The Serial Homicide Case of the Day, from "Hunting Humans, the Encyclopedia of 20th Century Serial Killers" , by Michael Newton
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Born Lofie Louise Preslar, in Bienville, Louisiana, one of America's leading "black widows" was the daughter of a socially prominent newspaper publisher. She attended the best private schools in New Orleans, where she became notorious for her sexual escapades. Expelled by a posh finishing school, Louise went home to Bienville and settled down to the business of pleasure.
In 1903, she married Henry Bosley, a traveling salesman, joining him on the road. Working Dallas, Texas, in the summer of 1906, Henry caught his wife in bed with a local oilman and, grief-stricken, killed himself two days later. Louise sold Henry's belongings and moved to Shreveport, where she worked as a prostitute until she could afford a trip to Boston.
The dramatic change of scene meant little to Louise. Her trade was still the same, and as a hooker making house calls, she became a favorite with the local gentry. On the side, she also pilfered jewelry from the absent wives of wealthy clients, selling off the pieces that she did not choose to keep herself. In time, she pushed her luck too far and was discovered. Threatened with exposure, she retired to Waco, Texas, where she wooed and won Joe Appel, wildcat oil man, best known for the diamonds that studded his rings, belt buckle even the buttons of his clothing.
One week after Joe first met Louise, he was discovered dead, a bullet in his skull, his diamonds missing. Called before a special grand jury, Louise admitted shooting Appel down - in "self-defense." The oil man tried to rape her, she maintained, and she was forced to act accordingly. The missing jewels forgotten, members of the jury openly applauded as they set her free.
By 1913, running out of luck and ready cash in Dallas, Louise married local hotel clerk Harry Faurote. It was primarily a marriage of convenience - hers and flagrant adultery on the part of his bride soon drove Faurote to hang himself in the hotel basement.
In 1915, moving on to Denver, Louise married Richard Peete, a door-to-door salesman. She bore him a daughter in 1916, but Peete's meager income did not measure up to her standards, and she took off alone, for Los Angeles, in 1920. There, while shopping for a house to rent, Louise met mining executive Jacob Denton. Denton had a house to rent, but he was soon persuaded to retain the property himself, acquiring Louise as a live-in companion. After several weeks of torrid sex, Louise asked Denton to marry her, but he refused. It was a fatal error.
Smiling through rejection, Louise ordered Denton's caretaker to dump a ton of earth in the basement, where she planned to "raise mushrooms" - Denton's favorite delicacy - as a treat for her lover. No mushrooms had sprouted by the time Denton disappeared, on May 30, 1920, but Louise had numerous explanations for curious callers. First, she told all comers that her man had quarreled with "a Spanish-looking woman," who became enraged and chopped his arm off with a sword. Although he managed to survive, she said, poor Jacob was embarrassed by his handicap, and so had gone into seclusion! Pressed by Denton's lawyer, she revised the story to incorporate an amputated leg; the missing businessman was scheduled to return once he was comfortable with an artificial limb.
Incredibly, these tales kept everyone at bay for several months, while "Mrs. Denton" threw a string of lavish parties in her absent lover's home. It was September by the time that Denton's lawyer grew suspicious, calling on police to search the house. An hour's spade work turned up Denton's body in the basement, with a bullet in his head. Detectives started hunting for Louise, and traced her back to Denver, where she had resumed a life of wedded bliss with Richard Peete.
Convicted of a murder charge in January 1921, Louise was sentenced to a term of life imprisonment. In the beginning, husband Richard corresponded faithfully, but absence failed to make Louise's heart grow fonder of the man she left behind. In 1924, when several of his letters went unanswered, Peete committed suicide.
San Quentin's warden, Clinton Duffy, once described Louise Peete as projecting "an air of innocent sweetness which masked a heart of ice." It was reported that she liked to boast about the lovers she had driven to their deaths, and she especially cherished Richard's suicide, as proof that even prison walls could not contain her fatal charm. In 1933, Louise was transferred from San Quentin to the prison at Tehachapi, and six years later, on her tenth attempt to win parole, she was released from custody.
Her ultimate release was due, in no small part, to intercession from a social worker, Margaret Logan, and her husband Arthur. Paroled to the care of a Mrs. Latham, in Los Angeles, Louise was allowed to take the name "Anna Lee," after her favorite movie star. She found employment at a servicemen's canteen in World War II; in 1942, an elderly female co-worker vanished inexplicably, her home discovered in a state of disarray. Detectives called on "Anna Lee," the missing woman's closest friend, and they were told the woman had died of injuries sustained in a fall. In what may only be described as monumental negligence, they bought the story, never bothering to check out "Anna's" background or obtain a death certificate.
The kindly Mrs. Latham died in 1943, and Louise was paroled to the Logans. She married elderly bank manager Lee Judson in May 1944, and on May 30, Margaret Logan vanished without a trace, Louise telling Margaret's aged husband that his wife was in the hospital, unable to receive visitors. By late June, Louise had persuaded the authorities that Arthur Logan was insane; he was committed to a state hospital, where he died six months later. With typical lack of feeling, Louise donated his body to a medical school for dissection.
Louise moved into the Logan home with Judson, but all was not well in the household. In short order, her husband discovered a bullet hole in one wall, a suspicious mound of earth in the garden, and an insurance policy naming Louise as Margaret Logan's sole beneficiary. Still he said nothing, and it remained for Louise, herself, to unravel the web of deception.
By December 1944, Louise's parole officer had grown suspicious of the regular reports, submitted over Margaret Logan's shaky signature, that contained such glowing praise for their charge. Police invaded the Logan home shortly before Christmas, prompting Lee Judson to voice his suspicions at last. Margaret Logan's body was unearthed in the garden, whereupon Louise offered another of her patented fables. In this story, decrepit Arthur Logan had gone suddenly insane, beating his wife to death in a maniacal rage. Terrified of attracting suspicion due to her background, Louise had buried the corpse and stalled for a month before having Arthur committed to an asylum.
Louise was charged with Margaret Logan's murder, her husband booked as an accessory. Acquitted on January 12, 1945, Judson took his own life the next day, leaping from the thirteenth floor of a Los Angeles office building. Louise, it was observed, seemed pleased with his reaction to their separation. Convicted of first-degree murder by a jury that included eleven women, Louise was this time sentenced to die. Her appeals failed, and she was executed in San Quentin's gas chamber on April 11, 1947.
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