Polly Bodine, in her 30s, was a suspicious character in 1843 Staten Island, a rural enclave with just 10,000 or so residents.
A “fallen” woman, she lived with her parents in Graniteville after separating from her husband. She had a lover, a druggist in Manhattan.
On one hand, she was known to be very close to her sister-in-law.
But at her murder trial that summer in Richmondtown, witnesses claimed to have seen her hawking Emeline’s things at a pawn shop.
That trial ended in a hung jury. A second trial, in Manhattan, returned a guilty verdict, which was later invalidated. Perhaps the jury was biased by a P.T. Barnum wax figure of Polly kicking Emeline to death displayed near the courthouse.
At her third trial, held upstate—the only place they could find an “unbiased” jury—Polly was found not guilty and set free. She died in 1902.
Tags: 19th century famous murders, Emeline Houseman, Emmeline and Ann Eliza, P.T. Barnum, Polly Bodine, Staten Island 19th Century, Staten Island murder case, The Witch of Staten Island, Van Pelts of Staten Island