Monday, August 24, 2020

New for August 24: One of Dr. Charles Earll's Victims

"It was 2 o'clock on the morning of Aug. 27 that she died, having all the previous day and that night been submitting to his infamous practice. Finding her dead on his lounge, he had carried her out in his arms to the hall, placed a bottle of chloroform in her lifeless hand, and left her there in the glow of the gaslight to drive people into the belief that she had committed suicide and had not been murdered by him." -- "Etta Carl," The Daily Inter Ocean, December 4, 1880

Policeman J. B. Davis lived at 205 West Madison Street in Chicago, in the same building as Dr. Charles Earll. He gave the following statement: "I have known Dr. Earll for about a year and a half. .... At about 2 o'clock this (Tuesday) morning [August 25, 1880] I was on duty, and went to my room to change my shoes. When I went upstairs I saw nothing in the hall, though the gas was lighted. After returning to the sidewalk I stood near the entrance talking to officer [James] Derig [or Derring]. We heard a noise at the head of the stairs, like the rustling of a dress, and went up to see what was the matter. When we got nearly to the top I saw Dr. Earll in his shirt-sleeves, with a cloth in his hand wiping up something in front of his door. He sprang at once into his room and locked the door. We looked around the hall, and found the body of a woman, near a gas-jet, about thirty feet from the stairs, and almost in front of a room occupied by Dr. Smith. I examined the remains sufficiently to ascertain that she was dead, and then I went to Dr. Earll's door and rapped. After some delay he asked if I was Policeman Davis. I replied that I was, and after a few moments he opened the door. He then had his coat on, and Officer Derig and I took charge of him and his son, who was also in the room. Coming out, we walked within ten feet of the corpse, and the Doctor threw up his hands and exclaimed, 'My God, what is this?'"

Coroner Mann was at once notified of the case, and reached the building at 3 o'clock in the morning. After taking a survey of the surroundings, and finding in the right hand of the deceased a two-ounce phial containing some chloroform, he ordered the body to be taken into Dr. Earll's office, which was locked up and a policeman stationed at the door. At 9 o'clock the County Physician arrived and proceeded to make a post-mortem examination, and then suspicion became a fact, -- the woman's death was caused by an abortion. -- Chicago Tribune, August 26, 1880

Who she was no one could tell. Her age was about 20, and her face not ill-looking. She wore very good clothes, and on her fingers were three rings, -- a heavy gold one, and amethyst setting, and an octagonal with the initials 'E.A.C.' While speculations as to her identity were being indulged in, a tall woman of 40, in black, who had gotten off a street-car, forced her way through the crowd around the entrance to the building, and, being shown the hat of the dead girl, cried out that it was her child's. She asked to see the body, immediately identified it, and was overcome by grief. Chicago Tribune, August 26, 1880

The deceased was 19 years of age, and her name was Etta A. Carll. She had been born in Wisconsin, and her father, who belonged to Company D, Thirty-sixth Wisconsin, was killed at Petersburg. Her mother married again, and is now Mrs. Susan C. Cure, but a widow, her second husband also being dead. She and her daughter came to Chicago from Oconomowe in February, and roomed at No. 683 West Lake street. They had earned a living by making overalls for the Lakeside Manufacturing Company. Chicago Tribune, August 26, 1880

A Coroner's Jury was assembled in Earll's premises. The first witness was Officer Davis. Earll then testified, "I have no regular license for practicing medicine, and never have had any. [A license was not required to practice medicine in Chicago at that time.] I am not a graduate, but attended lectures at Lynn University, now known as the Chicago Medical College. I saw the body found in the hall of the building where I reside. I placed it there. I have seen the person alive. I saw her four of five times since my first acquaintance, which began fore or five weeks ago. She thought herself pregnant; I examined her, and told her I thought she was. I did not do anything to her at that time, although she urged me to produce an abortion upon her. I declined to do so. Several days afterwards she came to me again, and repeated her request. Then I made a demonstration, using no instrument, in order to giver her the impression that I had performed an operation. She went away, and several days later returned and said no effect had been produced. I repeated the same demonstration four of rive times at intervals of four, or five, or eight, or ten days. I never used an instrument; but my impression is that I used a sponge-tent. That was at the next to the last visit, which was four or five days previous to Monday. There as no hemorrhage so far as I know. I don't think she had any fever. She never paid me one cent. She claimed to be a poor girl, without the means of support except such as she obtained by helping some woman at sewing. She never gave me any jewelry or valuables. I treated her out of charity. She called on me between 3 and 4 o'clock Monday afternoon, and I at her request injected some water. She immediately complained of pain in her heart, and of feeling faint. I administered about ten grains of carbonate of ammonia and two tablespoonfuls of whisky. She swallowed at first, but toward the last it ran out of of her mouth. Death followed about five minutes after I ceased giving her the medicine. I should judge it was a little after 4 o'clock when she died -- about half an hour after the injection. She did not complain of pain in the abdomen. I did not know what to do after she died. Her death threw me into a state of excitement so that I scarcely knew what to do. I first thought of reporting the case to the police; but it went on until late at night, when, under a high state of excitement, I took the body up and carried it into the hall, putting it down in about the centre, almost directly under the gaslight. In carrying the body out I opened the door of my office. That created a draft, and the gas in the hall went out. I lighted it again. As soon as I did so I stepped inside my door, locked it, and went to bed. I had been there but a short time when the officers came and arrested me. My son returned about half-past 9 o'clock, and was in bed all the time. He did not see the lady until we went into the hall." He said that nobody had helped him attend to Etta. "I did not put the bottle in her hand, but noticed it when under the gaslight in the hall."

Earll's 14-year-old son, Charles Frederick Earll, said that he'd eaten supper at his aunt's home and returned at around 10:30 p.m. He was awakened by the sound of his father asking, "Is your name Davis?" He said he saw the body in the hall but didn't hear his father make any exclamation about it. He, Charles Jr., said he didn't recall ever having seen the woman before.

Earl was shown a watch case and a small watch which had been found in the bureau of his office. He admitted that Etta had left it with him two or three weeks ago, "as she supposed, for the purpose of securing me for my services." When asked why he accepted the watch if he was treating Etta out of charity, he replied that the watch was precious to Etta and she wanted to get it repaired "and urged me to take possession of it and keep it for the present."

Etta's body was brought into Earll's office and placed on a table for the post-mortem examination. Etta was plump, weighing around 140 pounds. In her right hand was a bottle containing 3 or 4 drams of chloroform. Bloody froth was oozing from her nose. Her internal organs were normal and healthy except for inflamed reproductive organs. Bluthardt couldn't seem to make up his mind what had caused Etta's death. He said at an injection of water, which Earll said he'd administered, would constitute "no practice," not malpractice. But he also postulated that the injection might have caused sudden death from an embolism. But then, an embolism might have been caused by a disease of the blood vessels which would then throw off a clot. Bluthardt first sent a written opinion to the coroner giving peritonitis as the cause of death, but under questioning said that he should have added "and shock" either before of after "peritonitis." Her brains, lungs, and liver looked healthy but her stomach was irritated and her intestines and peritoneum were inflamed. He believed that her death was due to acute peri-metritis caused by an abortion attenpt. Etta was, he said, about three months into her pregnancy at the time of her death.

18-year-old, two months shy of turning 19

Earll's attorney, Gus Van Buren, admitted in court that his client had indeed performed a procedure on Etta Carl. As the Daily Inter Ocean reported, Van Buren "spoke of his client, Earll, as one who had intended to do the young woman a service and not an injury. It was a benevolent act, he said, that a doctor did when he sought to relieve a woman of shame and the possibility of dishonor and not a manevolent one. In this case the girl had come to him and begged to be relieved of her child. Earll had operated upon her, but his manipulations were harmless, and done with the attempt of leading her to believe that he was ridding her of the child, when in fact he was not doing so. Death came while she was in Earll's office. It was like a thunder-clap to him, startling in the extreme. He knew not what to do, and in a moment of thoughtlessness carried her into the hallway, where the police officer found him."

Earll testified at the Coroner's Inquest that Etta had come to him five or six weeks prior to hear death asking him to perform an abortion. He had refused, but she kept coming back to his office and asking for an abortion so he decided to perform a fake abortion in order to placate her.

Earll admitted that a watch found in his possession was Etta's and that she had given it to him. The instruments found in Earll's office were normal obstetrical instruments.

Van Buren asserted that the county physician who had performed the autopsy had originally not attributed Etta's death to abortion but had changed his ruling because he was coming near the end of his term and, to secure a re-election, "he has hatched this case and all the evidence against the prisoner."

Etta's mother, Susan Cure, attended the trial dressed in deep mourning, not even removing her thick veil while testifying. Etta was the child of her first marriage to a soldier who had been killed in the war. Her voice was so low that the court stenographer had to repeat her answers. She and Etta had lived in Milwaukee and had moved to Chicago the preceding February. Etta had been in good health on Tuesday, August 24. Etta and Susan had ridden on a streetcar downtown on the 24th and gotten off the cars near Clark Street to do some shopping, eat lunch in a restaurant, and walk around the city. They got on the Randolph Street streetcar and headed home. Etta had gotten off at the corner of Green and Randolph  at around 3:00. The next time she saw her was at the coroner's inquest in Earll's office. She hadn't known about the pregnancy. Susan gave conflicting testimony about whether she had been to Earll's office with Etta or if the first time she'd been there was at the inquest. "I never heard of Dr. Earll or anything about him until my daughter said somebody advised her to go and see him. That was three or four weeks ago. She said she didn't know whether anything was the matter with her or not. He told her to come again in a few days. She went two or three days afterwards. He said he wouldn't do anything for her unless she paid him $25 - 85 down. She told him she didn't have any money, and didn't know where she could raise any, but would see what she could do. She had a little gold watch, and she said she would go and see if she couldn't pawn it and raise money. She went to his office, and he asked her what she had in the box. She told him. He asked what she was going to do with it. she said, 'pawn it and get money.' He asked if she had any objections to leaving it with him. She said 'No,' and he took it. I understood that the watch was left as security. If she got the money she was to redeem it. She went to see him several times. I tried all I could not to have her go. I had no idea that she was enceinte. I told her it could not be possible, because there were no symptoms indicating it. I cannot tell who was likely to be the father of the child. My daughter went to Milwaukee in the spring, -- about the 1st of May. She was there three weeks. It must have been then. I don't know how often she visited Dr. Earll. I don't know who recommended her to go to him. She did not tell me the lady's name. One evening I went with her to his office. He was there, and she introduced me, but I had no conversation with him. She visited him last week, but did not tell me what treatment he resorted to. She said he made an examination. I never asked about instruments.  Tuesday we were downtown, and started home on a Randolph street car. She got off at Green street, saying she was going over to Madison, -- that she would not be gone but a few minutes. She didn't say she was going to see Dr. Earll, but that was my idea. That was about 3 o'clock. She didn't come home during the night, and I thought she had gone to her brother's. I felt somewhat uneasy, and I started down-town to find her. I thought I would step into Dr. Earll's office and inquire. When the car came near his number I noticed the crowd, and I then learned of her death, and identified the body. My daughter was in good health, and had no indications of heart disease."

Earl was arrested six times from 1874 to 1880, though there were 18 months between his most recent arrest and Etta's death. "[W]hile there was no doubt as to his guilt in nearly every instance, the legal proof in all the cases except one was insufficient, and in that the jury were somehow induced to fix his punishment at only one year in the Penitentiary." Chicago Tribune, August 26, 1880

Earll was first arrested in the spring of 1874 for perpetrating an abortion on a woman named Talfrey. He was released. A month or two later he was arrested for the death of Rosetta Jackson. He was convicted and sent to Joliet and served 11 months -- his one-year sentence and a month off for good behavior. He was released in August of 1875. A young woman named Creighton died in October of 1876, and Earll was not held legally accountable. In August of 1877 he was investigated for the death of a young woman named Morgan. The next year he was arrested for performing an abortion on Mrs. McKay, held over for a trial by the Coroner's Jury, but not indicted by the Grand Jury.

Earll's practice was in Room 10 at 207 West Madison Street. His place was divided into a consulting room, a "medicine room," two bedrooms, and another small room. "All are dirty and dingy, full of rubbish of all sorts, and the atmosphere is sickening." Chicago Tribune, August 26, 1880

Coroner's Jury verdict: "That the said Etta A. Carll came to her death on the 24th of August, at the office of Dr. Charles Earll, Room 10, No. 205 West Madison street, by reason of acute peri-metritis, caused by an attempt to produce an abortion; the the jury further find that the said attempt to produce an abortion was made by Dr. Charles Earll, and we therefore recommend that the said Charles Earll be held to await the action of the Grand Jury.

One weakness in the case against Earll was that there were no signs of instrumentation. The doctor believed that the water Earll "injected" caused "uterine colic." "Abortion is a very difficult crime to prove, and, while there is no chance for hanging 'Dr.' Earll this time, it will be well to send him to Joliet for at least twenty years. That would certainly end his career, for he is over 50 now, and would never come out alive." The Chicago Tribune, August 26, 1880

Dr. J. W. Hutchinson testified in the trial that Etta had died from a shock caused by the injection of cold water. He said that sometimes doctors will perform a water injection but he himself considered it dangerous, especially during pregnancy.

During the trial Officer Davis testified that he'd seen bloody froth on a pillow in Earll's office consistent with what had been exuding from Etta's mouth and nose. He also said that Earll told him that he thought Etta had died of heart disease, the prior to her death her lips turned white and her face turned living, and she put her hand over her heart and complained of pain there. Bluthardt testified that he thought the abortion had been attempted first by manipulation, then by sponge-tents, then by the cold water injection. Earll's attorney objected to this conjecture.


  • "Dr. Charles Earll," The Chicago Tribune, August 26, 1880
  • "The Courts," The Chicago Tribune, September 8, 1880
  • "Etta Carl," The Daily Inter Ocean, December 4, 1880
  • "The Earll Abortion Case," The Inter Ocean, December 6, 1880
  • "Trial of Dr. Earll," Chicago Tribune, December 7, 1880

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