Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Jesse Harding Pomeroy

The Boy Fiend

The process of justice moved slowly in Jesse's case, even though it was never out of the newspapers for long. There were stories about Jesse's confession, his family, his past crimes, there were completely bogus stories purporting to be interviews with the defendant the press had dubbed "The Boy Fiend," and there was even a faked "autobiography" of Jesse Pomeroy that admitted his foul deeds.

Shortly after Jesse's arrest, the coroner held an inquest which determined Horace Millen's cause of death and established that authorities had probable cause to charge Jesse Pomeroy with the murder. Before the inquest, Jesse had an opportunity to meet with attorneys and the few supporters he had and recanted his confession. When he was called to the stand in the inquest, he denied everything and recounted a much more convincing story of how he spent the day of April 21, 1874. The evidence against him, however, was sufficient to warrant the charges and he was indicted for first-degree murder.

The penalty in Massachusetts for murder was death by hanging, but the state had never executed anyone as young as 14-year-old Jesse Pomeroy. Massachusetts, however, had never had anyone as young as Jesse commit such a heinous crime. So even before he went to trial there was some discussion about what should happen to the boy fiend.

For Ruth Pomeroy and her son Charles, things were bad on the outside. They lived in close proximity to the Millen and Curran families (and although Katie Curran's body had not been found, Jesse was the prime suspect on the street). Business at the Pomeroys' shop fell off drastically, as the only people who ventured in were curious onlookers who wanted to see where the boy fiend had worked. Ruth Pomeroy didn't make life easier for herself, for she continued to insist on Jesse's innocence and blamed the grieving families for her son's fate.

A little more than a month had passed since Jesse's arrest when it became clear that the Pomeroys would have to shut down the store. Vacating the building across Broadway from their home, Ruth Pomeroy and her son continued trying to eke out a living with little success.

Unfortunately for them, their former co-tenant in the building across the street was enjoying great success in his business and decided to expand. To do so meant that the basement of Ruth Pomeroy's former shop had to be refurbished. It didn't take long for workmen to find the remains of Katie Curran, now foul with the odor of decay.

Whether it was due to the workmen's shovels or Jesse's rage is unknown, but Katie's head was severed from her body. Her upper torso was further along in the decomposition process than her lower extremities, so it was difficult to see how badly she had been hurt. Her genitalia, however, had been a particular target of her murderer, who in his brutality had almost completely dissected them from her body.

There was no need to wonder who had committed this atrocity. The only question left to solve was whether his family had known of his acts. Ruth and Charles Pomeroy were taken into custody as accessories to murder. Another reason for their confinement was to protect them from the crowd which had gathered on Broadway and was crying for vigilante justice.

Confronted with the news of the discovery and of his family's arrest, Jesse seemed unperturbed.

"I don't know anything about it," he said, shrugging.

The detectives gave Jesse two days to think over what had transpired and then returned to give him a final opportunity to clear his mother and brother. It was then that Jesse confessed to killing Katie Curran. He recounted the murder, step by step, in chillingly sharp detail, noting that his mother and brother had absolutely no knowledge of the homicide until the day Katie's body was found.

When he was asked why he killed the girl, Jesse gave a blank look and said, "I don't know." Then he paused, appeared to see something in his mind and replied, "I wanted to see how she would act."

The coroner's inquest was quick and to the point. Katie had been murdered and the likely suspect was Jesse Pomeroy. Now he stood accused of two murders. It looked all the more likely that 14-year-old Jesse Pomeroy would be the youngest person ever executed in the state of Massachusetts.

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