By all accounts, Bessie Little lived a life full of ups and downs. Born as Tressie Doty and orphaned, she was adopted at the age of two by Peter and Elizabeth Little from the Miami County Infirmary in Troy.
She was known to be a sweet girl, studious and kind. She was a regular at her church, and a beauty to everyone who knew her, including Albert Franz.
Soon Albert and Bessie were spending all their time together. In July of 1896, just a month before Bessie disappeared, her mother found her and Albert in a ‘delicate situation.’ Immediately, she ordered them to marry, to which Albert responded that he could not.
After arguments with her parents over seeing Albert, the pregnant Bessie moved into a hotel, then shortly after, moved into a boarding house that was more affordable on Albert’s salary.
Bessie was last seen alive on Thursday, August 27, 1896 as she hurried out the door on her way to meet Albert. The next day, Albert showed up at the boarding house, looking for Bessie and paying the rent for the next week. Although Bessie was on her way to meet Albert, he claimed to not have seen her for a few days, telling her landlady, Mrs. Freese, to not worry, because she probably went home to her parents.
On September 2nd, an unidentified body was found in the Stillwater River in Cincinnati. Too decomposed to be identified, they described her looks, down to the shoes from Diers and Tanner of Dayton. The newspaper article further stated that an attorney was contacted and asked about the penalties/responsibilities of having knowledge of a violent crime against a woman whose body was in the river.
Upon reading this article, Mrs. Bell, the day cashier for the hotel at which Bessie briefly stayed, called the police, suspecting that this body was Bessie Little. Dental records later proved her identity, and her body was interred in a potter’s field in Woodland Cemetery.
During interrogation, Albert Franz changed his story. Before, he claimed that he never saw her that night. After, admitted to seeing her, but swore that she shot herself, and he, acting out of fear, threw her body and the gun into the Stillwater River.
The trial was a tumultuous, prosecutors alleging that 20 year old Albert wanted to dodge marrying 23 year old Bessie, with defense countering the accusation with a story of their own, that Albert proposed, but Bessie would not accept. When defense stated that Bessie shot herself, prosecution questioned how she could have shot herself in the head twice, even presenting Bessie’s skull in court, showing the two bullet holes over the right ear.
It took less than a week to convince the jury of his guilt. On November 19, 1897, Albert became the fourth person in Ohio to be executed by electric chair. Unfortunately due to a loose electrode, Albert did not die after the first, second, or even third attempt to electrocute him. It took five times.
Rumor has it that Bessie still haunts the bridge on Ridge Avenue where she died.