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True Crime in 1831, Part 2 - The Mysterious Stranger

Updated: Jan 30, 2021


Here is the second installment in my True Crime series, based upon William E. DuBois' publication of the trial transcript. And now the story continues....


On the morning of 9 May 1831 (some records indicate the 19th), he was released from prison in Philadelphia, four months before the completion of his sentence. He was given $4 dollars, the customary allotment for released prisoners. He walked to the wharf and, in the confusion of arrivals and departures, he slipped aboard a steamboat bound for New York.


He encountered a buffet table and began to help himself to the assortment of steaks, chops, ham, chicken, bread and coffee. After eating, he was noticed by a ship's officer who asked him for his ticket. When he told the officer he had none, he was directed to purchase one, but he refused. He did not want to spend any of his $4. The officer ordered him seized and he was thrown off the boat at the first stop, a wharf at a tiny town known as Andalusia. He walked a mile into town which consisted of several shops and taverns and asked for a room where he could spend the night.


That night he approached the Chapmans' property. After encountering an old woman who had been milking cows in the barn, he headed for the kitchen door, but she directed him to the main door. When a boy answered the door, he asked to see the master or mistress of the home. The boy left and told William Chapman that there was somebody at the door to see him. The stranger was led to the parlor used as a school room. In the center of the room, surrounded by a group of children, stood a tall, auburn-haired woman and a short, stout man. The boy told the stranger that was William Chapman.


In clear English as he could manage, the stranger asked for a room for the night. The stranger said the tavern below refused him. William said there was a tavern above. At that, the stranger appealed for mercy. He had travelled from Philadelphia and had not eaten all day. He was on his way to see a friend who owed him money and was staying at Bonaparte's. After getting that money, he would be glad to pay for any room and board they could provide.


Lucretia asked the stranger his name, to which he replied, "Carolina Amalia Espos y Mina." His father was a Mexican general and the governor of Upper California. William did not show much interest in the man after he told his story, but Lucretia replied that she thought he could spend the night.


However, this man was not the person he claimed to be and now he was inside the Chapman's residence.


Lino

In 1821, a man named Manuel Entrealgo, moved his family consisting of a wife, three sons and two daughters from Columbia to Cuba, following the election of Simon Bolivar as president. By 1822, he was living in the city of Trinidad, Cuba on the south coast of the island and working as a city surveyor. One of his sons, was a thirteen-year-old, named Carolino Estrada Entrealgo.


He was called Lino and had coal-black eyes and wavy dark hair. He enjoyed pretending that his father was not a mere civil servant, but a Spanish official. Whenever he found himself in trouble, he would also tell exaggerated tales that would ultimately exonerate him of any wrongdoing.


By 1824, Lino had limited schooling. He was a poor student, but he excelled at weaving fantastical stories to entertain his friends, as well as learning to sing and play the guitar. Being from a poor family, he could not hope for much in life. His father was able to secure him a position as a police officer. However, it was not long before he was being accused of extorting people.


He gradually became more daring in his crimes and eventually joined a band of thieves. They would rob the homes of Spanish nobles but became emboldened, deciding to target the royal treasury in Havana. However, during the execution of the theft, they were confronted by some guards and there was an exchange of gun fire. Lino fled, but was caught and charged with the crimes of attempted robbery and murder. He was 19.


His parents pleaded on his behalf, claiming he was a victim and that he was insane. Only after they bribed officials was Lino freed, with the condition that he leave Cuba and never return. He would soon travel to America.


Lino did have one regret about leaving Cuba. Before his arrest, one of the women he had an affair with and abandoned, got pregnant and had a daughter. Lino was a father, but now he had to leave the country and would probably never see her again.


When his ship arrived in Boston in September 1829, he took a room at a local inn and a new name. He was now Don Amalia Gregoria Zarrier. When the manager of the inn asked about payment, Lino said he did not have any paper money, only gold coins. He flashed one and asked the manager to exchange it for him. The manager was wary, but assumed, incorrectly, that this smooth-talking foreigner was indeed a wealthy man and agreed to allow him to stay on credit and could pay after he exchanged his gold for American currency.


Lino took full advantage of this new opportunity. At the inn he ordered expensive meals and wine. He used the same coin trick to have a tailor make several new suits made for him and at a stable rented horses and a fancy carriage. His charade worked for a while until people ultimately grew impatient and demanded payment. Lino apologized for the delay and promised to pay them the next day. That evening he packed his belongings and promptly left Boston.


He slowly made his way south until he reached Philadelphia in 1830 and took a new name, Celestino Almentero. He rented a room at a boarding house and began to become acquainted with the other residents. However, it was not long before he was sneaking into their rooms and stealing items from them. One boarder caught him and had Lino arrested.

Eastern State Penitentiary, Philadelphia, PA

In March he was convicted of theft and sentenced to 18 months in prison at Philadelphia's newly opened, fortress-like Eastern State Penitentiary. He was placed in solitary confinement, as were other prisoners at the institution. It was thought to be a humane practice at the time, but it was a difficult period for the social Lino. After a year, he had a fellow inmate translate a letter for him from Spanish, imploring that he be released.


His letter said that had been born in Cuba and went to Mexico to fight against General Santa Anna, but was caught and imprisoned as a spy. He said he had been released on account of his youth and he then left Mexico and was headed to New York to board a ship to take him home. However, along the way he happened to lose all of his money and documents. He sought assistance from the Spanish Consul, but was turned away. He had been hoping to find a fellow countryman in Philadelphia who would help him, but, before that occurred, he was falsely accused of theft. The items in question had, in fact, been his. The witness, he said, took advantage of his ignorance of the laws, customs and language and had him wrongfully imprisoned. If only he were released, he could return home to Cuba.


The letter had the desired outcome. He was released early on the morning of 19 May 1831. By dusk he was standing in the Chapmans' parlor asking for a place to spend the night.


Stay tuned for the next installment.

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