Lillian Emanuel – Saved by an undercooked Steak

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1925 Montage
1925 Montage

It’s 1925!  The first Motel in the United States opens in San Luis Obispo, Ca.  The Great Gatsby is published, The Grand Ole Opry begins broad casting, Mount Rushmore is dedicated, AND our good friend Clarence Darrow, from the Emma Simpson story is defending John Scopes in Tennessee in what is known as the “Scopes Monkey Trial”.

Maurice Felt
Maurice Felt

September 29, 1925 in the fashionable Philadelphia area called Germantown, a handsome 35-year-old man is being wheeled out of a house with a bullet shot in his right temple.  He is followed by a young, beautiful, hysterical woman.

The man is Maurice E. Felt, “Gene”, a real estate magnate and former builder and owner of large movie theaters who later sold them for a small fortune.  Gene was married to Mary and had a 10-year-old son, Cornelius.  It was NOT Mary that was following him from the house.  It was Lillian Emanuel.

Lillian Emanuel and the Felts
Lillian Emanuel and the Felts

Lillian met Gene in 1916 when she worked as a multiplex telegraph operator for her father.  She was recently divorced.  A year later he bought a house for her in Highland Park which was a very stylish neighborhood. The house was built to her specifications.   Besides her butler, Washington Booker, she lived alone.   Gene visited her every Tuesday and Saturday nights.   Washington also took care of the black riding horse that she had.  Some of the neighbors complained about having a horse stabled in their neighborhood, but the horse died and that ended the controversy.  Lillian then bought a car.  Washington is also the one that bought a revolver for Lillian.  At first, he bought and automatic revolver, but that scared Gene and he had Washington buy a regular revolver.  However, they didn’t know very much about guns, so they kept the automatic bullets instead of buying bullets that fit the new gun. 

In 1924 Lillian Emanuel had a baby boy named Hunter and Gene bought her a house on Queens Street in Germantown, another stylish neighborhood, the deed to the house was in Lillian’s name.   She lived there with her son, Hunter and his nursemaid, Ellen Galbraith.

On the night of the shooting, Lillian and Gene had been out to dinner and then went for a ride in Gene’s automobile.  They returned to Lillian’s home.  They were discussing Gene’s upcoming trip to Europe.  Gene told Lillian that he was afraid to leave her alone unprotected.  Lillian responded that she wasn’t unprotected that she had the gun he had had Washington buy for her.  Gene asked Lillian where she kept it and she said inside the bedside table.  He then ran up the stairs to the bedroom and Lillian heard a shot.  She raced up the stairs and found Gene lying on the floor, bleeding from the temple with the gun lying on the floor by his right hand. 

He said, “Lillian, I didn’t think it would be so hard.  But everything will be all right.” 

With that statement he lapsed into unconsciousness.  Lillian screamed for Miss Galbraith the nurse, while she was waiting, she wiped Maurice’s face with a towel and got blood on her hands.  The nurse finally made it down from her third-floor room they managed to get him on the bed when he murmured “Water”.  Miss Galbraith picked up the gun from the floor and laid it on the bed and ran to the bathroom where she got him some water.

Lillian screamed at Ellen to call a doctor.  But after several attempts, no doctor would come to the house, so they called the Germantown Hospital which sent to surgeons to the house.  The surgeons said they would have to call the police, but Lillian pleaded with them not to saying that it was an accident.

They took Gene to the hospital where he never regained consciousness and died the next day.

Lillian Emanuel

May Felt, the widow, refuses to see any of her friends, she will only see Gene’s brothers and their wives.  “Don’t mention that woman here!  I can’t bear to think about it.  I’ve tried to believe it was an accident, but I can’t, I can’t.  I want to forget everything except Maurice.  It is too terrible a thing to have happened, ” she told the press as they surrounded her apartment building. 

Lillian Emanuel attended a brief hearing.  She was free on bail of $2,500 for the charges of assault and battery by shooting.  But Maurice had died, and so the District Attorney got a warrant for Lillian’s arrest for Manslaughter.  The police looked all over and couldn’t find Lillian, her attorney William Gray said that he would appear with her on the following day and the police had to be satisfied with that.  It turns out that Lillian was in her own house being guarded by two policemen.

Lillian was being arraigned for Manslaughter.  Lillian arrived at the courthouse wearing all black.  She collapsed and had to be carried to the seventh floor where she was photographed, think mug shot, by the police.  Edna, Lillian’s sister accompanied her to the hearing. 

Lillian is held on suspicion of manslaughter.  She is taken to Moyamensing prison.  And get this!  She was assigned to the same cell that Catherine Rosier had occupied in 1922. 

She was held in a waiting room with other prisoners and when her name was called, she was led into a brightly lit room and told to step up onto a large turntable. 

In the room there are 100 masked men.  As she revolved, she was asked her name.  Captain Wood of the detective squad said, “Boys, this is the woman accused of shooting Maurice Felt.  Do any of you know her?”  The detectives all answered NO.  Lillian was so terrified by the experience she had to hold onto the turntable and had to be carried from the room.  In her cell she collapsed.  Her attorney, William A. Gray was horrified.  He accused the police of putting her in the “stick-up” room to break her.

Beautiful Lillian Emanuel
Lillian Emanuel

Lillian’s sister Edna Wyckoff takes little Hunter to care for while Lillian is in jail.  Lillian’s father, Harry V. Emanuel, chief operator for Western Union Telegraph, came forward and admitted he was Lillian’s father.  Lillian’s parents were divorced, and each sent letters to her in jail, but neither had visited her. 

Lillian returns to court before Judges Bartlett and McDevitt in Common Pleas Court to continue the fight to get her released on bail.  She is sent back to Moyamensing Prison to await trial.  Lillian had been denied bail. 

The bail hearing lasted six hours with a surprise testimony by Fred Felts, Maurice’s brother.  Fred testified that a week before Maurice was dead, Fred had been trying to get Maurice to leave Lillian and Lillian told them, “If he doesn’t come up with a lump of money, I’ll knock him off.”  He also testified to a life insurance policy in the amount of $25,000 with Lillian as the beneficiary. 

Ellen Galbraith the nurse, testifies at the bail hearing.  “I had just put Forrest to bed, I heard a sound that I thought was a tire bursting.  I wouldn’t have noticed except it frightened the baby and made him cry. 

“I went to his bed and tried to quiet him.  I don’t know how long after this, but it was only a few moments at the most, that there was a noise like someone falling downstairs.  It was a heavy thud.  Then there was silence. 

” Another few moments passed, and then I heard Miss Emanuel’s step on the stairs.  I heard her run from, I believe, the second floor to the first and then back again.  Then I began to grow a little uneasy.”

So, no bail.

William Gray, Lillian’s attorney plans to take Lillian’s case to either the Superior Court or the State Supreme Court in order to get Lillian released from prison on bail.   He stated, “I will appeal today to a Judge of the Superior Court or a Justice of the Supreme Court to fix bail for Lillian Emanuel.  “There is not an element of first-degree murder in this case.  The Commonwealth has failed utterly to show one iota of evidence to connect this woman with the murder of Gene Felt.” 

Lillian Emanuel
Lillian Emanuel

The Coroner’s jury meets.  These inquests normally don’t last long, but this one lasted all day, and ended around 9:00 p.m. 

The lengthy hearing turned into a battle between Assistant District Attorney Charles F. Kelly and Coroner Patton.  Most of the argument was due to Coroner Patton calling Edward F. Logan and his sister Mary Logan the owners of the Spruce Eagle Inn, testifying that at the time Fred Felt says that Lillian made her statement about knocking Gene off, they were having dinner at the Spruce Eagle, some 15 miles away. 

Mr. Logan says he remembers it because Lillian sent her steak back as being under done.  Steaks are rarely sent back at the Spruce.  Edward was to take his family to the 9:30 movies but told them to go without him because he himself was going to cook a new steak for Lillian. 

After he took Lillian home, Gene returned to his office and Gray had a witness testify to that.  He also had a witness that heard Felt threaten suicide if Lillian ever left him. 

The star witness was Dr. William Wadsworth, coroner’s physician, and expert in post-mortem examinations.  Dr. Wadsworth testified that there were powder burns on the wound and that Gene could have easily shot himself. 

All of the circumstantial evidence brought by Kelly, was repudiated by Gray.  He was so fierce that he often got applause from the onlookers.  Lillian was so distraught that she fainted twice. 

Then the coroner’s jury with little or no deliberation, announces through the foreman, “Maurice Felt died at the hands of person or persons unknown to this jury.”

When the verdict was announced, Lillian stood up, shouted “I’m Free!” and fainted. 

When she woke up she shouted, “Gene, Gene, I’m free!  I’m free! I knew you would be with me! You were near me the whole time!”

After the Coroner’s Jury ruled.  Lillian left and spent the night at her father’s home.  It was planned that Lillian would go to her sister’s home the next day, getting out of Philadelphia and all the notoriety.  A conference was planned for D.A. Kelly, Isaac Levy –  Mrs. Felt’s attorney and William Gray to decide if Lillian Emanuel would be tried for murder, regardless of the coroner’s ruling.  “The matter of further prosecution of Miss Emanuel rests entirely with District Attorney Rotan,” stated Kelly. And District Attorney Rotan said no. So Lillian was free!

Lillian’s attorney made a plea to Mrs. Felt’s attorney, Isaac D. Levy, not to block the $25,000 from the life insurance so that Forrest, the 18-month-old baby could get an education and a good start in life.  Felt’s widow, Mary withdraws her claims against the $25,000 insurance policy that Maurice left for Lillian.  The widow will receive hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Lillian sells her house in Germantown for $22,500.  With the Life insurance policy for $25,000 that would give her $725,000 in today’s money.  She then changes her name, packs up her son Forrest and moves to Washington, DC.  Her sister, Edna moved with them.

Lillian sent the steak back
Lillian sent the steak back

And that’s how a poorly cooked steak saved a woman’s life!

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