Selma Perry

SUMMARY: Selma Perry, age 19, died March 9, 1952 after an abortion attempted in Chicago by nurses’ aide Elsie Schaff and sign painter Clarence Mueller.

Sign painter Clarence Mueller, age 40, and former nurses’ aide Elsie Schaff, age 26, were convicted in the abortion death of 19-year-old Selma Celeste Perry. The prosecution asked for the death penalty; Mueller and Schaff were each sentenced to 28 years. Schaff was paroled in 1961, having served nine years of her sentence.

Selma had gone into shock after an abortion attempt in Mueller’s Chicago dwelling — sometimes identified as an apartment and sometimes as a motel room — on March 7, 1952. He and Schaff kept Selma at his home, attempting two more times to complete the abortion, until her death on March 9. Selma’s nude body was discovered under the bed.

A postmortem examination showed that she had died of infection.

SelmaPerrySisAndMom.pngSelma’s relativesSelma’s mother, Rose Perry, and sister, Anna Ruben, were spectacularly outraged. During the first day of the inquest, held on March 11, the two women attacked 20-year-old Constance Bozicovich, a witness to Selma’s death, because they mistook her for Schaff.

As Schaff herself was being led into the room for a grand jury hearing on March 25, Anna first made certain of the identity of her target before leaping on the woman, screaming, “I’ll get you this time.” She began to strangle Schaff, screaming, “I’ll kill you like you killed my sister!” as Schaff’s face turned purple. Several policemen pried Anna off the woman.

When the trial of Schaff and Mueller was beginning on July 30, the two women set into such a moaning and wailing during the reading of the indictment that the judge declared a mistrial and the process had to start again.

Alfred Sofiakis, age 24, had allegedly arranged the abortion and brought Selma to Mueller’s home. He also felt the wrath of Selma’s mother and sister. As he was being led through the corridor toward the courtroom on August 28 for a hearing before his murder trial, they heaped verbal abuse on him and then began pounding on him with their fists. Selma’s father, Richard, and two bailiffs had to step in to stop the pounding and got a few blows themselves in doing so. The judge had the two furious women escorted to a cell.

I’ve been unable to find further information about what became of Clarence Mueller, Constance Bozicovich, and Alfred Sofiakis.


  • “Chokes Nurse’s Aid Accused of Abortion Death,” Chicago Tribune, Mar. 26, 1952
  • “Pick Abortion Murder Jury in Trial of 2,” Chicago Tribune, Jul. 31, 1952
  • “Death Penalty Asked for 2 in Abortion Case,” Chicago Tribune, Aug. 2, 1952
  • “Ex-Nurses’ Aid, Friend Guilty in Abortion Death,” Chicago Tribune, Aug. 3, 1952
  • “Two Women Kin of Abortion Victim Cause New Court Row,” Chicago Tribune, Aug. 29, 1952
  • “Grant Paroles to 2 Slayers and 2 Robbers,” Chicago Tribune, Dec. 19, 1961