Hooper never told the full story of his association with Mrs. Pulitzer; such accounts as he did give were conflicting and incomplete. It appears that he and Mrs. Pulitzer had associated prior to the night of her murder. Their meeting on September 16 was not by prearrangement, but when the well-known prostitute shopping for her husbandâ€™s supper was approached by Hooper, she willingly accompanied him.
Hooper had beer to share but no money for anything else. He spiked her drink with chloral hydrate â€“ â€œknockout dropsâ€? â€“ and she soon passed out on his bed. At some point during the night, Hooper discovered that Mrs. Pulitzer was not breathing, nor could he find a pulse; he believed she had died of a chloral overdose.
Hooperâ€™s first instinct was to cover his actions with a lie about another man who, Hooper would claim, had been left with the woman while Hooper went to buy more beer; upon his return he had found the woman dead and the man gone. On his way to the police station to report this tale, Hooper said, he panicked. Instead, he thought, he would dispose of the body.
Returning to the apartment, he selected a scimitar from the fashionable Oriental decor of his fatherâ€™s parlor. â€œ[I] cut into the body,â€? he confessed, â€œintending to cut the body up so I could get it into a trunk. When I made the first cut the odor was so awful that I could go no further.â€?
Ironically, the coroner would determine that Mrs. Pulitzer had not died of an overdose â€“ she had in fact been alive when Hooper attempted to dismember her. Bleeding so profusely from the six-inch gash on her abdomen that blood soaked the bedding, spattered the walls, and pooled on the floor, Mrs. Pulitzer bled to death as Hooper dragged her from the bed and hid her body in a closet.
Hooper made no attempt to clean up the apartment, but he did bathe, in the process spattering bloody bath water onto the shirt a missionary had left on the floor. Within the next 24 hours, Hooper had pawned Mrs. Pulitzerâ€™s diamond earrings; bought a battered second-hand trunk; rented the horse and buggy from the Hoboken stable; returned to the apartment and folded Mrs. Pulitzerâ€™s stiffening corpse into the trunk; enlisted the aid of the apartment bellboy in strapping the heavy trunk onto the buggy; driven to rural New Jersey; strapped the lead weight to the body and dumped it in the canal; returned again to the apartment and packed the trunk with his own and Mrs. Pulitzerâ€™s bloody clothing and her wig and false teeth, the knife, part of the bloody bedding, and the pawn ticket linking him to the victimâ€™s earrings; driven to the train station to ship the trunk to a fictitious person at a non-existent Chicago address; returned the horse and buggy to Hoboken; and disappeared. Before another 24 hours had passed, police had identified Hooper as the probable murderer, and were chopping their way into the Young apartment.
The four missionaries living at one end of the apartment were singing a hymn preparatory to evening prayer when they heard the police commotion. Peering into the hall, one elder asked what was going on; a policeman ordered the missionaries to stay in their own suite. Three of them did; the fourth elder dived out the window and down the fire escape, and ran the few blocks to the mission home. President McQuarrie returned with him, where they found an excited crowd gathering at the front entrance; they realized for the first time that Hooper was involved in the murder that was filling the headlines.
The two men climbed the fire escape in the rear of the building to reenter the apartment, and held a hasty mission conference. No attempt would be made to shield Hooper or provide any excuse for him. The elders would answer any and every question truthfully and fully and would cooperate with authorities in every way, no matter how personally distasteful the inquiry nor distorted and threatening the published reports might be.
And so the elders responded. In multiple interviews with police, they told everything they knew of Hooper, his background and his movements. The elders denied that any Mormon would shelter him, even out of respect for his family and certainly not through any directive of the Church. The elder whose shirt bore traces of Mrs. Pulitzerâ€™s blood was closely questioned as a possible accomplice. All four missionaries answered endless questions about Mormon doctrine, patiently and consistently.
This last point became especially important when police sorted through Hooperâ€™s papers and found a scrap listing six Biblical quotations headed by the phrase â€œblood atonement.â€? Newspaper headlines screamed: â€œMormon Boy Murdered Mrs. Pulitzer in Obedience to Mormon Doctrine;â€? tabloids carried gruesome tales of Danites, secret Mormon blood rituals, and claims that Hooper was being shielded by the Church, which would pay any sum and pull any wire to protect this prince of a royal Mormon family.
Public excitement was so high in the days immediately after the naming of Hooper as a suspect that, President McQuarrie recorded, â€œI am quite sure that if it had happened in a less populous city, or in one of the Southern states, none of us would have escaped lynching.â€? All tracting and street meetings were halted, and missionaries decided to postpone the scheduled baptism of a female convert â€“ the last thing the Church needed, they thought, was for elders to be seen by detectives and reporters escorting a young woman onto a secluded New Jersey beach for a baptism. They had no way to reach their young convert, however, and decided to meet her trainâ€“ assuming she had courage enough to keep her appointment â€“ and explain why the baptism would have to be postponed.
â€œRather to our surprise,â€? President McQuarrie recorded, â€œnot only [the convert], but almost every active member in the Branch was on the train. … It was a great joy to us to know that none of our friends had been shaken by the terrific blow of adversity. [With the branch serving as chaperone, w]e proceeded to the appointed place and went through the ceremony and enjoyed the lunch that the thoughtful sisters provided.â€?
Members of the branches in Brooklyn and Manhattan, â€œinexpressibly shockedâ€? by the episode, played key roles in helping the Church weather the severe storm of bad publicity by continuing to attend their meetings. They responded to the questions of the reporters who swelled their congregations, and soon the mainstream New York press was printing a surprising number of accurate, sometimes favorable stories about Mormon history, doctrine, and practice. The elders resumed their proselyting activities, although the charge of being â€œHooper Youngâ€™s apostlesâ€? was thrown by hecklers during street meetings.
To be concluded