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WOMEN IN TAXICAB THAT KILLED A GIRL

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

WOMEN IN TAXICAB THAT KILLED A GIRL

The New York Times
December 30, 1909


Finally Disclose the Identity of the Chauffeur Who Ran Down Jennie Bernstein.

THREATS KEPT THEM SILENT

Tell the Coroner That Jones Vowed He'd "Fix" Them if They Informed the Police.

George Jones, a chauffeur living at 349 South Street, Brooklyn, was committed to the Tombs yesterday by Coroner Harburger on a charge of murder in the first degree in having run down and killed Jennie Bernstein, aged 8, of 7 East 104th Street with a taxicab at Park Avenue and 115th Street, Manhattan, on Nov. 4.

Jones, whose father owns a garage Brooklyn, was arrested on Tuesday night after information had been imparted to the police by Mrs. Frank Touchette of 62 West 109th Street and Mrs. Alice Humphreys of 2,121 Vyse Avenue, the Bronx, who were passengers in the taxicab at the time of the tragedy.

The two women kept quiet while the police were trying for nearly eight weeks to learn the identity of the chauffeur who was responsible for the killing because Jones, so they said, had threatened to kill them if they dared to betray him.  As a matter of conscience they went to Police Headquarters on Tuesday night and reported the case to Inspector McCaffrey.  Jones was arrested at a garage on West Thirty-seventh Street, where he was employed, and the police say he confessed that it was his taxicab that had killed the Bernstein girl.

When Jones was arraigned before Coroner Harburger yesterday Mrs. Touchette and Mrs. Humphreys were in court and told the circumstances of the killing.  Mrs. Touchette said that her husband, before going West some weeks ago, authorized her to hire Jones's taxicab whenever she wished to take rides about town.  Mrs. Humphreys was staying with her at the time her husband left the city, and together they had many outings.  Among them was that of the night of Nov. 4, upon which they invited William Simpson of 1,997 Lexington Avenue, chief engineer of the Harlem Police Court Building, to accompany them.

"We were riding swiftly along Park Avenue, south, after having stopped at one or two caf├ęs," said Mrs. Touchette.  "It was about 7:30 o'clock when, at Park Avenue and 115th Street, I saw a girl crossing directly in front of the taxicab.  There is a steep hill on Park Avenue at that point, and I think the girl was on roller skates.

She Felt the Jar.

"The cab was going so fast I thought it would surely strike her.  I heard a thump and felt the car jar a little.  I didn't know just then that it had struck the girl, although I thought so.  The chauffeur, Jones, instead of stopping the cab, increased the speed of the machine and did not stop until he was in Eighty-sixth Street near Park Avenue.  Then he got off the cab and put a blanket over the front lamp, hiding the number.

"The chauffeur then proceeded into Central Park and down to Seventh Avenue, where he ran the machine down to Thirty-seventh Street.  Near Seventh Avenue and Thirty-seventh Street Jones got out again, lit a match, and examined the front of the cab.  I asked him what was wrong.  He replied that he was burning hair from the front of the cab. I said to him: 'You killed that girl.'

"Then he cried and begged me not to 'squeal' on him.  My friends and I at once left the cab.  The next day I read in the newspapers of the killing of the Bernstein girl, and knew then that it was our taxicab that had run over her.  Jones came to my house several times after that and threatened that if I informed on him he would 'fix' me before he went to jail."

Mrs. Humphreys substantiated the story of Mrs. Touchette and added that Jones, when caught burning the strands of hair that had clung to the radiator of the taxicab, confessed that he knew he had killed the Bernstein girl.

"He begged us not to say a word about it, and threatened that if we did he would kill us," declared Mrs. Humphreys.

Jones had not a word to say for himself when interrogated by the Coroner, and made no protest when he was held without bail on the charge of murder to await the action of the Grand Jury.

After the proceedings in the Coroners' court, Mrs. Touchette told a Times reporter that Jones, a day or so after the accident, visited her apartment, and, flourishing a revolver, declared he would kill her if she dared to tell the police that it was his car that had run the girl down.

Threats Against Her Life.

"A few days after that," she said, "he returned and told me that he would surely kill me if I told the police about him.  I told him I had no idea of going to the police.  Suddenly he grabbed me and tried to reach a carving knife that was on the dining room table.  I got the knife first, and he grew pale and released his hold.

"If he hadn't threatened me so many times perhaps I would not have made up my mind to tell the police, but I actually became afraid for my life.  I kept the whole dreadful affair to myself as long as I could."

Mrs. Touchette went on to say that when the Bernstein girl was struck by the taxicab she heard a shrill scream, as though from the girl, and then the cries of a throng of people in the street who had witnessed the killing.  She felt sure, she said, that Jones must have heard the cries, but he made no effort to stop the car and see what had happened.

Coroner Harburger, after drawing from the two women the name of Simpson as their companion on the drive, sent word to the District Attorney's office, suggesting that it might be well to find out why he, an employe of the city, had failed to report the matter to the police.  Assistant District Attorney Du Vivier was assigned to the case, and he sent for Simpson, who was found at the Harlem Court Building.  Simpson hurried down to the District Attorney's office, and had a half hour's talk with Mr. Du Vivier, in which he admitted that he had been in the taxicab party, but insisted that he had no knowledge that the car had struck any one.

"There must be some mistake about it," he declared.

Mr. Du Vivier took Simpson's affidavit and told him that if he was needed again he would send for him.  Later, in a talk with a Times reporter, Simpson said:

"I have absolutely no recollection of the taxicab having run that girl down.  I heard no screams and felt no jar, as the women have told about.  I am very much in doubt that it happened at all."

Simpson insisted that he did not see Jones throw a blanket over the taxicab light or burn the hair from the cab's radiator, nor did he hear Jones cry or implore the women not to tell police of the killing.  He would stick to that, he declared, no matter what affidavits the women had sworn to, or what confession Jones had made to the police.

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