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Jesse Pomeroy: The Boston Boy Fiend

Drawing of Jesse Pomeroy
Jesse Pomeroy or Boston's "Boy Fiend" is numbered among the most sadistic and remorseless serial killers of all time. He was brutal, demented and, well, fiendish. However, unlike most criminals who are dubbed "serial killers," his murder count was quite low. Jesse Pomeroy was guilty of killing only two people (two people is two too many, but few in the world of serial killers). Another very strange fact about Jesse Pomeroy that is also frightening is that he was only 14 years old when he committed these murders. He was even younger when he began torturing young boys.

Jesse Pomeroy was born in Charlestown, Massachusetts on November 29, 1859. His full name was Jesse Harding Pomeroy and he was the younger of two children (both boys) born to Ruth and Charles Pomeroy. According to his mother and records, Jesse took ill when he was just a baby. He fully recovered and was described as intelligent when he was older. However, his mother cited this in her defense of her demented son later. Jesse was also afflicted with a cataract that left his right eye almost completely white. What caused this cataract is uncertain, but it may have been a viral illness or a bad reaction to a vaccine.

The disgust and/or fear that Jesse Pomeroy's eye caused people to feel was compounded by the fact that Jesse was a large boy for his age and is said to have had a large head, even for his size. He is also described as having a sinister and pernicious look about him. However, the people who describe him as such were aware of his crimes before they had anything to say about it. Jesse's appearance is likely to have caused many problems for him in his youth, lending to his sociopathic nature. Even more, his father was allegedly cruel when he disciplined his sons.

Charles Pomeroy Sr. was, by all accounts, a wicked man who delighted in abusing his young sons. It is said that he beat them often, but one instance always comes up in accounts of Jesse's childhood as it has great significance. One day, when Jesse was 10 years old, his father took him out behind the family's outhouse in Chelsea, Massachusetts, forced the boy to take off all of his clothes and beat him relentlessly with a whip. Whether or not this is the only instance in which this punishment was doled out is unknown. However, it soon became clear that Jesse was more inclined to violence than even his father was. Ruth caught him torturing a neighborhood cat, and several family pets died mysteriously.

On December 26, 1871, two men walked up Powder Horn Hill in Chelsea. On the hill was a very small cabin. Inside of the cabin was four-year-old William Paine. William was tied up by his wrists. He had been beaten with a whip or switch. He was also half-naked and nearly unconscious. The cold had left him pale and shaken. His ordeal had rendered him incapable of identifying his attacker. Little did police know that this boy was the first victim of the "Boy Fiend" who would terrorize Boston for the next two years. Jesse Pomeroy was 12 years old at the time.

The "Boy Fiend" found his next victim two months later, on February 22, 1872. A boy by the name of Tracy Hayden was taken to Powder Horn Hill and beaten in much the same way as William had been. Tracy was seven years old. His front teeth was knocked out and his nose was broken. He had been whipped repeatedly, and his attacker had threatened to cut off his penis. Unfortunately, Tracy was only able to describe Jesse Pomeroy as a boy with brown hair.

On May 20, 1872, Jesse Pomeroy attacked eight-year-old Robert Maier in Chelsea. This time, the "Boy Fiend" forced his victim to strip and the beat the boy while forcing him to swear. Jesse, still only 12 years old, reportedly masturbated while he beat his latest victim. Police searched for the attacker to no avail. They now had information that he had a wispy beard, which was far from the truth. Sadly, their lack of information gave Jesse the freedom he needed to continue his sadistic pattern.

Jesse Pomeroy attacked again on July 22, 1872. He brought 7-year-old Johnny Balch to Powder Horn Hill and stripped the boy, beat him and masturbated as he had done with Robert. Not long after the attack on Johnny, Ruth Pomeroy and her boys moved to South Boston. She had already kicked her husband out of the house. Jesse had no problem finding victims in Boston.

On August 17, 1872, the "Boy Fiend" found seven-year-old George Pratt on the shore in South Boston. He made the boy strip, tied him up and beat him. This time, Jesse Pomeroy bit his poor victim's cheek, ripping off a chunk of it. He then scratched the boy with his nails and stabbed him repeatedly with a long sewing needle. When he tried to stab little George in the eye with it, George fought back and rolled onto his stomach. Jesse then bit off a chunk of the boy's buttock and left.

Just a few weeks later, on September 5, 1872, Jesse attacked a six-year-old boy named Harry Austin. Jesse tied him up, made him strip and beat him as he had the other boys. This time, however, he stabbed his victim with a pocketknife. Harry suffered a stab wound beneath each of his arms and one between his shoulders. He also committed the horrible deed of trying to slice the boy's penis off. Luckily, something or someone interrupted him and he ran away.

Less than one week later, the "Boy Fiend" found a seven-year-old boy named Joseph Kennedy and forced him to kneel. Jesse Pomeroy then told him to say the Lord's Prayer with a few choice words added. Joseph refused and so Jesse cut his face. He then took him to the bay where he doused the boy's knife wounds in salt water. Again, less than a week later, Jesse found another victim. This time it was five-year-old Robert Gould. He took Robert to a site near some railroad tracks in South Boston, forced him to get naked and tied him to a post. He then beat him, but was interrupted by railroad workers. Jesse Pomeroy was able to run before they saw him, but young Robert noticed something that the other boys had not and told the police about it. They now knew about the "Boy Fiend's" white eye.

The South Boston Police searched for the "Boy Fiend" at Jesse Pomeroy's school on September 21, 1872. They brought Joseph Kennedy along with them. Joseph was unable to identify Jesse or any of the other boys as his attacker. However, Jesse decided to walk into the South Boston Police Station on his way home from school that day. Sitting there with the detectives was Joseph, who identified him quickly. The moment Jesse saw Joseph, he ran, but police quickly caught him. They detained the 12-year-old boy and questioned him for hours before he finally confessed.

The next day, in a Boston jail, Jesse Pomeroy's victims all arrived to identify him. Each of them said he was their attacker. That afternoon, Jesse had a hearing, at which Ruth Pomeroy declared her son to be a "good boy" and said he was innocent. Jesse, on the other hand, had only this to say in his defense, "I couldn't help myself." While he was locked up, he asked a boy who was in a cell near him if he "looked like a bad boy." He was apparently conscious of his frightening appearance, but showed no remorse for his deeds.

Jesse Pomeroy was sentenced to live in the Massachusetts House of Reformation in Westborough until he turned 18. While in the home, Jesse was a model "prisoner." School records show that he enjoyed it when other boys were punished (physical punishment was common), but that he never did anything that warranted punishment himself. With that in mind and with the help of his mother's appeals for the release of her son, the "Boy Fiend" was released on February 6, 1874. He had spent less than two years incarcerated for his heinous crimes.

Jesse Pomeroy was 13 years old when he was released into the care of his mother, who lived on Broadway St. in South Boston. His mother ran a dressmaker's shop across the street from the Pomeroy home. His older brother ran a newsstand outside. Jesse helped his family run their respective businesses after he was released.

On March 18, 1874, Jesse was opening the shop and the newsstand when a girl who wanted to purchase a notebook approached him. Pomeroy told her that there was a shop in the basement and that she should follow him into the basement. What happened next is unclear because Jesse's story and the wounds on 10-year-old Katie Curran's body told a different story. Furthermore, by the time her body was found, it had decomposed to the point where it was difficult to tell what wounds she had suffered. We do know that Jesse decapitated her, mutilated her genitals and stabbed her abdomen. He then hid the body, washed up and went back to work.

Katie's parents looked for her and suspected that Jesse Pomeroy was responsible for her disappearance. However, police told them that Jesse was fully reformed and that he only attacked boys. They did not look into it until a day later, at which time they found nothing. (They did not search hard enough) A few weeks later, the case was closed when the police got a vague clue that she had been kidnapped.

A little over a month later, the "Boy Fiend" went for a walk and picked up a four-year-old boy named Horace Millen. Horace walked with Jesse Pomeroy past numerous people that day. The pair held hands and even stopped to eat sweets and talk to a few people. A little after noon, Jesse lured the boy into a secluded area near the harbor. There, he slashed the boy's throat. Poor little Horace did not die, however. This angered Jesse, who then stabbed him the chest repeatedly. Wounds on the boy's body showed that he lifted his arms to block the attack, only to be stabbed in his tiny hands and forearms. Jesse eventually succeeded in severing Horace's windpipe. Whether he did this before or after he mutilated the boy's genitals and stabbed in the chest eighteen times is unknown. It is likely that at least some of the wounds were inflicted after the boy had died. The investigation revealed that Horace had suffered and fought a great deal. Jesse could not have cared less.

The body of little Horace Millen was discovered just a few hours after Jesse Pomeroy killed him. Police knew who had done it nearly immediately. Jesse was arrested by the following day. Jesse denied having done it until the police forced him to look at Horace's body. He gave a full confession, which he later recanted because his mother had pleaded with him not to say he was guilty, if he was not. He certainly was. However, what little remorse the "Boy Fiend" had was directly related to his mother. In fact, he requested that the police not tell his mother when he confessed. From the day he recanted his confession on, he maintained his innocence. His mother always maintained his innocence. However, it is hard to believe that not even a small part of her knew the truth.

After a trial where Jesse's victims testified, the monstrous 14-year-old boy was found guilty of first-degree murder. He had not been tried for Katie's murder, but her body had been discovered after Ruth sold the shop to a local merchant. Jesse was sentenced to death, as was the norm for murderers in Boston at the time. However, there was a lot of controversy over hanging a boy for murder. Two years later, Jesse's sentence was commuted to life in solitary confinement. He served 40 years in solitary. He was allowed a visitor once a month. His mother was his only visitor until her death on January 10, 1915. After 40 years, he was allowed into the general prison population. He died at the Bridgewater Prison Farm on September 29, 1932. He had been moved there two years earlier.

A person like Jesse Pomeroy appalls the average person. His age and the deeds he committed cause our minds to revolt against the thought of him. It is almost as if he cannot have been real. He must just be a scary story. However, Jesse Pomeroy was unfortunately quite real. He was a horrific creature, who would have evoked pity, had he not allowed the bad side of his nature and nurture to drive his deeds. One could have cried for Jesse, had he lived a good life despite his father's beatings and his unsavory appearance. Instead, he evokes anger and disgust. The only pity his story evokes is pity for his small, precious and innocent victims.


Reynolds, Arthur & Sandlin, Jennifer & Rose, Sarah & Shomo, Adam, Jesse HardingPomeroy, retrieved 7/25/10


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