Transcribers note: The articles on the Tompkyns/Tonkin murder, change the spelling of names, without notice, for the first two days, Tonkin was spelt Tompkyns in the Post-Dispatch and 1 day in the Globe-Democrat, and then changed to Tonkin with no explanation, several other names are treated the same way. If at any point I have put a word description, or comment, it will be in these sort of parentheses { }. All spellings of words are how they were in the paper. Karen King -


St. Louis Daily Globe – Democrat December 19, 1881 page 4




Fred Tompkyns Receives a Mortal Wound in a Mysterious Manner.


Seventeenth Street and Lucas Place the Scene of the Shooting – A Man and a Woman Seen Running Away.


A pistol shot, a muffled sound as of a fall on the pavement, and all was silent in the vicinity of Lucas and Seventeenth street about midnight. Private Watchman Power, who hurried to the spot, caught a glimpse of two fleeing forms, those of a man attired in a heavy costume and a female form enveloped in what is supposed to be a circular. The night was dark and beyond the circle of light around the gas jets every movement was shrouded in cimmerian darkness. Even the officers hesitated to discern the case of the unusual scene in that quiet neighborhood, the two forms grew dimmer and faded away from view. Then turning his attention to the more immediate surroundings, the officer’s quick ear caught the faint sound of what seemed a groan uttered indistinctly, as if the sufferer was wrestling in bodily torment of an excruciating nature. The moan proceeded from the turf environing Dr. Niccoll’s church, and the distant gaslamp cast a flicker of light which relieved the somberness of the vicinity. On the faded award appeared the body of a man, to all intents unconscious. He was partially doubled up, and


darkened his clothing, through which it slowly oozed and percolated to the ground with a monotonous drip. The rattle of death was in the man’s throat, and his utterance was choked with the deluge of blood which suffused his throat. He has lost the power of speech, but by vague motions indicated the location of his injuries, which were in the abdomen. A single bullet-hole was discovered on removing the clothing, and a steady stream of blood poured forth its vital warmth with unstaunched flow.


most foul had been committed and the culprits had escaped; every clew had been lost and justice was threatened with an abortive search. The shock of the shot awakened some of the nearest residents, but there does not appear to have been anything like a general alarm. The officers of the law were the first to appear on the scene, and in succoring the victim they neglected to adopt instant action to capture the murderers. Officer Robinson, perceiving the imminent danger of death, started off on a run to the Dispensary, but meeting Officer Hogan he instructed him to order an ambulance immediately. The order was obeyed forth with, and in five minutes the wounded man was rattling over the block pavement of Lucas Place at the topmost speed of two good horses. At the Dispensary the wounded man gave his name as


and his occupation as hostler at Jesse Arnot’s. He could only speak in a whisper, and that hardly audible. Nothing could be learned from him which would throw any light on the matter, and the sensation was further enhanced by a refusal to make any disclosure which would criminate the persons concerned. He maintained an obstinate silence when questioned regarding his presence in the inclosure, and shut his teeth tightly together as if to exclude by a muscular effort any expressions which might escape his tongue. The police returned to the vicinity, which was scoured thoroughly and in an effective manner, which would have disclosed the hiding place of refugees, if they sought concealment in any of the numerous alleys or outdoor resorts. They procured absolutely nothing outside the districts already scoured, and their original clews were not fortified by any additional evidence. Returning to the church an important eyewitness was found in the person of


who resides opposite the scene of the dastardly deed. He said his attention was first drawn in the direction of the church by hearing subdued voices engaged in an earnest discussion. The next instant a man’s form emerged from the gloom of the building and turned to run. He was pursued by another man and a female, and as the first man strove to reach the sidewalk his flight was arrested. A sudden flash as the gaslight glinted on a polished revolver, a dark flame, a detonation and the pursued fell prone in his tracks. The occurrence transpired in a few seconds and with the thud of the body as it struck the ground, the assassin and his am--zon accessory were beating a rapid retreat over the brick pavements. This was all the witness could relate. He could furnish


of the parties, and his story only serves to base a theory where with to work on the history of the crime.

The church premises were overran again by the police, who, assisted by several GLOBE-DEMOCRAT reporters, were rewarded by the discovery of the empty cartridge shell, which had been ejected from the cylinder of the revolver. A rich seal skin cap, without a visor, was also found, but whether belonging to the man or woman the police are not prepared to say. The cap had ear-laps and undoubtedly was the property of the man who ran away after firing the fatal shot. There is no name attached to it, nor is there one peculiar mark by which identification would be rendered easy, but the quality of the fur leads to the belied that it is the property of some person of wealth.


John Powers, a private watchman who walks a beat on Lucas Place, west of Sixteenth street, arrived on the scene soon after the shooting, and found Tompkyns lying on the high plateau in front of the church entrance. His statement is as follows: "A few minutes before midnight I was coming through the alley which opens on the east side of Eighteenth street, when I heard a pistol shot. I could not tell at first the direction whence the report came, but finally located it on Lucas place, between Seventeenth and Eighteenth streets. Without a moment’s delay I hurried over to Lucas Place, but when I got there, I found nobody in sight and everything quiet. I looked around carefully, but could discover nothing; not a soul except myself appeared to be in the immediate vicinity. Listening attentively I heard


coming from the direction of the church-yard. Running over there I observed a dark object on the grass plot in front of the church, lying near the stoop. I stooped down and scrutinized the object closely and found it to be a man whom, by the dim glare of the gaslamp, I recognized as Tompkyns. He appeared to be suffering great agony, and moaned painfully. I knew him well, and at once questioned him as to what was the matter. "I’m shot," said he. "Who shot you?" I asked. "I don’t know," he gasped.


Now, I knew that Tompkyns was in the habit of loitering around in the neighborhood late at night, watching couples promenading, and at once suspected the truth. Said I, "Thomson, you should have taken my advice, and this would not have happened to you." He knew what I meant, and answered sorrowfully, I wish I had Powers. He told me he was shot in the abdomen, and was suffering excruciating pain. Knowing that it was necessary to him to receive some attention. I called a rap, and soon after Officer Sullens came running up. A moment later Officer Hogan also came up and I explained the matter to them. Hogan immediately went to the Dispensary and returned with an ambulance, in which Tompkyns was placed and removed to the Dispensary. I know Tompkyns well, and frequently met him on my beat at night. He is a sober, steady young man, and generally peaceable."


knew very little about the affair. He was standing on Sixteenth and Chestnut streets when the shot was fired, and heard the report but could not locate it. He hurried around his beat at random, but could discover nothing. On Fifteenth street, he met a colored man who told him that there had been some shooting on Seventeenth street, and that a man had been shot. Sullens at once started toward Seventeenth street, and on the way met another person who told him about the shooting, and also informed him that a man and woman supposed to be implicated in it had been seen running down Olive street. When he got to Seventeenth street he heard Private Watchman Powers’ call-rap, and went up to the church where he found Tompkyns lying in the church-yard wounded. He had not obtained any description of the man and woman and had no clew to their identity.


Officer Sappington was walking west on St. Charles street, at 12:45 this morning, when his attention was attracted to the sobbing and crying of a woman in the direction of Missouri Park, on Thirteenth street. Hurrying in the direction from which the sounds came from he met a woman, apparently about middle age, evidently in a delicate condition and in great distress. She had apparently hurriedly risen from her midnight slumber and rushed out after a hasty toilet, for her hair hung loosely about her shoulders, and her clothing likewise bore signs of similar carelessness.

"Well, what’s the matter now," said the officer.

The poor woman made several sobbing attempts to explain, but could scarcely make herself understood. The officer noticing her delicate condition, and the possibility of a dangerous illness as the result of her agitation, besought her to be more calm. "Oh ! my husband, my husband, oh ! oh!" she sobbed.

"Well, madam, what can I do for you; where is your husband?"

"He’s – he’s been shot," she finally replied; "and I want – want – to go and get a friend to see him for me and find out about it."

"Where does your friend live?" the officer asked. "If you can tell me, I will go along with you and help you to find him."

"He – he liv – lives down St. Charles, near Twelfth. Will you go – go with me there. I want – want to find him so bad," she sobbed.

"What is his name?" the officer asked.

"His name is McCormack. Come along, I guess we can find him."

The officer took her by the arm and proceeded toward the locality indicated, and after much ringing of door-bells and tapping upon doors long closed for the night, succeeded in ringing up among many other McCormack’s, the particular one so much in demand. Having finished his part of the programme, he left the woman to the care of McCormack, who was found ready to oblige her.

Mrs. Tompkyns knew nothing about her husband’s misfortune, nor the circumstances leading to it. Some friend who had heard that he was shot, had awakened her to tell her what had happened, an she had just started out to investigate when the officer met her.


Mrs. Tompkyns received early intimation of the murder and came rushing to the Dispensary almost frantic with excitement.

The intelligence was broken to her gently and she received it with an exhibition of most heart-rending grief. Her anxiety to see her husband was terrible, but the physician deemed it best to preserve her husband from the shock which would naturally ensue. She would not leave, but pleaded piteously to be taken to her husband’s bedside. Finally Officer Hogan took her by the arm and kindly turned her over to the care of one of her friends, with whom she went to her home on Christy avenue.


At the Dispensary Dr. Dorsett made a careful examination of the wound and found it to be in the abdomen. He deemed in unsafe to probe it, and was satisfied from the appearance of the wound that it was mortal.

While making the examination, in answer to the Doctor’s inquiries as to how he was shot, Tompkyns make a brief statement regarding the occurrence. He was returning, he said, from a visit somewhere north of Washington avenue, and was walking along Seventeenth street, going south. When he reached the corner of Lucas place he noticed a man and woman entering the narrow inclosure skirting the west wing of the church. Impelled by curiosity, and suspecting that the couple were there for and improper motive, he determined to watch them. He walked up the stone steps and crept along the fence until he got close to the gate. His movements had been observed by the man and woman, and as he approached the gate the man suddenly turned and faced him. Simultaneously with the action the man aimed a pistol and fired. There was a ringing report, and almost as soon Tompkyns felt a sharp pain in his abdomen.

As he fell, the couple rushed by him and disappeared. Soon after the private watchman, Powers, came up and spoke to him. He knew neither the man nor the woman and said that they were entire strangers to him. On the way to the Hospital Tomkyns repeated the same story to the ambulance driver, but said that it was the woman who shot him.


One of the theories of the police is that Tompkyns was passing along the street, when he saw a man and woman making love on the steps of the church, and merely to tease and annoy them he had collected and arm-full of macadam which he began to throw at them; that the woman, who naturally considered that her rights were invaded, drew the pistol and fired upon him without further ceremony. This theory they claim is borne out by the facts that the wounded man was near a pile of rocks, which must have been recently placed near him at the time he fell into the hands of the police.

Mr. Turner, who witnessed the shooting while standing in his front yard, said that after Tompkyns fell the man and woman ran diagonally across Lucas place and disappeared down Seventeenth street.


of the affair did not differ from that of Sullen’s. He heard the shot, but could not tell from which direction it came. Powers’ call rap was the only indication he got, and he ran to the church. He afterward procured and ambulance and had Tompkyns removed to the City Dispensary.

The Four-Courts authorities were notified at 2 o’clock that the victim could not live, and warning them to procure and ante-mortem statement.