Parts of girl's body found in 4 sewers

April 15, 1939

Four sewer openings within a three-block area of East Baltimore last night yielded paper-wrapped parts of the body of a young woman.

The girl was tentatively described as between 16 and 18 years of age.

Dr. Charles W. Wood, Eastern district coroner, said the right hand and the left leg, which were found at 6 p.m., were from a girl who had been dead for no more than four hours.

Having discounted the possibility that the limbs had been discarded my a medical student, the police began operating on the theory that they had a "torso" murder on their hands.

The heart, which was taken from a manhole at Lombard and Wolfe streets, contained cuts.

Soon after the first find--a hand and a leg at Chapel and Lombard streets--detectives set out with a list of thirteen missing girls, 25 years and under. All police stations in the city were ordered to investigate rumors or reports of recently missing young women.

Chief Inspector Stephen G. Nelson and Inspector John H. Mintiens took charge of the investigation.

The search started when 8-year-old Nicholas Krepnet, of 190 East Lombard street, went after his rubber ball into a manhole at Chapel and Lombard streets and came upon a blue marble, a cane and a paper bundle. Hardly had he found the bundle when he cried.

"It's a hand down there; it's a hand down there."

He came out in a hurry and joined his 8-year-old playmate, Paul Silwick, who lives next door. George Gerlach, a grocer across the street, called the police.

Patrolman Paul King entered the sewer and came up with a hand wrapped in paper and a leg similarly wrapped. The newspaper, part of which was a Baltimore comic section, bore the date of Sunday, April 2.

The dismembered parts were taken to The City Morge, and members of the Municipal Bureau of Sewers, police and boys searched other manholes in the neighborhood.

About 7:30 p.m. the sewer men found several other organs, including the heart, at Lombard and Wolfe streets. They were removed to the morgue while police and others continued the search.

Dr. Wood, after examining the parts at the morgue, immediately dismissed the possibility that the hand and leg were part of a corpse dismembered by a medical student. When reminded with the possibility, Dr. Wood said:

"No, no, no. That just isn't possible.

Dr. Wood then said he believed a murder had been committed within four or five hours previous to the discovery. He described the parts as those of a girl between 16 and 18 years old, slightly less than five feet tall, weighing about one hundred pounds. The hand wore no ring or other means of identification, and it was removed to Police Headquarters for finger printing

The third find in the grim series was at 10.10 p.m. by Joseph Wosk, 20, of 13 South Anne street, and Jack Bernstein, of 1809 East Lombard street, who with others had been looking in the sewers missed by the squad of investigators.

These youths at Lombard and Chester streets found a right foot and a right leg from the knee to the ankle. These, too, were paper-wrapped, but the wrappings could not be identified.

At 11 p.m. George A. Jones, who was on a bureau of sewers trucks, opened a manhole at Chester and Fayette streets and brought out two badly rumpled suits of lounging pajamas. All makers' marks had been torn out, but one suit bore the mark 17, indicating its size.

The pajamas were taken to police headquarters where Capt. John Carey, night commander, described them as:

Pair one; light blue pajamas, trimmed with blue and white plaid at lapels and pocket, which is in the lower right-hand corner. The blouse is a Chinese slip-over model with a tassel. It has blue buttons and bluish green military frogs.

Pair two; mulberry or dark red, same style, trimmed in blue, having white beading and white buttons and a pinkish-white tassel. The material in both pajamas was described as cotton crinkle.

Early this morning the search was continuing, with a small crowd still following the sewer truck while the city employees and police lifted manholes.

In an effort to identify the victim, Detective Lieutenant Fred Harborn and Sergt. David Wingrove left headquarters with a list of girls reported missing.

Thought all the names were in the file of missing persons, it was pointed out that some of them may have returned without knowledge to the police. The names are:

Nellie Ruth Barnes, 15. 3554 Poole street, missing since April 7.

Esther Baublitz, 16. Parkton, Md., January 11.

Minerva Beach, 21, Johns Hopkins student nurse. Orange, N.J., March 20.

Nora Lee Brunt, 17. 1114 North Calvert street, March 24.

Catherine Clarke, 20. 1010 East Chase street, January 18.

Virginia Crook, 21. 110 North MIlton avenue, March 26.

Carrie Ganion, 22. 1742 Hanover street, February 27.

Frances Vaesta Nonemaker, 18. 2242 Wilkens avenue, March 27.

Mary Pritchett, 25. 4605 York road, March 27.

Marie Stack, 19. 108 North Durham street, February 11.

Elise Toner, 15. 1613 East Oliver street, February 15.

Ethel Mae Williams, 25. 3613 Woodland avenue, April 9.

Mary Zeberlein, 23. Essex, Md, March 12.

Though finger prints were taken by the Bertillon bureau, it wasn't deemed likely the prints would be in the files.

Police threw all their investigating agencies into the area, beginning by questioning residents of the neighborhoods. They had two theories at the outset:

That the victim was pregnant, and either was killed or had died in childbirth.

That the killing was the work of a homicidal maniac.

At the same time, Lieut. Ezekie Williams, one of those in charge of the investigation, said an automobile could have easily pulled up at the curb where the remains were found and disposed of the dismembered body.

Lieutenant Williams said it would not have been necessary to lift the manholes to dispose of the body, as the rain drains were large enough to admit the bundle.

The sewer was dry when the remains were found, and last night police hoped that there would be no rain to obscure other clues. All the police boats will cruise the harbor today in the vicinity in an effort to find other parts of the body.

It was pointed out that the packaged parts of the body found were not weighted and those not found probably will rise to the surface if they find their way into the harbor.