Holyoke’s Death Toll 6, Police Make Two Arrests

by Laurel | December 28th, 2011

28 December 1919

Charge of Manslaughter Against John Wyszatycki, Proprietor of Hotel Polski — John Starzyck, Alleged to Have Brought Poison Whiskey to City, Held as Accessory — Six Persons Ill, Three May Die.

Holyoke, December 27 — John Wyszatycki, proprietor of Holtel Polski, was tonight arrested, charged with manslaughter as a result of searching inquiry today by Assistant District Attorney William Dillon, state police and local authorities into the numerous deaths and serious illness from wood alcohol contained in the mixture sold here as “whiskey.” John Starzyck of 107 High Street was also taken into custody, charged with being an accessory before the fact.

It is believed by the authorities that the arrests will materially clarify the local situation. Each of the accused was held in bonds of $10,000. Starzyck is alleged to have been the one who brought the poisoned liquor to this city from Hartford. Wyszatycki is claimed to have been responsible for its sale. It is understood that information given by men now ill or antemortem statements, combined with data gathered by Assistant District Attorney Dillon, form the basis for complaints against the two.

Late tonight the death list here totaled six and there were six at home or in the hospitals, so far as could be learned, suffering from wood alcohol poisoning. In the opinion of those in a position to know, the worst is over, so far as Holyoke is concerned, although there may be isolated cases turn up now and then for the next week or so.

The Dead

Stanislaud Kowacki, 35, 23 Oliver Street

Chares Kowacki, 30, 23 Oliver Street

Frank Tanfara (or Fanfara) 56 120 Lyman Street

John Trznadol, 46, 98 High Street

John Rodak, 20, 130 Lyman Street

John Farrell, 40, 101 Hampden Street

Ill But with a Chance of Recovery

Stanislaus Wokacki, 32, of Adams Street

Joseph Jowalski, 23, of 124 Maple Street

Joseph Juckno, 28, of 305 Columbia Street, Chicopee Falls

Ill and Will Probably Die

Joseph Kaskiewicz, 53, of 120 High Street

David Fleming, 40, of 112 Hampden Street

Anthony Pysczawicki, 50, of 122 Dwight Street.

Ely and Foote Busy

Although the Holyoke police machinery was slow in getting into action it began to revolve with considerable speed today, and with results. District Attorney Joseph B. Ely was in consultation with the local police authorities this afternoon and went into the matter quite thoroughly. Col A. F. Foote, head of the state police, accompanied by State Detectives Nelligan of Northampton and Thomas E. Bligh of Pittsfield, also held a consultation with the authorities and as a result left for Hartford later. One of their errands was the arrest of two men wanted by the Chicopee police. There were no Holyoke men wanted in that city so far as known.

District Attorney Ely questioned, while here, Adam Ostrowski, who is one of the men who is concerned in the alleged receipt of the poisoned liquor, according to a statement made in Hartford. He positively denied all knowledge of the matter, as he did to police officials when questioned yesterday.

Gorman Closes Saloons

Acting Under instructions from District Attorney Ely, City Marshal Edward J. Gorman today ordered all the saloons closed in the city until further notice, as a matter of precaution, although, as far as known the poisoned liquor was sold mainly in the Polish section and, as far as the evidence goes, chiefly at the Hotel Polski. Raids on saloons and drinking places were made at 1 this afternoon in the Polish district, the following places being visited: Nadiezla & Banas, 126 High Street, where a 25 gallon barrel was secured; Hotel Polski, Wyszatycki & Co. proprietors, 124 High Street; Adam Ostrowski & Co., 107 High Street; Zebrowski & Wiatkowski company, 96 High Street; Kosciuski Club, Lyman and Union Streets. Some bottles of “hard stuff” and some jugs, etc., were taken from these places, the 25 gallon barrel being the largest haul. One place on High Street is said to have been busy the great part of the night emptying contents of barrels and bottle into the sewer. The raid was engineered by Capt. Peter Cullen of the detective department and a squad of inspectors. “Holyoke has lagged behind in the police work on this cast,” was the comment of an out-of-town official, when apprised of what had been done in Holyoke and what had been omitted last night.

As a result of the raid seven bottles of liquor were secured of such a suspicious nature that they were sent in charge of Inspector P. J. Gaughan to Boston for analysis. It is expected that they will be able to report on them inside of two days. Tonight 12 Polish saloon keepers were “called on the carpet” and quizzed by Assistant District Attorney William Dillon. Mr. Dillon said, after the examinations, that arrests would probably follow later tonight. He is doing the work under instructions from District Attorney Joseph B. Ely and will report to him later the results f his examinations including the arrests, if made.

Owstrowski Block Raid

About 9:30 tonight Inspectors Joseph Kane and Peter J. Manning raided the upstairs tenements occupied by John Starzyk at 107 High Street over the Owstrowski saloon. They obtained seven large jugs mostly full, some nearly so; two kegs of “hard” stuff, several quart bottles of various liquors, some mixing apparatus and a considerable number of “empties.” This raid, like the others was not accompanied by any arrests. In previous raids, arrests have sometimes been made and sometimes not. Under Acting Marshal Timothy Haley arrests generally followed on the charge of illegal liquor keeping.

About 10, two of the inspectors were sent to the House of Providence Hospital to obtain, if possible, antemortem statements from two of the men who reported dying.

Woods Performs Autopsies

Medical Examiner Frank A. Woods held three autopsies last night and one today. He said that, from all appearances, the symptoms, before death, and from the results of the autopsies, he is convinced that the deaths were caused from alcoholic poisoning. The acuteness of the attacks and the rapidity with which death ensued leads him to believe that it was wood alcohol and parts of the stomachs have been sent to Boston for analysis. The autopsies were at the direction of the district attorney.

City Marshal Gorman said tonight that he had obtained valuable information from some of the men ill at the House of Providence Hospital and elsewhere and that their statements were of such a nature that action would follow. It is understood that these statements were issued this evening in the examination of the 12 saloon keepers by Assistant District Attorney Dillon.

Police Under Criticism

Severe criticism is being directed against the police department along two lines. First, that they received information from Hartford upon which they apparently did not act; second, that they did not immediately act when the seriousness of the situation developed. The first complaint is denied wholly by the department and, if they did receive the information alleged from Hartford, there is evidence that it was not understood, and that later communications from Hartford prompted the department to at once call up the Hartford police department and obtain all the information at the disposal of that department. There is no doubt of the fact that Capt. peter Cullen did call up the police department. There is no doubt but that the criticism of the police department for not taking more radical action at once is well founded. In such cases it is hard to fix the blame, but the prompt action of Chicopee and Springfield and Hartford authorities in their respective localities was not copied by the local authorities who are busy tonight doing what many believe ought to have been done last night. In view of the fact that the present marshal was appointed to supersede a police official who was enforcing the laws as they should be enforced, there is always a suspicion of weakness in liquor law enforcement, which the developments of the past 34 hours have not tended to strengthen. The term of the present marshal, who is an ex-saloon keeper and hotel proprietor himself, has but a few days more to run and whether there ought to be a pressure brought to bear to force a change in the office for the remaining few days is being debated by many of the best citizens of the city.

Adapted from The Springfield Republican.

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