Alma Bromps

SUMMARY: On April 15, 1931, 20-year-old Alma Bromps died in Chicago after an abortion perpetrated by Dr. Thomas Ney.

The Couple Bob Berry testified that he met Alma Bromps in September, 1930; that she was nineteen years old at that time; that they had sexual engagement in November; that he was engaged to be married to her on Christmas day and went out with her constantly afterwards

On about the 15th or 16th of April, 1931, Bob had a conversation with Alma and after that conversation telephoned Dr. Thomas J. Ney at his office, 7110 Stony Island avenue, Chicago; that the same night he went to Ney’s office. Bob said that he had talked first with Mabel Boggs, Ney’s nurse; that Ney then came in. Bob, giving his own name as Robert Webster, told Ney that sister was pregnant, that he understood Ney took care of abortion cases, and that he would like to have him take care of this case. Ney said he charged $50 for taking care of such cases and told witness to bring her up any time;

The Abortion ThomasNeyHeadshot.pngThomas NeyBerry took Alma to Ney’s office next evening. Ney asked if that was the girl Bob had consulted him about, and Bob replied she was. Ney said “all right” and asked her to come into his private office; that just before he went in he said, “You can pay me now if you want to;”

Bob paid him in cash and asked for a receipt; Ney said he would give him a receipt after he got finished, but Bob never got a receipt.

Bob remained in the reception room while Ney, Mabel Boggs and Alma were in the private office. In about ten minutes the three came out. Bob and Alma went back to Ney’s office on five consecutive nights after that; and several additional times at Ney’s request.

Alma Takes Ill
After the fifth visit Bob took Alma home and she went to bed. The following morning, April 23, she took sick at work and had to go home. Bob saw her in bed at three o’clock that afternoon and called Ney, telling him that Alma was pretty sick and asked him to come and see her.

Ney did not come but Mabel Boggs did. Bob did not see Mabel do anything. He called Ney the next day and Ney and Mabel arrived together and went into Alma’s room. Bob said that he was not in the room all the ttime that Ney and Mabel were there. Before Ney and his nurse left, Bob asked if Alma was was all right, and Ney said she would be all right and not to worry.

Bob called Ney the next day and told him that Alma did not seem to be getting any better, so Bob wanted to call in another doctor. Ney said not to do that — that he would come and bring another doctor Ney that he came that night, bringing Dr. William White. Both doctors went into Alma’s room without Bob. Dr. White said that Alma was pretty sick and that they had “better send her to a hospital right away.” Ney agreed, and said “if anyone should ask us any questions, tell them nothing;” that he said absolutely not to mention that any instrument had been used at all.

Hospitalized At Dr. White’s suggestion, Bob called Dr. William T. Carlisle at St. Luke’s Hospital and Dr. White talked to him. Ney and Dr. White then left; that Dr. Carlisle arrived about five minutes later and remained about ten minutes, and that an ambulance was called and Bob went along with Alma to the Cook County Hospital.

A Witness to the Goings-On Katherine Kolb testified that in April, 1931, she ran a rooming house and rented rooms at 2358 Indiana avenue, Chicago. Alma was living there during that month. On the afternoon of April 24, Katherine saw Ney and another doctor come out of Alma’s room, and that she recognized Bob’s voice in the room.

Katherine also said that while they were in the room she listened through the door and heard Alma screaming. Somebody said that they were recommending a doctor from St. Luke’s Hospital and she had to go there, that this doctor was a “cracker-jack” and would pull her out of her condition. She hears the same voice add that they should not say a word to anybody who sent them over there and who treated her or anything.

Katherine asked Ney who he was, and he identified himself as Dr. Snyder. About twenty minutes after Ney and White left, the doctor from St. Luke’s came. Katherine saw Alma being removed. She added that she looked at Alma’s bed been and the bed clothes were soaked with blood.

The Doctors at the Hospital Dr. William T. Carlisle testified that he was an assistant in gynecology on the staff of St. Luke’s Hospital; and that on April 24, 1931, he received a telephone call with reference to Alma from a party representing himself as her husband. Someone else got on the telephone and asked Carlisle to take Alma to St. Luke’s Hospital; that he then understood the name of this latter as Dr. Wright but later ascertained it was White.;

Carlisle said that Dr. White told him over the phone that his patient had some serious complication of appendicitis. There were no doctors with Alma when Carlisle arrived at her room. He examined her and found her in a stuporous condition, with a markedly distended and tense abdomen. There were blood-stained cloths around her vulva and vagina and stains on the bed clothes. Her temperature was 102 and pulse rapid. Carlisle said that in his opinion Alma was not then suffering from acute appendicitis but that the distended condition of the abdomen at that time was due to generalized peritonitis. He had her sent immediately to the Cook County Hospital.

Dr. Edwin J. DeCosta, resident physician at the Cook County Hospital attending obstetrics, testified that he examined Alma there; that she was acutely ill — practically “in extremis” at the time. Her abdomen was distended, peristaltics were absent and she had free blood inside her abdominal cavity. Her pulse about 141 and her temperature 107. In short, she presented the findings of a generalized peritonitis. DeCosta he examined the vagina, which had a small amount of blood, and that the opening to the womb was dilated.

Postmortem Dr. Samuel Levinson, the coroner’s physician who performed the autopsy on Alma on April 26, 1931 testified that her abdomen was distended; her pubic hairs had been shaved; and upon opening her abdomen he found an excessive greenish-gray sticky fluid in the lowermost part of the abdomen. Her intestines were greenish-red and their covering matted together by a thick, pus-like fluid. The part of the intestines in the pelvic floor region were greenish in color, showing gangrenous changes. Alma had a marked hyperemia in the lungs, with clots right in the vessels leading to the lungs. Her heart was soft and flabby and the heart muscle cloudy in appearance, showing it had undergone degenerative processes characteristic of a septic condition. Her liver presented a similar septic change and her spleen was enlarged, soft and purplish-red and when cut open the pulp could be scraped away with ease.

Her uterus was markedly enlarged and the cervix was open and very soft, The upper area of the interior of the uterus had placental tissues that had a very foul odor. When Levinson cut into the uterine muscle and applied pressure to it there was free blood and a dirty-like exudate came out. He was able to press blood out of the fallopian tubes; and when he cut into the ovary there was a large corpus luteum, with several luteum cells surrounding it. The ovary itself was filled with pus cells, showing infection of the ovary as well as of the uterus and tubes.

Levinson preserved the uterus, fallopian tubes and ovaries in a jar and noted that the uterus indicated from its enlargement a pregnancy of three to four months. The upper part of the cervix had signs of instrumentation.

Levinson took tissues of the uterus, fallopian tubes and ovary to make microscopic tests. The section from the uterus showed the wall of the uterus was markedly thickened, and distributed throughout the entire surface of the uterus were pus cells; that the inner lining of the uterus, containing evidence of residual cells, fibers and blood, indicated microscopically placental tissues. The section from the fallopian tubes was covered with pus cells, indicating a pus infection of the tubes. The section from the ovary showed large groups of luteum and the ovary itself was filled with pus cells.

He concluded that Alma had been pregnant; that she had a septic condition of the uterus and that she died of a purulent peritonitis, resulting from the pus going out of the uterus through the tubes into the abdominal cavity and the pus infection getting into the blood stream, producing a septic condition which caused the degenerative changes of the heart muscle and liver and produced an acute septic spleen.

Trial ElmaBrompsPhotos.pngJulia McElroy (right), sister of victim Eunice McElroyNey’s trial took place while he was dragging out three years of continuances pending his trial for the 1928 abortion death of
Eunice McElroy.

Ney did not take the stand during the trial. The only witnesses called by the defense were Mabel Boggs and Dr. White.

Mabel Boggs testified that she was a practical nurse and had worked for Ney from June, 1930, to the first part of May, 1931; that she had seen Alma at the office of Ney. Bob had been with her the first and second times she came. The next time Boggs saw Alma, she said, was when Ney sent her to Alma’s home. Boggs said that she gave Alma an enema; and that while the enema was being given Bob was in the room next door. Boggs said that she talked to Berry after giving it, saying to him that it looked like appendicitis. She said that Bob said that Alma had chronic appendicitis.

Dr. White testified that he visited Alma at the request of Ney, who told him that she was turning yellow and he was not sure of the diagnosis of the case. White examined her at her room and found her to be suffering from peritonitis and in a serious condition Her pulse was racing at about 152 and her temperature 102.8. He recommended that she be taken to a hospital. Bob, who had introduced Alma as his wife, wanted her sent to St. Luke’s Hospital. White recommended Dr. Carlisle.

White said that he made no vaginal examination and saw no blood, but did notice that Alma’s abdomen was greatly distended. Alma was conscious all the time he was there, And that when he went outside he found Katherine Kolb going from door to door trying to block the passage of White and Ney. White told her the case was not to be discussed with strangers.

Legal Fallout Ney was convicted in Irma’s death after a belated trial that had been delayed by 25 continuances. Though the state had sought the death penalty, Ney was sentenced to 15 years.

The first contention of Ney is that he was inadequately defended. Assuming this to be the case, it does not follow that he can for that reason call upon this court to reverse the judgment. His defense was conducted by counsel of his own choosing.

Ney summarizes the alleged shortcomings of counsel at the trial by saying that said counsel “did not object to the conduct of the court in examining in chief at great length the witnesses for the prosecution and cross-examining witnesses for the defense; did not object to the repeated and unnecessary repetition by the court of culpatory evidence by the prosecution after it had been brought out by the court; did not object to the court’s taking charge of and conducting the prosecution, and did not object to the court’s lecturing witnesses and counsel for the defense and using the pronoun ‘we’ therein when and where the pronoun ‘we’ could refer only to the prosecution.”

The judgment of the criminal court was affirmed.


ElmaBrompsAlton_Evening_Telegraph_Thu__Jul_23__1931_.jpgSources:

  • THE PEOPLE v. NEY, 181 N.E. 595 (Ill. 1932)

  • “Refused Bail,” Jacksonville Daily Journal, July 4, 1931
  • “Try Doctor For Death,” Decatur (IL) Herald, July 21, 1931
  • “Selecting Jury in Alleged Illegal Operation Case,” Bairner (MN) Daily Dispatch, July 21, 1931
  • “Doctor on Trial After he Dodges Justice for 3 Years,” Chicago Tribune, July 21, 1931
  • “Doctor On Trial,” Chicago Tribune, July 22, 1931
  • “Witness Missing in Manslaughter Case,” Decatur (IL) Herald, July 22, 1931
  • “Girl, Main Witness in Murder Case, Lost,” Dixon (IL) Evening Telegraph, July 22, 1931
  • “Doctor Gets 15 Years for Fatal Operation,” Alton (IL) Evening Telegraph, July 23, 1931
    “Doctor Given 15 Years for Girl’s Death,” Chicago Tribune, July 23, 1931
    “Doctor Guilty Of Murder In Abortion Case,” Daily Independent, July 23, 1931
  • “Doctor Convicted of Manslaughter,” Decatur (IL) Herald, July 23, 1931

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