21 March 2016

Murder of Durkin stuns Scranton

The small town of Scranton – it was small in 1867 – was shocked by the murder of Dr. John D. Durkin. Durkin was a Lung and Throat Doctor and was killed 5 June 1867.

The article, as it appeared in the Pittston Gazette, read:

Our city was startled yesterday forenoon by the announcement of the murder of Dr. John D. Durkin, a Lung and Throat Doctor, having his office in John Zeidler’s new building. The Doctor, was found about 10 0’clock, a.m. in his room by G. H. Walters, who has an office on the same floor. When discovered he was lying on his bedroom floor stiff and cold, with a little pool of blood near his head. He was in his night clothes and seemed to have fallen from the floor, or been placed there.

Alderman Jay action Coroner, summoned the following persons to act as a Jury of Inquest, viz: Lorenzo Zeidler, Patrick Scanlon, Patrick McGovern, Phillip Frier, A. Sweeney, G.H. Walters.

The post mortem examination was concluded by Drs. Squires, Boyde and Masser. The examination was most thorough and complete. There were found several bruises about the person of the deceased, but none that would produce death, except the contusion on the back part of the head, which was quite large and the skull laid bare. A stone, weighing about two pounds, was found near the bed with a few drops of blood on the smallest end. There was no particular evidence of a struggle to be seen about the room. The blow being on the back of the head, it is more than probable the wound was made by a person standing behind the Doctor, and the blow quite or nearly stunned him.

The hall door, which Mr. Zeidler himself fastened the night previous was opened, the bolt being bent and the ketch sprung from its fastening. In order to do this it was necessary to spring the top and bottom bolts, and spring the door inward. It is supposed that the person committing the deed had either secreted himself in the building before the doors were locked; had a key to one of the back doors, or entered through a window in the lower story; then passing up to the Doctor’s room, awakened him, gained admittance and then killed him. The door to his office was unlocked when found and the key inside.

The murder is supposed to have been be tern, standing in front of Zeidler’s building, and remained there when he passed into his boarding house.

The deceased is about 45 to 50 years of age; is spare made, and was not of a robust frame; quiet and inoffensive in his habits, and abstemious in his diet. It is supposed he had considerable money about him, but when discovered his watch {if he had one,} and money were missing, except four cents.

The Doctor, until last Thursday had a Mr. John Thorton, living in one of his upper Wards, as an assistant in his office. He left him, and on the Monday following Dr. Durkin wishing to visit Wilkes-Barre, he requested Mr. James O’Malia, living in the 3d Ward to attend his office during his absence which he did. On Tuesday afternoon, not returning, O’Malia gave the keys to Mr. Zeidler, and about 5 o’clock he started for his home.

The perpetrator of this cold-blooded murder is unknown and at large. Suspicions are directed to certain parties, but as yet no arrests have been made. – Scranton Daily Register, May 10.

The original article apparently appeared in the Scranton paper and this article was a reprint in the Pittston paper. Pittston is located in Luzerne County; Scranton is in Lackawanna County.

Subsequent articles around the area also stated that a paving stone covered with blood was found on the floor next to his body, implying that was the weapon. His death was combined with the theft of several hundred dollars, implying the murderer knew the habits of the Doctor.

In January of the following year, the Pittston Gazette reported on the “trial of Delemater for the murder of Dr. Durkin.’ Delemater allegedly admitted to a companion that he had killed the Doctor and made $800.

Sources:
Pittston Gazette. (Pittston, PA), 6 June 1867. https://www.newspapers.com/image/52820314/?terms=Durkin

Pittston Gazette. (Pittston, PA), 30 January 1868. https://www.newspapers.com/image/52823154/?terms=Durkin

Titusville Herald (Titusville, PA) 7 June 1867. https://www.newspapers.com/image/15710372/?terms=Durkin


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© Jeanne Ruczhak-Eckman, 2016
Locations listed are located in Pennsylvania (USA), unless otherwise noted in post.