The widow told it all today as she sat in a rocker in her flat -- a bedroom, kitchen and bath -- and huddled the baby to her breast.
The policeman, Fred Kneller, had already narrated his story, how he saw the woman come running out of her home in her night dress, how she told him her husband was "raging with the drink" and threatening to kill, how he had gone to the flat, how the man had threatened him with a revolver, and how he fired in self defense.
DREAMED OF OWN HOME.
Mrs. Ritter began at the beginning -- the courtship. She had just come to Chicago from Ireland. And she was famished for the sight of a face from home, hungry for companionship. She dreamed of having a place all her own, a little house with green vines, and green grass and trees all around -- like the houses she knew in Ireland.
"That was my sweetest dream," she said, "a home and a man who would love me, and children. Then I met Ritter. My heart went out to him, and I did not hesitate when he asked me to marry him. He was not of my faith, but I thought him a wonderful man.
"And after I married him I learned he was a drunkard. I determined to cure him -- not by saying anything, but by making a little home for him. Ah, I was going to make it so attractive, so sweet a place to come to, that he would leave the drink. I knew there was fine stuff in him, when he was sober.
"We never had money enough for that dream home. We lived in rooming houses. We couldn't even rent the shabbiest flat or pay anything on furniture. The money went to the booze demon.
THREE CHILDREN BORN.
"Lorraine came to us five years ago; a sickly child who needed constant care. The doctors said they couldn't cure her, but that she might outgrow the sickness. I thought he'd quit drinking then, but he drank the harder. Joseph, my fine big boy, come two years and six months ago, and five months ago the baby was born. We've never had the money to get him christened, but I call him David.
"I thought the war might make a man of Luther. I begged him to join the army, and he did. He wasn't a coward. He wanted to quit the bottle as much as I wanted him to. But he couldn't. I was so happy when he enlisted and went down to Camp Greene.
"I moved to this little place and paid the rent, and made a first payment on the furniture. It wasn't much, but it was my first real home. You don't know what it meant to me the first night we slept under this roof, my children and I. You don't know how I fell on my knees and prayed long prayers and thanked God that everything was turning out so well.
REJECTED BY ARMY
"And then Luther came home. The army had rejected him. He had made himself unfit through the drink. That was the end of my dream. He got a job, but he quit it Saturday. He started abusing me early last night, going out to the saloon every little while and getting worse each time. At 1 o'clock I could stand it no longer. He had a razor and was swearing he'd kill us all. I was afraid Lorraine would wake and see him. A shock might kill her.
"So I went out and got the policeman and he -- he ended it all to save his own life."
* * * * *
Mr. Fredregill added the following:
Luther was the son of David Ritter and grandson of Jacob. He was born in 1887 and married Katherine in 1912.
Googling on Luther W. Ritter reveals that he is buried in the Momence, Illinois, cemetery. Why Momence? I discovered that his father David was buried there in 1917. There is also a Hattie Ritter buried there (in 1949); she may be Luther's mother. Momence is not far from Lowell. Googling on Fred Kneller, the police officer who shot Luther, brings up a file maintained by the Northwestern University School of Law on homicides in Chicago from 1870-1930. It reads:
It's interesting to note the reporter quotes Kneller as saying Luther threatened him with a revolver and how he fired in self defense. He then quotes Katherine as saying Luther threatened her and the children with a razor.
Note: The constitutional amendment for prohibition was passed by Congress in Dec. 1917 but not ratified by the states until Jan. 1919. So Luther would have had no problem finding drink in 1918. Poor devil, his dad died in 1917, he was rejected by the army in 1918, and was inclined to drink anyhow. I feel sorry for him and his family. I don't know what happened to Katherine and the kids; the internet was no help with them.
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