Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Jesse Harding Pomeroy


Jesse Pomeroy was taken into an interrogation room and surrounded by six police officers who peppered him with questions. Where had he been all day? Who had seen him? Did he know Horace Millen? How had he gotten those fresh scratch marks on his face?

Jesse stood up to the barrage for some time, denying any knowledge of the crime and offering explanations for how he spent his time. His story contained large expanses of time that he could not account for, but he gave detailed descriptions of what he had seen and done during other times. Most importantly, however, he was unable to offer up an alibi for his movements between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m.

The officers carefully examined their suspect. He had what appeared to be marsh grass stuck to his shoes, which were covered with mud. Taking off his jacket and shirt, Jesse stood before the authorities in his flannel undershirt. On the front was a reddish-brown stain about the size of a thumbprint. The police confiscated the evidence.

"How'd you scratch your face?" an officer asked.

"Shaving," came the reply.

Jesse hesitated when they asked if he owned a knife, but then admitted he had one at home. A sergeant was dispatched to the house to find it and returned a short while later. The knife, with a three-inch blade, was clogged with dirt and there appeared to be dried blood on the handle.

As the coroner left with the weapon to see if it fit Horace Millen's wounds, Jesse was taken to a cell, where he promptly fell into a peaceful slumber.

The next morning, detectives set out upon the fens with Jesse's boots and Horace's shoes in an attempt to place the boys at the crime scene and other places leading to it. Of course, Horace's footprints could be found at the swale, and a meandering trail of prints, one large, one small, led back toward the railroad tracks.

Employing what would eventually be standard police procedure, the detectives tracked the prints to a place called McCay's Wharf, where they used plaster of Paris from a bricklayer's shop nearby to make casts of the prints.

"As soon as the plaster was sufficiently dry, we lifted the casts out carefully," wrote Detective James R. Wood in his account of the case. "There was a peculiar indentation on the plaster sole impression of one of the larger footprints. Further examination satisfied us that those prints could have been made by only one pair of shoes.

"Those were the shoes we had taken from the feet of young Jesse Pomeroy."

Armed with the evidence that Jesse had at least been present at the crime scene, the officers rushed back to the South Boston precinct and awoke the 14-year-old prisoner for additional questioning.

Displaying a sociopath's typical cool demeanor in such a situation, Jesse continued to deny involvement.

"We're putting you under arrest for the murder of Horace Millen," announced Capt. Henry Dyer, who just months before had supported Jesse's parole from Westborough and who had days before, dismissed Mary Curran's pleas to bring in Jesse Pomeroy for questioning in the disappearance of her daughter.

Jesse remained calm.

"You can't prove anything," he said.

Dyer told him they could link him to the crime scene and then suggested that if Jesse was innocent, he would not object to going to the funeral parlor to view Horace Millen's body. Jesse hesitated, then said he did not want to go. No matter, Dyer said, ordering Detective Wood to take Jesse down to the undertaker's.

Confronted with the fruits of his crime, Jesse broke down and admitted killing Horace Millen. Then, his next statements to police indicated he had no concept of how serious an offense he had committed.

"I am sorry I did it," he wept. "Please don't tell my mother."

Detective Wood asked Jesse if he knew what would happen to him now.

"Put me somewhere, so I can't do such things," he said.

With a suspect in custody and a confession, the East Coast press trumpeted the news of Jesse's guilt. There was no concern for libel or the concept of innocent until proved guilty. In fact, there was no talk of anything even remotely resembling mercy for a youthful killer who was clearly psychologically troubled.

"The boy Pomeroy seems to be a moral monstrosity," proclaimed the Boston Globe. "He had no provocation and no rational motive for his atrocious conduct. He did not know the little lad Millen at all, but enticed him away, and cut and hacked him to death with a penknife merely for sport."

In typical knee-jerk reaction, the parole system came under fire and the press blasted any public official who had anything to do with Jesse's early release.

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