men were walking down Grand Street when Kelly came along. Adam accidentally got in Kelly’s way, and Kelly punched him. The two men clinched, and the other men pulled them apart. 

As Kelly left, he shook his fist at Adam and said, “I’ll get even with you.”

Kelly ran into the butcher shop and grabbed an 18-inch butcher knife from the counter. Five minutes later he ran toward the men brandishing the knife and “yelling like an Indian.” Kelly plunged the knife into Adam’s abdomen and twisted it. Henry tried to intervene, striking Kelly in the face.

Kelly said to him, “I’ll stab you, too.”

He made good on the remark, stabbing Henry in the side. Henry ran away, and Kelly followed him, stabbing him twice more. Then he threw the knife back into the butcher shop and ran away. Adam Kane died on May 2; Henry Kane survived.

The police soon learned that Thomas Kelly was not who he pretended to be. He had given them a false address. They first thought he was an ex-convict named Flaherty, who had recently finished a five-year term at Sing Sing for burglary. But by the time of his arraignment, he was known to be Thomas Pallister, of 30 Carmine Street, and had previously served 11 years in prison.

Pallister was housed in the Tombs Prison while he awaited trial for the murder of Adam Kane. The night of June 12, 1892, a guard noticed that the floor under Pallister’s cot was wet. When he shined his lantern in the cell, he saw Pallister’s left arm hanging down and a stream of blood running out of a gash in his wrist. He had attempted suicide by cutting himself with a piece of broken glass from a medicine bottle left in the cell by a former inmate. When he regained consciousness, he said he wanted to die. He was afraid there was enough evidence to convict him, and he wanted to avoid a long trial and the shame to his family of execution in the electric chair. 

Pallister pleaded not guilty at his trial. In his opening statement, Pallister’s attorney said his client should have been commended for bravery rather than indicted for murder. He risked his life to save that of his friend John Hammot that night on Grand Street.

Hammot testified that Adam Kane and his companions knocked him down and kicked him. Pallister interfered to save his life, and the five men attacked and beat him. He saw Pallister running away, pursued by the whole party. Two other witnesses testified to the same effect. Pallister testified that Kane and his party attacked him and his friends. He went into the store and got a butcher knife to defend himself. He struck with the knife after they knocked him down.

But the police and other witnesses corroborated Henry Kane’s story and the evidence against Pallister was too strong. He was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to die in the electric chair the week of December 12, 1892. Pallister was taken to Sing Sing Prison along with three other convicted murderers—Frank Rohle, Michael Sliney, and John Osmand.

Pallister received a temporary stay of execution while his attorney appealed for a new trial. In April 1893, the Court of Appeals in Albany rejected the appeal and upheld the original verdict.

With no hope of avoiding the electric chair, Pallister plotted with fellow death-house inmate Frank Rohle to escape from Sing Sing.

Continue: Escape from the Death-House.

Sources: “Arraigned for Murder,” Evening Post, May 27, 1892.
“Attempts at Suicide,” Evening Post, June 11, 1892.
“Carved Two Men with a Butcher's Keen Blade,” The New York Herald, May 1, 1892.
“Doomed to the Electrical Chair,” MUSKEGON DAILY CHRONICLE., April 13, 1893.
“Guilty of Murder, First Degree,” Kingston Daily Freeman., October 27, 1892.
“He Will Soon Know HIs Fate,” evening world., October 26, 1892.
“KIlled With a Cheese Knife,” evening world., May 2, 1892.
“Pallister Has Hope,” evening world., October 27, 1892.
“Pallister Murder Trial,” evening world., October 20, 1892.
“Pallister Senteneced to Death,” New York Herald, November 5, 1892.
“The Prisoner's Story Of The Killing,” New-York Tribune., October 26, 1892.
“Saw Him Commit Murder,” New York Herald, October 25, 1892.
“Says He Was Protecting A Friend,” sun., October 26, 1892.
“Tried to Follow Woffel,” New York Herald, June 11, 1892.
“Will Soon Know His Fate,” New York Herald, October 26, 1892.


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