The Killer and the Saint: Pranzini and Thérèse | K. V. Turley | Catholic World Report
The sensational story of the murderous Pranzini would inspire the young saint to adopt her “first sinner.”
In 1887, the following report appeared in the The Times:
Paris: March 17th
A triple murder was discovered this morning in the Rue Montaigne. A courtesan named Monty, or Regnault, lay dead at the foot of her bed, with two gashes on her throat, while her servant-maid and her daughter, a girl of 12, had been murdered in their bed. The supposed murderer is a man who mounted the stair just as the concierge was putting out the gas. He had vainly attempted to force a safe containing jewels worth 200,000f., and is presumed to have taken the money from the victim’s pocket. She was about 30 years of age. There are no traces of any struggle, but the occupants of the flat below heard a slight noise at 10 o’clock this morning. The concierge appears to have been accustomed to pull the checkstring about sunrise to let out the woman’s visitors.
A mysterious figure mounting the stairs as the gaslight was dimmed, a multiple murder, with one of the victims a courtesan, a theft, and, later, with nothing unusual in the room but a “cuff and belt” with the name “Geissler” inscribed upon them. These facts proved sensational enough to excite the press of the day as the hunt got underway for a thief and a killer, with the only clue being the name inked upon letters found at the scene…
Four days after the murder, a report came out of nowhere that seemed to give the police the breakthrough they needed. An “Italian” had been picked up by police many miles away at Marseilles. The man’s name was Henri Pranzini, and he appeared linked to the murders. The reasons for his arrest were quite simple. Having arrived on a night train at the port city, he proceeded to stay with a prostitute. It was she to whom he gave a locket, and, later, to another woman a watch was sold—both items aroused suspicions given the publicity then circulating about the Paris theft and murders, and police were duly alerted. Pranzini, having been apprehended at a theater in the city, admitted knowing Marie Regnault, but claimed that he had fled the capital for fear of being implicated in the events that had taken place—he denied any wrongdoing. His lodgings were searched by police, however, and therein were found bloodstained clothing. Unexpectedly, a case against this mysterious foreigner had started to form.
By March 23, Paris detectives had returned to Rue Montaigne, and in so doing had noticed that the apartment below that of the murder victims belonged to a watchmaker. Armed with the watch linked to Pranzini at Marseilles, they presented it to the neighbor, who not only recognized it but was able to show evidence of his work upon it; he had repaired it a few days prior to the murder, and, in so doing, had written a serial number on the watchcase before entering this in his work log. The watch found at Marseilles had the exact same numbers. The case against Pranzini began to build.
On March 25, at Marseilles, further circumstantial evidence appeared when missing jewels belonging to the dead woman were discovered at a park Pranzini had visited.