Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Jesse Harding Pomeroy

Arrest and Conviction

Like so many other serial killers who are caught by a seemingly simple twist of fate, Jesse Pomeroy's first arrest occurred almost by accident. The Boston police were convinced that it was only a matter of time before the Boy with the Marble Eye turned from sadist into homicidal maniac. The Boston police conducted a classroom-by-classroom search of the Boston school system with the victims of Marble Eye in hopes of getting lucky and finding the sadist.

On Sept. 21, 1872, the police came to Jesse Pomeroy's school with Joe Kennedy and went from room to room with the principal. Kennedy was unable to identify his assailant in any of the classrooms and Jesse Pomeroy narrowly avoided detection.

Lipstick killer, William Heirens, in jail (CORBIS)
Lipstick killer, William
Heirens, in jail (CORBIS)

For an unknown reason, on the way home from school that very day, Pomeroy walked into the South Boston police station where detectives were once again questioning Joe Kennedy. Since Jesse never expressed much remorse during his life for his crimes, it is unlikely that Jesse was overcome by pangs of guilt. A more likely explanation is that he was engaged in some sort of game with the police. Other sociopaths have been known to beg police to catch them before they kill again, like the Lipstick Killer, William Heirens, who scrawled a plea for help to his pursuers in lipstick on a mirror in the room of a victim. Perhaps Jesse wanted to be caught, knowing that what he was doing was wrong, but he was powerless to stop himself.

Joe Kennedy and the officer who had accompanied him were in the police station when Jesse entered. Jesse quickly reversed course and headed out the door and down the street. It was too late. Kennedy had seen Pomeroy from across the room and excitedly pointed him out to police who scrambled after Jesse and caught him before he had gone more than half a block.

They locked Jesse in a cell in the station house and questioned him. Schechter reports that the questioning was tough and intimidating, but Jesse stuck to his claim of innocence. After several hours of leaning on the boy, police gave up and left Jesse to ponder his fate as they contacted his mother.

The police left Jesse alone to cool his heels in the dark cell until after midnight when they woke him to try again to force a confession. The officers threatened him with a 100-year jail term unless he admitted his crimes. At that threat, Jesse broke down and confessed to the crimes.

Justice was swift.

The next day, Jesse Pomeroy was taken to the main Boston jail where his victims each confirmed that he was the boy who had molested them. That afternoon, Jesse was brought before a magistrate, and each of the victims again recounted his tale. Ruth Pomeroy took the stand in defense of her son. He was a good boy, she wept. He was obedient and hardworking. She didn't mention the incidents with the family pets.

Jesse also testified in the hearing, offering only the meekest excuse for his acts.

"I couldn't help myself," he said, hanging his head in shame.

The juvenile justice magistrate wasted little time rendering his decision. He ordered Jesse to be held in the House of Reformation in Westborough until he was 18.

The newspapers reported that both Jesse and Ruth Pomeroy were in tears as he was led away.

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