Excerpt for Jealous Rage: Stunning True Tales of Intimates, Passion, and Murder (Volume 1) by , available in its entirety at Smashwords


Stunning True Tales of Intimates, Passion, and Murder

Volume 1

By R. Barri Flowers


Stunning True Tales of Intimates, Passion, and Murder

Volume 1

Copyright 2018 by R. Barri Flowers

All rights reserved.

Cover Image Copyright Chaikom, 2018

Used under license from

To my one and only, for your longtime devotion and contribution to my
many writings over the years, this one included—thank you!

In memory of all the victims of historical and present-day love triangle rage
and fatalities, and their shortened lives and unrealized potential.

* * *


Dead at the Saddleworth Moor

Kids Who Commit Adult Crimes

Killers of the Lonely Hearts

Prostitution in the Digital Age

Mass Murder in the Sky

Masters of True Crime (editor)

Missing or Murdered

Murder and Menace (volumes 1-3)

Murder at the Pencil Factory

Murder Chronicles

Murder During the Chicago World’s Fair

Murder of the Banker’s Daughter

Murders in the United States

Serial Killer Couples

The Amityville Massacre

The Dreadful Acts of Jack the Ripper

The Dynamics of Murder

The Gold Special Train Robbery

The Pickaxe Killers

The Sex Slave Murders

The Sex Slave Murders 2

The Sex Slave Murders 3


Before He Kills Again: A Veronica Vasquez Thriller

Dark Streets of Whitechapel: A Jack the Ripper Mystery

Dead in Pukalani: An Eddie Naku Maui Mystery (Book 1)

Dead in Kihei: An Eddie Naku Maui Mystery (Book 2)

Deadly Defense: A Grace Gaynor Christian Mystery

Justice Served: A Barkley & Parker Mystery

Killer in The Woods

Murder in Maui: A Leila Kahana Mystery (Book 1)

Murder on Kaanapali Beach: A Leila Kahana Mystery (Book 2)

Murder of the Hula Dancers: A Leila Kahana Mystery (Book 3)

Persuasive Evidence: A Jordan La Fontaine Legal Thriller

State’s Evidence: A Beverly Mendoza Legal Thriller

* * *


“Must read for all true crime fans.” — Amazon reviewer on Serial Killers and Prostitutes

“Selected as one of Suspense Magazine’s Best books.” — John Raab, CEO/Publisher on The Sex Slave Murders

“A gripping account of the murders committed by husband-and-wife serial killers Gerald and Charlene Gallego.” — Gary C. King, true crime author on The Sex Slave Murders

“Vivid case studies of murder to complement this well researched criminology text.” — Scott Bonn, Ph.D., criminology professor on The Dynamics of Murder

“A model of exposition not to be missed by anyone interested in the annals of American criminal behavior.” — Jim Ingraham, Ph.D., professor emeritus of American Studies at Bryant University on The Pickaxe Killers

“R. Barri Flowers always relates an engrossing story.” — Robert Scott, true crime author on The Sex Slave Murders

“Striking, well-written tales sparkle in this ocean of murder.” — Diane Fanning, true crime author on Masters of True Crime

“Exhaustively researched, each storyteller brings their own unique prose to these pages, creating what will soon become a true crime classic.” — Kevin M. Sullivan, true crime author on Masters of True Crime

“This book should be a mandatory purchase and read for any true-crime buff.” — Steven A. Egger, Ph.D., associate professor on Masters of True Crime

“Incredible cases, psychopathic killers, unwitting victims, along with the very best writers, make for an exciting, no-holds-barred, soon-to-be true-crime classic.” — Dan Zupansky, host of True Murder on Masters of True Crime

“An indispensable sourcebook for anyone interested in American homicide, from law-enforcement professionals to armchair criminologists.” — Harold Schechter, true crime historian on The Dynamics of Murder

* * *



Chapter 1: Murder of the U.S. Attorney: Congressman Sickles’ Crime of Passion in 1859

Chapter 2: Murder of the Doctor’s Wife: The 1867 Crimes of Bridget Durgan

Chapter 3: Murder of the French Lover: The Killing of Madame Lassimonne in 1892

Chapter 4: Murderess on the Loose: The 1922 Hammer Wrath of Clara Phillips

Chapter 5: Killer of Her Husband’s Secretary: The 1935 Love Triangle Ire of Etta Reisman

Chapter 6: Murdered by the King of Western Swing: The Beating Death of Ella Mae Cooley in 1961

Chapter 7: Murder of the Horse Trainer’s Rival: The 1978 Bitter Breakup of Buddy Jacobson and the Model

Chapter 8: Murder of a Star Quarterback in 2009: The Tragic Tale of Steve McNair & Sahel Kazemi

The Amityville Massacre: The DeFeo Family’s Nightmare (bonus historical true crime short)

Missing or Murdered: The Disappearance of Agnes Tufverson (bonus historical true crime short)

The Sex Slave Murders: The True Story of Serial Killers Gerald & Charlene Gallego (bonus excerpt)

The Dreadful Acts of Jack the Ripper and Other True Tales of Serial Murder and Prostitutes (bonus excerpt)

Murder During the Chicago World’s Fair: The Killing of Little Emma Werner (bonus excerpt)

Murders in the United States: Crimes, Killers, and Victims of the Twentieth Century (bonus excerpt)


About the Author


From R. Barri Flowers, award-winning criminologist and international bestselling author of riveting historical true crime stories and books such as Dead at the Saddleworth Moor, Murder at the Pencil Factory, Murder of the Banker’s Daughter, Murder Chronicles, Murder During the Chicago World’s Fair, Murder and Menace, Serial Killer Couples, and The Sex Slave Murders, comes the enthralling historical true crime anthology, Jealous Rage: Stunning True Tales of Intimates, Passion, and Murder, Volume 1.

In this first volume of a three-book series, each chapter will chronicle a riveting, real life, age-old murder case involving jealousy, betrayal, and homicidal fury between spouses, lovers, and others caught in the fatal crossfire of love triangles, crimes of passion, and justice being served or not. The historical, often unbelievable, but true tales explored and brought back to life in the book include Chapter 1: Murder of the U.S. Attorney: Congressman Sickles’ Crime of Passion in 1859; Chapter 2: Murder of the Doctor’s Wife: The 1867 Crimes of Bridget Durgan; Chapter 3: Murder of the French Lover: The Killing of Madame Lassimonne in 1892; Chapter 4: Murderess on the Loose: The 1922 Hammer Wrath of Clara Phillips; Chapter 5: Killer of Her Husband’s Secretary: The 1935 Love Triangle Ire of Etta Reisman; Chapter 6: Murdered by the King of Western Swing: The Beating Death of Ella Mae Cooley in 1961; Chapter 7: Murder of the Horse Trainer’s Rival: The 1978 Bitter Breakup of Buddy Jacobson and the Model; and Chapter 8: Murder of a Star Quarterback in 2009: The Tragic Tale of Steve McNair and Sahel Kazemi.

Bonus material includes two complete and utterly captivating historical true crime shorts, The Amityville Massacre: The DeFeo Family’s Nightmare, and Missing or Murdered: The Disappearance of Agnes Tufverson; as well as excerpts from the prolific author’s bestselling true crime books, The Sex Slave Murders: The True Story of Serial Killers Gerald and Charlene Gallego; The Dreadful Acts of Jack the Ripper and Other True Tales of Serial Murder and Prostitutes; and Murders in the United States: Crimes, Killers, and Victims of the Twentieth Century; and an excerpt from the top seller historical true crime short, Murder During the Chicago World’s Fair: The Killing of Little Emma Werner.

For centuries, jealousy and the rage that often follows have been at the heart of adultery, illicit affairs, mistrust, misunderstandings, and mayhem between intimates—leading to tragedy in the form of domestic violence, separation, mental instability, suicide, and murder.1 Beyond that, arrests, trials, incarceration, and even execution are typically among the aftereffects of homicidal fury and strife within romantic relationships and family units that reach a breaking point for one partner or another and dire choices for which there can be no turning back.

One need only look back in time at frightful examples of such jealousy-motivated murderous fury that are abundant throughout history. On Thursday, June 13, 1872, Emile Andre, age forty, in a “fit of jealousy,” killed his thirty-year-old wife, Leonie Andre, in New York.2 Two years earlier, the Andres had come to the United States from France with their two children for a better life. Instead, there were problems almost from the start with domestic violence, estrangement, getting back together, Andre often accusing Leonie of infidelity, and more troubles. A onetime railroad foreman of laborers, Andre shot his wife to death. The horrific scenario was described in a November 1872 newspaper account:

The murdered woman [ran] through East 15th Street from Avenue A, hotly pursued by [her husband]. Nearing Fifth Avenue, [Andre caught up to Leonie], and clutching her by [her] disheveled hair, deliberately drew a pistol, loaded almost to the muzzle, and fired. The shot made a frightful wound at the nape of the neck, and the woman fell to the earth dead.3

Emile Andre was placed under arrest for the killing and went to trial. On Tuesday, November 26, 1872, he was convicted of third-degree manslaughter and sentenced to prison for four years, while leaving his children motherless for the rest of their lives.4

On Saturday, January 29, 1921, twenty-six-year-old Corporal Albert Linville was shot and killed by his twenty-seven-year-old wife of only three months, Florence Linville, in his barracks at Camp Dix just outside of Trenton, New Jersey.5 After going horseback riding, Mrs. Linville discovered evidence upon her return home that her husband had been seeing another woman. Fuming about this as she made dinner, Florence got into an argument with him, which ended when she grabbed a revolver and shot him in the side. As he went for a poker, she fired two more shots, hitting him in the back, killing him. The jealous and embittered wife then turned the gun on herself.

On Friday, December 26, 1930, fifty-two-year-old veteran patrolman Francis P. Kiernan of the Poplar Street police station in Brooklyn, New York, was shot dead by his thirty-eight-year-old wife, Margaret Kiernan, at their home on 496 Eleventh Street. She went into a jealous rage when he failed to show up for the Christmas meal she had prepared. Days earlier, she had discovered a handwritten invitation from another woman to have Christmas supper with her. According to Margaret, the “note was only one of dozens that her husband had received from other women during their twenty years of married life.”6 After an unapologetic Kiernan and his wife squabbled in the bathroom, she grabbed his service pistol and threatened to kill herself. When he ridiculed her with a laugh, Margaret turned the gun on him instead, firing five shots—with only one hitting the mark, right through Kiernan’s heart, killing him. She was arrested and charged with murder. On Tuesday, March 15, 1932, it took a sympathetic jury merely fifteen minutes to acquit the widow on the charge of manslaughter in the first degree.7

On Easter Sunday, April 10, 1955, Ruth Ellis, a twenty-eight-year-old English model, nightclub hostess, divorcee, and mother of two, shot to death her lover, David M. Blakely, a twenty-five-year-old racing driver, as he was leaving the Magdala public house on South Hill Park in the Hampstead district of London, England.8 The volatile and violent on-again, off-again relationship between the two—both often unfaithful to one another—came to a dramatic end about nine-thirty that fateful night when Ruth, armed with a .38-caliber Smith & Wesson revolver, chased Blakely around his vehicle, before shooting him four times, “emptying the last bullet into his back at a distance of three inches.”9 Arrested, she confessed to the crime and was charged with murder. After it was established that she was mentally competent to stand trial, it took the jury on Monday, June 20, 1955, only twenty-three minutes to convict Ruth Ellis of murder, whereby the judge gave her the mandatory sentence of death. Less than a month later, on Wednesday, July 13, 1955, she was put to death by hanging at Holloway Prison in the London Borough of Islington.10 In the process, Ruth Ellis would become the last woman to be executed as a murderer in the United Kingdom.

On Thursday, August 14, 1980, Dorothy Stratten, a twenty-year-old Canadian model, actress, and Playboy Playmate, was raped and murdered by her estranged husband and manager, Paul Snider, in a house he was renting in West Los Angeles, California, before the twenty-nine-year-old Snider killed himself.11 After meeting the small-time nightclub promoter in 1977 while a part-time worker at a Dairy Queen in Vancouver, British Columbia, and still in high school, Dorothy began dating the older Snider, who sent nude photographs of her to Playboy magazine in mid-1978. The two relocated to Los Angeles and got married on Friday, June 1, 1979, in Las Vegas, Nevada, and in August that year, Dorothy Stratten was selected as Playboy Playmate of the Month and in 1980, Playmate of the Year. She separated from the increasingly jealous and erratic Snider after having an affair with film director Peter Bogdanovich and began living with him. On the day before her death, Paul Snider, who had regarded Stratten as his “rocket to the moon” and decided if he could not have her, no one would, purchased a 12-gauge shotgun through a classified advertisement, which he used to shoot to death Dorothy Stratten, before committing suicide with the weapon.12

Though the means, methods, and dispositions of these lethal love triangle cases may vary in relation to the times, circumstances, and cast of characters, the common thread of jealous rage binds them as crimes of passion with killers delivering their own brand of justice and payback, as will be illustrated in greater depth in the incredible historical true tales that unfold in the pages to follow.

Chapter One


Congressman Sickles’ Crime of Passion in 1859

On Sunday, February 27, 1859, Philip Barton Key II, the forty-year-old U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia, was gunned down while standing in Lafayette Square, a public park across from the White House. His killer was Rep. Daniel Sickles, a thirty-nine-year-old New York congressman and lawyer whose striking young wife, Teresa Sickles, Key had been having an affair with. Upon discovering his wife’s infidelity, Sickles became enraged and had the deadly encounter with her suitor. He surrendered to authorities, confessed, was charged with murder, and went to trial. In spite of the cold-blooded and premeditated nature of the attack, Sickles used a defense of temporary insanity for his actions, the first such time this type of legal defense was employed in the United States. He was acquitted as a result and the “temporarily insane” justification for homicide or other serious intimate-involved offenses became a common defense for so-called crimes of passion.1 Sickles, who was no stranger to public scandals and controversy, was able to get away with murder. He would reconcile with his wife for a short time, continue his career in politics, become a decorated soldier for the Union Army during the Civil War (in which he was seriously injured in the Battle of Gettysburg), and a diplomat, before dying in his nineties. His long life notwithstanding, taking the life of his wife’s lover, Philip Key, in a fit of jealousy would forever remain a major part of Daniel Sickles’ legacy.

* * *

The mid to late 1800s in Washington, D.C., had its share of memorable ups and downs. There were a number of notable achievements in the nation’s capital during that tumultuous period. On August 10, 1846, the Smithsonian Institution was established. Less than two years later, on July 4, 1848, the cornerstone for the Washington Monument was laid.

On September 20, 1850, slave trade was abolished by Congress in the District of Columbia, and the institution of slavery itself ended there by President Abraham Lincoln on April 16, 1862. Lincoln went on to issue the Emancipation Proclamation, freeing all slaves in the South, on January 1, 1863.2 Four years later, on March 2, 1867, Howard University, the historically black university, was founded in Washington, D.C.

Other accomplishments in the District of Columbia included the establishment of the Children’s Hospital in 1870 and the publication of the first edition of the Washington Post newspaper on December 6, 1877. The first telephone inside the White House was installed under President Rutherford Birchard Hayes in 1879, the same year as the opening of the National Zoo; and in 1881, abolitionist and social reformer Frederick Douglass was appointed recorder of deeds for Washington, D.C.3

On the flip side, there were several anti- and pro-slavery, Civil War, and politically-motivated heated or tragic occurrences in Washington, D.C., during the latter part of the 1800s. In April 1850, while debating the Compromise of 1850, unionist Sen. Henry Foote aimed a pistol at his opponent Sen. Thomas Hart Benton, but was stopped by fellow senators from shooting him. In 1856, pro-slavery South Carolina Democrat Rep. Preston Brooks attacked with a cane Massachusetts Republican Sen. Charles Sumner, an abolitionist, beating him into unconsciousness, which took him three years to recover from. In spite of resigning, Brooks was reelected to his congressional seat.

On August 3, 1861, forty-four-year-old widow Rose O’Neal Greenhow was arrested by Allan Pinkerton, who headed the Union Intelligence Service, and incarcerated as a Confederate spy. Less than a year later, on July 29, 1862, another spy for the Confederacy, Belle Boyd, was placed under arrest and detained for a month.

On April 14, 1865, President Lincoln was assassinated at Ford’s Theater by actor and Confederate sympathizer John Wilkes Booth.4 Just sixteen years later, on July 2, 1881, President James Abram Garfield was mortally wounded at the Baltimore and Potomac Railroad Station by a discontented job seeker named Charles J. Guiteau.5

With this backdrop, it was on February 27, 1859, when politics mixed with betrayal, infidelity, and jealousy in Washington, D.C., and resulted in the shooting death of attorney Philip Barton Key by Daniel Sickles.6

* * *

Daniel Edgar Sickles was born on Wednesday, October 20, 1819, in New York City to wealthy parents Susan Marsh Sickles and George Garrett Sickles, who was a politician and lawyer. Sickles was educated at the New York University, then known as the University of the City of New York, and was schooled in law under well-known New York attorney Benjamin Franklin Butler, before gaining admission to the bar in 1846. The following year, Sickles was elected to the New York State Assembly.

In 1851, thirty-two-year old Assemblyman Sickles became smitten with Teresa Bagioli, who, at fifteen, was less than half his age. The attractive and cultured Teresa spoke five languages and captivated Sickles—a notorious philanderer who had known her since she was a young girl— into wanting her as his wife. Though Teresa’s parents would not consent to their daughter wedding the much older man, she married Sickles anyway in a civil ceremony on Friday, September 17, 1852.

On Monday, September 27, 1852, after her family finally gave the pairing their blessing, Teresa and Sickles got married in the Catholic Church in New York City, with the Catholic Archbishop John Hughes presiding. The following year, they had a daughter, Laura Buchanan Sickles.

In 1853, Daniel Sickles was named as New York City’s corporation counsel, but resigned shortly thereafter when he was “appointed as secretary of the U.S. legation in London, under James Buchanan, by appointment of President Franklin Pierce.”7 Allegedly, Sickles was accompanied abroad by Fanny White, a prostitute, “leaving his pregnant wife at home, and presented White to Queen Victoria using as her alias the surname of a New York political opponent.”8 The New York State Assembly would censure Sickles for brazenly bringing Miss White into its chambers.

In 1855, after returning to the United States, Sickles was elected to the New York State Senate where he served from 1856 to 1857. He was elected to the 35th and 36th Congresses as a Democratic member of the House of Representatives and served from 1857 to 1861.

But Sickles’ political career was disrupted when he discovered that his young wife had been unfaithful with a recognizable and important attorney in Washington, and he decided to put a deadly stop to it.

* * *

Teresa Da Ponte Bagioli was born in 1836 in New York City. Her parents were Maria Cooke and Antonio Bagioli, a well-off and famous Italian singing teacher. Growing up, Teresa spent time at the residence of her grandfather and mother’s adopted father, Lorenzo Da Ponte, a celebrated music teacher, “who had worked as Mozart’s librettist on such masterpieces as The Marriage of Figaro.”9

A gifted child, Teresa had mastered five languages before reaching young adulthood. She had first come into contact with Daniel Sickles early in her life, as Daniel, then a teenager, had been acquainted with Da Ponte’s son, a professor at New York University, who would help Sickles get a scholarship at the college. He lived for a while with the Da Pontes, but moved out of their home when Lorenzo’s son died unexpectedly. Sickles kept in touch with the family and eventually renewed his acquaintance with the now teenage Teresa in 1851, and it blossomed from there as the couple went on to marry and have a child.

In 1856, the Sickles’ took up residence in Washington, D.C., where they immersed themselves in the high society world of wealth, politics, and socializing. According to one source, “Congressman Sickles was very influential and Mrs. Sickles was beautiful and charming. The Sickles’ hosted formal dinners every Thursday, and Teresa was [accessible] to other society ladies every Tuesday morning. With her husband, she attended most of the major social events of the day.”10

It was noted in Harper’s Weekly that Teresa Sickles “quickly became a fixture in Washington society.”11 Daniel Sickles’ wife “was especially celebrated as a hostess who was capable of charming the most sophisticated guest and making the most socially inexperienced feel at home.”12

Reportedly, the Sickles’ had become close to Abraham Lincoln, in spite of him being a Republican, and his wife, Mary Todd Lincoln, with Teresa attending séances hosted by Mrs. Lincoln in relation to her fascination with spiritualism. Allegedly, in 1853, Lincoln’s wife gave as a gift a necklace to their daughter that was engraved, “From Mary Lincoln to Laura Sickles.”13

As Daniel Sickles’ political career and womanizing moved from New York to Washington, at the expense of his lonely and neglected wife, Teresa Sickles found herself attracted to prominent attorney Philip Barton Key, who was also much older. The two began having an affair, often hidden in plain view, as they moved in the same social circles or made a habit of maintaining their clandestine relationship.

It would prove to be ill-fated with a tragic ending when Daniel Sickles learned of his wife’s betrayal that, during those times in society, was judged far more harshly than Sickles’ own infidelity. This would, in due course, work in Sickles’ favor as he targeted his wife’s lover in paying the ultimate price for becoming involved with her.

* * *

Philip Barton Key II was born on Sunday, April 5, 1818, in Georgetown, a historic district of Washington, D.C. Key was the son of lawyer, writer, and poet Francis Scott Key, who wrote the lyrics for the national anthem, “The Star-Spangled Banner”; great-nephew of Philip Barton Key Sr., a politician and ex-British American Loyalist; and nephew of Roger Brooke Taney, a Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.14

On Tuesday, November 18, 1845, Philip Key married Ellen Swan, whose father was a lawyer in Baltimore. The Keys had four children. Referred to by some as “the handsomest man in Washington,”15 Key had become a widower by 1859, as well as the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia, apparently with the backing of Congressman Daniel Sickles.

Key was part of Washington, D.C.’s social elite and available, with an eye for attractive women in town. According to one account, “as an unattached gentleman of both means and stature, he was often called upon to serve as an escort for the married women of Washington whose husbands were unavailable due to political responsibilities and travel.”16

Teresa Sickles fit the bill in catching Key’s attention, as her husband, Congressman Sickles, was too busy for or disinterested in tending to his wife’s needs. This was not a problem for Philip Key, who was very much interested in the younger, nice looking, and cultured Teresa. The two reportedly began having an affair in April 1858. The nature of Teresa and Key’s illicit and passionate engagements was recounted in an exploration of the love triangle involving them and Daniel Sickles that would end in murder:

They were often seen on secret, and not-so-secret rendezvous in and around Washington. It was said that among their favorite meeting locations was a local cemetery. To assist the two in their relationship, Key rented rooms at a local boarding house, not far from Teresa’s home on Lafayette Square. He would pass by, signal his love by waving a handkerchief or his opera glasses, and if an appropriate signal was returned, they would meet at the house.17

In another account, it was reported that “the couple would rendezvous not far from the Sickles’ home on Lafayette Square, where they lived just steps from the White House, at an unoccupied house on 15th Street.”18

Daniel Sickles had suspected his neglected, but still attractive and desirable, wife of infidelity on more than one occasion over the course of their marriage of nearly seven years. However, Teresa had vehemently denied being unfaithful and Sickles, unable to prove otherwise, was forced to accept this, even if his suspicions remained and in spite of his own adulterous behavior.

But as Teresa continued to play with fire in her affair with Philip Key, its exposure was inevitable, and the deadly reaction from Daniel Sickles perhaps predictable, as Key stood between him and his wife and therefore needed to be eliminated.

* * *

As it was, “all of Washington, D.C., seemed” privy to the intimate involvement between Teresa and Key, other than Daniel Sickles himself.19 Indeed, the two lovers did not appear to try very hard to conceal their relationship, given the times. This was illustrated in a newspaper article:

During the whole of the last session of Congress, the tall figure of [Philip] Key [with his] well-trimmed moustache...was constantly to be seen in [Lafayette] Square, opposite Mr. Sickles’ Washington residence; and Mrs. Sickles [with her] almost girlish beauty...was as constantly in his company at all places of public entertainment.... With his white riding cap, [Mr. Key] rode an iron-gray horse, and scarcely a day [had] passed since the return of Mrs. Sickles to the capital [in which he was not seen on the square], or at the door of Mr. Sickles’ house.20

Things came to a head with the scandalous affair when Daniel Sickles was sent a “poison pen letter,” that told of Teresa’s sexual liaison with Philip Key. The anonymous message stated “with precision...that Mr. Key had rented a house on Fifteenth Street...and that he was in the habit of meeting Mrs. Sickles there two or three times a week, or oftener.”21

Outraged, Sickles confronted his wife with the allegation, to which she admitted was true. Not content with the verbal knowledge alone, he forced her to degradingly acknowledge being unfaithful in writing, whereby Teresa Sickles confessed that she and Key had participated in “intimacy of an improper kind.”22

Even that humiliation of his wife and her character was not enough for a vengeful-minded Daniel Sickles, who wished to render the ultimate verdict for his wife’s betrayal—setting his sights squarely on her lover, Philip Key.

On Sunday afternoon, February 27, 1859, two days after the affair came to light, Sickles spotted Key from his house as the U.S. Attorney walked down Madison Place on Lafayette Square, “located directly north of the White House on H Street, bounded by Jackson Place on the west...and Pennsylvania Avenue.”23 The square had once been used as “an encampment for soldiers during the War of 1812, and many political protests and celebrations. [American landscape designer and horticulturalist] Andrew Jackson Downing landscaped Lafayette Square in 1851 in the picturesque style.”24

Unaware that Daniel Sickles knew of his tryst with Teresa, Philip Key signaled her routinely from his usual spot with a handkerchief and had hoped to get her return signal for an expected get together. Instead, it was Sickles who showed up in her place, reportedly in possession of “two single-barrel Derringers and a revolver,” and in confronting Key, uttered with finality: “You have dishonored my bed and family, you scoundrel—prepare to die...”25

Philip Key was defenseless, save for some opera glasses he haphazardly extracted from his jacket to use as a makeshift weapon. It proved no match for Sickles, who fired his weapon at the stunned attorney, hitting him multiple times, till Key collapsed onto the ground, near death. According to one account of the incident:

The first shot, apparently, grazed Key’s hand. The second entered his groin and passed through his thigh. No major arteries were damaged... A third shot misfired. The fourth hit Key square in the chest, just below his heart, causing the mortal wound from which Key could not recover. His chest filled with blood and he quickly lost consciousness. Sickles attempted one final shot directly at Key’s head, but this one, too, misfired....26

The fatal confrontation was described in a February 1859 New York Times article:

[Philip Barton Key] was accosted by [Daniel Sickles, who] charged Mr. Key with destroying the honor of his wife and his own happiness, and, drawing a revolver, instantly shot him down. One ball, entering in on the left side, passed completely through the body of Mr. Key; a second shot was lodged in his thigh; and a third, glancing, inflicted a slight bruise. Mr. Key fell, imploring Mr. Sickles not to kill him, and died in a very few minutes.27

Philip Key was rushed to the Benjamin Ogle Tayloe House, not far away, at 21 Madison Place. There, he was tended to by the Assistant Surgeon General to the best of his ability, but he sadly found that the severe wounds sustained by Key were “beyond all medical skill,” and he succumbed to his injuries.28

His killer, Daniel Sickles, walked away from the crime scene to the nearby home of Attorney General Jeremiah Sullivan Black on Franklin Square, where he surrendered, confessing to the stunning murder of his wife’s paramour, Philip Key, in a fit of rage.

* * *

At the Coroner’s Inquest, with the victim’s corpse in full view, it was established that Philip Barton Key was shot dead by Daniel Sickles and a “verdict was rendered accordingly,” in terms of his guilt of the crime.29 The decedent’s body was taken to his abode on C Street.

Philip Barton Key II would be laid to rest at the Washington, D.C., Oak Hill Cemetery. A dedicatory for the murdered U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia was placed as well in the family plot of Key’s son-in-law in Westminster Hall and Burying Ground, located in Baltimore, Maryland.

In the meantime, the chief of police and a magistrate arrived at Attorney General Black’s residence, and the mayor soon after, to inform Sickles of Key’s death. Afterward, in the accompaniment of a constable, Sickles had been allowed to return briefly to the home he shared with his despondent wife, Teresa, knowing the dreadful thing he had done, before he was carted off in a carriage to jail to await his ultimate and shocking fate as a confessed murderer.

During his time behind bars, Daniel Sickles was granted many privileges, attesting to his stature as a member of Congress. These included “being allowed to retain his personal weapon and receiv[ing] numerous visitors. [Indeed], so many visitors came that he was granted the use of the head jailer’s apartment to receive them.”30 Those paying Sickles the courtesy of a visit or otherwise illustrating a strong show of support “included many congressmen, senators, and other leading members of Washington society. [Even] President James Buchanan sent Sickles a personal note.”31 He was also visited by his mother-in-law, Maria Cooke, along with a member of the clergy, both of whom conveyed to Sickles the sorrow and shame felt by his wife, Teresa, who was pained as well by no longer being in possession of her wedding ring, which Sickles had confiscated.

These factors notwithstanding, given the circumstances, evidence, and witnesses to the crime, Daniel Sickles was charged with murder. Using his considerable clout in Washington, he obtained an impressive group of prominent politicians to serve as his defense lawyers. These included Edwin McMasters Stanton, who under the Lincoln Administration would become Secretary of War; Chief Counsel James Topham Brady, who would only lose one case during his distinguished career as a criminal attorney; and John Graham.

It appeared as if Daniel Sickles was determined to walk away scot-free from a cold-blooded murder, which he had decided was perfectly justified, given the nature of the victim’s improper involvement with his wife. In fact, the jailed Sickles had coolly remarked to a visitor: “Satisfied as I was of [Key’s] guilt, we could not live together upon the same planet.”32

* * *

On Monday, April 4, 1859, Daniel Edgar Sickles went on trial in the District of Columbia’s Criminal Court for the murder of Philip Barton Key II, before Judge Crawford. The chief prosecutor was U.S. District Attorney Robert Ould, with his assistant prosecutor James Carlisle. They were opposed by eight well-known defense attorneys, headed by Stanton, Brady, and Graham, in a trial that would set precedence for generations to come.

At the heart of the defense case was the notion of not being responsible for one’s behavior due to momentary mental illness, as well as the “unwritten law” as justification for homicide in defending the sanctity of marriage from unfaithfulness, encouraged by Philip Key, in corrupting Teresa Sickles as a married and impressionable young woman.

As such, Sickles, who had rejected bail and been in jail since his arrest, did not deny killing Key, in what appeared to be a clear case of murder. Instead, the congressman stated that he had gone temporarily insane during the encounter with Key but was otherwise of sound mind and, therefore, “not guilty” of the crime. It was the first such use of temporary insanity by a defendant in a criminal trial in the United States.

The uphill battle faced by the prosecution became clear from the start, as seventy-two of the first seventy-five prospective jurors called were sympathetic to Daniel Sickles and his reasoning for killing Philip Key. A jury of “tradesmen and farmers” would eventually be impaneled, after around two hundred would-be jurors were excused as being favorable toward Sickles.33

Nevertheless, Ould laid out his case of guilty as charged as best as possible, arguing that the killing was “deliberate, premeditated, and merciless—a clear case of murder” perpetrated against an “unarmed and defenseless matter what may be the antecedent provocations in the case.”34

In the indictment of Daniel Sickles, the U.S. Attorney had made the argument of his culpability in Key’s death:

Daniel E. Sickles, late of the county of Washington...on the twenty-seventh day of February, in the year of our Lord, eighteen hundred and fifty-nine [had] feloniously, willfully and of his malice afterthought, did make an assault...upon the body of one Philip Barton Key [with] a pistol of the value of two force of the gun powder [and] leaden bullet[s] discharged and shot off [and] did strike, penetrate, and wound [Key]...upon the left side...[then] a little below the tenth rib [with] one mortal wound...the depth of ten inches and of the breadth of half an inch, of which...he...then and there instantly died.35

Stanton and the rest of the defense team adeptly presented the argument that Sickles’ actions had been the result of being driven insane temporarily by the knowledge of his wife’s adultery, causing him to go “out of his mind” in shooting Key to death.

In his opening statement, Graham stuck with this theme that Key’s affair with Teresa had “so unbalanced the defendant’s mind that he could not be held accountable for his actions,” with the defense attorney arguing: “If he was in a state of white heat, was that too great a state of passion for a man to be in who saw before him the hardened, the unrelenting seducer of his wife?”36

Graham further defended Sickles’ killing of Key by using quotes from the Bible with regard to adultery and “the will of heaven,” while portraying Sickles as “the injured husband and father [who] rushes upon the confirmed and habitual adulterer in the moment of his guilt, and under the influence of a frenzy executes upon him a judgment which was as just as it was summary.”37

A number of witnesses were called by the defense to testify to Sickles’ state of mind when he committed murder. Among them was Robert John Walker, who had served as Secretary of the Treasury and testified that Daniel Sickles was, from his perspective, in “an agony of despair, the most terrible thing I ever saw in my life.... I feared if it continued he would become permanently insane.”38 The jury was clearly moved by Walker’s testimony, as was Sickles, who wept openly.

One area where the defense did come up short was its attempt to introduce into evidence the confession Teresa Sickles had been coerced into writing by Sickles.

Ould objected, arguing “that it was inadmissible as both hearsay and a privileged communication between husband and wife.”39 This was sustained by Judge Crawford “on the common law principle that putting such a document into the public record might do irreparable harm to the marriage.”40

While the judge instructed the jury to disregard the confession, it went public as a front page piece in Harper’s Weekly in its issue of April 23, 1859, reproducing the entire confession. The press covered the scandalous trial extensively, with its love triangle and infidelity themes leading to murder, while being decidedly more sympathetic to Daniel Sickles than Philip Key. Indeed, some papers viewed Sickles as a protector of other potential “victims” of marital affairs, by “saving all the ladies of Washington from this rogue named Key.”41

In closing arguments, Ould’s assistant counsel Carlisle tried to overcome the obvious damage done to the prosecution’s case in rejecting the defense positions of temporary insanity and justifiable homicide in the killing of Philip Key. But this seemed to fall on deaf ears when compared to Stanton’s oration on a “higher law” and “the sanctity of the American family and the rights of the betrayed American husband.”42

It appeared as if Congressman Sickles might actually walk away from what he had done, in taking away the precious life of Philip Key, with no legal punishment to speak of.

* * *

On Tuesday, April 26, 1859, just over three weeks after the trial began, it took the jury less than two hours to find the defendant, Daniel Sickles, not guilty of murder. The victorious Sickles, having beaten the system of law and order, celebrated with his defense team and hundreds of supporters in revelry that very night.

Needless to say, supporters of Philip Key and his right to life, including family, friends, and colleagues, were appalled at the acquittal of an admitted murderer, and saw it as a “travesty of justice.”

As for the relationship between Sickles and Teresa, the wife he brought to disgrace and anguish in defense of his actions, Sickles supposedly forgave her and there was reconciliation between them shortly after he won an acquittal. This was made public by Sickles through the press. On Saturday, July 16, 1859, the Evening Star edition praised the apparent resumption of the couples’ loving marriage in a piece entitled, “Daniel and Teresa”:

It will gratify the lovers of pure morals, and the admirers of vindicated laws, to learn that...the Hon. Daniel E. Sickles, and that very pure-minded lady, Mrs. Teresa Bagioli Sickles, have settled the...domestic difficulty that for a time interrupted the course of their connubial felicity. It was...unfortunate that this difficulty should have led to the killing of a man, and the destruction of a woman’s reputation.... But the great wrong complained of, when their separation took place, was that Mr. Sickles’ honor was destroyed.... That he is reconciled to his Teresa shows that the honor is all right again, and, as for peace and happiness, they will be the most devoted and happy couple known in history..... [Sickles’] resumption of conjugal relations with [Mrs. Sickles] proves that he is at last convinced that she is just as pure and virtuous as he is.... His public acknowledgment of the fact is quite touching, and it is gratifying to have the truth set so clearly before the public.43

This rather glowing endorsement of Daniel and Teresa Sickles reconciling their relationship was not shared by all. On the contrary, many were outraged with the reconciliation, which “flabbergasted his political cronies, scandalized society, and called down upon the couple the wrath and ridicule of the press.”44

According to one source, “the Victorian moralists who had justified Sickles’ actions,” were justifiably livid, as indicated by a sarcastic comment in the Baltimore American: “We hope the sympathizers with Mr. Sickles at Washington, and especially the jury who exalted him into a great champion of the sanctity of marital relations will be satisfied with this result.”45

In spite of remaining in Congress after the trial and acquittal, Daniel Sickles’ reputation and political life took a pounding after his seeming flip-flop on his marriage to Teresa once he no longer faced conviction for murder. However, there would still be more surprising twists and turns in his long life before it was over.

With respect to the so-called reconciliation, it has been reported that it was more for public consumption and that, in fact, behind closed doors, Sickles never truly forgave his wife and treated her with estrangement or in less than a loving manner as someone who had been unfaithful to their marriage and ruined his life in the process, including his killing of Philip Key.

For Teresa Bagioli Sickles, life was never to be the same after her affair with the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia and attempt to get back in her husband’s good graces. On Tuesday, February 5, 1867, Teresa died of misery and tuberculosis at the young age of thirty-one. She was buried in Brooklyn, New York, at the Green-Wood Cemetery. The Sickles’ daughter, Laura Buchanan Sickles—who died young as well in 1890 at thirty-eight—the parents of Teresa Sickles, and some other relatives were also laid to rest at the cemetery.

* * *

With his reputation tarnished after the drama surrounding his killing of Philip Key and resuming relations with Teresa, Daniel Sickles tried to reclaim his stature in society as best he could, largely through a controversial military career. In 1861, with the start of the American Civil War, he was able to use his New York and Washington connections to become a political general. He recruited for the Union Army “New York regiments that became known as the Excelsior Brigade in the Army of the Potomac,” and in spite of lacking military experience, would serve “as a brigade, division, and corps commander in some of the early” Eastern Theater military operations during the war.46

On Wednesday, March 11, 1863, President Lincoln formally promoted Sickles to major general. The previous month, he had been given command of the III Corps by Maj. Gen. Joseph Hooker, who commanded the Army of the Potomac, and was a close associate, as the two “had notorious reputations as political climbers and as hard-drinking ladies’ men.”47 It was a contentious decision with Sickles becoming “the only corps commander [lacking] a West Point military education.”48

On Thursday, July 2, 1863, during the Battle of Gettysburg, Union General Sickles’ life reached another pivotal and disastrous moment. After defying the direct orders of Maj. Gen. George Gordon Meade—who commanded the Army of the Potomac and would defeat the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia under Gen. Robert E. Lee—Sickles was severely wounded as the III Corps came under attack by the Confederates. His right leg was mangled by a cannonball and had to be amputated. On Sunday, July 5th, Sickles was visited in Washington, D.C., by President Lincoln, along with his son, Tad, after Sickles had been brought there the previous day to recover. He would go on to donate the bones of his severed limb to the Army Medical Museum, founded in 1862 in Silver Spring, Maryland, near D.C.

Though functioning on one leg, Daniel Sickles continued his army career till beyond the end of the Civil War, retiring in 1869 as a major general. In 1897, thirty-four years after his war injuries and related controversy, Sickles received the Medal of Honor for his acts of valor, with the official citation recording that he “displayed most conspicuous gallantry on the field, vigorously contesting the advance of the enemy and continuing to encourage his troops after being himself severely wounded.”49

* * *

Between 1869 and 1874, Daniel Sickles would serve as U.S. Minister to Spain. On Tuesday, November 28, 1871, General Sickles married his second wife, Senorita Carmina Creagh, in Madrid. Carmina’s father was Chevalier de Creagh, a Spanish Councillor of State from Madrid. Sickles—who was said to have made a conversion to Catholicism—and Carmina had two children, Stanton and Edna.50

Unfortunately, this marriage also ended poorly for Sickles. He and Carmina separated in 1880, with Sickles returning to New York by himself, leaving his family in Spain. Carmina’s many attempts to join her husband in America were “always prevented by violent protests from the General.”51 Sickles and his second spouse would remain estranged for nearly thirty years till reconciliation took place, though the relationship would continue to be strained.

From 1888 to 1889, Sickles served as president of the New York State Board of Civil Service Commissioners; and in 1890 became the sheriff of New York County. He was reelected to Congress in 1893, where he served as a representative for the two years of President Grover Cleveland’s second presidency. Sickles played a key role in preserving the Gettysburg Battlefield, “sponsoring legislation to form the Gettysburg National Military Park, buy up private lands, and erect monuments,” and also “procured the original fencing used on East Cemetery Hill to mark the park’s borders.”52

* * *

In the later years of his life, General Sickles encountered more issues to deal with beyond his earlier troubles. In 1911, he was denied membership by the New York Commandery of the Loyal Legion. In June of that same year, Sickles was sued by his daughter, Edna Sickles Crackenthorpe, “to prevent a disposal of certain properties to which she believed she was entitled.”53

In December 1912, as the longtime chairman of the New York Monuments Commission, Daniel Sickles became embroiled in a financial controversy. He was sued by the New York Attorney General Thomas Carmody for more than $28,000, alleging misappropriation of funds, forcing Sickles to step down as chairman.54

On Tuesday, January 28, 1913, Sickles was taken into custody by New York County Sheriff Julius Harburger for a civil arrest as ordered by Albany County Supreme Court Justice William P. Rudd, in which Sickles was to remain incarcerated until the missing monument funds were reimbursed.55 It turned out that he was only placed under house arrest for “about one minute,” before being released on bond, with family, friends, and other monument commissioners vowing to raise the money to cover the shortfall.56

On Sunday, June 29, 1913, General Sickles revisited the scene in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, where he lost his leg to a Confederate shell some fifty years earlier, joining some 25,000 other Civil War veterans in scattering “themselves...over the grounds where they fought each other.”57

According to the New York Times on June 30, 1913:

Escorted by a troop of regulars, Gen. Sickles was taken to the Rogers House, around which the battle centered when Sickles’ corps bore the brunt of the Confederate attack. As he sat there and looked out in the gathering twilight, [Sickles] saw close by the place where he fell, apparently mortally wounded, in the deadly onslaught of Longstreet’s men on July 2, 1863. A stone marks the spot where Sickles fell.58

* * *

On Sunday, May 3, 1914, Daniel Edgar Sickles died at 9:10 p.m. at his house on Twenty-Three Fifth Avenue in New York at the age of ninety-four.59 He had been sick for about two weeks after suffering a cerebral hemorrhage. At his bedside were his wife, Mrs. Carmina Sickles, and son, Stanton Sickles.

On Friday, May 8, 1914, the funeral for Daniel Sickles was held in Midtown Manhattan at St. Patrick’s Cathedral. The former politician, diplomat, and decorated soldier was laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington County, Virginia.60

A little more than five years after his death, on Friday, July 18, 1919, Sickles’ second wife, Carmina, died in Spain.61 In spite of her devotion to him, he left her nothing in his will. It had been executed on Friday, August 30, 1912, prior to their reconciliation, and filed with the probate court in November 1914, with Sickles apparently believing she was financially able to care for herself. Much of his estate was used to pay off his own mounting debts.62

In spite of Daniel Sickles’ long and, to some degree, celebrated life as a member of Congress, a general, and a Medal of Honor recipient, he would never be able to shake entirely what he was most known for—the man who, in a fit of jealous rage, gunned down his first wife’s lover, U.S. Attorney Philip Barton Key II, on Sunday, February 27, 1859. In the process, Sickles became the first person to use temporary insanity as a defense for one accused of murder in a crime of passion, and be successful in his endeavor, as a sympathetic jury allowed him to escape punishment for snuffing out the life and future of his wife’s suitor, Philip Key.

Chapter Two


The 1867 Crimes of Bridget Durgan

On the chilly evening of Monday, February 25, 1867, Mary Ellen Coriell was brutally murdered at her home in Newmarket, New Jersey. The cold-blooded nature of the murder was shocking enough for residents of the town and elsewhere, but even more disturbing was that the culprit turned out to be the victim’s housemaid, an attractive young Irishwoman named Bridget Durgan. The circumstances surrounding the murder—including jealousy, obsession, and delusion—were as old as time itself. The crime would come at a very steep price for the murderess who would be executed for her heinous act. The death of Mary Ellen Coriell also weighed heavily on the object of Bridget’s affections, the victim’s heartbroken husband Dr. William Coriell, who would be left to care for the couple’s young daughter alone. The unspeakable tragedy would be felt throughout the community for many years to come.

* * *

Bridget Durgan was born in 1844 in Clough, Ireland, in County Sligo to grocer Patrick Durgan and his wife Hannah Durgan, as the fourth of the couple’s five offspring. At the age of twelve, Bridget was already doing servant work. She was fifteen when she became romantically involved with the son of her employer, which ended due to the disapproval of her father who wanted better for his daughter.

Dissatisfied with her difficult life in Ireland, in December 1864, the twenty-year-old Bridget pillaged enough of her father’s gold coins to pay for passage aboard a ship en route to the United States. Similar to other young Irish female immigrants with limited skills, she gained employment as a housemaid, working in different homes in Brooklyn and Manhattan.

While working with a domestic employment agency in Manhattan, Bridget was hired by a Mr. Dayton to work as a servant for his family in Middlesex County, New Jersey. She worked for the Daytons for a year before moving on to other employers throughout the county.

On Monday, October 22, 1866, Bridget found employment as a housemaid for Dr. William Wallace Coriell and his family. Coriell, age forty, was a veteran of the Civil War who had treated her for catalepsy, a condition similar to epilepsy, with symptoms including fainting spells and sore eyes. It was identified by a fellow physician, Dr. Henry R. Baldwin, as “hysterico-epilepsy.”1

Dr. Coriell lived in a modest sized two-story home in the village of Newmarket, New Jersey, along with his wife of nearly nine years, Mary Ellen, age thirty-one, and their two-year-old daughter Mamie. A handyman, Asa Bush, was also employed by the family since April of 1865, but stayed at the nearby house of his mother.

By most accounts Bridget, who received eight dollars a month for her services, which was more than many housekeepers at the time, got along fairly well with her employers early on. However, she was apparently more enamored with William Coriell, whom she bonded with during the course of treatment and the kindness he showed her as a doctor and gentleman of the house. According to one historian, “clearly Bridget confused the doctor’s compassion with a romantic gesture, fostering an intense but imagined attachment with only his wife standing between them.”2 Others were not so sure if the attraction was totally one-sided, even if Dr. Coriell may have kept such emotions for the young domestic in check.3

As for Mrs. Coriell, Bridget was merely tolerant of Mary Ellen, more or less. The five feet, four inches tall doctor’s wife was small and weighed around 110 pounds. She lacked the strength and energy to do some of the heavier chores, which fell onto Bridget, who also assisted in the care of young Mamie.

By February 1867, it became clear that Bridget and the Coriells were no longer a good fit, assuming they ever had been. Bridget had been experiencing cataleptic seizures during much of her employ and was often unable to perform her duties. Moreover, Mary Ellen had found Bridget’s poor and dirty habits to be too much to bear and insisted to her husband that the housemaid had to leave their household. Whether or not Dr. Coriell had a soft spot for Bridget, upon verifying these unacceptable practices, he complied with his wife’s wishes in dismissing the young woman from their employ.

This surely did not set well with Bridget, who recognized her good fortune in having the job and such nice employers, particularly William Coriell. Finding a similar situation was unlikely, which left her at a point of no return in the shocking actions she would take.

* * *

On Monday, February 25, 1867, the day prior to her scheduled date to leave the Coriell household, Bridget Durgan did the laundry routinely, including her own clothes, likely aware that there was nothing routine about the plans she was about to put into motion.

After Dr. Coriell left the house that night to attend to a childbirth in the nearby township of Piscataway, Bridget turned her attention to the unsuspecting Mary Ellen Coriell. Literally going berserk in her rage and hatred toward the woman, Bridget pounced upon her viciously. Possessing a sharp butcher knife and stick, she stabbed Mary Ellen repeatedly and pounded her to death. According to one source, the brutality of the attack was such that “the list of wounds she inflicted took up half a column in the newspaper, twenty-six gashes, some to the bone, scratches, jagged, tearing wounds, teeth marks, hair torn in clumps from the scalp—all attesting to a long, fierce struggle.”4 Another account of the victim’s dreadful state pointed to “deep wounds in the thighs and shoulders...wounds in the neck from unsuccessful attempts to cut the throat.... Her face, both arms, and her right leg were terribly bruised and swollen,” while noting that “swelling does not occur after death.”5 This indicated that the brutalities inflicted upon Mary Ellen occurred when the wife and mother was still alive.

Once the deed was done, Bridget tried to cover her tracks as a cold-blooded murderess. She used paper and rags to start a fire and picked up baby Mamie, who had witnessed the violent crime without being able to comprehend it, and fled the house barefoot. Trampling across the snow covered ground, Bridget ended up at the home of Israel R. Coriell, who was an elderly cousin of William Coriell. There, she claimed theatrically that two burglars had broken into the Coriells’ home, set it ablaze, and were perhaps in the process of killing Mary Ellen Coriell even as she spoke.

Unnerved, Israel Coriell asked that she report the crime in progress to Reverend Charles E. Little, who lived nearby. Bridget did just that, carrying the child with her. At the minister’s home, “345 feet away” from the Coriell household, she “pounded on the door,” whereby he let her in and Bridget repeated her disturbing tale.6

Upon lighting a lamp, Reverend Little noted the “patch of fresh red blood, as wide as his palm, on Bridget’s white skirt.”7 And as his wife took the Coriells’ toddler Mamie, Mrs. Little observed that the child’s “hair was singed and that her clothing smelled of kerosene.”8 If either of the Littles were suspicious of Bridget’s story at the time, they apparently kept it to themselves in her presence.

As it was, over time, Bridget Durgan’s story would change multiple times, with one constant—Dr. William Coriell’s beloved wife was dead and, by all accounts, his housemaid was believed to be the culprit. But for the moment, the authorities were obliged to investigate her frightening tale till proven otherwise.

* * *

Once word got out that one of their own, Mrs. Mary Ellen Coriell, wife of the well-liked Dr. Coriell, was the apparent victim of foul play, burglary, and a house fire, the locals were quick to react in racing to the scene of the alleged crimes. What they witnessed caused their hearts to skip a beat with dread. As noted by an authority of the tragedy: “Upon entering the house, dense smoke coming from the bedroom made it impossible almost to see anything, leading one man to crawl on the floor, his efforts gruesomely rewarded with the discovery of Mrs. Coriell’s dead body.”9

According to Bridget Durgan, the guilty parties in the death of Mary Ellen Coriell were two men or burglars who showed up at the house around eight-thirty p.m. and returned about ten-thirty p.m. Initially, they were referred to as strangers, with one tall, the other short. One of the men allegedly had a mustache and the other did not; while one was light-skinned and the other dark-skinned.

Then suddenly the men were no longer strangers, but rather men she was familiar with, by the names of Michael Hunt and Brian Doyle. Her story then changed to an acquaintance of Doyle and Hunt, a servant girl with the name Anne Linen, as the true culprit. She was alleged to have entered the victim’s home intent on stealing cash and attacked Mary Ellen in the process. All three suspects would eventually be removed from suspicion, as each had solid alibis for the time that Mary Ellen was stabbed and bludgeoned to death.

But before this could be established, Bridget had changed her story once again. This time, she pointed the finger at a fellow Irish housemaid named Mary Gilroy, who was employed at a Newmarket residence not far away from the Coriell home. While Gilroy’s role, if any, was being investigated by the authorities, circumstantial evidence strongly supported the belief that it was Bridget Durgan who committed the despicable act of violence.

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