Lynching of Peter Klein, who Committed
the Outrage on Mrs. Truesdell.
He Makes a Full and Circumstantial Confession,
and is Identified by His Victim.
The Jail Broken Open, and the Man Hung
During a Fierce Snow Storm.
Mayor Harton Wounded—Incidents of the Exciting Event.
At last the toils of the law have closed around the inhuman, lustful wretch whose treatment of Mrs. Caroline Truesdell, in the Highlands back of Newport, Ky., has aroused universal indignation. Every man who has a female relative for whom he has any natural feeling will breathe freer, and every woman whose honor is dear to her will rejoice that such a crime shall not go unpunished.
The villain, after committing his terrible crime, returned to this city and went to the house of his mistress, on Rittenhouse street, the same day, where he incautiously displayed the watches he had stolen from the Truesdell house. She informed an officer of this fact last Tuesday, and the latter came to Newport and informed Chief Cottingham, giving a description of the fellow, which closely coincided with that of the man wanted. Just about this time came that positive dispatch from Aurora, Ind., which, coming upon the heels of the other, excited in the minds of the officers the hope that the villain was found. The Kentucky officers gave the name of the suspected man, Peter Klein, and told the Cincinnati police officers that if he was not the man they would be informed, and when the Kentucky officers came back the Cincinnati authorities were told that the real offender was not yet found. Two private citizens, John and Michael Popp, who live on Providence street, next door to a sister of Klein’s, were set on the watch for him, and through their agency his capture was finally effected by Officer Effing, of the Oliver Street Station.
A carriage containing Klein, Officer Effing, and Chief of Police Cottingham, drove up to the front of the Court House in Newport about 8 o’clock Saturday evening. The prisoner was quickly run into Chief Cottingham’s office and the door locked. Getting a receipt for the valuables found in the prisoner’s possession, Officer Effing returned to Cincinnati, and the arrested man was taken to jail.
When the man was confronted with Chief Cottingham in the Ninth Street Station House, the latter told him that he was the man who committed the outrage on Mrs. Carrie Truesdell, in the Highlands last Friday week, and if he was he had better confess, and save the risk of being taken out to the Highlands, from whence he would never return alive. He replied that he was the man, they need not take him out.
When arrested, a silver watch and a lady’s gold chain were found upon him. The watch was described by Mr. Truesdell, husband of the outraged lady, in the presence of the Newport police, and tallied with the appearance of the watch. To a reporter Klein made the following confession:
“My name is Peter Klein. I am unmarried, and fifty-two years of age, and reside in Cincinnati with my brother-in-law, Adam Painter, who is a brick mason; that is also my business. On last Friday week, about 6 o’clock in the morning, I left Cincinnati and crossed over the Newport Railroad Bridge to Newport. From there I went to the Highlands, I stopped at a lady’s house, but I don’t know what I asked her. I left, and was gone a few minutes, when I returned and asked her where her husband was. She said he was in the field working, and would be in the house in a little while. I told her that was not so, that I had met him going to town. I then asked her for a drink of water, and when she attempted to get it for me I knocked her down with my fist. I first hit her on the side of the head, and then struck her in the stomach with my fist. I did not kick her. I then dragged her in a room and had intercourse with her. She fought me as hard as she could. I told her she was the strongest little woman I ever saw. I also told her that if she would give me $10 I would go away and leave things just as I had left them. She said she did not have any money. This was just before I succeeded in outraging her. I then tied her hands to a bench, her head being underneath it. I also tied her feet to a doorknob. I did the tying with the strips of a sheet I had taken off the bed and torn up. I then ransacked the house, pulling bureau drawers out and throwing their contents on the floor. The only things I took from the house were a gold watch and chain, a silver watch, a Mexican dollar, and a small amount of change. After this I went where the woman was laying tied, and told her goodby and to get loose if she could. This happened early in the morning. I then went straight back to Cincinnati the way I came, and have been here since. I have never read any account of it in the papers. I shaved my mustache and side whiskers off the day I did it. I don’t know what made me do it. I must have been drunk. I drank a pint of whisky that day.”
A posse was sworn in at midnight by Deputy Sheriffs Reid and Clary, and Deputy Sheriff Cottingham to guard the jail, and every precaution taken to prevent messengers from carrying the news into the country.
The news spread rapidly, and a large mob gathered before the Court House early yesterday morning. Hon. G.G. Perkins, Judge of the Criminal Court, and W.W. Cleary, Commonwealth’s Attorney, addressed the mob, promising that if they would disperse, the man should be taken before the Circuit Court the next (this) day, a Grand Jury impaneled, and that his indictment and conviction should follow within forty-eight hours. The penalty of his crime is death, they said, and it would be better to allow the law to take its course. The crowd answered, “Too thin; are you sure Mrs. Truesdell will live; she can’t be taken to Alexandria.” The Sheriff telegraphed to Gov. McCreary for troops, and the latter sent back a very disheartening reply.
The policemen, regular and special, managed to keep the crowd out of the Court House yard, promptly arresting all who attempted to incite the mob to violence. Attempts were made to get the mob in the Highlands to promise that Klein might be taken to the Highlands and brought back in safety, but it was found to be impracticable.
The crowd had been dispersed by the storm of the afternoon. Previous to the setting in of the storm crowds of 200 and 300 people were gathered at the market house near the jail, at the southeast and southwest corners of York street, and at various places along York, Monmouth, and Saratoga streets, all the way to the cross streets leading into the Alexandria pike. These knots of people endured the snow as long as they could, but finally gave way. Appearances go to show, however, that they did not go to their homes, but simply dropped into places where they could keep warm, and be on the alert for any alarm that might occur. About five minutes before 6 o’clock, the expected alarm was given in a most unexpected manner. It is necessary to say that people who visited the Highlands in the afternoon found everything as quiet as if nothing had occurred. A few people, perhaps a dozen, were gathered at Truesdell’s house. Those who were met on the road spoke bitterly concerning the outrage, but gave no indication of an intention to visit the city. This solemn silence was only a mask for the real designs of the people, for at just ten minutes before 6 o’clock in the evening, as near as the time could be deciphered from watches, looked at in the excitement of the moment, the sound which aroused the people of the city, a sharp yell which would have done honor to a Confederate regiment in the late unpleasantness, came. Then some frightened man began to ring the Court House bell. The yells were repeated in rapid succession, and all the streets leading to the Court House were crowded by people, who ran and shouted as if the affair was one of mere amusement. These alarms indicated the fact that the crowd of men from the country had arrived in the city. This company, who numbered perhaps 250, walked into the Court House yard at the York street entrance, and proceeded directly to the fence surrounding the jail. The general supposition among the citizens seems to have been that the entrance would be made at the double gate which opens toward the marketplace. So the people gathered in this open space. While they were looking at these gates, the men who had the business in hand were working quietly on the other side of the jail yard, completely hidden from observation. They visited the dwelling of the Jailer and obliged the family to deliver up the keys. With these, they opened the doors leading to the inclosure.
Upon entering the yard, they were met by Mayor Harton, who attempted to force them back. The crowd were so numerous, however, that remonstrance was useless. They answered by yells, and finally threw his Honor into the snow. This contempt for the chief officer of Newport must have been expressed in a very emphatic manner, for when the Mayor walked out of the yard he had an ugly scratch along the right side of his face from his cheekbone down to his chin, and appeared to have received a blow in the face. With the keys in their possession it was a thing of but a moment or two to open the jail, identify the prisoner, and drag him to the open air. But by the time the leaders had made their way into the place from the east side, the crowd who had been surging about on the market place forced the double gates at the southwest corner, and poured into the inclosure like a flood. This mass of excited people only went into the yard to make a sudden exit. As they rushed back, somebody cried out: “They’ve got him! They’re going through the yard.” The people, men, women, and children, dashed off through the snow toward York street, some through the open gateway, some over the fences, and the rest in a more leisurely manner by crossing into Bellevue street and so to the top of the hill. The mob, with the prisoner in their midst, marched in close order to the street, and forming, without a word from anybody, proceeded south on York street. The majority were on foot, but several of the leaders were on horseback. Citizens of Newport, Covington, Dayton, and Bellevue, who had come into the city to see the conclusion of the affair, gathered in the rear as the procession went along, so that when the leaders had passed through Williamson street nearly to the entrance of Sandy lane, the last of the followers had barely left the Court House. As the men were walking generally four abreast, and in as close order as possible, there could hardly have been less than 1,500 in the procession who accompanied Klein to his death.
His execution was a certainty. The circumstantial evidence was very strongly against him; his own hesitating confessions, which he repeated and denied alternately, were thought to fix his guilt beyond the shadow of a doubt; and finally his nervous manner is talking seemed to indicate that he was conscious of having committed some great crime. A curious fact about the man was that he could not muster up courage at any time to deny that he was the man who had done the deed for which he was imprisoned. Yesterday after noon the reporter of the Gazette, in company with Sheriff Reed, called on the man in the jail. Reed showed him a band of strong muslin, with which the woman had been tied. It had been left with a slip knot, just as it was taken from her wrists. “Do you recognize this piece of muslin?” said one of the party. “Can’t say that I do,” answered the prisoner, “I’ve been talked to to much to-day that I can’t tell anything about it.”
“Where did you learn to tie a knot so strong as that?”
“I don’t know.”
“Was this what you tied the woman with?”
“I don’t know what I tied her with.”
“Did you tear up a sheet?”
“And you tied her with the pieces?”
“Yes. But I don’t know anything about it.”
Such conversations repeated from mouth to mouth had a tendency to weaken the man’s chances. Then the long walk by a lonely road into the country, and the excitement of such an errand, would be likely to render the crowd mandatory in their calls upon their leaders. It is probable that the majority of those who lived in the towns would not have pursued the game to the death, had they suspected beforehand the actual length of the trip. At the outset they called to the leader and asked, “What are you going to do with him?” and had received the reply, “Going to have him identified, if we don’t hang him before we get out to Truesdell’s.” So, in the hope that the hanging might occur at any moment, the crowd pressed on through the storm, with the snow under foot, in a darkness almost thick enough to be perceived by the sense of feeling.
Tibbatts street opens into what is known as the Water Works road. The latter is a thoroughfare, not much traveled which suffers from the lack of improvement. There is barely room for a single vehicle along most of the road, and even this narrow track is rough beyond description. The procession, at first, appeared to be in some doubt as to the proper road to choose, but finally settled upon the road just described. To have gone by the Alexandria pike would have insured a large addition to the crowd. This fact constituted an objection which weighed heavily with the leaders of the mob, who were anxious to have the affair managed as quietly as possible, and who were conscious that they had now as large a following as could be managed with safety. Another reason for taking the byroad was that it was much the shorter way to the Truesdell house. This path having been chosen by the leaders, the crowd trudged along obediently. Occasionally one or two would fall out of the ranks disgusted, and turn back toward home. At first there were many boys along with the mob. Most of these got tired during the first mile or two and dropped back. The most astonishing effort to keep up with the chase was that of a lame man, who walked with his cane and with the assistance of a friend all the way from the city to the foot of the fatal tree. Half way out he tried to get a “lift,” as the saying is, from the persons who were fortunate enough to be in buggies and wagons. Though unsuccessful in his applications, he was not discouraged, as was seen by his presence at the execution.
In the darkness it was possible to discern only the mere black, sinuous line of the mob winding about between the hills, across ravines, and finally rising step by step to the summit of the narrow table land known as the Highlands of Campbell County. The round topped hills with their covering of snow stood out white and misty against the dense clouds in the sky. Certainly no more somber picture ever stared a poor fellow in the face on his way to the gallows.
The mob went on very quietly through the whole journey except for an occasional yell at the head of the column, which was repeated down the line and re-echoed in the hills with fiendish distinctness. Articulate language was confined to savage oaths at the length of the journey, and inquiries as to the future duration of the tramp. At last there was a general halt. Word was passed along the line that the Vigilance Committee would take the man to the house, and have him identified, and if he was found to be the man, then he should be brought back where all could witness his execution. The word was, “Wait at the cross roads and go no further, if you are gentleman.” Accordingly the long line of foot passengers and vehicles paused at the crossing, while a delegated committee followed the prisoner and his self-constituted guard to the house of the Truesdells.
Arriving here, the villain was brought to the bedside of his victim. Here his brazen impudence fairly took the breath of his hearers away. “Do not,” he said, “try, lady, to identify me before daylight.” “There,” Mrs. Truesdell responded, “I should know that voice. You are the man!” As several men had been previously brought before her whom she at once pronounced innocent, this spontaneous testimony of his guilt was all the evidence the crowd wanted. They at once hauled the fellow out of the house, and with screams and yells of the most blood curdling sort dragged him to the place of execution.
From the place where the greater portion of the mob stopped to the house is a distance of nearly a mile. The long period of waiting put everybody in a bad humor. As a result, there was at last a general rush toward the house. The people were met on their way by the committee who had already announced by yells the success of their investigation.
“Where are you going now?” asked members of the crowd.
“Down to that big tree over Bill Southgate’s spring,” answered the leaders.
The crowd scattered, making their way along the lane, over the fences and through the fields. In a trice they were gathered about the tree in question. A small man climbed nimbly into the tree and passed the rope over a limb. Suddenly somebody ran into the crowd and said: “Here, I’m the captain of this crowd; you can’t hang this man here.”
“Why can’t we hang him here?” somebody inquired.
“Because you haven’t got him. You come with me, if you want to see this job done right.”
The crowd of men who were by this time laughing, smoking, chatting, and swearing as though they were at a fox hunt, obeyed this peremptory command implicitly. Half a mile further they came to a tree alongside the road on Jim Southgate’s farm. They wanted to see how the job was done, and so they obliged the man who climbed the tree to take a lantern with him; and, not satisfied with that, they built a fire on the opposite side of the road. The red glare showed that a crowd of not less than seven or eight hundred persons were crowded in the narrow road. After much wrangling and profanity, the rope was slung over the limb and the noose fixed on the neck of the prisoner. The latter, who had already passed through all the horrors of death, had apparently reached a stage of utter carelessness as to what happened. He refused to have his eyes bandaged and looked around on the crowd with a coolness which drew rough commendations from many of the crowd. Suddenly some one called out. “Silence, let the man speak for himself.”
“Have you anything to say to the crowd?” asked the leader, when the preparations were completed.
“Nothing,” answered Klein.
“Didn’t you commit this crime?”
“No, I did not,” was the answer, as determined as the first.
“What about the woman’s identifying you?” asked the leader, anxious to wring a confession from the man.
“She makes a mistake,” rejoins Klein. “I am not the man. It was another man who looks like me, named Albert Jones. He and I were on the hill together, and he did it.”
“Then why did you make the confession that was published in the papers this morning?”
“I made that confession because I did not want to be taken on the hills. I thought that I would then be tried by process of law, and I do not think it is right to punish me in this way without law.”
“This is law,” returned the leader; “it is Kentucky law.”
With that word the wagon on which he stood was driven off and the man fell with a jerk. His death was very easy. A slight quiver of the muscles took place and all was over.
MRS. PAINTER’S STORY
Upon receipt of the news of the hanging of Klein, a Gazette reporter visited Mrs. Adam Painter, who resides in the rear of No. 28 North Providence street. Mr. Painter is a bricklayer, and the family is said by the neighbors to be very respectable people. Despite the relationship between the two, the sister seemed to know but little of her brother’s doings for a long term of years, saying that “he was a bad egg,” and had been for a long time. He was born at Lawrenceburg, Indiana, and was about forty-six or forty-seven years of age. He had been married, but his wife was dead, Mrs. Painter thought; at all events had not been heard from for some years. Peter was a brickmaker by trade, though he had followed it in a desultory way only for some years, having been in trouble for his lawless propensities several times. He was discharged from the Ohio Penitentiary on the 24th of February, and the next morning, about 2 o’clock, called at the house of Michael Popp, in whose house his sister lives, and was directed there. He visited the place frequently since then, but made no great stay at any time. To them he stated that he was working in a restaurant, but did not say where, nor did they care to inquire. Since the outrage on Mrs. Truesdell was committed he had been at Mr. Painter’s but once till Saturday afternoon, when he came to the door, but was met by his sister, who told him she did not want him there any more, and he left.
The day after the outrage he was in the saloon next door to Painter’s, showed a gold and a silver watch, a Mexican dollar, and some other money, and treated the crowd in the saloon. While in there someone read in his hearing the account in that morning’s paper of the outrage on Mrs. Truesdell, but Klein seemed to pay no more attention to it than did any other listener, making no comments that are remembered. When it was suspected that he was the guilty party the two sons of Michael Popp, John and Michael Popp, jr., were notified, and kept a lookout for his reappearance. When he came back on Saturday afternoon, Kittie, their younger sister, saw him, and ran into the saloon and called in her brother, who was in there, “Here’s that man!” He came out the door in time to see Klein walk across the street and disappear in the alleyway of a house. He followed; his brother, who was driving an ice wagon, came up at that instant, and jumped off the wagon and went down Providence street to Oliver, and thence to Central avenue, where he met Klein and his brother, the three reaching the corner at about the same time. They stopped Klein and told him to consider himself under arrest. He made no resistance, and exhibited no trepidation, but asked if they had a warrant. They replied they had, and when he asked to see it, told him they would show it when they got to Oliver Street Station, to which place they proceeded and turned him over to the officers in charge.
When the reporter was about taking his leave Mr. Painter inquired if there was “any news from Klein to-night.” The reply was that a short time before the news had come that he had been hanged in Newport for the outrage committed on Mrs. Truesdell. There were four persons besides the reported in the room, and for a quarter of a minute no one moved or spoke. Then his sister, Mrs. Painter, said: “Well, if they have hung him it’s all right, I reckon; I don’t care. If he had no more sense than to act that way he couldn’t expect anything else.” No one exhibited any emotion or seemed to be surprised, the only regret expressed being by a neighbor woman, who said that in such cases there was an odium cast on the relatives of the criminal and said that in the present instance it was undeserved.
HOW THE CAPTURE WAS MADE
In the conversation with the Gazette reporter last night, Officer Effing gave the following account of how he obtained the clue: “When the description of the man was published, after the outrage, I met Ex-Sergeant Westendorf, now a sanitary policeman, and he told me he believed the guilty man was Pete Klein, whom he arrested and sent to the penitentiary. I knew Klein, and saw that the description answered, so I began at once to follow the case up. I found that Klein was at his sister’s house on Providence street, last Monday, and that on Monday night he was in a saloon on Liberty, near Elm, where he showed two watches, a gold one and a silver one, which he said some one had given him to get fixed. He had also shown the watches to his sister and had been quite liberal in treating his friends. In the saloon where he showed the watches one of the men read aloud an article about the outrage, but Klein did not show any uneasiness. Soon after, however, he went away, and when I looked for him he had left the neighborhood, and I couldn’t find out where he had gone.
“I then told John and Michael Popp, who live next door to Adam Painter, Klein’s brother-in-law, to look out for him, and to let me know if they could; otherwise, they should take him straight to the station house, and, if he resisted, I told them they should beat him till he gave in.
“Yesterday (Saturday) afternoon Klein came to the house of his sister, Mrs. Painter, and at 3 o’clock the Popp boys captured him and took him to Oliver Street Station.”
BETRAYED BY A WOMAN
Although Officer Effing tells the above story in very direct terms, there is good reason to believe the one referred to in the beginning of this article, which, it is said, Effing and other officers are reticent about because they desire to shield a woman which whom Klein has been living. The story is given on good authority, -------------------------, Klein had committed the crime he returned to this city, where he soon after went to this woman’s dwelling, on Rittenhouse street. He showed her the watches which he had taken from Mrs. Truesdell’s house, and told the whole story of how he had obtained them. The woman quietly conveyed the information which put Officer Effing on the track.
Inspector Reilly immediately telegraphed to Chief Cottingham, of Newport, who came over to see the prisoner. In the meantime Klein had been transferred to Ninth Street Station, and there Chief Cottingham saw him and heard the first confession. The threat of being taken to the Highlands seems to have been the spur which drove the villain to a confession, his idea being that, if he confessed, the authorities would hold him in safe confinement so that the mob could not reach him. This explanation he made use of before he was hanged, when he was asked why he confessed.
To others, on Saturday afternoon, he said that he was not guilty. On his person was found a silver watch with a lady’s gold neck chain. He was asked how he came by the watch, and answered that he bought it from a man named Albert Jones, whom he met on Fourth street near Elm. This story, taken in connection with his words just before he was hanged, indicates that the fellow had in view a plan to relieve himself by charging the crime to this fictitious personage, Albert Jones.
On Saturday evening, when Officer Effing and Chief Cottingham took the prisoner in a hack to the Newport Jail, Officer Effing said to him on the way:
“Pete, how long is it since you broke out of the penitentiary?”
“Oh, you’d give any man away,” was the retort.
“Well, you see I know you, for I arrested you at that time. Didn’t you break out of the penitentiary?”
“Yes, I did,” growled the prisoner. “You fellows would give any man away.”
Arrived at the Newport Jail, Klein repeated his confession to the Chief and to Officer Effing as he gave it afterward to the reporter.