Sunday, March 29, 2009

40 Days of Lent: Day Thirty Three

More About My Namesake The Child Killer

Continued from yesterday, the article from the February 2nd 1871 edition of The New York Times.

The imperfect evidence then gleaned pointed so strongly toward him that he was arrested and held for a hearing, but from want of sufficient testimony it was found necessary to discharge him. With unusual effrontery the suspected man stood his ground and continued his business as if nothing had happened. This unusual course, which but few guilty men would have had the nerve to carry out, diverted suspicion from him almost entirely, save in the minds of the few officers of the law who were engaged in working up the case. Had he had but sufficient self-control to have kept him from acts similar to that which ended in the murder, he would probably never have been discovered. As it was, the imperfection of the evidence made him feel in a short time perfect secure, and he was less guarded in his actions. He even boated that though he had been arrested, the crime could not be proved upon him.

So he continued his criminal course, until he brought up in prison, to which he had been sentenced for a term of five years for attempting to commit an outrage on a girl of ten years old. He called himself then Charles E. Harris, but his assumed name did not hide him from those who had all along suspected him of the child-murder. After he had been in prison a short time an alderman, who had taken much interest in the case identified him, and then together with the officers and with the consent of the authorities, a plan was inaugurated, with the consent of the authorities, to convict the man out of his own mouth. A fellow-prisoner, convicted of a crime of somewhat lighter hue, was confined with the suspected man, in the hope that the story of the murderer would be unfolded in private to the companion. The sequel proves that the temptations of boon companionship and he horrors of the heavy secret were too much for the guilty one. The story must be told to somebody, and told it was.

The fellow-prisoner is taken into confidence for the sake of lightening the weight which the inhuman man is unable alone to carry. Bust so hardened is the criminal that the story, when once begun, is told boastingly as if it was the greatest of exploits. The story thus told is confided by the fellow-prisoner to the authorities in the hope of a pardon being granted to the informer. But the story in this form is of no practical use. It comes directly from a criminal and through a criminal. But it is important, inasmuch as it gives the clue to work upon, and the direction in which to work to complete the chain. Then the detectives go to work in earnest. Every item of the confession is thoroughly sifted and inquired into, and outside evidence is found and produced (then an easy matter) to corroborate every part.

When the chain is a complete whole the Grand Jury is notified and a true bill is found against John Hanlon, the barber, who is brought from prison and re-tried. Then it is that the damning story comes out in all its horrid particulars. The lustful man with evil intent disguises himself, thus preventing effectually his identification afterward. He seeks some one on whom to gratify his passion. He walks the streets on a quiet Sunday evening and finds the little child, whom he entices or compels to go with him. He hills her, unintentionally perhaps, in the accomplishment of his designs, but unintentional killing under such circumstances is murder in the first degree.

Having killed her, he puts her into the cellar of his house and coolly goes to bed as if nothing had happened. He makes several unsuccessful attempts to get rid of the body. He keeps the dreadful thing in his possession for the whole of one day and two nights, all the time pursuing his business as usual, while the neighbors are everywhere hunting the lost child. At last he succeeds in getting rid of it. In the early morning of the third day he deposits it in a slimy pool in an open lot, hoping, like Eugene Aram, that the waters will cover it. The waters do not cover it. Almost immediately it is found, and the search for the criminal commences. He stands it al and even continues in his evil courses. He is arrested and put in prison for a minor offense. Here he convicts himself f the greater. He takes his trial, and a fair one it is....

to be continued

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