Saturday, August 12, 2017

On This Date in Minnesota History: August 12

August 12, 1910 – Martin O’Malley, of Derrynane Township, Le Sueur County, was rearrested today on the charge of murder in the first degree for poisoning his two youngest stepchildren, Mary and Frank Bergl, two and three years old respectively.

O’Malley had previously been arrested on this charge and released for lack of evidence. Le Sueur County Attorney F. J. Hanzel took the matter up with the attorney general and they came to the conclusion that a Pinkerton detective should be hired in the case.

The Pinkerton logo—a large, unblinking eye accompanied by the slogan “We Never Sleep”—gave rise to the term “private eye” as a nickname for detectives.1

O’Malley, the father of eight children ages 16 to 1-1/2 years, had lost his first wife, Mary approximately two weeks after the birth of their youngest son Henry in Jan. 1909. He married Mrs. Elizabeth (Frank) Bengl of Montgomery, a widow with three children, on May 18, 1910, after which Elizabeth and her children moved to the O’Malley farm.

On July 1, 1910, the two youngest of the Bergl children were taken sick. Medical aid was summoned and a doctor at Le Sueur Center (now known as Le Center) diagnosed the causes as infantile paralysis (polio). On July 3 both children died and were interred in Calvary Cemetery on the afternoon of July 4. Community suspicion was aroused, and on July 7 the bodies were exhumed and the stomachs and livers sent to the state chemist for analysis. The chemist found poison in both children.

County Attorney Hanzel employed the services of a Pinkerton man, and after two days and two nights of strenuous interrogation, finally got a written confession where O’Malley admitted giving the children medicine in which he mixed a quantity of poison, increasing the dose each time. The only motive suggested is that O’Malley wanted to get the children out of the way, though he did not say as such, or why. His wife was not aware of the fact that he had poisoned her children until their bodies were exhumed, and she has not lived with him since. To add to her troubles, the new Mrs. O’Malley was with child.

O’Malley was lodged in the county jail to await a hearing to be held the latter part of August. The case will come before the grand jury in September.

The Le Sueur County Courthouse2

The Bemidji Daily Pioneer
; “Alleged to Have made Confession. Minnesota Farmer Rearrested on Murder Charge.”; Aug. 12, 1910; p. 4.

The Kenyon News; “Murder Laid to Father. Montgomery Farmer Said to Have Killed Two Step Children.”; Aug. 17, 1910; p. 2.

The Faribault Journal; “Child Murder is Laid to Derrynane Farmer.”; August 24, 1910; p. 1.




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