Posts Tagged ‘notorious New York murders’

The pretty showgirl at the center of a murder

April 9, 2012

Evelyn Nesbit’s ascent to famous model and glamorous chorus girl in the early 1900s follows the usual narrative.

Born poor in Pennsylvania in 1884, Evelyn was an attractive child who helped her family score extra money by working as an artist’s model.

By the time the Nesbits moved to New York City in 1901, she was an astoundingly beautiful 15-year-old who quickly found gigs posing for famous artists—including illustrator Charles Dana Gibson, who used her as one of his “Gibson Girls.”

She also raked in a then-high $10 a day as a fashion model in newspaper ads, and she earned a place in the hit musical Floradora.

Through her showgirl connections, she was introduced to architect Stanford White in 1901. White, a womanizer then in his late 40s, was smitten.

One night, according to Evelyn, he showered her with attention, brought her to his apartment on West 24th Street, plied her with alcohol, and took her virginity after she’d passed out.

Though White remained in her life, Evelyn dated John Barrymore, then married Harry Thaw, the playboy son of a coal baron. She confided in Thaw about being “seduced” by White.

Thaw was obsessed with avenging his wife’s honor. On a June night in 1906, while the three were at the same theater performance at the White-designed Madison Square Garden, Thaw shot White in the head.

The slaying of the nation’s foremost architect and the scandal that surrounded it captivated the city. After his first murder trial ended in a hung jury, Thaw pleaded temporary insanity and was sent to a mental institution.

What happened to Evelyn? She testified on Thaw’s behalf, then divorced him in 1916. She tried her hand at vaudeville and in silent movies and wrote a few memoirs.

After slipping out of the limelight, she got married and divorced, taught ceramics, and survived suicide attempts and alcoholism.

She died in a nursing home in California in 1967 at the age of 82. “Stanny White was killed but my fate was worse. I lived,” she reportedly said.

Top: Evelyn at the height of her beauty, by Rudolph Eickemeyer; bottom: Evelyn in 1955 on the set of The Girl in the Red Velvet Swing, a film based on her life starring Joan Collins.

Brigham Young’s grandson kills a midtown woman

February 5, 2012

On September 19, 1902, the body of a young woman turned up in a canal in Jersey City. Police identified the corpse as that of Anna Pulitzer, a married prostitute who lived on Broadway and West 46th Street.

Police fanned out to solve the crime. A crucial break came within days: A coachman recalled driving Pulitzer and an unknown young man to an apartment on West 58th Street.

That apartment turned out to be the home of John Willard Young, the businessman son of Mormon leader Brigham Young (below).

Willard Young was out of the country, but his son, William Hooper Young, 32, had been staying there. Hooper Young, once a Mormon missionary, was now a drifter and morphine addict.

Cops traced Hooper Young to a Connecticut park. Drunk and disheveled, he admitted that Pulitzer died after he picked her up in a coach and took her to his father’s apartment.

But he blamed her actual murder, via chloral poisoning (aka, knockout drops), on a man he’d just met in Central Park.

He had a hard time convincing anyone he was innocent. Police never located the other man. Pulitzer’s bloody clothes, jewelry, and letters addressed to Hooper Young were found in a trunk he had shipped to Chicago.

In 1903, Brigham Young’s grandson pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and got life without parole at Sing Sing, escaping the electric chair because the judge thought he was medically insane.

No motive was ever definitively uncovered, but it may have been robbery, or perhaps it stemmed from a romantic relationship the two had, which some suggested may have started when Hooper Young did his missionary work years earlier on the East Coast.