Jesse Harding Pomeroy is not a familiar name in the 21st century, however he was a prolific serial rapist and torturer of young boys in the early 20th century, starting at the ripe old age of 12.Young Jesse didn’t have an auspicious start in life. Born to a Boston couple, Charles and Ruth Ann Pomeroy in 1859, Jesse and his brother Charles were sexually and physically abused by their father almost daily. The Pomeroys were not a happy family. Charles drank and had a mean temper. He once used a horse whip on young Jesse when he skipped school. A trip behind the outhouse meant a savage beating. Charles Pomeroy would strip his children naked, and Jesse forged a link between sexual satisfaction, pain and punishment. watch children who kill
Aside from this trauma, Jesse looked different from other children, and it was thought he was “malformed,” subhuman. Most notably, Jesse’s right eye was almost pure white, “marble-like” in appearance. Many people could barely look at it “without a shudder.” His mother blamed the cataract on a reaction to a smallpox vaccine, but others claim a viral infection as a baby left him blind in the eye. The lonely boy had a larger-than-normal head and he was plagued with facial features that seemed large: his mouth, was wider than appropriate for his face and his ears were large and stuck out from the sides of his head. He suffered epileptic-like seizures, and that made poor Jesse Harding Pomeroy an easy target for the other children in his neighborhood. watch I, Psychopath Documentary
When Jesse began his horrific crimes, he selected victims who were smaller than himself, just as his father had done. His attacks had an eerily familiar appearance; he acted out what he experienced at home, even to the point of torturing children inside of a building that resembled an outhouse. His first known victim was named, ironically, William Paine. Jesse hung the 4-year-old by his wrists from a rope lashed to the center beam of the outhouse, where he stripped and whipped the little child. When Billy was found the cold weather had turned his skin pale and his lips blue. watch confessed serial killer: I’d kill again
Like Billy Paine, Jesse’s next victim, Tracy Hayden was led to the same outhouse, stripped and whipped with a switch, leaving deep welts. Two more child victims were to follow until Ruth Pomeroy decided to move her family from Chelsea to less expensive accommodations across the Chelsea Creek in South Boston. Ruth refused to believe that her boy was committing monstrous crimes. It is this remarkable denial that probably enabled Charles to abuse his boys.
Jesse’s criminal activities continued, each attack more torturous than the last. On Sept. 21, 1872, the police brought Jesse to the local police station for questioning.The officers threatened him with a 100-year jail term unless he admitted his crimes. Jesse confessed. The following day Jesse was brought before a juvenile justice magistrate. Ruth testified on behalf of her son, weeping that he was a good boy. She neglected to inform the magistrate that Jesse had tortured and strangled the family’s pets. Jesse’s sentence was to be held in the House of Reformation in Westborough until he was 18.
Westborough Reformation was worst than it sounded. It was a cruel place where discipline was harsh and militant. Jesse flourished in this cruel, painful environment. Yet the older boys teased him. Younger boys avoided him. Jesse made sure he was a model prisoner and his mother launched a campaign to have him freed. Along with other factors, Ruth was successful and in less than a year-and-a-half after his arrest, Jesse was released on an unsuspecting public. Within weeks, Jesse murdered 10-year-old Katie Curran by slitting her throat, then hid her body in the basement of the Pomeroy family store. Around that time Jesse tortured and murdered 4-year-old Horace Millen. Unlike the missing Katie, Horace’s slaughtered remains were found that same afternoon. When Boston Police realized Jesse Pomeroy had received early release, they arrested him.
After police interrogation Jesse confessed to the murder. The press dubbed Jesse the “boy fiend.” A month later, little Katie’s decomposing remains were found in what had formerly been Ruth Pomeroy’s store. Ruth and Charles Pomeroy were taken into custody as accessories to murder and to protect them from the crowd that was crying for vigilante justice. Two days later, Jesse admitted to Katie’s murder.Dr. John Tyler was appointed to counsel Jesse and decide whether or not the boy friend was legally insane. Strangely, the good doctor wrote in his report that although Jesse could discriminate between right and wrong, he was indeed insane. watch vigilante (1983) trailer
A jury found Jesse guilty of premeditated murder yet asked for clemency due to the boy’s age. Gov. William Gaston was the only official who could grant clemency. For his decision not to hang Jesse the governor was the recipient of a massive public outcry. Two years later, the new governor, Alexander Rice, assured the public Jesse would hang, but eventually he sentenced Jesse to life in prison in solitary confinement.
Years, then decades passed. Ruth Pomeroy faithfully visited her son once a month. After she died, Jesse had no visitors. Jesse spent 41 years in solitary confinement until in 1917 he was moved into the general prison population. Jesse Pomeroy still demonstrated no remorse for his crimes. If anything, Jesse sought out prisoners, begging to know whether they had heard of him. Since most of the men were much younger than he, it was torture for Jesse that the inmates were not familiar with his history. Psychopaths crave admiration and Jesse was devastated by the lack of recognition. In 1929, his health failing, 71-year-old Jesse Pomeroy was removed from Charlestown and taken to Bridgewater prison farm, where he could receive better medical care. Two years later Jesse Pomeroy died in Bridgewater, considered to be the “most friendless person in the world.”