On April 23, 1891, Carrie Brown, a 60-year-old prostitute known as “Old Shakespeare” because of her penchant for quoting the Bard after a few drinks, took a customer to the East River Hotel.
Her brutal murder riveted New Yorkers, and newspapers instantly raised the possibility that she could be the first U.S. victim of Jack the Ripper, who was killing prostitutes across the Atlantic in London around the same time.
Because of the fear Jack the Ripper whipped up in the city, New York cops felt a lot of pressure to solve the case.
So they arrested an Algerian, Ameer Ben Ali, who lived in an adjacent room at the East River Hotel.
Though the evidence against Ali was circumstantial, he was convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison.
Eleven years later, after police reformers presented the city with evidence that the cops framed Ali, he was set free.
The real killer, like Jack the Ripper, remains a mystery.
Tags: 19th century New York City, Ameer Ben Ali, East River Hotel, Frenchy, Jack the Ripper, murder of a Bowery prostitute, Old Shakespeare, Police corruption New York City, prostitution in New York City