Skip Ribbon Commands
Skip to main content

Michael J. Synon

Michael J. Synon, a 55-year-old unemployed plasterer living in Chicago, Illinois, was arrested on February 26, 1900, and charged with the murder of his wife, Avrill, 50, who had been bludgeoned to death in their home earlier that day.
At trial, more than 20 members of the plasterer’s union testified that Synon had spent the day of the crime at a local saloon, the House of David, some four miles from his residence, where union members often gathered. Nonetheless, the brutality of the crime, combined with testimony of neighbors that Synon often beat his wife and damaging testimony of their 10-year-old son, Michael, who had witnessed his parents arguing over money that morning, weighed heavily against Synon. In May of 1900, he was convicted of murder and sentenced to death.
In February of 1901, the conviction was reversed on appeal because of prejudicial remarks by the trial judge, Frank Baker, and a retrial was ordered. The judge had not only made inappropriate remarks about the manner in which Synon testified, accusing him of being argumentative and misbehaving, but he also failed to permit Synon to answer questions about Tom Smith, a boarder in the Synon home. Smith, an ex-convict, had disappeared immediately after the crime.
At retrial, a neighbor, John J. Ryan, testified that he saw a man who he did not recognize, who was definitely not Synon, enter the Synon home shortly before Avrill was killed. Members of the plasterer’s union repeated their testimony that Synon had been at the House of David at the time of the murder.
Governor Edward Dunne, who had presided over the second trial as judge before being elected governor, acquitted Synon, stating that, “Only those words which the court had committed an error in uttering stood between him and the cruel tragedy of which my state would have been guilty.”
Synon was released on September 18, 1901.
– Dolores Kennedy
Most Serious Crime:Murder
Reported Crime Date:1900
Age at the date of crime:55
Contributing Factors: