Saturday, December 9, 2023

Mad with Jealousy.

On September 8, 1892, Frank Garvin, an artist working for the Pittsburgh Commercial Gazette, married Cora Redpath, a trapeze artist who worked for Barnum and other circuses. They met and fell in love four years earlier, in Allegheny, Pennsylvania, when he was 19, and she was 16. Neither family approved of the relationship.

The Redpaths were a show business family known for their good looks. Cora, with “a mass of silky black hair, blue eyes, a fair complexion, a fine carriage, and an admirable figure,” was regarded as the most beautiful girl in Allegheny. Frank was instantly infatuated with Cora, and they became intimate lovers.

When her family moved to Chicago, Cora went with them. Frank was devastated and lost interest in everything but the letters she sent him from Chicago. He pleaded with her to return to Allegheny, and finally, in 1892, she agreed. He paid for her train fare, and they married, secretly, three days after her arrival. His family reconciled to the match, and Frank and Cora moved in with his mother and siblings. 

They had only been married a few days when Cora began to have second thoughts. She had expensive tastes and realized that Frank could not afford them. 

“You know you can’t support me on $18 a week!” she told him, “On Friday, I want to go to town, and I want to go alone!”

The day of their wedding, Cora received a letter from Edward Rahm, a married man who had been buying her jewelry. He asked her to meet him in town. Frank found the letter and begged her not to go. Cora said she only cared about Rahm’s money and planned to meet him.

Frank became insanely jealous. He bought a revolver and later said he intended to use it on himself. A letter found in his sketch pad tended to confirm this:
“I send mother a kiss for the last time. Tell her I love her with all my heart, and the rest of the folks, too. To Mr. Yost of the Gazette I give my back salary in return for the money he lent me. I bid all of the folks and Gus good-by. Tell Gus that, although I did not return the money, I surely would have done so had I been able. Hope he will forgive me. Tell Sister Annie I love her, and I hope she will remember me.”

But whatever Cora said to Frank on September 8 changed his mind. Shortly after 11:00 that morning, his sister heard three shots come from the upstairs room. She climbed the stairs and found Frank in a frenzy, still holding the pistol.

“Annie, I’ve shot Cora,” he said, “I am crazy with jealousy. I loved her to death.”

He tried to turn the revolver on himself, but Annie seized his arm and pulled it away. Police Captain Agnew, who lived across the street, rushed over when he heard the shots and was able to subdue Frank.

“All I ask is to be allowed to kiss my wife once more,” said Frank, and Agnew relented. 

Annie would later testify that Frank knelt over Cora’s body and tore open her dress, sending buttons flying across the room. He rubbed his hand over the wounds and kissed her passionately over and over. Captain Agnew took Frank to jail, where a guard stood watch to prevent suicide.

Frank’s employers at the Commercial Gazette secured Tom Marshal, Pittsburgh’s most astute criminal lawyer, for his defense. When the case went to trial that November, the plea was not guilty due to Frank’s “emotional insanity at the time of the killing.”

Annie Garvin testified for the prosecution regarding the details of the murder, but most of her testimony aided the defense. In addtion to describing Frank’s behavior over Cora’s body, she told several stories tending to show that Frank’s mind was “unhinged.” One day, he went out with his head dripping in Vaseline, which he said was to prevent baldness. He had a full head of hair with no sign of receding. Another time, he had his brother photograph him dressed as Napoleon.

His coworkers confirmed that Frank had an ambition to be Napoleon. He also had a scheme for building a perpetual motion machine and wanted to create a giant mammoth, bury it, then pretend to discover it and put it on exhibition. 

Frank testified in his own defense, saying he bought the revolver to kill himself and had no recollection of the murder. He broke down on the stand and sobbed uncontrollably. 

After hearing the testimony, the jury returned a verdict of guilty of voluntary manslaughter, which seemed to please everyone. He was sentenced to nine years in the penitentiary.

“An Allegheny Murder,” Butler citizen, September 16, 1892.
“Charged With Murder,” Pittsburg Dispatch, September 11, 1892.
“Drew a Bead,” Carson daily appeal, September 10, 1892.
“Frank Garvin's Case Postponed,” Audubon County Republican, November 3, 1892.
“Garvin Sentenced,” Erie Times-News, November 28, 1892.
“Garvin Shed Tears,” Pittsburg Dispatch, November 16, 1892.
“Killed Her For Love,” San Francisco Chronicle, September 10, 1892.
“Mad with Jealousy,” Pittsburg Dispatch, November 15, 1892.
“Murdered During Her Honeymoon,” National Police Gazette, October 1, 1892.
“A Pittsburg Artist Shots His Bride,” Evening journal, September 9, 1892.
“A Pittsburg Tragedy,” Evansville Courier and Press, September 29, 1892.
“Pleased them All,” Pittsburg Dispatch, November 18, 1892.
“Shot His Wife from Jealousy,” Pittsburg Dispatch, September 10, 1892.


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