When Grace Brown became pregnant, in the spring of 1906, she thought that Chester Gillette would marry her.
He had absolutely no intention of doing anything of the sort.
When he refused to see her again, avoiding her even at work, she penned him plaintive letters. She was a Gilded Age, working class woman. An illegitimate child would ruin her.
Still Chester continued to ignore her pleading letters, so Grace fled back to her parents' farm, in South Otselic, New York. Her friends kept her in the loop, reporting back that Chester appeared to be quite openly now courting the wealthy heiress Harriet Benedict.
That last part was too much for the distraught Grace. She rushed back to Cortland, determined finally to confront him in public.
Chester Gillette greeted her with fury. She was reduced to tears in front of the whole factory floor. But what other options did she have? Abortion was illegal.
Finally, after days of such encounters, Chester seemed to relent and he welcomed her with open arms. He'd been a fool and now they would have a holiday, so that they could calm down and see what could be done for the best. Grace assumed that was the long awaited marriage proposal. She went with him.
The couple stayed overnight in a hotel in Utica, before making their way into the Adirondack Mountains. By the side of Big Moose Lake, Chester booked them into The Glenmore Hotel. He'd taken his suitcase and a tennis racket. He hired a boat.
The boat-keeper later gave testimony that, from her demeanor, he thought that Grace was expecting a romantic wedding proposal on the lake.
When the couple didn't return at the allotted time, a search party was launched. The rowing boat was found capsized. Grace's body was floating face-down, underwater, not far away. Her face was badly bruised (consistent, a jury felt, with being hit with a tennis racket). Chester was nowhere to be found.
He was discovered two days later, in The Glenmore Hotel under an assumed name. He denied knowing Grace, then he said that she'd attacked him, so he'd struck out in self-defense with his camera. Shocked at being hit, she had committed suicide.
The jury didn't believe him. Chester Gillette was killed in the electric chair at Auburn Prison, New York, on March 30th 1908.