Murder for Christmas Dec 20, 2016 2:29:54 GMT -5
Post by Joanna on Dec 20, 2016 2:29:54 GMT -5
Murder for Christmas
Christmas is supposed to be a time of peace on Earth, good will toward men and other things that get short shrift the other 364 days of the year. However, as much as we like the idea of the season's working its magic on human nature, the combination of shortened tempers, end-of-the-year disappointments, family feuds and/or free-flowing booze can send even a mild-mannered individual reaching for the axe to carve his way into holiday homicide history. Following are 11 epic fails of the seasonal spirit during the 19th and early 20th centuries:
New York City (December 25, 1878): One of the most horrifying cases is that of Sarah Hayden, 16-years-old, and a new bride of three months. Sarah was acquainted with Felix Lavelle, 21, who lived in the neighborhood. The young matron was pretty, flirtatious and playful and when she met Lavelle on the street on Christmas day, she proceeded to search his jacket and trouser pockets for candy – or so she said – but instead of candy, found a pistol in one of his pockets. Lavelle took out the revolver, removed a cartridge and presented it to Sarah. Then he cocked the hammer, jokingly pointed the weapon at the coquettish lady and accidentally pulled the trigger. He may have been attempting to scare the girl, but the bullet hit her in the left breast at point-blank range. The man, in a daze, helped the dying woman to the doorstep of a nearby house, sent for the police and waited for their arrival. He was arrested, charged with, and convicted of, second degree murder and sentenced to life imprisonment.
Chamberburg, Ohio (December 24, 1880): A dance at the Foresters’ Hall ended in tragedy when the doorkeeper refused to allow Theodore Hanley to enter. Hanley challenged the man and demanded entry and the doorkeeper called for floor manager Michael “Doll” Shively. The 23-year-old Shively explained that no gentleman was to be admitted without a female partner. The argument escalated and quickly became heated. Hanley then attempted to force his way inside. Many assumed Hanley was drunk, but witnesses later testified he was sober as a judge. Shively stood firm and blocked his way and Hanley drew a pistol and shot the floor manager in the top of the head – apparently, Hanley was much taller than the other man. The bullet passed vertically through Shively’s skull and lodged in the roof of his mouth and he died at 5 a.m. on Christmas morning. Hanley stole his brother’s horse and fled.
Ashland, Kentucky, (December 24, 1881): Robert Gibbons, a 17-year-old amputee, his sister Fannie, 14, and their friend Emma Carico, 15, were all asleep when someone entered the Gibbons home in the very early morning hours and bludgeoned them to death using both an axe and a crowbar. For good measure, the killer. or killers, set the house on fire. Neighbors, alerted by the flames, rushed to help and discovered the three bodies with their skulls smashed to pieces. The town doctor also found the two girls had been raped. Ultimately, three men were accused of the crime: George Ellis, William Neal and George Craft. Ellis later recanted his confession, but died at the hands of a lynch mob. Craft and Neal were tried and legally hanged: Craft on October 12, 1883, and Neal March 28, 1885.
Mangum, Texas (December 25, 1885): Three men – Jack Doyle, Don Sullivan and Buck Hannon – were bragging about their sexual exploits and at some point, Sullivan insulted Doyle’s wife and intimated he’d had relations with her. As the quarrel intensified, Sullivan draw his revolver and so did Doyle. Unfortunately for Doyle, the other man was faster and Doyle ended up on the ground with a bullet through his heart. Having defended his wife’s honor, Sullivan calmly walked down the street to the hotel, where he was shot by Hannon, avenging his friend’s murder. Hannon then rode out of town. There was no preacher in Mangum, so people gathered at the graveyard and whispered silent prayers as Doyle and Sullivan were lowered into the ground.
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, December 25, 1894: Think your last holiday dinner party went horribly wrong? John Johnston, his wife Amy, his friend Daniel Herron, Daniel’s wife, and a mutual friend, George Cassell, gathered at Johnston’s house to spend a nice evening celebrating Christmas with food and drink. Unfortunately, the group drank too much and were soon airing their grievances against their friends. Around 7 o’clock, following an argument over an old grudge, Herron drew a gun and tried to shoot Johnston, but Amy leaped to her husband’s defense and took the bullet in her right side. Suddenly sobered by what he’d done, Herron ran back to his own house. When Amy Johnston died of the gunshot wound, Herron was arrested and charged with manslaughter.
St. Louis, Missouri (December 25, 1895): In the St. Louis Tenderloin district, known as the Deep Morgan, Lee “Stack Lee” Shelton – a fashionably dressed pimp and whorehouse boss – went into a saloon on 13th Street where he met his friend, William Lyons, a staunch Republican. As everyone knows, strong drink and political discussions don’t go well together and Shelton was a Democrat. Insults escalated into a slap fight and at some point, Lyons’ bowler hat was crushed. He demanded payment for the ruined hat and grabbed Shelton’s Stetson. Shelton then drew a revolver and shot him dead. Does the story sound familiar? Much later, the events would become the basis of the song “Stagger Lee.”
Savannah, Georgia (December 24, 1898): This was a busy night for the Savannah police who arrested more than 150 lawbreakers, including two murderers. Charles Low and Charles Green got into an argument over two women. Low stabbed Green in the stomach and he bled to death. The second murder occurred when Queen Martin quarreled with her paramour and stabbed him through the heart. But the most unusual crime of the evening occurred when Mayor R.W. Olive of Pembroke, Georgia, was assaulted by Paul Canady. Despite having been badly beaten, Mayor Olive pistol-whipped Canady and almost bit off his thumb during the altercation. Newspaper accounts speculated His Honor would demand further satisfaction from Canady in a public duel.
Hopkinsville, Kentucky (December 24, 1900): In a “quart house” (an unlicensed establishment that sold moonshine) around 16 miles outside town, a group of four young men, including the bar’s owner, celebrated the holiday season by downing homemade whiskey by the pint until they were stinking drunk. At 5 o’clock in the afternoon, another young man, Marion Henderson, joined the party. Shortly thereafter, Bob Morris accused Henderson of blocking his light, drew his revolver, and shot the man in the chest at close range. The bullet lodged near Henderson’s heart and he died before the doctor arrived. His wife was summoned to identify the body.
Livermore, Kentucky (December 24, 1900): Holiday dances could be hazardous around the turn of the century. Two rivals – John Froge and M. Garman – were both in love with Lillie Lambert. During one of the dances, Froge deliberately tripped Garman, who gave the other man a piece of his mind. Froge, in turn, whipped out two pistols and began shooting. As bullets were flying around him, Garman ran next door, acquired a shotgun, returned and blew off Froge’s head. Though clearly a case of self-defense, Garman’s guilty conscience prompted him to skip town and lie low, which he did until March, when he finally confessed to the sheriff in Carlinville, Illinois.
New York City, December 25, 1901: John Bell lived in Brooklyn and when Margaret, his wife of 15 years, returned from a trip to Scotland, she announced she was pregnant. He had no evidence of infidelity, but suspected the baby wasn’t his. For weeks, he bullied, threatened and verbally abused the lady. It was close to Christmas, but instead of getting into the holiday spirit, he continued to brood. His wife grew sick of his attitude and told him he was being ridiculous. Finally, insane with jealousy, he confronted her with a pistol in the basement of their home with the intention of killing her and himself. In desperation, she leaped at him and the two struggled for the weapon. Bell wrenched it away and shot Margaret through the left eye. After she died, he changed his mind about his contemplated suicide, walked outside and confessed to a policeman.
Germanton, North Carolina (December 25, 1929): Just before Christmas, Charlie Lawson, 43, a local farmer, took his family into town for new clothes and a family portrait. This was the last time the Lawsons would be photographed together. On Christmas Day, Lawson murdered Fannie, his wife of 18 years, and six of their seven children before taking his own life. To this day, no one knows why Lawson slaughtered his family. Some, though, speculate he may have been having an incestuous relationship with his eldest daughter, Marie, and she was possibly pregnant by her father. Arthur “Buck” Lawson, the eldest son, was away from home with his cousin when the murders occurred. The dead included Fannie (37), Marie (17), Carrie (12), Maybell (7), James (4), Raymond (2) and baby Mary Lou. They had been slaughtered one-by-one; some were killed by shotgun blasts, others by bludgeoning, and some were both shot and bludgeoned. It appeared Carrie and Maybell had been chased down and killed as they attempted to get away. The only family member missing was Charlie, who had gone into the woods to shoot himself after committing the terrible deed. The shot was said to have been heard by law enforcement officers who had arrived to investigate the crime. According to local legend, there was evidence of pacing in the snow near Lawson’s body, indicating he had walked in circles before finally getting up the nerve to pull the trigger.
Sources: Nene Adams, ListVerse, December 22, 2012; “Did Christ Die for Sinners Weep: The Story of the First Legal Hanging in Carter County” by Glen R. Haney; Stephanie Almazan, Holiday Horror; and “Bloodiest Christmas Massacres” by Cheryl Eddy.