The Life of Mary E McConnell

After a string of slayings on the West Coast in the 1920's, a mysterious killer dubbed "The Gorilla Man" for his brute strength and simian features crossed the country and murdered four people in the Midwest before coming to Philadelphia.

Nearly all of his victims were landladies or women selling their homes. He would look for "Rooms for Rent" or "For Sale" signs and knock on the door, pretending he was interested in living there. If he determined the lady of the house was alone, he'd strangle her, then usually rape her dead body before hiding it under a bed.

April 29, 1927 was Mary McConnell's fifty-third birthday and she had been trying to sell her home for almost a year, so she welcomed the stranger at the door. Unfortunately, he was not interested in her home. He forced his way inside, strangled her and stuffed her body under her bed. A neighbor saw the man and later described him to the police. The killer tried to attack another Philadelphia woman the next day, but she ran inside and roused her husband. By the time he ran outside, her assailant was gone.

The Gorilla Man continued his trail of death to Buffalo, Detroit, and Chicago, before crossing into Canada, where he murdered two more. His death toll now at twenty-two, he was finally captured in Manitoba. Identified as Earl Leonard Nelson, a native San Franciscan and former mental patient, he had been released in 1919 from an institution as "improved." Within a year of this "improvement", his murder spree began.

Canadian authorities refused to turn him over to America and, after a trial, hanged him in 1928 at Winnipeg Gaol. Before his death, Nelson was visited in jail by Mary McConnell's husband, William, who asked him why he had killed his wife. Nelson refused to admist his guilt and only told the grieving spouse he hoped the real killer would be found and punished.

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