Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Minnie Cummings, Missouri Black Widow - 1903



FULL TEXT (Article 1 of 4): St. Louis,. July 13 –  The sealed verdict of the jury, read in court to-day, finds Mrs. Minnie Cummings, charged with killing her fourth husband, Dennis Cummings, April 10, 1903. guilty of murder in the second degree. The penalty was fixed at ten years in, the penitentiary.

Mrs. Cummings will on July 20 be tried for the alleged murder of her third husband, Edgar M. Harris, who died Oct. 5, 1901, under suspicious circumstances.

[“Woman Guilty of Murder. – Convicted at St. Louis of Killing Her Fourth Husband – To Be Tried for Death of Third.” The New York Times (N.Y.), Jul. 14, 1903, p. 5]

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FULL TEXT (Article 2 of 4): St. Louis, Mo., Jul. 13. – The jury in the case of Mrs. Millie Cummings this morning found her guilty and fixed punishment at ten year in the penitentiary, the minimum penalty under the charge of murder in the second degree.

Mrs. Cummings shot and killed her husband, Dennis Cummings, April 18, in her room. She claimed self-defense, they had been living together for nearly a year previous to one month preceding the killing.

Two weeks before the shooting she claimed Cummings ransacked her room and stole her jewelry.

An April 18 she wrote an affectionate note to Cummings, begging him to return to her. He came. A shot was fired shortly after he entered the room and Cummings fell dead. When he was found he had an open knife in his hand and the woman claims that he attacked her.

The state alleged that she tired of him and feared that he knew how Edgar M. Harris, another husband of Mrs. Cummings, met his death. Harris has found dead in their home October 5, 1901, shot through the head. His wife said he had committed suicide.

After Cummings’ death she was indicted for the murder of Harris.

Mrs. Cummings is 38 years old. She possesses some beauty of a cold, calculating type. She has stood the ordeal of trial testified that Cummings abused his wife terribly.

[“Is Guilty of Murder – Jury Returns Verdict Against Mrs. Minnie Cummings. – Sentenced For Ten Tears – Husband, from Whom She Had Separated, Killed in a Mysterious Manner.” The Toledo News-Bee (Oh.), Jul. 13, 1903, p. 10]

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FULL TEXT (Article 3 of 4): The case against Mrs. Minnie Cummings. charged with killing her husband, Edgar M. Harris, at No. 4113 Evans avenue, two years ago, was set for trial yesterday in Judge McDonald’s Court.

Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Maroney told the court that he would ask to have the case continued centrally. Mrs. Cummings is now under sentence for killing her husband. Dennis Cummings. Under the law a person under sentence cannot be tried for another offense, as the person is “legally dead.” Judge McDonald ordered the case continued generally.

[“Cummings Case Goes Over. - Second Indictment Woman Charged With Murder.” The St. Louis Republic (Mo.), Oct. 28, 1903, p. 3]

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FULL TEXT of a long article on the trial for the murder of Dennis Cummings.

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DEFENDANT AND COUNSEL CONFIDENT OF ACQUITTAL.

“I feel sure now that I will be acquitted.” – Mrs. Minnie Cummings.

“Mrs. Cummings will not be convicted on this charge.” – Colonel John Martin.

These statements of the defendant and her counsel were made after the adjournment of court at 5 o’clock.

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Dennis Cummings’s bloody clothing introduced at the trial of his wife, Mrs. Minnie Cummings, who is charged with killing him, sent a shudder through the defendant and caused the collapse of Mrs. Eleanora Duff, one of the State’s. principal witnesses. yesterday afternoon.

The bloody garments were carried into the courtroom at 2 o’clock by Walter Graham, night morgue superintendent.

They were tied in a large package. After Graham had stated his name and occupation he was asked by Assistant Circuit Attorney Andrew C. Maroney if he was on duty at the morgue when the body of Cummings arrived.

“I was,” replied the witness.

“Did you take charge of the body?”

“Yes.”

“Was It dressed 7”

“It was.”

Mr. Maroney arose from his chair and stepped to a table where the package had been placed.

Slowly he untied, the knot. Mrs. Cummings watched him closely. Her face became even paler. She wielded the palm leaf fan more vigorously.

The bundle untied, the Assistant Circuit Attorney, pointing tragically to the stained
garments, asked:

“Are those the clothes worn by Cummings when his body was received at the morgue?”

Graham turned over the coat, vest, trousers, shirt and overcoat carefully and replied:

“They are.”

~ MRS. CUMMINGS SHIELDED EYES WITH PALM LEAF. ~

Mrs. Cummings raised her now downcast eyes from the floor and glanced at the table,
where lay her husband’s garments, covered with his life’s blood.

The fan stopped. Mrs. Cummings turned her head and covered her eyes with the palm leaf. Her hand trembled so much that it could be seen from all parts of the courtroom.

Tears dropped from her eyes and fell to her waist. She removed her eyeglasses and used her handkerchief. Her effort to control her feelings was masterful. In a minute she was seemingly the woman of which so much has been told and written, but close observation showed that her emotion still was great. Graham was questioned about the wounds on Cummings’s body, and then left the stand. The bloody garments were allowed to remain on the table. Colonel Martin remarked in an undertone about the attempt to affect the defendant, and the trial proceeded.

Several witnesses on immaterial points were examined, and then Mrs. Eleanora Duff, a small, comely woman, at whose home. No. 2S14 Locust street, Cummings met his death, was brought In.

Mrs. Duff appeared much frightened. With difficulty she mounted the witness stand, and her face wore a deadly pallor.

“What is your name?” asked Assistant Circuit Attorney Maroney.

The witness trembled. She had not yet seen the bloody garments. She looked toward Mr. Maroney and then toward Mrs. Cummings. The garments were just beneath her gaze. She lowered her eyes, and for the first time saw Cummings’s clothing.

~ WITNESS OVERCOME BY BLOODY GARMENTS. ~

She recognized the garments instantly. She shuddered. Tears came to her eyes, and she was unable to tell her name for several minutes. As she told the story of the shooting of Cummings she glanced several times apprehensively at the clothing. Assistant Circuit Attorney Maroney saw the cause of Mrs. Duff’s excitement and had the clothing removed.

Mrs. Duff then went en to tell how she had admitted Cummings to her home on the afternoon of April 18. when he was killed. He remarked about the weather, she said, and then went op up the stairs to his wife’s room.

“I went back to the kitchen where I was preparing supper,” said Mrs. Duff, faintly, “and did not know of any trouble for perhaps half an hour, when Mrs. Cummings came downstairs and told me that she had shot her husband. She said that he had attempted to kill her, and she shot him in self-defense. She declared that she had searched the body. I remember she said she found a pawn ticket for $30 in his pocket.”

Mrs. Duff grew more excited as she continued, and the Assistant Circuit Attorney announced that be would excuse her for the time being and recall her later. Mrs. Duff
was assisted from the courtroom and went to her home.

Mrs. Cummings wept when Mrs. Dull showed such emotion, but with another great effort controlled herself.

~ ATTEMPT TO DISPROVE DEFENDANTS STATEMENT. ~

One question asked by Assistant Circuit Attorney Maroney of James C. Travllla, office engineer of the Street Department, indicates that the State will attempt to show that Mrs. Cummings and her husband did not occupy the positions in the room where he was killed at the time he was shot which she has said they did. The question was:

“Supposing the initial point to be 3 feet 5 inches, the terminus 5 feet 9 3/4 inches, the grade of the incline 1 inch in 8 inches, what would be the distance of the initial point from the point of terminus?”

“Two feet four inches,” replied the witness. By this answer the State will attempt to
show that Cummings was looking out the window at the time he was shot. This is regarded by the State as a material point, and if proven will be in direct contradiction of Mrs. Cummings’ former statements.

Measurements of the room have been taken by Special Officer Thomas J. Klely, who had already testified to them, and it was these measurements to which Assistant Circuit Attorney Maroney alluded when he asked Travilla the technical question above mentioned.

Mrs. Cummings entered the courtroom about 10 o’clock. She wore a black dress, black hat and white gloves. She carried a palm leaf fan. She recognized one or two friends in the large crowd that had gathered to hear the case and took her seat next to her counsel, Martin and Thomas.

~ MRS. CUMMINGS IS A CHANGED WOMAN. ~

While the jurors were being called in to the box she looked around the courtroom unconcernedly. She is much paler and not nearly so full in the face as she was when arrested. Confinement in the city jail for nearly four months has added many gray hairs to her dark tresses. Her eyes no longer have the bright gleam. She seems a changed woman.

The jurors selected from the venire of thirty-five by counsel for State and defense are: Alvln J. Allen. Albert A. Auchtel. Henry J. Albers, John Boyle. Joseph E. Bray, Charles Colgrave, Frank F. Flick. James W. Headen, Peter H. Hemminghaus, Henry Herwick, Herman Jacobson, and Jules Rouveyrol. Assistant Circuit Attorney Maroney made a strong opening statement to the Jury end was answered by Colonel Martin. Doctor Daniel F. Hochdoerfer, the Coroner’s post-mortem physician, was the first witness. Doctor Hochdoerfer’s testimony was about the wounds that caused the death of Dennis Cummings.

Special Officer Klely then testified a to the measurements of the room at No. 2814 Locust street, where Cummings was killed George C. Barr. employed at Dunn’s pawnshop. No. 912 Franklin avenue, testified that he sold a pistol to Mrs. Cummings on the morning of April 18, the day Cummings was killed.

W. T. Cambron, the next witness, testified that Mrs. Cummings had talked with him about her husband stealing her jewelry from her.

~ PHOTOGRAPHS OF ROOM OFFERED AS EVIDENCE. ~

George E. Baker, the Police Department photographer, identified two photographs of the room where Cummings was killed which he had taken and were introduced in evidence as exhibits D and E.

H. E. Culver, a newspaper reporter for an afternoon paper, told of finding fragments of a letter in the grate in the room. He had put the pieces together and found them to be a letter from Mrs. Cummings to her husband asking him to come to the house.

Then it was that Night Morguekeeper Walter Graham took the stand and the blood-stained garments were introduced in evidence.

Doctor John B. Rule of No. 2728 Washington avenue stated that a negro had summoned him to Mrs. Duff’s home, stating that a man had been shot. He told of the position in which he found Cummings’s body when he entered the room, and declared that Mrs. Cummings told him that she shot her husband in self-defense. He stated that Mrs. Cummings told him that her husband threatened her with the scissors and reached into his pocket for his knife before she shot, and when her husband fell the open knife dropped to the floor.

Nellie Morgan of No. 3001 Lawton avenue was one of the most important of the State’s witnesses. She stated that she once heard Mrs. Cummings plead with her husband to return to her, and heard Cummings reply:

“Oh, I know that you love me all right, but just want to get me back so you can get the drop on me, like you did on Harris”

~ SAYS MRS. CUMMINGS WAS JEALOUS OF HUSBAND. ~

The witness stated  that Mrs. Cummings was Jealous of her husband, and once, when she found a hair on a lace curtain, she said it was evidence that some other woman had been in the room with Cummings. Mrs. L. B. Harris and Miss Blanche Harris, of No. 2S10 Locust street, testified that Mrs. Cummings was cool and collected after shooting her husband, and that before going to the Four Courts to give herself up ate supper.

Policeman Nally corroborated the testimony of Mrs. Duff, Doctor Rule and other witnesses as to the position of the body, which is to be a strong point in the argument of the State.

Assistant Chief of Detectives Keely told of the statement made by Mrs. Cummings to him two days after she killed Cummings.

In that statement, which the State admits, Mrs. Cummings said that her husband had depended money from her, and when she refuted, threatened to have it or her life.

She said she had secreted the revolver at the foot of the bed and when he reached into his pocket she shot him.

Special Officer McQuillen of the Ninth District testified that he had seen Mrs. Cummings chase her husband from the Drum Saloon, at Franklin and Channing avenues, on or about April 1. He stated that Mrs. Cummings explained that her husband had stolen her jewelry.

The State has about a dozen more witnesses to testify and probably will not rest its case before time for adjournment this evening. It is hardly probable that the case can be finished before Monday, as the defense will introduce a dozen witnesses, and much time will be taken in the arguments before the jury.

[“Walter Graham, Night Morgue Superintendent Identifies Garments as Those Worn by Cummings – State’s Witness Overcome.” The St. Louis Republic (Mo.), Jul. 10, 1903, p. 3]

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For links to other cases of woman who murdered 2 or more husbands (or paramours), see Black Widow Serial Killers.

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