Elizabeth Radcliffe #illinois #19101919 #illegalunknown
Late in the evening of July 21, 1916, 21-year-old Roy Hinterliter showed up at the sanitarium in Olney, Illinois with a young woman, Miss Elizabeth Radcliffe, slumped over onto his lap in his buggy. Elizabeth, age 17, was immediately pronounced dead. It was eventually learned that she had died at a rural trysting spot near a bridge, where investigators found signs of a struggle. Imprints of Elizabeth's hands and Hinterliter's feet were found in the sand. After Elizabeth had died, Hinterliter had loaded her body into the buggy and ridden into town with her.
An autopsy confirmed pregnancy, but showed no external signs of violence and all her reproductive organs appeared normal. However, upon cutting open her heart, air escaped. One news report stated that the doctor "found the heart so filled with air that it made a hissing like a plugged rubber ball when a pin was stuck into it." There was so much air in Elizabeth's brain that it floated when placed in water. There were no lung lesions to explain the air in Elizabeth's bloodstream.
Two boys were spotted in town trying to hide a package. They were arrested, and told police that Hinterliter had asked them to get rid of the contents of the package -- a catheter with the plunger missing. They said that they had been with Hinterliter in the drug store when he'd bought it. He had told them that a doctor had told him how to use it.
It eventually came out that Hinterliter had taken out the plunger and instead blown into the catheter -- with which he had accidentally punctured a vein. Thus he blew a quantity of air directly into Elizabeth's blood stream. She would have died almost instantly.
Radcliffe and Hinterliter
Hinterliter was held without bail, and under guard for fear of a lynching, after the coroner's jury verdict. The case caused a sensation not only for the nature of the crime, but because Elizabeth was the county's first murder victim in 20 years.
Elizabeth was the daughter of a wealthy family in Paoli, Indiana, while Hinterliter, the son of a farmer, lived in Olney.
Note, please, that with overall public health issues such as doctors not using proper aseptic techniques, lack of access to blood transfusions and antibiotics, and overall poor health to begin with, there was likely little difference between the performance of a legal abortion and illegal practice, and the aftercare for either type of abortion was probably equally unlikely to do the woman much, if any, good. For more information about early 20th Century abortion mortality, see Abortion Deaths 1910-1919.