Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Jesse Harding Pomeroy

Katie Curran

Six weeks after Jesse Pomeroy was paroled from Westborough, on March 18, 1874, he was opening up his mother's dressmaking shop and his brother's newsstand, which were located across the street from his home on the 300 block of Broadway in South Boston. It was shortly after 8 a.m. and children were getting ready for school.

A sometime employee of the store, a youth about Jesse's age, showed up as Jesse was finishing sweeping the store and was talking with Jesse. The boy, Rudolph Kohr, earned spending money by running errands for the Pomeroys.

As the boys talked, ten-year-old Katie Curran, dressed in a black and green plaid dress, ragged overcoat and scarf, entered the store.

"Do you have any notebooks?" she asked Jesse. Katie had a new teacher in her school and was excited about getting to class that day. With her mother's permission, she had run out after breakfast to get a new notebook for school. Katie was expected home at about 8:30 a.m. to take her younger sister to school. Katie explained that she had already been to one store nearby and they were out of notebooks.

Jesse said he had one notebook left, but it was marred by an ink spot on the cover.

"I'll let you have it for two cents less," he said, his one good eye taking in Katie's appearance.

Jesse asked Rudolph if he would run to the butcher's for scraps to feed the cats and, taking a few coins from Jesse, Rudolph left the store.

"There's a store downstairs," Jesse said to Katie.  "There might be some there. Let's go look."

Katie nodded and they started down the cellar stairs. Reaching the bottom, she took a couple of steps into the cellar before she realized she had been tricked.

By then it was too late.

"I followed her, put my arm around her neck, my hand over her mouth, and with my knife cut her throat," Jesse would later confess. "I then dragged her to behind the water closet, laying her head furtherest up the place, and I put some stones and some ashes on the body."

The confession, which would not come for some time, left out several details that emerged after Katie's body was found. Her head had been completely severed, and the decomposition of her upper torso made it impossible to say what other wounds had been inflicted. Katie's dress, slip and undergarments had been sliced open in the front.

The most disturbing remnant was the savage brutality by which Jesse attacked the girl's abdomen and genitals.

When he had finished, Jesse heard his brother enter the store. He washed his hands at a pipe in the water closet and ran upstairs. He then went back to work as if nothing had happened.

Naturally, Katie Curran's disappearance caused concern in the neighborhood. Within the hour, her mother, Mary, was out in the streets searching for Katie. It was unheard of for the girl to wander off and she rarely let her children out of her sight. She went first to Tobin's General Store, and the proprietor said that Katie had been there and left disappointed because Tobin's had no notebooks.

"I sent her over to Mrs. Pomeroy's," Thomas Tobin said.

That news almost caused Mary to faint. She had heard of Jesse Pomeroy and feared the worst. Passing the police precinct house on her way to the Pomeroy store on Broadway, Mary Curran stopped in and saw the precinct captain. The man reassured her that Jesse Pomeroy was not a threat to Katie Curran.

"I understand he was completely rehabilitated in reform school," Captain Henry Dyer said. "Besides, he only hurt little boys. He never attacked a girl."

The police sent Curran home with a patronizing tone, telling her Katie had just gotten lost and within a day authorities would be bringing her home. A day passed. As the word spread about the girl's disappearance, Rudolph Kohr told Mary Curran he had seen Katie in the Pomeroys' store.

Again she went to the police.

"The Kohr boy is a known liar," Dyer said. "But I will send Detective Adams over to the shop to look around. Don't worry, Mrs. Curran."

Adams visited the Pomeroy's store and was met by an unfriendly Ruth Pomeroy. She knew nothing of the body in the basement, but she was aware that the neighborhood was abuzz with gossip about Jesse. Angry that her boy was being accused again, she curtly agreed to let Adams search. As he expected, Adams found nothing amiss in the store.

As the weeks passed, the police continued investigating every lead, including the speculation that Katie's father had shipped the girl off to a convent. She was the product of a Protestant-Catholic marriage, and in a Protestant town like Boston, anti-Catholic feelings ran deep.

When a credible witness came forward and swore he saw Katie being lured into a wagon, police ostensibly closed their investigation, concluding the unlucky girl had been kidnapped.

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