Wednesday, November 4, 2015

On This Date in Minnesota History: November 4

November 4, 1905 – Three Minneapolis children – Elizabeth Brennan, 15; Alice Brennan, 10, and Arthur Brennan, 5 – were shot and killed early this morning while sleeping in the same bed; their brother Tommy Brennan, 12, and stepmother Stella Brennan, 23, were also shot, although not fatally. James Brennan, the victims’ father and husband, was working the evening shift at the fire station when the shooting occurred.

W. G. Farmer and his wife, who live on the first floor below the Brennans’ rooms, both say they heard three shots in quick succession, and then two more shortly thereafter.

From her hospital bed Stella Brennan claims a strange man shot the children through a window, and then shot her and Tommy. Minneapolis police, on the other hand, believe Stella Brennan was the shooter. The wounds of the dead children had severe powder burns, indicating the gun was shot only five to six inches from the victims. Police say it would have been impossible for anyone to shoot the children in their bedroom from outside of the house. The shots therefore had to have been made by someone inside the house.

Stella and James Brennan were first married in Chicago on June 24, 1903, and then divorced in April 1905. The couple was a volatile mismatch from the beginning, and separated prior to their actual divorce.

James and Stella Brennan
Minnesota Historical Society File Photo

Mrs. Brennan in applying for a divorce from James Brennan, claimed that her husband had thrown “mystic powder” at her on the street to induce her to return to him after their separation. The judge decided she was a “frivolous person” and her husband a “cad.” As to the “mystic powder,” this was said to be related to her early reading of Anderson’s fairy tales.

Brennan was a widower with for children when the couple wed in June, his first wife having died of heart disease. His girl wife testified that these children were the first cause of their troubles.

Brennan Children - Elizabeth, Tommy, Alice and Arthur
Minnesota Historical Society File Photo

“I did not like them,” she said. James threw kerosene all over one night and on another occasion hit me with a wet towel.” This was the occasion of her leaving him. She ran away to Kalamazoo, Mich., and was taken back by her husband. She left again a few weeks later.

“I met James at State and Madison streets one night,” she said, “and he induced me to go home by throwing mystic power at me. I could not see it, but I knew he did it. I felt strange and my will power was paralyzed.”

“She can have a divorce without alimony,” said the Judge. “The girl is a giddy thing and the husband is a cad. She should have had more sense than to marry a man with four children. It takes a long-headed girl to do that.”

They recently reconciled and remarried in Minneapolis on Aug. 25, 1905. It is said Stella Brennan did not like sharing her husband’s attention with his four children, and police believe she may have become temporarily deranged because of her jealousy of the children. Mrs. Brennan has previously tried twice to commit suicide.

Cook County, Illinois, Marriages Index, 1871-1920

Iron County Register; “A Minneapolis Tragedy. Mrs. Stella Brennan Kills Three Stepchildren, Fatally Wounds a Fourth and Attempts Suicide.”;  Ironton, County, Mo.; Nov. 9, 1905;
p. 2.

Minneapolis Tribune; “Blamed. Coroner’s Jury Brings in Verdict Charging Stella Brennan with Murder. Wounded Boy Tells Story Favoring Mother. Edward Helin Says Faces of Children Were Burned With the Powder.”; Nov. 9, 1905; p. 7.

Minneapolis Journal; “Tells with Sobs of Dead Mother. Tommy Brennan Breaks Down Only Once. Tears Flow as Attorney E. S. Cary Persists in Referring to Mother Whom Brennan Children Loved Dearly---Boy Is Unshaken by Lawyer’s Sever Cross-Examination.”; Dec. 21, 1905; p. 5.

Charleston News and Courier; “Divorce in Chicago. Judge Kavanagh hears Case of “Giddy Thing Against “Cad.”; Charleston, SC; June 11, 1905.

Stella Brennan indicted by the coroner's jury for murder of her stepdaughter; see Nov. 9, 2015 blog

Stella Brennan indicted by Hennepin County grand jury for murder of her three stepchildren; see Nov. 21, 2015 blog

County Attorney outlines the state’s theory of the Stella Brennan murder case in his opening statement; see Dec. 19, 2015 blog

Stella Brennan spends Christmas in hospital room of the Hennepin County Jail; see Dec. 25, 2015 blog

Stella Brennan Found Guilty; sentenced to the State penitentiary for life; admits she is in a family way; see Dec. 30, 2015 blog

Daughter is born to Stella Brennan in Stillwater State Prison; see July 26,2016 blog

The prison-born babe of Mrs. Stella Brennan leaves for Mich. today with her maternal grandmother; see Oct. 18, 2016 blog.


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