Thursday, October 31, 2013

Thriller Thursday - part 2 of 6 - Knife Used With Girl's Body Warm


Knife Used With Girl's Body Warm;
Clews to Murder.

Man Milliner, in Two Strange Letters, Asserts Beautifully Formed Slain Woman Was His Daughter.

Missing From His Home

Wrote to German Ambassador Accusing Physician, and to Police About New York Costumer - Birth Marks May Identify the Victim.

Pillow Slip Seller Found.

Embroidered Cloth in Which Torso Was Wrapped Is Traced to a Manhattan Dealer - Whitman Goes to Aid of New Jersey Authorities.

The beautifully formed young woman whose torso, in two parts, was found on the New Jersey shore, opposite 110th street, was dismembered while the blood still flowed warm in her veins.

This was revealed by the autopsy performed at Volk's Morgue, Hoboken, yesterday, and Dr. George W. King, the County Physician, who was in charge, asserted that the slayer was one familiar with the human anatomy and skilled in the use of surgical instruments.

Peter Sterneman, a seller of cheap millinery, who wrote to the police a strange and partly incoherent letter saying he believed the slain girl was his daughter Ella, moved from Brooklyn to Jamaica Thursday. H was not at home last night when a reporter for The Tribune called, at No. 112 Globe street, where he rented a room from Mrs. Mathilda Weiss.

When Sterneman went there Thursday he brought two boxes and several pieces of furniture, including a bedstead and a pine table. According to Mrs. Weiss, these two pieces he painted brown. When the table was examined last night some dark brown stains showed on the underside of the table.

In one of the two boxes, which were padlocked, were found some feathers stiffened with copper wire somewhat similar to the milliner's wire used in tying up the torso, only it was black instead of white.

New Carpenter's Saw.

In another box were found a new carpenter’s saw and a carpenter's chisel, with its edge slightly dented as if it had come in contact with very hard wood or a still harder substance.

In the same box was found a mass of dark brown paper, heavy and glazed on one side, and a penknife, with a three-inch blade, with dark stains on it.

Mrs. Weiss said that when Sterneman came to her house Thursday morning he said:
"I have just moved from Myrtle avenue, My enemies are after me. If any one comes here, say that I don't live here."

When Sterneman read the newspapers telling of the finding of the torso he said to Mrs. Weiss.
"That is my daughter."

Mrs. Weiss said Sterneman Sunday morning washed one of his coats, his vest, a pair of trousers, an outer shirt, and an undershirt, and a burlap bag. The burlap bag he gave her to dry. The rest he hung out himself.

For some unaccountable reason, he also washed some of his stock of white feathers yesterday morning, and these he hung on a chair to dry.

The police were looking for Sterneman last night, but were unable to find him.

An added element of mystery in the case was the discovery that the girl, who, in the course of nature, would have been a mother in three of four months, gave premature birth to a child two or three days before she was slain.

Nothing found by Dr. King or by Dr. Timothy D. Lehane, Coroner's Physician of New York County, who assisted in the autopsy, indicated that an illegal operation was performed.

The murder used no poison or anaesthetic before beginning the dreadful task of dismemberment. The stomach showed no traces of poison, and had chloroform been used the lungs would had have revealed it.

Deliberate Murder, Says Doctor.

"The woman was literally hacked to death." said Dr. King. "It was a brutal, deliberate murder. Perhaps the slayer cut her throat first, and before life was extinct began cutting up her body. All the physical symptoms showed that the body was cut up while the blood coursed through the veins.

"Death was due to hemorrhage, caused by the severance of the femoral artery, the abdominal aorta and the carotid and brachial arteries."

There was no blood in the tissues or veins. If the murderer had waited until the girl was dead two or three minutes before starting to dismember the body there would have been blood found in the veins and tissues, it was said.

The police, while having little to work on, are inclined to the theory that the girl was murdered in either Manhattan or The Bronx. There are two circumstances which give rise to this belief.

One is the bit of gneiss rock with which the lower part of the torso, found at Shadyside, was weighted. This stone is peculiar to the geological formation of Manhattan and The Bronx, and it does not occur in New Jersey, the authorities say.

The other fact is the current that winds down from the mouth of Spuyten Duyvil Creek, swinging in a slightly defined curve to the shores of Shadyside and Cliffside. These two New Jersey villages are almost directly opposite 110th street.

Speaking of the current, Captain Leonard Marcy, of the North Bergen police, said to a reporter for The Tribune yesterday:
"Tests made in the past and observations of years show that any buoyant body dropped into Spuyten Duyvil Creek, or in the Hudson immediately below that point, will be washed ashore at Shadyside or Cliffside. This is because of the current that has its origin at Spuyten Duyvil Creek and which crosses the Hudson bringing up against the shores of the two villages."

Whitman and Faurot Aid.

So convinced yesterday were the New Jersey authorities that the crime was committed on this side of the river that they asked the police and District Attorney Whitman to assist in unravelling [sic] the case.

District Attorney Whitman sent one of his assistants, Deacon Murphy, to New Jersey yesterday afternoon. Mr. Murphy, with County Prosecutor Hudspeth of Bergen County, was present at the autopsy at Volk's morgue.

Inspector Faurot, of the New York detective bureau, assigned ten detectives to the case. Some of these were put to work to run down ends suggested by the letters of Sterneman, and others were sent to make a canvass of the pleasure craft on either side of the Hudson, in the belief that the girl might have met her death on one of these boats.

Besides Sterneman's letter the police have the following tangible clews [sic] to work on:
The birthmarks on the right shoulder.
The pillowslip with the crudely embroidered "A," used to wrap up part of the torso.
The ticking of the pillowslip, which had been emptied of its feathers before being used by the murderer to wrap up the second part of the torso.
Pieces of a heavy dark brown paper, also used to wrap up parts of the torso.

Seller of Pillowslip Found.

One important discovery made by the police yesterday was the finding of the dealer in this city who handled the pillowslips. This information the police obtained from the Robinson-Roder Company, of Newark, and the work of the police was made easier by the fact that only one New York retailer handled the particular sort of pillowslip such as was used by the murderer.

This retailer, whose name the police withheld, purchased only a dozen of the pillowslips. The police believe it will be an easy matter to run down the several purchasers.

This find on the part of the police was regarded of the highest importance, as it may lead to the arrest of the murderer. It was said at Police Headquarters last night that the police were going over the books of the New York dealer who handled the pillow clips in an effort to trace the purchasers.

Three detectives were sent out to hunt for Peter Sterneman, who left his home in Jamaica early yesterday morning. His rambling letter to Captain Hayes, of the Hoboken police, was turned over to Assistant District Attorney Murphy, of Mr. Whitman's staff, by County Prosecutor Hudspeth.

One man mentioned by Sterneman in the letter as a friend of his daughter is a physician. The police searched for him last night. Sterneman in his letter described this man as one "who would do anything for money."

But while the police do not attach too great importance to the letter, because of its incoherency, they believe that is furnishes leads that must be run down, and the most promising of these is the one referring to the young physician.

Another letter of Sterneman's now in the hands of the police was sent by him to the German Ambassador at Washington and referred to Bernard Dietsch, a detective of the East 51st street station, by the ambassador.

Third Avenue Costumer Sought.

In this letter Sterneman wrote that his daughter, in 1910, was employed by a costumer on Third avenue, not far from the Grand Central Terminal. For obvious reasons the name and address are not printed. Detective Dietsch went to see this man last night, but learned that he had not been at his place of business since Friday morning. It was 4 o'clock of that day that the upper part of the girl's torso was found at Shadyside.

Dietsch said Sterneman in his letter accused the costumer of having mistreated his daughter. From another source the detective learned that the costumer and his wife had not lived together for two years.

The detectives of this city also made an effort to see if any of the young women reported missing since August 31, on which day, or the day following, the police believe the girl was murdered, may be the slain girl.

New Jersey police spent the better part of the day grappling in the Hudson River in the neighborhood of Shadyside and Cliffside in the hope of finding the head. If the head was weighted with rock, as was the lower part of the torso, and cast into the river, it probably will remain in the river's bed.


Knife Used With Girl's Body Warm, New York Tribune, 9 September 1913, page 1, column 7, and page 2, column 1.