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Thursday, April 18, 2019

Author to Discuss Notorious 1896 Fort Thomas Murder


In 1896, northern Kentucky was thrust into the national spotlight for what was called "the crime of the century" – the murder of Pearl Bryan, whose headless body was discovered in Fort Thomas, Ky.  The notorious case is the subject of a recently released book by historian Larry Tippin, who will be the featured speaker at 7 p.m. Thursday, May 9, at the Fort Thomas Tower Park Mess Hall.

“CSI Fort Thomas: The Horrific Death of Pearl Bryan” will be a presentation about the beheading of a 23-year-old girl from Greencastle, Ind.  That gruesome murder and how investigators painstakingly followed clues to identify the victim and solve the crime more than a century ago still captivates audiences today.

RELATED: Background on the murder of Pearl Bryan 

Tippin’s book, The Betrayal of Pearl Bryan: Unraveling the Gilded Age Mystery that Captivated a Nation, reveals details of Pearl’s short life and her tragic death.  He wanted to know, “Who was Pearl Bryan, and why was she murdered?”  He and his assistant combed through 3,000 pages of trial documents to produce 4,000 pages of notes to create 40,000 words of non-fiction.  He used a detailed, historian’s approach to follow the victim and killers from Greencastle to Cincinnati and Fort Thomas, where she was murdered.

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His book, written in a conversational tone, provides a balance between providing detailed facts for people who need cite-referenced information and a story for readers who prefer the writing style of murder-mystery novels.

Pearl Bryan. 
The Betrayal of Pearl Bryan offers fascinating forensic details such as how the uncharacteristically tiny size 3 shoes led investigators to Greencastle, and ultimately the identification of the young woman who was cruelly decapitated. Tippin will also discuss facts about the two men convicted of her murder, Scott Jackson and his apparent accomplice, Alonzo Walling, who were eventually hanged.  It was the last public hanging in Campbell County.

Tippin, currently the Putnam County Historian from Roachdale, Ind., decided to undertake the daunting task of researching the incident after hearing from descendants of the Bryan family that very little family history existed on the infamous case.  The result is a book that gives readers a glimpse into who Pearl Bryan was, the reason she was likely murdered, and what happened to her on her last four fateful days in Cincinnati.  The family picture of generations of descendants of Pearl’s brother James also gives readers pause about what could have been had Pearl lived.

Tippin will sign copies of the book that will be available for purchase after the presentation.  An exhibit of artifacts and other items will be on display.  The Tower Park Mess Hall is at 801 Cochran Ave., Fort Thomas. Register for the event at the Campbell County Public Library website, www.cc-pl.org.

This event is sponsored by the Campbell County Historical and Genealogical Society in partnership with the Fort Thomas Military and Community Museum and the Campbell County Public Library.

Photo caption: Crime scene photo showing Pearl after she had been moved by the coroner.

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