Tragic Tales at Congressional Cemetery: Murder Victims and Murder-Suicides

This week, I will continue sharing stories of victims of murder who are buried at the cemetery. Last week, the murderer’s motives ranged from robberies to jealousy and unfaithfulness. In this week’s post, all of the murder victims were killed due to an intimate relationship, either between the murderer and the victim or a love triangle. This is a recurring theme that will appear in several other stories in future posts.

One of the challenges with this blog series is that, in some instances, there is no clear line between murders, suicide, murder-suicide, and strange deaths. The third story for this week is a good example of where those lines start to blur.

Please remember: The information that was gathered for each of these stories was pulled from historical newspapers, mainly The Evening Star. Back then, newspapers contained a lot more information about tragedies than we see today, including detailed information about how people were injured and/or killed. With that being said, please note that some of these stories contain information that can be considered graphic. All of these stories are sad. Read at your own risk.

 

John L. Ford (Range 12, Site 22)

            Around 5:00 p.m. on August 7, 1896, John L. Ford, a 19-year-old blacksmith, visited Lillie M. Cooper, a 30-year-old mother of three who had been separated from an engineer aboard the USS Maine for about a year, at the home she shared with Columbus “Lum” Fearson, a 64-year-old rigger with a “shady” background due to his involvement with the robbery of a paymaster. Ford stayed at the house for about an hour before going back to his house. Around 8:00 p.m. that night, Ford returned to Cooper’s house. Ford was hesitant to knock on the door due to two previous encounters with Fearson: the previous Saturday when Ford and Fearson had an altercation which resulted in Ford striking Fearson with a stone; and the previous Sunday, when Fearson threatened Ford with a pistol if he ever showed up at the house again, to which Ford boldly responded that he would visit the house as often as he pleased. Consequently, Ford decided to whistle for Cooper instead of knocking on the door. Unfortunately, instead of meeting up with Cooper, Ford faced an angry Fearson, who aimed a revolver out the window towards Ford and fired two shots in rapid succession. One ball hit Ford on the right side of his abdomen, passed through his bladder, and lodged in Ford’s intestines, while the other ball missed Ford. Fearson stayed on the scene after the shooting, but Cooper fled the scene. Ford was rushed to the Emergency Hospital, where he died on the morning of August 10, 1896. Ford had a few periods consciousness while he was in the hospital, and was unable to recall the events that occurred the night he was shot. However, he was able to tell officials that his back was turned to Fearson when he was shot.

Fearson and Cooper had known each other for about six months, and Ford and Cooper had known each other for about three months. Ford and Cooper had been “quite intimate,” and Fearson did not approve of their relationship to the extent that Fearson began to threaten Ford. As a result of the threats, Ford’s sister, whom he lived with, begged her brother to stop seeing Cooper. Clearly, Ford did not listen to his sister.

 

Mary Ellen Hamilton (Range 146, Site 242)

            On the night of November 26, 1907, Harry L. Holmes (alias Schryfogle and “Ducky”) went to Marry Ellen Hamilton’s home and asked her mother, Mrs. Grove, for Hamilton’s location. Holmes was then told that Hamilton had likely gone out with another man, and Holmes told Mrs. Grove that he was going to try to find her. Hamilton was at a “cheap show” with a one-armed man. Eventually, Holmes found her. Hamilton told Holmes that the man “conducted a restaurant,” but Holmes did not believe her. Then, Holmes told Hamilton that he wanted her to go home with him, and she agreed to leave with him. After Hamilton left the one-armed man behind, Holmes and Hamilton went to a Chinese restaurant. Holmes stated that Hamilton consented to go home with him, and they boarded a streetcar together. On the way home, Hamilton rested her head on his shoulder and she slept until they reached their stop. He claimed to have had carried her all the way home. What happened next is unclear because Holmes said his mind was “all blank.” However, it is known is that Hamilton was shot three times by a pistol–one bullet passed through her heart, one bullet pierced her liver, and a third bullet caused a flesh wound in her neck. Holmes admitted to shooting Hamilton, although he didn’t know how it happened. Additionally, Holmes claimed the motive was that Hamilton “abused” her mother and everyone else in the house.

Holmes was arrested in Glenburnie after he was found by detectives in a closet of a house owned by Howard Watts, a superintendent of the Baltimore and Annapolis railroad. Previously, Holmes lived at Glenburnie and was a prominent baseball player, and Watts and Holmes knew each other because they had played baseball together.

Mrs. Groves described the crime as “cold-blooded murder.”

 

Sarah H. Allen (Johnson) (Range 92, Site 104)

allen.jpg

Sarah Allen’s stone. Take note that Sarah’s stone says that she was the wife of “O. C. Allen.”

In the mid-afternoon of May 17, 1889, Oswald C. Allen hired a cab on Pennsylvania Avenue to drive him to a school building called the Jefferson Building where his wife whom he was separated from, 42 year-old Sarah Allen, taught third grade. As he left the cab, he instructed the driver to wait for him. Oswald proceeded to walk to Sarah’s all-female third grade class, approached her desk, told her “Now I’ve got you; you can’t escape me,” and then summoned her to the cloak room adjoining the classroom. Oswald put his left arm around Sarah’s neck, and, pressing the pistol close to her head, shot Sarah Allen in the left temple with a pistol before turning the gun on himself. Oswald still had his arm wrapped around Sarah when they both collapsed to the ground. Additionally, the pistol, a British Bulldog .32 caliber, was lying on Sarah’s cheek. The ball entered Oswalds’ temple and went to the top of his brain, killing him three minutes after police responded to the scene. Although the bullet passed into Sarah’s left ear and came out at the right side of her head, Sarah was still alive when police arrived to the scene. The children, who had witnessed the murder, were in panicked frenzy and blocked the sidewalk, making it difficult for the police and emergency responders to enter the building. William H. Robertson claimed he heard the shots about two minutes after he arrived at the school building, which was around 3:00 p.m., the same time that school was letting students out for the day.

Sarah and Oswald had been married for about 13 years. However, Sarah’s family and friends opposed the marriage. Sarah, who had been a teacher since November 1870, financially supported her husband, who was described as a “worthless fellow.” Sarah had formerly been a teacher in the Potomac Building, where Oswald frequently annoyed and threatened Sarah to the extent that she called the police on him several times. One of Sarah’s colleagues reported that Oswald thrashed his wife in her classroom and frequently made threats against her life. The couple were described as having had “some difficulty” and they hadn’t lived together in a while. Oswald had also been sent to jail for abusing her, and Sarah was pursuing a legal divorce from Oswald at the time of her death. Sarah’s brother, Robert Johnson, had “some trouble” with Oswald about a week before her murder, and Johnson had warned Sarah to be on the lookout for Oswald.

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