Not everyone can find peace of mind in San Jose

Katarina Petrinovich met her husband Jerry two weeks after their marriage ceremony.  Katarina, born Katarina Marcesovich in Split, Dalmatia in 1892 was a pretty 19 year-old girl, sang beautifully, and was fluent in three languages. Jerry learned of the accomplished young woman through his brother who lived in Split, and began writing the young woman letters. Told good things about her countryman in half-way around the world, Katarina responded and a correspondence developed between the two.

Katarina Petrinovich

Jerry told her of the wonders of California, that he had a fine home, was a mere 30 years of age, and that he’d built a career as a successful restaurateur. There’s no way around it, Jerry lied to the distant girl. He lived in a one room apartment, and worked as a night cook. The picture he sent on, if not exactly fake, was the 1910 version of photo-shopped; in the words of a reporter from the San Francisco Call “it flattered the original.”

Jerry proposed and Katarina accepted. Of course, her parents weren’t keen on dispatching an unmarried daughter half-way around the world to a man they never met, and so Jerry arranged a legally binding proxy marriage. His brother in Split, given power of attorney stood in for Jerry and married the girl in his name. With that, Katarina was dispatched to California, a journey of about two weeks.

Jerry Petrinovich

Jerry Petrinovich

The couple took up residence in Jerry’s small apartment. Jerry kept his new bride a virtual prisoner. If he wasn’t available to watch her, an aged aunt was assigned to keep an eye on her. Disappointed and repulsed by a husband who’d led her to have such high hopes only to see them dashed by poverty and misery, Katarina rebelled and the two fought. Long and loud, their words echoing through the thin walls of the apartment house in Orchard Street.

Jerry’s refusal to take Katarina to a picnic sponsored by their fellow Croatians on June 20, 1910 proved the final straw. Their high volume argument went on and on, and finally Jerry’s aged aunt went to the door of the couple’s room and forced her way in. Harldy had she made her way in to see what the ruckus was about when Jerry pulled his pistol from his coat hanging on the door and sprung at his wife, who was lying on the bed. A pistol shot, in her right breast was followed by a cut with a knife along her throat and abdomen. The Aunt did nothing but scream, as Jerry turned the knife on himself, drawing the knife over his own throat.

Jerry died that evening at Belvedere Hospital, never recovering consciousness. Katarina lived long enough to give a statement to San Jose’s assistant district attorney James P. Sex. “I am 19 years o f age. My husband shot me because I did not love him. He was trying to make me care for him, but I could not. He did not threaten me. He never did. I knew that he was going to do me harm because he said he would not let me out of the room unless I promised that I would care for him. He was talking a great deal about his caring for me and my not caring for him.”

Tragically it seems, Jerry got his wish never to be separated from his beautiful wife. The two share a gravestone at the Santa Clara Mission Cemetery.

Petrinovich Grave

Leave a comment


  1. Good grief. Was hoping for a happy ending.

  2. I’m a little depressed after that one too.

  3. Val Mills

     /  April 25, 2013

    And today many still haven’t learned and jump right into online relationships…..

    • Indeed….although Katarina probably could have avoided the whole situation had google, facebook and skype been available!


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