Event Person

Crazed Mother Murders Child, Ends Own Life

Manchester, Ohio November 22

One cold, bleak morning in last February Mrs. May Tomlin1, 25 years old, quarreled with her husband, William2, at their cottage home on Brush Creek, Monroe Township, near here. William, in a rage, left the two rooms occupied by his two small children and wife, vowing never to return.

In the isolated cottage the woman continued to live with her small children while her husband moved his belongings to the home of this is brother, John Tomlin. Both the wife and husband refused attempts of friends toward reconciliation.

Just two months ago the little family was increased through the birth of the boy, Kenneth. Mrs. Bryne, a sister of Mrs. Tomlin, visited the home and attended Mrs. Tomlin. Neighbors commented on the fortitude the mother displayed in the cheerful attitude she maintained.

Last Friday Mrs. Tomlin was visited for the last time by her sister, Mrs. Bryne. Mrs. Tomlin told her sister that although the court had decreed that her estranged husband should pay her five dollars a week during their separation, Tomlin had given her only $20, payments for the first month.

The optimism which had been so marked in Mrs. Tomlin’s nature before, Mrs. Bryne said, I departed. She cried softly on her sister shoulder, and the well of her lonely life. “I do not fear for myself, but for my children. What will become of them without a father and a chance to obtain an education?”

Assured of Children’s Care.

Mrs. Bryne assured her sister that she would see to it herself that all of the children would be clothed, fed and educated. Mrs. Tomlin appeared at ease then.

Since last Friday morning the little family had not been heard from. The Gilberts, nearest neighbors, were eating breakfast at 8 o’clock this morning when all eyes turned toward the door which had swung open.

The figure of a woman, frail and haggard, garments bloodstained, hair disheveled, staggered through the doorway uttering moans of apparent pain. With staring eyes she viewed the occupants of the room, then fell into a chair near the door.

“Go to my house right away! Hurry! Quick! Oh, my God,” the woman, Mrs. Tomlin, gasped.

“Why, what’s the matter?” was asked of the woman.

As though remembering a duty still to be performed, Mrs. Tomlin recovered, her features assumed an expression of stoic indifference, and with a shriek she ran outside.

Members of the Gilbert family ran after her and called to bring her back. She only increased her speed.

DF Wilson, a friend of Mrs. Tomlin, who is walking up the road, solid disheveled figure as it passed him. He did not recognize the terror stricken creature as the cheerful Mrs. Tomlin he had known.

The Gilberts saw Mrs. Tomlin run to the center of the bridge across Brush Creek. Climbing to the railing, the woman poised for an instant as she flung a last glance behind. A second later her body was being tossed about on the rocks near the banks of the creek. Death was instantaneous.

What Lay Beyond the Door

After dragging the body to shore the Gilberts and Wilson ran to the Tomlin home.

Stepping inside the doorway, the Gilberts found Wallace Pixley and John Tomlin, brother-in-law of Mrs. Tomlin, immediately contemplating the tragedy before them.

On the kitchen floor lay the headless body of five-year-old Gillis, the oldest child. By a sweeping love and acts that had had been cleanly severed. The body was still warm.

Photograph of Gillis L Tomlin as a happy infant.3

Laying on the bed nearby, Hazel, three years old, lay moaning. By a glancing blow from the same acts the skin of the girl’s face had been stripped from the hair to the neck.

Cooing in a crib nearby, lay Kenneth, two months old, unhurt.

Recovering from their consternation the onlookers picked up the wounded girl and took her to the Cromwell home, where physicians said she would recover.

Under the ax on the floor the men found the following note written in a firm hand;

“Goodbye. He won’t get my babies. I can’t stand to give them up. Get Stephenson if William sues for divorce in his court please notify me and send subpoena to SA Bentley.”

May Tomlin

$300 Found on Body

In their search of the home the men found $0.92. Later $300 in War Savings Stamps was found on the body of the dead woman. The clothing in the house had been neatly folded and the floor newly scrubbed. Everything seemed to point to the fact that the killing had not been premeditated. Fruits, preserved for the winter, and firewood, neatly chopped and piled in the kitchen also were found. The beds had been made and breakfast dishes washed and placed in a cupboard.

William Tomlin, estranged husband, refused to see friends and relatives at his brother’s house tonight. He remained in his room. When called on the telephone, John, his brother told inquirers that his brother could not see anyone.

Photograph of a young William Harrison Tomlin4

RA Warner, Coroner, completed an investigation of the double tragedy last night and will conduct an inquest this morning. When he questioned Mrs. Bryne, sister of the dead woman, this morning, she said;

“I cannot imagine what could have caused May to do this. She was feeling bad when I saw her last, but I did not think it was anything serious. During her life she was always known for her cheerful disposition, and the thing seems more terrible because of that.”

Photograph of Mae Ralston Tomlin5

Mrs. Bryne, the Gilberts, DF Wilson, Wallace Pixley and John Tomlin will be called as witnesses at the inquest this morning.6

  1. Mae Tomlin (nee Ralston)
  2. William Harrison Tomlin
  3. Michael Tomlin. (2010). Photograph of Gillis L Tomlin. FindAGrave. Retrieved November 4, 2021, from https://images.findagrave.com/photos/2010/40/47955854_126584000206.jpg.
  4. Michael Tomlin. (2009). Photograph of William Harrison Tomlin. FindAGrave. Retrieved November 4, 2021, from https://images.findagrave.com/photos/2009/328/44610225_125920442246.jpg.
  5. Michael Tomlin. (2010). Photograph of Mae Ralston Tomlin. FindAGrave. Retrieved November 4, 2021, from https://images.findagrave.com/photos/2010/40/47955485_126584101392.jpg.
  6. Crazed Mother Murders Child, Ends Own Life. (1920, November 23). Cincinnati Commercial Tribune, p. 1.
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