Ozella Skains

Ozella Skains20s, illegalparamedical, 1950s, illinoisSUMMARY: Ozella Ann Skains, age 24, died on March 8, 1954 after an abortion admitted to by her boyfriend, chiropractor John Goetschel, in Oak Park, IL.

Ozella.pngOzella Ann Skains
On the morning of March 8, 1954, the Skains family of Haskell, Texas, got a phone call from police in Chicago. Their 24-year-old daughter, Ozella Ann, had been found dead along a street in suburban Oak Park. The doctor to whom she was engaged was being held for questioning.

Willie and Verna were both shocked and bewildered. The last they’d heard from Ozella, they said, had been a letter and a phone call the previous week, from her home in Dallas. She had said nothing to indicate that she was planning a trip to Chicago. Verna learned from the phone company, though, that Ozella had taken two weeks of vacation beginning on March 1.

Willie had to remain in Haskell to take care of the family’s large junk business, but Verna, accompanied by Ozella’s brother, Jackie, went to Chicago for the inquest The family made arrangements to have Ozella’s body flown home for burial.

Early reports were confused. Some said that Ozella’s body showed no marks of violence, but others said she looked as if she’d been badly beaten, with her nose smashed and her head bearing abrasions. The “golden haired” telephone operator was found wearing a diamond ring, pearl earrings, “and expensive attire, including black slippers, gray skirt, a white sweater, and a brown topcoat.” She’d had around $150 in her handbag. Police surmised that she had either jumped from, or been thrown from, a moving vehicle. She was identified by her Bell Telephone employee I.D. card.

Ozella had graduated in 1949 from the Haskell high school, where she had played volleyball. She had attended Draughon’s Practical Business College in Abilene. She was hired by Bell Telephone in Abilene and had transferred to Dallas about a year before her death. It was then that she’d met her fiancee, who was then serving in the military and stationed near Dallas. She had introduced him to her mother, but the family never really got a chance to see much of him. After his discharge from the service he’d returned home to Chicago. He was not a medical doctor, but a chiropractor, 26-year-old John C. Goetschel.

OzellaSkainsSeniorYearbookPicture.pngPolice spoke to Goetschel and his friend, 27-year-old George J. Malek. Both men told the police that they knew that Ozella was pregnant. Goetschel said he’d prescribed 12 five-grain quinine tablets, telling Ozella to take two at a time, then follow up with a hot bath. He also used chiropractic treatments on a couch in Malek’s apartment on Monday night (the day before her body was discovered) to attempt to cause an abortion. Mrs. Marie Malek (perhaps the wife of George Malek) said Ozella had stayed with her all day Monday and had been often stricken with nausea. She’d left about 11 p.m. In the company of the two men, who insisted that she’d been very much alive when they had dropped her off near her hotel that night.

The autopsy revealed that Ozella had died of an air embolism without ever having lost the baby. Goetschel was prosecuted, but acquitted by a jury of eight women and four men, a verdict his attorney attributed to lack of clear evidence that Goetschel had caused Ozella’s death. Ozella’s family sued Goetschel and Malek for $20,000 in damages.

Ozella’s abortion was atypical of illegal abortions in that it was not performed by a physician.

During the 1950s, we see an anomaly: Though maternal mortality had been falling during the first half of the 20th Century, and abortion mortality in particular had been plummeting, the downward trend slowed, then reversed itself briefly. I have yet to figure out why. For more, see Abortion Deaths in the 1950’s.
For more on pre-legalization abortion, see The Bad Old Days of Abortion


  • “Abortion Attempt Charged in Suit,” The Oklahoman, Aug. 4, 1954;
  • “Two Men Held for Attempted Abortion on Unmarried Girl, 24, Found Dead,” Harrisburg (IL) Daily Register, Mar. 10, 1954
  • “Haskell Family to Chicago Where Death Probe Slated,” Abilene Reporter News, Mar. 10,. 1954
  • “Girl’s Beaten Body Found,” Lima (OH) News, Mar. 9, 1954
  • “Body of Texas Girl is Found in Oak Park, Ill,” New Castle (PA) News, Mar. 9, 1954
  • “Mystery Surrounds Haskell Girl’s Death,” Abilene Reporter News, Mar. 9, 1954
  • “Chiropractor May Face Death Charge,” Anderson (IN) Herald, Mar. 19, 1954
  • “Haskell Mother to Chicago to Claim Daughter’s Body,” Abilene Reporter News, Mar. 10, 1954
  • “Chiropractor Sued in Death of Texas Girl in Chicago,” Corpus Christi Times, Aug. 4, 1954
  • “Chiropractor Freed in Abortion Death of Woman,” Corpus Christi Times, Jun. 16, 1955
  • “2 Charged in Death of Haskell Girl,” Abilene Reporter News, Mar. 12, 1954
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