Lancaster County’s notorious crimes: a southern ‘home of horror’ in 1935 [LNP archives] | Meals + Dwelling


Within the spring of 1935, a lacking individual report changed into one of the vital surprising and grotesque felony instances within the county’s historical past.

Gladys Lawson, 26, a mom of two from Calvert, Maryland, was reported lacking on March 13. On April 4, this out of state affair made the headline in Lancaster newspapers for the primary of many occasions: Harry Zimmerly, a physician from southern Lancaster County, had been arrested and was suspected of being concerned in Lawson’s disappearance.

Zimmerly, 67, was charged with “performing an unlawful operation”, a cost he additionally confronted in 1919, when he served a 12 months within the county jail.

The “unlawful operation” in query was abortion, a service Zimmerly supplied to native girls at a makeshift hospital in her Mechanics Grove residence – though the phrase “abortion” hardly seems within the literature. native protection of the case.

Lawson was identified to have visited Zimmerly’s residence the final day she was seen, and when police arrived there to seek for her, a 17-year-old Maryland woman was present in Zimmerly’s care, date to which he was arrested and charged with.

The subsequent day, newspapers reported that, based on the testimony of Dr. Zimmerly’s housekeeper and nurse Blanche Stone, Gladys Lawson was lifeless.

Stone advised police Lawson died on March 16, about three days after arriving at Zimmerly’s residence.

She additionally stated Lawson’s physique “disappeared” someday earlier than 8 a.m. the subsequent morning, however police didn’t say in the event that they knew what occurred to the corpse. Clothes believed to have belonged to Lawson was seized from Zimmerly’s residence and the seek for his physique had begun.

Neighbors advised reporters concerning the giant “fence of spite” that Zimmerly had erected round her property to stop prying eyes, and spoke of screams and moans coming from the physician’s workplace that night time.

The developments within the investigation proceeded in a swift and sensational style, because the story grabbed the headlines for days.

On April 6, the New Period reported that bones have been discovered in a pile of ash in Zimmerly’s driveway. Zimmerly handyman Richard Parker stated he sharpened the butcher knives Zimmerly used to dismember Lawson’s corpse, and witnessed the dismemberment from afar. Bloodstains in Zimmerly’s storage corroborated Parker’s story.

As state and native police raided Zimmerly’s property, there have been rumors that an intense search and arranged search would reveal not solely Lawson’s stays, however the stays of different girls who had sought the companies of the physician.

The expression “home of horror”, by which this case can be identified all through its time within the media highlight, first appeared within the Intelligencer Journal April 6.

By April 8 – simply 4 days after the article was first revealed within the newspapers – the case had gained nationwide consideration and Zimmerly property had change into a macabre attraction for the curious public. Hundreds of individuals flocked to the scene in any respect hours of the day and night time, hoping to see the “home of horrors” for themselves, and maybe discover a clue as to the whereabouts of the Gladys Lawson’s stays – or the stays of not less than 4 different lacking girls have been reportedly present in Zimmerly.

In the end, 36 items of human bone have been discovered, however they’re all believed to belong to Lawson. June 10, Zimmerly was indicted on eight counts – 4 associated to finishing up unlawful operations and 4 narcotics expenses.

The trial was temporary – Zimmerly supplied no protection – and the aged physician was responsible of two of the 4 expenses referring to the observe of abortions, together with the cost that an abortion process resulted within the loss of life of Gladys Lawson. He pleaded responsible to a different cost of abortion and two expenses of narcotics, and has been condemned at age 7-15 within the Jap State Penitentiary in Philadelphia. He died there in 1942.

In a macabre footnote to this case, items of Lawson’s skeletal stays and scraps of his clothes have been exhibited on the Harrisburg Farm Present the next 12 months as a part of a state police exhibition.



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