Monday, October 23, 2023

October 23, 1920: Doctor Gets Away With Abortion Murders

Summary: Nineteen-year-old Francis Karies was one of five deaths attributed to Dr. Charles Waldstein Millikin in Akron, Ohio.


Dr. C. W. Millikin

Charles Waldstein Millikin was a trained, licensed physician and very highly respected in his community. It's important to grasp this as we look at what he did with his training and license over a six-month period from October of 1920 through March of 1921.

The sixth son of Thomas and Tamar (Clark) Milliken, C.W. was born April 17, 1856 in Johnston, Trumbull County, Ohio. Milliken was an 1880 graduate of the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine in Philadelphia. He was licensed as an allopath in Ohio in 1896 after having served a residency at Harrisburg Hospital and Philadelphia Hospital in Pennsylvania. 

Millikin moved to Akron, Ohio in 1882.

In 1887, Milliken served as secretary of the 64th quarterly meeting of the Northeastern Ohio Medical Association. 

Things started going wrong when Milliken was around 64 years old, nearing retirement age.

He should have retired.

September and October, 1920 

Around September 23, 1920, Milliken performed a criminal abortion on 19-year-old Francis Karies (also sometimes spelled Kerris) underwent an abortion at his Akron practice. 

I've been unable to determine anything about Francis's whereabouts or condition in the following weeks. However, Millikin was keeping busy. He performed an abortion on Maud Sporn, alias Spohr, on October 2. She died in Akron on October 12

Though Francis had undergone her abortion in Akron, she died at Chicago's Swedish Covenant Hospital on October 23. The coroner recommended Milliken's arrest, but there is no record if any legal action was taken against him for Francis's death until, sadly, too much later. In fact, as far as I know, no authorities outside of Chicago seemed to take notice.

February Through March, 1921

No ill seems to have befallen any other women at Milliken's hands in November or December. Even January of 1921 got off to a good start. But things started going wrong in Millikin's practice in February.

Iva Jean Tripplett, nee Isner, 28, wife of Artie George Tripplett, 317 Bowery St. Akron. Millikin was 65 in 1921

Funeral services at Billows' mortuary chapel interrupted on afternoon of October 10. Family had been planning to transport Ida's body to West Virginia for burial.

Coroner Kent performed post-mortem.

Millikin filed death certificate indicating acute tuberculosis. Health department issued burial certificate. Coroner found Ida's lungs in perfect condition but found evidence of septicemia. Removed organs and preserved them for prosecution.

Artie said he hadn't know about the abortion until Ida took ill and told him. Four young children. "Doyle stated tat the death of Mrs. Tripplett makes four in seven days all from the same causes, and each of them charged against Dr. Millikin.

Milliken was free on March 1 or 2, 1921 when he performed an abortion on Iva J. Triplett at his home office at 365 E. Market St. in Akron. Immediately after the abortion, Ida took ill. Millikin attended to her until her death from septicemia and peritonitis at 7:00 on the morning of March 9, leaving behind a husband and children. That was the third death in a week reported to Doyle.

Florence Cobb

As Ida lay dying under Milliken's care, he performed another criminal abortion which resulted in the March 6 death of 22-year-old telegraph operator Florence Heath Cobb, wife of Thomas Cobb of Kenmore, who worked for Goodyear Tire and Rubber. Died at Akron Hospital at 1:00 the afternoon of Sunday, March 6, 1921. Florence and Thomas had married only on the 22nd of the previous June. Her family brought her body to her home town of Salt Lake City for burial. Millikin arrested on the 5th while Florence was still alive, a few hours after the illness was reported to Doyle. Assistant prosecutors Scheck and Wanamaker visited Florence Cobb at City hospital on Saturday the 5th. She made a dying declaration saying Milliken had performed the fatal abortion. Her husband agreed. An autopsy showed that Florence had died as the result of an abortion. Florence, a graduate of the LDS University in Salt Lake City, had been a swimming instructor at Desert Gymnasium before moving to Akron, where she married Thomas Cobb on June 22, 1920.

"Doyle stated that when the first reports came to him he was loathe to place any credence on them inasmuch as the physician is reputed to be one off the best in Summit county and one, through his long residence and wide practice here has earned the reputation of being a man of high ideals." Had to order bodies exhumed.

"The physician who has practiced for 40 years or more in Akron and is well known to most of the older residents of the city and vicinity was arrested Saturday night when Doyle had been informed of the serious condition of Mrs. Cobb, and he was released on bond furnished by himself and A. G. Miller." Doyle wanted to await the April grand jury to present the four deaths.

On March 15, 1921, five more indictments were handed to the judge by the grand jury, for a total of seven at that point, some for the abortions, some for falsification of documents to cover up the abortions.

Louise Marie Vogt, 19, died of peritonitis on March 5, 1921 after an abortion perpetrated on February 26.

And what became of the illustrious Dr. C. W. Millikin after all of these deaths? He pleaded guilty for the death of Louise Marie Vogt in exchange for a suspended sentence, dismissal of the indictments for the four other deaths, and revocation of his medical license. Three judges, Anderson, C. P. Kennedy, and F. J. Rockwell pushed for clemency on the grounds that Millikin was old, a first-time offender, and an all-around great guy.

Judge Anderson further stated, "Courts have made the practice of late years of giving young first offenders that benefit of a parole, and we feel that this is a case where the court can do likewise. It is extremely hard at his age for this defendant to be in such trouble as he now finds himself in. This young woman was in trouble. He had treated the members of her family for 30 years, and when she came to him begging him to assist her he did so in order to protect her good name and that of the family. He is not really guilty, although technically he is. I have known him for a great many years, and have never known him to do an unkind act. The appeal of the woman in distress affected him, and he was justified, morally, in doing what he did. Although the publicity given him has caused the loss of his good name, he will always enjoy the confidence of his friends."

Judge Ahern chimed in, "Dr. Millikin has admitted his guilt, however, but on account of his past record and his many manifestations of public spiritedness the court feels that he is entitled to a suspended sentence."

Prosecutor Doyle merely commented that legally the judges had the authority to turn Millikin loose. His rather tight-lipped comments to reporters tend to indicate that he did not take kindly to the leniency granted to a man who had cost five young women their lives.

Milliken remained in Akron until his death from cerebral hemorrhage and chronic myocarditis on April 13, 1929. "Last Rites For Dr. Millikin To Be Held Tuesday," announced the April 15, 1929 Akron Beacon Journal. The notice sang his praises as a political and social figure. "Dr. Millikin's Death," published in another edition that same day, praised him to the skies: "In the death of Dr. C. W. Millikin this community loses another fine type of the old-time physician whose fifty years of service here spanned the interesting transit of Akron from village to city class. .... He was chief of staff of the City Hospital in 1915. He was a lover of nature and a member of the National Audubon society and the National Society of Natural Research Next to his professional work and his devotion to his friends, public service held his chief interest. This was expressed through his association with the Democratic party, of whose local organization he was often chairman. He sought no preferment for himself. Having no children of his own he sent many a student to and through college. He was a lover of children and of young people. One so kindly and gentle in character will be deeply missed in the circles where he was best known and highly regarded."

He likely was not so nearly highly regarded by the loved ones of Iva Triplet, Maud Sporn, Louise Marie Vogt, Florence Cobb, and Francis Karris. 


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