Clue Found in River Mystery
Pillow Ticking Used for Wrapping Part of Body Is Traced.
Was Sold To A Woman.
George Sachs, the Dealer, Describes Purchaser to Police.
Autopsy Proves Murder
Dismemberment of the Body Was Begun Before Victim Was Dead.
The first definite clue in the murder of the young woman whose severed body was found in the Hudson River near the West Shore Ferry on the Jersey side came to the police last night, thus making possible the solution of the tragedy within the next few days. Investigation of the clue thus far has developed the important fact that the woman must have been killed in a house within a few blocks of 146th street and Eighth avenue.
It is a practical certainty that the pillow ticking in which the torso was found last Friday was sold by George Sachs, a dealer in second hand furniture and bedroom furnishings at 2762 Eighth avenue, near the corner of 146th street. Mr. Sachs told a reporter for The Sun last night that he has sold but two pillow ticks of this type and one to a woman who came into his store on April 22 last.
Describes the Buyer.
This woman, said Mr. Sachs, was hatless and was otherwise dressed in a manner suggesting she was a resident of the neighborhood.
“She told me that she didn’t have quite enough money with her,” said Sachs, “but she paid a 25 cent deposit on the pillow and returned with the remainder of the price in a very short time.”
The storekeeper said that he charged the transient customer 80 cents for the pillow, reducing the price from 89 cents. This accords with the description given by the Jersey police of the tag found on the pillow tick shrouding the grewsome [sic] find. The barely legible price recorded on the bit of limp cardboard was 89 cents.
Sachs described his woman purchaser as about 45 years of age, a bit over medium height and stout. Armed with this description the police are scouring the neighborhood in an effort to trace Sach’s customer, who thew [sic] are convinced will be able to shed light on the murder.
An investigation conducted by newspaper men was really responsible for the development of the clue, which was later turned over to the police. The efforts of the newspaper men, however, were based on information given by C. H. Young of the firm Robinson-Roders, manufacturers of the pillow ticks. It is a Newark firm.
Mr. Young said last night that the pattern of the tick was so gaudy that it proved to unpopular with retailers. It was styled the “M3, Chicago” brand of tick and only one lot was turned out by the Robinson-Roders Company.
Of this lot, said Mr. Young, only twelve measuring twenty by twenty-seven inches – the size of the tick that held the torso – were disposed of and those to George Sachs. The latter still had ten left when the newspaper men called on him last night.
In one point, however, Mr. Young differed from the retailer. The former said that judging by the condition of the tick and card attached, the sale must have been made about two weeks ago or else the article was not used by the purchaser. Sachs cannot recall just now the person to whom he sold the other tick, but he is positive that the sale was not of such a recent date.
Alive When Dismemberment Began.
The doctors are now confident, they say, that the young woman was cut to pieces while alive.
An autopsy at Volk’s morgue, Hoboken, yesterday afternoon showed that she bled to death. She may have been conscious when the first wound was inflicted, she may have been asleep and not have seen the approach of death.
She was not strangled, shot or poisoned. No anesthetic was used. Possibly a blow on the head had made her senseless, but it isn’t likely. The fact that she was soon to have become a mother appears to have had no relation of motive to this crime.
The North Bergen police noted that the lower part of the body, found near Weehawken, had stranded at a point where the Spuyten Duyvil current vanishes in the Hudson’s flow.
An object dropped in the water at Spuyten Duyvil is subjected to what the physics teachers call “the resultant of two forces.” The current from the Harlem River tends to sweep across to the New Jersey side. The more powerful Hudson bears an object straight south. Between the two currents this half of the girl’s body would have been borne to the point where it was found. This fact, added to the presence of rock known as Manhattan schist, meant to sink the bundle, made it seem more certain than ever that the murder was done on the New York side of the river.
The murder is the most striking of its kind since that of Mary Cecelia Rogers seventy-five years ago, a crime which Edgar Allan Poe made memorable in his story “The Mystery of Marie Roget.” Mary Rogers, a beautiful girl who worked in a New York tobacco shop, was killed on Weehawken Heights and her body put into the Hudson.
An excited hunt for her slayer lasted for years but was vain. Long afterward, Poe, working only with newspaper clippings on the subject, elucidated the mystery. He laid scene in Paris, disguised Nassau street as the Barriere du Rouie and the Hudson as the Seine and Mary Rogers as Marie Roget. By compelling logic he showed that the girl’s slayer was a young naval officer who had been her lover.
Identity Still to Seek.
But there is no Poe to-day to discover so much as the identity of the Hudson victim. All yesterday detectives from Police Headquarters in Manhattan, police from North Bergen and Hoboken and Weehawken, chugged up and down the river in motor boats hunting for the dead girl’s head and examining rowboats and other small craft in the hope of finding something bearing on the crime. They had no success at all.
There were efforts to trace the white pillowslip in which part of the body was wrapped. It had an “A” and floral designs on it, but the work was so unskillfully done that it was evident that the pillowslip could not have come from a hotel. The milliner’s wire used to fasten the bundle cannot be traced, but may be useful to reinforce other evidence later on.
County Physician George W. King of Hudson county, his assistant, Dr. Arthur P. Hasking, and Coroner’s Physician Timothy Lehane of Manhattan performed the autopsy after a river hunt in the morning. They found that death had been due to the cutting of the brachial artery, the carotid artery, the femoral artery and the abdominal aorta – the great blood tubes of the body. Death had followed by bleeding.
The conclusion of the physician was that the arteries in the throat had been severed first. Had the young woman been strangled or shot they are sure the fact would have been disclosed in the condition of the lungs.
The vital organs revealed no trace of poison. The lungs showed that she had been under no anesthetic. She had not undergone an operation of any sort. The body was dismembered by a surgeon, or by a man with surgical training – one who may have lacked the surgical knives for such work, but one who was used to cutting and had a considerable knowledge of anatomy. The cuts were clean strokes. There was no unnecessary mutilation. It appears to have been an act of diabolical vengeance, and after that an effort to hide the deed.
Autopsy Deepens the Mystery.
Dr. King, who a year ago yesterday made an autopsy of the body of Mrs. Saabo, and Assistant District Attorney Murphy of Manhattan, who handled the case against Burton W. Gibson, accused of drowning Mrs. Saabo, admitted after the autopsy yesterday that the result of it had enhanced the mystery of the girl’s murder to a high degree, while completely clouding the motive for the crime. Dr. King had thought that an effort to hide an illegal operation explained the murder, but the autopsy led him to reverse himself on this point. There had been no operation, he said, and while the young woman had lost her chance of motherhood a few days before her death this appeared to have no bearing on her death.
Dr. Lehane and Dr. Hasking agreed with Dr. King as he discussed the results of the autopsy. The physicians were of the opinion that the birthmark, three small moles on the right shoulder blade, would be a perfect method of identification.
Peter H. Sternemann, the tin roofer who wrote an incoherent letter to Chief of Police Hayes of Hoboken, declaring that the body was that of his daughter, Ella, sent Chief Hayes another letter, which arrived yesterday and somewhat outdid the first in unintelligibility. He also wrote to the German Ambassador, Count von Bernstorff, naming a man whom he had accused in his first letter to Chief Hayes as responsible for his daughter’s ruin.
The German Ambassador set Detective Deitsch to work in this city last night in an endeavor to find this man. He is described as about 50 years old, an actor of cheap parts, who used to be seen on Third avenue at Thirty-first and Thirty-second streets. His wife is said to have left him, secured a divorce and to be now employed as a wardrobe mistress in a theatre near Fifty-ninth street. She could not be found last night.
Sternemann’s first letter to Chief Hayes was mailed from the Grand Central station at 10 o’clock on Saturday night. The one that arrived yesterday was mailed on Saturday at Fourth avenue and Twelfth street – Station D. It was addressed “Police Chief Mr. Hayes, Personal, Important, Deliver at Once, Hoboken, N. J.” There was a special delivery stamp on it.
Second Sternemann Letter.
The handwriting is wild. Part of Sternemann’s recital runs:
“I have got photo made again and again – ask Smedley – knew Ella personally well. She lived out by Mrs. Whitaker, North Metropolitan and Church avenue, Richmond Hills. I have worried for girls years. Especially Ella. I warned her of (a name) * * * I been threatened by a man corner Fifty-seventh street and Lexington avenue. Of 5 Silver street, Ridgewood Heights, L. I. Mrs. Rustman tells me Ella been in her neighborhood 7½ weeks ago across the way and (a name) came to see woman across the way. She was by. Charles Sternemann, 96 Elm avenue, Catalpa avenue, Ridgewood Heights, says he saw five weeks ago Mr. Smedley I asked this morning. He says he does not believe it. Mrs. Whitaker north is now in Quincy, Mass. wrote Emma and me a letter 5 months ago. Personally can tell you more * * * “
That’s the way Sternemann throws light on the murder. Yesterday The Sun hunted up persons and places mentioned in his first epistle. Two “funny houses” that he spoke of turned out to be the Eltinge Theatre and the Church of the Holy Trinity in East Eighty-eighth street.
Some one handed out a hot tip that Sternemann could always be found in a saloon on the edge of Greenwich Village. He wasn’t there and no one in the place had ever heard of him. Bernard Meyerberg, who used to keep a saloon at Washington Square and Sixth avenue, said he knew Sternemann about six years ago.
“He always acted strangely,” commented Meyerberg. “He did some work for me, but we had trouble about it, for he wanted more than he had earned. He threatened to sue me. I think he had a daughter. I knew him only a short time, but what I saw of him convinced me that his mind was unhinged.”
Knew Ella Sternemann.
Mrs. A. Schaefer, wife of a costumer at 2245 Third avenue for whom Ella Sternemann worked sixteen months two years ago, said:
“I knew the girl and her father well for about four years. I can say positively that Ella had no birthmark on her right shoulder blade. She weighed only 100 pounds. I think her father is a lunatic. He is harmless, but has hallucinations – among them, that men are trying to get his daughters and that he is being pursued. His father died in an insane asylum, his first wife died insane, his older daughter Emma is in an insane asylum, Ella, the younger child, is weak minded and Sternemann himself is crazy, I think.”
Dr. O. L. Mosier, dentist at Third avenue and Eighty-ninth street, who was mentioned by Sternemann in the letters to Chief Hayes, says he knew the tin roofer six years ago and considered him half witted.
“He never knew my son William, whom he mentions,” said Dr. Mosier, “He had a daughter Ella and seemed to be afraid that some one would lure her away.”
With such testimony as this to hand, Assistant District Attorney Deacon Murphy of Mr. Whitman’s office and Inspector Faurot of Police Headquarters were inclined to pay little heed to Sternemann and his tales of his daughter.
Another Lost Daughter.
An incident of the day at Volk’s morgue in Hoboken was the visit of Mrs. Josephine Reckenwald of 906 Willow avenue, Hoboken, to see if the dead girl was her daughter. It was not.
Mrs. Reckenwald said that her daughter Tillie was lured away from home by a married man on August 23. Mrs. Reckenwald saw this man a few days later in New York and he told her:
“You won’t see Tillie again.”
The mother said she had seen Mayor Cooke of Hoboken and had written to District Attorney Whitman of New York,
County Physician King will probably ask Coroner Schlemm of Hudson county to hold an inquest into the murder later this week if the search up and down the Hudson for the girl’s head shall prove vain.