Monday, June 03, 2013

The Ghoulish Work of Dr. Harvey Lothringer

Barbara Lofrumento
Like the Jacqueline Smith case in the previous decade, the strange events surrounding the death of 19-year-old Barbara Lofrumento have become almost an urban legend. But the tale of Barbara's tragic death and its aftermath is all too true.

In June of 1962, Barbara, a 19-year-old college student, informed her parents that she was pregnant. The baby's father proposed marriage, but Barbara's parents, Dominick and Rose Lofrumento, thought this was not a wise choice. Instead, they cast about for a reputable abortionist and were referred by an acquaintance to Dr. Harvey Lothringer. Lothringer, a Princeton graduate, examined Barbara on June 2 and assured the parents that although Barbara's pregnancy was 5 months advanced, there was no danger. He arranged to pick up Barbara and her mother and took them to his office, which was in his home, a lavish 13-room house in a wealthy section of Queens.

This was typical of the "back alley abortion" -- a reputable physician would make sneaky arrangements to do abortions at the site of their legitimate practices, taking the woman in "through the back alley" rather than the front door. In fact, by far the bulk of criminal abortion were performed by doctors.

Barbara and her mother arrived just after 3 AM on the 3rd, and Mrs. Lofrumento made a payment of $500. Lothringer then took Barbara into his office and left Mrs. Lofrumento in his waiting room.

At about 5 AM, Lothringer told Mrs. Lofrumento that Barbara was all right, but that she needed some oxygen. Sources disagree as to what happened next. Milton Helpern says that at 7 AM, Lothringer told Rose that Barbara was resting quietly, and that she should go home and get some rest. The New York Times says that Lothringer told Rose that he was going to hospitalize Barbara for a minor complication. Both sources indicated that Lothringer instructed Rose to return later to get her daughter.

Dr. Harvey Lothringer
Lothringer sent Mrs. Lofrumento to Grand Central Station, where he had arranged for her husband to pick her up and take her home. Instead, the couple went straight to Lothringer's home, where they found no sign of Lothringer or their daughter. They went home and repeatedly called Lothringer, getting no answer.

The next morning they returned to Lothringer's home, where they found several patients waiting outside. No one had seen Lothringer. Mr. Lofrumento waited for several hours, then went home, and contacted the police to report Barbara missing. How her whereabouts were discovered is indeed gruesome.

Somebody had called Roto-Rooter about clogged drains at the house. Whoever called the worker in, the man found the toilet backed up, partially flooding the bathroom, and more water in the basement. Investigating the main house drain, the worker found the source of the problem -- pieces of bone and flesh. Somebody called the police, and an investigator took the tissue to be examined.

Soon the authorities had workers digging up the sewer lines from Lothringer's house. They found pieces of Barbara, her clothing, and her baby. The largest fragments were only a few inches long. Barbara had been dismembered with a scalpel and a power saw and flushed down the garbage disposal and the toilet.

Lothringer, who had already been under surveillance for suspected abortion activities,* appeared to have fled the country, accompanied by Theresa Carillo, a Cuban-born former stewardess who was serving as his receptionist. Lothringer was well-to-do, with reports circulating that he kept as much as a million dollars cash in safe deposit boxes. An international manhunt was launched, with Lothringer first being traced to the area of his family's hunting lodge about 60 miles from Montreal. Eventually he was extradited from Andorra, where he was discovered in 1962.

Lothringer told police that Barbara had developed an air embolism. If so, Barbara's death would have been due to a normal risk of the procedure rather than due to any quackery on Lothringer's part. He had tried to dispose of her body, he said, to keep his receptionist from being implicated. He plead guilty to second-degree manslaughter in Barbara's death and was sentenced to 2 to 8 years. Barbara's mother reportedly screamed and fainted when she heard of what she considered a light sentence; Barbara's father called it "discount justice." But Lothringer's lawyer reported receiving numerous calls from Lothringer's woman patients, in support of the doctor.**

I'm not sure how, in a Post-Roe America, we could prevent abortionists from trying to cover up their crimes by disposing of the body. After all, if you're facing murder charges, additional charges for abuse of a corpse are not going to deter you.

*Greater effort put into gathering evidence on Lothringer's abortion practice might have enabled the police to lock him up before he killed Barbara.
**It's interesting that some women are so eager to defend abortionists who kill women. Many in the illegal era refused on their death beds to name the person responsible. Even in the modern safe-n-legal era, women have been known to start legal defense funds for deadly abortionists. The lives of women who remain vulnerable to these deadly abortionists for some reason isn't as important to abortion advocates as is the freedom of the doctor.

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