The Slow Death of Ocey Snead

Starved, overdosed, and drowned by her mother and aunts, Ocey Snead became the center of a scandalous murder in turn of the century New Jersey

Heather Monroe
17 min readNov 14, 2020


Ocey Snead, December 1907, public domain image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

At 4:30 PM, November 29, 1909, the police station in East Orange, New Jersey, received a telephone call. The woman on the line asked for a coroner. The officer explained there wasn’t one and advised her to contact a local doctor. A half-hour later, the woman telephoned Dr. Herbert M Simmons, deputy county physician, and asked him to come to her house at 89 West 14th Street. The woman explained that a girl had killed herself in the bathtub.

Upon arrival, Dr. Simmons thought the police erroneously sent to a vacant home. The paint on the house was chipped, the lawn grown over, and the windows had no curtains. He knocked on the door, thinking no one would answer. However, the old, heavy door creaked open to reveal a specter of a woman draped from head to toe in black mourning garb. “Coroner?” she spoke in gruff tones, “This way…”

She turned before a chilly gust of Autumn air extinguished her candle and ascended the stairs, the bewildered doctor at her heels. He noticed the coldness of the place; there was no heat source. The home also lacked furniture or blankets aside from a few old chairs, a single cot, and barrels that served as side tables.

The woman led the way to the sole bathroom in the house, located on the second floor. By the light of a single candle, Dr. Simmons saw a Zinc-lined wooden bathtub about four feet long and half-filled with a foot of soapy water. Just under the surface lay the corpse of a young woman. Her long, auburn hair floated ethereally around her face.

Her head was toward the faucets, and her hand still clutched a washcloth.

“When did this happen?” The doctor asked.

“I don’t know. I discovered the bod a few minutes before I called you.”

“Who is she? Who are you?”

“You’ll learn that soon enough!” The veiled woman replied as if the doctor had no right to ask.

“Do you live here? Did she? Have you been in the house all day?”



Heather Monroe

Welcome readers! Heather Monroe is a genealogist and writer who resides in California with her partner and their nine children. •True Crime• History• Memoir•