Chicago Tribune, July 11, 1882
“I killed him. It would have have been all right if he had used me right last night.” Those words came from the lips of a young woman as she sat at 7 o’clock in the morning on the floor of a corridor on the sixth floor of the Palmer House. The man she had killed “because he didn’t use her right” lay with his head on her lap, and in her hand Teresa Sterling held the revolver, a bullet from which had sent her lover to his long account.
The murdered man was Charles Stiles, the caller oif the Call Board, a young man known to tens of thousands in Chicago. The woman who killed him had for five or six years been his mistress. She was a prostitute, and had been such since she was 15 years of age. Living with Stiles from time to time, she alternated from the keeper of a bagnio to an inmate of one. In 1875 she met Syiles in the East. He brought her to this city, and they went to live together, maintaining relations not recognized by law. Tiring of her, and quarreling with her, the result was that the woman established herself on a South Side thoroughfare, where she offered opportunities to other women to become as bad as she was. Once more a reconciliation occurred, and the two lived together as man and wife in this city. Stiles appears to have made many efforts to quit himself of the complication, but the woman had a great hold upon him, and he seems to have had as great hold upon her. They parted and came together again half a dozen times. The woman was an inmate of one if of more houses of prostitution in this city. To these places Stiles would go and reclaim her. Their old relations would be renewed for a few weeks, and then she would enter upon a course of sin—there isw too much reason to fear at his instance. There is too much reason to believe also that he accepted for his own use the money which she earned in this way.
The Scene of the Murder
was the sixth floor of the Palmer House. At 6:40 yesterday morning a woman entered the house and asked to be shown the room of Mr. Stiles, which, she said, was on the sixth floor, showing her perfect knowledge of his whereabouts. She went up the elevator, and, as the elevator boy declares, showed no signs of mental perturbation or excitement. Stiles occupied the two rooms numbered 660 and 661, which connect. The woman rapped upon the door of No. 660, and, in a feigned voice, said: “It is a messenger who has a message for you.” There was a click of the bolt, and the woman gained entrance to the room. What passed within the next few minutes no one knows. Just at five minutes to 7 a bell boy who was at work on the fifth floor heard a shot, followed instantly by another. Running up to the floor above, he found the woman sitting upon the floor of the hallway, and Stiles lying with his head in her lap as described. There was blood all over the wall; there was blood in the passageway. The woman held in her hand the revolver that had done the work. She acknowledged that she had killed her lover, and explained the reasons for her action. The patrol wagon was called from the Central Station, and the woman taken into custody by the officers. The body of Stiles was removed to the morgue on Third avenue, and so closed the first chapter of this fearful tragedy.
The story of the killing and the interview which preceded it is given by the woman herself. Substantially her story is, no doubt, correct, so far as this part of the tragedy is concerned. Her illusion to the ill-treatment of the previous evening refers to a trip made by the murdered man and the woman who killed him to Sunnyside, and the details of this are also given in the woman’s statement.
A Tribune reporter who visited the scene of the murder a couple of hours after it occurred made a careful inspection of the surroundings. The diagram shows the situation and explains itself.
Three Things Were Noticeable.
On the transom over the door of No. 661 there were finger-marks as if some one had climbed up and tried to look into the room. Secondly, the paint on the lower part of the floor had been kicked away, and the marks were fresh. Thirdly, there was a splintered hole in the door where a bullet had passed through, and a little higher on the opposite wall was the round hole in the plaster where the bullet—the first one fired—had found its resting place.
Chicago Tribune, July 11, 1882
THE STORY OF THE MURDERESS.
The Tribune reporter found the murderess at the armory. At first she was averse to talking, but in a few minutes consented to give her statement. Although not a handsome woman by any means, the girl, who appeared to be about 25 (she said she was 21) is the possessor of a pair of beautiful black eyes and hair of the same color. She was more refined in appearance than the average of her class, but there was nothing distinguished about her. She said that she first met Stiles in the East—she declined to say where—in 1876, when she was, as she alleges, 15 years of age. At that time, she so stated, she was respectable, though there isw much reason to doubt her statement on that point. Stiles had gone East following the trotting circuit, and met her while on the trip. A mutual attachment sprang up of the usual character, which ended in her coming to Chicago. The two lived together in a dozen different places, passing in some as man and wife where the semi-respectability of the surroundings demanded this concession to public opinion. Apparently they tired of of the attempt to conceal their relations, for in a short time the woman blossomed out as a full-grown prostitute, and was established in a house of ill-fame on Clark street. She was known as Mrs. Stiles, and assumed the name of Madeline, her own name being Teresa. According to her story, during the whole time that she maintained this establishment Stile was her lover, and she handed him a very large percentage of the wages of her sin. Affairs went along in this way for several years. Finally she left the Clark street place, and the two went to live together upon Wabash avenue. At No. 371 on that street Stiler’s father died in her arms, as she declares. The woman alleges that the whole family, father, son, uncle, and others, were cognizant of the relation which existed between her and Charlie, and that, with the exception of the father, now deceased, they all got money from her. In the fall of last year the two went to live at No. 291 Wabash avenue, a place kept by a Mrs. Barnes and alleged to be respectable.
They Passed There as Man and Wife,
and Stiles introduced the woman to a number of his acquaintances as his wife. He maintained his room at the Palmer House as a blind, being afraid that his mother would hear of his course course of life. From time to time the couple quarreled. From time to time the woman returned to her old vocation, and perennially Stiles took what money she earned, or aa a large percentage of it as she would consent to give him. To come down to recent affairs, the story may be condensed as follows in the words of the girl herself:
On the Fourth of July Charley and I left him and went ot a ‘house’ on Clark street. The next day he came for me and made me go back with him to 291 Wabash avenue. We lived there together up to yesterday. He abused me all the time, and once he locked me up in a closet in his room at the Palmer House, where I remained from 10 in the morning until 4 in the afternoon, when I was let out by by some of the servants. He never was good to me, although I was very fond of hem. When I wanted to leave him he would hunt me up, and he persecuted me till I could not rest. In February he abused me, kicked me, and choked me, and had him arrested. He was brought to this (Harrison street) station and gave the name of Ben Shaw. I relented, of course, and got him out of the station. A year last April I had a room at the Palmer at the same time he did, and he went into my room and took everything I had in the shape of money. It was one cry—money, money—all the time, and I gave him everything I had in the world. I even went back to that miserable life in order to earn money for him, and he gambled it away, together with speculating in grain and provisions, and, of course, his salary went the same way. I never remember the day within five years that he has not asked me for money. I told him not to do so—it made me feel sad to think that he only cared for me for the money I could give him. Then he choked and kicked me.
HE LED ME A DOG’S LIFE.
Every two or three weeks he would send me a letter bidding me farewell forever. I felt sad enough, but, if it was for him to give me up, I was satisfied. I had given my honor and girlhood to him; it was not much more to stand by and let him desert me. But just as I would begin to feel resigned to our parting, he would come back to me. When I refused him money he always reproached me. I tried to get along once by keeping a house at 10 South Clark street, renting rooms, but he made me give it uo. Whenever we went anywhere together I had to pay his expenses as well as my own.
Well, tell me about the shooting. Did you go to the Palmer House to kill him?
I am coming to that part of the story. On Sunday afternoon he came for me. We went out to Delaware place, on the North Side, and then rode out q good way on the cable-cars. Then we went round to Cooper’s livery-stable, and got a buggy, and went out to Sunnyside. All the way out he was asking me for money. We went up-stairs at Downing’s and had a couple of glasses of beer and also ordered supper. Chicken for two and other other eatables were called for, and we were eating them in silence when finally Charlie said:
‘Do you know I have a notion to kill you?’
I laughed at him, and laughed so hard that a chicken bone stuck in my throat. At this juncture Mrs. Downing entered the room, and Charlie laughed too, and slapped me on the back. The minute she went out he resumed the fierce air, and took me by the throat. He then said that he had no money to pay for the supper, and I told him not to mind that. I would pay for all that we had eaten. He went downstairs, jumped into his buggy, drove away, and left me there. I got a man there to walk with me through the rain to the street-cars and went home to 291 Wabash avenue. I could not sleep, and I made up my mind to go over to the Palmer House and tell Charley that I would
NEVER SEE HIM ANY MORE.
I always carried a revolver, and Charley knew I did so.
Early this morning, I guess about 6 o’clock, I went over to the Palmer House and took the elevator to Charley’s room. He opened the door when I told him there was a messenger there. I told him that because I wanted to get in to see him, and he took me by throat. You can see the marks now.
The woman let fall a handkerchief from her throat that showed some ugly marks there, apparently made by the clutch of a strong hand.
Resuming the story she said:
I told him to let me go; that I had a pistol in my hand, and it might go off. It was a self-cocking revolver. I don’t know how it happened, but the revolver went off, and then I think I fainted. In a minute or two I looked round and Charley wasn’t in either of the rooms. I went out into the hall and saw him lying there. I did not know he was dead, but I was afraid I had killed him. Then some people came. I don’t know what I said, and I don’t know whether I fired one or two shots. It all seems like a dream to me, and I cannot remember what happened.
Chicago Tribune, December 24, 1882
The final proceedings in the famous Stiles-Sturla murder case which has so long attracted public attention, occurred in the Criminal Court before Judge Gardner. About 11:30 o’clock his Homor made his appearance on the bench, and Miss Sturla, convicted iof the killing of Charley Stiles, was conducted to the seat which she occupied during the tedious trial by a bailiff. She entered the room smiling, and gave every evicence of being in excellent health, as well as spirits.
Miss Sturla was directed to take her position in front of the Judge, which she did, and the court sentenced her as follows:
It becomes necessary for me to dispose of this matter this morning, and I will carry out the verdict of the jury. I want to say here publicly that this case has been as thoroughly defended as any case that has ever been tried before me, or any case that I know of; that your counsel has done everything that that he could conceivably have done, and the result which has been reached demonstrates the truth of this assertion; and in accordance with the verdict of the jury it becomes my duty to sentence you, as I do now, to one year’s imprisonment in the State Penitentiary. That is all.
The court (to Miss Sturla).—If you desire to say anything.
YOU MAY SAY IT NOW.
Miss Sturla looked out a moment at the daylight which streamed in at the window in front of which she stood, and then fixing her eyes on the Judge addressed him as follows:
I am perfectly satisfied, your Honor, for it will take me eleven months, at least, to get over my dysmenorrhea; and I go with the pleasant recollection that nine jurymen stood by me, and that of the two that were against me—Mr. Forbes and Mr. Tobias—Mr. Forbes was a man that kept a house of ill-fame at one time in Sioux City, his son being killed by a woman whom he had seduced; and Mr. Tobias was put on to convict me and he failed. That was the reason of nine of the jurors standing by me. My lawyer tried to have him put off the jury, but it was not allowed. That is all I have to say. Thank you.
The New York Times, December 7, 1883
BALTIMORE, Dec.6.—Teresa Sturla, the young woman who has just been released from the Joliet Penitentiary, where she served a year for the killing of Charlie Stiles in Chicago, reached this city at a late hour last night. Her brother Lawrence met her at Pittsburg and brought her home. She is now at her home at No. 136 South Dallas-street, a poor quarter of the city. Her mother wept over her when she entered the house and gave her wayward child a warm welcome back again. Teresa’s silks and satins and fur cloak seem very much out of place in Dallas-street. It was in this city that Stiles met the girl, who was then in a disreputable house on North-street and went by the name of Effie. She is not a pretty woman, but is vivacious and a ready talker, a good singer, and can play the parp, guitar, and piano with great skill. Her old mistress made an attempt to induce her to come back to her bagnio to-day, but failed.
“I am not going back there,” said Teresa tonight, “but I am going to try to live a better life. We have got a little money, and I can get along nicely at home, of course, this house is not like the ones I have lived in.” How long she will keep her good resolutions remains to be seen.
All illustrations, except the shooting diagram (Chicago Tribune) are from the book, “Sturla-Stiles Tragedy,” by O. E. Turner, 1883.