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Criminal Abortion: The Carnage Begins

On September 20, 1923, 44-year-old Annie Allison of Brooklyn died at the office of chiropractor Henry Lee Mottard, who practiced under the name of Dr. Henry L. Green. Mottard alleged that Annie had died after an accidental fall down an elevator shaft. However, Annie's death certificate, signed by another physician, attributed her death to chronic cardiac nephritis. Police, who were investigating Mottard for his suspected involvement in a kidnap/adoption scheme, were suspicious and had Annie exumed. It was revealed that she had died from an abortion. Mottard admitted to having performed three abortions in his farmhouse outside Long Island, but denied having performed the fatal one on Annie. (Source: New York Times 4-10-25, 4-11-25, 4-12-25, 4-16-25, 4-17-25, 4-21-454-24-25, 4-25-25, 4-29-25, 5-5-25)

On July 19, 1925, 17-year-old Gertrude Wynants died of abortion complications. Mrs. Margaret Shott Hibbons was charged with manslaughter in the case. (Source: New York Times 7-30-25)

On February 16, 1929, Mrs. Ruth Weir, of East Orange, New Jersey, died at Orange Memorial Hospital of sepsis contracted through a criminal abortion. Dr. James R. Chamberlain testified that he had examined Ruth at her home and had admitted her to the hospital due to a septic condition. Dr. James Wilson testified that he had treated Ruth in the hospital during late January and that she was suffering from septicemia. Dr. Maurice Sturm was arrested when Ruth implicated him in a deathbed statement. Mrs. Frieda Sanger testified that Sturm had sent Ruth to her home to recuperate. Sturm admitted to performing the abortion, but insisted that it had not been illegal because it was necessary to save Ruth's life. The District Attorney claimed that Sturm failed to keep proper records, including concealing names and appointments of patients. Sturm, who was later acquitted of the manslaughter charge in Ruth's death, alleged during his trial that a judge had demanded bribe money from him to dismiss the case, but that $1000 he had given the judge was a gift and not part of the bribe money. (Source: New York Times 3-19-30, 3-31-30, 3-22-30, 3-26-30, 3-27-30, 3-28-30, 4-10-30)

In 1930, Marie Epperson died of suspected abortion complications. Two physicians in the University of Oklahoma area, J. W. Elsiminger and Richard E. Thacker, were suspected in the case. (Source: New York Times 4-29-32)

On April 14, 1932, Mrs. Isobel F. Ferguson died of suspected abortion complications. Two physicians in the University of Oklahoma area, J. W. Elsiminger and Richard E. Thacker, were suspected in the case. (Source: New York Times 4-29-32)

On April 15, 1932, Ruth Hall died of suspected abortion complications. Two physicians in the University of Oklahoma area, J. W. Elsiminger and Richard E. Thacker, were suspected in the case. (Source: New York Times 4-29-32)

On April 24, 1932, Virginia Lee Wyckoff, a 21-year-old student at the University of Oklahoma, died of complications of an abortion. Dr. J. W. Elsiminger, an Oklahoma City osteopath, was charged with murder in the death. (Source: New York Times 4-29-32)

On April 24, 1932, Mrs. F. S. Roach died of suspected abortion complications. Two physicians in the University of Oklahoma area, J. W. Elsiminger and Richard E. Thacker, were suspected in the case. (Source: New York Times 4-29-32)

On April 25, 1932, 17-year-old Mrs. Frank Lee, a University of Oklahoma co-ed, died of abortion complications. Dr. Richard E. Thacker, a surgeon, was charged with the death. Thacker was also charged for the abortion death of Robbie Lou Thompson, age 21, the previous week. (Source: New York Times 4-20-62)

In May of 1934, 19-year-old actress Annette Camorato, stage name Toni Morgan, died of abortion complications. Dr. Harry A Felice was charged with homicide in Annette's death. Felice, who was Annette's brother-in-law, was later released due to lack of evidence. (Source: New York Times 7-19-35)

On Christmas day of 1934, the nude body of a young woman was found in a thicket near a highway south of New York City. She had been dead between 12 and 24 hours. Laura and Joseph Devine, whose 19-year-old daughter, Loretta Wilson, had been missing since December 19, contacted authorities and were able to positively identify the body. Loretta had left home at noon on the 19th, telling the landlady that she was going to see a doctor. Loretta's family had reported her missing on the 20th. When an autopsy revealed the cause of death as abortion, Loretta's husband of two years indicated that he had not even been aware that Loretta was pregnant. Dr. John H. Becker Jr., who admitted to having examined Loretta on December 17, was charged with homicide in the death. He denied performing the abortion. (Source: New York Times 12-25-34, 12-26-34, 12-27-24)

On December 31, 1935, criminal abortion charges were dropped against Dr. Tobias Ginsberg, and his nurse, because of insufficient evidence. The two were suspects in the death of 24-year-old Mrs. Edith Eschrich. (Source: New York Times, 1-1-36)

Rose Lipner, age 32, mother of 2, died at Riverdale Hospital on January 29, 1936. Dr. Maxwell C. Katz, who lived at Riverdale (maternity) Hospital, which he operated, signed a death certificate indicating that Rose had been operated on for a tumor. After the funeral, an anonymous caller notified police that the death was suspicious, and Rose was exhumed for an autopsy. The medical examiner determined that Rose had died from an abortion. Katz was arraigned for second-degree manslaughter. (Source: New York Times 2-8-36)

On October 16, 1936, 26-year-old Katherine DiDonato, mother of two, was admitted to Roosevelt Hospital to be treated for complications of a criminal abortion. Katherine's husband reported that the abortion had taken place three days earlier. Detectives were told that Katherine had bought pills from drug clerk Hyman Kantor, who had then recommended Dr. Aloysius Mulholland to perform an abortion. Katherine died at 2 AM on October 23. Both Mulholland and Kantor were arrested and charged with homicide. (Source: New York Times 10-23-36)

On December 23, 1941, Dr. Samuel Roth was sentenced to a year in prison after pleading guilty to manslaughter in the illegal abortion death of a woman. Roth, whose license was suspended at the time, performed the abortion in his office on January 16, 1937. (Source: New York Times 12-24-41)

Dr. Charles I. Gordon pleaded guilty in the 1937 abortion death of a Newark woman. (Source: New York Times 7-31-42)

Eleanor Haynes, age 22, died at Hackensack Hospital in New Jersey on October 6, 1937, after indicating that Dr. P. Ralph McFeely had performed an abortion on her. Eleanor's fiancee claimed no knowledge of an abortion. McFeely, a school and police physician who was also president of the local PTA, said that although he was treating Eleanor for a "minor ailment," he had not performed an abortion. McFeely was not indicted due to lack of evidence. (Source: New York Times 10-7-37, 12-9-37)

On May 5, 1938, Mrs. Genevieve Horton, a practical nurse, pleaded guilty in an abortion case in Westchester County, New York. She was released on $1,500 bail. According to an indictment, after being released, Horton performed an abortion on 29-year-old mother of 3 Mrs. Asunta La Rosa, who died in her home later that evening. (Source: New York Times 5-11-38)

On October 13, 1939, the body of Barbara Hanson, age 21, was found in a Houston, Texas, motel room. James Carter and George F. Norton pleaded guilty to performing the abortion that killed Barbara, and each received a 5-7 year sentence. Barbara's boyfriend and another man pleaded guilty to accessory charges and were each sentenced to one year. (Source: New York Times 12-14-39)

On October 18, 1939, Miss Alice Corbett, age 28, of Brooklyn, New York, died from complications of an illegal abortion. Dr. Allen F. Murphy was sentenced to 2-10 years in Sing-Sing for Alice's death. (Source: New York Times 12-17-40)

On April 17, 1940, Mrs. Josephine Williams and her daughter-in-law, Mrs. Adele H. Sassen, were sentenced to prison for an illegal abortion resulting in the death of a Long Beach woman. The abortion was performed on April 16, 1939, and the woman died three days later. (New York Times 3-21-40, 4-17-40)

In late July of 1941, Mrs. Agnes Pearson of White Plains, New York died at Grasslands Hospital in New York of suspected complications from an abortion. Dr. Nathan Schwartz and Dr. Samuel Schwartz (not related) were charged with manslaughter in the woman's death. The charges were dismissed in 1946. (Source: New York Times 8-1-41, 5-9-46)

On September 16, 1941, 23-year-old Mrs. Helen Clark died from an illegal abortion. Mrs. Sarah Howe, blind since age 3 and under police surveillance as a suspected abortionist, was sentenced to a women's correctional facility for the abortion. (Source: New York Times 3-3-42, 3-6-42, 3-14-42)

On February 14, 1942, Florence Nimick Schnoor, age 24, died at St. Joseph's Hospital in New York of what the coroner called a "brutal and inept" illegal abortion. Florence, grand-niece of Andrew Carnegie and heiress to a Pittsburgh steel fortune, had eloped with Richard H. Schnoor, sergeant-at-arms of the New York State Assembly, nine days earlier. Her husband reported that he had taken her to White Plains so she could catch a train to New York for a day's shopping. Later that morning, she called and asked him to pick her up at the station. He found her obviously ill and asking for a doctor. He took her straight to the hospital, where she died three hours later. Doctors reported that Florence refused to discuss her case at all, much less implicate the abortionist, despite pleas from her husband. (Source: New York Times 2-15-42, 2-16-42, 2-17-42)

On March 28, 1942, 19-year-old Cleo Florence Moore died at New Rochelle Hospital in New York from peritonitis from an illegal abortion. Upon admission, Cleo told authorities that she had taken some pills to induce the abortion, but before her death she changed her story and said that Dr. Frank F. Marino had performed the fatal abortion. According to Cleo's roommate, Alice Petersen, Cleo met a man through her work, and discovered that she was pregnant in January. On March 5, Cleo visited Marino to arrange an abortion, which he performed at his home office on March 9. By March 11, Cleo was ill and summoned Marino, who sent her to the hospital with instructions not to inform anyone that he had operated on her. Alice also said that Dr. Marino's wife told her to protect her husband, lest "you and Miss Moore...go to prison." Marino testified that he had examined Cleo on March 5, refused the requested abortion, and did not hear from her again until the 11th, when he was summoned to her home and sent her to the hospital without reporting the abortion. Marino, who had been a member of the County Board of Supervisors, the New Rochelle Board of Education, and the New Rochelle Zoning Board of Appeals, was also a golfing buddy of the prosecutor of the case. Marino was acquitted. (Source: New York Times 3-31-42, 4-2-42, 4-9-42, 8-11-42, 9-10-42, 10-16-42, 10-20-42, 10-21, 42, 10-22-42)

On October 18, 1942, 23-year-old Harriet Lichtenberg of Brooklyn died in Royal Hospital, the Bronx, from suspected criminal abortion complications. Dr. Henry Katz was indicted for first degree manslaughter in Harriet's death. (Source: New York Times 10-28-42)

On November 18, 1942, 26-year-old Madeline McGeehan died at Prospect Hospital in New York after an illegal abortion. Arrested were Dr. Joseph Nisonoff; his nurse, Camille Ewald; his receptionist, Pearl Tense; and Dr. Max J. Weinstein, who was thought to have referred Madeline to Nisonoff. Nisonoff was out on bail after being charged with performing another abortion, which the woman survived. A man identified as Madeline's friend, Henry Elters, was held as a material witness. Nisonoff was sentenced to 5 years in State prison, and Weinstein was sentenced to the city penitentiary. (Source: New York Times 11-27-42, 12-1-42, 12-2-42, 12-3-42, 3-11-43, 4-1-43, 4-9-43, 1-21-45)

On February 14, 1944, Amelia Cardito, 34-year-old mother of 4, underwent an illegal abortion at the office of Dr. Anthony Renda. Amelia died nine days later in a New York hospital. Renda, author of three books on obstetrics, implicated himself when he called police to complain that the widower was shaking him down for funeral expenses. He was sentenced to 7 years in Sing-Sing. (Source: New York Times 4-1-43, 4-22-43, 4-21-44, 5-12-44)

At 11 AM on October 17, 1947, Dr. Paul Singer, a gynecologist, called police and reported that a woman had come to his office suffering from an incomplete abortion. He said that he had taken 22-year-old Jane Ward, heir to the Drake Bakeries fortune, to Park East Hospital, where Dr. Oswald Glasberg, a plastic surgeon, had helped him to complete the abortion. Jane died on October 28, and the autopsy confirmed the cause of death as criminal abortion. The baby's father, Eduardo Schneidewind, a trade promotion executive for a South American government, was questioned as a material witness but was never indicted. Dr. Alejandro Ovalle, an X-ray technician, was sentenced to one year after pleading guilty as an accessory, having profited from abortion referrals. Singer and Glasberg were sentenced to prison, where Glasberg committed suicide by poisoning. (Source: New York Times 11-15-47, 11-29-47, 3-26-48, 7-15-48, 11-5-48, 11-30-48, 12-30-49, 1-10-50)

On December 5, 1948, Dr. Cyril B. Babb pleaded guilty to performing a fatal abortion on Doris Becker the previous Wednesday in his office. Doris died 20 hours later at the apartment of a friend, Anne Martin. Anne and a bartender, George Kutrones, were held as material witnesses. Babb also admitted to performing 30 other abortions. (Source: New York Times 12-5-48)

Joyce Chorney, age 25, died Wednesday, November 18, 1953, and an autopsy at Bellevue Hospital showed that she had died of an induced abortion. 54-year-old Dr. Alfred Joseph was charged with criminal abortion in her death. (Source: New York Times, 11-22-53)

Operating on a tip, police, accompanied by an ambulance, broke into a private home at 2753 Sexton Place, in the Pelham section of the Bronx, on April 4, 1954. There they found Gertrude Pinsky, age 35, dead from septic poisoning from an illegal abortion. Police arrested Florence Cavalluzzo, a resident of the home, and Hugo Francese, an unlicensed physician. Later arrested were Jack M. Werner, owner of Werner Surgical Supplies, and Ignatius Cavalluzzo, Florence Cavalluzzo's son. Dr. Samuel E. Witt was charged with referring women to the abortion ring, evidently run by Dr. Herbert S. Wolfe. Four doctors were charged with referring women and receiving a $30 kickback for each referral: Joseph F. Pacelli, Abraham Cohen, Kalman Molnar, and Poon Lim. Francese and Florence Cavalluzzo were convicted of first-degree manslaughter in Gertrude's death. A police detective, found at the home at the time of the raid, was acquitted. (Source: New York Times 4-5-54, 4-6-54, 4-8-54, 6-18-54, 5-11-55, 5-10-55 & 12-12-56.)

Virginia Hopkins Watson, who had been on a record-setting relay swimming team with Ester Williams in 1939, and had herself set the world's fifty-meter record in 1938. She was 32 years old and pursuing a Hollywood career when she became pregnant in 1954. Deciding that a baby would hurt her career, Virginia arranged to have an abortion on November 18. Her husband learned of the pregnancy and the abortion a few hours before Virginia's death from peritonitis at General Hospital in Los Angeles, California. (Source: New York Times 12-1-54)

Jacqueline Smith, a 20-year-old fashion designer from Lebanon, Pennsylvania, moved to New York and took an apartment with two other women. She began spending more and more time at the home of Thomas G. Daniels, age 24, eventually all but moving in with him. In December of 1955, Jackie told Daniels that she was pregnant. Daniels did not want to marry Jackie and instead arranged for a scrub nurse, Leobaldo Pejuan, to perform an abortion at Daniels' apartment on Christmas Eve. After performing the abortion, Pejuan became alarmed at Jackie's condition, and summoned Dr. Ramiro Morales, who told him that Jackie was dead. Daniels and Pejuan cut Jackie's body into pieces and took it to Pejuan's home, where over the next several days they cut into as many as 50 pieces, which they wrapped in Christmas paper and disposed of in trash cans along side streets off Broadway, from 72nd to 80th. When Jackie's father arrived for a visit on December 30, he got Daniels and together they went to the police to report Jackie missing. Daniels told police that Jackie had gone into the bathroom and stabbed herself to death due to his refusal to marry her, and that he had dumped her body in the Hudson River. Police investigated, and found medical instruments in Pejuan's apartment. The entire story eventually came out, with Pejuan pleading guilty and testifying against Daniels. Pejuan was sentenced to 7 1/2 years in prison, and Daniels was sentenced to 8 years. (Source: New York Times, 1-12-56, 1-13-56, 1-14-56, 1-28-56, 5-30-56, 6-27-56, & 6-28-56)

On January 21, 1961, Dr. Mandel M. Friedman contacted a Queens undertaker, asking him to arrange burial for 23-year-old Vivian Grant of New York. Friedman told the undertaker that Vivian had died of a heart ailment. The undertaker notified authorities, who determined that although Vivian had not been pregnant, Friedman had attempted to perform an abortion on her, causing her death. Friedman was charged with homicide and falsifying a death certificate. (Source: New York Times 1-24-61)

Dr. Mandel M. Friedman was charged with homicide in the September 11, 1962 death of Barbara C. Covington, age 35, a Florida socialite. Friedman attributed Barbara's death to a heart attack and tried to get an undertaker to arrange a burial. The undertaker reported the case to authorities. A 31-year-old advertising executive, Franklin Charles Beck, admitted to securing the $1000 abortion fee and driving Barbara to Friedman's office. Friedman was on bail for the death of Vivian Grant at the time of Barbara's death. (Source: New York Times 9-13-62, 9-14-62)

Barbara Lofrumento, a 19-year-old college student, informed her parents that she was pregnant. Mr. and Mrs. Lofrumento cast about for a reputable abortionist and were referred by an acquaintance to Dr. Harvey Lothringer. Lothringer, a Princeton graduate, examined Barbara on June 2, 1962, and assured the parents that although Barbara's pregnancy was 5 months advanced, there was no danger. He arranged to pick up Barbara and her mother and took them to his office, which was in his home in a wealthy section of Queens. They arrived just after 3 AM on the 3rd. While Mrs. Lofrumento waited, Lothringer sent Barbara into a room where she removed her underwear and reported feeling unwell from the injection Lothringer had given her. Lothringer then took Barbara into his office and left Mrs. Lofrumento in his waiting room. At about 5 AM, Lothringer told Mrs. Lofrumento that Barbara was all right, but that she needed some oxygen. At 7 AM, he told her that Barbara was resting quietly, and that she should go home and get some rest. She could pick Barbara up at a rendezvous point at noon. He sent Mrs. Lofrumento to Grand Central Station, where he had arranged for her husband to pick her up and take her home. Instead, the couple went straight to Lothringer's home, where they found no sign of Lothringer or their daughter. They went home and repeatedly called Lothringer, getting no answer. The next morning they returned to Lothringer's home, where they found several patients waiting outside. No one had seen Lothringer. Mr. Lofrumento waited for several hours, then went home, and contacted the police to report Barbara missing. Later that day, Lothringer called a policeman who was a friend of his, telling him that he was away on business and asking him to call Roto-Rooter about the stopped-up toilet and to let them into the house. The Roto-Rooter man found the toilet backed up, partially flooding the bathroom, and more water in the basement. Investigating the main house drain, the Roto-Rooter man found the source of the problem -- pieces of bone and flesh. The off-duty cop called the police, and an investigator took the tissue to be examined. Soon the authorities had workers digging up the sewer lines from Lothringer's house. They found pieces of Barbara, her clothing, and her baby. The largest fragments were only a few inches long. Barbara had been dismembered and flushed down the garbage disposal and the toilet. Barbara's parents identified the clothing fragments, and Barbara's orthodontist identified a section of jaw with the teeth still in it along with several isolated teeth. Lothringer, who had already been under surveillance for suspected abortion activities, appeared to have fled the country, accompanied by a Cuban-born former stewardess who was serving as his receptionist. An international manhunt was launched, with Lothringer eventually being extradited from France. He plead guilty to second-degree manslaughter in Barbara's death and was sentenced to 2 years. Barbara's mother reportedly screamed and fainted when she heard of what she considered a light sentence; Barbara's father called it "discount justice." But Lothringer's lawyer reported receiving numerous calls from Lothringer's woman patients, in support of the doctor. It is unclear whether Barbara bled to death or died of an embolism. (Sources: Autopsy, by Milton Helpern, and New York Times 6-8-62, 6-11-62, 6-12-62, 9-13-62, 9-14-62, 10-31-62, 12-6-62, 5-22-64, 7-23-64)

Queens patrolman Howard Bailey, morgue attendant Victor Genz, and a Texas medical student, Benjamin Lockhart, were arrested in the December 4, 1965 abortion death of Rita Shea, a 33-year-old Long Island woman. Lockhart confessed to performing the abortion in a motel room near Kennedy airport. After Rita died, her body was put in a car outside her home. Bailey, a married man, had evidently arranged the abortion to keep his affair with Rita a secret. (Source: New York Times 12-19-65, 12-26-65)

In February of 1968, Nancy Ward flew from Oklahoma to Kansas city with her boyfriend for an abortion Nancy's father had arranged. Nancy and her boyfriend visited Dr. Richard Mucie at his ear, nose, and throat clinic. Mucie examined Nancy and told the couple that he would contact them at their hotel. At 11PM Mucie called and arranged to pick them up and drive them to his clinic. During the abortion, Mucie made a 1/2 inch tear in Nany's uterus. Nancy went into shock and died at the clinic. An autoppsy revealed parts of a 4 1/2-month fetus still in Nancy's uterus. Mucie was convicted on June 8, 1968, of performing an abortion "not necessary to preserve the life" of the mother. He served 14 months then was released on parole. His medical license was revoked on May 4, 1971. After Roe v. Wade overturned Missouri's abortion law, Mucie successfully appealed his conviction and got his license restored. (US District Court, Western District of Missouri, Western Division Civ. No. 73CV497-W-3)

From Back-Alley Butcher to Abortion Provider: The Adventures of Jesse Ketchum
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