Monday, January 16, 2023

January 16, 1889: Deathbed Marriage

 An inquest was held into the January 16, 1889 death of 22-year-old Kitty Cody, a young Oyster Bay woman, in Brooklyn. 

Frank P. Dudgeon had set Kitty up in Mrs. Anyon's house at 85 West Eighty-Ninth Street. Kitty took sick there. Mrs. Anyon, who testified that Dudgeon had sent a box to Kitty, along with "a letter from him explaining the use of the contents of the box." The box evidently contained abortifacients. Kitty died at the apartment of Mrs. M. A. Harriman at 124 Flatbush Avenue.

The inquest was a circus, "held in the Supervisor's chamber, which was literally packed with spectators. It was replete with dramatic incidents, with some of which the crowd expressed its sympathies with the prosecution by breaking into applause."

The state entered into evidence an affidavit from Nelly Cody, Kitty's sister. "It embodied extracts from a letter to the dead girl signed Petie, which accompanied a package containing medicine and a syringe." A witness was produced who identified Dudgeon as the man who had brought the package to Anyon's house.

Dr. Charles F. Hall and Mrs. M. A. Flarriman were found to be complicit in concealing the commission of an abortion. The prosecutor's office concluded that Kitty, provided with the abortion drugs, had attempted an abortion, then used an instrument provided to her to perform a self-induced abortion.

On May 21, she went to a doctor who cared for her until hospitalizing her on January 6. While hospitalized she'd said something that had led to the belief that Dr. Charles Singley had perpetrated an abortion. Singley, when arrested, said that Kitty was trying to blackmail him. His only contact with her had been, he said, when she'd come to his office for treatment for a pelvic abscess. He'd treated her, she'd paid her $2, and left. This had been about a month prior to seeking care from the doctor who had hospitalized her.

Dudgeon married Kitty the day before her death. 

Dudgeon was tried as an accessory to manslaughter in Kitty's death, but in April of 1889 "escaped conviction by a disagreement of the jury, which stood eight to four for conviction of manslaughter in the first degree." He was released on $10,000 bail, which he was able to pay himself in cash. In fact, so prosperous was Dudgeon that he managed to arrange a lavish birthday banquet for himself while he was in jail. However, in July of 1890, the DA of Kings County dismissed the indictment. Kitty's father, James Cody of Oyster Bay, sued Dudgeon for $100,000.

Watch Last-Minute Marriage on YouTube.

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