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State v. Walker

Decided: May 31, 1954.

STATE OF NEW JERSEY, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
THEODORE WALKER, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT



On appeal from Superior Court, Law Division, Mercer County.

For affirmance -- Chief Justice Vanderbilt, and Justices Heher, Oliphant, Wachenfeld, Burling, Jacobs and Brennan. For reversal -- None. The opinion of the court was delivered by Wachenfeld, J.

Wachenfeld

Agonized screams of terror emitted by the victim as she resisted being tied, after having been robbed, assaulted and stabbed in her store in broad daylight, brought immediate response from a number of people in the neighborhood. Joined by vigilant police, they vigorously pursued the culprit as he fled through the public streets in an effort to escape. His capture and arrest were quickly accomplished.

Thus unfolded the crime of murder charged against the defendant, of which he was convicted and sentenced to death, his appeal being presently before us.

The facts are not complicated and most of them are not denied. On the morning of August 18, 1953, shortly before noon, Mollie Schlessinger was stabbed several times with a knife and otherwise bruised and injured in the course of a robbery. She was found on the floor behind a counter of her uniform shop at 27 North Montgomery Street, Trenton.

Howard R. Miller, a mail carrier, was about to enter the premises in question when he heard screams, "He's killing me. He's killing me." As he proceeded to the rear, he saw a big man answering the defendant's general description come out from behind the counter and run out of the door. Miller shouted, "Stop that man," and went to the rear of the counter, where the victim was lying on the floor near the cash register. Nearby he found two $10 bills and one $5 bill.

William Boyd testified that he and his wife were about to enter the shop in question to purchase a uniform. When almost at the entrance he saw a man "burst out of the door" and heard a woman scream. Boyd likewise shouted, "Stop that man, stop that man, robbery," and gave chase. The witness pursued the defendant east on Hanover Street and other people joined him in the chase. He identified the defendant as the man he saw come out of the store.

Frank Ernie conducted a business three stores from the uniform shop and heard the victim scream twice and hurried to her store. He saw the defendant run out of the shop with Boyd pursuing him. At the trial he identified Walker and the clothing worn by him at the time. Walker ran east on Hanover Street to North Stockton Street, where he entered an alleyway separating two buildings. The witness entered a police car and went to the Coalport railroad yard opposite the freeway entrance on Perry Street, where he saw the defendant in the custody of Patrolman Dennis Furman.

Anthony J. Salvatore was driving his truck north on Montgomery Street at about the time in question. While waiting for a traffic light at the intersection of East Hanover Street, he heard the victim's screams coming from the uniform shop and saw the defendant "dash out" of the store.

He also joined in the hunt and saw Walker apprehended at the Coalport yard.

Dean R. Ewell and Robert S. Wolensky told of their attempts to overtake Walker, while Mrs. Ethel Miller and Mrs. Mary Thompson corroborated the testimony of others regarding the defendant's attempts to conceal himself under an automobile in a yard on Perry Street.

Patrolman Dennis Furman saw Walker "dive" under a railroad flat car at the Coalport yards and placed him under arrest. He identified the defendant, searched him and found a woman's red purse in his right-hand trouser pocket. This purse contained, amongst other things, ladies' items and two sets of keys, Exhibits S-33 and S-34, which were identified as keys to the victim's store and apartment by her sister, Harriet S. Wilgarde.

Officer Lewis Hill testified he found a knife, Exhibit S-27, on the day of the crime in a vacant lot at the rear of 125 North Stockton Street on the route taken by the defendant while in flight; while Hazel Goodson, mother-in-law of Walker, identified the same knife as one she had given to her daughter when she married the defendant.

After the attack the victim was taken by police ambulance to St. Francis' Hospital. She was unconscious and suffering from a state of shock due to hemorrhages caused by the wounds "sustained by the patient in both hands and in the left thigh." There were "lacerations across the palm and across the left index finger almost severing this finger." On the right hand there was a lacerated wound across the palm and in the middle part of the right thumb. There was a laceration on the chin and a deep stab wound in the left thigh. She had multiple lacerations, abrasions and contusions all over her body, including her right breast and right shoulder.

Surgery was resorted to, and following the operation Mollie Schlessinger regained consciousness and was interviewed by the police authorities. She expired at about 7 P.M. on the following evening. Death was caused by traumatic shock ...


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