Saturday, May 20, 2023

Murderer Quickly Caught.

In 1892, Frank Paulsen was a 55-year-old retired carpenter living off his Union Army pension. He lived alone in a rented room on Hester Street, New York City. Paulsen was a man of frugal habits, leading some to believe he had a large sum of money hidden in his room.

The night of September 29, 1892, Paulson’s landlord, William S. Byrnes, saw a man enter Paulsen’s room. Twenty minutes later, he heard a door slam. Then, he and his wife saw a man run out of the house. Byrnes went to Paulsen’s room and found him sitting in a chair with his skull crushed. Paulsen had at least eight deep gashes in his head—blows from an axe.

Byrnes’s wife, Anna, believed the man who ran was Charles Knoch, a former associate of Paulson who frequently visited him. The police arrested Knoch on suspicion of murder.

Meanwhile, in another precinct, Policeman Emanuel Meyers and Detective Sargent Lyman encountered a man trying to sell a watch and chain in front of a liquor store. When Meyers asked him where he got the watch, the man threw it into the street and started to run. Meyers chased the man and was about to catch him when he turned around and tried to strike Meyers with a hatchet. Meyers was able to deflect the blow with his billy club. When assistance arrived, the police disarmed the man and took him to the Fifth Street Police Station. 

The prisoner was Frank W. Rohle, a Hoboken, New Jersey, marble polisher. He had two more gold watches in his pocket, along with a ring and some trinkets. When the police learned of the axe murder of Frank Paulsen, they knew they had the killer. The next morning, Captains Cross and Dougherty took Rohle to headquarters. As they climbed the stairs, Captain Cross waved the bloody axe at the waiting reporters to signal they had captured Paulsen’s murderer.

Rohle was examined in Justice Hogan’s private room at the Essex Market Police Court. William Byrnes testified to finding the body and positively identified Rohle as the man he had seen going into Paulsen’s room. Anna Byrnes corroborated her husband’s story and now identified Rohle as the man who ran from the building. When she pointed him out as the man who entered Paulsen’s room, Rohle shouted:

“That’s a lie! You never saw me before in your life.”

Frederick Mehrlbert, a barkeeper, identified Rohle as the man who was in his saloon shortly after the murder, exhibiting the gold chain and watches that the court showed him. Philip Kerker, proprietor of the Emblem Saloon, identified the chain he had sold Paulson. Joseph Katain, Rohle’s landlord in Hoboken, testified that he had known Rohle for three years and had never seen him with the watches and chain. Katain said the ring was his own; Rohle had taken it from his bureau drawer. He also said an axe had been stolen from him, which matched the description of the murder weapon.

Frank Rohle was tried in December 1892 for the murder of Frank Paulsen. He was found guilty and sentenced to die in the electric chair on the week beginning February 6, 1893. The police transported him to Sing Sing Prison to await execution.

Rohle’s attorney requested a new trial on the ground that the District Attorney had made “undue use of the fact that the murdered man was a war veteran.” The request was granted, and Rohle was given a stay of execution pending the outcome of his appeal.

The new trial was never held. On April 20, 1893, Frank Rohle and Thomas Pallister escaped from Sing Sing Prison.

Continue: Escape from the Death-House.

“Forging Frank Rohle's Chain,” The Evening World, December 13, 1892.
“Gotham by 'Phone,” The Philadelphia Inquirer, December 24, 1892.
“The Murderer of Paulsen Caught,” New-York Tribune, October 1, 1892.
“Murderer Quickly Caught,” Jersey City news., September 30, 1892.
“The New York Murder,” Evening Bulletin, September 30, 1892.
“A New York Murder Mystery,” Evening journal., September 30, 1892.
“Paulsen's Slayer,” The evening world, September 30, 1892.
“Roehl, The Murdrerer Sentenced,” New York Tribune, December 24, 1892.
“Rohle May Die Monday,” The evening world, February 1, 1893.
“Sentenced to Die,” The Daily Times, January 20, 1893.
“Stay for Murderer Rohle,” The New York Times, February 2, 1893.
“Sure it Was Rohle,” The evening world, October 1, 1892.


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