Saturday, June 30, 2012

More Murders in Maine.

Here are the murders that were left out of the post “Murders in Maine” on 6/2/2012. Insert the text of this post between paragraphs two and three of the previous post to get the entire article published in the Boston Daily Globe on July 9, 1888.

Little Murders
(From The Boston Daily GlobeBoston, Massachusetts, July 9, 1888.)

Murders in Maine.

At the State prison at Thomaston more than 30 Maine murderers are imprisoned, nearly all for life. Here are Mrs. Mary Barrows and Oscar Blaney, her son-in-law, the woman who plotted her husband’s death and the boy who was her tool. Here is Thomas J. Libby, the Scarboro man who killed his mistress in bed at a Portland hotel. Here is old Joe Preble, the Androscoggin county wife murderer, who had been behind Thomaston’s walls since 1861. Charles E. Prescott, who hauled his victim’s body up and down the streets of Portland in a cart, is now in the last stages of consumption, and strenuous efforts are being made for his pardon.

On the scaffold in this old stone building Wagner, the Isle of Sholes murderer, Clifton Harris, who killed the two old women in Auburn, and Gordon, the Thorndike murder, expiated their crimes with their lives. Of these, the murder for which Clifton Harris was hanged was most awful in its detail. More than 20 years ago two old ladies lived alone in a little house in the outskirts of Auburn. It was a wild and stormy night in the dead of winter when the crime was committed. Late the next day a neighbor, thinking the absence of all signs of life about the little dwelling to be something unusual, entered the house. The sight was most horrible. There in the little bedroom lay the dead bodies of the two old ladies. One of them had been strangled to death and ravished while dying. To say that the community was wild with excitement is nothing. Men, women and children thirsted for the life of the assassin. In less than a week

A Half-Witted Tramp
was arrested some 20 miles away. He had been begging lodgings at farmhouses every night, and his whereabouts could be accounted for on every night save that of the murder. His boots were badly run over at the heel, and at the corner of the little house, where the snow had blown almost clear, was the print of a heel into which one boot fitted. Only the strength of Auburn jail prevented his being lynched. But there came forward another farmer who swore that the prisoner had stopped all night with him on the fatal night, and the poor tramp was released. Then came the arrest of Clifton Harris, the negro. He confessed, and in his confession implicated one Verrill as his accomplice. On the trial Verrill was acquitted but the negro was found guilty and sentenced and afterwards hanged.
In 1872 Governor Perham pardoned out of Thomaston a murderer who had been there nearly 30 years. This was Thomas Thorn. Fifty years ago Thorn, then a seaman, became enamored with a young girl named Lois Alexander, living in Harpswell. When he returned from a long voyage he found her the wife of a middle-aged farmer named Wilson. Thorn went to live with the couple. Perhaps the old love revived; at least a close intimacy sprang up, which report says was criminal. On Sunday morning, Feb. 5, 1843, Wilson was found dead in his bed with his skull crushed in. Investigation disclosed a bloody pair of tongs. Circumstances pointed strongly to Thorn as the murderer and to Mrs. Wilson as an accomplice. The two were indicted and were tried in Portland. Thorn was found guilty of murder in the first degree, and was sentenced to hang.  The sentenced was afterward commuted to life imprisonment. The woman was acquitted.

There have been many murders in this State in which the culprit was never brought to justice. One of the most peculiar of these was the murder of Leonard Swett of Portland, whose dead body was found in the gutter opposite the custom house on Sept. 19, 1871, a little after 9 o’clock in the evening. For this crime Simon Loveitt was indicted and tried. Loveitt admitted that he and Swett had been gambling in a Commercial street den early in the evening; that he had an altercation with Swett on the street opposite the custom house at 8:45 o’clock, and that he had knocked Swett down and left him lying there. The accused swore that he struck Swett only with his fist. But when Swett’s body was picked up, the back of the skull was found to be broken in. The government contended that this happened when his head struck the stones of the gutter. Never was circumstantial evidence stronger.

But Loveitt had as counsel one of the greatest lawyers in Maine—Strout of Portland. And that lawyer’s ability and the testimony of a little Irish girl saved Loveitt’s life.

Loveitt knocked Swett down at 8.45. This statement was verified by witnesses who saw the squabble. Of course if the blow had been fatal Swett would never have moved again. Then Lawyer Strout put his chief witness on the stand. She was a little Irish girl who swore that she was passing along Fore street near the custom house about the time of the murder. The city clocks were just striking 9 when she looked

Across the Deserted Street,
and saw Swett standing on the sidewalk. The light from the street lamp shone full in his face, and she was positive it was Swett. And she was equally positive the clocks were striking 9. Rigid cross-examination did not move her.

This little witness saved Loveitt. The Globe correspondent heard Strout’s closing argument, and it was a masterpiece. It seems that there had been a strange fisherman in the gambling den with Swett and Loveitt, and with him also Swett had quarreled. Lawyer Strout’s theory was that after Swett had recovered from the defects of Loveitt’s blow this fisherman had come along and struck Swett from behind with some instrument heavy enough to crush his skull. Such a thing seems rather improbable, but at any rate Loveitt was acquitted. The mysterious fisherman was never found.

In the summer of 1876 Decon Alfred Cox of West Bowdoin, while going home from prayer meting was shot and killed by his son Isaac, a boy of 14. The fatter had taken the boy to prayer meeting with him. The boy created some disturbance around the stove at the back of the room and the father came back and boxed his ears. White with passion, the boy ran home got his father’s gun , and going down the road, met him. Holding the gun at his hip, the son fired the charge of shot into his father’s body. Mr. Cox staggered into the house and died with his head on his wife’s lap. The boy stood by. ”Oh, Isaac, my son, what made you do this awful thing?” cried the mother. “Temper,” responded the boy, with set lips.

Another case, not unlike the preceding, was that of Eugene C. Hurd of Harmony, who after months of quarrelling and bad blood, killed his brother Howard with a shot gun in his own door yard in August, 1882.

In March, 1882, Harriet Sprague was a young widow living in the outskirts of Cherryfield in the eastern part of the State. Ever since he was 15 years old, a young man named Chester Cunningham had been on terms of guilty intimacy with her. Of late, however, she had seemed to tire of him, and had been receiving the attentions of another young man named Willey. Cunningham was of a most jealous disposition. One Sunday evening in March he overtook the widow Sprague and young Willey walking to prayer meeting together. He was furious. He called the woman aside and said: “If you let Willey go home with your after meeting is out, I will kill you: I swear I will kill you.” During the services Cunningham sat directly behind the pair, his face pale with rage. When the meeting was over, the widow took Willey’s arm and walked out amid a crowd of young people. Cunningham overtook them on the sidewalk a few rods form the church. In his hand he carried an open razor. Coming up from behind he grasped the woman by the hair, tipped her head back, and with on slashed of the razor nearly severed her head from her body.

There have been several murders in Maine where more than one person has been the victim of the assassin’s fury. On Oct. 13, 1876, in Bucksport. Edwin M. Smith killed Robert Trim, 76 years old; Melisa Thayer, Trim’s daughter, 34 years old; and her little girl Josie. To rob the house was his motive. He killed Mrs. Tharyer as she was running from a call; then attracted the old man into the carriage-house and struck him down; went into the kitchen and killed the child; robbed the house of $850 in money, and then burned the house down to conceal the evidence of his guilt.

The Bones of All Three
were found in the ashes of the house and as the assassin hoped, it was first supposed they had suffocated by smoke. After a while, hoverer, suspicion was aroused, Smith was arrested, found guilty, and sentenced to imprisonment for life at Thomaston.

Another triple murder, and curiously, by another Smith was committed in the town of Warren on September 1881. In that month Charles Smith of Rockland went to the house of his father-in-law in Warren and killed his own wife, his mother-in-law and his infant boy, putting the muzzle of his revolver between the latter’s lips as he slept. The deed was done in a fit of jealous rage. Smith’s wife was but 19 years old. He gave himself up, and was found guilty and is in Thomaston for life.

In the same way in May 1878, Jason P. Scribner brained his three children aged 5, 3, and 2, before his wife’s eyes in an insane fit.


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