Friday, July 17, 2020

A Repeat Offender in Oklahoma, 1940

On July 17, 1940, Goldie Crow, 28-year-old wife of Oklahoma City milk truck driver Albert Crow, died of peritonitis from a criminal abortion performed July 2 by Otto C. Lucy. Lucy was a 37-year-old psychologist and teacher, had previously been dean of men at Central State College. He performed the fatal abortion on Goldie while he was out on bail pending trial for the June 1, 1938 abortion death of Mary Ellen Legge.* Though he was not a physician, Lucy had a listing in the telephone book reading "Dr. Otto C. Lucy". He might have gotten away with this because of his job as a consulting, albeit unlicensed, psychologist for a prison.**

Albert admitted that he had purchased some abortifacients, which had not had their desired effect. He went to Lucy's apartment in June, thinking that Lucy was a doctor. He told him that Goldie was pregnant and that they didn't want the child. He also told Lucy that he had no money, and Lucy said that he couldn't do anything for him.

A round-faced middle-aged White man wearing an overcoat and tie, dark fedora, and small wire-rimmed spectacles
Otto Lucy
But evidently either Albert found the money or he worked out some arrangement with Lucy, because on July 2, Lucy went to the Crow home at dusk and performed an abortion on Goldie. At some point that evening he called a nurse, Mrs. Ruth Bowen, to assist him. Some time afterward he returned to check on Goldie, found her condition improved, and recommended that she drink fruit juices and plenty of water.

Over the next few days, Goldie's condition deteriorated. Albert called Lucy, who said he'd done all he could for her and told Albert to take his wife to a hospital. Albert called the family doctor, who also said to take Goldie to a hospital. Albert called a taxi and did so. But despite the efforts of doctors there, Goldie died.

During the investigation into Goldie's abortion, police found surgical instruments wrapped in a towel and bloody newspaper, stuffed into a garbage can in the basement of the apartment building where Lucy lived. He was convicted of first degree manslaughter on April 17, 1941 and sentenced to 25 years in the state penitentiary for Goldie's death. After his conviction in Goldie's death, Lucy pleaded guilty of manslaughter in Mary Ellen's death and to obtaining an abortion in the case of a 27-year-old stenographer he's performed an abortion on in November of 1938. Lucy was paroled on May 26, 1945, having served just a hair over four years.

* Another abortionist who killed a second woman while out on bail pending trial for the first woman's death was Dr. Jesse Ketchum. In the 1960s, Clergy Consultation Services would refer women to Ketchm's Ypsilanti, Michigan practice for illegal abortions. Ketchum was arrested after a sting operation, so when New York legalized unfettered abortion in 1970, Ketchum was there with bells on performing risky hysterotomy abortions in his office. His carelessness killed Margaret Louise Smith on June 16, 1971. Because of the egregious level of disregard for Margaret's life, Ketchum was arrested but released on bail pending trial. On October 20, he performed a similarly careless abortion resulting in the death of Carole Schaner. Lucy at least managed to wait two years before killing a second woman, unlike Ketchum who killed the second woman less than five months after killing the first one.

** Otto Lucy's status as a not-quite-psychologist puts me in mind of abortion-rights hero Harvey Karman. Karman, who styled himself a doctor, performed a fatal abortion on a woman in a motel room in 1955. After he got out of prison he went right back to doing abortions. He networked with the Jane abortion syndicate in Chicago, who recruited him to do experimental abortions on a bus load of poor, minority women at Kermit Gosnell's abortion clinic in Philadelphia. Karman was practically beatified by the abortion-rights movement due to his tireless enthusiasm for abortion.

New sources:
  • "Otto Lucy to be Tried for Murder," Morrison Transcript, January 2, 1941
  • "Trial of Lucy for Murder Set for Monday," Oklahoma County Register, April 3, 1941
  • "Lucy Sentenced To 25 Years, Will Not Appeal," The Oklahoma County Register, April 17, 1941
  • "Otto Lucy Given 25-Year Term For Manslaughter, Muskogee Daily Phoenix, April 17, 1941
  • "Smashing Oklahoma City's Abortion Ring" (advertisement), The Daily Oklahoman, November 16, 1941
  • "Parole Granted Otto Lucy," Seminole Producer, May 27, 1945

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