“I loved him so much…so I killed him…”

Today in History, May 21, 1936:

“I loved him so much, I wanted him all to myself. But since we were not husband and wife, as long as he lived he could be embraced by other women. I knew that if I killed him no other woman could ever touch him again, so I killed him…..” –

Sada Abe is arrested in Japan for killing her lover, 3 days earlier. At the time of her arrest she was found to have his genitals in her bag. Abe told police that Ishida had been the most considerate lover she’d ever known, and she would know, having been a Geisha and a prostitute among other things.

During their most recent dalliance, they had become enamored with erotic asphyxiation. On the 18th, Abe strangled Ishida to death in his sleep.

She told police that she had severed his member and taken it with her to remember him by, even engaging in necrophilia with it prior to her arrest. She was sentenced to only 6 years in prison by a judge who admitted to being aroused during her trial.

Even that sentence would be commuted in 1940. The story became a cult like sensation in Japan, spawning numerous successful books and movies, and of course making Abe a celebrity. The last sighting of her was in a nunnery in the 1970’s.

The First Use of the “Temporary Insanity” Defense

Today in History, February 19, 1859:

New York Congressman Daniel E. Sickles is acquitted of murder using a temporary insanity defense, the first time this defense was used in US courts.

Sickles was quite a character…he had been censored by Congress more than once, most prominently for having brought a known prostitute into the House chamber, and then taking her to England and introducing her to Queen Victoria while his wife was at home pregnant.

Despite this, he was enraged when his wife confessed to him that she had been carrying on an affair with the District Attorney for the District of Columbia, Phillip Barton Key II (Francis Scott Key’s son…you know..the Star Spangled Banner author).

Sickles confronted Key in Lafayette Square, across the street from the Executive Mansion (White House) and shot him dead. Sickles then went to the Attorney General’s home, turned himself in and confessed.

Future Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton defended Sickles at his trial, painting the wife as a cheating harlot, and securing Sickles’ acquittal. Sickles went back to his wife, which enraged his supporters much more than the murder.

When the Civil War began, Sickles used his influence to recruit NY volunteers and gain a political generalship, something that was possible in those days. With no military experience he actually made a good accounting of himself in several battles.

Ironically, his most controversial act was yet to come.

At the pivotal Battle of Gettysburg, his III Corps was assigned a portion of the Union lines on Cemetery Ridge. On his own he decided to move his unit forward to higher ground, which thinned his lines and left a gap in the Union lines, and blatantly ignored the orders of the commander of the Army of the Potomac, General Meade.

Confederate General James Longstreet’s Corps attacked and decimated Sickles’ command, costing Sickles his leg.

The controversy amongst historians is whether Sickles sacrifice of his Corps helped or hurt the Union’s chances of victory. In the end the Union could count Gettysburg as a victory, but in my humble opinion, the ambitious Sickles had little to do with it. He put it at risk.

In his later years Sickles served as Minister to Spain (continuing his womanizing there) and returned to the legislature.

He spent much effort in creating the Gettysburg National Military Park and in denigrating Gen. Meade, while promoting himself as the true reason for the victory at Gettysburg. After lobbying for 34 years, he was awarded the Medal of Honor for his bravery in the battle. Perhaps most telling is the fact that there are memorials to almost all of the generals involved in the battle at the Park, but not for Sickles.

Good or bad, between his killing of Francis Scott Key’s son, his pioneering use of the insanity defense, and his military career, Sickles’ story is fascinating.

Untimely Ends


Today in History, August 19: 1895 – An El Paso policeman, John Henry Selman, Sr, ends the notorious career of outlaw John Wesley Hardin in a bar in El Paso.

Hardin had killed many men…one allegedly just for snoring; he had idolized lawman Wild Bill Hickock…who had let him live once in a bad situation.  Hardin claimed to have killed 27 men before being sentenced to 25 years hard labor in 1878.  He would be released in 1894, now an attorney!

Hardin set up shop in El Paso, intending to keep straight, which didn’t last.  He was involved in some shady dealings involving a prostitute legal client, which ended with the death of her husband during the husband’s arrest by Texas Rangers.

John Selman, Senior’s son, John Selman, Jr., also an El Paso Constable, made an unrelated arrest of Hardin’s girlfriend / client,  On today’s date Hardin and Selman, Sr. argued in the street, as Hardin threatened Jr. and Sr.

And that turned out to be a mistake, for Selman, Sr. also had a checkered past.  He had been a Texas militia member during the Civil War, a lawman, outlaw, then lawman again.  He had already shot and killed another lawman…ironically with the last name “Outlaw” and been acquitted of murder charges.

Later the same day of the argument, Hardin was playing dice in the Acme Saloon when Selman, Sr. stepped into the bar and shot Hardin once in the back of the head, the added shots to his midsection to make sure of the result.

Within months of killing Hardin, in April, 1896, Selman got into an argument with US Deputy Marshal George Scarborough, who shot Selman dead with four shots.  Four years later to the day, Scarborough would be shot and killed in a gunfight with robbery suspects.

Hardin’s end was ironic, considering the man he idolized (although certainly did not emulate) died nearly the same way.  August 2, 1876, “Wild Bill” Hickok was shot in the back of the head while playing cards in a Deadwood, South Dakota saloon.