There is a Facebook meme that floats around with the image of a woman who is clearly not healthy. The condition that led to her being in this state is often misstated in order to create a story that is completely unrelated. With that in mind I decided to cover the true tale so that those of you reading this will be able to help separate fantasy from reality.
The woman pictured is named Blanche Monnier and her story goes as followed: In Paris, circa 1876, Monnier had just turned twenty-five and she was in love with a lawyer who she was adamant about marrying. The lawyer was older, but not successful enough for her mother, who was used to the finer things in life. Her mother’s solution was to lock her daughter in a room in their home, alone, without even a light. It was there that Monnier lived in squalor for the next twenty-five years.
Her rescue only came when a letter from an anonymous source alerted the local police that Madame Monnier was keeping a starving person locked up in putrid conditions. Despite the family’s wealth and strong local reputation, the police decided to investigate anyway. They forced their way into the Monnier home and searched until they found a room that was padlocked. When they broke in that room, their noses were attacked by a horrible smell. Blanche was lying on a bed covered in excrement and spoiled food. Her straw mattress was long rotted down and on top of it lay a crust of dried meat, bugs, bread and human waste. Blanche would prove to weigh just 55 pounds at the time of her rescue.
Blanche’s mother was arrested, but died just over two weeks later while still in custody. Her brother Marcel was charged with aiding in the crime, but he was acquitted because it was ruled he had no “duty to rescue” his sister.
Blanche’s would be husband died in 1885, but even that did not prompt her mother to set her free. Blanche never recovered mentally from her ordeal and died in a psych ward in 1913.
In early June of 1979, Heather Halseth was part of a large party in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Drugs were being freely used and lots of underage drinking was being done. When Halseth left the party, an unknown assailant attacked her, used sticks to rape her and then suffocated her by shoving dirt into Heather’s mouth.
Three days later the police were called and tipped off that a local 15-year-old’s basement would contain clothes covered in blood and mud that would link the kid to the rape/murder. The police got a warrant but found no clothes that suggested the young man was involved. The 15-year-old took a polygraph and failed. The investigators suspected he knew more then he was saying but they had reached a dead end with the lead.
The police had another lead to follow and a different 15-year-old boy (who was not named due to his age) was arrested. He failed a polygraph and was charged with second-degree murder and for the sexual attack. At his trial another party-goer named Jay Flom testified that the accused had remained at the party for most of the night and was probably still there when Heather was assaulted. This, along with a lack of strong evidence, led to the 15-year-old being acquitted.
Soon after the trial Flom himself was found naked in a ditch, dead from two bullet wounds to the head. Flom had been seen with another of the kids from the party shortly before his death. The lawyer who was defending the accused 15-year-old was contacted by persons unknown and warned to not investigate Flom’s murder. There is some evidence to believe Flom was the person who called the police earlier about the location of the bloody clothes. Both Halseth and Flom’s murders remain unsolved.
The case of Leo Frank has gone down in history as one of the more famous cases of a miscarriage of justice occurring. On April 27th of 1913, 13-year-old Mary Phagan was strangled and her body was found in an Atlanta pencil factory. The owner of the factory, Leo Frank, became the top suspect, in part due to his Jewish heritage leading to an anti-Semitic hate coming through in some people. Frank had recently laid off Phagan from her job at the factory due to a shortage of raw materials. The rumors swirled that Frank had actually done so due to having his romantic advances rebuffed. Two notes, supposedly in Phagan’s hand writing, were found by Phagan’s body that seemed to implicate a factory guard named Newt Lee as being involved with Phagan’s demise. Bloody clothes were later found at Lee’s residence. The detectives eventually decided that the clothes had been planted by Frank. Lee’s time card was also missing punches that indicated Lee was away from his post around the time of the murder.
Janitor Jim Conley was also suspected of aiding in the crime. When in custody he was given a spelling test and he misspelled the same words as the letter writer of the notes had. Conley was arrested along with the guard and Leo Frank. Frank would ultimately be the only one who saw the inside of a courtroom.
Frank was charged with Phagan’s murder and was sentenced to die via the gallows. Frank never wavered on his innocence and appealed the ruling. One day before he was scheduled to die the governor of Georgia granted Frank a sentence of life imprisonment instead. This outraged a number of people and on August 16th a lynch mob formed and forced themselves into the penitentiary where Frank was being held. They snatched Frank from his cell and dragged him to a spot near Phagan’s home. The following morning Frank was murdered by being hung from a tree. Despite promises from law enforcement, none of the lynch mob was ever charged in the crime.
Frank’s innocence was not proven until several decades later when a witness finally spoke up and said he had seen the janitor, Jim Conley, carrying Phagan’s lifeless body into the factory’s basement. Frank was formally cleared in 1986 when the Georgia State Board of Pardons awarded him a posthumous pardon.
Thanks for reading! I’ll be back with more cases soon!
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