Sometimes circumstance swings us into the oncoming path of history.
Such were the colliding cases of Elizabeth “Lizzie” Lloyd King and Mary Ann Dwyer, two desperate, disconnected women from Brooklyn with nothing in common but fate and a converging news cycle.
Oh yeah, and murder.
In the early 1870s, King and Dwyer were linked in the media due to a remarkable coincidence in courtroom scheduling.
King was thrust into the spotlight first after depositing three bullets into the head of Charles Goodrich, on March 20, 1873. Jilted by Goodrich following a stormy relationship, the unbalanced King was outraged at his attempt to evict her from a DeGraw street home Goodrich owned. Goodrich’s corpse was found by his brother, William, along with the revolver and a suicide note.
William suspected foul play immediately and summoned the authorities, who concurred after realizing Goodrich’s face had been washed and his shirt changed after he had been shot.
Police focused on a mystery woman linked to Goodrich, issuing a description of an attractive, pale, 23-year-old female of slender build and average height. Little did they know that Kate Stoddard, a.k.a. Elizabeth “Lizzie” Lloyd King, was already in the wind, taking flight after the killing to avoid arrest.
Lizzie King was a deeply troubled soul. Earlier committed, then released, from the Taunton Lunatic Asylum in New England, she relocated to New York City, where she found employment as a teacher and milliner (or someone who sells and/or makes hats for women). King met the widower Charles Goodrich through a personal ad he placed seeking a wife. She responded using the alias Kate Stoddard. A romance flourished, and based on letters recovered by investigators, the two were married in 1872. However, the marriage was never validated, neither civilly nor religiously, as the man presiding was not a member of the clergy or court.
Not long after Goodrich convinced King to get an illegal abortion the following year, the relationship soured. He’d since taken up with Adeline Pabor, and the two lovers were engaged. However, King was not ready to move on.
As a gentleman of means, Goodrich offered King financial support, as long as she would stop referring to herself as his wife. King declined the offer and dug in her heels, accusing Goodrich of cruelty and abuse, pining for a reconciliation. When the exasperated Goodrich delivered an ultimatum, attempting to toss King from an investment property he was developing in Brooklyn with his brother, she responded with three bullets to the head.
Eluding authorities for months, King was captured on July 8, 1873, after she was spotted by former roommate Mary Handley and arrested exiting the Fulton Ferry. She was booked at the Second Precinct on York Street.
Following months of man hunting and media mania surrounding “The Goodrich Horror,” authorities presented King before a judge in Brooklyn to answer for her crimes. Play-by-play news of her steady slog to justice had captivated the city and her inquest attracted hordes of curious onlookers, eager to catch a glimpse of the murderous King.
That’s when the timing of that inquest pulled King into the colliding orbit of Mary Ann Dwyer, a despicable wretch who one-upped King by murdering her three children.
Talk about a crowded news cycle.
The inquests for King and Dwyer were not only held on the same day, but in the same Kings Country Court room down on Livingston Street.
Headline writers across the country could barely contain their glee, including The New York Times that ran a front-page piece the day following the dueling inquests with the headline: “TWO INSANE WOMEN.”
King was a complete disaster, much to the delight of onlookers. During a pre-trial hearing, a court-appointed psychologist deemed her mentally unfit to stand trial. She was packed away to the State Lunatic Asylum in Auburn. It was an institution built in upstate New York alongside Auburn State Prison to appease the reform movement to better address mentally ill inmates by separating them from more dangerous inmates. King spent the rest of her days in that institution.
The notoriety of King’s case lingered for years, prompting local residents to successfully petition the city to rename DeGraw Street between 5th and 6th avenues ever after Lincoln Place to throw off all the morbid curiosity seekers.
As for Mary Anne Dwyer, she was an Irish immigrant forced to flee her home by the famine, arriving in New York at the age of 17. A mother of four, she nearly murdered her husband in their North 8th Street tenement apartment in Williamsburg, before killing three of her children.
For a time during the epic proceedings, King and Dwyer sat beside each other in the crowded, poorly ventilated courtroom, and even shared some small talk.
Dr. MacDonald, the former head of the Flatbush Insane Asylum testified that Dwyer was insane at the time of the murders, and that insanity ran in her family.