Sunday, December 30, 2007

Anniversary: The macabre fate of Jacqueline Smith

Over the years, may details of the Jacqueline Smith case have been muddled, and the story often is dismissed as an urban legend. But strange and macabre as the story is, it was all too true.

Jackie was a 20-year-old fashion designer from Lebanon, Pennsylvania, who had moved to New York City to start a career as a fashion designer. She took an apartment with two other women, but began spending more and more time with her boyfriend, Thomas G. Daniels, age 24. She all but moved in with him.

On December 30, 1955, Jackie's father arrived for a visit, but there was no sign of his daughter. He met with Daniels and the two of them went to the police to report her missing. The police were quickly suspicious of Daniels and began to question him more closely. Daniels finally told police that Jackie had gone into the bathroom and stabbed herself to death due to his refusal to marry her, and that he had dumped her body in the Hudson River.

This story didn't hold water, and the police pressed Daniel until the story came out. Jackie had told Daniels that she was pregnant. Daniels did not want to marry Jackie and instead arranged for a scrub nurse, Leobaldo Pejuan, to perform an abortion at Daniels' apartment on Christmas Eve. After performing the abortion, Pejuan became alarmed at Jackie's condition, and summoned Dr. Ramiro Morales, who told him that Jackie was dead.

Daniels and Pejuan cut Jackie's body into pieces and took it to Pejuan's home, where over the next several days they cut into as many as 50 pieces, which they wrapped in Christmas paper and disposed of in trash cans along side streets off Broadway, from 72nd to 80th.

Police investigated, and found medical instruments in Pejuan's apartment. Pejuan pleaded guilty and testified against Daniels. Pejuan was sentenced to 7 1/2 years in prison, and Daniels was sentenced to 8 years.

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