Monday, March 01, 2021

March 1: The Chloroform Murder

Late on the chilly morning of March 2, 1937, two engineering students at the University of Virginia at Charlotte took time between classes to visit the grave of a friend who had recently been killed in a car crash. The cemetery was separated from the campus by a low stone wall. A stile offered an easy way over.

As they crossed the stile, the young men spotted something out-of-place on the campus side of the wall. A young woman lay in the leaves, her face covered with a cloth. The students thought that perhaps the woman was sleeping. They went on their way to pay their respects to their friend.

When the students crossed the stile again to return to campus, they saw that the woman was still lying there, utterly unmoving amid the leaves on the cold ground. They were disquieted. When they got to class they told the Dean of Engineering. The dean called the Albermarle County sheriff.

Sheriff J. Mason Smith had a good idea who the young woman was. The previous evening a frantic Lula Sprouse had reported that her 18-year-old daughter, Cleo, was missing. The high school junior had left home at 4:00 to take in a movie, promising to be home by 6:30. It wasn't like the quiet, studious honor student to stay out late. Cleo was always where she said she'd be when she said she'd be there. Something terrible must have happened to her.

Friends and neighbors had combed the area, looking for Cleo and speaking to anybody who might have seen her. A schoolmate said that he'd seen Cleo walking near the movie theater some time after 6 p.m.  One of Cleo's friends, Ethel Sealock, said that Cleo had pulled up outside her home at around 7:30 p.m. Cleo had been the passenger in a brown sedan driven by a man that Ethel couldn't see. Cleo, the young woman said, had asked Ethel to come driving with her but Ethel said she declined and didn't even get off the porch to approach the car because she didn't have shoes on. 

None of Cleo's other friends or acquaintances could remember having seen her after she'd gotten home from school.

Now Sheriff Smith had to go to the campus to see if the widow Sprouse's worst fears were realized.

He and his men had to shoo away the crowd of curious onlookers who had gathered. Fortunately, nobody had disturbed the body or the leaves that still partially covered it. Sheriff Smith carefully began moving aside the leaves. The young woman lay almost primly, her clothing in perfect order. A small cloth the size of a hand towel covered her head and some object that was propped on her face. 

Was this Cleo? The clothing matched the description given by her mother: green polka dot dress, brown cloth coat, brown stockings, and brown suede pumps Cleo's rings -- one gold and another costume jewelry -- were on the fingers. Sheriff Smith removed the towel. An empty chloroform can was upended over the woman's face. Her nose and mouth were stuffed with cotton. Her mouth and nose appeared swollen and burned. In spite of the injuries, Smith was certain that the auburn-haired young woman was indeed Cleo Sprouse.

As Sheriff Smith finished uncovering the body, five police officers combed the area for any other items that might be related to the grim find. Two looked for footprints. Two canvassed the neighborhood to find out what anybody might have seen or heard. Two others checked the railroad station and taxi stands.

A gas station owner said that Miller, with Cleo in the car, had stopped for gas at his business before heading north away from the city.

A bus driver told the police that he had seen a brown sedan parked near a railroad underpass at the university golf course, which was about 400 yards from the cemetery, between 1:30 and 1:45 on the morning Cleo's body had been discovered. The motor was running, both car doors were open and a bottle was lying on the road.

Meanwhile Sheriff Smith pondered the choice of dump sites. Had the killer placed the young woman's body on the cemetery side of the wall rather than the campus side, it might have gone undiscovered for quite a while. Why had he hidden her where she could be easily stumbled across?

Sheriff Smith carefully packaged the towel and chloroform can and handed them off for immediate transport to the FBI laboratories in Washington, DC. Police took plaster casts of tire tracks near the dump site and collected samples of the mud that might be found on the suspect's tires.

Sherriff Smith went to the Sprouse home and broke the news to the distraught widow. Mrs. Sprouse, prostrated by grief, managed to recount, between sobs, the last time she'd seen her daughter. Cleo's brothers and sister could add nothing of any use in the investigation and struggled to comfort their mother.

Sheriff Smith turned the body over to Dr. W. H. Weaver, University of Virginia pathologist, who took it to the mortuary for a postmortem examination.

The coroner's office bungled their handling of the autopsy. Rather than sending Cleo's organs to experts in Charlottesville, somebody sent them to Richmond, Virginia, where they had ended up in a laboratory at the Department of Agriculture rather than the laboratories of the Department of Health. Once they were located they were taken to the proper laboratory for analysis.
Dr. Weaver concluded that though there were traces of ether in her lungs, Cleo had died from an overdose of chloroform. The cotton that was found in her nose and mouth had been soaked in chloroform. She had also been about three months pregnant. There were no marks on the young woman's body to indicate that she had fought off an attacker. There was no evidence of rape. But the fact that her nose and mouth were stuffed with cotton and the position of the chloroform bottle -- and the fact that her underpants were missing -- led the coroner to rule out suicide. By that afternoon local papers reported, "NO CLUES IN CAMPUS CHLOROFORM MURDER."

The report arrived from the FBI: The corners of the towel showed marks of toothed clamps, similar to what a dentist would use to fasten a napkin to protect the clothing before examining a patient. The towel itself was the type that dentists used for this purpose. A technician had recovered a thumbprint on the bottom of the chloroform can. 

The type of chloroform was not intended for use as anesthesia but, according to a University of Virginia professor of pharmacology, was the type typically used for euthanizing animals. Anesthetic chloroform was dispensed in small bottles, while "technical" chloroform, which was not purified to remove elements such as hydrochloric acid and phosgene, was sold in cans like the one found on Cleo's face. 

Given the presence of a dental napkin with the tooth marks of clips, Sheriff Smith concluded that his suspect would be one of the sixteen dentists in the Charlottesville area. Sheriff Smith had prints made of the teeth of a recently discovered body that had nothing to do with the case and sent plainclothesmen out to visit the dentists, hand them the photos in order to get thumbprints, and bring them back. One of the prints collected this way matched the print that the FBI had recovered from the cloth: the print of 52-year-old Richard D. Miller DDS.

Miller had a very positive reputation in town, considered a pillar of the community. He told police that a can of chloroform had been missing from his office since February. He kept it in his office as a solvent to use in making fillings, not as an anesthetic. He said that he had been treating Cleo and had stepped out of the exam room to take a phone call. Upon returning to the exam room, he said, he had found Cleo closing the cabinet door.

According to Miller's clinic records, Cleo had indeed been a patient. He'd been treating her roughly twice a week for over a year.

That evening, after Miller had gone home, police entered his office with the help of a skeleton key. In a cabinet of the immaculate premises police found dental napkins that appeared to be identical to the one found on Cleo's face. Cleo's name was in Sprouse's appointment book for a 4 p.m. appointment on March 1.

This was considered sufficient to bring Dr. Miller in for questioning. The next day, police arrested Miller at his office, leaving a patient still in the dental chair. They walked him the six blocks to the police station through a growing crowd of people who wanted to see the Chloroform Murderer. As the evening wore on, so many people gathered that the porch collapsed under their weight.

Miller denied that he had been involved in Cleo's death. Then he got up and looked out the window. When the crowd of perhaps a thousand people outside saw him they started shouting in outrage. He begged police to keep him safe from the crowd. Police slipped him out the back door to the station and loaded him into a vehicle for transport to jail. During the ride he made a confession.

He said that he had known Cleo for about nine months and had been treating her for problems with her gums. She had come to him requesting an abortion, and when he had refused she threatened to claim that he was the father of her baby. Under this pressure, he said, he had agreed.

Rather than do the procedure in his office, he had driven her in a borrowed car to a place about six miles north of Charlottesville with the intention of doing the abortion in the vehicle. The place where Miller said he'd pulled the car over to do the abortion matched the location where a bus driver said that he'd seen a brown sedan parked, engine running and doors open, the night Cleo had died.

Miller told police that he had accidentally administered too much chloroform, resulting in the girl's death within about a minute.

He said that he had waited until dark then driven back to town, intending to bring Cleo's body to an undertaking establishment and confess to the police, but that he had panicked and decided to pose her body in hopes that her death would be deemed a suicide.

Miller spoke at greater length during a nearly five-hour questioning at the jail. He then wrote out a confession.

The police went to the site where Miller said that Cleo had died and took plaster casts of tire tracks there, as well as mud samples. They also searched for surgical instruments that Miller said he'd brought along then thrown away in panic. They were never able to locate them.

J. Hubert Carver, a car salesman, went to the police voluntarily and told them that Miller had expressed interest in buying a car and had borrowed a brown sedan to try it out. He had picked it up at around 4:00 pm and returned it about four hours later, "reeking of chloroform." Carver said that he also found fragments of absorbent cotton in the vehicle.

Once Cleo's body was released it became a bit of a tourist attraction as people streamed through the undertaking establishment to see it in an open casket. Perhaps 200 children made their way through the building between when school was dismissed at 2 pm and when Cleo's body was relocated to the family home. There, her distraught mother wept over the coffin as her surviving children struggled with their own grief.

Though some people had suggested that classmates from Lane High School serve as pall bearers, Cleo's family said that her classmates really didn't know her well and "she rarely went around with boys."

At the burial, Mrs. Sprouse collapsed as around 400 mourners and curious townspeople gathered around the grave. The pastor had to stop the ceremony to berate photographers.

Miller was indicted for first-degree murder because prosecutors believed that he had deliberately killed Cleo. They believed that his story about an intended abortion was concocted to allow a lesser charge. Wouldn't Miller have performed an abortion in his office, where he had safe and familiar anesthetics on hand, rather than in a borrowed car using chloroform that  he ordinarily used as a solvent? Why couldn't he lead police to the place where he said he'd ditched the instruments? 

His attorneys originally planned to plead insanity on the grounds that Miller had suffered brain damage when he'd accidentally shot himself while hunting seven weeks earlier, grazing his temple. Since the middle-aged father of two had been otherwise perfectly normal since the incident, this defense didn't fly. 

Miller eventually pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and was sentenced to 16 years in prison. Mrs. Sprouse had originally opposed a plea deal, wanting the man who had been not just the family dentist but a family friend to face trial for first-degree murder.


Sunday, February 28, 2021

February 28: Planned Parenthood's Fatal Haste

A portrait of a young Hispanic woman with her hair dyed an orange shade, holding two little boys on her lap.
Diana Lopez and her children
Diana Lopez, age 25, was 19 weeks pregnant when she went to a Planned Parenthood for a safe and legal abortion on February 28, 2002. Before the day was over, Diana had bled to death. She left two sons, 4-year-old Frankie and 2-year-old Fabian, motherless. The taxpayers of California paid for the fatal abortion, courtesy of Medi-Cal.

Diana‘s husband, David, filed suit, alleging that the abortionist‘s haste caused severe lacerations that killed his wife. The suit says that Diana‘s abortion was rushed through in only six minutes, although Planned Parenthood‘s own web site says such a procedure should take 10 to 20 minutes. The lawsuit also blames Planned Parenthood for proceeding with an abortion even though her hemoglobin levels were abnormally low prior to the procedure.

 Dr. Mark Maltzer
After the abortion, Diana had been rushed by ambulance to County Women‘s Hospital. Dr. Mark Maltzer, who performed the abortion, neither accompanied his patient to the hospital nor spoke to the physicians who were taking over her care. Those doctors performed a hysterectomy was performed and gave Diana five units of whole blood in a futile attempt to save her life. She was pronounced dead at 2:45 p.m. Diana‘s autopsy noted that she had hemorrhaged from a perforation of her cervix.

The family‘s attorney also noted that in 2000, the same Planned Parenthood rushed another woman though a similar 6-minute abortion, lacerating the patient‘s cervix, rupturing her uterus, perforating her sigmoid colon and causing the loss of 2 liters of blood. Planned Parenthood also delayed three hours before transferring the patient to a hospital. Fortunately, this patient survived her ordeal.

A review of Los Angeles County civil cases indicates that this patient was probably Kimberly Thomas, who sued on April 19, 2002, after her abortion by Joseph Marmet. Kimberly‘s suit was one of roughly 50 filed against the Los Angeles Planned Parenthood from 1983 to 2002. The medical board took no action against Marmet.

The medical board took no action against Diana‘s abortionist, Maltzer, either. However, after being pestered by prolifers the California Department of Health Services investigated the facility and cited Planned Parenthood for:

  • Failing to institute a necessary change in medical protocol relating to the use of laminaria (used to expand the cervix) in the dilation and evacuation procedure.
  • Lacking the evidence to show a completed assessment of the competency and credentials of the physician who carried out the abortion.
  • Inadequately advising against a potentially dangerous second-trimester D&E procedure based on low hemoglobin levels which made Diana a high-risk patient.
  • Failing to follow proper surgical abortion policy and procedure by administering Cytotec to Diana on day one of the two-day abortion procedure, when policy requires it to be administered 90 minutes before the abortion procedure.
  • Having a "reproductive health specialist" rather than a physician do the informed consent on this high-risk patient.
  • Failing to inform Planned Parenthood‘s governing body of any adverse outcome related to patient care within the facility.
  • Failing to notify the Health Department of a patient's death within 24 hours of the occurrence.
  • Keeping incomplete records describing the services provided to Diana.

The fact that the Planned Parenthood has made "corrections" to satisfy the state does not satisfy Diana‘s family. "It was wrong. It was wrong," said Judy Lopez, Diana‘s older sister. "She was healthy. She was fine."

I also have some skepticism about how the "corrections" were made, since five years later, at another Southern California Planned Parenthood, a nurse placed laminaria in the cervix of patient Edrica Goode in spite of obvious signs of a vaginal infection. Since laminaria absorb whatever moisture is in the area so that they will expand and dilate the cervix, it's no surprise that the laminaria inserted into Edrica's cervix pulled the infection into her uterus and killed her.

The failure to assess the competency and credentials of a staff member also seems to me to be a Planned Parenthood failure of long standing and large geographic span, since in 1981 abortion patient Elise Kalat suffered a severe asthma attack after her abortion at a Massachusetts Planned Parenthood. When the medics arrived to take over Elise's care they found that nobody on site evidently knew how to perform even layman-quality CPR, much less the type of advanced CPR that would be expected of medical professionals. 

Far too many other women have died from screw-ups and bad judgement at Planned Parenthood. 

Cree Erwin-Shephard, age 24, suffered internal injuries during an abortion at Planned Parenthood in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Her mother found her cold and stiff in the guest bedroom on the 4th of July, 2016. 

Tonya Reaves, age 24, left a one-year-old child motherless when she bled to death in July of 2012 after an abortion at a Chicago Planned Parenthood. Planned Parenthood staff had delayed for four hours before transporting Tonya to a properly equipped hospital.

In 2009, 17-year-old Roselle Owens died from apparent anesthesia complications after an abortion at Planned Parenthood's Margaret Sanger Center in New York. Her family said that the staff had failed to monitor her properly and delayed transport to a properly equipped hospital. 

Holly Patterson, age 18, died in mid-September of 2003 from sepsis caused by abortion drugs she got at a Planned Parenthood in Hayward, California. Instead of instructing Holly to place the second dose inside her cheek and letting it dissolve, as the FDA instructed, Planned Parenthood told her that she could insert it vaginally. Researchers believe that the vaginal insertion of this second drug makes otherwise healthy young women particularly vulnerable to sudden death from toxic shock syndrome.

Vivian Tran, age 22, and died in late December of 2003, six days into a medical abortion process started at another California Planned Parenthood. Like Holly Patterson, she had been told to use the second drug vaginally instead of placing it in her cheek in keeping with FDA recommendations.

Planned Parenthood doesn't seem to be upholding the standards they want everybody to believe they're upholding.

Watch Fatal Haste on YouTube.


February 28: A Fatal Referral and Other Tragedies

1993: A Fatal Referral by Planned Parenthood

Andrea Corey was 31 years old when she was referred by nearby Planned Parenthood to Southern Tier Women's Services in New York for a safe and legal abortion. Andrea  was sent home after her abortion, but she had retained tissue that caused clostridium perfringens septicemia ("gas gangrene"). She died at Rutland Regional Medical Center in Rutland, Vermont on February 28, 1993.

1992: Scant Information from the US Virgin Islands

Diane Adams died February 28, 1992 after an abortion most likely performed by Angel Acevado Montalvo in the US Virgin Islands. The only information I've been able to gather on Diane I. Adams comes from pro-life web sites. Human Life International mentions that abortionist Angel Acevado Montalvo was charged with manslaughter in two cases of maternal deaths from safe and legal abortion. HLI also notes that after his conviction, Montalvo went right back to business doing abortions. Priests for Life posts a list of women who have died from legal abortions, including Diane Adams, whose date of death they give as February 28, 1992. They cite a March 5, 1992 article in the Virgin Islands Daily News. They cite one other death, that of Rosael Rodriguez, from that article. Rosael Rodriguez and Diane Adams are most likely the two women referred to by HLI. 

1918: A Likely Lay Abortionist in Chicago

On February 28, 1918, 27-year-old Mrs. Catherine Lurandowski died at Chicago's County Hospital from an abortion perpetrated by Katerine Eichenberg on November 20 of 1917. Eichenberg, whose profession is given only as "abortion provider", was also noted as "known to police" and operating sometimes under the alias of Ekowski. She might have been a midwife, since they were very common abortionists in Chicago at the time, though she might also have been a lay abortionist with or without a doctor providing training, instruments, medications, and back-up.

1914: An Unknown Perp in Chicago

On February 28, 1914, 23-year-old homemaker Martha Kwasek died at St. Elizabeth Hospital in Chicago from septicemia caused by an abortion performed by an unknown perpetrator.

Saturday, February 27, 2021

February 27: Deaths Before Roe, Chicago and New York

1926: Lethal Chicago Midwife

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Chicago had an underground abortion culture populated primarily by doctors and midwives. In February of 1926, 36-year-old Anna Barg Wilger, or somebody else who wanted to keep her pregnancy from ending in the birth of a living baby, sought out one of those midwives, Theresa Struhala. On February 27, Struhala perpetrated the abortion on Anna in the Wilger home. Anna died there that day. Struhala was indicted for felony murder in Anna's death. I don't know the outcome of the case, but do know that Struhala went on to be implicated in the 1934 abortion death of Evelyn Yazitt (possibly Vavitt).

1971: Safe and Legal in New York

"Roseanne" is one of the women Life Dynamics identifies on their "Blackmun Wall" as having been killed by a safe and legal abortion. Roseanne was in the second trimester of pregnancy when she chose safe and legal abortion, permissible under New York's liberalized abortion law, in 1971. She was 37 years old, had had four children. Roseanne's doctor chose the saline abortion method, which is performed by injecting a strong, sterile salt solution into the amniotic fluid. The fetus swallows and inhales the salty fluid, which causes massive internal bleeding and death. The woman then goes into labor. Roseanne was infused with saline for the abortion. Two days later, she began vomiting and having seizures. She aspirated some of the vomit and developed pneumonia. The pneumonia took its toll. Roseanne died on February 27 from the pneumonia and anoxic brain damage.

The 1970 liberalization of abortion had made New York an abortion mecca until the Roe vs. Wade Supreme Court ruling that abortionists could legally set up shop in any state of the union. In addition to "Danielle," these are the women I know of who had the dubious benefit of dying from the newfangled safe-and-legal kind of abortion in pre-Roe New York:

  • "Judy" Roe, July, 1970, cardiac arrest during abortion
  • Carmen Rodriguez, July, 1970, salt solution intended to kill the fetus accidentally injected into her bloodstream
  • Barbara Riley, July, 1970, sickle-cell crisis triggered by abortion recommended by doctor due to her sickle cell disease
  • "Linda Michelle Hoffman", September, 1970, sent back to her home in Indiana with an untreated hole poked in her uterus
  • Maria Ortega, October, 1970, fetus shoved through her uterus into her pelvic cavity then left there
  • "Kimberly" Roe, December, 1970, cardiac arrest during abortion
  • "Amy" Roe, January, 1971, massive pulmonary embolism
  • "Andrea" Roe, January, 1971, overwhelming infection
  • "Sandra" Roe, April, 1971, committed suicide due to post-abortion remorse
  • "Anita" Roe, May, 1971, bled to death in her home during process of outpatient saline abortion
  • Margaret Smith, June 1971, hemorrhage from multiple lacerations during outpatient hysterotomy abortion
  • "Annie" Roe, June, 1971, cardiac arrest during anesthesia
  • "Audrey" Roe, July, 1971, cardiac arrest during abortion
  • "Vicki" Roe, August, 1971, post-abortion infection
  • "April" Roe, August, 1971, injected with saline for outpatient abortion, went into shock and died
  • "Barbara" Roe, September, 1971, cardiac arrest after saline injection for abortion
  • "Tammy" Roe, October, 1971, massive post-abortion infection
  • Carole Schaner, October, 1971, hemorrhage from multiple lacerations during outpatient hysterotomy abortion
  • "Beth" Roe, December, 1971, saline injection meant to kill fetus accidentally injected into her bloodstream
  • "Connie" Roe, March, 1972, cardiac arrest during abortion
  • "Julie" Roe, April, 1972, holes torn in her uterus and bowel
  • "Robin" Roe, May, 1972, lingering abortion complications
  • "Roxanne" Roe, May, 1972, given overdose of abortion sedatives
  • "Danielle" Roe, May, 1972, air in her bloodstream

Friday, February 26, 2021

February 26: Precursor to an Epidemic of Abortion Deaths

Marie Epperson, a 19-year-old telephone operator, died February 26, 1929 after an abortion in Oklahoma City. Two physicians were suspected: Richard Thacker and John W. Eisiminger. There wasn't even news coverage of the case and everything seemed to just blow over. 

Three years later all hell broke lose.

The spring of 1932 brought a sudden string of criminal abortion deaths to Oklahoma City, attributed to Thacker and Eisiminger either singly or as a pair:
  • March 18: Margaret Ann Kuenkel  (Thacker)
  • April 3:  Ethel Hestand (Thacker)
  • April 14:  Isobel Ferguson (Eisiminger and Thacker)
  • April 15: Ruth Hall (Eisiminger and Thacker)
  • April 20:  Robbie Lou Thompson (Thacker)
  • April 23: Virginia Lee Wyckoff  (Eisiminger)
  • April 23: Lennis May Roach (Eisiminger and Thacker)
  • April 24: Nancy Joe Lee (Thacker)
A little bit more attention from the authorities after Marie's death could have prevented the deaths of as many as eight other women.

Watch Fatal Foot-Dragging on YouTube.

February 26: A Doctor, a Midwife, and an Abortifacient

Cordelia Calkins, age 18, died in Brooklyn on February 26, 1860 from the effects of an abortifacient

In August of 1859, the two Calkins sisters, age 16 and 18, moved to Brooklyn to live in the boarding house of Mrs. Young. "Both were possessed of good figures and considerable personal attractions, and were employed from time to time at the different theatres as ballet girls".

The elder, Cordelia, took up with the landlady's son, Charles, "which resulted in the girl's ruin and death." In mid February, 1860, Cordelia discovered that she was pregnant, and prevailed upon Charles to help arrange an abortion. Charles asked his brother William to buy a bottle of oil of tansy. William testified that he didn't know what the oil of tansy was for.

Cordelia started a regimen of the tansy, while Charles made "other efforts of abortion", which succeeded in making her very sick. "For several days she was confined to her bed, suffering the most intense physical pain."

About this time, Mrs. Young relocated to another part of the city, leaving the Calkins sisters looking for new lodgings. Since Cordelia was so sick, a young man living next door to the original Young house set the sisters up in his room.

Cordelia's condition continued to deteriorate. Dr. H.W. Fowler, who had an office nearby, was summoned. He found out about the abortion attempt and administered witch-hazel and ginger tea to finish off the abortion, thinking that this would save Cordelia's life. "The decoction, however, while it added to her sufferings, did not answer the purpose for which it had been administered, and after lingering in great agony till Sunday afternoon, death came to her release."

On her deathbed, Cordelia insisted that she had attempted the abortion entirely on her own, with no help from anybody. But the coroner's inquest recommended the arrest of both Charles Young, as the primary, and Dr. Fowler as an accessory.

Young, for his part, made three unsuccessful suicide attempts after his arrest. The first time, in March, was attempted by dosing with laudanum. The doctor who treated him for the overdose asked him why he had taken it, and Charles said to him, "I am persecuted for an offense of which I am not guilty. I am in trouble; and the shortest way to end it is to die. I am not afraid to die."

Don't blame the legal status of abortion for Cordelia's decision to go herbal -- some women continue to embrace herbal abortion. (DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME!)

Wanda Szidzewicz, age 23, died on February 26, 1924 from complications of an abortion perpetrated by midwife Ida Cantor in Worchester County, Massachusetts.

In Templeton, Worchester County, Massachusetts, on February 6, 1924, Ida Cantor performed an abortion on 23-year-old homemaker Wanda Szidzewicz. Wanda, an immigrant from Poland, developed septicemia after the abortion, and went to a Massachusetts hospital on February 11. She was treated there until her death on February 26.

Testimony at Ida's trial indicated that Ida's profession was midwife, since she delivered at least one baby that Dr. Sawyer and Ida's own husband testified to.

The jury found that Ida used improperly sterilized or non-sterile instruments in the abortion. A key part of the prosecution's case was a deathbed statement by the injured woman. The medical examiner found "no evidence of violence outside or in", but did find evidence that instruments had been used to perform an abortion. He also testified that Wanda had said that Ida Cantor had performed the abortion in question. A Dr. Sawyer testified that he'd told Wanda that she was dying, testimony intended to add credibility to her deathbed statement.

A doctor from the hospital, however, testified that the death and expulsion of the fetus, along with Wanda's injuries, might have been brought about with "an accidental abortion", such as that caused by lifting a heavy box. Hospital records stated that Wanda had lifted a heavy box at some point, "four days before".

Ida's attorney's launched a scattershot and ineffectual defense. Part of it was putting forth Ida's assertion that she she'd had to ask the police why she was being arrested -- she claimed that this proved that she'd not known anything abut Wanda's abortion or death. Her lawyer asked an expert witness if the "constant jarring operation of a sewing machine" could have caused Wanda to miscarry, but never introduced any evidence that Wanda had operated a sewing machine. The defense had tried to place Ida's grandchild's birth certificate into evidence as proof that she'd been at the child's birthday party in New York at the time of the abortion and thus couldn't have performed it. Ida's husband's testimony did nothing to aid her; in fact, it contradicted her.

After her conviction, Ida appealed, but her conviction was upheld. Wanda's widower, Waclaw , also successfully sued Ida.

Dorothy Weber died February 26, 1943 after an abortion perpetrated by Dr. Henry Gross.

Dr. Henry Gross was investigated for the February 26, 1943 abortion death of 20-year-old waitress Dorothy Webber of Altgeld Street in Elmwood Park, Illinois.

During that investigation, Gross was tried and convicted for the abortion death of Lavern Perez.

Thursday, February 25, 2021

February 25: Sent Home With a Trash Bag

At around 9 a.m. on February 22, 1980, 26-year-old Betty Jane Damato's sister, Mary Zellers, dropped her off at Abortion Clinic of Denver where 55-year-old Dr. James Everett Franklin was to perform a safe, legal abortion. Betty was 26 weeks pregnant.

That afternoon, Mary called the clinic and talked to her sister, who said that she'd had complications during the abortion. Mary went to pick Betty up and found her pale, weak, and in pain, clutching her stomach. 

When she helped Betty get out of the car at her apartment, Mary notice a blood stain on the seat where Betty had been sitting. She decided to take Betty to spend the night with her at the Zellers home.

The morning of February 25, Betty was taken by ambulance to the emergency room at Porter Memorial Hospital, where she was found to have gone into total cardio-respiratory arrest. She was pronounced dead shortly after arriving. 

An autopsy revealed that Betty had died from massive infection originating from "a partially truncated and macerated fetus." Franklin had removed little more than the arms. 

According to Betty's family, Franklin knew that he had not removed all of the fetus. He instead had given Betty a trash bag, and instructions to collect whatever she expelled in the bag and bring it to him.

Franklin, an osteopath, told a grand jury that he did not perform the fatal abortion. He claimed that he had examined Betty, found the decomposing foot and ankle of the fetus protruding, and sent her to the hospital. However, when Betty was examined at the hospital, the fetus was protruding head first, making it impossible for Franklin to have observed its ankle since, as an expert witness testified, it's impossible for a dead fetus to turn around in the vagina and emerge head first.

A jury convicted him of manslaughter in Betty's death on October 19, 1981, and he was sentenced to prison for three years. 

Franklin already had a history of malpractice including causing an 11-year-old boy to be left paralyzed after a botched appendectomy and a man who died while hospitalized under Franklin's care.

Watch Trash Bag Aftercare on YouTube.


Tuesday, February 23, 2021

February 23: A Possibly Legal Abortion in 1906

Profile shot of a scowling elderly white man with glasses and thick, white hair cut short
Dr. George Fosberg
On February 23, 1906, 26-year-old Bessie Orme died at her home in Chicago. Dr. George Fosberg said that he had performed an abortion on her in an attempt to save her life. He had then tried to insist that she be taken to a hospital, but when the family refused, he withdrew from the case.

I've been unable to learn what objection, if any, the family had made. Bessie's mother-in-law, Charity Orme, testified at the inquest and said that she'd traveled from her home in Kokomo, Indiana, to care for Bessie while she was ill. She was the one who had given the authorities Fosberg's name when they investigated.

Dr. Frank J. Otis took over Bessie's care and was the attending physician at the time of her death. He testified, "I was summoned the day of her death. An examination showed that she was suffering from inflammation of the abdominal organs, and that an operation had been performed. I notified the health department, and when I was asked the contributory causes of death I told of the operation."

A coroner's jury was unable to determine whether or not Fosberg had been attempting to save Bessie's life when he performed the procedure, so the verdict was issued as open. 
This left Fosberg free in 1916 to be implicated in the abortion death of Pauline Hill. For reasons I've been unable to determine, that case never went to trial either.

Fosberg lost his license to practice medicine after being convicted of bank fraud. After his release from prison he opened a boarding house, where he perpetrated a fatal abortion on Geraldine Schuyler in 1944.

Watch Fosberg's Mistake on YouTube.


February 23: An Extortion Case and Other Tragedies

Extortion Complaint Uncovers Abortion Death, 1943

On February 14, 1943, Amelia Cardito, 34-year-old mother of 4, underwent an illegal abortion at the office of Dr. Anthony Renda. Amelia died nine days later in a New York hospital.

Renda, author of three books on obstetrics, may have been a smart doctor, but he was a stupid criminal. He implicated himself when he called police to complain that Amelia's widower, James, was shaking him down for $2,500 to cover hospital and funeral expenses. Police were able to observe Renda paying Cardito $1,000. Mr. Cardito didn't face any extortion charges, but Renda was sentenced to 7 years in Sing-Sing for Amelia's death.

An Unidentified Chicago Perp, 1928

On February 23, 1928, 26-year-old waitress Martha S. Watson , a Wisconsin native, died in Chicago from an illegal abortion. The person or persons responsible were never identified or prosecuted.

A Doc Implicated in Chicago, 1917

On February 23, 1917, 28-year-old Miss Bertha Dombrowski, who worked as a maid, died at Chicago's Garfield Park Hospital from a uterine perforation caused by an abortion. Dr. John L. Van Valkenburg was implicated.

Physician-Husband Perpetrates Fatal Abortion, 1916

Twenty-six-year-old doctor Lester Lemuel Long married Helen Turner, daughter of Circuit Judge Chester M. Turner and his wife, Emma, of Cambridge, Illinois, in December of 1915.

By February of 1916, the young couple's associates and neighbors began gossiping about a premature baby bump. Socially snubbed, the couple elected to get rid of the impending baby. Long made three surgical abortion attempts, and Helen grew successively more ill. Lester called in two other doctors, who refused to render aid until both husband and wife agreed to sign a document admitting to the abortion attempts. The aid of the other physicians came too late (not surprising, given sanitation and the state of medicine at the time), and Helen, 25 years old, died at home on February 23, 1916. The physicians contacted the police.

News coverage painted a pathetic picture of the young man, so distraught at his wife's death that it took the police five minutes to calm him down enough to tell him he was under arrest. He reportedly was seen while in jail pacing his cell, weeping and crying out, "Can she live? Can she live?"

Lester was held by the Coroner and indicted by a Grand Jury on March 15, but the case never went to trial.

"On the Advice of a Quack," 1915

All I have been able to learn about Josepha Zrowsky is that she died February 23, 1915 in Chicago after an abortion she performed herself "on advice of quack."

An Unidentified Chicago Doc, 1908

"Mrs. H," whom I dubbed "Dottie," underwent an abortion at the hands of a physician on February 18, 1908. Two days later she began to suffer from vomiting and abdominal pain. Three days after that, on February 23, she arrived at Cook County hospital "in stuporous condition." Her vital signs were of concern but not enough to be alarming: Pulse of 120, respirations of 28, and a temperature of 98.6. Two hours after admission her respiration rate was the same and her temperature slightly lower at 98 degrees. Her pulse, however, had shot up to 160. Dottie was clearly decompensating. She died that same day.

Monday, February 22, 2021

February 22: A Fatal Medically Indicated Abortion

Barbara Hoppert was a sixteen-year-old high school sophomore when she checked into Loma Linda University Hospital for an abortion. Barbara was in the second trimester of her pregnancy. She was having the abortion on the recommendation of her physician, because of a congenital heart condition. The abortion was performed on February 22, 1983. During the procedure, Barbara's heart stopped. Physicians were unable to revive her, and she was pronounced dead on the operating table.

The following comment was posted on this blog:
It's been almost 24 years since I was at the Loma Linda Hospital and was roomed with Barbara Hoppert, but not year goes by when Feb 22nd rolls around and I don't think of her. She died that day during her abortion procedure. I just now put her name into google and found your article on her. It was barely 4 sentences and seemed as cold as her death. She was once alive and had such a sad end and dramatic story. It still brings me to tears today thinking about her last night alive... how she was treated by her own family and the staff at the hospital. We watched Square Pegs that night on tv. And she told me about the boy who had impregnated her... She left early the next morning and I wished her good luck... An hour later a woman came to the room, later I found out that was her "real" mother whom Barbara thought was her sister. She missed seeing Barbara that one last time.... Barbara's story is very tragic. I am so very sad that she was so alone her last night alive. I was her only comfort and I was a complete stranger. Don't know how comforting I was other than I cried with her and listened.... Knowing the pain she was in.... She remains in my prayers. Just thought you should know she was more than just part of your cause.
Thanks to the woman who came forward to share this memory of Barbara.

Barbara's was not the only tragic death caused by doctors who recommended (or excused) abortion as a life-saving or health-preserving option for the mother:
  • Allegra Roseberry was pushed into an abortion in order to obtain experimental cancer treatment.
  • Anjelica Duarte sought an abortion on the advice of her physician, and ended up dying under the care of a quack.
  • Christin Gilbert died after an abortion supposedly justified on grounds of maternal health.
  • Erika Peterson died in when her doctors obtained her husband's permission to perform a "therapeutic" abortion.
  • "Molly" Roe died in when her doctors made the dubious decision to perform a saline abortion to improve her chances of surviving a lupus crisis.

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