Tragic Tales at Congressional Cemetery: Murder-Suicides

This week’s blog post focuses on murder-suicides. The story of a murder victim in a murder-suicide, and the stories of murderers in two failed murder-suicide attempts will be shared. Love, or infatuation, and jealousy seems to play a role in  several of the stories that have been shared. In several instances, the victim has been a young woman and the perpetrator has been a young man. Have you noticed any other similarities between all or many of the stories so far? How do these stories compare to the stories that we see today?

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.

 

Elizabeth Harbin (Range 151 Site 205)

            Elizabeth Harbin, 41, had been separated from her husband, Daniel Harbin, for three months. Before and during the separation, Elizabeth Harbin had an intimate relationship with Frederick Kramer, a 21-year-old who was Daniel Harbin’s partner in a wood and coal business years before he became a tinner. Initially, Daniel Harbin ignored the frequent visits of his former business partner to his home. However, Daniel eventually got fed up and told his wife that he was planning on finding another place to live and assured her that their seven children would be provided for. Daniel Harbin had also told several of his friends that he was going to make amends with his wife. The news reached Kramer, who confronted Elizabeth Harbin on January 13, 1909. Before Kramer’s confrontation, Daniel Harbin visited his wife. After discussing the challenges in their marriage, the couple both agreed to forget their differences and live in peace together. Kramer than left the house and went to his work at the naval yard. Right after Daniel left the house, Kramer visited Elizabeth Harbin, demanding an explanation from Elizabeth, who told him that she was tired of her estrangement from her husband and wanted to live with her husband. Kramer desperately tried to convince Elizabeth to stay away from her husband, but he failed. Elizabeth Harbin left her house and went for a short walk near her home, perhaps in hopes that Kramer would leave. Elizabeth Harbin returned about fifteen minutes later. Around 5:15, John J. Welsh, who lived in a room on the second floor, heard two gun shots. A minute later, Welsh heard another shot. Welsh walked downstairs and checked the street and rear yard, but he didn’t see anything. Welsh didn’t hear Elizabeth return from her walk, so he didn’t check her room. Two of Harbin’s children entered the house and found their mother and Kramer lying across the bed in their mother’s room. The children immediately went searching for police. When police arrived on the scene, Elizabeth Harbin and Frederick Kramer were already dead: Harbin had two fatal wounds in her breast, and Kramer had a gunshot wound in his head. The police also found a 5 chamber .32 caliber revolver with three discharged shells at the scene of the crime.

 

Charles Knott (Range 80, Site 76)

            In the morning of July 9, 1985, Charles Knott, 30, arrived at the home of George and Catherine Morris. George Morris had already left for work for the day, and Catherine Morris, 22, was with a neighbor, who left as soon as Knott appeared. Knott and Catherine Morris knew each other, and Knott asked Morris for a picture of his that she had. Catherine went to a back room in the house to retrieve the photo from a photo album and Knott followed her into the room. As Catherine turned around to see what he wanted, Knott raised a seven-shooter Victor pistol and fired three shots at her. One of the shots missed Catherine. One bullet entered Catherine’s skull near the temple and the other passed through her lungs. Catherine rushed to the back yard to the back gate screaming for help with blood flowing from a wound in her head. She escaped out of the yard and into the arms of Mr. Cross, a railroad gateman who heard her screams. Catherine was able to tell neighbors and workmen that the shooter was still in the house. Meanwhile, Knott walked to another room in the front of the house, most likely the parlor, shot himself in the head, and died instantly. Police officer Rauke discovered Knott’s body. Dr. Herbert was able to remove the bullet from Catherine’s lungs, but he wasn’t able to remove the bullet from her head. However, the doctor stated he thought her youth and health were in her favor, but the chances were against her. It is unknown if Catherine ultimately died from her wounds or not. Catherine’s husband was working about 200 yards from the house at the time of the crime, and he was one of the first people to arrive on the scene. Knott was seen by railroad workers watching her. Some workers believed that he was waiting for the chance to go to the house without her husband seeing her.

The previous winter, George Morris was away a lot because he had taken up boating. Knott frequently visited the house, but Catherine Morris informed Charles Knott through his mother that she didn’t want him to visit her unless her husband was at home, too. Morris’ relatives believed that Knott was insane. It was also believed that he had a strong attachment to Catherine, and that jealousy prompted the tragedy.

 

Wellington B. Herbert (Range 143, Site 181)

            In September 1907, Wellington Hebert went to Annie Nothey’s house on 3rd St in SE Washington D.C. Nothey was the sister of Herbert’s wife, whom he was separated from at the time. Herbert asked the sister to see his wife and he was invited into Nothey’s house. Herbert insisted that his wife step to the door to talk with him, but she refused to. Herbert sat down on the porch. Nothey said that Herbert seemed nervous and excited. Herbert again appeared at the door after the people inside the house moved downstairs to the basement. In desperation, Herbert walked into a room filled with people, including his wife, and asked his wife to come back and live with him, but his wife told him that she was afraid to. When he realized that his wife was firm in her decision to stay away from him, he reached into his back pocket, drew a .32 caliber revolver, and aimed it at his wife before anyone could stop him. Herbert then fired three shots in quick succession. The bullets passed near Mrs. Herbert’s head, and one bullet passed Annie Nothey, burning the skin on her arm. Clearance Goldsmith, who was one of the many people in the room at the time, rushed to Herbert and grabbed his arm, preventing him from firing more shots at his wife. Herbert violently wrenched his arm away from Goldsmith’s grasp long enough to press the barrel against his chest and pull the trigger. The ball entered Herbert’s flesh nearly over his heart. However, the ball struck his rib and ricocheted off instead of penetrating his heart. Herbert believed he was fatally wounded and kept saying “I’m going to die. I’m going to die. Get me a priest.” A priest was taken to him, and Herbert was informed that the wound was a superficial one. Herbert died eight years after the attempted murder-suicide.

 

 

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