Dec 10 2015

The Treacherous Wanderer

Here’s the story of a pregnant woman, a poor boob, and a man in love with the Army.  It all begins with a dramatic article published in the Chicago Daily Tribune on June 22, 1920:

SLAYS HERO’S BRIDE: KILLED BY HUSBAND

DUEL IN DARK; EX-ARMY MAN AVENGES DEATH

Woman Shot Down at Mother’s Door.

The house where it happened... (Photo by The Comtesse DeSpair)

The house where it happened…
(Photo by The Comtesse DeSpair)

Mrs. Ruth Wanderer, 21 years old, was shot and killed last night by a supposed robber as, at her husband’s side, she was about to open the door leading to her mother’s flat at 4732 North Campbell avenue.

The next moment her husband, Carl, a former lieutenant in the 17th machine gun battalion, had drawn his army revolver and begun a duel with the stranger, shooting him four times and killing him.

The men stood a foot apart and blazed at each other in the darkness. When the duel ended Wanderer fell upon his foe and beat him over the head and shoulders with the butt of his revolver, beat him until the police arrived.

So ended a romance of five years, that began when Ruth was 16 years old and Carl 19.

Man Follows Pair.

The Wanderers have been living with Mrs. Eugenia Johnson, Ruth’s mother, since their wedding on Oct. 1, 1919. Last night they went to the Pershing theater. They walked home. Wanderer noticed the stranger in front of Zindt’s drug store at Lincoln and Lawrence avenue, but paid no attention to him. The man followed them.

“Ruth went up ahead of me when we reached the house,” said Wanderer, telling the story to the police.

“She opened the outer door and I heard her fumbling with the keys to the inner door of the hall. We had some trouble with the lock. I asked her, ‘Can’t you open it, honey?’

“She laughed.

“‘Sure I can,’ she said. ‘Wait till I turn on the light.’

“And she reached up to pull the little ribbon that switches on the light.

“Just then we heard a man’s voice in the outer doorway saying, ‘Don’t turn on that light.’

“Then he fired twice.”

Young Wife Shot Dead.

“I heard my wife say, in a whisper, ‘The baby.’ I saw her fall. I jerked out my gun, a .45 army revolver, and shot it out with the fellow.”

Neighbors told of carrying the lifeless body of the woman up the stairs to the arms of her mother, and of laying her down on the lounge, near which there was a tiny basket, ribboned and laced, which contained tiny garments in pink and blue for the baby that was expected in August.

“How did you happen to be carrying the gun?” Wanderer was asked by Sergt. John Norton of the homicide squad.

“I was held up last December, shot, and robbed of $900. It was my father’s money.

“He’s a butcher at 2711 North Western avenue. I work for him. I have carried the gun ever since I have been able to get out and around again. I was robbed on my birthday. I was determined that the next time—well, I carried that gun with me all the time.”

Card Is Clew to Slayer.

They looked in the pockets of the dead man, trying to find something that would identify him. There was a card ostensibly issued by the John Robinson circus. From this it appeared the holder’s name was E. Masters and that he was assigned to “729 dining car, commissary department.” There was also a chauffeur’s button of union local 906.

He had an army revolver of the same kind and caliber as Wanderer’s.

Lieut. Loftus said later the man had been partially identified as a chauffeur for an afternoon newspaper and that his name was either Matson or Watson.

A number of persons summoned by the police viewed the body at Ravenswood hospital, but were unable to identify it.

Husband a War Hero.

Wanderer served three years in the army, most of that time in France, was cited for bravery several times, received the Croix de Guerre and the D.S.C. and was the best pistol shot in his outfit.

Ruth and Carl were to be married four years ago, but he saw that the war was coming and entered the army. He went across as second lieutenant and was promoted to a first lieutenancy. He was demobilized last June—and married Ruth as soon as she could get her trousseau ready.

“No,” he said when the police asked him the question, “the man was no old sweetheart. I know there was never any one for Ruth but me.”

slain


And this story ends with a song on October 1, 1921:

Chicago Daily Tribune, October 1, 1921

WANDERER DIES SCORNING PLEA FOR CONFESSION

Triple Slayer Goes to His Death Singing.

Carl Wanderer paid on the gallows yesterday morning for the murder of his wife, Ruth, her unborn child, and the “ragged stranger.” He went to his death singing. There was no confession of the crime that had shocked the entire community by its brutality unless it was between the lines of the song that in his strident baritone filled the execution chamber:

“Old Gal, old pal;
You left me all alone—”

Witnesses had expected that on the scaffold, facing death, he would admit slaying “the only girl he ever had” and the derelict from West Madison street whom he had hired to stage a fake holdup in the vestibule of his home.

But with his arms and legs strapped, the death cap in place and the noose fixed, when the sheriff asked if he had aught to say before sentence of the court was carried out, his only response was:

“Old pal, why don’t you
Answer me—”

The trap was sprung at 7:19 o’clock. Fifteen minutes later attending physicians pronounced him dead.

So what happened in between these two articles?  How did a hero end up meeting his end at the gallows?

The narrow entrance to the small vestibule. (Oh, I wanted a photo of the vestibule, but I'm not THAT nosy.) Photo by The Comtesse DeSpair

The narrow entrance to the small vestibule. (Oh, I wanted a photo of the vestibule, but I’m not THAT nosy.)
Photo by The Comtesse DeSpair

Well, from the beginning the police thought that Carl’s story didn’t quite add up.  How is it possible that he could end up in a shootout in a tiny vestibule that barely could fit three people?  And how could two bullets end up in Ruth, three bullets in the bum, and another five shots in the floor or wall, and yet there was not a mark on Wanderer?  Wanderer’s calm, emotionless demeanor when talking about his wife’s death didn’t do anything to quench the suspicions either. It all sounded fishy but Ruth’s family declared their support for Carl – insisting he could not have had anything to do with Ruth’s death.  And they might have dropped the investigation and accepted Carl’s story if not for one little detail that turned a dim light of suspicion to a blinding spotlight.

The police were still trying to identify the alleged attacker so they took a close look at the gun that was found beside him.  It had serial numbers on the side and police were able to trace its sale back to an interesting source: Carl Wanderer’s brother-in-law, John Hoffman.  Hoffman had sold it to, another coincidence, Wanderer’s cousin Fred.  Verrrrrrry interesting…

At this point, Wanderer was arrested for further questioning. His lawyer threatened habeas corpus if the police did not charge him with a crime so the cops knew that time was running out.  They didn’t have enough physical evidence to convict Wanderer of the murders so they set about giving him the “third degree” in that special Chicago style that is still being used today.  Depriving him of sleep, screaming at him, roughing him up, and subjecting him to hundreds of questions finally broke Wanderer and he confessed that it was he who had killed both his wife and the unknown sucker he lured into the vestibule to pin the crime on.

Wanderer met the young man in downtown Chicago – where the bums hung out, at Madison and Halsted.  He was standing in front of a cigar shop – possibly the one shown in the old postcard of the same intersection shown below.  Wanderer offered the man a job driving a truck for a wage he could not refuse.  He then told the “poor boob” (yes, that’s what they called him in the Tribune) to follow him home that night, and when they got to the vestibule, ask him for money.

The intersection of Madison and Halsted circa 1920: where Wanderer found his sucker.

The intersection of Madison and Halsted circa 1920: where Wanderer found his sucker.

Later that night, Ruth and Carl went to a “moving picture” at the Pershing Theater (it’s known as the Davis Theater now).

The Pershing Theater as it looked when Ruth and Carl went to it. (Photo by Patty Wetl)

The Pershing Theater as it looked when Ruth and Carl went to it. (Photo by Patty Wetl)

The Pershing Theater, uglified with a black awning in its current incarnation as the Davis Theater.

The Pershing Theater, uglified with a black awning in its current incarnation as the Davis Theater. Photo by The Comtesse DeSpair

On the walk home, Wanderer and the “poor boob” exchanged nods at Lawrence and Lincoln and he followed them home and asked Wanderer for the money as they reached the vestibule.  Instead of cash, Wanderer gave him three bullets, and another two in Ruth.  After shooting the “poor boob,” Wanderer smashed his head into the floor relentlessly just to make sure he couldn’t snitch before carrying Ruth into the parlor and beginning The Great Charade.

Where Ruth breathed her last... Photo by The Comtesse DeSpair

Where Ruth breathed her last…
Photo by The Comtesse DeSpair

The story of Ruth’s death, as told in a recap of the event in the October 6, 1935 issue of the Chicago Tribune is fittingly melodramatic:

Back in the hallway Carl Wanderer knelt down beside his mortally wounded wife. As he did so another woman, Mrs. Eugenia Johnson, mother of Mrs. Wanderer, ran breathlessly into the hallway.

“Ma,” said Carl, “there’s been a holdup. Ruth is shot.”

As Wanderer lifted his wife from the floor several policemen came into the entrance. They helped Wanderer carry the wounded woman upstairs. On the way she spoke to her mother.

“Ma,” she said, “is it real?” Then she added dolorously: “O, my knee—and my side—and my baby is dead!”

Gently she was laid on a bed. “My hand is getting cold,” she moaned as her mother made frantic efforts to ease her agony. A little later she cried out the single word, “Mamma!” and died.

(Incidentally, here’s Ruth’s death certificate.)

So why exactly did Wanderer kill his wife anyway?  The answer he gave to police is chillingly heartless:

“I just thought of killing her – and decided I had to do it quick while I was wanting to or pretty soon I’d lose the idea of doing it… A man’s place is with his wife and I was always at home. I was always kind to her – but I got this Army idea in my head and decided to follow-up on it… See, I was just tired of her. I didn’t want her any more. I killed her so no one else would have her. I never thought of going in the Army until two days before I killed her…”

“The thought of killing anybody doesn’t bother me as much as it would the average person. I’ve put a lot of time in my father’s butcher shop; the idea of shedding blood doesn’t offend me much. Besides that, there’s my Army experience. That taught me not to mind killing….”

“Now, I want to be hanged. I want to join my wife in death… Her lying in that vestibule after I shot her… haunts me. I wonder if she will forgive me. I loved her too much to let another man have her. I didn’t want her, myself.  It was the Army I wanted.”  (By the way, psychiatrists at the time diagnosed this desire to be in the Army as “latent homosexuality”.)

Eventually, after lying in cold storage at the morgue for weeks, the “poor boob” was identified as Eddie Ryan by his mother, who hadn’t seen him for 18 years.

Wanderer ended up recanting his confession, claiming it was coerced, and was tried for the murder of his wife.  The defense went for the “insanity” approach, but the jury found him sane and sentenced him to 25-years.  This light sentence did not satisfy the prosecution so they immediately began a second trial, for the death of Eddie Ryan.  Again, the defense argued insanity, and again the jury found Wanderer sane.  This time around they sentenced him to the gallows.

Somehow, I don’t think Ruth forgave him.

Incidentally, I visited Ruth’s grave in Graceland Cemetery today to pay my respects.  She’s buried beside her parents in the Johnson family plot.

ruth_grave

Ruth and her unborn baby lie beside her parents in the Johnson family plot.

Ruth lies beside her parents in the Johnson family plot.  (Photos by The Comtesse DeSpair)

According to his death certificate, Carl Wanderer was buried in “Mt. Rose” (aka Montrose) Cemetery.  However, when I went to stomp on his grave, the man in the office told me they had no record of a Carl Wanderer. “Maybe he was cremated here, but he wasn’t buried.”  I suppose that’s just as well.


Mar 16 2014

Despondency On Ellis Avenue

It’s worth remembering that America’s current struggle with unemployment and the lack of socialized medicine was an even BIGGER problem in the pre-Social Security, pre-Medicare years of the Great Depression.  And as we know, desperation leads to some very tragic decisions.  Take the decision made by Herman Marcus on December 11, 1933.

FATHER SHOOTS HIS AILING SON; ENDS OWN LIFE

Parent Despondent Over Cost of Medical Care.

Harris Marcus, an unemployed tailor, shot his ailing son, Herman, yesterday in their home at 6130 Ellis avenue, and then fatally wounded himself with the same weapon.

IMG_1442-4

The apartment building at 6130 S. Ellis Avenue where the Marcus family resided.

Marcus had been brooding over his own unemployment and the fact that expenditures for the son’s medical care made it difficult to provide for other members of the family, police were told.  Members of the family said, however, that the father’s worries were largely imaginary, since another son and a son-in-law, both living in the household, are employed and contributing to the family budget.

Marcus, who was 57 years old, and the son, who is 21, were both taken to the Woodlawn hospital.  The father’s death occurred several hours later from a bullet wound in the right temple.  Physicians believe Herman will live, although a bullet from his father’s revolver is imbedded in the mastoid area near his right ear.

Staggers from Apartment.

Herman was able to give a statement to police shortly after he was given first aid.  He had staggered out of the apartment and was seated on a stair landing when a detective squad, summoned by neighbors, reached the building.  He suffers from an intestinal ailment which made it impossible for him to find work.  The son said his father upbraided him for not working and because the expense of his care was “taking bread from the mouths” of other members of the family.

“My father threatened several times to commit suicide,” Herman told police.  “Just yesterday he made the threat that we both would jump in the lake.”

“Are you working?” the youth was asked.

“No,” he replied.  “I have been sick and haven’t worked for three or four years.  In fact, I’ve never worked.  This was the cause of our many arguments.”

Mother and Sister Out.

Herman was reading in the front room of the home when his father shot him.  His mother, Mrs. Anna Marcus, and his sister, Rosalind, had gone to a motion picture show.  A brother, Louis, who is a druggist and lives with the family, and a married sister, Mrs. Samuel Fenk, wife of an osteopath, and her child, who live in the same apartment, were also absent.

Marcus had arrived home about 45 minutes before the shooting, the son said.  He made no remark to his son before shooting him, Herman said, and the youth was unable to remember whether his father had said anything afterward.

Chicago Daily Tribune, Dec. 11, 1933

The next day another wee article appeared relating to the shooting, which corrected Harris’ age as well:

Father Who Shot Son and Killed Self Held Insane

A coroner’s jurty found yesterday that Harris Marcus, 87 years old, 6130 Ellis avenue, who shot his ailing son, Herman, 21 years old, on Sunday night and then ended his own life, acted while temporarily insane.  An older son, Louis, told the jury that his father had been unbalanced since an automobile accident three years ago.  Herman, who was shot in the head, probably will recover, it was said yesterday at the Woodlawn hospital

Chicago Daily Tribune, Dec. 12, 1933

I’m not sure if Herman survived since I couldn’t find any additional information on him after this, but I trust that he did.


Aug 12 2013

Puppy Love Gone Bad

When I started working on this blog, I did a cursory search of my address to see if anything tragic had occurred here.  Sadly, nothing of note turned up.  I did, however, find that an extraordinary tragedy had occurred in the building next door: a murder-suicide committed by a lovelorn teenager, followed by an accidental re-enactment of the crime on the same day by another teenager a couple of miles away.  Here’s the amazing story, as told by the Chicago Daily Tribune on December 1, 1931.

RE-ENACTS KILLING; SLAYS GIRL

School Pupils Figure in Two Gun Tragedies

Thwarted in a “puppy love” affair, Henry Sio, 16 years old, 4186 Elston avenue, a student in the Roosevelt High school, early yesterday shot and killed his 12 year old sweetheart, Ruth Wicklund, as she was on her way to the Belding elementary school.  He then raced to his home and, with a single shot, committed suicide.

Last night another 16 year old Roosevelt High school student, Joseph T. Wilson, 2537 Argyle street, reenacted the tragedy in which a school mate had figured.  Facing him were Constance Trohatos, 15 years old, and her sister, Cleo, 17, of 2425 Eastwood avenue, also students at the Roosevelt High.

As young Wilson reenacted the shooting he snapped the trigger of a supposedly empty revolver.  Constance slumped into her chair dead, a bullet in her brain.

 First Tragedy Described.

The background of yesterday’s first tragedy lay in the parental objection to the juvenile courtship by young Sio of the Wicklund girl.  Both resided in the same building, and frequently Sio accompanied her to school.  Recently their affair was ordered stopped.  Yesterday the Wicklund girl left her home as usual.  At Berteau and Springfield avenues Sio halted her.  He drew a revolver and fired, as she pleaded with him not to shoot. His own death followed shortly afterward.

A contemporary view of the apartment building at 4186 Elston avenue where both Ruth Wicklund and Henry Sio resided in 1931. (Photograph by The Comtesse DeSpair.)

A contemporary view of the apartment building at 4186 Elston avenue where both Ruth Wicklund and Henry Sio resided in 1931.  (Photograph by The Comtesse DeSpair.)

A modern view of the intersection of Springfield and Berteau avenues - where Henry Sio fatally wounded Ruth Wicklund. I tried to get ahold of police records indicating precisely where Ruth fell, but was unsuccessful. Ruth would have been walking to this intersection in front of the building shown (which is not the building she and Henry resided in), in a rightward direction, in order to head towards Belding school. Photograph by The Comtesse DeSpair.

A modern view of the intersection of Springfield and Berteau avenues – where Henry Sio fatally wounded Ruth Wicklund. I tried to locate police records indicating precisely where Ruth fell, but was unsuccessful. Ruth would have been walking to this intersection in front of the building shown (which is not the building she and Henry resided in), in a  left to right direction, in order to head towards Belding school.  (Photograph by The Comtesse DeSpair.)

News of the shooting became the main topic of hundreds of students at the Roosevelt High school, where Sio was well known.  It remained as fresh news last night.  Among the few, however, who knew nothing of the double death was Constance Trohatos.  She had played hookey.

Gather in Boy’s Home.

Last night she and Cleo left home for a neighborhood library.  They recollected that young Wilson possessed a number of entertaining books and called at his home.  They sat in the living room, discussing literature, when Wilson mentioned the Sio-Wicklund tragedy.  Constance expressed surprise, saying she had not heard of it, and laughingly remarking she “was glad she had played hookey, or she might have been shot.”

Wilson excused himself and left the room.  He reappeared a few moments later carrying a revolver.

“This is loaded with wooden bullets, so don’t be afraid,” he reassured, smiling.  He broke the weapon and extracted a wooden cartridge.  As he displayed the weapon, he described the suicide of Sio and the killing of his sweetheart.  He inspected the gun, and sprang suddenly to where Cleo was sitting.  He pressed the gun to her head.

Presses Gun to Head.

“See?” he exclaimed, as he pressed the trigger.  There was a harmless snap.

“How would you like to be shot?” he asked, jokingly, as he walked over to Constance.  She accepted the threat in fun and laughed.  Wilson stepped up to her, placed the revolver against her temple, and pressed the trigger.  Again there was a harmless snap.  He pressed the trigger a second time.  There was a sharp explosion.  Constance fell over dead.

Cleo screamed.  Wilson almost collapsed, but holstered himself sufficiently to summon police.  Lieut.  John O’Brien of the Summerdale station responded.  He took the boy and Cleo to the station, and after questioning them said the killing was doubtless an accident in which the supposedly “empty” gun was loaded.  The basement of the Wilson home was searched, and another revolver, a rifle and a knife were found.  Wilson said he had a flair for military things, and that he formerly attended the Morgan Park military academy.  At the time of the shooting, he wore a military uniform.  He was held last night for the inquest.

Contemporary view of the house at 2425 Eastwood avenue where 15-year-old Cleo Trohatos was accidentally slain in a re-enactment of the Sio-Wicklund shooting by her friend, 16-year-old Joseph T. Wilson. (Photograph by The Comtesse Despair.)

Contemporary view of the house at 2425 Eastwood avenue where 15-year-old Cleo Trohatos was accidentally slain in a re-enactment of the Sio-Wicklund shooting by her friend, 16-year-old Joseph T. Wilson. (Photograph by The Comtesse Despair.)

While the shooting of Constance was unmotivated, the killing of the Wicklund girl had a direct inspiration, police said, and that of thwarted love.  When police found young Sio in his den, in the basement of the building, he was unconscious.  The revolver lay beside him, and not far away was a postcard on which he had written: “I’m sorry.”  In one hand he clutched a tan glove, once owned by his sweetheart.  On his wrist was her bracelet.

Scattered in the den were books, magazines and odds and ends of a boy’s workshop.  Sio, detectives were told, aspired to be a scientist or an inventor.  In a small chest investigators found letters written by the Wicklund girl, chiding against his jealousy and protesting her love for him.  A diary also was found, containing mute scrawling of his jealousy, and filled with entries the sense of which was: “The time has come for a showdown.”

The entrance to Henry Sio's basement apartment is seen on the far left of this contemporary image. The windows seen on the bottom corner of this shot were Sio's apartment. He was found dead from a self-inflicted bullet to the brain in the den inside. (Photograph by The Comtesse DeSpair.)

The entrance to Henry Sio’s basement apartment is seen on the far left of this contemporary image. The windows seen on the bottom corner of this shot were Sio’s apartment. He was found dead from a self-inflicted bullet to the brain in the den inside. (Photograph by The Comtesse DeSpair.)

Mrs. Karin Wicklund, mother of Ruth, told police she had asked Sio’s father, Matthew, a barber, to stop his son’s wooing of her daughter.  The father said he had so notified Henry.

A coroner’s jury late yesterday returned a verdict that young Sio had murdered the Wicklund girl and then committed suicide.  The motive officially designated was “jealousy and puppy love.”

Photographs featured in the December 1, 1931 Chicago Daily Tribune. (Reproduced without permission for personal use only.)

Photographs featured in the December 1, 1931 Chicago Daily Tribune.
(Reproduced without permission for personal use only.)

 

Follow-up article, Chicago Daily Tribune, December 3, 1931:

SCHOOL MOURNS GIRL VICTIMS OF 2 GUN TRAGEDIES

Two grief stricken families yesterday made funeral preparations for Ruth Wicklund, 12 years old, and Constance Trohatos, 15 years old.  There was gloom at Belding grade school and the Roosevelt High school, where the girls had been pupils.

Both the girls were shot to death on Monday.  Ruth, a Belding pupil, was slain early in the morning by Henry Sio, 16 years old, a student of the Roosevelt High school, who then shot and killed himself.  Constance was accidentally killed in the evening when Joseph Wilson, 16 years old, tried to show how Ruth was shot.  Constance and Joseph were Roosevelt High school students.

Yesterday Young Wilson was exonerated by a coroner’s inquest.  Deputy Coroner James A. Gleason, however, directed that he be placed in the custody of the Juvenile court for one year during which he will make weekly reports.  The official verdict to the jury was that Constance was killed accidentally.

At the Belding school Principal Ida M. Tregellas and Miss Katherine Mahon, Ruth Wicklund’s teacher, said they would send flowers for the girl’s funeral.  The children in Ruth’s room contributed nickels and dimes tot he flower fund.

Friends of both Ruth and Constance planned to attend the funerals.  The services for Ruth will be held at 2 o’clock today from a chapel at 3918 Irving Park boulevard, with burial at the Irving Park Boulevard cemetery.  Funeral arrangements for Constance have not been completed.  Ruth lived at 4186 Elston avenue, and Constance at 2425 Eastwood avenue.

The Cooney Funeral Home, 3918 Irving Park boulevard, where the funeral services were held for Ruth Wicklund on December 3, 1931. (Photograph by The Comtesse DeSpair.)

The Cooney Funeral Home, 3918 Irving Park boulevard, where the funeral services were held for Ruth Wicklund on December 3, 1931. (Photograph by The Comtesse DeSpair.)

Funeral notice, Chicago Daily Tribune, December 3, 1931:

HOLD LAST RITES FOR GIRL VICTIM OF YOUNG SUITOR

Funeral services for Ruth Wicklund, 12 years old, 4186 Elston avenue, a pupil of the Belding grade school, who was shot and killed by Henry Sio, 16 years old, of the same address, were held yesterday at the chapel at 3918 Irving Park boulevard.  Sio, the girl’s suitor, also killed himself.  Hundreds of friends of the girl attended the services.  Burial was in Irving Park Boulevard cemetery.

Services for Constance Trohatos, 15 years old, a pupil at the Roosevelt High school, who was killed by Joseph Wilson, 16 years old, when the latter attempted to show how Ruth was shot, will be held today at noon from St. James Orthodox church, 2727 Winona street.  Burial will be in the Elmwood cemetery.

 

Comtesse Note:  One of these days, I hope to track down the graves of these three tragic youths and add images of the gravestones to the blog.