Friday, May 26, 2023

May 26, 1950: Lay Abortionist Blames Death on Phlegm

 Joy Malee Joy, 25 years of age, was an employee of Pratt Union in Cunningham, Kansas. She lived with her mother, Inez, identified in news coverage as Mrs. Roy G. Lewis, and her 6-year-old daughter, Vicky Joy. Joy was a former resident of Hutchinson and Medora, and had graduated from Buhler HS in 1942. She had divorced Vicky's father five years earlier

On May 26, 1950, ambulance driver Phil Johnson of got a call of a sick woman at the home of Annas Whitlow Brown.  Brown had lived 25 years in Hutchinson, and was the mother of two grown daughters.

When Johnson arrived, he was directed through Brown's garage to the basement, where he found a woman lying on a bed on the large bedroom. She appeared to be dead. The bedspread was stained. The woman was Joy Malee Joy. Johnson transported her to Grace Hospital, where she was pronounced dead on arrival.

An inquest into Joy's death was held at Johnson and Sons Funeral Home.

Deputy Sheriff Gene Schroder and Captain John Robinson said that they went to Brown's home at around 9:00 pm. Brown showed them a first floor bedroom and said that this was where Joy had lay down. The police said they told her they knew better, whereupon Brown led them to the basement. They found two bedspreads, still damp, hanging in the utility room. 

They said that Brown told them that Joy had suffered a coughing spell so she'd given the young woman a peppermint and a glass of water.

In Joy's purse police found a business card for Annas Whitlow Brown and her phone number. On the back, in pencil, was nurse Margaret Dowdy's name, address, and phone number. 

Pathologist Dr. L. C. Murphy performed an autopsy, along with coroner Dr. G. A. Chickering. Murphy testified that "there were two findings. First the examination showed a five months pregnancy. Second there was evidence of instrumentation. There was evidence of an attempt at an abortion." This included tearing of the placenta and uterine bleeding. He believed that Joy had died from either blood loss or asphyxiation. At the time of her death Joy had been suffering from a cold which could have been a contributing factor. "An acute cold, coughing ... could have resulted in death if weakened by anesthetic or loss of blood."

Murphy said that the abortion had only been initiated, not completed. The attempt, however, had triggered heavy bleeding. "There was no way to tell how much loss of blood was suffered." Murphy could not decide if death had been caused by choking on mucus and vomit or by blood loss. Dr. Chickering added that in his opinion, "death was caused by an operation or the circumstances surrounding it."

A man named Frank Annett, from Pratt, testified that he knew Joy, who had approached him about a month earlier and "intimated she was pregnant." She had not, he testified, said anything about an abortion. About a week later, he testified, Joy had come to him wanting to borrow money.

Joy's mother wept when recalling that Joy had called her on Friday, saying that she was going to a shower for a friend and would be getting home late. She said that she hadn't known that her daughter was pregnant. Joy had been suffering a severe cold but was feeling better on Friday.

Nurse Dowdy, who had practiced for 35 years, testified that she had taken care of patients in her home for Brown. When asked if she knew the victim, Dowdy replied, "I never heard of Joy Malee Joy." She said that when Brown referred patients to her, she identified them from their home towns. Thus Joy Joy was "the girl from Pratt." Dowdy said that she'd also been told that "the girl from Pratt" had a daughter living in Cunningham with her grandmother. Dowdy said that Brown had contacted her about two weeks earlier, then was called on May 26 and told that "the girl from Pratt" would be coming to stay with her for a few days. "She called again in a few minutes, about 15 minutes, and said the girl was sick and had turned blue and would I come right out."

Dowdy said that by the time she arrived at Brown's house, "the girl from Pratt" had already been taken away. Dowdy went to the basement, where Brown had a rec room, a utility room, and two bedrooms. One bedroom had an attached bathroom.

"Mrs. Brown told me the girl had asked to use the bathroom, had a severe coughing spell and then asked to lie down on the bed. She gasped a few times and was gone. There was a large red spot on the bed."

Dowdy said that she had not been specifically told why Joy was at Brown's home, but believed it was for an abortion. When asked if she was an abortionist, she replied, "Oh no. I've never done an abortion. I just do the cleaning up, the after care." The women would stay with her for three or four days. "I keep them in bed and feed them. I determine when they are ready to go." She said that the "girls" would pay her ten dollars a day. She said that the only medications she would administer were aspirin and laxatives. When asked if she'd call a doctor if one of the "girls" got sick, Dowdy said, "I've never had that happen.

Brown was charged with first degree murder. She remained free on $7,500 bond until the trial. Her defense asserted that Joy had not bled to death but that "death resulted from a collection of mucus in her trachea." Brown convicted of manslaughter by abortion. 

After the conviction, Inez filed $15,000 suit against brown on behalf of Vicky.


Watch "The Lay Abortionist's Excuse" on YouTube.

No comments: