Carbolic acid, or not

The documentation of my death record perusing has returned.

Today’s subject is Fleety (or Fluty, or Fleetie, depending on which source you look at) Benson. She was born August 19, 1915, in Chester County, TN. She died October 6, 1933, at the age of 17. From what I can read of the aged handwriting, her death record says, “This young lady was found dead by side of highway Oct 7 with mouth burned by carbolic acid. She was supposed to have died the day before. General opinion is that she was having criminal operation and had bled and died while in operating room and carbolic acid was poured in mouth by operators to appear as suicide. Cause of death: accidental homicide.”

I’m sorry, WHAT?!

First of all, what is a “criminal operation”? My first thought was an abortion, considering she was an unmarried 17 year old in 1933. But I have zero evidence to support this. My husband suggested organ harvesting, but I’m not sure how popular that was back then. It also could have just meant an operation by a doctor who perhaps wasn’t licensed to perform said procedure. However, given her age, gender, and the time period, I’m saying abortion.

You’d think a young lady dumped on the side of the road with carbolic acid in her mouth would make the papers. Alas. I can’t find a single thing about it. This could possibly because each source spells her name differently, but still.

To further bolster my abortion theory, abortion is the only circumstance in which I can think of that someone would cover it up in such a way. It was extremely taboo at the time (and still is, for that matter), and doctors (or “doctors”) would definitely want to keep that on the down-low, especially when a girl died in their care. But good lord, what a cover-up.

I would love to know how the investigators discovered the truth. Presumably if it were an abortion, there would be signs on her body of that. It would’ve been easy to just look at her, find the carbolic acid, and brush it off as a suicide. I’m glad they pursued it further.

I would also love to know if they caught the “operators.” A newspaper article would probably tell us. Alas. I will search on.

Another Friday mystery, unsolved.


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