Monday, February 25, 2019

A 19th Century Trunk Mystery and Other Criminal Abortion Deaths

A Doctor's Work in 1948

Mildred Ferguson, age 23, of Narrows, West Virginia, died in Huntington, West Virginia on February 25, 1948 from abortion complications.

After a four-day trial and only 23 minutes of jury deliberation, Dr. William M. Lewis, age 61, was convicted of second degree murder. His assistant, 29-year-old Julia Darling, was charged with falsely swearing on an affidavit, illegally administering anesthetic, and murder by abortion.

Self-Induced in 1918

On February 25, 1918, 34-year-old homemaker Mary Mayer died at Presbyterian Hospital in Pittsburgh. The coroner found that she had died of septicemia following a self-induced abortion.

One of Dr. Hobbs' Victims in 1916

Dr. Lillian Hobbs (pictured) was convicted of murder in the 1916 abortion death of 21-year-old Alda Christopherson. The testimony of John K. McDonald, who was granted immunity in exchange, was crucial in the case. He was the father of Alda's aborted baby. Depending on whose testimony you believe, the whole sordid story began either on February 21, or six weeks earlier. All testimony agreed that Alda and John had visited Hobbs' practice. John insisted that Hobbs had perpetrated the fatal abortion. Hobbs, a known abortionist, insisted that she'd merely been treating Alda for complications of an abortion she'd attempted to perform on herself with a button hook.  Between Alda's death and the trial, Hobbs had been indicted for the 1917 abortion death of Ellen Matson. The jury evidently thought that Hobbs' story didn't hold water, since they found her guilty and she was sentenced to 14 years in prison. She appealed, protesting that it was inappropriate to bring up the death of Ellen Matson as evidence of her practice as a criminal abortionist, since Ellen died nearly two years after Alda's death and thus her abortion wasn't evidence of prior criminal behavior. The appeal succeeded. The conviction was overturned and a new trial ordered. However, Hobbs' conviction and sentencing for Ellen Matson's death rendered this rather a moot point. Hobbs was also implicated, but never tried, for the 1917 abortion death of Ruth Lemaire.

A Trunk Mystery in 1879

Jennie Clark's body was found stuffed into a trunk in Lynn, Massachusetts on February 27, 1879. The trunk, lodged in shallow, icy water, was weighted down with several bricks and two empty champagne bottles. Dr. Caroline C. Goodrich, a Boston woman, was arrested as the abortionist. Dr. Daniel F. Kimball, who lived in the same house, was arrested as an accessory. Mr. Allen N. Adams, at whose house Jennie lived and worked as a servant, was arrested as secondary accessory, as were a mother and daughter living in  the house where Jennie had died. Adams was said to be the person who arranged the fatal abortion. An investigation indicated that on February 12, 1879, Jennie left her home in the Highlands. She was seen shortly thereafter going into the home of Dr. Goodrich. The abortion was evidently perpetrated at Goodrich's practice. Jennie left on February 15 and went to the home where the mother and daughter cared for her. She  delivered her dead fetus and seemed to be on the mend. She took a sudden turn for the worse and died on February 25. The guilty parties packed up the body into the trunk and dumped it.


Mary Mayer death certificate

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