Thursday, August 18, 2011

"Say Goodbye Daddy": Belle Millman's Revenge - 1926

FULL TEXT: A young mother in the Bronx, estranged from her husband, lifted her 3-year-old son to the telephone yesterday and had him speak to his father.

‘Hello daddy,’ the father heard the child say.

‘Don’t say “Hello, daddy,”’ came the mother’s voice. ‘Say “Good-bye, daddy.’”

The child said it and a moment later the husband heard his wife’s voice, distinct and vindictive:

‘It seems that the only way I can get ahead of you is to kill the child.’

The receiver was hung up with a bang. The husband hurried out desperately to find the wife and child.

Three hours later a group of children playing near the 258th Field Artillery Armory at 195th Street, between Jerome and Reservoir Avenues, the Bronx, parted a clump of bushes and saw the body of a well-dressed woman lying there, a pistol by her side. A little way off, crumpled over a sand pail, with a toy shovel in his hand, lay a boy, dead. Each had been shot through the right temple.

~ Husband Makes Identification. ~

The children ran screaming to the street and passersby communicated with the police. A check in the woman’s purse gave a clue to her identity and before evening the identification was made certain by the husband, Joseph Millman, a manufacturing milliner of 64 West Thirty-seventh Street.

The double killing yesterday brought to a close nearly two years of difficulties between the husband and wife, and months of litigation over the custody of the child.

Millman and his wife, Belle, 27 years old, were married in 1922. Two years later she left home and started an action for separation, demanding custody of the boy and $25 a week alimony. Her petition was denied by Justice Robert F. Wagner. Less than a year later Millman and six other men raided his wife’s apartment and obtained evidence on which Millman sued for divorce. Mrs. Millman threatened to kill herself then if the divorce was granted. The evidence against her was insufficient, however, and the divorce was not granted.

~ He Wins Custody of Son. ~

But last November Millman went before Justice Richard P. Lydon and obtained custody of the boy. This was so crushing a blow to the mother, however, that a little later Millman and his attorney, Bernard H. Sandler, of 130 Broadway, made a supplementary agreement which was less harsh. Millman agreed to give his wife $350 to furnish a room in the apartment of her sister, Mrs. Ida Paly, at 2,552 University Avenue, the Bronx, give her the custody of the son for five days each week, pay all the boy’s expenses and allow her $30 a week for herself. Last month, however, Mrs. Millman began suit for counsel fees and heavier alimony through Attorney Charles Fredericks of 342 Madison Avenue. The case came up Friday before Justice Louis D. Gibbs in the Bronx Supreme Court,

The boy, Martin, it was brought out, had been operated upon six months before for mastoiditis and the father had been keeping him in the country home of his grandfather, Samuel Millman, near Hudson.

Millman wished to let his son say in the country to be sure his health was completely regained, and offered to pay his wife’s expenses to his father’s home to allow her to visit the child.

The court felt that the child should have his mother’s care, and Mrs. Millman pleaded earnestly that she also had a country place to which she would take him. Justice Gibbs ordered the child given into the custody of his mother, to take effect Monday, on condition that he be taken to the country.

As all were leaving the courtroom Millman whispered a piece of news to Sandler that had been disquieting him. His wife, he said, had broken into his apartment at 3,336 Rochambeau Avenue, the Bronx, and cut his pistol from the holster and stolen it, and she had also taken his gold watch.

Sandler immediately informed the Court of this.

“I’m afraid she may kill somebody in this case,” he said.

Justice Gibbs called Mrs. Millman back and questioned her minutely. She denied that she had ever had a pistol or that she even had seen her husband’s pistol.

She admitted taking the watch, however, and returned it. But she took an oath she had no pistol, and the Court believed her.

Outside the court house she ran up to her husband and said laughingly, but with a tinge of bitterness:

“I don’t suppose you’ll see me many times in court.”

~ Gives Child to Mother. ~

The difficulties were ended apparently, and on Monday Millman bought the child an entire of new clothing and delivered him into his mother’s custody.

Yesterday morning Mrs. Millman telephoned her husband at his office. She could not comply with the Justice’s condition that she take the child immediately to the country, she said. She had arranged, instead, to take a two-room apartment where she would keep the child with her and had given the landlord Millman’s name as reference.

Shortly before noon she telephoned again.

“I need $250 to help furnish that apartment,” Millman said his wife told him. “And I want you to sign the lease.”

“You’d better come and see me, then,” Millman replied. “I can’t discuss that over the telephone.”

His wife became furious at that, Millman said, and then put Martin up to the telephone to tell his father good-bye.

Millman hurried to his wife’s home, but she and the child were gone  . The mother and the little boy must have wandered some time together. Peggy Lasanti, who runs a candy and notions store at 2,706 Jerome Avenue, near the Armory, remembered seeing them in her store at 3 o’clock. There the mother bought a tin pail and a shovel for Martin. From there, apparently, they went to the open space beside the armory where Mrs. Millman watched him play in the dirt. She must have shot him from a little distance as he played, the police said. There were no powder burns on his head.

District Attorney John E. McGeehan of the Bronx made a preliminary investigation yesterday afternoon.

“This is one of the saddest tragedies in my entire experience as Magistrate, Judge and District Attorney,” he said.

[“Mother Kills Son and Died by Own Gun – First Has Son Say ‘Good-Bye Daddy’ Over Phone To Her Estranged Husband. – Boy Slain While at Play – Bodies Found In Bushes – Wife Got Custody of Lad on Monday After Two Years of Litigation,” The New York Times (N. Y.), Aug 4, 1926, p. 21] (Millman case)

SEE: Maternal Filicide: Spousal Revenge Motive for similar cases

Cases such as this one from 1926 are left out of studies on domestic violence done by experts – who, almost always, are adherents of Marxism-based social theories  –  resulting in distorted conclusions which support the policy preferences of those professors and researchers who had joined the academic field in order to shape public policy.

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