Saturday, November 2, 2013

The Marlow Murder.

William Bachmann came to Jamestown, New York, from Toledo, Ohio, in August 1871, intent on purchasing some property and he told everyone he met that he was carrying $6,000 in cash. This was a mistake. 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 eye-witnesses to the crime, there was no identifiable body, and Marlow’s mother-in-law, under oath, confessed to murdering Bachmann.

Date:  August 16, 1871

Location:   Jamestown, New York

Victim:  William Bachmann

Cause of Death:  Blows to the head.

Accused:   Charles Marlow

Charles Marlow, a German immigrant, kept a brewery in his home in the suburbs of Jamestown, New York. He lived there with his wife, Augusta and their two children, along with Augusta’s sister and her mother, Mrs. Julia Ortman. Also living and working at the brewery was Valentine Benkowski, a Polish immigrant (called a Polander by the press) who had a working knowledge of German but spoke very little English. Charles Marlow was known as an industrious man and had run the brewery for two years, but in 1871 he was deeply in debt.

According to Benkowski, William Bachmann came to the brewery on August 15 and spent the night. He woke up, had a glass of beer, and left before breakfast. Marlow told Benkowski that the stranger claimed he had $6,000 in cash and had asked Marlow to take care of it during the night. Marlow had told him to take care of it himself. Marlow told Benkowski he was going into town to find out whether Bachmann had money or not. He hitched up a team of horses and hauled some beer kegs into Jamestown.

Bachmann was intent on buying some property in Jamestown and offered Louis Donner $1,500 for some land he owned on Chautauqua Lake.Bachmann also offered to pay cash for some property owned by Christian Schmidt. A number of people recalled seeing Bachmann in Schmidt’s saloon with a fat wallet they believed to be full of greenbacks.

Marlow, apparently satisfied with Bachmann’s financial position, brought the stranger back to the brewery. Benkowski saw the two men go into the drinking room for some beer. Some time later he heard conversation in the cellar beneath the brewery. Though the trap door to the cellar was closed, Benkowski heard, what he believed to be, the report of a revolver. Frightened, Benkowski left the building.

When he returned he saw Marlow coming through the cellar door. He had blood on his forehead and spots of blood on his boots. Later that day Benkowski went to the cellar and saw that the stairs had been washed from top to bottom. He also found the brew house stiflingly hot; there had been a large fire in the arch furnace in the cellar below.

Benkowski believed that Marlow had murdered Bachmann and burned his body. The next day he quit his job at the brewery and took a train to Dunkirk, New York, where he discussed the matter with some of his countrymen who lived there. Word of Benkowski’s suspicions spread quickly, and the next day the police brought him in for questioning. On the strength of Benkowski’s story, Charles Marlow was arrested for murder.
a. Drinking Room.
b. Brew House
c. Dining Room
d. Kitchen
e. Bed Room
f. Pantry
g. Arch, in Brew House
h. Ice House, over Vault
i. Staircase to second story
k. Double Trap Door to Cellar
d. Doorways
a. Vault under Ice House
b. Long cellar communicating with Vault
c. Cellar under Brew House
d. Doorways

The line of dots represent blood stains

The police searched Marlow’s brewery, and amid the ashes in the grating of the furnace they found pieces of bone and part of a man’s arm, including the elbow. Blood was found in the cellar under the ice-house and in the next room was a trail of blood, as if a bloody body had been dragged. Near the house they found a barrel full of ashes. They sifted the ashes and found more pieces of bone, some recognizable as fingers, toes or pieces of skull. They also found two ivory bosom studs and three vest buttons, similar to those worn by Bachmann.

On August 19, Charles Marlow was arrested for murder. A coroner’s jury was summoned and an inquest was held. The jury was taken to examine the brewery and view the remains. Valentine Benkowski testified, as did the doctors who examined the remains and Marlow’s sister-in-law, Christine Ortman, but on advice of counsel, Charles Marlow and the rest of his family refused to testify. The jury found that Charles Marlow shot and killed William Bachmann on August 16, 1871 and that his wife Augusta was an accomplice. The formal indictment contained twelve counts of murder—in case they were wrong about the gunshot, Marlow was also charged with stabbing, striking with a hammer, striking with an axe, burning and seven other means of murder.

Trials: 1. September 20, 1871; 2. January 15, 1872

The prosecutors in Marlow’s trial introduced testimony from the investigators who had found the bones and articles of clothing at the brewery, and from the doctors who verified that the bones were human. They also provided testimony from several neighbors who recalled thick, black, foul smelling smoke emanating from the brewery on August 16. But the most damning testimony came from Valentine Benkowski who, testifying through an interpreter, told of hearing the revolver shot and seeing blood stains on Charles Marlow. The prosecution rested on the third day of the trial.

In his opening address, Marlow’s attorney, C. R. Lockwood conceded that the remains found at the brewery were human and that they were, in fact, the remains of William Bachmann. But he also introduced an experiment conducted by the defense which proved that with the trap door down,  it was impossible to distinguish between the sound of a gunshot and the sound of someone hitting a beer keg. Lockwood claimed Marlow had gone back to Jamestown that afternoon and did not have time to have burned the body. Then Lockwood dropped a bombshell when he said:
“Now I can make a most startling statement! He came to his death at the hands of the aged mother!!”
According to Lockhart, Bachmann was not as wealthy as he claimed to be and with Marlow gone he confronted Marlow's wife  and demanded money. When she refused he chased her and threw her on the floor. Mrs. Marlow’s mother Julia Ortman heard the noise and ran to see what was wrong. She found Bachmann on top of her daughter, choking her. Unable to pull them apart, Mrs. Ortman grabbed a hammer and gave Bachmann a fatal blow to the temple. Mrs. Ortman and her daughter then carried the body to the furnace and burned it. Charles Marlow had no knowledge of any of this until he was arrested for Bachmann’s murder.

Julia Ortman was the first witness for the defense. She only spoke German, so through an interpreter, she verified all that Lockwood had said. Charles Marlow’s defense strategy was to discredit Benkowski and provide the jury with an alternative story.

After one week of testimony the case was given to the jury. They were hopelessly deadlocked at six for conviction and six for acquittal; Marlow was taken back to jail to await another trial.

The second trial began on January 15, 1872. It lasted twenty-two days and followed much the same course as the first trial but with more detail. This time there were no startling revelations. On February 6, after three and a half hours deliberation the jury returned a verdict of guilty.

Verdict: 1. Hung jury; 2. Guilty of first degree murder.

Charles Marlow was sentenced be hanged on March 29, 1872. As his execution day approached, Marlow was moved to another cell. In the old cell, guards found a knife blade hidden in the floorboards and one of the bars of his cell was partially sawed through. It was believed that the blade was hidden in an apple that Marlow’s son gave him during the trial.

The day before his scheduled execution a scaffold was built in the prison yard at Mayville, New York. Marlow assisted with the testing of the gallows; he wanted his death to be clean and swift. Though he appeared to be ready for death, Marlow showed no surprise when, at the last minute, he received a stay of execution from the governor.   

The court need more time to examine some affidavits that had been filed by the defense, so they asked the governor to postpone the hanging. There had been some irregularities in the selection of Marlow's second jury, and more dramatically, the Sunday before their deliberation, the jury was taken to a Baptist church where they heard this prejudicial remark in the sermon:
“Release unto me Barabbas; now Barabbas was a robber. Some in this house may think I am pleading for mercy for the man now being tried for his life in this village. Such is not the case, for I believe the man’s hands are reeking with blood, also his wife’s and her mother’s reeking with blood. I have read and carefully examined the evidence, and from that have come to this conclusion.”
In the end, the court upheld the verdict and the date of Marlow’s execution was set for August 8. In the meantime there was another escape attempt. One morning in July, Marlow arranged his bunk making it appear that he was sleeping there. When Dunton, the turnkey, came to wake him as he did every day, Marlow attacked him with a club—a bed post taken from a cross leg cot bedstead. Marlow hit Dunton several times in the head and probably would have killed him if the room hadn’t been too small to allow Marlow a good swing. Marlow was captured and put in irons before he could leave the prison.

Charles Marlow maintained his innocence until the night before his execution when he made a formal confession to the murder of William Bachmann. After having a beer with Bachmann in the drinking room of the brewery, he led him to the vault. There he gave Bachmann a glass of beer laced with strychnine. The drink induced spasms in Bachmann but did not kill him, so Marlow took a bar of iron and hit him on the head until he died. Then he cut the body up and burned it in the furnace. He told his wife about the murder and she helped him dispose of the ashes. If he had known that Valentine Benkowski suspected anything, Marlow would have killed him as well. The motive of the murder was theft.

A gallows was constructed again inside the Mayville jail. There were so  many spectators attending the execution that the sheriff had to request that those in front kneel down so that those in the rear could see. When the trap was sprung Marlow fell seven feet three inches; his neck was broken and he died quickly.

Marlow, Charles. The Marlow Murder!. Jamestown: Daily and Weekly Journal, 1872

"Court! The Marlow Murder!." Jamestown Journal 9 Feb 1872.
"Marlow--How he didn't hang.." Jamestown Journal 5 Apr 1872.
"Marlow--The plan for Escape--His Appearance and Condition.." Jamestown Journal 26 Jul 1872.
"Murder!! The Marlow Trial." Jamestown Journal 29 Sep 1871.
"The Feigned Indifference of Charles Marlow--His Attempts to Cheat the Gallows." Jamestown Journal 22 Mar 1872.
"The Scaffold." Cleveland Leader 5 Aug 1872: 1.

Panoramio: Map of Jamestown


The Greenockian says:
November 3, 2013 at 4:09 AM

Very interesting story!

Mr. Blanchard says:
November 3, 2013 at 4:33 AM

I love this site, thank you for bringing history alive.

Robert Wilhelm says:
November 4, 2013 at 11:47 AM

Thank you both!

Brett n Carmen says:
October 3, 2022 at 6:32 PM

Great Idea telling everyone you were carrying $6,000 in cash...a fatal mistake...

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