Wife Murder: A Tenement House Tragedy 1873


On Saturday night Detective Gorr arrested Thomas Moran on a charge of murder. Moran committed a brutal assault on his wife, which resulted in her death on Friday evening, but was not known to the police until seven o'clock on the evening of Saturday, when Officer Cornell of the Fourth Precinct, was notified of the occurrence by some of the neighbors.

Cornell was patrolling his beat in Portland avenue on the night in question, when a woman who resided a couple of doors from No. 23 where the Morans lived, told him that Mrs. Moran was dead, and that it was whispered around that she had died from the brutal treatment received at the hands of her husband. Cornell went into the house, a tenement, inhabited by the lower class of German and Irish. Moran occupied the basement with his wife Mary and her sister Rosa McCafferty. They hired these premises in December last, and ever since they have lived there they have been quarrelling and fighting and a great annoyance to the rest of the tenants, Moran, was very much addicted to drink and has never been in steady employment on this account alone.

On Thursday night he had been out with some of his acquaintances and came home somewhat under the influence of liquor, but not exactly drunk. He was very abusive in his language, and a row occurred between himself and his wife because he had come in after supper hour, and she had not kept his meal hot and in readiness for him. He commenced to swear at her, and she retorted, whereupon he took up an iron coal shovel and THREATENED TO KNOCK HER BRAINS OUT.

This was in the back basement. She, knowing his fearful temper, ran out of the room, and as she was escaping through the door he threw the shovel, and it struck against the casing, making a large dent. Foiled in his attempt to strike her, he followed her swearing he would kill her. He used the most violent and disgusting language.

Mrs. Moran, when she saw that he was determined to follow her, ran up to the top floor of the house to the apartments of one of the tenants with whom she was friendly. Unfortunately for her, perhaps, this woman, Mrs. Seving was out, and she could not obtain any refuge there, and her husband coming up the stairs caught her crouching, trembling in a dark corner of the landing. She tried to escape him by the help of the darkness, and passed him, but as she was on the point of descending the flight he saw her, and from the top step kicked her in the back with all the brute force he was capable, and she missed her footing and fell half way down on that flight. He rushed down and seized her by the left hand to pull her down, with her right hand she tried to hold on to the balustrades of the stairway, but the brute almost ground that hand to the bone with the heavy hell of his boot, and she had to let go, then HE DRAGGED HER DOWN STAIRS.

Her cries for mercy were answered by fearful threats and curses by him, while her shrieks and appeals for help were unanswered. There were no men in the house, and the women were afraid to interfere with Moran, who was known to be a very devil when maddened by drink. So he actually dragged the half insensible woman, now by her hands and again by her feet, down the second flight of stairs; and when she, getting away from his grasp, tried to walk down the last flight, he gave her another kick, and she fell headlong to the bottom of the flight.

He followed her, shouting "You will run away from me will you, you____; I'll finish you, by__!" When the woman was lying at the foot of the lower flight of stairs, where she had been kicked by Moran, her sister, Rosa McCafferty, came out of the back room and assisted her into the rear basement. For this Moran struck Rosa, and afterward went to his wife and struck her with his clenched fist in the face, and kicked her about the body and thighs; he struck her a violent blow on the forehead while she was prostrate, and then, when she crawled with all her remaining strength under the rickety table in the room, he overthrew that piece of furniture, and KICKED HER THREE OR FOUR TIMES ON THE HEAD.

Her shrieks were at this time terrible to hear. Her calls for help were unanswered, and her appeals for mercy at the hands of her husband were alike unheeded. "For the love of God, Tom, don't murder me!" she cried, but he only swore the harder that he would be the death of her yet.

While she was lying where he had kicked her, Rosa McCafferty and one or two of the tenants of the upper floors came down and looked in the door of the rear basement room, where Moran and his wife were. Moran was seen to raise his wife up by the throat and throw her across the bed. He then appeared to be trying to choke her, and as he turned to go away she cried out after him, "MORAN, YOU HAVE DONE IT AT LAST!"

Moran went out and left his wife lying on the bed, if one it can be called. it is an arrangement of board and blanket, hardly fit for a dog to lie on. The room itself is a sight worth seeing. The furniture is of the poorest and most miserable description, while squalor and filth abound everywhere. Mrs. Moran never got up from the bed. She remained there all night on Thursday and until the following evening, when she died. This is from statements made by eyewitnesses to the affair, and on the other hand, the whole story of Moran's brutal treatment is denied, and it is claimed that MRS. MORAN DIED FROM DRINK.

With regard to the Coroner's being notified of this case on Friday is untrue. The first notification received at the Coroner's office was the following letter from Health Officer Otterson:

                                                                                                                                           Brooklyn, April 12, 1873, 11:25 A.M.

CORONER__The death of a Mrs. Moran, at No. 28 Portland avenue, near Park avenue, has just been reported to me, and I deem it my duty to call your attention to it, and to suggest your early notice of the case, as I understand an immediate burial is desired by some one.

Truly yours,
Health Officer.

This note was received just before twelve o'clock on Saturday, at the Coroner's office, and as it did not have the appearance of a note on official business Mr. William Lynch, the Deputy Coroner, did not open it, and as Coroner Jones had gone out to hold inquests, and not rusticating as it has been stated, that gentleman never saw the epistle until this morning. In the meantime Coroner Whitehill heard of the case yesterday, and went and impaneled a jury, who viewed the body. The inquest is to be held to morrow afternoon, at two o'clock, in the Coroner's office, in the Court House. As it was necessary for a post mortem to be made, Coroner Whitehill ordered the body to be removed to the Morgue, and notified Dr. A.W. Sheppard, the County physician, to make the autopsy.

Fighting Over A Corpse

The corpse was laid out by some of the inmates of the house, upon the rude bed in the basement, and on Saturday evening a large number of friends and relatives gathered there to hold a wake, and late in the evening two brothers of the deceased woman, James and Edward Fitzsimmons, who were pretty well intoxicated, became engaged in a quarrel, and fought savagely until an officer was called in, who arrested and locked them both up. They were brought before Justice Riley and fined $10 cash for intoxication, or in default were committed to Raymond street Jail for ten days. The arrest of Moran was made by Detective Corr, of the Fourth Precinct, and he was locked up on suspicion of wife murder. He claims that his wife died of drink, and denies that he struck her at all. This morning he was ARRAIGNED BEFORE JUSTICE RILEY, WHO, after he had listened to the affidavit of the detective made on information and belief, committed the prisoner to await the result of the Coroner's inquest. Moran has engaged Mr. S.G. Adams as his counsel. The post mortem was commenced at noon today by Dr. Shepard. The statement of Mrs. White who resides at No. 28 Portland avenue is as follows:

Moran came home on Thursday evening at half-past six o'clock and commenced abusing his wife and kicked her, and after knocking her down kicked her prostrate body. She then ran upstairs to Mrs. White's room, where Moran followed her and dragged her down stairs by the heels, her head striking every step in the descent. When he got her to their own room her sister Rose McCafferty tried to help her and he threw her away from him, and beat and kicked his wife all the more, and finally left her on the bed in a dying condition. Two doctors were summoned but they could render her no aid.

The deceased had three children. Her body bears marks of violence and is bruised in several places, her left eye is fearfully discolored and the right is blackened and swollen. On her throat is a large discoloration as though made by the imprint of fingers.

The Result of the Post Mortem

Dr. Shepard made the post mortem examination on the body of Mary Moran, at the Morgue at noon today. He found both eyes discolored, the left one very much swelled. There were three bruises on the fore-head, two of them very severe, while all around the throat were discolorations, and the throat itself was terribly swelled, as though Moran had choked his wife to death, which Dr. Shepard, says is very likely the case; but besides these external injuries the deceased was found to be a hard drinker, and, in a word, Dr. Shepard attributes her death to drink and ill-usage both. There is no doubt but Moran beat her in a terrible manner.

Moran refuses to say anything about the case. He is locked up at Raymond street jail.

Website: The History Box.com
Article Name: Wife Murder: A Tenement House Tragedy 1873
Researcher/Transcriber Miriam Medina


The Brooklyn Daily Eagle April 14, 1873
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