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Murder at the reservoir (1885)


Fannie Lillian Madison

Out of the Box from the Library of Virginia has the story of Fannie Lillian Madison who was found murdered at the reservoir in 1885 (and later buried in Oakwood Cemetery):

On the morning of 14 March 1885, Lysander Rose, caretaker of the Old Reservoir in Richmond, went about his normal duties, but this morning would not be a typical one for Rose. As he approached the reservoir, Rose found what appeared to be a piece of broken shoe string, a woman’s red glove, and what he described as signs of a “desperate struggle.” When he peered over into the water, Rose saw “floating near the top the flounce or something of a woman’s dress and one leg jutting up.” After the coroner arrived, the muddy body of a young woman was lifted from the water. A cursory examination revealed that she had slight bruising on her face, a swollen mouth, and a rent in her gown at the elbow. Later, it would be discovered that she was also eight months pregnant. Several days and several false identifications passed before the body was finally identified as that of Fannie Lillian Madison.

The Shockoe Examiner looked at this back in 2010:

Later analysis of the two sets of tracks showed a struggle had taken place between the young man and the diminutive (she was less than five feet tall) and heavily pregnant girl on the gravel path at the top of the reservoir wall. Cluverius punched Madison in the side of her head with his fist, and she fell backward, down the embankment and into the water, where a combination of her weakened and pregnant condition and the blow to the head killed her. When her body was later examined, no water was in Madison’s lungs, but the mud from the bottom of the reservoir was found clenched in her fists. The murderer was probably well on his way away from the scene before the ripples in the otherwise flat, onyx-colored cold water of the reservoir settled around the floating body of Lillian Madison, and were once again quiet.

John Milliken Thompson has written a fictionalized account of this: The Reservoir.

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