On March 24, 1870, Catherine "Kate" Shields died in Jersey City from an abortion perpetrated by Dr. Charles Cobel. "The infamous doctor was arrested, as was also one Patrick Waterson, charged with having outraged the person of the unfortunate girl." The coroner's jury also reprimanded Mrs. Downes, who kept a Jersey City boardinghouse, for failing to properly look after Kate.
Kate had come to the United States in July of 1868, leaving her mother behind in Ireland. She took a job as a servant in Waterson's boardinghouse, which was tenanted by train conductors and drivers from the Bergen railroad depot. When Kate became pregnant, she traveled to New York City, where Cobel perpetrated the abortion.
During the coroner's inquest, a letter from Cobel to Waterson was produced, in which he demanded $25 for the abortion, threatening to sue if he did not get his fee.
Waterson, described as "about forty, strong and muscular," testified that his only knowledge of Kate was that there had been a servant by that name working in the boardinghouse. However, on her deathbed Kate named him as the only man she had ever been with.
The New York Herald stated, "Cobel is bordering on sixty, has a withered appearance, with sunken eyes, hollow jaws, and altogether has an appearance not actually repulsive, but what may be conveyed in the term 'wizzened.' (sic)"
Kate, the Herald said, "was possessed of a splendid physique, but when the Coroner found her lying on a wretched bed, surrounded by squalor and destitution, she presented a ghastly and revolting spectacle."
Cobel had already been held responsible for the 1856 death of Catharine DeBreuxal, the 1858 death of. Amelia Weber, the 1865 death of Emma Wolfer. He was later implicated in the 1875 death of Antoinette Fennor.
- "Legal," Cleveland Plain Dealer, March 28, 1870
- "The Alleged Malpractice Case," New York Herald, March 30, 1870