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An 1899 murder-suicide

A little-known crime of passion in Redwood City
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I thought I knew about the infamous true crimes in the Redwood City area, but this unknown one popped up during a visit to the Local History Collection of the main library.

The three principal characters were Augusta A. Titus, the owner of a small Redwood City boardinghouse; “Lillie” Stalter, her divorced (shocking at that time) daughter who was living with Augusta; and Jerome Turner, an unmarried cabinet maker who had rented a room from Augusta for four years.

On the morning of August 24, 1899, these three journeyed from Redwood City to San Francisco and then on to Oakland via the ferry. While in Oakland, Jerome surprised the two women with an unexpected marriage proposal to Lillie. Lillie said no and, just to make it clear, Augusta declined the proposal for her daughter as well.

Jerome went into a sulk, and the three returned to Redwood City by way of the train - Jerome arriving back at the homestead first.

When Lillie and her mother arrived home and were putting away their hats or whatever in the bedroom they shared, Jerome appeared in the doorway and shouted, “Now I’ve got you!” and fired two fatal shots at Lillie, who slumped to the floor. Jerome turned his attention to Augusta, but Augusta became a total super-hero and pinned Jerome to a wall in the hallway and made her escape outside, slamming the door in Jerome’s face and shouting for help. While outside, the sound of one more gunshot echoed through the house, and Augusta was not surprised to find Jerome dead by his own hand. She tried to revive her daughter, but it was too late.

There were no surprises at the subsequent coroner’s inquest. Augusta testified as to what she saw and gave an insight into Jerome’s character, saying that the man had threatened suicide “on a number of occasions…(but)…we paid little attention…as I never believed he would do such a thing.”

A local newspaper reported that mental illness may have had something to do with Jerome’s heinous actions as “…during the past few months, his queer actions were noticed by many, and he was believed to be losing his mind. Added to this was his inclinations to drink heavily at times.”

Due to the scarcity of burial sites in the area, Lillie and Jerome were both buried in the Union Cemetery, and the same Episcopalian minister presided over the two funerals on the same day, just 90 minutes apart. As it happened, Augusta would be buried in the same cemetery when she died in 1908. All three principal characters were laid to eternal rest just yards away from each other.

Sadly, these three would be largely forgotten in the subsequent decades, including the (unfortunately) futile attempt of Augusta to save her daughter’s life.