This 1908 story of the murder-suicide at an Asheville, NC all-girls’ school was picked up by newspapers nationwide. The following clipping, from The Manning Times in South Carolina on April 22, 1908 was one of the more comprehensive accounts of the aftermath of an April Fool’s Day joke which ended in tragedy. This article states that Nellie Swinney’s father was D.O. Swinney, but he was actually Curtis O. Swinney.
After Shooting His Sixteen Year Old Daughter Twice.
Occured in a Girl’s School at Asheville. The Young Lady had Taken Part in April Fool Joke and her Father visits her at School, Shoots Her, and then Commits Suicide.
A terrible tragedy was enacted at Asheville, N.C., on Wednesday. Enraged at his 16-year-old daughter Nellie, because of a harmless school girl prank, Dr. D.O. Swinney, who recently went to Asheville, from New York, fired two shots at her, fatally wounding her, and then turning the revolver on himself, he placed the muzzle in his mouth and pulled the trigger, dying almost instantly. Badly wounded as she was, with two bullets embedded in her skull, Miss Swinney ran from the room up-stairs to the principal’s room before she fell.
The tragedy occurred in the reception room of the Normal and College school for girls, where Miss Swinney had been a pupil for the past session. Just what occured prior to the shooting is not known as there were no witnesses and the girl, while still conscious, could not give but a vague account. Dr. Swinney, who, up to a few years ago, had been a prominent physician in New York city, has been in poor health, and of late it is alleged his mind has been unbalanced. Recently his daughter was one of a number of school girls, who, as an April fool’s joke, absented themselves from school, and the father brooded over the escapade until it assumed to him the proportions of actual wrong-doing. When Dr. Swinney called on his daughter at the school this afternoon about 3 o’clock he was shown into the reception room, and a few minutes later his daughter came down and went into the room, closing the door behind her. She sat down at the piano, her father sitting beside her. Half an hour later girls and teachers were startled by four shots ringing out and a few seconds afterwards Miss Swinney, with blood streaming from the wounds in her head, came rushing from the room. In a few minutes the wildest
confusion reigned, school girls and women teachers ran here and there, but Miss Robinson, the principal, speedily restored order and nastily summoned a physician. Miss Swinney was desperately wounded and there is little chance for her recovery.
The room in which the tragedy occurred showed signs of a hard struggle; chairs were overturned and the piano stool, with one leg broken, was lying in the middle of the room. The father was lying on the floor, at one side of the room, face downward, with the revolved and four chambers empty under him. The attempted murder and suicide were evidently deliberately planned, as before going to the school Dr. Swinney purchased a revolver and two rounds of cartridges at a pawn shop.
Although, it is said, his mind has been unbalanced for some time he had never been violent and his family were totally unprepared for the fearful tragedy. He was a father-in-law of Dr. J.A. Sinclair, a prominent dentist of that city, and since his return from New York a few weeks ago had made his home with him.”