Note: “Thornman” is the correct spelling an is used in the
York, Pa. newspaper, yet some out-of town papers misspell the name as
“Thorman.” Detailed accounts of this case from the York Daily will be added
later. At the bottom of the post is a chronology based on these articles.
FULL TEXT (Article 1 of 4): York, Pa., Feb. 22 – Lillian B.
Thorman [sic], a thirteen-year-old girl, today fatally burned the three-year-old
child of Robert Dorsey of this city.
The girl, who was employed to do light work around the house
literally fried the child and while the child was writhing and screaming in its agony an aunt
entered the room and rescued it, but the child had been roasted from head to
foot and cannot live.
The servant girl in jail tonight confessed that she had
fatally burned three other children in a similar manner, giving their parents
the impression that they had fallen on the stove accidentally while climbing to
[“Fire Used To Kill. - Girls Says She Killed Three Children
by Placing Them on the Stove.” Plain Dealer (Cleveland, Oh.), Feb. 23, 1906, p.
TEXT (Article 2 of 4): York, Pa., April 17.—With a mania for burning children
when they are bad, because, as she says, “I am a devil and will burn them,”
Lillian Thornman, a 13-year-old colored girl, knocked upon a red hot stove a two-year-old
daughter of Robert Dorsey, also colored, and for several seconds calmly watched
her struggle to get off the stove and away from the boiler of hot water, which
was poured over her body as she alighted on the stove. Another girl then ran in
from the yard and saved the child from further injury. This was the Thornman
girl’s third victim. A year ago she set Esther Louise Harris, aged three years,
on a red hot stove and hold her fast until she made the statement that she was
months ago she threw hot grease over Leon Johnston, a small boy. Owing to the
fact that she had been convicted of petty thievery she was to be sent to a
Philadelphia Institution this afternoon, but was arrested after the burning of
the Dorsey child.
is now confined in jail on a charge of aggravated assault and battery with
intent to kill.
She Is Satan’s Agent –’I Am a Devil,’ She Declares, as She Throws Tiny
Pickaninny Upon Stove to Roast,” Los Angeles Herald (Ca.), Apr. 18, 1906, p. 3;
“oved” in original corrected to “oven”]
FULL TEXT (Article 3 of 4): York, Penn. – Lillian Thorman, a
13-year-old girl, pleaded guilty to killing Helena Dorsey, a three-year-old
daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Robert Dorsey. On Washington’s birthday the Thorman
girl, having become angered at something the little Dorsey child had done,
placed her on a red-hot stove. The child died later. The Thorman girl added: “I did
it because I have the devil in me.”
[“Child Roasted by Young Girl.” The Richmond Planet (Va.),
Jun. 23, 1906, p. 3]
FULL TEXT (Article 4 of 4): York, Pa., Feb. 25. – “Well, I
‘spose they’ll hang me; but I couldn’t help it; the devil that was in me made
me do it.” So said 13-year-old Lillian Thornman, colored, when she was informed
that Helena, the less than 3-year-old daughter of Robert Dorsey, also colored,
had died of the burns she inflicted upon her on Thursday.
This is the case in which the demon-possessed young cousin
of Mrs. Dorsey tossed the baby upon a red-hot stove and basted her with
scalding water, after similarly torturing two other children on different
occasions. She came came her from Philadephia, and was almost to be sent back
to her step-mother there. Explaining her resentment on this score she said:
“All Thursday morning
the three Dorsey children were teasing me about my being sent back to
Philadelphia, and at that I got mad. My temper got the better of me and I threw
Helena on the stove.”
[“Baby Burner A Murderess. – Negro Girl Still Insists Satan
Suggested Fire to Her.” Reading Times (Pa.), Feb. 26, 1906, p. 5]
1904 – Dorsey child (other than Helena), burned in “same
1905 – Hester Louis Harris (“Esther Lewis”), 3, burned,
forced to sit on hot stove for “several minutes,” survived (?).
Dec. 1905 – Leon Johnston (“Johnson”) – neighbor boy, threw
pan of hot lard on him.
Feb. 22, 1906 – Helena Dorsey, 3, burned on stove &
scalded with boiling water.
Feb. 23, 1906 – LT arrested.
Feb. 24, 1906 – Helena Dorsey, 3, died (Saturday morning).
Feb. 26 – Helena Dorsey buried at Mt. Lebanon cemetery.
Mar. 1, 1906 – LT arraigned.
Apr. 20, 1906 – true bill.
Apr. 23, 1906 – LT pleads guilty to manslaughter.
Apr. 30, 1906 – LT sentenced to House of Refuge.