Over the years, many details of the Jacqueline Smith case have been lost, and the remaining story often is dismissed as an urban legend. But strange and macabre as the story is, it was all too true.
Jacqueline Smith, age 20, was a slender, brown-eyed blonde from Lebanon, Pennsylvania. Over the protests of her father, 41-year-old Chester Smith, and her mother, Jacqueline moved to New York and took an apartment with two other women early in 1955. She wanted to pursue a career as a fashion designer.
That June, friends introducted the soft-spken, demure Jacqueline to Thomas G. Daniel, an urbane young salesman of 24. Daniel was well-read, multi-lingual, a poet and gourmet cook. He had come to New York from Warren, Ohio, three years earlier. He worked at an upscale shop selling riding equipment. With his good looks and sophistication, he was able to win over the small-town girl. She spent more and more time at his apartment, all but moving in with him.
In December, Jacqueline told Daniel that she was pregnant. Daniels did not want to marry Jacqueline -- he still had a girlfriend back in Ohio who he preferred. Instead he arranged for a 46-year-old scrub nurse, Leobaldo Pejuan, to perform an abortion at Daniel's apartment on Christmas Eve. After performing the abortion, Pejuan became alarmed at the young woman's condition, and summoned Dr. Ramiro Morales, who told him that Jackie was dead.
Daniel and Pejuan cut Jacqueline's body into pieces and took it to Pejuan's home, where over the next several days they cut into as many as 50 pieces, which they wrapped in Christmas paper and disposed of in trash cans along side streets off Broadway, from 72nd to 80th.
When Chester Smith arrived for a visit on December 30, he got Daniel and together they went to the police to report Jackie missing. The police were quickly suspicious of Daniel and began to question him more closely. Daniel finally told police that Jacqueline had gone into the bathroom and stabbed herself to death due to his refusal to marry her, and that he had dumped her body in the Hudson River.
Police investigated, and found over 800 stolen medical instruments in Pejuan's apartment. The entire story eventually came out, with Pejuan pleading guilty and testifying against Daniel. Daniel's widowed mother attended the entire trial. Chester Smith, too, was there, but left the courtroom when testimony came to describing the dismemberment of his daughter's body.
Pejuan was sentenced to 7 1/2 years in prison, and Daniel was sentenced to 8 years. His mother went into hysterics upon hearing the verdict, screaming, "God help me. They have taken my lfe, my savings, my son."
Nobody recorded the words of Jacqueline's father as he faced a life without his daughter.
During the 1950s, we see an anomaly: Though maternal mortality had been falling during the first half of the 20th Century, and abortion mortality in particular had been plummeting, the downward trend slowed, then reversed itself briefly. I have yet to figure out why. For more, see Abortion Deaths in the 1950's.
For more on pre-legalization abortion, see The Bad Old Days of Abortion
The Oklahoman, May 30, 1956
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