Domestic Murders

Among the 201 death sentences imposed in Allegheny County history, fifty-seven were imposed on defendants, all of them men, who killed their intimate partner or, in some cases, the object of their infatuation. All of the victims were girls or women.

In thirty-eight cases, the victim was the wife or ex-wife of the defendant. In nine cases, the victim was the girlfriend, fiancee, or mistress of the defendant. In eight cases, the victim was an object of infatuation not involved in a relationship with her killer. In one case, the victim and the defendant were involved in an incestuous relationship. In five cases, one or more children were also killed in the attack.

Thirty-seven of the defendants were white and twenty were Black. Nine of the Black defendants (45%) were executed, as were 22 (59%) of the white defendants. Eight Black defendants (40%) were released from death row, as were 12 (32%) of white defendants. Two others, both white, committed suicide on death row. Four remain on death row.

Those who were executed include:

Thomas Dunning, who killed his wife, Catherine Worthington, while garrisoned at Fort Fayette in 1792. His execution in 1793 was the first in Allegheny County history.

Christian Jacoby, who killed his wife, Lena, to marry his mistress while passing through Pittsburgh as part of his family’s immigrant journey west, in 1858.

David Evans, who killed his wife, Louisa Varner, for reasons apparently related to financial stress, also in 1858.

James McSteen, who killed his wife, Mary Toole, in a jealous rage in 1882.

Dennis Cloonan, who killed his wife, Bridget Skahill, in a drunken rage in 1892.

George Schmous, who killed his wife, Catherine, and two children, Mary and Maggie, in a scene of Dickensian squalor and degradation, in 1893.

Daniel Werling, who killed his wife, Barbara, after a long and well-documented history of shocking violence, in 1894.

Albert Woodley, who killed his fiancee, Jennie Buchanan, when she threatened to end their relationship, in 1894.

Joseph Orosz, a recent Hungarian immigrant who killed fellow immigrant, Teresa Bobak, after she rejected his marriage proposal, in 1896.

Zenas Anderson, who killed his wife, Pauline, not long after having been released from prison for shooting a man involved with his wife, in 1898.

William Wasco, who, much like Orosz, was a Hungarian immigrant who killed fellow immigrant Anna Sestak after she spurned his advances, in 1899.

William Patterson, who killed Alice Warner, a sex worker with whom he had become infatuated, in 1899.

Charles Davis, who killed his wife, Birdie, after a long history of violent discord led her to separate from him, in 1901.

John Conroy, who killed his much younger wife, Margaret, in defense of his own infidelities, in 1902.

Joseph Chanosky, who killed his wife, Mary, in a particularly vicious assault in the grinding poverty of a coal mining company town, in 1903.

Nicholas Glazner, who killed his girlfriend, Margaret Hall, after learning she was involved with another man, in 1903.

Albert Dabrydino, a Polish immigrant steelworker, who killed fellow immigrant Mary Mucynska after she refused to marry him, in 1903.

Cornelius Combs, who killed his former landlady, Mary Elizabeth Dickerson, with whom he was infatuated, after a long, well-documented, and largely legally ignored series of assaults, in 1905.

Dowling Green, who killed his wife, Jennie Tillman, after she attracted the attention of another man, in 1906.

Norris Holmes, who killed the object of his infatuation, Nancy Miller, in 1907.

William McDonald, who killed his wife, Bessie Hyslop, when he discovered her relationship with another man, in 1907.

Steve Rusic, who killed his landlady and object of his infatuation, Galvarra Domboy, in 1910.

John Tyrie, who killed his wife, Mary Emery, in the last of many fits of drunken rage, in 1910.

Martin Kristan, who killed his wife, Mary, from whom he was separated, after learning she was involved with another man, in 1914.

Henry Webb, who killed his wife, Mary Ellen, after she threatened to leave him due to their financial straits, in 1915.

Bernard McAneny, who killed his wife, Margaret, and their adopted daughter, Mary Elizabeth, after a long period of discord related to the adoption, in 1921.

Walter Troy, who killed his wife, Marie, in a desperate financial scheme, in 1921.

John Daily, who killed his wife, Catherine (Spozarski), due to her alleged infidelity, in 1922.

George Prescott, who killed Fern Thase, with whom he was having an affair, in 1924.

William Blackwell, who killed his common-law wife, Eleanor Edwards, and Richard Parker, with whom she was involved, in 1937.

Those whose death sentences were commuted to life sentences include:

William Smith, who killed his wife due to her alleged infidelity, in 1889. He was the first Black man sentenced to death in Allegheny County not to be executed

James Newton Hill, who killed his lover and former partner’s wife, Rosa Rotzler, after she refused to loan him money, in 1893.

James McMullen, who killed him wife, Elizabeth, in a drunken rage amidst abject poverty and despair, in the last hours of 1894.

Anthony McGowan, a mean, violent, and hard-drinking man, who killed his wife, Sarah, in the last hours of 1897.

William Hillman, who killed 14-year Bertha Spiegel after her grandparents forbid him to see her anymore, in 1898.

Angelo Jackson, who killed his girlfriend, Gertrude Nichols, due to jealousy, in 1905.

Julius Moten, who killed his wife, Mamie Wheeler, as the fatal culmination of a long-term abusive relationship, in 1910.

Joseph McGill, who killed his wife, Dolly Brown, during a fight, in 1912.

Andrew Malinowski, who killed his estranged wife, Helen Zagorski, after she refused to reconcile him due to his abusiveness, in the first hours of 1914.

Charles Scherer, who killed his much younger wife, Bertha Banks, due to her alleged infidelity, in 1918. It was not the first time his jealousy had fatal effects.

Anton Weber, who killed his wife, Mary Kiem, in a scene of financial and personal despair, on the last day of World War I.

George Pritchard, an already-married man who killed the object of his infatuation, Fairy Bell Walker, in despair over her inattention, on New Year’s Eve, 1921.

Joseph Diano, who killed his wife, Nancy, after she had refused reconciliation and filed for divorce due to his abusiveness, in 1923.

Warren Scott, who killed his wife, Frances King, after a particularly vicious assault that ended their violent marraige, in 1923.

Lester Welch, who killed his wife, Annie Exline, in a scene of shocking violence and depravity, in 1926.

Bernard Ross, who killed his estranged wife, Eva Mae Boston and her son, Daniel Boston, after she began living with another man, in 1961.

Frederick Mayhue, who killed his wife, Harlene Grimes, in an effort to protect his financial assets and financial crimes from exposure to their pending divorce, in 1986.

Gary Starr, who killed his 20-year old daughter, Wanda, as the culmination of their twisted, mutually exploitive, incestuous relationship, in 1988.

Timothy Boczkowski, who killed his wife, MaryAnn, as part of a life insurance scheme, in 1994. Her murder exposed a similar scheme in the killing of his previous wife, Mary Elaine, in North Carolina in 1990.

Connie Williams, who killed his wife, Frances, ending a marriage made contentious by infidelity and drug abuse, in 1999. Williams had served a previous sentence for murder.

Two domestic murderers died awaiting execution:

Frederick Reidel, a man with a long history of violence, who killed his wife, Margaret, in 1846 and committed suicide on the morning of his hanging in 1847.

Michael Ruminski, who had a record of prior arrests for assaulting his wife and was implicated but not charged for killing his infant son, killed his wife, Johanna, in 1898. He committed suicide in the Allegheny County Jail in 1899.

Remaining on death row are:

Anthony Fiebiger killed his girlfriend, Norma Parker, in 1989. Arrested in 1998, he confessed to that murder and to the 1982 murder of Marcia Jones. He has been on death row since 1999.

Gerald Watkins killed his girlfriend, Beth Ann Anderson, their infant daughter, Melanie Anderson, and her son, Charles Kelly, after she refused to marry him and continuing a relationship with another man, in 1994. He has been on death row since 1996.

Wayne Mitchell raped and killed his former girlfriend, Robin Little, after learning she was in a relationship with another man, in 1997. He has been on death row since 1999.

Kenneth Hairston killed his wife, Katherine, and his son, Sean, in 2001. Hairston confessed that the killings were committed to protect his family from the disgrace of his pending trial for raping his daughter. He has been on death row since 2002.

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