Capitol Hill Wife Murdered by Drunk Lover, Discovered by Husband Returning From Work at Navy Yard

guns kill people
guns kill people

Digging through the old newspaper archives, we uncovered a the following headline: “Found Wife Murdered; And Many Lay Dead Beside Her In Husband’s Home; Believes He Did Shooting.” How can we not look into this? The piece was printed in The Baltimore Sun on October 24th, 1905.

When Rudolph B. Scheitlin, who is employed at the United States Navy Yard, returned to his home, 750 Ninth street southeast, tonight after his day’s work he discovered his wife, Mary Frances Scheitlin, and William A. Battomy lying dead on the floor in the front room of the house. A revolver with three empty chambers was on the floor between the bodies.

There were two bullet wounds in Mrs. Scheitlin’s head, one being just below the mouth and the other back of the right ear. Battomy had an ugly wound over the temple.

There were no signs in the room that there had been a struggle, and the police, after a diligent search for evidence, are of the opinion that the man fired the shots, and that death was premeditated in both cases. The surroundings indicate that when the shots were fired both were lying on the floor in about the same positions in which their bodies were found. Death was instantaneous.

Mrs. Scheitlin and Battomy, it is said, had been intimate for some time, and this intimacy, it is stated, caused many quarrels between her and Mr. Scheitlin. On one or two occasions it is known that the woman left her home and was away for several days with Battomy. Neighbors saw them enter the house together about 2 o’clock this afternoon, and sounds like pistol shots were heard in the vicinity about 4 o’clock. The husband returned home about 5 o’clock, at which time the bodies were still warm. Mrs Scheitlin was 35 years old and Battomy 38. The latter, it is alleged, had no employment and spent most of his time in drinking and gambling. He lived at 528 Eighth street southeast. Immediately after finding the bodies Mr. Scheitlin notified the police at the Fifth Precinct Station, who apprised Coroner Nevitt of the affair. The bodies were taken to the morgue.

Below we found the Scheitlin couple in the 1900 U.S. Census living at 306 Pennsylvania Ave. NW.

Scheitlin family in 1900 U.S. Census
Scheitlin family in 1900 U.S. Census

A little more research and we uncovered a short blurb in the papers back in 1897 noting that Rudolph Scheitlin was being divorced by his wife at the time, Hattie Scheitlin. They married May 1895 and she claimed that he deserted her in October of that year and was fighting for custody of the daughters.

Mr. Scheitlin was born and raised in D.C. and enlisted in 1898 to fight in the Spanish-American War. Upon his return from Cuba, he married Mary Frances Smith, originally of Marlboro, Maryland. The marriage was a happy one at first, with Rudolph securing a job as an electrician at the Navy Yard and the two finding a nice little home on Capitol Hill near his work.

Sadly for Mr. Scheitlin, he became aware of his wife’s  dalliances with Mr. Bottomy. But, being a mild-mannered man, he was non-confrontational and attempted to reason with him. The night before the tragedy, he came home to Bottomy seated in his living room chatting with his wife. Rudolph asked him to leave, passed on through to the kitchen while William departed. Mrs. Scheitlin called out to him to come back, and a few minutes later, followed him out the door.

Rudolph claimed that his wife was a good woman, but she had a serious drinking problem. Prior to Mary following William out the door, she strangely removed the pictures from the wall, maybe to send the message that this was no longer a family home.

Rudolph didn’t see Mary alive again, as he went to work the following morning and returned the next afternoon to his wife and her lover’s body on his living room floor. The photos were hung back up on the wall and she was lying directly under one half crooked on a nail in the wall. The police surmised that Bottomy entered the home and shot her as she hung that last photo. It was believed that Mary was sober at the time and William was not, having been found with a flask of whisky in his pocket.

About Tom

Tom founded Ghosts of DC on January 4th, 2012 as a blog to uncover the lost and untold history of Washington, D.C. He has lived in the city for over a decade and loves exploring every corner of the District.

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