Thursday, August 20, 2020

August 20: Sketchy Info and the Mysterious Journey

Sketchy Information Links to a Physician

On August 20, 1913, 20-year-old Emma Witte, a clerk, died in Chicago from an abortion perpetrated that day at the office of Dr. Otis M. Walker. Emma reportedly went to Walker's office early Wednesday morning. Dr. Charles L. West was summoned there to administer chloroform. He didn't linger, but returned late that afternoon he found Emma evidently lifeless, with Walker desperately attempting to revive her. She was rushed to St. Anthony's Hospital but declared dead on arrival. Walker was indicted by a Grand Jury that day, but to my knowledge the case never went to trial.

Why Was Alma Dead in Chicago, Not Vacationing in Milwaukee?

The phone call came as a terrible shock. John Heidenway of Forest Park, Illinois, and his wife had seen their 25-year-old daughter, Alma Heidenway, off on Sunday, August 18, 1918. Mrs. Heidenway had helped her to pack her bags for a two-week vacation in Milwaukee with a friend. She had seemed happy about the trip. So why was Dr. James A. Stough of Chicago calling in the evening of August 20, telling them that Alma had just died in his office? Mr. and Mrs. Heidenway contacted the police.

A police ambulance surgeon, Dr. Isaac H. Holloway, went to pick up Alma's body at Stough's office  at 329 South Ashland Avenue. He noted slight discolorations of Alma's head, face, arms, and legs but didn't think they necessarily were the result of violence.

Police questioned Stough, who told Lieutenant Ira McDowell that Alma had come to his office on the afternoon of Monday, August 19, very ill and in a lot of pain. He'd diagnosed her with neuralgia, given her an injection of morphine, and put her to bed. He said that she'd been in pain again on the afternoon of Tuesday the 20th so he'd given her another quarter grain of morphine. He gave her another 8 grains at 4:00. He said that when he'd gone to check on her at 6:00 he'd been alarmed at how close to death she'd seemed so he sent for Dr. J. J. Stoll, at 1103 Ashland Avenue. Alma was dead by the time Dr. Stoll arrived, Stough said. She had died at 6:30 p.m., Stough told police, likely due to morphine poisoning and high blood pressure.

Stough said that before dying, Alma had whispered her phone number to him so that he could notify her parents.

Alma's mother said, "Alma had $68 when she left home last Sunday. She had received her two weeks' vacation pay in advance. When I found her purse in Dr. Stough's office it contained only 75 cents," Alma's mother told reporters. "I know she didn't spent the balance. Alma was a good girl."

An autopsy indicated that Alma had died of a post-abortion infection. Two detectives arrested Stough, then released him on bond pending an inquest. Alma's mother said that though Alma had been treated in the past for high blood pressure, she had been otherwise healthy.

Alma had worked as a private secretary for Albert G. Hodge, Jr., who headed the restaurant department of Sears, Roebuck & Co.. She had worked at Sears for 13 years. Another Sears employee, Fred Courdroy, was at some point identified as the man responsible for Alma's pregnancy. Fred, who worked at the express department, was identified in one source as around 24 years old and as 38 years old in another. He was also a married man. Alma's brother, Walter, testified that Alma and Fred had been romantically involved and that Fred had visited Alma at home and had taken her out on the town. Evidently Alma's parents hadn't known about the relationship, for they said that she'd had no sweetheart.

Alice J. Kennedy and Eunice Magill were also questioned in Alma's death. Stough, Cordray, and Kennedy went to trial but were acquitted on May 29, 1919. 

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