Sunday, September 09, 2012

Two Deaths and a Ruined Life

On September 9, 1913, 27-year-old Anna Adler, a homemaker, died in Chicago, on the scene of an abortion performed by Dr. Lou. E. Davis that day. Davis was arrested that day, and she was indicted by a Grand Jury on October 15, but the case never went to trial. Davis was also implicated in the 1924 abortion death of 26-year-old homemaker Mary Whitney and the 1928 abortion death of 23-year-old Esther V. Wahlstrom.

In 1921, Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle was one of the highest paid men in Hollywood. But on September 5 of that year, Arbuckle's life took a horrible turn nobody could have predicted. An aspiring actress, 25-year-old Virginia Rappe (pronounced ra-PAY), took ill under strange circumstances at a weekend party Arbuckle was holding at a San Francisco hotel. Four days later, she was dead. A Hollywood blackmailer named Maude Delmont accused Arbuckle of raping Virginia and causing her death. He was placed on trial three times before being not only acquitted but also given a formal letter of apology from the jury for the ordeal he'd had to endure. Arbuckle had done nothing to harm the girl. She had taken sick at his party -- which she'd crashed. He'd put her to bed and summoned a doctor for her. For some reason, when Virginia was taken to a hospital on September 8, she was taken not to a legitimate hospital but to external image images?q=tbn:ANd9GcT0LOBV4S8OVk5qPOQtQjpAxtkFXDekxGfd2ZITQAYWbG5rHnramwWakefield Sanitorium, a maternity hospital known for performing quasi-legal abortions. Virginia died the next day, Friday, September 9. The cause of death was listed as peritonitis due to a ruptured bladder due to "external force." Testimony revealed that Virginia had five times availed her self of services at Roth's clinic: four times for abortions, and once to give birth to a baby. This information might seem to be unnecessarily slamming the victim, but turns out to be very relevant. Although Virginia's ruptured bladder was produced as evidence in the trial, her reproductive organs had vanished after the autopsy. The autopsy was performed illegally on site at Wakefield Sanitorium, without consulting the coroner's office. One of the doctors overseeing the autopsy, Dr. Melville Rumswell, was reputed to be an abortionist. Without the uterus and vagina, there was no way of knowing if Virginia had indeed suffered blunt vaginal trauma, which would have made a case against Arbuckle. But sharp instrument trauma would have cleared Arbuckle and pointed the finger at whoever performed a final, eventually fatal, abortion on Virginia Rappe. There is also the mystery of why Delmont directed suspicion toward Arbuckle. She was a blackmailer. Why didn't she milk Arbuckle for money? Why didn't she simply allow the police to investigate the death of the young women? To these questions, we can add two others: Why had Virginia's uterus, ovaries, and vagina been removed and disposed of? And why was Virginia brought to a marginal facility like Wakefield Sanitarium? One theory that answers the mysteries is this: Perhaps Delmont had a hand in arranging an illegal abortion that ruptured Virginia's bladder. When Virginia took ill, perhaps Delmont directed her to the Sanitarium, where the abortion may well have been performed -- where there would be accomplices who would also have a motive to keep the real reason for Virginia's death secret. And after the girl died, perhaps Delmont concocted the rape story to create a scandal that would divert attention away from herself. This is, of course, speculation. But since an abortionist could face murder charges if a patient died -- and since an accomplice likewise would face a prison sentence -- it's the only scenario that explains the otherwise inexplicable behavior of Delmont and whoever got rid of Virginia's uterus and vagina. 

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