Massachusetts’ Youngest Murderer Of The 1st Degree

12-year-old Jesse Pomeroy Youngest Serial Killer

Jesse H. Pomeroy (November 29, 1859 – September 29, 1932)

“It is generally concluded that the boy is mentally deficient.” – Boston Globe

Young Pomeroy was indeed a bad seed.  His vicious attacks began during his adolescence in the town of Charlestown, Massachusetts. Using  his skills of manipulation, he enticed younger boys around the ages of 7 – 8, to walk with him to isolated areas, (generally Powder House Hill in Chelsea) . Once secluded, he would unleash his fury on his unsuspecting victims; some whom were left physically scarred for life. Between the years of 1871 and 1872, Pomeroy had attacked 7 boys.

The accounts told by his victims varied slightly when giving the police the horrid details. The boys had been stripped, tied up and tortured; beaten with belts, blows from fists and feet. Other boys told how Pomeroy  utilized his knife in the attacks, slashing and poking them with the blade, drawing blood while bound and nude.
It wasn’t long before the police had an idea of whom the culprit was, and they proceeded to arrest the boy of 12.  He was later sentenced to the West Borough Reform School where he was to be held until the age of 21. Pomeroy served just 2 years of his 9 year sentence, as it was thought by the system that he had been reformed due to his good behaviour.

Now in the slums of South Boston, where the 14 year old lad and his sibling had moved with their mother Ruth, new territory was scoped and new victims were hunted.


“Jailbird Jesse Pomeroy” – Courtesy of the Boston Public Library, Leslie Jones Collection.

In March of 1874, 10 year old Mary Curran had disappeared. A month later 4 year old Horace Millen was taken by Pomeroy to marshland outside of town. Horace had been slashed repeatedly with a knife. It has been reported that when police located the body of the boy, his head was close to being fully decapitated. The body of Katie Curran was found later, in the basement of Pomeroy’s mother’s dress shop. Her remains were hastily and carelessly concealed in an ash heap.

Police  quickly saw Pomeroy as a potential suspect and placed the known “child torturer” at the top of their list. Pomeroy was taken to visit the body of Horace Millen where he was then asked if he had committed the murder and was denied the right of counsel.

Pomeroy was pronounced guilty on December 10, 1874 and was sentenced to death – a very harsh punishment for someone of such a young age. After 3 attempts by Governor Gaston, who refused to sign the death warrant, Pomeroy’s sentence was commuted to life in prison in solitary confinement at Charlestown State Prison.

While serving his sentence, Pomeroy spoke of how he taught himself other languages such as German, which a visiting psychiatrist had found he learned with  “considerable accuracy”.  Pomeroy wrote poetry and read law books. The law books taught Pomeroy how to fight for his rights in prison and he often demanded his poetry be published. His persistence didn’t stop there.

After his death, it was told that Pomeroy had made at least a dozen attempts to escape. Wardens would find tools such as rope, steel pens and a drill, which would be found on Pomeroy’s person or in his cell. He also lost an eye after attempting to destroy the side of his cell by redirecting a gas pipe. A 1914 psychiatric report claimed that Pomeroy had shown the “greatest ingenuity and a persistence” which is unprecedented in the history of the prison.

It was in 1917 that Pomeroy’s sentence was again commuted to the extent of allowing him the privileges afforded to other life prisoners. At first he resisted with the same stubbornness he displayed as a child; disliking rules and authority and wanting nothing else but a pardon. Eventually Pomeroy would break down and adjust to his new circumstances. He joined in other activities – even appearing in a prison minstrel show.  In 1929, now an old, frail man, Pomeroy was transferred to Bridgewater Hospital for the Criminally Insane, where he died 3 years later on September 29, 1932.

– altered by Hystoria







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