The murder of Carrie Brown in New York, on April 24th, 1891, led to a great deal of newspaper speculation that Jack the Ripper had now moved to America.
During the hunt for the Whitechapel murderer, in 1888, the New York Police had been extremely critical of the English police for their inability to catch the perpetrator of the crimes, and had openly boasted that they would have no problem catching the man responsible were the crimes to occur in New York.
Thus, with the murder of Carrie Brown possibly being the work of Jack the Ripper, the New York Police felt that they had to live up to their boasts of three years ago, and the race was on to solve the crime.
As The Philadelphia Times reported, on Monday, 27th April, 1891, they had come up with a promising suspect within a few hours of the murder being discovered:-
THE RIPPER IDENTIFIED
INSPECTOR BYRNES SATISFIED THAT HE KNOWS THE MURDERER
HIS WHEREABOUTS UNKNOWN
“An Algerian Known Only As Frenchy No. 2 Among the Outcasts of New York’s Slums Positively Proved To Have Been Old Shakespeare’s Companion On The Night She Was Murdered.
“Frenchy No. 2,” the Greek, is doubtless New York’s Jack the Ripper.
Inspector Byrnes is confident on this point, and the combined central office detective forces of Brooklyn and New York are scouring the purlieus of the two cities in search of the murderer.
Today new evidence was discovered which settled the identity of the murderer.
Although the man has been in the county only a few months, which makes the theory that he may have some connection with the Whitechapel crimes, not a mere impression formed on the similarity of the crimes, he is pretty well known to the habitues of the Cherry Hill District.
HE ACCOSTED CARRIE BROWN
On the night of the murder, he was seen to accost old Shakespeare, the victim, on the corner of Jamaica and Cherry Streets.
This was at 8 o’clock.
An hour later they were in Greek George’s place, on Oliver Street, where they ate oysters and drank several bumpers of beer.
A quarrel arose in the place between the couple, and when they left on a suggestion from the wrestler.
“Frenclly No. 2” had threatened the old harridan with a clubbing.
Outside, however, they patched up a truce, it would appear, for, when they entered another resort a block away they were very peaceable. Here they drank more beer and became noisy.
After a time, Mrs. Finnegan, the proprietress of the place, who is a fearless Irish woman with a muscular right arm, ordered them to take their departure. They demurred and a baseball bat expertly wielded was brought into play.
An hour later they entered the East River Hotel, with the ghastly result that has already been related.
THE MURDERER’S MOVEMENTS TRACED.
How Frenchy made his exit from the hotel without notice is still puzzling the police.
Today, however, it was learned that he appeared at his lodgings on Myrtle Avenue, Brooklyn, at 6 o’clock on Friday morning – the morning after the murder – changed his clothes and disappeared.
He was a cobbler by trade, and kept his tools at his lodging place.
Frenchy No. 1, his cousin, who is now in custody, lived there with him.
“No. 1” has thus far been able to resist Inspector Byrnes’ pumping process, and he refuses to say anything about his cousin.
He has admitted, however, that he occupied room 33, directly opposite 31, where the murder was committed, on the same night.
But, when questioned as to whether his cousin was old Shakespeare’s companion, he maintained an immovable silence.
He is a man of a low order of intelligence and, by his reticence, he has convinced the Inspector that the cousin, or “Frenchy No. 2,” is the man wanted.
THE SUSPECT’S BAD RECORD
Frenchy No. 2 is an Algerian by birth and is as tough a man, from all descriptions, as could be imagined.
He was introduced to the Cherry Hill by his cousin. and has been seen often in the vicinity.
He was in company with another of the crew of rouged outcasts, “Dublin Mary,” on Monday night last.
Mary Miniter, the housekeeper of the East River Hotel, is still detained at police headquarters. Her description of Frenchy No. 2 is most accurate.
From her, Inspector Byrnes learned of Frenchy No. 1’s presence in the hotel on the fatal night, and it was upon this information that he was placed under arrest on suspicion.
He has served time for biting a woman named Mary Lopez in the arm. This was done in the same hotel about three months ago, in the room adjoining that in which the murder was committed.
HIS CAPTURE HOURLY EXPECTED.
Inspector Byrnes stated tonight that the murderer would be captured before many hours had passed. He does not think it possible that he has shipped on any outgoing vessel. All vessels sailing during the past few days have been closely watched by the detectives.
It wasn’t possible for the man to sail as a first or second class passenger as he was known to have little or no money.
He is believed to be hiding in Brooklyn, or to have taken refuge as a farm hand down on Long Island.
Inspector Byrnes declines to accept the theory that Frenchy No. 2 is connected with the Whitechapel crimes. He offers no explanation to the fact, however, that Frenchy has been in this
country for a period which corresponds with the interval between the last butchery in Whitechapel and the almost similar murder in New York.
As has already been stated, a portion of the woman’s anatomy is missing, and that this detail was noticeable in the London crimes is regarded as significant by those who adhere to the belief that some connection between the crimes will be established.
The body of the woman will be buried tomorrow.”
THE WRONG FRENCHY
As it transpired, the police were, in fact looking for the wrong Frenchy, as the one they had in custody soon turned out to be a person of great interest.
The Philadelphia Inquirer, reported on this latest development on Friday, May 1st, 1891:-
NEW YORK’S RIPPER CAUGHT
“Old Carrie Brown’s Murder Fastened By The Police on “Frenchy.” Blood Stains Found on His Clothing, Body and in His Room, He Entered Her Room After Her Companion Had Gone And In A Fit Of Rage Or Jealousy Strangled And Slashed Her.
The police authorities have finally decided upon Frank Sherlick, or Frenchy No. 1, as he is known in the low haunts of the Fourth Ward, as the murderer of the unfortunate old woman, Carrie Brown, who was found brutally butchered in room 31 of the East River Hotel, on Catharine street, last Friday morning.
Frenchy was arrested on Friday night by Detectives Doran and Griffin, of the Oak Street station, and he has been in custody ever since, while Inspector Byrnes and his men have been weaving a strong chain of circumstantial evidence against him.
The facts upon which Frenchy is charged with the murder are practically the following:-
A TRAIL OF BLOOD
Shortly after 10 o’clock on Thursday night Frenchy hired room 33 on the top floor of the East River Hotels diagonally across the hall from room 31, in which the body of the murdered woman was afterwards found.
The woman came to the hotel about 11 o’clock with an unknown man as a companion.
They were shown to room 31, but it is now known that the man remained there only a short time. He was seen to leave the hotel before midnight.
When the detectives early last Friday morning were called in to examine the room where the murdered woman lay, they found blood spots leading toward the door. These were carefully followed. They led across the hall and into the room numbered 33. The detectives continued their examination and found more blood stains on a chair, on a blanket and on a bed ticking.
That was evidence enough.
When the prisoner was searched at the station house the police found that the lower half of his flannel shirt was fearfully bloody. On his shoulder was a blood stain, which looked as if it had been made by the laying on of a bloody hand. Even his socks were bloody.
His hands showed traces of the stain, but they had been washed.
When human blood gets under the fingernails it is impossible to clean it all out, s0 Inspector Byrnes had the spaces under Frenchy’s fingernails scraped out.
CHEMISTRY TO THE RESCUE
Here is where the medical man became a valuable aid. He examined the scrapings for blood corpuscles, and, what is more, he found them.
This was Monday.
By this time the police were feeling pretty confident, but they were looking for the man who went upstairs with Carrie Brown.
A MAN OF VILE HABITS
Frenchy was a man whose habits were so vile that even the depraved and sodden wretches of the Fourth Ward slums refused to have anything to do with him.
He was a brute, and Inspector Byrnes says he hasn’t the brains of a monkey.
He would bite a woman as a dog would bite a piece of meat.
That was his character.
HOW THE MURDER WAS COMMITTED
The man who went up to room 31 with Carrie Brown went out before 12 o’clock.
After he had gone, Frenchy crossed the hall; it was only a step to the other room.
What passed between them is a mystery still, for now Frenchy has relapsed into a state of silence, and by signs announces that he can neither speak nor understand English.
When he left there was a dead body on the bed and blood was soaking through the mattress upon which it lay, down through the slats and to the floor, where it made little stagnant pools.
How the woman was killed is well enough known. The vicious brute slashed and left her dead.
It is hard to tell how or when he got out of the hotel, but when he did leave he seems to have made no attempt to run away. He remained in the neighborhood and was caught only a few blocks from the hotel.
HIS OPPOSING STATEMENTS.
He was questioned closely and asked to account for the blood on his clothing.
He first started off in a rambling story of how he had gone to Jamaica Street with a woman.
He said he had been locked up in the jail at Long Island City and upon his release had got the blood on himself accidentally.
He told many stories, in every one of which women figured.
All of the stories were investigated. Some of them were partly true, and some of them were beautiful specimens of a fertile imagination.
As far as the stories of the blood were concerned, they were all false, and there was but one conclusion to arrive at. It was that he had killed the woman.
The blood found upon him was subjected to microscopic examination and found to be human blood. There could be no doubt on that point.
“That is the outline of the story,” said the doctor who told it. “Inspector Byrnes, to my mind, is the greatest detective that ever lived. He has worked unceasingly, night and day, on this theory since the murder was found out, and the way in which he has ferreted out and followed every straw that pointed a way to the end is something simply marvellous. Out of a muddle of utter confusion, without bottom or any single apparent fact to it, he has shaped in my sight an awful arraignment of the murderer, which he can never escape.
INSPECTOR BYRNES’ CORROBORATION
Inspector Byrnes, at first reticent about the matter, finally admitted:- “We have had the man under arrest from the first.
We found blood upon his clothes and elsewhere, and two physicians of the Health Department have worked with us off and on for three days trying to establish by microscopical test whether it was human blood or not. It was human blood.
That is all I can tell you. The facts will come out in full at the inquest.”
“And has your prisoner made a confession?”
The Inspector evaded a direct answer. “I haven’t had a conversation with him enough for that,” he said.
HIS NAME WAS BELIEVED TO BE FRANK SHERLICK
Frenchy’s correct name, as far as is known, is Frank Sherlick and he is said to be a Greek by birth. He speaks very little English and is a well-known character in the vicinity of the hotel where the crime was committed.
He has always been considered a dangerous man and the women who frequent the low saloons and dance halls in the Fourth Ward have always been in dread of his ferocious temper.”
GIVEN AN ATTORNEY
With Frenchy number 1 now being charged with the crime, he was appointed an attorney to represent him, and, as The Brooklyn Daily Eagle reported, on Sunday, May 3rd 1891, that attorney was somewhat dismissive of the police’s case:-
THE DEFENCE OF FRENCHY NO. 1
“His Lawyers Declare That It Will He Easy To Prove His Innocence.
The legal firm appointed by the court to defend the Algerian, Frenchy No. 1, against the charge made by the police of New York that he murdered old Carrie Brown in the East River Hotel, devoted most of yesterday afternoon to the interests of their client.
The firm is Levy, Friend and House. These are three prominent young lawyers and they are enthusiastic in this work that has been assigned to them.
HIS LAWYER’S OPINION
After Mr. Friend had devoted much time to the prisoner yesterday, he said to an Eagle reporter, “I would be ready to go to trial on Monday morning. The case against this man is very weak. In fact, I cannot see that they have made out any case against him at all.
The witnesses Inspector Byrnes has have told several stories. and it seems that they have at last hit upon a story which makes it appear that this unfortunate man is guilty. How will they appear when placed on the witness stand and are subjected to cross questioning?
Two criminals say that Frenchy once had a knife like the one found in the room in which the old woman was found murdered, and all the other witnesses are reported to have told various stories.”
THE OTHER FRENCHY AS A WITNESS
“Will Frenchy No. 2 be called as a witness for the defence?”, asked the reporter.
“He may be. The man arrested by Chief Murphy of Jersey City is, I believe, Frenchy No. 1, and he answers the description given of the man who entered the hotel with Old Shakespeare – the man Inspector Byrnes first said was suspected of having committed the murder.”
“What will be the defence?”
“I do not consider that it would be in the interest of the prisoner to outline the defence now, but I will say that the cross-questioning of the witnesses for the prosecution may make the strongest defence. I do not see that there is anything upon which this man can be found guilty,”
INSPECTOR BYRNES WAS GUARDED
Inspector Byrnes refused to say anything about what, work he is now doing on the case.
When asked if he still hoped to find the man who accompanied the old woman to the hotel he said, “We won’t have to travel a long way to get him.”
“Where is he?” asked the reporter. The inspector did not answer, but said:- “I have had but one opinion since I first heard of this murder.”
“What is this opinion?”
“I will not tell.”
The inspector refused to say anything more.
CARRIE BROWN’S EARLY LIFE
Undertaker Smith of Salem, Mass., wrote some details of Carrie Brown’s early life to Deputy Coroner Jenkins yesterday.
The new points in his letter were the statements that she was 56 years old, was born in England of Danish parents, who were John and Mary Montgomery. She left her husband fifteen years ago.”
FRENCHY SPEAKS OUT
The Rochester Daily Republican, on Monday, May 4th, 1891, published the following article giving details of the accused’s reaction to being classed as New York’s Jack the Ripper;-
CLAIMS HE IS INNOCENT
“Frenchy Objects To Being Called A Ripper – Inspector Byrnes at Fault.
Frenchy, the man indicted by Inspector Byrnes’ announced discoveries to be the murderer of Carrie Brown, talked today about the charges against him for the first time, and, when seen, vehemently protested his innocence.
He says that when he arrived in New York eight months ago he got work or begged wherever he could and lived in Brooklyn.
He admitted that on the night or the murder he passed the night in the East River Hotel, but he protested his innocence of the murder of “Shakespeare.”
His lawyer said that from his observations he did not believe that “Frenchy” was an idiot, a maniac or a desperate criminal. His firm intended to see that the man had all his rights. They were somewhat hampered so far by inability to communicate freely with the prisoner.
A REGULAR CUR
The manager of J. W. Boyle’s oyster business, at the foot of Beekman Street, says that “Frenchy” worked for him moving baskets of oysters about the docks.
“He wouldn’t hurt nawthing,” was the manager’s comment.
“He was a regular cur. You could go up to him and hit him in the face and he would turn around and run. He never murdered that old woman – he couldn’t murder a fly.”
From the general comment, it was evident that Inspector Byrnes has strained a point in endeavouring to fix the crime on Frenchy.”
HIS NAME WAS AMEER BEN ALI
By mid-May, 1891, it had been discovered that the accused’s name was, in fact, Ameer Ben Ali, and it was under this name he was indicted for Murder In the First Degree on Monday, 18th May, 1891.
At his subsequent trial, he was found guilty of the murder of Carrie Brown, and was sentenced to life in prison.