Saturday, February 11, 2023

February 11, 1905: Man Blows His Brains Out Over Abortion

On February 11, 1905, 17-year-old Leona Pearl Loveless died in the Ischua, New York home of 58-year-old Dayton M. Hibner, where she had been working as a domestic for two years. She had gotten the job with the assistance of her grandmother, who thought that working on the Wolcott, NY farm with her widowed father, Abram, would be too difficult for the girl. Abram objected but allowed his daughter to take the job.

Leona reportedly had been in good health until about 5:15 p.m., when she was found in her room in great pain. She died about fifteen minutes later, and the coroner was notified. He had Leona's body taken from the Hibner home to the parlor at a village hotel. There, an autopsy conducted in anticipation of an inquest. While the coroner had been at the house arranging to move Leona's body, Hibner quipped that he was going to blow his brains out and end the matter.

Whether because of this comment or because of other suspicious happenings or rumors, law enforcement sent a guard home with Hibner to stay with him pending the completion of the coroner's inquest.

Saying he was going to feed his horses, Hibner left the guard at his house and went into the barn and got out a double-barreled shotgun. His first shot, to the chest, took a downward trajectory that wasn't fatal. He finished himself off with a second blast that took off the top of his head.

Hibner's 52-year-old wife, Eliza, was left devastated. Dayton Hibner had been her second husband. Her first husband, Mr. Beebe, had died by hanging himself.

"The coroner made discoveries after the girl's death, which, if proved, would have made the lynching of the suicide among the possibilities had he not taken his own life," the Lake Shore News noted. Leona, it turns out, had died from an attempted abortion.

Even getting Leona's body to the family home in Wolcott proved difficult. Her grandmother, Mrs. Sherman, and her cousin, Maude Legg, only made the journey from Ischua as far as Niagara Falls before being stopped by winter storms. A relative of Maude's, who had worked for the railroad, managed to arrange a special train for the journey to be completed.

The coroner's jury must have decided that Hibner himself had perpetrated the fatal abortion, since there is no follow up on the case.

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