William Hooper Young (March 13, 1871 – after
1928) was a convicted American murderer. In 1903, he was convicted of
the "Pulitzer Murder" in New York City and was sentenced to life
Hooper Young was born in Salt Lake City, Utah
Territory. He was the son of John Willard Young, an apostle in The
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church). Hooper Young
was a grandson of Brigham Young, the president of the LDS Church and
founder of Salt Lake City.
As a young adult, Hooper Young became an elder in
the LDS Church, and in 1891 and 1892 he was a Mormon missionary in the
eastern United States. In 1893, Young left Salt Lake City and began
moving from city to city and from job to job. During his travels, he
lived in Seattle; San Francisco; Portland, Oregon; Chicago; New York
City; Washington, D.C.; and Hoboken, New Jersey. Young drifted away
from the LDS Church and according to his relatives in Utah Territory,
had become a morphine addict. There were also rumors that he had left
Salt Lake City because he had killed someone.
Scene of the crime: the Young apartment
On September 19, 1902, the body of Anna Pulitzer
was found in the Morris Canal outside Jersey City, New Jersey. Her
abdomen had been stabbed and there was bruising on her head.
Pulitzer was married but had been arrested a number
of times for solicitation of prostitution. A New York cabman was found
who claimed that a few days previously he had taken Pulitzer and an
unknown man to an apartment in New York City that was the home of
Young's father, John Willard Young.
In the apartment, police found empty beer bottles,
a bottle with chloral hydrate crystals in it, a carving knife with
blood on it, and blood on bedsheets, in a closet, under the kitchen
sink, and on the floor and walls. The words "blood atonement" were
scrawled in a notebook, and underneath were several references to
verses in the Bible that discuss atonement for crime. It was
determined that Pulitzer had died of a drug overdose from chloral
poisoning and that the head brusing and abdomen stabbing occurred
after her death.
Young linked to death
It was discovered that John Willard Young had been
in France when Pulitzer had disappeared, but that Young's son Hooper
used the apartment when he was away. Hooper Young was arrested in
Derby, Connecticut, where he was found drunk and dressed like a hobo.
Initially, Young denied his identity, but
eventually he admitted who he was. Young claimed that he, Pulitzer,
and a third person named Charles Simpson Eiling had been in the
apartment on the night of Pulitzer's death, and that when he had
temporarily left the apartment to purchase whiskey, he returned to
find Pulitzer dead. Young said that Eiling had murdered Pulitzer and
that he had decided to help Eiling hide the body because he was afraid
of disgracing his father when the matter became public. Young said he
tried to cut Pulitzer's body up into small pieces, but that after he
made a cut to the abdomen, he lost his nerve and was not able to do it.
He did not admit to dumping Pulitzer's body in the canal, but he
indicated that he was aware of what had happened to the body. A search
was made for Charles Eiling, but no one of that name could be located.
When the New York newspapers discovered that the
prime suspect in Pulitzer's murder was the grandson of Brigham Young,
much speculation began about the motive for the murder. Because of
references to blood atonement that had been found in the apartment,
some speculated that Pulitzer was killed in accordance with the Mormon
principle of "blood atonement", whereby a person atones for sinful
behavior through the shedding of their own blood. Others suggested
that Young and Pulitzer had had an illicit affair years earlier, when
Young was a Mormon missionary in Perth Amboy, New Jersey, which was
Pulitzer's hometown. The actual motive for the murder was never
Murder trial and conviction
Young's murder trial began in New York City on
February 4, 1903. Young pleaded not guilty. His trial commenced, but
on February 10, Young told the court that he was willing to plead
guilty to second degree murder. The judge accepted the plea and
sentenced him to hard labor in state prison for the duration of his
natural life. The judge stated that he was not willing to impose the
death penalty because medical experts had suggested that Young was
probably medically—though not legally—insane. Because a full trial was
not completed, Young's motive or the truth behind his claims about
another man being involved were never fully examined in court. Young
served his sentence at Sing Sing in Ossining, New York.
Parole and later life
In early 1924, Young was paroled. He was living
with his father in New York City when his father died in February
The last recorded location of Hooper Young was that
he was in Fair Oaks, California in 1928 trying to locate one of his
half-sisters. The date and place of Young's death are unknown.
The Pulitzer Murder case
On September 19, 1902, the body of a woman named
Anna (Nilsen) Pulitzer was found in the Morris Canal just outside
Jersey City, New Jersey. A twenty-pound weight was attached to a
leather strap around her waist. Her skull was fractured in two places,
and she had been stabbed in the abdomen as well.
A motorman named Howell was the first person to see
her. He ran the trolley car that went from Newark to Jersey City. The
police immediately saw that the culprit was not a local person, who
would have been aware of the tides there. At low tide, the water was
only about six inches deep; it was hardly the place to conceal a body.
On the night of the 18th, the men who tended the
bridge saw two men in a rig drive by, with the curtains of the rig
drawn tightly closed.
In New York City, a man had reported his wife
missing. Joseph Pulitzer, a tailor living at 160 West 46th Street,
read of the discovery of the woman's body and went at once to the
Hoboken police. He identified her immediately. Joseph said that she
had gone out a few nights before to buy bread, was last seen at the
bakery. After questioning Joseph at length, the police were fairly
sure of his innocence: after all, he had reported her missing the
morning after she vanished, and he had been at a public meeting with
Joseph and Anna were both known around the
neighborhood for their colorful ways. Anna "was well known in the
Tenderloin district" and "was a very bad woman" who had been arrested
several times for soliciting, said Captain Titus, the head of the New
York police investigation. Joseph was described by those who knew him
as a flashy dresser who liked to flirt with young ladies; many
witnesses were surprised to learn that he was married.
Joseph Pulitzer had married Anna Nilsen in
Manhattan in November 1898. He was the son of August/Ignatz and
Josephine (Meth) Pulitzer. Anna was the daughter of Radmus Nelson and
Clara (Jacobson) Nilsen.
At this point, a Mr. Anzer, who had been following
the case in the papers, went to the Jersey City police. He was a
friend of a man called William Hooper Young - they had worked together
on a Hoboken newspaper called The Weekly Counselor. Mr Anzer said that
Young had been to his house on the previous Thursday. Young stated
that he was returning a hired gig to Charles K. Evans' livery stables.
Charles K. Evans identified Young and said that Young had made a
special request: he wanted a weight along with the gig.
A New York cabman testified that he had taken Anna
Pulitzer and the mystery man to 103 West 58th Street, which was an
apartment building called the Clarence. This was the home of John
Willard Young, a promoter who was in Paris at the time of the murder.
He was the son of the great Mormon prophet Brigham Young. John
Willard's 31 year old son, William Hooper Young, often used the
Clarence apartment when his father was not there.
In John Willard's apartment, the police found empty
beer bottles, one with crystals of what turned out to be chloral
hydrate, and a bloody carving knife. There was blood everywhere. All
the evidence was pointing towards one man: the grandson of Brigham
William Hooper Young was born at Salt Lake City on
March 13, 1871, son of John Willard and Elizabeth (Canfield) Young.
His mother, who was divorced from John Willard, said that Hooper had
been damaged by being sent out to a cattle ranch when he was a child,
by himself. She said that he was forced to work on the railroad when
he was 18, which left him homeless. She mentioned that Hooper's
brother was in jail for robbery.
Hooper's relatives in Utah were not fond of him.
They said that Hooper was weak minded and deranged. They said he was a
morphine addict who led a double life (there was some talk of his
possibly having committed a murder in Salt Lake City in 1893, which is
the year he left that city). He was a drifter, "a bum" who had lived
all over the United States, from Seattle to Chicago to New York, since
leaving Salt Lake City. He worked sometimes as a newspaper writer, in
Washington, D.C. as well as in Hoboken, New Jersey. In Washington he
was open about being Brigham Young's grandson. He was strongly anti-Mormon
Residents of the Clarence said that Hooper had come
in late on September 18th, with several packages. On the following day,
he had them shipped somewhere, in a trunk. The neighbours (who were a
curious lot) watched all of this; and then they told the police, who
were asking around at the Clarence for information. The police
contacted the shippers, who checked the records. Oh yes, that trunk
had been sent to Chicago.
And so the Chicago police were told to look out for
a mysterious trunk addressed to a C.S. Eiling, which had been sent on
September 18th from New York. Chicago police were unable to find
anyone by the name of C.S. Eiling in that city. When the trunk arrived
in Chicago, the police opened it. They found women's clothing, a knife,
a pawn ticket for a Mr. Stiner and a memorandum book with Hooper
Young's name in it. All of these items were smeared with blood.
The police caught up with Hooper Young in Derby,
Connecticut. He had been spotted in Brooklyn just before this, at a
rooming house on Roebling Street (not far from where my Reed great
great grandparents were living at 269 Roebling Street, in 1902). He
was dressed like a tramp, drunk on whisky, and very upset and nervous.
He did not admit to who he was until his old friend and ex-employer
showed up. The friend's name was Mac Levy.
Levy told the New York Times that Hooper had lived
from March to May 1902 in Brooklyn and had been training with Levy
during that time. He said Hooper did not drink (contradicting the
barman in the saloon across from the Clarence) but was "a cigarette
fiend." Levy didn't see Young from May until August. At that time,
Young looked terrible and haggard; he said said he wanted to go "to
the Rocky Mountains." He had no money, so Levy offered him a job gave
him a week's pay in advance. The next time Mac Levy saw Hooper Young
was in jail. Young was insisting that he was not Young but a "Bert
Hooper made his first confession to Levy. He said
that Anna had been killed at his father's apartment and that the
following night she had been dumped in the Morris Canal. Young said
that Charles Simpson Eiling had murdered Anna at the Clarence, and
that he had only been Eiling's accomplice. He said that he went out to
get whisky, and that Eiling had killed Anna while he was out. He said
he wanted to go to the police but was afraid of "the disgrace" that
would come to his father and himself. Young did admit to taking the
body to New Jersey and putting it in the canal.
Young was tried early in 1903 and convicted of
murder. In the 1910 census, he was a prisoner at Sing Sing prison, in
Ossining, New York.
There was much debate at the time, concerning the
role that the Mormon idea of blood atonement might have played in the
Pulitzer murder. In fact, Anna was found to have died of chloral
poisoning. The bottles at the Clarence, with crystallized chloral
hydrate, as well as the evidence of the autopsy, proved this to be so.
The mutilations of her body occurred after her death.
Anna Pulitzer was taken to her old hometown of
Perth Amboy, New Jersey, where she was buried. Her family still lived
there. They said that she had once been "a belle of Perth Amboy." In
fact, some people in that town said that Anna had actually met Hooper
9 years earlier, when he was part of a Mormon proselytizing band that
came through Perth Amboy (the villagers chased them out of town, they
said). Anna went to New York City a few weeks after this, and some
people thought that she went there to join Hooper Young. But that
story - like so many pieces of this fascinating case - was never
Brian Evenson, a former professor at Brigham Young
University, has written a novel in which the protagonists research the
Pulitzer case in some detail, called The Open Curtain (Coffee House