Who killed Police Officer Benjamin Franklin Yost? A Mollie Maguire Story

Chapter 26 – Recreating the Crime

            On murder mystery television programs today, the public has an expectation, that within the confines of an hour show, the Police Department can recreate the crime scene and solve a murder by the end of the show. It is true, that the latest techniques in forensic sciences have contributed to more successful prosecutions than ever before in modern history. Is it even remotely possible that we can recreate the crime scene of the murder of Benjamin Franklin Yost in the early morning hours of July 6th, 1875? From an amateur sleuth’s point of view, let us give it try.

                In the re-imagined scene depicted below, that was drawn for Allan Pinkerton's story book, certain details can be alluded to and can be counted on as being correct. When Officer Yost left his abode and traveled north on Lehigh Street to the northwest corner of Broad Street in Tamaqua, he placed his ladder facing north against the gas lantern post to gain access to the lamp. He must have ascended the lamp to the third step, because in order to have access to extinguish the lamp, any person that was Officer Yost's five-foot, eleven inches in height would need to be able to be at that height, to have reached the controlling mechanisms, to put out the flame. Any higher, the officer would not be able to see what he was doing. Any lower, the ballistic evidence does not work.

            After reading the postmortem examination record, conducted by Doctor Solliday, we know that Benjamin Franklin Yost was killed by a single bullet, that entered his left side of his abdomen, between the eighth and ninth rib and was found at the eighth rib near the spinal column. We can recreate that trajectory and angle of the path of the fatal bullet. We also know, from the testimony of both Doctor Solliday and Daniel Schepp, that Officer Yost exclaimed, before his death, that the murderer stood six feet away and fired the pistol. The heights of the convicted men, James Boyle and Hugh McGeehan, were both six feet tall. The height of James Kerrigan was nearly five feet tall. Knowing these parameters, let us examine the two depictions below and pick which of the scenarios seems more probable.

            As can be seen from the rudimentary illustrations below, if you align the elbows where it intersects the trajectory of the bullet, the more natural stance of the shooter would be the second scenario of James Kerrigan being the shooter. In the first scenario, the shooter’s elbow would be pointing downward, in a very awkward position. Not definitive, but a very compelling case of James Kerrigan being the more likely murder suspect.



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