Saturday, August 8, 2020

Utterly Unprovoked Shooting.

John Dilleber was a wealthy 28-year-old wholesale liquor dealer who lived and worked in New York City. In June 1975, he divorced his wife, left his home, and took up residence at the Westminster Hotel on 16th Street. 

It was Dilleber’s habit, after dinner, to wander the halls of the hotel while smoking a cigar. Romaine Dillon, another of the Westminster Hotel’s outcast residents, was much annoyed by Dilleber’s evening rambles and angrily told him so on several occasions. Dilleber ignored his complaints.

Romaine Dillon had lived in the hotel for three years and considered it his home; he could not tolerate this upstart, thinking that he could do whatever he wanted there. It was not the first time Dillon had trouble with his neighbors. Prior to living in the Westminster Hotel, he lived at the Brevoort Hotel, where he quarreled with the other boarders on the most absurd pretexts, creating such fear that the managers threw him out. He continued this behavior at the Westminster, where most tenants learned to avoid him.

Dillon was an independently wealthy bachelor, about 50 years old with gray hair and a full beard. Those who knew him considered eccentric but not irrational. Friends and relatives interviewed by the Daily Graphic described a man who was judgmental, intolerant, and mean-spirited:
He was one of those “nervous” people who go into a rage when they see a too gaudy pair of trousers or a glove drawn half way on the hand. He rated travelers in the streetcars for the way in which they sat; would shoot a man for a false pronunciation and jump through a window into a drawing-room with no other motive than to frighten ladies. 
Around 8:00, the evening of December 31, 1875, Dillon confronted John Dilleber and told him to get out of the hotel corridor. A brief argument followed, ending suddenly when Dillon drew a pistol and shot Dilleber in the left side. Two witnesses present helped the wounded man into his room; Dillon retreated into his own room.

Two police officers were in the neighborhood investigating a burglary. They hurried into the hotel and were shown to Dillon’s room where they asked him for the pistol.

“I don’t know anything about a pistol,” Dillon said, “I haven’t got any.”

A quick search of the room turned up a wooden case containing a brace of derringers. One had recently been fired.

Two doctors were summoned to examine Dilleber’s wound, and the hotel manager notified his relatives. The doctors made Dilleber as comfortable as possible, but his condition deteriorated through the night. Around 3:00 a.m., it was clear that Dilleber would die, and the coroner ordered Dillon to be brought before the dying man for identification. They brought Dillon into the room, and Dilleber made his ante-mortem statement:
My name is John R. Dilleber; I expect to die; I have no hopes off recovery; I was shot, I don’t know by whom; we had a few words; he tried to drive me out of the hall; I don’t know the name of the person who shot me; he was howling at me on Sunday; I do not know what he meant; we had a few angry words on that occasion; I thought he insulted me; he insulted me on this night by ordering me out of the hall using insulting language; I don’t remember the words; I answered that language, but I don’t remember in what way; I said I had as good a right in that hall as he had, or something like that; the first I then knew was that he shot me; I think the name of the man who shot me was Davlin or Dillon, and identify this man (Romaine Dillon) as the man who shot me.
Following the statement, Dilleber calmly dictated his will. Three hours later, surrounded by his brother, his ex-wife, and his two children, John Dilleber died.

Romaine Dillon was charged with first-degree murder, and Governor Tilden appointed a medical commission to determine whether he was sane enough stand trial. In most respects, Dillon was perfectly rational and “discussed difficult subjects with the ease and accuracy of a scholar,” but he suffered from a monomania, which led him to believe “that a number of persons were banded together to do him injury.” Without hesitation, Dr. Kitchen, of Blackwell’s Island, pronounced Dillon insane, and he was committed to the insane asylum in Auburn, New York.

“Attempted Murder of a Merchant,” New York Tribune, January 1, 1876.
“The Criminal Record,” Hartford Daily Courant, January 3, 1876.
“Dillon Taken to Auburn,” Herald, June 23, 1876.
“He Was Crazy,” The Morning Herald, March 31, 1876.
“The Murder Of Dilleber,” Daily Albany Argus, January 3, 1876.
“The Murder of Mr. Dilleber,” The New York Times, January 23, 1876.
“The Murder of Mr. John Dilleber,” Daily Graphic, January 4, 1876.
“Terrible Murder,” The Findlay Jeffersonian, January 14, 1876.
“The Utterly Unprovoked Shooting,” Herald, January 2, 1876.


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