Monday, March 07, 2016

Dayton's 'Death Lane': Layton Hines & 'Jack the Strangler'

The victim, Anna Markowitz

The following information was published nationwide during August 1907. It's not a paranormal related post...but it does offer glimpses into crime & justice at the turn of the 20th century. Unfortunately, much of what happened back then is relevant today:

Anna Markowitz, Horribly Killed by the Mysterious Man-Gorilla of "Death Lane"

Dayton, Ohio, August 12. On the outskirts of Dayton is a wooded spot bathed in human blood that is more to be dreaded by women and young girls than the darkest areas of Africa.

So many are the hideous crimes committed along its shady paths that the place has become known as "Death Lane."

After dark it Is the hiding place of some unknown beast In human form, whose fiendish delight is to pounce upon innocent and helpless

Pretty Anna Markowitz was the last to fall into the clutches of this mysterious man-gorilla. With the death of Abraham Cohen, her companion, the crime becomes a double murder. Intensified in horror by the assault alleged to have been committed upon the young woman before she was strangled.

Cohen, a traveling salesman, had gone for a stroll with the Markowitz sisters, Anna and Bertha. They were seated in a grove near the Soldiers' Home. As the three chatted together pleasantly two shots were heard. Cohen ran to the road. He fell fatally wounded by two bullets. An unknown monster rushed upon the girls. Bertha fled until she sank unconscious to the ground.


Anna was found, strangled to death, and mutilated. Evidence pointed to a fearful struggle. The clothing had been nearly torn from her body. The arms were crowded down over the eyes, as if to shut out a horrible picture.

Last fall the bruised form of beautiful Dona Oilman was found only a short distance away, and within the last several weeks there have been three other assaults in the same vicinity.

Who is this mysterious stranger whose special prey are young girls? Such Is the question that is causing brave men to shudder and women to spend sleepless nights.

Whether he is half man - half maniac, who is of good appearance in daily life, but occasionally lapses into a sort of beast, or a mental and moral degenerate of uncommon appearance - certain it is, the residents of the neighborhood cannot rest in peace he roams at large.

NOTE: After coming across this previous article, I wondered why the perpetrator was referred to as a 'man-gorilla.' I checked the history of the "Death Lane" murders...and found the following. The reason for the moniker was quickly apparent:

In the summer of 1907, the murder of an 18-year-old Jewish woman in Dayton made the newspapers around the country and abroad.

Anna Markowitz, her sister Bertha and their friend, Abraham Cohan, were walking home at night from the recreational park at the Soldier’s Home.

During the way, they heard gunshots and were chased by a man. Bertha escaped but Abraham was shot and would die of his wounds two days later. According to Bertha’s testimony, the attacker caught Anna; she was found strangled to death.

Authorities arrested and put Layton Hines on trial. During the trial, the young African-American confessed to killing Anna and Abraham.

The facts in the Hines trial were murky.

“He was accused of rape and murder,” Heckman said, “but he’s not charged with the murder of Abraham Cohan as part of the same incident, and if I remember correctly, they’re not specifically charging him with the rape. It begs a lot of questions if you delve into the case. Was Layton Hines a scapegoat or not?”

A group that was outspoken in support of Hines in the courtroom was the Ohio African American Protective Association.

Josh Cain, program manager for the Old Court House and other Dayton History sites, said the jury consisted of only white men, which was the practice at the time.

Dr. Charles H. Clark, superintendent of the Cleveland Hospital of the Insane, championed the theory in 1909, and several newspapers covered the serial killer angle, including The New York Times.

Anna’s brothers were initially believed to have committed the crime, then Hines ‘confessed.’

Newspapers took sides, the defense accused the sheriff, prosecutor and coroner of ‘coercing’ the confession from Hines.”

Heckman said there was contradictory testimony from witnesses among those called by the prosecution and defense.

A small Dayton Daily News article also stated the members of the Jewish Race rarely murder, in reference to Anna’s brothers when they were suspected of her murder.

Too bad the local press seemed to have prejudged the defendant.

NOTE: Ohio vs. Layton Hines - The case featured the 1907 trial of Hines for the killing of Anna Markowitz. This is a case where Dayton police arrested Hines on circumstantial evidence...but many in the national press reported the police had “misgivings” about Hines guilt. The misgivings later fed into press reports that the Markowitz murder was one committed by the serial killer dubbed ‘Jack the Strangler’ by the national tabloid news. A book was written by Brian Forschner which described 'Jack the Strangler' and the Hines trial - Cold Serial: The Jack The Strangler Murders

The description of the book reads:

"Cold Serial" is narrative non-fiction that tells of five girls who were raped and murdered in Dayton, Ohio, and possibly victims in Cincinnati, Ohio, in the early 1900s. Their deaths left a legacy of better protection for the safety and rights of women, led to the annexation of large areas into what is now modern day Dayton, initiated restructuring of the Dayton Police department, led to the creation of the first chamber of commerce in the United States, and involved intriguing relationships with what is still a major United States company. These stories provide the background and lay the groundwork for understanding social issues facing women today, such as rape, assault, and discrimination, and the impact of religion, politics and the media. Telling their stories is doing the work of justice.

The Cases That Haunt Us

Against Our Will: Men, Women, and Rape

Bestial: The Savage Trail of a True American Monster

Bind, Torture, Kill: The Inside Story of BTK, the Serial Killer Next Door