Thursday, January 23, 2020

Dorothy Perkins, 17-Year-Old Murderess – New York, 1925


~ Defendant Surprised at Severity of Verdict. ~

Although Judge Mclntyre, before whom Dorothy Perkins was tried, intimated that a verdict of murder in the first degree would hardly be to his liking, and the prosecutor. Assistant District At-tory McDonald, also declared in his closing argument that a verdict for a lesser degree would satisfy the ends of justice, several jurors were reported to have held out for some time for the extreme penalty. Only one of the twelve, it was said, even suggested an acquittal, and he was quickly brought to a different way of thinking by the others. The defendant was surprised at the severity of the verdict, saying she could have pleaded guilty to manslaughter in the second degree at the very outset.


"This verdict may stop women from shooting men in the future."

In that laconic manner Judge Mclntyre thanked the jury after they had found Dorothy Perkins guilty of manslaughter in the first degree.

Sex "equality is rapidly spreading. Formerly it was not considered quite chivalrous on the part of juries to bring in a verdict against a woman charged with a killing. Of late there have been several convictions.

Is it no longer safe for a woman to shoot a man? Must she pay?

Friday the 13th. Hard luck.

Most people laugh at the old superstition.

But not Dorothy Perkins. Nor Michael Connors. Nor the surviving relatives of Thomas Templeton, who probably would be the last to scoff if he were here. He's dead. That's the way Friday the 13th treated him.

It was on one of those Fridays – Feb. 13, 1925 – that Dorothy Perkins, 17 years old, but ages wise, made an offhand decision that materially changed the course of her life and that of Mickey Connors, and brought that of Thomas Templeton to an abrupt conclusion.

~ The Fatal Dance. ~

She chose to go to a dance of the Ninth Coast Artillery corps in the company of Connors, and airily refused the companionship of Templeton.

The result?

She's at Auburn prison serving a term of from five to fifteen years after her conviction of manslaughter in the first degree; Connors is in Sing Sing, serving a term of eighteen months for criminal assault; Templeton is cold in his grave.

Viewed superficially, the story started on that fateful Friday night. Actually it had its beginnings two years earlier, when Mickey Connors came to 26 Jane st. and took up his residence there as a boarder at the home of Rudolph Perkins.

The fact that he was 35 years Id made him a more romantic figure to the 15-year-old daughter of the house, Dorothy, than the adolescents of her acquaintance. The boarder, handsome after a certain hard-featured fashion, sensed immediately the effect he had upon the girl, and was quick to take advantage of it. Accustomed to her own way in everything. Dorothy paid no attention to the hail-hearted warnings of her parents. She knew how to take care of herself that is, if she had a mind to. Despite the small total of her years, she knew men better than many of her sex twice her age. But in this instance she didn't care. Connors demanded and she gave unreservedly.

This illicit liason went on for some time, until Connors disappeared. It was learned that he had married, and had taken a residence uptown. But his marital bliss was shortlived. A few months later he was back in Greenwich Village and took a room in the home of Mrs. Nora Keating at 826 Greenwich st.

His affair with Dorothy was renewed. They were familiar figures at local social affairs, which they never attended without a liquid prop to keep their spirits from drooping.

And then came Thomas Templeton. That was toward the end of 1921, when Dorothy had reached the ripe old age of 17.

~ Threads of the Drama. ~

Templeton, a veteran of the A. E. F., where his valor had earned him the Croix de Guerre, had joined the Ninth Coast Artillery corps following his return from France. At the armory in 14th st. he met Rudolph Perkins, supply sergeant of Battery F, and they became fast friends. After the drill, before his return to his home in Jersey City, he was frequently invited to stop at the Perkins home. There he met Dorothy.

Though by no means a beauty, the girl had a certain attractiveness that made men attentive to her. Templeton was ten years her senior, yet the disparity in their ages did not seem so great when they were together. She was clever – not enough so, though, as to make men conscious of it and therefore repel them – she could dance, and she was sufficiently inured to alcohol that she did not become a burden to her escort after the first drink or two.

To the father, a match with Templeton would not have been unwelcome. But before such a union could be effected it would be necessary to eliminate Mickey Connors. Perkins was aware of an understanding between his daughter and the former boarder, but he did not know its extent. He delivered an ultimatum that Connors should be dropped.

Here was something new in the experience of Dorothy. She was being told how to conduct her own affairs! The injunction had the effect of more solidly cementing her ties to Connors. Perkins stormed; the daughter answered in kind.

But she did not resent the attentions of Templeton. Few girls reject an opportunity for conquest. The guardsman became a frequent visitor at the Jane st. house, and as the day approached for the regiment's drill and dance he asked Dorothy to meet him there. He gave her a couple of tickets, expecting that she would bring along a girl friend.

During the drill Templeton permitted his eyes to stray in unsoldiery manner from the business at hand and scanned the crowded gallery. What he saw put to a severe test the discipline instilled through years of service.

~ Preferred Connors. ~

He picked out Dorothy, laughing and chattering, hardly favoring the well-executed maneuvers with a glance. Her companion was a man. Instinctively the soldier knew that her was the Mickey Connors of whom he had had report.

The drill over, Dorothy conducted her escort to the room of Battery F, where she knew Templeton would be waiting. The men were introduced and they disappeared into the room, leaving the girl outside. A few minutes later they emerged smiling, and the girl breathed a sigh of relief. She decided to tempt fate a little farther. Her opportunities of seeing Mickey had been infrequent of late, and she desired to have the whole night with him to herself. Despite Templeton's reminder that she was there on his invitation, she chose to remain with Connors. After the dance, she and Connors went to his room in Greenwich st. after having stopped off first at a speakeasy for whisky.

That was Friday, the 13th day of February.

Less than 24 hours later Templeton was a corpse, and Dorothy was under arrest, charged with his murder.

The next day, Feb. 14, was the 47th birthday of Rudolph Perkins, and St. Valentine's day as well. The Perkinses decided to have a party celebrating the two events. Informal invitations, by word of mouth, had been scattered about. Mickey Connors had received his some time previously. Tommy Templeton was, asked the night of the dance.

Piqued Dorothy Perkins, 17, was found guilty of manslaughter in the first degree by a jury of fathers for the killing of Thomas Templeton, one time suitor. Piqued that Dorothy had treated him so shabbily, and apprehensive lest trouble develop should he and Connors be thrown together for a whole evening, Templeton at first refused but, on the insistence of his battery mate, in whose honor the party was to be given, he finally consented. Just before starting out from Jersey City the following night he asked a couple of friends, Harry Brown and Joseph Harssell, to accompany him. The party, you remember, was to be informal. Everybody welcome.

Those offhand invitations later proved of great assistance to Justice when she tried to balance the scales, as the testimony of Brown and Harssell was of vital importance to the prosecution.

The party was in full swing when Templeton and his friends arrived. Rudolph Perkins, as befitted the occasion, had a head start on his guests in the matter of liquid refreshment. He clapped them jovially on the back and invited them to have a drink, of which there was much in evidence. They had one; then another; and yet another.

~ The Quarrel. ~

Some one mentioned the name of Mickey Connors and said that Dorothy was going after him. Immediately the ire of Rudolph Perkins was at fever heat. He forgot for the moment that he himself had asked Connors to the party; he remembered only the incident of the night before when his daughter had brazenly floured him by appearing in public with this married man after he had expressly forbidden it. He called loudly for Dorothy.

She came, saw her father lurch unsteadily toward her. His fingers dug deep into her shoulder; she was flung against the ice box in the hall.

"You'll do as I tell you!" he shouted.

"My comings and goings are none of your damn business!" she cried in reply. Her natural courage and violent temper had also been upholstered by alcohol.

"Why do you take a bum like Connors when you can have a nice fellow like Tommy?" he asked.

She reminded him that he had asked Connors to attend the party.

"I've changed my mind about him," said her father. "If Mickey Connors comes to this party I'll put a bullet through him."

The girl quailed. She remembered the pistol she had hidden in her bureau among her" lingerie. She had discovered it at the home of her aunt in Connecticut, were she had visited, a week or two previously. She had brought it back with her, "for protection," she said at the time. She wondered if her father knew where that weapon was. Anything might happen if he should discover it. With a wrench she tore herself free and disappeared into her bedroom.

There was the gun, a .22 caliber automatic, right where she had left it. But it might not be. safe. Hurriedly she donned a coat it happened that she selected one of her girl friends' and holding the weapon in the sleeve ran past the group in the hall and out into the street.

Up until that point no one disputed her story, told, as outlined above, at her trial. From then on they differ.

It was 10:30 when she reached the street. Many persons were abroad and the girl found the task of disposing of a pistol more difficult than she imagined. For a few moments she stood irresolute at the corner, then returned to the house and mounted the stairs.

The group was still in the hall. With the perversity peculiar to a man in his cups, Perkins refused to drop the subject of Connors, and he was still delivering his diatribe when Dorothy returned. The sight of her fed his rage; he reached out unsteady hands to shake her into submission.

Clutched tightly in her fist was the weapon.   She raised her hands to protect herself. A gleam of light played along the blue steel barrel. There was a blinding flash, then another, then the sound of a limp body falling to the floor. The gun dropped front the girl's nerveless fingers, and every one in the group, augmented now by a couple of women, dived to recover it.

All but Templeton.

He lay on the floor in death agony.

"She got me, she got me!" he moaned.

That was her story.

But Harry Brown, one of those who had received a last minute invitation, had a different tale to ten.

When Dorothy was returning from her walk outdoors Templeton was talking to her father.

"I heard Tommy say, said Brown, "that 'the skunk is yellow. He has a rod and he's too yellow to use it.'

The girl, her face flaming with passion, confronted the speaker.

" 'I'll show you whether he's yellow or not,' I heard her say," testified Brown. "Then the shot went off.

~ Tragedy. ~

"Tommy grabbed himself by the chest and said, 'She's got tne; she's got me.' Mr. Perkins struggled with the girl. I heard the gun drop to the floor. I got it once, but it was kicked out of my hand. We were all down on our knees. One of the women got it and walked away with it. I grabbed the girl and took her into the bedroom, where I kept her for about fifteen minutes. They told me to let her go, that she wouldn't run away. I let her go."

Panicstricken, the girl escaped from the house to a neighbor's, Mrs. Nora Keating at 826 Greenwich St., the very house where Connors was boarding. It was here the detectives found her, hours later, and placed her under arrest.

The following day Magistrate Frederick B. House held her without bail to await the action of the grand jury, and on Feb. 20 that body indicted her on a charge of murder in the first degree.

A 17-year-old girl faced the electric chair.

Meanwhile Mickey Connors, no longer afforded the companionship of Dorothy, returned to his wife, Mrs. Florence Fisher Connors, but the patched up marriage failed to function. Less than a month later the couple appeared before Magistrate Weil in Night court, where Mrs. Connors exhibited bruises said to have been inflicted by her attentive spouse. Connors was given six months in jail to repent.

Something almost unique in the annals of recent criminal trials in New York happened June 8. That was the date set for the case to go on, and it did, without a hitch, before Judge John F. Mclntyre in General Sessions. The strategy of Sidney R. Lash, the girl's counsel, was soon made evident in the selection of the jurors. He sought married men only, particularly those with daughters about the age of his client. And in that he succeeded.

At the time of her arrest Dorothy's straw-colored hair was long, worn in great, ugly puffs about her ears. But when she appeared in the courtroom that first day the big mop was cut in the prevailing bob, giving her a more girlish appearance.

The trial was swift, as criminal trials go. Assistant District A torney James E. McDonald con ducted the prosecution. He called to the stand in turn Joseph Harssell and Harry Brown, companions of Templeton the night of the fateful birthday party, and Detective Frank A. Campbell, who arrested the girl at the Keating home. All three testified that Dorothy had admitted to them having fired the shot that killed her suitor.

Then came a witness of whom Dorothy Perkins expected much.

She had given her all to him, surely he would do the same for her.

But Mickey Connors, given a few days leave from the workhouse that he might testify, had no such ideas of fair play. Mickey was watching out for Mickey's interests; the girl did not matter.

That was the reason for that whispered colloquy between him and Judge Mclntyre when embarrassing questions were asked him about his relations with the girl. The judge told Mickey of his rights, which resulted in his droning that stereotyped reply:

“I refuse to answer on the ground that it might incriminate or degrade me."

Dorothy, who had been alternately sobbing and tearing her handkerchief into bits, sat bolt upright. Here was the man who had professed such great love for her. This was the person about whose head she had placed a halo. Her lips formed in a grim, straight line.

~ Her Defense. ~

Her defense, briefly, was that the gun had been discharged accidentally during the scuffle in the hallway; that she loved Templeton, wanted to marry him, but had been seeking some way of eliminating the dangerous Connors without arousing his anger to the extent of causing him to reveal his relations with her.

In soft tones, his eyes filled with tears, her attorney told the sordid story.

"What did a girl of 15 know about men?" he cried plaintively. He flung his arms in appeal to the twelve middle-aged men in the jury box. "She loved Tommy Templeton, but had to be rid of Connors first. That affair with a married man was dead, buried in the debris of her wrecked girlhood."

But the prosecution was ready for such an appeal. Mr. McDonald brought forth a letter, and triumphantly placed it in evidence. It was dated March 6, almost a month after Tommy Templeton's death.

“Dear Mickey," It ran. “I’m writing this, for I don't know whether you got the other one or not. Will you please write and let me know whether you did, for I'm anxious about it?

"I gave it to a girl going nut, the same as this, so for God's sake write, for if you don't I’ll know you didn't get it.

“I’ll wait every day for an answer; don't sign your right name, for I know your handwriting, and don't mention anything about the accident, but just write and tell me it you got the first one.

"Please write.
"Lota of love. – DOTTIE."

Mr. Lash, the girl's attorney, decided upon a bold stroke. He placed the girl upon the witness stand.

Surely the appeal of a shrinking bit of femininity would soften the hearts of those fathers in the jury box. But the girl, by her own demeanor, frustrated the lawyer's design.

She was nervous at first, of course, but that soon wore off, and feminine appeal was distinctly lack-j ing. Lash led her into a description of her early life, then had her describe the dance at the armory on Friday the 13th, and finally her father's birthday party.

The assistant district attorney took her in hand. She was being questioned as to exactly what happened when, carrying a pistol, she entered the hallway and found her father talking to Templeton.

"It was when my father got hold of me," she replied, "that I shot the t gun.

Mr. McDonald turned quickly to the jury.

"Did you hear that, gentlemen?" he asked.

The girl immediately tried to correct her statement by saying that "it was when my father got hold of me that the shot was fired."

But the damage had been done.

In summing up Mr. McDonald sprang a surprise by telling the jury he did not seek a verdict of murder in the first degree.

At 9 o'clock on the night of June 17 the jury filed out of the courtroom to deliberate, and 2 hours and 41 minutes later sent word that a verdict had been reached. Just as the bells of a nearby clock were tolling the hour of midnight. Judge Mclntyre ascended the bench and asked that the jury be brought in. coolly and with deliberation.

~ The Appeal Lacking. ~

The girl sought the eyes of each member, trying to read in advance her fate. As though by prearrangement, the twelve kept their heads lowered, and the girl knew the answer, even before the foreman announced:

"We find the defendant guilty of manslaughter in the first degree."

The following Monday, June 22, Dorothy received a sentence of from 5 to 15 years in Auburn prison. That means, with allowances for good behavior, she will be in prison three years and two months. Just prior to her twenty-first birth day she will be a free woman again.

No sooner was the trial over and sentence pronounced than she sent for the man who had prosecuted her. He had been so effective against her, perhaps he could prove just as efficient in helping her settle a score of her own.

As a result of that interview Mickey Connors was indicted and brought to trial on charges of criminal assault and abduction. Most of the evidence was in when he decided he decided to plead guilty to assault in a lesser degree, and he was sentenced to serve eighteen months in Sing Sing.

Once there, the series of misfortunes that pursued him did not cease. Before Dorothy's trial started Mrs. Connors had brought suit for divorce, naming the girl as co-respondent. Safe within tht prison u..Us, Mickey sighed for relief. No harm could come to him there. But Fate scaled the fence.

Ctnnors became embroiled in a mess hall dispute Oct. 20 last, and was stabbed several times by a fellow prisoner. For a week his life was despaired of, but he is now on the road to recovery.

Dorothy had been kept in jail in New York pending the outcome of the case against her former lover. Aug. 17 she boarded the train for Auburn.

It was night when she arrived. For a moment she stood on the gray steps and gazed at the sky. "It's an awful thing to give up your freedom," she said. Then: 1 wonder if I'll be able to see the stars through the bars of my cell?"

She laughed, but there was no. mirth in the tone. The iron door opened, and an attendant beckoned to her. "Well, so long!" she called, and waved a hand. The doors clanged shut.

[“Girl Slayer Guilty of Manslaughter,” Sunday News (N.Y.), Nov. 29, 1925, p. 14]











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