"you haven't heard of John Colt, the axe-murderer of New York?"

This is a true story, though it happened on 17th September 1841, not 1842 as Richards claims. John Colt, a New York bookkeeper, fell into an argument with his neighbour Samuel Adams over a loan. They began to fight, and Colt hit Adams with a hammer and killed him. Panicking, Colt cut up Adams' body with an axe and packed it into a shipping crate, which he then attempted to have shipped to St Louis. However the smell of the decomposing body alerted the sailors on the ship to the crime, and Colt was caught.

Colt was tried and sentenced to death for his crime. He asked to be allowed to marry Caroline Henshaw, with whom he had been living, and they were granted permission to wed before Colt's execution; Samuel Colt was one of the witnesses at the ceremony. Just before the execution could take place, fire broke out in the prison where John Colt was being held. Once the fire was under control, Colt was found dead in his cell "with a dagger in his heart".

The murder is mentioned in Herman Melville's Bartleby the Scrivener. There is an excellent account of the case at the Murder by Gaslight website.