Friday, June 25, 2010
Black Widow Louise Peete
Lofie Louise Preslar, born in Bienville, Louisiana, a very personable woman who people loved. She was also one of America's leading "black widows". She was the Southern Belle daughter of a wealthy newspaper publisher. She attended the best private schools in New Orleans, where she became notorious for her sexual escapades which got her expelled. Following that illustrious beginning she embarked on a life of pleasure and murder.
She married traveling salesman Henry Bosley in 1903, and traveled with him. In the summer of 1906, Henry caught his wife in bed with a local Texas 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. There she continued as a prostitute. She became popular as a girl who would make house calls. But on the side she lifted the jewelry of the wives of her wealthy clients. Eventually her larceny was discovered and she fled to Waco, Texas. There she met Joe Appel, another wealthy oilman, a flamboyant character who wore diamond studded rings, belt buckle and even the buttons on his clothes.
One week after they met, Joe was found dead with a bullet in his head. His diamonds were missing. Called before a special grand jury, Louise admitted shooting Appel down - in "self-defense." The oil man tried to rape her, she claimed, and she was forced to defend herself. The missing jewels forgotten, members of the jury applauded her. They also set her free.
By 1913, running out of luck and money, Louise married local hotel clerk Harry Faurote. Her flagrant adultery soon drove Faurote to hang himself. Moving to Denver in 1915, Louise then married Richard Peete, a door-to-door salesman. She bore him a daughter in 1916, but Peete's meager income wasn't up to her standards, and she took off alone, for Los Angeles, in 1920.
Shopping for a house to rent, Louise met mining executive Jacob Denton. Instead of leasing her the house, she persuaded Jacob to retain the property, and Louise would come in as a live-in companion. After several weeks Denton refused to marry her. In response, Louise ordered Denton's caretaker to dump a ton of earth in the basement saying she planned to "raise mushrooms" - Denton's favorite delicacy - as a treat for her lover.
Denton disappeared on May 30, 1920. There never were any mushrooms. Louise had numerous explanations for curious callers. First, she told all comers that Jacob 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 had gone into seclusion. Pressed by Denton's lawyer, she revised the story to include an amputated leg; the missing businessman would return once he was comfortable with his artificial limbs.
Most 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 Denton's lawyer grew suspicious enough to call the 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, Richard corresponded regularly. 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." Apparently she liked to boast about the lovers she drove to suicide, especially cherishing Richard's suicide, proof that even prison walls couldn't 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.
Her release was due to the intercession of 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. The police 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's parole went 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 persuaded the authorities that Arthur Logan was insane and 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 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. He never told anyone.
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.
Time Monday, Jun. 11, 1945