Monday, November 18, 2013

Who Was The Beautiful Stranger? Part 2

Continued from Part 1. - Who Was The Beautiful Stranger?

"Sometime soon after speaking with Gomer and West, Lottie had managed to go down to the drug store again and spoke to Mr. Fisher. 
“On Monday afternoon she came in again, and walked up and down the floor, and looked as though she was still suffering. I said, "It seems too bad for you to go over in town and you suffering from neuralgia in this stormy weather. " She said, "I am compelled to go. I forgot my checks, and I have got to go over and identify my trunks, personally. " She went out, and that was the last I saw of her until I saw her dead, lying on the steps."--T.J. Fisher.

On Monday afternoon, November 28th, Lottie ventured out to the Gaslamp quarter in San Diego’s downtown district.  The December 1, 1892, edition of the San Diego Union stated that Lottie took the electric motor to San Diego, also mentioning that she was so weak and frail that the conductor had to lift her off of the car. Based on the timeline that most people go by, it is assumed that Lottie first went to the ship chandlery store and spoke to Frank Heath, inquiring on how to purchase "cartridges" for a revolver, and that he told her to go to Chick's gun shop in order to find what she needed. But after looking carefully at the inquest report, I found that the times are off by an hour. 

Also, it seems strange that she would inquire about purchasing cartridges, when she hadn’t even purchased a gun yet, nor did she ask him about purchasing one. If we are to go by the times stated in the report, it shows that Lottie first visited N.D. Nichol’s gunsmith shop, where Martines Chick was employed. According to testimony by Chick and an eyewitness,  she arrived at the shop between the hours of 3 p.m. and 4 p.m. in the  afternoon.  After purchasing a .44 caliber bulldog pistol and two bits worth of cartridges, she inquired how to load and discharge the weapon, even asking if it was hard to pull the trigger. Chick showed her how easy it was, and she tried it. 

 W.P. Walters, who was in the store at the time, agreed that he saw a woman, who appeared to look just like the deceased, who had come into the store and inquired about buying a pistol. His testimony seemed to fit with Chick's testimony about her being there at that time. Walters claimed that he was concerned by the quiet demeanor of the lady and that she may use the pistol to hurt herself. He noticed her well enough and seemed so concerned about her that he asked the man outside the doorway if he had seen where she went from there.

"She went south on Fifth Street, and I stepped to the door, and asked a gentleman who was standing at the door where she went and he said she had went into the Combination, he thought. I stopped there a few seconds, and then I saw her go straight diagonally across to Schiller and Murtha's, and that is the last I seen."-- W.P. Walters.

According to the San Diego Directory, the ship chandlery store was located at 614-622 Fifth Street, and Schiller and Murtha's was located on the Southwestern corner of Fifth and H Street (where Market Street is now). That is the very same corner and same side of the street that the chandlery store was located. More than likely both business were probably next door to one another, therefore it could have been easy from where he was standing, to think she went into Schiller and Murtha's when in fact she had walked into Heath's store. 

 But if Lottie went into Heath’s store after she had already purchased a gun and ammunition, that leads us to another question. What was the real purpose of her visit to that particular shop? And furthermore,  if she went to the gun shop first, where she purchased a pistol and two bits worth of cartridges, why in the world would she visit Frank Heath’s shop to ask if he sold pistol cartridges, too?

According to the San Diego Directory, Frank Heath lived at 1560 Union Street in San Diego, not 1516 Union as the inquest had recorded.  Heath claimed that the woman who fit the description of the deceased had visited his shop on Monday afternoon between 4p.m. and 5 p.m. 

“She asked me if I kept revolver cartridges...I told her we did not, and directed her where she could get them...She came in and spoke to me three or four times before I could understand her, she spoke so low. She seemed a little nervous...she walked very slow, as if she felt sick, and she looked very bad, in her general appearance. She was well dressed.”— Frank Heath

There wasn’t much to his testimony, yet this one person’s quick recollection of his encounter with Lottie has always bugged me.  You see, Frank Heath is the only person in this story whose first name was written on a piece of paper by Lottie. Is it significant? There really is no way to know. It could very well be just a huge coincidence, but this one thing has continued to bother me. Why did the name Frank appear on an envelope in Lottie’s hotel room? And why was it written four times? In my personal experience, it when a woman writes a man’s name on a paper, over and over, it is usually an emotional reason, such as a love interest.

Did Frank Heath leave anything important out of his statement during the inquest hearing? Could he have known the deceased, and chose to omit that information? Could she have actually purchased the gun and then went to visit Frank Heath’s store in order to speak to him about another matter? 
What could she have had to say to him? Did Heath know Mr. Anderson? Could she have been there asking about Mr. Anderson’s whereabouts?  That is one thing to ponder, although we will never know for sure.  Heath’s statement was short and gave very little information. Whether he was honest about it or willfully withheld the truth is uncertain. Unfortunately, that one name scribbled on an envelope in a dead woman’s room was never looked into further than the brief mention in the inquest.  We will never know just who “Frank” was, or why Lottie scribbled it over and over on a piece of paper before she died.

Physician and Surgeon, B.F. Mertzman was questioned during the inquest, giving the details of the examination of the corpse. The evidence, or lack of evidence to many claims by several writers is worth mentioning.

“I made an examination of the remains, and found a gun-shot wound in the right temple region, just between the ear and the out edge of the eyebrow, and about half an inch high up above that line drawn here. The ball entered into the brain, and that is the only opening I could find—no exit at all….I took a probe, and it entered almost at an angle, about that...a little forward and a little upward.”— B.F. Mertzman, M.D.

When questioned about the caliber of the gun, the doctor stated that he believed the gun shot wound was caused by a .38 or .40 caliber gun, and that it caused an internal hemorrhage. The doctor never mentions any powder burns on her skin. If she had been shot at such a close range,  there would have been evidence of this that even the rain couldn’t just simply wash away. Neither the doctor, the coroner, nor the staff from the hotel ever mentioned seeing any sort of burn marks on the face of the dead woman. 

And what about the theory that she was pregnant? Why did the doctor not mention anything about that in his statement? An unidentified doctor who was interviewed for the press,  stated that he had examined her and saw signs of pregnancy, but refused to give his name to the newspapers. Could she have been pregnant? Of course, anything is possible. But given the fact that the physician who officially examined the body left no mention of the possibility, there is no way we can ever be sure.

As the days went by, it became much more clear that no one could truly identify the deceased. No friend or family member came to identify or claim her body, so the speculation continued to spread that Lottie A. Bernard may have been an alias.

As I had previously mentioned in my blog several years ago, I had always firmly believed that Lottie was exactly who she said she was.  According the 1890 & 1891 Detroit Directory, there was in fact a Charlotte Barnard living at 351 High Street West. Since she literally disappeared off of any further directories I could find, and I found no other trace of her at the time, I assumed that could have been the link I was searching for.  

Unfortunately, it turns out that upon my reinvestigation of this case for this book, I found that the listing in the 1890 & 1891 Detroit Directory at 351 High Street West residence proved useless, as further research and cross referencing has shown this to be another Charlotte Barnard, and not the same “Lottie” that I had been searching for.

Although I was back to square one, I still felt very strongly that the identity of the woman found on the northwestern steps of the Hotel Del Coronado was out there somewhere just waiting to be discovered.  According to the newspapers of the time, there were two different women mentioned as possibly being the “Beautiful Stranger.” Their names were Lizzie Wylie and Kate Morgan. The question was, which one was she?
Within days, the staff, authorities and newspapers were growing more and more unsure of this woman’s identity. The story became even more perplexing when they received word from Detroit that a young lady by the name of Lizzie Wylie had gone missing several weeks prior, and who seemed to fit the young lady's description.  Mrs. Wyllie, Lizzie’s mother, claimed that she feared her daughter, after been fired from her job, had run away with a married man after the affair had come out in the open. 

Lizzie had been working at a book bindery company known as Wynn & Hammond in Detroit, when she started an illicit affair with her foreman, John Longfield.  After the affair had been made public, the company fired both Longfield and Wyllie to make an example of them. Not long after this happened, Lizzie's family claimed that a gentleman called their home and told Lizzie that he was leaving and going to California. Lizzie made some comments to her family that she may leave to go look for work elsewhere, even as far as California but never mentioned when she would be leaving. Her mother claimed that Lizzie told her she was going downtown to run errands and that was the last she heard of her. She didn't take anything with her, and was "penniless" the day she disappeared.

The authorities sent a sketch of the face of the deceased young woman to Lizzie's mother, where she confirmed that it was her "Lizzie" and that their family in Pasadena would arrive shortly in San Diego to properly identify her and recover her remains. Interestingly, there are no records that any relatives ever came to identify her. Had this young lady been Lizzie Wyllie, then where on earth was her male companion? Why was he not in Coronado with her when she died?

A telegram from Lizzie's sister arrived asking if the body of the girl in Coronado had short hair, a black corset and a large black hat. Although the girl found at the Coronado hotel did have a black corset and a large black hat, her hair was medium in length, not short. Also, the body found did not have pierced ears, while it was stated that Lizzie Wyllie’s ears were pierced.

According to newspapers, a man by the name of Joseph Jones claimed that he had seen the woman more than once. First, on the train from Denver to Omaha and then again at Orange in California. At the station, he saw the pair fighting and the lady pleading with the man before he exited the train, leaving her alone. Jones mentioned seeing the young lady again at the hotel, where he also was staying, and recognized her from the previous times on the train. "---- from the book "Stories of the Forgotten: Infamous, Famous & Unremembered" by J'aime Rubio (ISBN-13:  978-1523981175)

(Copyright - J'aime Rubio,
published blog in 2013, published book in 2016)

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