Monday, November 14, 2022

November 14, 1928: The Death of Eunice McElroy

On November 14, 1928, 21-year-old Eunice McElroy died in Chicago from complications of a criminal abortion. 

Eunice had been a particularly promising young woman even though she'd had a difficult childhood. She and her sister, Julia "Jewel" McElroy, had ended up in the custody of their grandmother after their parents divorced. Eight years later their mother tried to regain custody and the two girls tearfully begged to stay with their grandmother and expressed a wish never to see their mother again. Eunice, then 12 years old, told the judge that their mother had threatened to place the girls in "a home without windows where we would have to scrub floors all our life." She told the judge that both she and Jewel were afraid of their mother.

Eunice became an active and involved high school student, active in the Rifle Club, Junior Band, Musical Club, and Student Council. Eunice and Julia became a musical duo, earning praise for their performances at events in the Chicago area. While Julia became a cabaret singer after high school, Eunice put her business classes to work and became a stenographer.

Dr. Thomas J. Ney was indicted by a grand jury for felony murder in Eunice's death. Among the witness was Julia, who testified that she heard Ney tell Eunice that if questioned she should tell the police that a specific other doctor -- who was later found out to have been dead for six months -- had perpetrated the abortion.

Eunice's abortion was typical of illegal abortions in that it was performed by a physician.

Ney was able to delay his trial for over three years, obtaining more than 25 continuances. He was still out on bail pending trial when he was implicated in the abortion death of 18-year-old waitress Alma Bromps, who died April 26, 1931. Evidently this was the last straw. His bail was revoked and the medical board took a closer look at him and started to wonder if he'd ever even completed medical school before being licensed.

The case ran into another delay when the courts were temporarily unable to locate Julia. Relatives told officials that they believe somebody had persuaded Julia to make herself scarce.

Further investigation led to allegations that Ney had poisoned women he'd injured in abortions so that they'd not be able to make statements against him. One of the people making this claim was Eunice's mother, Bessie, who said that when a patient got blood poisoning, Ney would send an attendant for a prescription of mild sedatives and, during the attendant's absence, would inject something into the patient that would leave her in pain but unable to speak. These allegations came to nothing.

Alma's sister Elcey and Julia McElroy both attended Ney's trial but did not testify. Ney was convicted of murder in Elma's case. I've been unable to determine if he was also convicted in Eunice's death.

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