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People/Characters: Roland Molineux

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The Devil's Gentleman: Privilege, Poison, and the Trial That Ushered in the Twentieth Century by Harold Schechter

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Roland Molineux was the son of Edward Leslie Molineux and Hattie Davis Clark, the middle of their three sons.   Although he became a chemist and went into paint manufacturing like his father, Roland was a social climber and cultivated a proud and languid air.  He became a famous amateur champion on the horizontal bars, and joined the elite New York Athletic Club (NYAC) and the Knickerbocker Athletic Club (KAC).   At the later, he met and became friend with Henry Barnet, and but then resigned after quarreling with athletic director Harry Cornish.   He and Barnet became rivals for an aspiring singer, Blanche Chesebrough, who kept company with both of them, while declining Roland's proposal of marriage, but preferred Barnet.   Barnet died of what was diagnosed as diphtheria, but late proved to be poison, November 10, 1898.  Blanche and Roland were married November 19, 1898.   Shortly after the wedding, Katherine J. Adams, aunt to Harry Cornish took a dose of bromo-seltzer that he had received from an anonymous source and died of cyanide poisoning.   Cornish, who tasted it, became very ill but survived.   Molineux was tried and found guilty of murdering Katherine Adams, but the conviction was overturned on appeal and he was acquitted the second time.   He was suspected of murdering Barnet, but was never tried.   His case led to the “Molineux Rule”, limiting the evidence of past behavior that could be introduced in a trial, as well as other changes in the law.   Blanche originally kept up a public display of support and lived with her in-laws, but by the end of the four years that the trial took, she had moved out.  She moved to South Dakota and got a divorce for extreme mental cruelty.   Molineux embarked on a lackluster writing career.   His behavior became increasing violent and erratic, caused by untreated syphilis and he was confined to an insane asylum where he died.

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