Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Jesse Harding Pomeroy

The Marble Eye

Keeping with his 60 to 90 day cycle, Jesse struck next in mid-July of 1872, luring an unwary seven-year-old to the outhouse on Powder Horn Hill with the promise of two bits for running an errand. The assault was similar to previous ones: the boy was stripped, bound, whipped and beaten until Jesse achieved orgasm. Then, promising to kill the boy if he left the outhouse, Jesse fled into the swamps.

By this time, a $500 reward was posted for information leading to the arrest of the "fiendish boy" who committed the "diabolical outrage," according to the Boston Evening Transfer. The anger stirred by the lurid press accounts and the $500 bounty prompted vigilantes to begin patrolling the streets of Chelsea in an effort to find the miscreant who was torturing the city's young boys.

"It is a good thing for the inhuman scamp that his identity is unknown just now," the Boston Globe wrote in a late July editorial.

It was just a few days after the Globe's editorial that Ruth Pomeroy decided to move her family from Chelsea to less expensive accommodations across the Chelsea Creek in South Boston. Schechter surmises that she suspected her younger son was connected to the assaults, but throughout her life, Ruth Pomeroy demonstrated the fiercest loyalty to Jesse, refusing to believe that her boy was capable of the monstrous crimes for which he was imprisoned. It is just as likely that she moved her two children away from Chelsea for economic reasons. Still, when she saw that the boy torturer had moved his operation from Chelsea to South Boston at the same time her family relocated, she must have suspected something.

A sickly seven-year-old, George Pratt, was wandering along the South Boston shoreline looking for treasure when he was approached by an older boy who offered him 25 cents to help him with an errand. Like Jesse's last victim, the thought of how much candy two bits would buy must have clouded Pratt's judgment, because he agreed to accompany Pomeroy and ended up being bound and tortured.

"You have told three lies," Pomeroy told the cowering, naked child before he beat him with a leather belt.

Pomeroy escalated his violent attack, this time biting a chunk of flesh from Pratt's cheek and tearing at the boy's skin with his fingernails. He then took a long sewing needle and began stabbing deeply into the child's body. Finally, he tried prying open Pratt's eyelid to stick the needle into the boy's eye, but Pratt managed to roll over onto his stomach.

Apparently sated, Jesse left the youngster alone and fled, but not before biting another piece of flesh from George's buttocks.

This last attack was clearly the work of a demented mind, and the police rounded up every "feeble minded" youth they could find in the city, but none of the victims could pick their attacker from the lot. The city roiled with anger at the police, and the vigilantes stepped up their patrols.

Jesse's next two assaults showed his further descent into depravity. Less than a month after he molested George Pratt, Pomeroy kidnapped and assaulted a six-year-old boy named Harry Austin who was stripped and beaten like Pomeroy's previous victims. This time, however, Jesse didn't stop at just beating the boy with his belt. With his victim bound helplessly, Jesse took out his pocket knife and stabbed the child under each arm and then between his shoulders.

As Austin lay writhing beneath him, Pomeroy then knelt down and tried to cut off the boy's penis. But Pomeroy was disturbed in his assault and fled before he was able to finish the job.

The attacks increased in ferocity and frequency, despite police attempts to find the attacker. Just six days after Austin was attacked, Jesse lured Joseph Kennedy, seven, to the marshes near the bay and viciously beat him. Like Austin, Kennedy was attacked with a knife and then Jesse forced the boy to kneel and "ordered him to recite a profane travesty of the Lord's Prayer, in which obscenities were substituted for Scripture," according to Schechter.

When Kennedy demurred, Jesse slashed the boy across the face with his knife and dragged him to the waterfront and washed his wounds with salt water.

Six days later, a five-year-old boy was found lashed to a post near railroad tracks in South Boston and told about an older boy who lured him to the remote area with a promise to see soldiers. When they were alone, the boy stripped and beat him and slashed his head with a knife.

As Pomeroy placed the edge of his knife against the boy's throat, he was startled by approaching railroad workers. Pomeroy fled. The boy, Robert Gould, gave police their first good lead in the case. He described his attacker as a large boy with an eye like a white marble.

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