Apr. 21 – Mrs. Martha Steele murders Evelina.
Apr. 22 – body found; fake story about Evelina being
pregnant and the attempt to perform abortion told to police.
Apr. 23 – Arraignment in circuit court.
Apr. 26 – funeral, Acorn Street Mission Sunday school;
thousands attended; Mrs. Steele pleads not guilty.
May 17 – trial begins.
May 21 – Mrs. Steele convicted of murder.
May 22 – Mrs. Steele admits, after much coaxing, to having lied about Evelina being
Jun. 2 – Mrs. Martha Steele sentenced to life in prison; falsely accuses husband of telling her to strangle their daughter to death;
he is arrested then quickly released.
FULL TEXT (Article 1 of 11): Muskegon, Mich., April 22. – “I
tied her hands behind her, blindfolded her, pulled her tongue out of her mouth
and threw a spoonful of muriatic acid down her throat. Then I held her in my
arms until she died. I next pulled up two boards in the woodshed floor and
buried the body.”
Without a trace of emotion and speaking in an even voice,
Mrs. Albert Steele, aged 32 years, this afternoon confessed to the murder of
her 11-year-old stepdaughter, Evelina, whose nude body was found in an alley
back of her home at 9:20 o’clock this morning.
“At 3:20 o’clock this morning,” continued Mrs. Steele, “I
became afraid the body would be found, so I dug up the body and placed it in
~ Jealous of husband’s Love. ~
A charge of first degree murder has been placed against Mrs.
Steele by Prosecuting Attorney Galpin. Jealousy of the father’s affection is
given as the motive. The father. Albert Steele, formerly of Pentwater, is
“I knew she would do it,” he said. “I suspected her from the
very first. I never want to see her again.”
Little Evelina was last seen alive yesterday morning. The
father believing she was visiting an aunt, did not miss “her until 9 o’clock
last night. Then after a search, when it developed that Evelina had not been at
her aunt’s, the police were notified. The body was found this morning by John
~ Charged Criminal Operation. ~
When the discovery of the body was reported, Mrs. Steele and
her husband wdere immediately arrested. At Balbirnie’s morgue, an autopsy was
performed, which failed to reveal the criminal operation which the stepmother
said had been performed on the girl.
Across the dead body of the child, Coroner Balbirnie
confronted the woman.
“You might as well confess, Mrs. Steele,” he said. “Someone
saw you put something in the alley early this morning.”
Then Mrs. Steele broke down.
It developed that she purchased the muriatic acid a month
ago and the authorities say it was for the purpose of murder.
Mr. Charles Anderson, of Niles, the mother of Evelina,
arrived tonight. She was divorced from Steele about a year after Evelina was
born. Steele has been released. Mrs. Steele will be arraigned tomorrow morning.
[“Tells of Pouring Poison In Throat Of Stepdaughter – Mrs.
Albert Steele, of Mukegon, Confesses Over Body of Child. – Jealous Of Husband’s
Love, Planned Crime. – Discovery Follows Fear Corpse Would Be Found in Barn;
Hides It in Alley.” The Detroit Free Pree Press (Mi.), Apr. 23, 1915, p. 2]
FULL TEXT (Article 2 of 11): Muskegon, Mich., April 23. –
Mrs. Martha Steele, who yesterday confessed to the murder of her 11-year-old
stepdaughter, Evelina M. Steele, this afternoon was bound over to the circuit
on a charge of first degree murder.
~ Made Up Confession. ~
The police say that Mrs. Steele’s first confession, that of
an attempt to perform an illegal operation on the child, was evolved while she
was aiding in the search for the girl, whose dead body she had buried in the
Further evidence obtained by the physicians who performed
the autopsy over Evelina’s body has disclosed, it is alleged, that the mother
mistreated the body after death, to give an appearance of truth to her first
purported confession that the child died while she was attempting a criminal
operation. The physicians who performed the autopsy are agreed that the alleged
mistreatment took place after death, not before.
~ Father’s Grief is Tragic. ~
The most dramatic feature of the sensational murder is the
tragic grief of the father, Albert Steele. He made frequent visits today to the
coal shed where the body was hidden.
Steele said this afternoon that jealousy was the sole motive
for the crime. “My wife never liked little Evelina. The child was of a loving
disposition but would only come to me for a kiss or a pat on the head when my
wife was not in the room.
“For hours my daughter would sit quietly when my wife and I
were together, fearing to show any affection for me when her stepmother was
~ Woman Appears Indifferent. ~
Meanwhile, Mrs. Steele, at the county jail, maintains an
attitude of complete indifference. She sings and conducts herself in such a
manner that the authorities suspect she may be mentally unbalanced.
The funeral of Evelina will be held Sunday afternoon from
the Acorn Street Mission Sunday school, of which she was a member.
[“Father Mourns At Spot Where Slain Child Was Hidden –
Albert Steele, Heartbroken, Paces Shed of Muskegon Home. – Stepmother,
Murderesses, Sings At County Jail – Doctors Say Evidence of Criminal Operation
Was Manufactured After Slaying.” The Detroit Free Press (Mi.), Apr. 24, 1915,
FULL TEXT (Article 3 of 11): Muskegon, Mich., April 24. –
Abandoned by her mother and brothers and still without an attorney, Mrs. Albert
Steele, who on Thursday confessed to the deliberate murder of her 11-year-old
stepdaughter, Evelina, will be brought into circuit court Monday morning to
plead to a charge of first degree murder.
A further examination of the body of the little girl this
afternoon by Coroner James F. Bahlinire revealed four fingernail prints in the
child’s throat. The authorities now believe that the woman may have strangled
the girl, as an analysis of the contents of her stomach has failed to reveal
any traces of muriatic acid.
Police reserves will be on duty at the public funeral of
Evelina to be held tomorrow afternoon at the Acorn Street Mission church.
[“Stepmother May Have Choked Girl – Fingernail Prints on
Throat of Muskegon Murder Victim; Woman to Face Court Monday.” Apr. 25, 1915,
FULL TEXT (Article 4 of 11): Muskegon, Mich., April 26. –
Surprising the authorities, Mrs. Albert Steele, alleged to have confessed to
killing her 11-year-old stepdaughter, Evelina M. Steele, this afternoon pleaded
not guilty in circuit court to first degree murder.
Mrs. Steele appeared unmoved by the curious throng which
crowded the court room and the corridors.
Attorneys R. W. Gale and Harry W. Jackson were appointed to
defend Mrs. Steele. Her trial will be the last on the criminal calendar of this
In anticipation of a plea of not guilty, the officers took
photographs of marks on the child’s throat that seem to indicate that she may
have been strangled.
Thousands of persons yesterday jammed the neighborhood of
the mission chapel where the Sunday school, of which Evilina was a member,
conducted a memorial service. Pinned on her burial dress is the reward of merit
pin which she had earned for faithful attendance and which was to have been
presented to her yesterday.
[“Pleads Not Guilty To Slaying Child – Mrs. Alberta Steel,
of Muskegon, Must Stand Trial; Many at Services for Stepdaughter,” The Detroit
Free Press (Mi.), Apr. 27, 1915, p. 16]
FULL TEXT (Article 5 of 11): Muskegon, Mich., May 15. – An
important exhibit in the Mrs. Albert Steele murder case, which will come to
trial in the circuit court Monday, the bit of rope found in the shed addition
to the rear of the Steele home has disappeared. It was with this rope,
prosecution contends that the child’s hands were tied before she was first
poisoned, and then strangled by her stepmother. The rope was dug up by members
of the sheriff’s force. What has happened to it since no one knows and everyone
[“Muskegon ‘Murder Rope’ Missing On Eve Of Trial – Cord With
Prosecution Alleges Stepmother Tied Child’s Hands Disappears.” The Detroit Free
Press (Mi.), May 16, 1915, p. 10]
FULL TEXT (Article 6 of 11): Muskegon, Mich., May 17. – Her
face showing the pallor of one confined in prison for years. Mrs. Albert
Steele, slayer of her 11-year-old stepdaughter, Eveline Mary Steele, walked
into the court room this morning at the opening of her trial.
The stir following her appearance seemed to have no effect
upon her. She calmly took the chair pointed out by a deputy, immediately back
of the table used by her attorneys.
Anton Beilgart was the first juror called. The box was
rapidly filled. Mrs. Steele showed no interest.
Before the case opened, the prosecutor announced he would
endeavor to prove that Mrs. Steele strangled the girl. The defense will be
along the lines that Mrs. Steele was insane at the time of the slaying.
Six of the first 14 jurors examined by the prosecution
openly admitted they had positive opinions as to the guilt or innocence of Mrs.
Steele, some saying that they believed the woman was guilty. These expressions
visibly affected Mrs. Steele.
Questions of the defense attorney, R. R. Gale, to the
jurors, plainly revealed that insanity was to be the defense.
[“Murder Trial Of Mrs. Steele Opens – Muskegon Woman Charged
With Slaying Stepdaughter, Stolid in Court . – Temporary Insanity Will Be Plea
Of Defense – Many Talesmen Express Positive Convictions of Woman’s Guilt.” The
Detrot Free Press (Mi.), May 18, 1915, p. 16]
FULL TEXT (Article 7 of 11): Muskegon, Mich., May 18. –
Details of the life of Mrs. Albert Steele, facts which she and her relatives
will expose to the public eye in a desperate effort to save her from life
imprisonment for the slaying of her 11-year-old stepdaughter, Evelina Mary,
will be the basis of the defense in the most heinous criminal case ever tried
Mrs. Steele’s story, for she will take the stand in her own
defense, will not only turn the public loathing against her in sympathy, it is
said, but the sympathy, but the sympathy for some of the principals in the case will instead be
altered to disdain.
The defense has already requested Judge Sullivan to bar all
women and children from the court room.
An even greater crown than has attended the Steele case
since it began, was present in the court room this afternoon. Women outnumbered
the men about nine to one.
~ Says Girl Was Strangled. ~
Dr. W. A. Campbell, former city physician, who examined the
girl’s body, testified that the blood showed positively that death was the
result of strangulation and not poisoning. Mrs. Steele sat as yesterday, her glance
never varying from a distinct line ahead.
After Judge Sullivan announced that the afternoon’s
proceedings were over a curious crowd gathered outside. Through this crowd Mrs.
Steele had to walk. She stepped between two deputy sheriffs and began the two
blocks walk to the jail, reading horror, loathing and anger in every face.
[“‘Insanity, Victim Of Society,’ To Be Steele Defense –
Relatives Flop at Last Moment to Aid Woman Who Killed Child. – Feminine
Spectators Crowd Muskegon Court – Attorneys Plan to Bare Past of Defendant and
Threaten to Thrill Town With Revelations.” The Detroit Free Press (Mi.), May
19, 1915, p. 9]
FULL TEXT (Article 8 of 11): Muskegon, Mich., May 20. – With
Mrs. Martha Schrebe Steele, accused
of strangling her step-daughter, appearing more lifeless and morose today than
any time during her trial in the local circuit court, the evidence was
concluded late this afternoon and preparations made for the beginning of
arguments by attorneys at 9 o’clock tomorrow morning.
It is expected that the arguments and Judge James E.
Sullivan’s charge will occupy both sessions of court tomorrow, the case going
to the jury late in the afternoon.
~ Asks Judgment of Alienists. ~
The defense made its last desperate attempt for acquittal
today with a hypothetical question. In this were listed the alleged sorrows of
Mrs. Steele’s life, her vicious habits, her tainted heredity and the black side
of her married life. The sentence ended with: “Would such a woman be insane?”
This hypothetical question was the one dock on which the defense pinned its
hopes. Everything also. Everything else was thrown aside today.
In the question the defense admitted that Mrs. Steele
strangled her step-daughter, Evelina Mary.
“The killing of a child, her own step-child, without motive
or cause by a woman who endured what the defense claims Mrs. Steele had to
endure, would be evidence of insanity,” Dr. Frank B. Marshall testified. He was
backed by a number of local physicians in his contention.
The expert medical witnesses disagreed, however. The
prosecution, in rebuttal, placed on the stand Dr. Charles W. Hitchcock,
professor of mental discusses at the Detroit College of Medicine and an expert
alienist. He examined Mrs. Steele at the county jail, May 3, a few days after
the crime. He declared himself positive today that she was sane. This testimony
concluded the evidence.
~ Mrs. Steele Wears Mourning. ~
When Mrs. Steele came into court today, she was dressed in
mourning. The scarlet bow on her black velvet turtan was entirely covered with
a heavy black veil. The crowd noticed it immediately.
Mrs. Steele appeared to be more vigorous than at the session
yesterday afternoon when Judge Sullivan ordered her cross-examination halted
because of her apparent physical exhaustion. After answering a few questions
well, however, her memory again failed her, it appeared, and the constant reply
became “I don’t know,” or “ I can’t remember.”
Women gathered at the court house as early at 6:20 o’clock
this morning waiting for the doors to open. More than 300 persons remained in
the courtroom during the noon recess, friends going out and purchasing them a
[“Steele Attorneys Admit Slaying In Quiz Of Alienists –
Muskegon Lawyers Risk All On Hypothetical Question. – Women Gather At 6:30 For
Good Seats In Court – Sensational Murder Case Expected to Reach Jury Late
Friday.” The Detroit Free Press (Mi.), May 21, 1915, p. 18]
FULL TEXT (Article 9 of 11): Muskegon, Mich., May 22. – The
one last service that Martha Schrebe Steele, convicted last night of the murder
of her 11-year-old step-daughter, Evelina Mary, could do the child from whose
frail body she strangled the breath of life, she did today at the county jail.
In her cell, as she lay on her cot suffering, she declared,
from a terrific headache, she admitted that her girl victim had never been
attacked by boys, had not been in a delicate condition and was, as other girls
of her age, wholly innocent.
Thus, with a term of life imprisonment in the Detroit house
of correction facing her, the convicted woman cleared the child’s name of the
stain she herself had cast upon it, making the feeble but only reparation she
could to the child now in her grave at Pentwater.
The confession did not come willingly. It was the result of long
persuasion. Harry W. Jackson, her attorney, demanded that she make it in return
for the fight he had made to save her from prison, appealed to save her from
prison, appealed to her gratitude, to her sense of honor. He pointed out that
since the jury had pronounced its verdict, all evasion was futile. Captain
Phillip Lawton, head of the Salvation Army branch here, and her chief
comforter, added his entreaties.
“You want to clear the little girl’s name,” Mr. Jackson
implored. “You want to clear it of the stain that has been brought upon it by
you, don’t you?”
“You don’t want this little girl’s name blackened, do you?”
said Captain Lawton.
“The story was a lie!” cried Mrs. Steele as she burst into
tears, “Evelina was a good little girl. She was good and clean, just as any
girl of her age might be. She never was attacked. That story was what first
came to my mind when the officers arrested me.”
All that happened during the last week – the trial, the
crowds, the courtroom – Mrs. Steele asserts is a blank to her. This morning she
asked what the jury’s verdict was.
“What does guilty mean?” she inquired.
“Have you anything more to say,” asked Captain Lawton, “in
regard to the happening the day of the crime?”
“No sir, I don’t remember. I do know, though, that Evelina
did not leave the house the morning she met her death, as the prosecution
claimed she did. That was the morning before. I know Evelina was dressed this
morning. I don’t remember whether she had had her breakfast or not.”
Mrs. Steele, through her attorney, Mr. Jackson, this
afternoon sent to Circuit Judge James E. Sullivan a letter containing her final
request before she is to be sentenced. What was included in this letter Judge
Sullivan refused to reveal. She will be sentenced some time next week.
[“Mrs. Steele, From Cell, Clears Name Of Child Victim –
Confesses She Lied in Blackening Reputation of Step-Daughter. – Says Mind Is
Blank On Events Of Trial – Muskegon
Slayer, Facing Sentence, Asks What What Verdict of ‘Guilty’ Means.” The
Detroit Free Press (Mi.), May 23, 1915, p. 12]
FULL TEXT (Article 10 of 11): Muskegon, Mich., June 2. –
Lying in a cot in Hackley Hospital, Mrs. Martha Schrebe Steele, convicted two
weeks ago of the murder of her stepdaughter, Evelina Mary, eleven, today
accused her husband, Albert Steele, of complicity in her crime. The man was
immediately placed under arrest by sheriff’s deputies.
Mrs. Steele’s told officers today that her husband advised
her to “get rid of the child,” so there would be nothing to interfere with
their marital happiness and that he even suggested the method of killing the
girl – strangulation.
Later in the day Mrs. Steele was taken before Judge Sullivan
and received sentence to life imprisonment.
[“Causes Arrest of Husband – Murderess Tells Authorities
That He Counselled Her to Kill Girl.” Lincoln Daily News (Ne.), Jun. 2, 1915,
FULL TEXT (Article 11 of 11): Two women descended from a
Pere Marquette train in the Union station Wednesday afternoon, closely followed
by a spare, bronzed men who seemed to accord them more than the ordinary
The leader of the group and the taller of the two women was
Mrs. Albert Steele, of Muskegon, convicted strangler of her 11-year-old
step-daughter. She was muffled in a long blue coat, a scarf was wrapped about
her head, and she made the trip from the train to the building like a person
asleep, oblivious of the rain. The attentive man with her was Sheriff Fred J.
Collins, of Muskegon. His wife was the third member of the group.
~ In Hospital Since Trial. ~
Mrs. Steele was being taken to the Detroit house of
correction, to begin a life term. She was removed from the hospital in
Muskegon Tuesday, the sheriff said, where she had been confined since the trial.
Upon her arrival here she had no word to say of the past or the future. Her
dull eyes kept upon vacancy, and there was no shade of color in the sunken
cheeks. Mrs. Collins, an alert, capable little woman, hovered about her like a
No person on the train save the officials knew her identity
and the trip was without incident. The slight, pale figure in the veil was not
a person likely to attract attention.
The trio hailed a taxicabs Mrs. Steele was placed within,
between the sheriff and his wife. She evinced not a shade of interest in the
~ Will Work When Well. ~
She was received at the house of correction at 6:16 o’clock,
registered and assigned quarters. Inmates are permitted their identity in the
institution and the formula of giving her a number was absent. She will be
given garments such as are worn by other inmates and as soon as their health
permits will be set to work in the shops.
Sheriff Collins said Mrs. Steele had made him illuminating
comment on the care since the trial, save to reiterate that the murder was
performed at the instance of her husband. He was arrested Tuesday [June 1] as a
result, but was later released.
[“Life Term In Jail For Mrs. Steele, As Slayer, Begins –
Sentenced for Strangling Child, Muskegon Woman Brought to Detroit. – Rides From
Station To Cell Like Person Asleep – Guarded by Sheriff and Wife; Has No
Comment to Make on Past or Future,” The Detroit Free Press (Mi.), Jun. 3, 1915,
Evelina’s Mother – Mrs. Charles Anderson, Niles, divorced