Willie Dean, age 10, son of Mr. Dean, arrived at 6:30 am, surely excited to pick them up and have his friend over for the weekend. He found the door of their home ajar, and upon entering he discovers a bloody mess and both Clarence & his mother dead. No doubt trauma stricken, he calls for help. His father & Police Officer Howe arrive first, and Dr B. E. Sawyer shows up about 7 am.
According to pieced together newspaper reports, the scene seems to be as follows –
The window which was last seen open by the Dean daughters was locked shut from the inside; no visible tracks were outside of it. The door had no blood on it. No signs indicated the door had been forced open. Her pocket book was found at the scene with 70.00 which was all the money she was said to have in her possession. No fumes from chloroform were detected at the scene.
The victims were on the bed which seems to have been set in a corner against a wall. The boy was on the inside to the right side of the mother, & the mother on the outside to the left, both throats cut. The boy apparently landed at the foot of the bed after his wounds were inflicted. Both of them in bed clothes saturated in blood, and at least one 6 foot spray of blood about the room. Dr Sawyer says he put his hand on the face & forehead of the boy & he was cold. He examined his throat & neck finding the arteries & muscles had been cut, nearly decapitating the boy. The Dr’s who completed the autopsy later determined there were numerous gashes to the boys throat & back of his neck, “perhaps 20” & one slight cut on each shoulder.
Dr Sawyer says after checking the boy, he checked the mother and she was not as cold as the boy. Her wound in his option was one cut transversely across the windpipe but had not completely severed it. He supposes she must have had her senses and lived 2 hrs after the deed, but did not die from blood loss, instead suffocation. His impression was the cut was directly across, but could not be positive. Mrs. Bickford was apparently found on her back & did not appear to have struggled after her wound was inflicted. The autopsy doctors said there were as many as 3 strokes to her, all left to right. The inside of her right hand had slight but bleeding cuts supposed to have come from the heel of the razor or other sharp instrument. Her ankles ankles were crossed, her right arm & hand rested across her body & her left hand lay partially on her left side. Newspapers state “Mr. Dean was quite sure in his testimony that the bed clothes covered the breast and hands of Mrs. Bickford when she was found, but Mr Howe the policeman who was there at the same time thinks that was not the case.” There was no blood on her face, but both hands were bloody especially the left one. Both hands contained bunches of short hair. It was first reported she was left handed but this is later proved to be false. A razor was found in the bed under her right elbow, and between the bodies.
The weapon, a black handled razor, was found under her right elbow, the case to it was also found. Apparently, Mrs. Bickford had a razor in the house that had been her husband’s. Several witnesses had seen it over the last several months, and Clarence had been known to show it to his friends on occasion. Everyone that had seen it reported it had no case & the handle was either light brown or turtle shell. Mrs. Furbush recounts that it was very dull and she had watched Mrs. Bickford attempt to cut corn with it one day, but it was unsuccessful. The former barber of Mr. Bickford, Mr. Daniel Sawyer, who first met Mr. Bickford in April of 1861 & was his barber for 5 years, also testified. He stated Mr. Bickford’s razor was a Joseph Reynolds make & he could identify in a hundred razors. After being shown the weapon, he confirmed the razor that was found was definitely not the razor of Mr. Bickford. No one has any idea where this weapon came from and it seems the razor of Mr. Bickford’s was never found, neither was the letter from Mrs. Goward which prompted Mrs Bickford to plan her trip.
A messenger was sent to her sister’s house in Lowell. She and her daughter promptly leave Lowell and head for Haverhill. Mr Shepard had been away but had a weird feeling he should return home early. When he gets there Sat afternoon he finds his wife & daughter gone, reads the news and follows them to Haverhill.
Immediately word begins buzzing around the city. Rumors, theories & accusations start flying. That day, the Haverhill Tri-Weekly reports it seems to be a murder - suicide, an opinion which sticks to some people, others not so much. Despite the rumors of suicide, Benjamin Carleton, the friend of Mrs. Bickford, is arrested before night fall. He states he first heard of the murder while at work between 6-7 am on Saturday morning. He explains the reason he didn’t go to her house after hearing about it was because she was dead and the officer was not allowing people in. Some of his co-workers teased him about being arrested by day’s end; little did he know he would be. The evening before the murder he had been at Richard Hardy’s, leaving about 7:50 pm & going straight to his boardinghouse. He tells officials he had a glass of whiskey in the afternoon & two beers in the evening. He couldn’t say whether he looked over at her home on his way home or not, and states he slept well that night except being awoken at about 2:30 am when he heard what he thought was something fall off the nightstand. Not finding anything, he figured he must have been mistaken.
Mr. Matthew Ball & his wife who lived nearly opposite of Mrs. Bickford were also awakened about 2:30 to the sounds of smothered groans. He reports they heard them twice about 10-15 seconds each. It is rumored two unnamed men in the city had nightmares that evening of someone being murdered. One went so far as to get up & search his home.
Post mortem investigations are completed immediately by Dr. Drinkwater & Dr. Lovejoy. The bodies were then displayed for hundreds to view in the Police Court at City Hall the remainder of the day. Meanwhile the jury was being quickly organized by Edward P. Fowler, Foreman & E. P. Hill, Clerk. The jury included: Francis V. Dow, Joshua Nason, Alfred Foss, Edward Fowler, Ira Haseltine & T. B. Bartlett. The Coroner’s Inquest began at 7:30 pm that evening, and continued until midnight when it was postponed until Thursday evening, Oct 14th. The courtroom was filled with spectators.
Amylynne (Baker) Murphy