What happened to the mysterious Woman in Green?

Sketch of the notorious murder scene as it appeared in a national crime magazine.

Men behaving very badly—some women, too!

     Accounts of bad behavior have sometimes gripped the headlines over the decades.  In 1836 a crime in New York City was the first time in American newspaper reporting that a crime of such a lurid nature was printed, and devoured daily by readers.  Readers devoured it and devoured it, squeezing out every morsel of the drama.  It centered on The Girl in Green.

The shocking accounts were about a murder—a murder that happened in an elite brothel.  It was a brothel that catered to politicians, lawyers, and well-to-do merchants.  The murder victim was a beautiful young prostitute who worked under the name of Helen Jewett.

Helen was actually born as Dorcas Doyan in Temple, Maine.  Her family life was not ideal—alcoholism and absent parents—so when she was twelve or thirteen she took an opportunity to work as a servant-girl in the household of Chief Justice Nathan Weston of Maine Supreme Court.

Dorcas was not unaware of her own beauty.  She decided to use that striking beauty to advantage by becoming a prostitute.  At about age eighteen, she left her employment as a house-servant and made her way to Boston.  After a time she left Boston for New York City where she affiliated with the elite brothel, as Helen.

On the sad morning of April 10, 1836, the matron of the brothel discovered Helen’s body in the bed.  She had been bludgeoned to death with a heavy sharp tool of some kind, presumably by one of her regular clients.

Questions were asked all about, in the brothel, and it was decided to arrest a Richard P. Robinson.  Robinson, age 19, was a staff member at a fine dry goods store.  He was not known for violent emotions and showed none when arrested for the murder.

He was represented by a former district attorney and was found not guilty in less than an hour.  The people chosen to testify at the trial were mostly prostitutes from the brothel, and their testimony was viewed as dramatic and unbelievable.

After a short amount of time, Robinson moved to Texas where he was a model citizen and respected by those that knew him, for the rest of his life.

There was a bizarre side note following his acquittal.  Some of his personal letters were released to the public and supposedly these letters revealed his true violent and deviant nature—more tidbits for the newspaper readers, and this may be why he decided that relocation to a faraway place was in order.

One major newspaper, the New York Herald, edited by James Gordon Bennett, Sr., usually referred to Helen as The Girl in Green—she loved to wear that color so.

Robinson—did he, or didn’t he commit the crime?  There is plenty of room for doubt.  Helen’s case was never re-opened.

Sara Marie Hogg is the author of Dark Continent Continental. Please click HERE to find the mystery novel on Amazon.

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