Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Chit-Chat Over Coffee Swirls (17)

Topic: The Dr. Harvey Burdell Murder Case

The murder of Dr. Harvey Burdell was New York's most sensational case during the 1850's. Dr. Burdell was stabbed 12 times by his murderer or murderess. He was found in the master bedroom of his bond street home by a young boy who came each morning to make a fire in the fireplace. The evidence of blood was everywhere. As the police pressed their investigation, it seems that no one had a good word to say about the departed wealthy dentist. At the time of his murder there were three other people living at the Burdell Mansion. Mrs. Emma Cunningham, who became a prime suspect when she suddenly laid claim to a widow's portion of Burdell's estate, stating she had married him secretly a short time before his murder. She even produced a rather senile minister to attest to the marriage. Then there was John J. Eckel, who rented a room in the house, who was elated that Dr. Burdell was dead.The other tenant was George Snodgrass, who was the son of a Presbyterian minister. a shy and effinate looking young man. He also seemed pleased that Dr. Burdell was dead. In the investigation it seemed that Dr. Harvey Burdell owed a great deal of money to John Burke, the crookedest gambler in town. John Burke had to be scratched off the under suspicion list, since he had an alibi at the time of the murder, so the only ones left were the three mentioned above.The prosecutor, A. Oakly Hall, who later became the most dishonest District Attorney, in the history of New York City, didn't have a strong case against any of the three, he decided that they should all be charged with the murder. According to the facts, the doctors said that the murder was committed by a left-handed person. Mrs. Cunningham or Mrs. Burdell, who was pregnant , was left-handed and so she states due to give birth to the deceased's child. This was her proof to lay claim to the Burdell fortune. Since there was no direct evidence linking her with the crime, she was released on a not-guilty verdict. Mrs. Cunningham's doctor was suspicious of her pregnancy, since she didn't let him examine her. He told his suspicions to the District Attorney that he felt she was stuffing herself with cushions to give the appearance of a pregnancy. In the meantime Mrs. Burdell, purchased a new born baby at $1000, passing it off as her own. Since she was already acquitted of the charges, the Burdell case remained unsolved becoming a subject of the media from time to time. (9)

Sources Utilized to Document A Little Taste of History

For more information on this murder case, please read the following articles, located in the Crime and Consequences section of Dr. Harvey Burdell Murder Case
and The Murder of Dr. Burdell.


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