Monday, January 28, 2013

Madness Monday: A Cold Blooded Murder

About two years ago, I was researching a first cousin of my maternal grandmother Julie (Vanasse) Belair named Emma Vanasse. Emma and her husband Michael Bradley, a farmer, had four children. Michael, son of Irish immigrant Joseph Bradley and his wife Margaret Berrigan, was born on 2 December 1891 in Sheenboro, Pontiac County, Quebec.1

After finding Michael’s death registration and his burial record, I was curious to know why he died relatively young (he was only 43 years old). In my effort to find more about the circumstances of his death, I searched the online archived edition of the Ottawa Citizen. This newspaper often carries stories about people in nearby communities like Pembroke, Ontario (where a lot of Vanasse lived) and Chapeau, Quebec (where the Vanasse family settled in the 1850s).

I soon found the cause of Michael’s death, but also discovered a “cold blooded murder”.2

On a summer’s morning in July 1933, Michael killed his parents, his brother Thomas, his sister Johanna, and an uncle with his Winchester rifle at their farm in Demers Centre, on Ile des Allumettes in Pontiac County, Quebec.3

Within two years, he was tried, convicted, and sentenced to death. The Defense argued that Michael was provoked and that he was insane. The Crown argued that Michael’s actions were premeditated and that he was sane.4

The newspaper accounts suggested the motive for the family murder was due to possible ill-treatment Michael received from his father, who, after having an argument with his son, told Michael he would not inherit the family farm in spite of having worked on it and financially supported it.5

Justice was swift. The jury took 35 minutes to return a unanimous verdict of guilty of murder. Five minutes later, the judge pronounced the sentence.6

Michael was hanged on 5 April 1935 in the prison yard of the Common Goal in nearby Campbell’s Bay.7 He was buried in St. Alphonsus parish church cemetery in Chapeau. 8

Ottawa’s Evening Citizen reported his death that same day. The article stated that he "walked to the scaffold unassisted. The trap was sprung at [5:57 a.m.] and he was pronounced dead by Dr. Jerome Kelly at [6:04 a.m.]".9

Michael Bradley is the only criminal I’ve found while researching my family’s history and genealogy. I hope he’s the only one.

Sources:

1. St-Paul l’Ermite (Sheenboro, Quebec), parish register, 1873-1893, p. 161 verso, entry no. B. 27, Michael John Bradley baptism, 8 December 1891; St-Paul l’Ermite parish; digital images, “Quebec, Vital and Church Records (Drouin Collection), 1621-1967”, Ancestry.ca (http://www.ancestry.ca : accessed 12 July 2010).

2. “Michael Bradley Found Guilty, Sentenced to Hang April 5”, The Evening (Ottawa) Citizen, 11 January 1935, p. 4, col. 6, digital images, Google News (http://news.google.com/newspapers : accessed 12 July 2010), News Archive Search.

3. “Maniac Slays 4 of Own Family Near Pembroke”, The Ottawa Evening Citizen, 21 July 1933, p. 1, cols. 1-2, digital images, Google News (http://news.google.com/newspapers : accessed 12 July 2010), News Archive Search.

4. “Michael Bradley Found Guilty, Sentenced to Hang April 5”, The Evening (Ottawa) Citizen, 11 January 1935, p. 4, cols. 3-4, digital images, Google News (http://news.google.com/newspapers : accessed 12 July 2010), News Archive Search.

5. "Michael Bradley Is Executed Today”, The Evening (Ottawa) Citizen, 5 April 1935, p. 4, col. 6, digital images, Google News (http://news.google.com/newspapers : accessed 12 July 2010), News Archive Search.

6. "Michael Bradley Is Executed Today”, The Evening (Ottawa) Citizen, 5 April 1935, p. 4, col. 1, digital images, Google News (http://news.google.com/newspapers : accessed 12 July 2010), News Archive Search.

7. “Persons Sentenced to Death in Canada, 1867-1976”, database, Criminal Records: Capital Case Files (RG 13 B 1), Library and Archives Canada (http://data2.archives.ca/pdf/pdf001/p000001052.pdf : accessed 3 June 2011), entry for file number 0172 Michael Bradley.

8. St-Alphonse (Chapeau, Quebec), parish register, 1935, p. 10 recto, entry no. S. 2, Michael Bradley burial, 5 April 1935; St-Alphonse parish; digital images, “Quebec, Vital and Church Records (Drouin Collection), 1621-1967”, Ancestry.ca (http://www.ancestry.ca : accessed 12 July 2010).

9. "Michael Bradley Is Executed Today”, The Evening (Ottawa) Citizen, 5 April 1935, p. 4, col. 1, digital images, Google News (http://news.google.com/newspapers : accessed 12 July 2010), News Archive Search.

Copyright © 2013, Yvonne Demoskoff.

11 comments:

  1. Oh dear... how very sad Yvonne. Thanks for sharing. Catherine

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    1. Indeed, Catherine, very sad and shocking for the Bradley family, and Michael's widow and their four young children.

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  2. It's a sad story but those stories are the most interesting to us now that it's far removed. I found one about a distant cousin who was involved in an ax murder. Just a couple of weeks ago I found another distant cousin who deliberately shot and killed his uncle at the tender age of 14 yrs old. His father tried to cover it up as an accident. But the young man spent time in prison for the murder. It's far enough removed from us by time so it's interesting now. Thanks for sharing.

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    1. It hard to believe that this sort of thing could happen in other families, Sharon, but it's probably more (or less) common than I realize.

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  3. A sad tale but one that you have handled well. Great bibliographical documentation, by the way. I have a similar story I've been debating about writing for awhile. They are hard to do, are they not?

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    1. I debated whether or not I should share my research about this story, but decided to do so by keeping to what was reported. (Doing it that way made it a little less harder to write.) Thank you for commenting, Eileen.

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  4. Interesting relative. It must indeed have been a tragedy.

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  5. I am also related to this same Michael Bradley and recently became acquainted with this story. My maternal great grandmother was a Bradley and Michael's father, Joseph, was her brother (therefore, Michael was her nephew). My family name is Fox and my great grandfather and great grandmother immigrated from Ireland to Sheenboro, Quebec in 1881. I spent a good deal of time on the family farm during my childhood so I know the place and the culture well. My dad was born in 1933. This scandal must have been very difficult for him and his family because of the relation. Apparently, my grandfather visited Michael Bradley in jail prior to execution. They would have been first cousins. In fact, my father (now passed) told my mother this story and it was never shared with us until now. I think that speaks to the "family shame" surrounding the event.

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    1. Thank you so much for sharing this information, Susan. I know very little about this tragic story, but was able to find some details online through archived editions of the Ottawa newspaper. My grandmother Julie talked about her cousin and Michael to her elder daughter, but she never spoke to me about it. (If I hadn't been so young when my grandmother died, it might have been discussed at some point.)

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  6. My father has told us this story many times, when we used to visit my grandparents on Allumette Isle, as we passed by the old Bradley place. I was fascinated by it as a child myself. It is a hard thing for even an adult to comprehend. My dad was a small boy(7) when it happened and told me he remembers it was the first time he ever heard the word "murder". As to the cause , indeed it was perceived ill treatment from his father, apparently he would not give him any seed potatoes . Imagine it was depression times, and times were tough. Geneology is an interesting hobby, I guess we must be prepared for anything to turn up. We had just been talking about it, and i thought I would try and find some of the news of the time, to show my Dad now 88, and i found your blog. Thank you for sharing.

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    1. Thank you for dropping by, Patricia, and for leaving a comment.

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