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 - kleeking@mindspring.com

 

St. Louis Daily Globe – Democrat December 20, 1881 page 3

 

TONKIN TRAPPED.

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Horse-Clipper Owes His Death to a Mania for Shadowing People.

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Developments in the Church-Yard Tragedy – The Shot Fired by a Woman – Descriptions of the Unknown Couple – A Witness to

the Movements of the Followed and the Follower – Arrests

on General Principles and Releases on Alibis.

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Fred. Tonkin, the young Englishman who was shot in front of Dr. Niccoll’s church, corner of Seventeenth and Lucas place, at midnight on Sunday, under such mysterious circumstances, was last evening dying at the City Hospital. The attendants did not think that he would survive the night. He was in a wild delirium. During the day he had made several contradictory statements relative to the affair. He had said that the woman shot him, and then denied it and said it was the man. Again he had said it was the woman. At one time he admitted that he was crawling up to see what was going on. At another he said that he was quietly walking along when the man ran out of the shadows and shot him. The woman he described as being bareheaded, and again as wearing a hat with a red feather. It was evident throughout that he was not telling the whole story. He refused to make his wife, who weepingly attended him, his confidant. Toward evening he mentioned the name of a friend to whom he said he would tell the whole story, but when that friend, who was hastily sent after, arrived, the mind of the dying man wandered and the visitor was refused admittance. With the hours the fever and delirium increased, and in all probability by this time death has claimed

THE MAN AND HIS SECRET.

The police were at fault all of yesterday. Indeed they had little to proceed on. The extraordinary statement of Wash Trimble, a colored man, which is given in full below, complicates the mystery of the murder, but gives additional color to the statement of Mr. Charles H. Turner, and the first statement the victim, that the shot was fired by the woman in the case, and that the man was simply a passive spectator, although in all probability the promoter of the tragedy. Everything points, however, to the fact that whether at the hands of the man or woman, Tonkin met his fate in attempting to gratify and unwholesome curiosity, and in the furtherance of a line of conduct that has brought him to the attention of the police several times within the past six months. The duty of the police now is simple. It is to follow the trail of the fugitives, a good description of whom is in their possession. That the mystery will be speedily solved, there can be little doubt. The fact that there are partners in the crime enhances the chance of detection. The woman who would deliberately decoy a man into a dark place to kill him will hardly be the first to weaken. That would be more in keeping with the character of the man who would outline the plot and furnish the Borgia with the death-dealing weapon – for such, at this writing, is the complexion of the tragedy. That the bareheaded woman and her escort fled eastward seems thoroughly established. The streets are not deserted at midnight, and that the guilty pair will be traced from point to point is probable.

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Wash Trimble’s Sensational Story.

Wash Trimble’s statement will, perhaps, go further than anything else toward unraveling the mystery. Wash is the colored janitor in charge of the Manual Training School attached to the Washington University and located at the corner of Eighteenth street and Washington avenue. Wash lives in a little house in the rear of the Woman’s Christian Home on St. Charles street, between Eighteenth and Nineteenth streets. At this point St. Charles street is little better than an alley, for upon the north side is the rear of the Woman’s Christian Home and upon the south side the rear of the St. Louis Art Museum where there is a vacant lot. There was a fire in the northern part of the city. The flames from it lighted up the sky as early as 8 o’clock in the evening, and the illumination was to be seen until about midnight. Trimble had watched the light in the sky until late, and then tiring went into his house. A little before midnight his dog was barking at some boys playing noisily on the front steps of the Training School. Trimble went out to stop the noise. When he got into St. Charles street the first thing he saw was a man and a woman. The two were standing on the south side of St. Charles street directly in the rear of the Art Museum, and about twenty feet from the corner of Nineteenth street. When Trimble saw them, instead of following his original intention and cutting around on to Washington avenue, he crossed from the north to the south side, and, glancing through the open lot, he stood facing the northeast, and as though interested in astronomy. He thought that if he stood there he would see the man and woman pass him, and in that he was right, for he had scarcely taken up this position when the two started east. As they neared Trimble the woman, who was on the outside at the start, changed her position, so that Trimble, standing near the curb, would be thrown between her and her escort. Noticing her move the inquisitive colored man stepped to the inner curb so as to get a good look at the woman’s face, but in that he was foiled again, for the two stepped upon the open field and thus the man instead of the woman was thrown nearest to Trimble as the two passed by. But still Trimble had only eyes for the woman. He says that

SHE DUCKED HER HEAD AS SHE PASSED

him so that he could not see her face. He saw that she had a cap of either fur or cloth upon her head. He noticed that she had no cloak on, but some light shawl or other thrown over her shoulders. "I know she had no cloak on," he says, "for I noticed her hips and saw that dress fitted her well. The man was about five feet eight inches in height. The woman was a small woman, and her head just evertipped the man’s shoulder. He had a high hat on, and he looked to me like a real gentleman. He wore an overcoat. The woman was what I call well dressed. At least she was none of your common folks. The man’s face I looked at and I think I’d know it again. He had side whiskers, but no mustache."

The two passed Trimble and walked towards Eighteenth street. Just before reaching the latter thoroughfare they stopped near a fence, and then coming close together they commenced talking. Trimble, as though expecting something and still inquisitive, stepped across the street to his doorstep again and took up his position in the shadow of the doorway. As he stood there the man left the woman and walked west on St. Charles street again. He passed Trimble again, but as the latter was this time on the opposite side of the street and in the shadow of his doorway he was not noticed. The man continued west, and had got behind the Art Museum again and was nearing Nineteenth street, when Fred Tonkin came around the corner of Nineteenth street and on to St. Charles. Trimble

KNEW IT WAS TONKIN,

for he is acquainted with that individual, and not only knows his build, but knows his walk, and has seen him about at night so often that he has come to be able to tell him anywhere, even upon a dark night and when seeing him a little distance. When the man walking west on St. Charles met Tonkin as the latter turned the corner the man meeting him, as though expecting something of the kind, returned to the woman, who was still standing on St. Charles, near Eighteenth, and near the fence. Tonkin pretended to walk along St. Charles past the Art Museum, and then cut south on to the vacant lot. Upon the latter there is a pile of debris. Tonkin stood behind this and viewed the couple. The latter evidently knew from the first that they were followed. This is Trimble’s theory, based on their actions. The man and woman again entered into conversation. Tonkin still stood watching them. There was a movement between the man and woman, as though he was passing something to her. It may have been a revolver that he gave her. A moment after this movement Trimble saw the man and woman part. The man went south on Eighteenth street to Lucas place. Arriving there he walked east. The woman went north on Eighteenth street until she reached Washington avenue. At the moment of the separation Tonkin jumped out from behind the pile of debris and started east on St. Charles street. He was after the woman. Trimble still inquisitive, at Tonkin’s first move jumped from his hiding place and cutting across the vacant lot to the east of the Woman’s Home, he ran northeast and coming out on Washington avenue, reached that thoroughfare just in time to see the woman enter it and go east. A moment later Tonkin reached Washington avenue. Seeing Trimble, he asked: "Did you see that woman?"

"Yes," said Trimble.

"Which way did she go?" said Tonkin.

"There she is," said Trimble, pointing east to the person in question, who was tripping along the south sidewalk on Washington avenue and that in a leisurely way.

"I’m going to catch on there," Tonkin said, and he half ran, half walked until he caught up with the woman. There was a word or two between them. Then Trimble saw them lock arms and walk east past the University building as far on Washington avenue as Seventeenth street. Then they turned south. Here Trimble lost sight of them. His inquisitive spirit would still have impelled him onward, but by this time the dog was making a greater noise than ever. So he returned to the brute, and let the human beings so their way.

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Charles H. Turner’s Statement.

"Where did they go?" Mr. Charles H. Turner answers this question. He was at the family residence on the southwest corner of Seventeenth street and Lucas Place. He was getting a breath of fresh air and looking about him. He heard a noise that sounded like a horse stepping on a grating. A moment later he heard this noise again. The lamp on the northwest corner of the street named was lighted. It cast its bright rays upon the parties in front of Dr. Nicolls’ church. Right in under the lamp stood a man answering the description given by Trimble of the first man seen by him. Mr. Turner saw three figures. The man standing by the lamp, Tonkin who stood on the terrace and the woman who stood to the west of him. Mr. Turner saw the woman fire a shot. He is positive that she fired it. At the report Tonkin staggered, but steadying himself walked to the steps of the main entrance to the church and sat down. The woman’s supposed paramour, at the sound of the shot, darted across Lucas Place on Seventeenth and took the west side walk for it, running south and past the Turner mansion. Here Mr. Turner had a good look at the man. Like Trimble, he describes him as a person about 5 feet 8 inches in height. He thinks the stranger wore a dark cloth skating cap, and overcoat reaching to the knees. Mr. Turner could not tell whether the man wore whiskers or not, for he did not get a good look at his face. The woman, after firing the shot, darted down the stone steps. Mr. Turner says she ran like a deer. As she crossed the street, following in the footsteps of the man who had gone before, she wrapped something about her head. She was a woman just below medium height. Her face was covered by the shawl.

Mr. Turner went into his house and got Mr. Arthur Lee, a friend, to cross the street with him to the spot where Tonkin sat groaning. Mr. Turner asked the wounded man how long had he been there, and he answered that he had just come, Mr. Turner said that he knew better than that, for he had stood on his doorstep for nearly five minutes and they had been there all that time. The Tonkin changed his tune, and said that he had been there about two minutes. He was passing the place, and had accidentally seen the two committing and immoral act. Mr. Turner was convinced that

TONKIN WAS LYING

and plied him with further questions, which resulted in that individual acknowledging that he had followed the man and woman from the rear of Art Hall. Thus Trimbles’ statement was in a way corroborated. Mr. Turner stood by Tonkin until the ambulance came and took him away. The theory to be drawn from the statements of Trimble and Mr. Turner combined, is that Tonkin was following the man and woman for some time, and they knew it. The woman perhaps in a spirit of bravado, or with money as her object, offered to drop her original escort and take up with Tonkin, accompanying him to the church-yard, and once getting him in there kill him, or submit to his wishes for the sake of money. It may be that once getting him there, and his refusing to give her the money demanded, she ran out of the church-yard, and in running tripped over a lawnmower, which he in turn tripped over. This may have been that, reaching the gate, there was a momentarily struggle which resulted in the woman using the revolver. But the position of the two, given as Mr. Turner, interferes somewhat with this theory, for he says that that woman was near the gate, the man being well outside of it. This would lead one to suppose that the woman had backed him out of the yard at the revolver’s point, and once getting him out, fired. Or it may be that she turned upon him just as they were entering the yard, and that her main object was vengeance for having interfered with her and her paramour. But at all events the woman fired the shot, and the evidence of Mr. Turner and Mr. Trimble gives solid weight to the theory that Tonkin went to the point where he met his death wound with the woman. This being the case, if he lives, he can, perhaps, tell who she is, and give an almost exact description of her.

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Efforts of the Police.

The police, to use their own expression, are "working up" the case. But yesterday they made slow progress. Two members of the "detective" staff were detailed, and Capt. Fruchte, commanding the Central District, took great interest in the case. The police have have very slight "clues" to work upon. A common sealskin cap, much worn, and without distinguishing marks, was the only clue in their possession, aside from the description of the two parties who fled after the shooting. The sealskin cap was found by Officer Palmer at the scene of the tragedy. The description of the man and woman, between whom lies the responsibility of the shot, was given in the GLOBE-DEMOCRAT of yesterday morning, in the course of Mr. Charles H. Turner’s statement. The man the police want is of middle age, over 5 feet 6 inches tall, stout in build, and wore a light colored overcoat and a round topped stiff hat of the Derby pattern. The woman is described as short and stout, dressed in black, wore a shawl, and was bareheaded at the time of her flight. The police want to see a negro who saw the fleeing couple at Seventeenth and Olive streets, and were last evening strongly under the impression that they would find him. Capt. Fruchte is also in the possession of the name of a young man whose attention was attracted, near midnight, by a man and woman closely answering the description, who were seen

WALKING RAPIDLY EAST ON

Olive street, near Fourteenth, so rapidly in fact that his attention was attracted to them. The name of the possessor of this valuable piece of information Capt. Fruchte declined to give to a GLOBE-DEMOCRAT reporter, because he had failed to see him. The police also have the statement of E.P. Carrnthers, a reporter, who says that while on his way to the scene of the murder he met a man, and a woman with a shawl over her head at Twelfth and Market street. The man had one of his hands in his overcoat pocket, and the reporter thought he heard the click of a pistol as he approached. The man was tall, of middle age, with stiff round-top hat, and dark overcoat, but with a mustache and no side whiskers. He asked the way to Seventh and St. Charles streets and was directed thither, and the reporter, with his blood chilled as he thought of the revolver in the man’s overcoat pocket, walked rapidly over to Twelfth and Olive streets, where he informed a policeman on his suspicions. These limited clues were very discouraging to a police force not trained to solve mysteries from such a small pointer as a broken toothpick or crust of bread, but with commendable enterprise they went to work and placed under surveillance every street-walking prostitute known to be short, stout and the owner of

A SEALSKIN CAP.

Sergeant Campbell and Officers Hogan and Sullens were the first to get their wits fairly in play, and at a few minutes past 4 o’clock they went to 1019 Pine street, and awoke from slumber a rather notorious woman, Ora Francis by name. She has figured prominently in the Martin bigamy suit, and was well known about the Four Courts. She was short, stout, and had been known to wear a sealskin cap. They took her out to the Hospital, and the dying man promptly declared that she was not the woman. She was allowed to return home, but later in the day was again taken out to the Hospital, and the man again failed to identify her. She was then brought back to the Four Courts, where, in addition to proving by the inmates of the house where she lives, she produced a ticket showing that she had pawned her sealskin cap two weeks ago. Capt. Fruchte then released her. The next arrest was made by Officer McNamee, who was yesterday in citizen’s cloths. For some reason not divulged he brought in Birdie Donnelly, an inmate of Howard’s house of ill-fame, on Sixth street, near Elm. Birdie figured in a sensation some two years ago, when a lover, a returned soldier named Donnelly, shot her and then killed himself in her bed-room in the house where she still lives. Birdie was taken into Capt. Fruchte’s private office and closely questioned as to her involvements on Sunday night. She was then "detained" until the Captain went up-town, and an investigation discovered that she had told the truth in every particular. She was then released. That was the sum total of the police work.

Capt. Fruchte stated that the case was growing more complicated each hour, and that the contradictory statements of the dying man did much to confuse matters. Last evening a reporter from the Daily News handed the Chief of Police a card picked up from the ground near where the sealskin cap was found. It may be a "clew," although very vague. It is simply a small business card, ornamented with moss roses. There were no marks upon it. A GLOBE – DEMOCRAT reporter called upon Frank & Son last evening. The gentleman in charge said that he had given away fully 10,000 of them within the past two or three weeks.

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At the Hospital.

The wounded man suffered much during the day, and it was necessary to keep him under the influence of opiates much of the time. He spoke only with the greatest difficulty and at the cost of much suffering. At about 4:30 o’clock Sergt. Campbell arrived at the hospital with Ora Francis, a prostitute, who had been arrested on suspicion. She was placed in a strong light, and the dying man was asked if she was the woman who shot him. He looked at her long and searchingly and answered "no." He was visited at 10:30 o’clock by Coroner Frank and Detective Herbert, on disjointed sentences he made a statement to the Coroner, which was not, however, recorded as an ante-mortem statement, as the surgeon in charge could not certify that the patient was at the time in imminent danger of death. He said that he had been down town all evening, and had attended a waiters’ meeting, and left for home on the Olive street car from Tenth and Olive at a few minutes after 11 o’clock. "I was drowsy and fell asleep in the car, and did not wake up until Twentieth street was reached. I then got out and walked over to Lucas place, and was on my way to Seventeenth street, where I turn over to Orange, where I live. When I reached the church I saw two people in the yard, and I stepped up on the terrace. I heard voices, and the woman said: ‘I have been in worse places than this.’ At this minute they came running out, and the man shot me. He was tall and middle-aged, and wore an overcoat. The woman had on a hat with a red feather or something in it." This was all the statement that Tonkin would make to the Coroner. Early in the morning he stated that the woman shot him, and that she was bareheaded when she ran past him.

At 11 o’clock Tonkin again expressed a wish to see Ora Francis, saying that his head felt clearer than it did in the morning. His wish was complied with, and a GLOBE – DEMOCRAT reporter accompanied her and the detectives to his bedside. This time Tonkin took a good look at the woman. He said: "She looks like the woman I saw last night, but I’m sure she is not the person. She is about the same size though."

"Can you recognize her voice?" Dr. Dean asked, noticing that the voice of the Francis woman had a peculiar tone.

"No, I can’t," said Tonkin; adding, "I’m satisfied she is not the woman?"

A little later the reporter received a statement from Tonkin to the effect that it was the man who had fired the shot.

A patient who heard this said, "That’s not the same statement Tonkin made to me."

"What did he say to you?" the reporter asked.

"He said the woman fired the shot."

It may be stated right here that just a little while after the shooting Tonkin told Private Watchman Powers that it was the woman who fired the shot.

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Private Watchman Powers.

John Powers, the private watchman, who was first to the side of the dying man, having run from Eighteenth street, near Locust, when he heard the shot, last evening made a statement to a GLOBE – DEMOCRAT reporter, in which he repeated what he had said yesterday morning. "I was on Eighteenth street near Lucas place, when I heard the shot. I ran around the corner, and just as I turned onto Lucas place I saw the figures of a man and a woman, the former a few steps in the lead, running across the street cata-cornered, to the east side of Seventeenth, and then disappear in the direction of Olive street, I ran to the church, and could see the body of a man lying on the flagging walk on the terrace just in front of the big door of the church. I bent over him and recognized him as Fred. Tonkin. I said, "What’s the matter?" He replied; "I am shot." I asked him who did it, but he would not answer until I repeated the question several times, and then he said "A woman did it." He spoke with great difficulty and seemed in much pain, but managed to say "A man and a woman were in the yard; I stopped to see what they were up to, when they came running out, and the woman shot me." I told him that if he had taken my advice this would have not have happened. He said, "I wish I had."

"What do you mean by his taking your advice?"

"I know him well, and he has been a nuisance on my beat for six months. He was always prowling around the dark places to see if he could not run across just such people as he met last night. Sometimes he would pretend to be a policeman. About two weeks ago, maybe longer, I found him in company with a girl who was crying. He said he had caught the young woman with a young man under suspicious circumstances, and was going to take her to the police station. I caught hold of him as he spoke, but he wriggled out of his coat and ran away. The girl then told me how he had pretended to be a policeman and arrested herself and companion; and that after walking them a block or so had released her escort. He had then started back toward the church and had proposed to release her also on a condition which she refused. A gentleman came up and gave the girl car fare and she went home. Tonkin came back after his coat and I arrested him, but released him because I could find no policeman and did not want to leave my beat. I am paid to watch the private houses on Lucas avenue; I had often told this young man that he would get into trouble by his actions, but he would only laugh and say: "I am always ready for them," and then he would show a handful of macadam stones; he generally was armed with these, when I got to the scene Mr. Turner and Mr. Lee were already on the spot; we examined the wound before the ambulance came; the bullet had made a little round hole in the stomach, from which only a few drops of blood had exuded; the bleeding was all internal; the man had vomited freely while sitting on the steps of the church before he was laid down, and that is how the papers got it that he was rolling in his own blood.

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A Mania for Shadowing.

John Rogers, the janitor of the Second Presbyterian Church, stood on the stairway last night and chatted with a GLOBE – DEMOCRAT reporter.

"We know Tonkin by sight for a long while," said he, "He’s been loitering around her since the Lord only knows when. One night I saw a couple sitting on the church steps her talking quietly. I was across the road, and , not caring to disturb them, I stood there talking to a friend. Presently Tonkin comes along, and he stands at the corner and keeps an eye on the couple. When they moved he moved. Noticing he was up to something I said, ‘What are you watching those people for?’ ‘I want to spoil their game,’ he said. ‘Aren’t you afraid?’ said I ‘that some night some fellow will turn upon and give it to you?’ I would if you came sneaking after me.’ ‘O, no,’ said he, ‘I’m not afraid of any thing like that, for two you know can play at that game.’ He talked, indeed, as though he was ready to fight any one. Another night he followed a man and woman to that corner, when the man turned upon and knocked him down and kicked him. No, he’s been in this business of following people for some time, and he has got what he deserved at last."

A colored coachman in the employ of Mr. Gale, of Seventeenth and Lucas place, joined in the above conversation. He said: "I spoke to Fred one night about the way he was following people around, and he said, ‘That’s the way to get my ladies.’ I said, ‘Some night you’ll be getting hurt.’ He said, ‘ I guess not,’ and walked on.

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Tonkin’s Partner Talks.

During the day Tonkin said that he wanted to see his partner, Tom Fey, a Union Depot hackman. Fey went to the hospital during the day, but was not admitted. He was promised admission at 9 o’clock in the evening, provided the patient was conscious and able to see him. At 9 o’clock Fey was at the hospital gate with his wife, but the patient was delirious, and admission was again refused the caller. They met a GLOBE – DEMOCRAT reporter at the gate, and told him that he wanted to see Tonkin awful bad.

"Why are you so anxious?" the reporter asked.

"Because the man sent for me," said Fey. "He told his wife to-day that he would tell me all, and I know Fred so well that I’m certain he would have kept his promise; for you see he has confidence in me, and then things happened last night that he would tell me about, but not his wife."

"What do you mean?" the reporter asked.

"I mean that he would have told me all about the woman. I think he knows her."

"What makes you think that?"

"Because he’s told so many different stories about who fired the shot. I think he’d tell me the true one and that that would unravel this mystery. But they won’t let me near him, so I suppose he’ll die and carry his secret with him to the grave."

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Tonkin’s Death.

At 1 o’clock this morning a dispatch was received from the City Hospital stating that Tonkin had just died.