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True Crime in 1831, Part 8 - The Villain Arrested

Updated: Jan 30, 2021

The letter Lucretia wrote to Lino on 31 July 1831, never made it to him.

When Lino went to Washington, he succeeded in deluding several respectable gentlemen into the belief that he was the son of General Mina, and that he had lost his wallet containing six hundred and twenty dollars in notes of the Banks of Schuylkill, Bristol and Pennsylvania. The loss left him totally destitute he told people. He even went so far as to advertise in the 1 August 1831 edition of National Intelligencer. Whoever would return the money or give information that may lead to the recovery of it, would receive a $50 reward and "the hearty thanks of a stranger." He signed his name in full.

Much sympathy was excited by the story of his distresses and several gentlemen advanced him sums of twenty and thirty dollars each (equivalent to about $600 and $900 today). He promised that he would refund the amounts immediately on returning to Baltimore where, he alleged, he had left a large sum of cash. Lino left the city and the persons in Washington waited patiently several days, but no remittance came from Lino. One of the men went to the post office and found a letter addressed to Lino. On opening it, his suspicions were confirmed. It was the letter from Lucretia.

He forwarded the letter to Philadelphia, where it made it into the hands of Willis Blayney, a high constable in the city. As he read Lucretia's letter, he grew increasingly concerned about its contents and thought that he should bring it to the Mayor's attention. Since the mayor was absent at the time, the direction of the police fell upon Joseph McIlvaine, the Recorder and Magistrate of Philadelphia. The two of them set about investigating the alleged crimes.

In the morning after William's death, his friend, Edwin Fanning, left the Chapmans. He stopped at a neighboring tavern for breakfast, deeply affected by the extraordinary doings he had been a witness to the preceding night. So firmly did he seem impressed with the belief that all was not right, that before leaving the tavern, he told the landlord, "he believed there had been foul play at the house." In case any investigation should be had, he should be sent for as a witness, as he thought he should be able to make oath to some of the extraordinary circumstances. He accordingly left his name and address and continued on his journey. As he did not enter into any particulars, no great attention was paid to his narrative at the time.

Some of the cryptic language in Lucretia's letter convinced the police that William's death had been more suspicious than initially believed. McIlvaine sought out and met with Fanning. The book seller intimated that he believed that William was poisoned by Lino.

By the end of August, Blayney and McIlvaine, along with Mr. Reeside, a mail contractor who volunteered his horses and services, set out for Andalusia to question Lucretia. When they reached her house, they had to wait for her to return from church. McIlvaine requested to have a conversation with her in a private parlor. He introduced the subject by saying that he had understood that a person, calling himself Mina, had spent some time in her house and that he had in his possession very satisfactory evidence that the man was a swindler and an imposter. It had become his duty to have him arrested. The magistrate told her that he had reason to believe that she had suffered from his impositions and he would be obliged for any information she could provide as to what he had done. Lucretia said that she could not believe he was an imposter, that he had represented, and she believed, that he was the son of a distinguished Mexican. She then began to tell how Lino had come to the house. McIlvaine changed the subject. He was interested in other matters and asked her if Lino had not, to a considerable extent, injured her or plundered her of her property? She promptly answered, No. Since he had her letter in his possession, he knew she had named specific valuables. He asked her, did he not take the horse and carriage? She replied that yes, he had, but he had left them at a house on Twelfth Street. He then mentioned the spoons to her. She responded with the explanation Lino had originally given about their disappearance. He named all of the articles, and she admitted that he had carried them away. He asked if she knew what money he had when he went to Baltimore. About fifteen dollars, she told him. Would it have been possible that he could have had $650 in his possession? Lucretia said it was impossible that he could have had that sum. Could she say where he had gone and when he left the house last? She said he had been there and gone. All he had told them was that he was going north.

McIlvaine saved the next subject for last. He told her that from the information that he had received of the circumstances attending the death of William, and the motive he could conceive a man like Lino might have to plunder a woman like her, he had a strong impression that Mr. Chapman had died by poison, and that Lino had administered it to him. The magistrate noted a very marked effect on her countenance when he mentioned that; as much as he had ever witnessed. Had nothing occurred within her observation to make her suspect the same thing that he suspected? There was a long pause. McIlvaine noticed she made a great effort to recover and she succeeded. No, she told him, she had seen nothing of the kind. Lino had been William's kind nurse during his illness, and had given him a great part of the medicine he took. She then instantly began talking about the great attachment William had felt for Lino.

He brought her back to the fact that this man was an imposter. He again mentioned the business at Washington. She expressed surprise that Lino had been so much of the time in Washington. She said she supposed from his account that during his absence he had been to New Orleans and back. McIlvaine told her that was not possible. Lucretia said Lino had gone there by railroad, travelling night and day at 30 miles per hour. McIlvaine shook his head. There was currently no railroad to New Orleans and this was another one of Lino's deception he told her. He urged her to inform him where Lino was, as he had proved to her that he was a swindler, and said it was her duty to give him that information. She denied any knowledge and repeated that all she knew was that he had gone north. He left her with the assurance that if it was possible by any effort of the police, this man should be taken and punished for his crimes.

In the meantime, Lino was up to his usual ways once he arrived in Cape Cod. Thanks to the letters Lucretia had furnished, her friends received him with open arms and he was living in the home of General Cobb, an old friend of hers. Lino made himself very agreeable and communicated to everyone his great wealth and the immense benefits he had conferred, and still intended to confer, on Lucretia. In fact, he has furnished her with between six and ten thousand dollars in gold, from his $1,500,00 yearly earnings from his gold mines. On 1 September 1831, he sent a letter to Lucretia, confirming his arrival and that he would be going to Boston in two days, where he would remain until he heard from her. He asked her to call on Juan Bautista Bitonia in Philadelphia, cash the enclosed draft for $1,000 and send the money to him in Boston as soon as possible. He had also paid very particular attention to a niece of Lucretia's and told her they could be married in Boston if she went with him.

McIlvaine and Blayney intercepted this letter containing the forged draft and they took means to have him arrested. They dispatched a letter to Mr. James Pierce with the police in Boston, including a description of Lino and a request to have him apprehended if he could be found and detained until a demand should be made for him by the Governor of Pennsylvania. After being carefully sealed up, the letter was again put in the post office and reached Lucretia in the regular course of mail.

When the Boston police caught up with Lino, he was preparing to attend a ball given by a merchant in high standing there, to which nearly a hundred ladies of the first families had been invited. His ball attire was lying near him, consisting of a hat in which six ostrich feathers were fastened by a "braid of brilliants," and a splendid dress suit after the Spanish fashion, complete with gold epaulettes. Instead of favoring the beauties of Boston with his presence, he was incarcerated in prison.

On 10 September, Lucretia, upon the advice of her counsel, Mr. John Campbell, visited McIlvaine's office. She informed the magistrate how far she had been deceived and injured by Lino, and that her object was that he should advise her what she should do to protect her and her character from the consequences. The magistrate told her it would be difficult to give her advice; that her conduct had been imprudent and that it was gross infatuation to have taken the course she had. He could not promise that there were any steps she could take that could relieve her from the consequences. There was but one possible course that could do her any good, which was to convince the public that she had been, throughout this business, the victim of deception, and that she ought to show her sincerity by giving him all the means in her power to bring him to justice. If she chose to be candid in her communications with him, he would do all he could, consistent with his duty, to save her feelings and rescue her from the consequences, particularly her character, which was involved in the proceedings. From the moment that she occupied that confidential position towards him, he purposely abstained from putting to her a single question relating to William's death which he thought could involve her. Whatever was said was her voluntary communication. McIlvaine confined himself to frauds of Lino upon her.

She produced the letter from Lino that enclosed the draft on a man named Bitonia. She said it was a fictitious name, or at least, the draft was of no value. Upon the receipt of this, she said, she had become satisfied of the truth of his assurance to her that Lino was an imposter. She said that she had learned the history of her horse and carriage, and the other stolen items. Lino had sold the horse and carriage, plus some "old-fashioned things" that he claimed a nobleman had left him, to an innkeeper in Philadelphia for $40.

McIlvaine assured her that the draft was indeed a fraud. He inquired whether she had other papers or documents from Lino. She produced several papers for him to look at. The first was a certificate from the Minister of Mexico in Washington, certifying that Lino and Lucretia were lawfully man and wife. The moment the magistrate cast his eye upon it he said, "That is Lino's handwriting and that seal is a forgery." She acknowledged that she knew it was Lino's handwriting, but Lino had explained to her how it came to be so - when Lino had written to the Minister for the certificate, the Minister had answered that his secretary was absent and he was too busy to write it himself so he had sent Lino a certificate, signed, so that he could fill it out himself. McIlvaine said she must give him that paper, as it would enable him to detain him on a charge of forgery committed in Pennsylvania.

When she got up to go and went to the door, leaving the papers on his desk, she came back and put her hands on the papers. She asked whether their communications and the leaving of the papers might not bring her into trouble? McIlvaine told her she had thrown herself voluntarily upon him and he had pledged himself to her. He had nothing to add and it was still for her to decide whether the papers should be left or not. She reflected a minute, seemingly agitated, and finally said that she would leave them.

The following Monday, McIlvaine received word of the arrest of Lino in Boston. He immediately forwarded an affidavit of the charge of forging the certificate and wrote the same day to Mr. Thomas Ross, the Deputy Attorney General of Bucks County, to come to Philadelphia and receive the case into his hands. So far all was kept secret. As soon as he hard heard of Lino's arrest he wrote to Lucretia.

On the 17 September, the newspapers started reporting Lino's arrest and his alleged crimes. When Lucretia's friend Sophia Hitchbourn visited her, she asked Sophia if she had seen any account in the paper of Lino. Sophia told her that she had been informed that he was arrested in Boson on suspicion of poisoning her husband. Lucretia wondered, Is it possible? Sophia asked if she had any idea that Lino had poisoned her husband. Lucretia said she had not and asked if her name was in the paper, for she hoped it was not. She told Lucretia that they must have facts, or they would not dare to publish them.

The news of Lino's arrest was a popular topic. Mrs. Smith, the mother of a couple of Lucretia's students, remarked to Lucretia that she would not be surprised if Lino had poisoned her husband. Lucretia sighed and asked, "Do you think so, my dear? Those gentlemen intimated the same thing." What gentlemen?, Mrs. Smith inquired. "Mr. McIlvaine, Mr. Blayney, and Mr. Reeside." Mrs. Smith said she had not seen them. "No ma'am, as you did not know any thing of their business, I did not mention it to you," Lucretia said. Mrs. Smith told her she was shocked to hear that. Her reply was, that "hearsay was no witness."

Not long after that, one of Mrs. Smith's children remarked that she thought Lucretia was going away, as she was getting her riding dress brushed up. Mrs. Smith saw her sitting and sewing in her room, as if preparing to go. When Lucretia saw her, she said that she was going a little way to sell some books since they were badly off for money. Mrs. Smith's reply was, "Mrs. Chapman, don't you think you are wrong to go at this time, it looks like running off." Lucretia seemed a little hurt and said, "No, ma'am, my object is to sell some books and get money."

The next day when Mr. Ross came looking for her, Lucretia was gone.

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