Body in a Barrel

This week’s story is coming to you from 1875! The type of crime that fascinates me the most is the old timey murders. I’m not really sure why. But I love them. Not love that they happened….just love learning.

On September 15, 1875, three boys came across a barrel near Silver Lake on Staten Island. Being three young boys, they desperately wanted to know what was inside the barrel. Money, gold, or some kind of treasure possibly? Well, if you read the title, you already know it was not treasure. It was a body.

Silver Lake Today (Image courtesy of

The body was so beaten and decomposed that it was impossible to tell who the woman in the barrel was. There were a few people that came forward, looking for missing loved ones. However, they were all ruled out by looking at previous bone fractures. (There wasn’t DNA or dental records to match back then.)

Then a man came forward claiming to have seen a man burring a barrel. He claimed he was burring the barrel because his dog has just died and the dog was inside the barrel. This man with the barrel was traced back to Edward Reinhardt. His pregnant wife, Mary Anne Degnan Reinhardt, had disappeared in July, a few months before. Edward Reinhardt married another woman soon after. The body in the barrel was identified as Mary Anne Degnan Reinhardt.

Edward Reinhardt....sadly no images of Mary Ann could be found (Image courtesy of New York Times)

During his trial, Edward surprisingly admitted to burring his wife in the barrel (which is still illegal now anyway, but not sure if it was back then). However, he claimed he did not kill her. Edward said his wife went to get an abortion. When she came home, she complained of stomach pains. She was dead that night from complications (so he said). Edward was known to be an abusive husband and the jury didn’t buy his story. He was convicted of first degree murder.

Even though his lawyers postponed his execution, he was hung on January 15, 1881. He was the first person to be executed on Staten Island in over 100 years.

(Information was obtained through various pieces in the New York Times 1870-1880)

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