February 15, 1901/ Columbia Boarding House/South Broadway, Los Angeles
Three-year-old George Wiley stood in his mother’s kitchen in the Columbia lodging house. He and his mother talked as she prepared his lunch.
George heard someone and turned to see D.C. Kent, Hattie’s former fiancé and co-owner of the boarding house, enter the room. Hattie turned from the stove to face D.C. and they argued. D.C. produced a revolver and fired. He hit Hattie three times. George, who stood between the two, escaped injury as the bullets whizzed over his head.
Stunned and bleeding, Hattie screamed and lurched into the hallway dripping blood. She collapsed on the floor and whispered, “My mother, my mother.”
George followed behind her. “Mommy, mommy, what is the matter?”, he cried. She couldn’t respond.
Residents heard the commotion and crowded into the corridor. One chambermaid snapped into action and phoned the police. Then everyone heard a sharp crack that seemed to come from the kitchen. Seconds later, D.C. reeled out, bleeding from his head. The blood ran down his face and soaked his shirt. He started toward his room at the top of the stairs.
Police arrived. The residents didn’t know what had happened. They only knew that Hattie was on the floor bleeding to death, and D.C. was in his room.
One officer ran to D. C’s room. He found the man standing over a washbasin filled with blood, a straight razor in his hand. Before the officer could intervene, D.C. brought the blade to his own throat and slashed. He stumbled against a trunk. Blood was everywhere.
Before D.C. could slice his throat a second time, the officer punched him. The razor fell to the floor and the officer grabbed D.C.’s arm. When they entered the hallway, D.C. glanced over his shoulder at Hattie, who was still on the floor bleeding. George stood near her and wept, he begged his mother not to leave him.
An ambulance transported D.C. to a nearby receiving hospital where a doctor stitched him up. D.C. was quiet, then blurted out, “I’m sorry I didn’t succeed.” Then he retreated into a silent sulk.
A reporter came to interview D.C, but he would not, or could not, speak.
Hattie went to the California Hospital where a friend of hers, Dr. C.G. Stivers, examined her. The prognosis was grim. She suffered three serious gunshot wounds. Two of them entered her chest, and a third went through the fleshy part of her arm. The bullets that entered her chest deflected into her liver.
While they waited to see if Hattie would live or die, detectives began an investigation into D.C.’s life.
When he was younger, D.C. was a well-to-do businessman in Burlingame, Kansas. For whatever reason, he turned to alcohol. Once he started drinking, he couldn’t stop. D.C. summoned the strength to vanquish his demons. He pulled himself together and made a fortune in the dry goods business.
Success didn’t satisfy him. D.C. was restless and told his wife that he was unhappy in Kansas. He wanted to move away and start fresh. He told her she should consider herself a widow, and he walked out.
D.C. moved to Oklahoma, and later to Los Angeles where he got into the real estate business and bought the Columbia boarding house with Hattie.
Local newspapers speculated about D.C.’s relationship with Hattie. That they were engaged, or had been, and were living under the same were roof suggested an intimacy that could compromise Hattie’s reputation.
Mr. Harrison took offense at the rumors and tried to set the newshounds straight. He said,
“My daughter’s character is above reproach as anyone who knows her will agree. Her name never has been associated with scandal by those her know her most intimately, and, though she and Kent lived in the same house for several months, never a whisper of improper relations has been heard among the occupants of the lodging-house. They were engaged to be married, but the engagement was broken by Mrs. Wiley two or three months ago, and it was only a few days ago that she told me the reason. She said she had learned that Kent was an immoral man, and she could not marry him. She said he had grown repulsive to her, and that she did not love him. Knowledge of this, coupled with an insane jealousy, undoubtedly prompted him to attempt her murder.”
Mr. Harrison then explained how his daughter knew Kent.
“Kent was a friend of Wiley, my daughter’s divorced husband, and at various times lived with her and her family, both in Oklahoma and at Tropico, in this State. About two years ago Mrs. Wiley rented a ranch from Kent in Tropico, and he boarded with her husband, and the latter’s mother. After Mrs. Wiley’s divorce she lived for a time in East Los Angeles. Last April she came to our home at Tonawanda, New York, returning in September to Los Angeles, where she immediately joined Kent in the purchase of the lease and fittings of the Columbia lodging house. My wife and I lived at the place with them, and we know their relations were proper. Kent had agreed that Mrs. Wiley should conduct the lodging house while he would devote his attention to his real estate business. He failed to carry out this agreement, however, and spent most of his time at the house. He was insanely jealous of Mrs. Wiley, and would become angry when any other man talked with her.”
As D.C.’s jealousy increased, they sent Hattie to Long Beach for a week. She returned home determined to end both her personal and business relationship with D.C.
Hattie was unaware that while she was in Long Beach. D.C. hired a private investigator to shadow her. The P.I. observed Hattie with a man named E. George. They seemed enamored of each other. On receiving that news, D.C. flew into a rage.
Within twenty-four hours of telling D.C. of her plan to pull the plug on their relationship, he shot her.
Dr. C.G. Stivers performed a laparotomy on Hattie. A laparotomy is a surgical procedure in which the doctor makes an incision in the abdominal cavity. The doctors open Hattie up and traced the two bullets that D.C. fired into her chest to assess the damage. They determined that a lengthy operation would kill her, so they left the bullets where they were.
Despite the earlier dire prognosis, Hattie rallied. She regained her strength and doctors felt confident that, barring anything unforeseen, she would live.
While Hattie recovered, D.C. paced the floor of his room in the jail ward of the receiving hospital. HIs biggest fear now was that he would go to prison for the attempt on Hattie’s life.
He mulled over his options. There wasn’t much he could do – other than feign insanity.
NEXT TIME: D.C. Kent lawyers up.