Isabell Roy

3/22/1850 – 11/15/1867

What follows is a newspaper account that appeared in the New York Times on November 22, 1867. The story of the murder of Isabell Roy was sensational enough to induce that major east coast newspaper to inform its readers of the crime and, frankly, the story is pretty juicy! The source of information mentioned in the article as the “Leader” refers to a Cleveland newspaper, The Cleveland Leader, which along with the Cleveland Plain Dealer, were the major newspapers at that time.

“The Appalling Tragedy at Cleveland – Murder and Suicide – The Assassin’s Last Letter

Roy headstone

The Cleveland Papers of Monday morning contain long accounts of the most frightful crimes alluded to by telegraph. Jas. H. Gregory, proprietor of a photographic establishment, over No. 9 Public Square, Cleveland, had a female assistant named Isabella Roy, a girl of nineteen years (ed. Actually 17 years), She boarded with her employer’s family, which consisted of himself, his wife and a little daughter, his only son Willie having died some years before. Gregory was a passionate and violent man and abused his wife so much that about a year ago she had him arrested and fined in the Police Court. Their relations, it scarcely need to be added, were unhappy, and Mrs. Gregory’s jealousy of her husband’s relations to the girl Roy – apparently too well founded – increased the disagreement. On Friday the man and the girl went to their place of business and did not return that night. Becoming alarmed, on Saturday morning, Mrs. Gregory and her daughter went to the rooms and unlocked the door with a duplicate key which she had. The reception parlor was all as usual, but in the operating room they found the corpse of Gregory horribly gashed and covered and surrounded by blood stains. They rushed frantically out and gave the alarm. The police were sent for and a Coroner’s investigation instituted. The evidence went to show that on Thursday Gregory had purchased a revolver, with which, on Friday, he had shot Miss Roy; that she had fled from him, running through the different rooms into a lumber room in which there was a staircase. Four bullet holes were found in and about the stairs. The fatal bullet had entered her temple, and the pistol had been evidently put close to her head, as the skin was blackened by powder. The physicians decided that the girl had been dead at least twenty-four hours when her corpse was discovered. The murder must, therefore, have taken place on Friday morning. One bullet hole was discovered in Gregory’s face, just below the nose, from which it is inferred, as well as from other circumstances already mentioned, that he had only one charge left in his pistol after killing the girl, and that he erred in his aim against himself through nervousness.

He then cut his throat with a small dull jack-knife, which was found near him. His throat was shockingly hacked, and the physicians thought that he must have drawn it at least four times across his neck, and finally died from gradual loss of blood, rather than from the necessary fatality of his wounds. A bucket of bloody water and a wet and bloody handkerchief indicated that he had washed his hands after cutting his throat. In his pockets were found $180 in money, some bullets, and a letter written in a very trembling hand, in which he gave all that can be certainly known of his motives for perpetrating the double crime.

“To Whom this may Concern:
I have waded through trouble for many years, and worked hard that I might receive thanks, but all in vain, since Mrs. Gregory has borne false witness against me, had me locked up in prison under false pretense, which often makes me do things that I would not have done. I hope God will pardon me for this horrid crime for I have done it to put an end to my trouble. This Miss Roy brought me into this last crime which I can’t unfold. I wish for Mr. Pugh to select a piece of ground in Woodland Cemetery and take Willie up, place him beside me in the grave, and this girl in the same grave beside me, and leave room for Mrs. Gregory and my little girl next to me. Here is $200 to pay my expenses, and then divide all between Mrs. Gregory and Ida Bell. Mr. J. Pugh has always been my friend. I want him to see to this. Farewell to this world of trouble.”

There was no signature to the letter. The handwriting was identified as that of Gregory.

The jury returned a verdict that Isabella Roy came to her death from a pistol wound at the hands of J. H. Gregory, and that Gregory had come to his death by a pistol shot and the cutting of his throat by his own hands. The Leader adds the following facts:

Miss Roy was quite prepossessing in appearance, and ordinarily intelligent. She was engaged to be married to, we are informed, a worthy young man. Her general character, so far as we can learn, was without a taint of reproach but, although we would not now cast an unjust stain upon her character, it is unquestionably true that her relations with Gregory were of a criminal character. We believe that none of her friends entertained a suspicion of her conduct. She had told some of them that Gregory had tried to induce her to elope with him, and well would it have been if they had removed her from the snare of the tempter. It does not appear that anything like infatuation had taken possession of her, for she had steadily refused to go with him. He took all possible means to break up the engagement between her and her lover, and we are informed that she was induced to postpone her marriage through his solicitations, it having been expected to take place several weeks ago. He had visited both her father and her betrothed a day or two previous to the murder, and showed them the improper pictures above spoken of, for the purpose, undoubtedly, of alienating them from her. Her continued refusal to fly with him, and the trouble which would arise from the exposure of his intimacy with the girl, may have so aroused his passions that he resolved upon the bloody deed.

Isabell headstone

The body of the murdered girl was taken in charge by her friends, and was buried on Sunday, in the West Side Cemetery, no heed being taken, of course, of the request of her murderer. The remains of the latter were also removed by his friends, and taken on Sunday to their final resting place.”

Isabell’s parents are buried next to her. The stones are marked “Father” and “Mother” but their names are not shown.