Characteristics: Financial gain
Number of victims: 3 +
Date of murder: 1912 / 1920 / 1944
Date of arrest: December 20, 1944
Date of birth: September 20, 1880
Victim profile: Joe Appel / Jacob Charles Denton / Margaret Logan
Method of murder: Shooting
Location: Texas/California, USA
Status: Sentenced to life imprisonment on February 17, 1921. Paroled on April 11, 1939. Sentenced to death on June 1, 1945. Executed in the California gas chamber on April 11, 1947
Lofie Louise Preslar (September 20, 1880 in Bienville, Louisiana – April 11, 1947 in San Quentin State Prison, California) was a convicted American murderer. She was one of only four women executed in the California gas chamber.
Peete's family was relatively wealthy, and she received an expensive education, but was expelled from school for inappropriate behavior. In 1903, she married a traveling salesman named Henry Bosley; he committed suicide after discovering his wife with another man. She then spent time in Boston, working as a high-class prostitute and stealing from her clients.
She later moved to Waco, Texas, where she became involved with wealthy oil baron Joe Appel; he was later found murdered, with his jewelry missing. She was accused of his murder, but convinced a grand jury that she had defended herself from rape. In 1913, she married a hotel clerk, Harry Faurote. He later committed suicide after finding her with another man.
In 1915, in Denver, she married salesman Richard Peete. They had a daughter, but Peete abandoned them and moved to Los Angeles. There, she lived with Jacob C. Denton, another oil magnate. Denton disappeared in 1920. By the time his lawyer had police search his house, Peete had returned to her husband in Denver. Denton's body was found, and Peete was charged with his murder. She was sentenced to life imprisonment, but was released after serving 18 years. During her time in prison, her husband killed himself.
Peete took a position as a housekeeper for a woman named Jessie Marcy, who died not long afterwards. An elderly co-worker also died under suspicious circumstances. Peete then worked for Emily Dwight Latham, who had helped to secure her parole. Latham also died. The deaths of Marcy and Latham were attributed to natural causes. Peete then became a housekeeper in Pacific Palisades, California, for Arthur C. Logan and his wife Margaret, and married a man named Lee Borden Judson. Margaret Logan then disappeared. Suspicion was aroused by poor forgeries of her signature that Peete presented on checks and letters to her parole officer. Judson was acquitted of any involvement, but committed suicide the day after he spoke to police.
Louise Peete was found guilty of murder and was executed in the gas chamber at San Quentin State Prison at age 66. She is interred in Angelus-Rosedale Cemetery, Los Angeles.
1903 – She married Henry Bostley, a traveling salesman, and went on the road with him. Alas, he shot himself after finding Peete in bed with a local oilman.
Circa 1912 – Murder #1 – Joe Appel, paramour, Waco, Texas, murdered; claimed self-defense.
1913 – Louise marries a hotel clerk, Harry Faurote. Divorce.
1914 – Louise meets Richard C. Peete; they marry.
May 30, 1920 – Murder # 2 – Jacob Charles Denton, Denver, Co., reported missing, buried in basement; shot in back.
Sep. 23, 1920 – Denton body found; bullet in spine.
Oct. 28, 1920 – Louise indicted for murder.
Feb. 17, 1921 – Louise sentenced to life in prison for Denton murder.
1924 – Richard C. Peete, found in a third-rate Tucson Hotel, suicide.
Apr. 11, 1939 – Louise paroled.
1944 – murder #3 – Mrs. Margaret Logan murder, Pacific Palisades, California; shot in back, skull crushed, buried in yard.
Apr. 11, 1947 – Louise executed at San Quentin, California.
Mrs. Peete Executed at San Quentin Lethal Gas Kills Smiling Murderess In 10 Minutes
By Johnny Noble - Oakland Tribune
Apr. 11, 1947
San Quentin Prison, April 11. – Mrs. Louise Peete Judson, 59, twice convicted murderess died today in San Quentin’s gas chamber.
She went into the apple green chamber at 10:03 a. m. and was pronounced dead at 10:13 a. m., the second woman to be executed by the State of California.
She came into the chamber smiling and seemingly calm, although her hands were trembling. The dramatic moment of the execution came when she looked up and saw Warden Clinton Duffy, a long-time acquaintance from her years in San Quentin Prison, watching through a window.
Smiles at Warden
She gave him a brief smile and nod and seemingly said “hello” or “goodbye.” It was Impossible to tell which words her lips formed as her final expression in this world.
The execution seemed to take much longer than the official 10 minutes.
The Los Angeles murderess was serene and controlled to the end.
She walked from her nearby cell with her spiritual adviser and matron. Mrs. Earl Snodgrass. chaplain of the Los Angeles County Jail.
As she entered the gas chamber the faced some 80 men—one of the largest groups ever to witness a San Quentin execution.
Her protests of innocence gave way to stoicism in her final moments. She sat down and looked straight ahead, moving co-operatively as guards pieced her in the chair.
A guard patted her gently on the shoulder.
“Take it easy,” he whispered.
She murmured her thanks.
It was a long moment before the guards left the chamber and the deadly gas pellets dropped. The release was noticeable by a metallic clank.
Then the one-time “Tiger Woman” who had a violent career for 25 years, took a deep death-bringing breath, just as she had been told to do.
Wears Print Dress
Mrs. Judson went to her death wearing the print dress with a pattern of flowers that she had worn at the trial which convicted her of the murder of Mrs. Margaret Logan in 1945.
Previously she had selected this dress she had told Warden Duffy and Mrs. Snodgrass “I am ready to die.”
The matronly appearing woman who declared in a last minute protest of bravado that “I have never been an aggressive woman” was surrounded by violent death throughout her lifetime.
Each of her three husbands committed suicide. Logan, husband of her last asserted victim, died in an insane asylum.
As Mrs. Peete, she spent 18 years in California prisons for the murder of Jacob Denton, a Los Angeles engineer, in 1920, until she was paroled into the care of Mrs. Logan at Pacific Palisades. Six months after Mrs. Logan disappeared in 1944 her body was found in a backyard grave. She had been shot in the back and her skull crushed.
It was for this deed that Mrs. Hudson paid the final price today.
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.
Michael Newton - An Encyclopedia of Modern Serial Killers - Hunting Humans
Louise Preslar Peete (1883 - 1947) was a woman in the United States who was found guilty of several murders.
Peete was born in Bienville, Louisiana. Her family was relatively wealthy, and she received an expensive education, but she was expelled from school for inappropriate behaviour. In 1903, she married a travelling salesman named Henry Bosley — Bosley committed suicide after discovering his wife in bed with another man in 1906. She then spent time in Boston, apparently working as a high-class prostitute, and stealing from her clients.
She later returned to Waco, Texas, where she became involved with wealthy oil baron Joe Appel. Appel was later found murdered, with his diamond jewelery missing. Peete was accused of the crime, but she convinced a grand jury that she had been defending herself from rape. In 1913, she married a hotel clerk, Harry Faurote — he later died, apparently of suicide caused by Peete's barely-concealed infidelity.
In 1915, in Denver, she married again, this time to a salesman named Richard Peete. She apparently had a daughter with him, but later abandoned him to move to Los Angeles. There, she lived with Jacob C. Denton, another oil magnate.
In 1920, Denton disappeared, with Peete presenting various excuses as to why he would not appear in public — by the time Denton's lawyer had police search his house, Peete had returned to her husband in Denver. Denton's body was found, and Peete was charged with his murder. She did not testify at her trial, and was sentenced to life imprisonment. During her time in prison, she ceased to respond to her husband's letters — he killed himself.
She was paroled in 1942. Returning to Los Angeles, Peete took a position as a housekeeper for a woman named Jessie Marcy, who died not long afterwards. An elderly co-worker also died under suspicious circumstances — police spoke to Peete, but were not aware of her past. Peete later worked for Emily Dwight Latham, who had helped to secure Peete's parole. Latham also died. The deaths of both Marcy and Latham were attributed to natural causes.
Peete then became a housekeeper in Pacific Palisades for Arthur C. Logan and his wife Margaret, and married a man named Lee Borden Judson. Margaret Logan then disappeared, but suspicion was aroused by poor forgeries of her signature that Peete presented on checks and letters to parole authorities. Peete was arrested, and her husband Lee Judson told police of his suspicions about her. (Judson was acquited of any involvement, but committed suicide the day afterwards). Peete was found guilty of murder, and sentenced to death. She went to the gas chamber on April 11, 1947.
Monday, Jun 11, 1945
In Los Angeles' county jail last week greying, motherly Mrs. Louise Peete Judson began preparing herself for death. When the matron and her fellow prisoners wept for her, she said: "Don't be troubled, my dears. Death is merely an eventuality in all our lives." They were not comforted : she was so nice, so poised, so kind. But throughout her life, death trailed her like the fragrance of the expensive perfume* she used.
People had always liked Louise Peete. In 1919 her soothing manner had attracted a wealthy old Los Angeles oilman named Jacob C. Denton. She leased his house, and agreed to let him stay on in it. Soon she was using his car, paying his bills, handling his business with bankers.
On the night of June 1, 1920, after months of happy companionship, Jake Denton disappeared. Weeping, Louise Peete helped police in a fruitless hunt for clues. Then she sadly sublet his house and went to Denver, where, she said, her second husband, one Richard Peete, was divorcing her.
Jake is Home. Mulling over Denton's strange disappearance, detectives had the house searched again. Finally they found a neatly plastered crypt under the basement stairs. In it was Jake Denton's body, shot in the back.
Louise Peete was arrested, charged with murder. She kept her calm assurance. At the trial, she did not testify. An all-male jury was moved to sympathy, even after hearing that she had forged Jake Denton's name on checks. When they convicted her of murder, they recommended a life sentence instead of death.
When husband Richard Peete got the news he committed suicide. (Her first husband had killed himself too, leaving her a widow in her teens.) In San Quentin and Tehachapi prisons Louise Peete was a model prisoner. After 18 years she was paroled. She went back to Los Angeles, got a job as housekeeper for one Jessie Marcy, 60. Mrs. Marcy died. Then she kept house for 70-year-old Emily D Dwight Latham, one of the probation officers who had helped her win her parole. Mrs. Latham died. Each time the police investigated. Each time the verdict was death from natural causes.
Early last year Louise Peete, now middleaged, full-bosomed, and addicted to strange hats, began keeping house in swank Pacific Palisades for mentally-ailing Arthur C. Logan, and his real-estate-broker wife, Margaret. Tremulously, she confided her past to the Logans. Far from firing her, they took her to their hearts. When she married a 67-year-old bank messenger named Lee Borden Jud son, they insisted that she bring him into the family circle.
Journey for Margaret. Soon the circle contracted. Margaret Logan disappeared.
When mild Lee Judson querulously noted that his bride seemed unconcerned, she sweetly replied: "Well, if you must know, Mr. Logan bit Mrs. Logan's nose. She's at a hospital for some plastic surgery." Mrs. Peete remained unperturbed when Arthur Logan was taken off to an insane asylum, where he died.
But one day a bank teller challenged the signature of the vanished Margaret Logan on a check. Police questioned Louise, as they had 24 years before. Detectives searched the house, as they had searched Jake Denton's. The cellar floor was untouched. But near an avocado tree in the backyard they found a mound of earth. Inside was the body of Margaret Logan. She had been shot in the back.
Two weeks later an inquest cleared Louise's husband, but not Louise. Shy little Lee Judson, walked from the hearing straight to a downtown office building, plunged eight floors down a stair well.
Amazing, But . . . Thrice-widowed Louise, once again the defendant at a murder trial, saw the District Attorney slip the Denton trial transcript into evidence against her. She heard him describe the deadly parallel, noted that the jury —eleven women and one man — appeared to find it amazing but not incredible. This time, Louise decided to testify.
She had a logical story: Arthur Logan had killed his wife in an insane fit; Louise had buried the body because — she smiled a little cynically — the world certainly would unite against her in disbelief if she reported the death. She spent four days on the stand. In the county jail, her fellow-prisoners rallied to her support: throughout the six-week trial they kept her hair dyed and waved, tidied her cell, washed her nylons. Halfway through her ordeal they bought her a new spring hat to wear to court. While the jury deliberated, she read Lin Yutang's The Importance of Living.
But once again Louise Peete was convicted of first-degree murder. This time there was no recommendation for mercy. Last week, on the 25th anniversary of Jake Denton's death, Louise Peete was sentenced to her own in California's gas chamber. Back in jail she smiled sadly, told her adoring friends: "It goes without saying ... I have never killed or even harmed a human being... But truth is elusive..."
She Buried Them All
By Bill Walker - Saga: The Magazine for Men
On April 11, 1947, matronly Louise Peete died in the San Quentin gas chamber. The date was a mordant coincidence for, exactly eight years earlier, on April 11, 1939, Louise Peete had walked out of the Tehachapi Prison for Women after serving 18 years for murder. On that day she had said to reporters, “Now I owe the world nothing.” But unknown to her, she still had a date at San Quentin. On the day of her execution, she walked calmly into the green chamber, bowed to the 80 witnesses and sat In the steel chair. As the guards strapped her in, she caught the gaze of Detective Harry Hansen through the heavy plate glass. Soundlessly she mouthed the words, “Thanks for everything, Harry.”
Then the cyanide pellets dropped into the tank of sulphuric acid.
Forty years earlier, a ravishing Southern beauty, Lofie Louise Preslar, aged 15, was quietly packed off to her home in Bienville, Louisiana, by the officials of an exclusive girls finishing school. Some jewelry belonging to several of her schoolmates had somehow turned up in her room. Young Louise never lost her early love for the cold, hard glitter of diamonds. The scandal was kept hidden, but Louise’s life was in a brief downward spiral. When she got home her father’s publishing business went from bad to worse and then her mother died. Louise wanted nothing more than to shake the dust of Bienville from her shoes.
Escape came in the form of Henry Bosely, a drummer who saw Louise sauntering into the local drug store. When he left, shapely Miss Preslar walked demurely at his side. They were married in New Orleans a few days later.
For nearly two years their life was a dream-come-true for Henry, who had suffered through a thousand and one lonely nights on the road, dreaming of the perfect wife. “Don’t ever love another man, honey,” he often said to her. “I’d go crazy – maybe even kill myself – if I ever found out you didn’t love me.”
But Henry didn’t know his commissions would not begin to buy the sparkling luxuries that haunted Louise’s mind. One day in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Louise was arrested when jewelry belonging to the occupants of the boardinghouse the Boselys were living in was found in her bureau drawer. After tearful apologies and embarrassed explanations, the Boselys left for Waco, Texas. There, the compulsion to possess gems took a firmer hold on Louise, and she was caught with her hand in the showcase of a local jeweler. Once again Henry’s salesmanship and Louise’s tears won her a suspended sentence and a stern warning from the judge.
Henry finally realized he had taken unto himself a bundle of pure misery and Louise confirmed the fact by complaining about the succession of dirty hotel rooms they occupied. Henry was so busy keeping his healthy young wife amused and satisfied, that he didn’t have much time or energy left to carve out a selling career.
The end came with predictable swiftness a year or so later, in another drab little town. Henry returned from a selling trip two days early. In their hotel room he found his wife in a state of complete undress and her consort wearing nothing more than a guilty look.
Two days later Henry was found dead in a hotel near Waco, with a .32-caliber pistol in his hand.
When she appeared in Boston a few weeks later Louise was just 20. Her figure had matured, her social graces were considerably broadened and she signed the hotel register as Anna Lee Gould. To the other guests she let it leak out that she was an heiress to several European estates.
In a year at Boston, Louise managed to sweet-talk an aging bachelor out of a packet of gilt-edged securities, but an old dowager found her hand in the family jewel box during a weekend visit and Louise left hastily for Dallas.
She found no Texas oil millionaires, but she did meet a receptive hotel manager named Harry Faurote. Before long Harry was enjoying the pleasures of her bed and Louise had the combination to the hotel safe. The losses came to $20,000 worth of jewelry before she was discovered. Louise outwitted the police, when the evidence could not be found.
Harry Faurote, his reputation ruined, shot himself, to become victim No. 2.
Louise survived some probing questions by the coroner’s jury, but the sheriff was more direct. He told her to get out of town.
Although her cash was very low, she had just enough to rent an imposing house in a Denver suburb, giving her the front that had become a standard part of her technique. It was 1914 and Louise met her next victim, R. C. Peete, the owner of an auto agency, when she was walking along Denver’s automobile row. She stopped to look at a Hudson phaeton and Peete saw in her something that he had missed all his life.
Their wedding was the big event of that social season. It seemed like a marriage made in heaven, especially when a blue-eyed daughter was born. The U.S. entered the war and Richard prospered. But when peace came, the business slump of 1920 followed and Richard was threatened with bankruptcy. At this point Louise, after six years of honesty, decided it was time to move on. When she went downtown to their bank, she found the cupboard nearly bare. In an attempt to recoup his losses, Richard had been playing the grain market with his own and borrowed money. Louise, always a realist, went home to pack. Richard arrived as she was leaving.
“Going on a trip, my dear?” His voice carried no reproach. Her reaction to their situation was, perhaps, what his would have been.
“I think I need a change of air, Richard,” she answered, avoiding the real issue since he was willing not to discuss it. “Perhaps it would be better if I took a trip to Los Angeles—better for both of us.” Richard nodded.
When Louise arrived in Los Angeles, she answered a newspaper ad run by a man named Jacob Charles Denton, who needed a housekeeper to run his 14-room mansion on South Catalina Street.
When she met Denton, Louise took a quick look at her prospective employer. He was in his middle forties, she judged, and he was ruddy and virile-looking. She came directly to the point. “I don’t need this job, Mr. Denton, but I see your home as a challenge. I think it needs a woman’s touch.”
Denton, who had made a small fortune in mining, gulped at her forthright approach and said, “Would you consider 50 dollars a week and your room and board?” Denton was a widower of only a few months, his wife and baby daughter having succumbed to influenza.
“Yes, I would consider it. In fact, I accept,” Louise said. The next morning she moved in, bringing her five-year-old daughter. Within a week, Louise had found Denton’s private papers and turned up a bankbook showing a balance of over $100,000 at the Farmer’s & Merchant’s National Bank. She also found a three-carat diamond stickpin and a diamond ring—just as he announced that he would have to go on a business trip to Arizona.
During May they attended many social functions together. Then Denton had his niece, Mrs. Aument, inventory all the possessions in his house. A few days later Denton and Louise attended a party at Mrs. Aument’s house. That was the last time Mrs. Aument saw her uncle alive.
A few days later an auto salesman called the Denton home to ask if Mr. Denton had made up his mind about an auto which interested him. Louise told the salesman, Hal Haydon, that her husband’s “wounded arm became so infected that he was forced to have it amputated.”
“Amputated!” Haydon was both amazed and shocked. “Why, just the other day he was in here and nothing was wrong with his arm.”
Louise brushed that aside and asked Haydon to deliver the car, so that it would be waiting for her husband on his return. Then she began to spin an amazing web of stories to gain possession of Denton’s entire estate, giving out contradictory stories about his whereabouts. She said he was in Portland, then San Francisco; that he was “dreadfully ashamed” of his amputated arm and wouldn’t give out his address.
Finally, Denton’s daughter by a first marriage, in school in Arizona, failed to get her monthly allowance and wrote to her cousin, Mrs. Aument, who visited Louise and suggested they visit Denton’s bank to see if any checks written by him had cleared recently. Louise put her off by reminding Mrs. Aument of Denton’s anger at interference in his affairs.
Then on June 6, Louise went to Denton’s bank armed with the key to his safe deposit box. She was blocked by a vice-president, so she tried to cash a check written, she claimed by Denton. The signature didn’t match Denton’s and it was refused. Where was Mr. Denton, the bank official asked. He had gone off with a “Spanish woman,” Louise said, and the woman was the cause of all the strange events and Denton’s troubles. In fact, she added, her employer had had a fight with the Spanish woman one night before his departure, during which there was a lot of shouting and a shot. In the morning, she said, when Denton left, his right arm had been in a sling. She supposed that had been the cause of the amputation.
For two months she successfully blocked the efforts of all authorities to track down Denton. Then she returned to Denver to effect a reconciliation with her husband, Richard Peete, she told Los Angeles neighbors.
Attorney Rush Blodgett, hired by Denton’s first wife to find him, stepped up his efforts as soon as Louise left the city. After a few days, Blodgett began to think no one could find Denton because he was dead. Blodgett hired a private detective, A. J. Cody. Together they searched Denton’s home. They found his body in the cellar. His hands and feet had been tied and the basement reeked from the decomposing body.
The district attorney’s office felt certain the absent housekeeper was guilty, but wondered how to extradite her from Denver. Finally, two detectives went to Denver, told Louise that Denton’s body had been found and asked her to come back to Los Angeles to help them clear up the case. They flattered her into believing that her assistance would swiftly lead them to the killer. For once, Louise’s cunning failed her; she boarded the train with them.
At Glenn Ranch where the police had taken her, Louise embellished the story of the “Spanish woman,” claiming that she had threatened to kidnap Louise’s daughter and take her to Mexico if she revealed the affair between herself and Denton. She explained a cement purchase as having been for driveway repairs. She denied having hidden Denton’s personal effects on the day he was last seen.
Sarcastically, Chief Deputy Doran pointed out that although the coroner had established Denton’s death in early June, she had claimed to have seen him in late June and July. Louise blithely gave the opinion that the man she had taken to be Denton must have been an impostor. Said Doran in classic understatement: “I don’t thoroughly understand the working of a woman’s mind.”
But Louise, as always, got in the last word: “I’d just as soon be accused of killing a man as knowing any more about this.” She was held in a hotel while the police search for clues continued. An autopsy showed that Denton had died by strangulation and much of the police force’s uncertainty about Louise’s guilt lay in the fact that the victim weighed 230 pounds, and had apparently been dragged to the cellar.
Then the Los Angeles Times upset all the wild theories that had blossomed by discovering a .32-caliber pistol in an upstairs closet – with one bullet fired. A more careful autopsy turned up a bullet in Denton’s spine. This sensational scoop broke the case open. Louise’s trial was set for January, 1921.
A parade of witnesses went to the stand and delivered incontrovertible evidence that punched hole after hole in Louise’s story. They were skillfully guided through their testimony by District Attorney Thomas Lee Woolwine, a public prosecutor with a reputation for savage cross-examination. He dismissed the “Spanish woman” as a whimsical figment of Louise’s imagination. And he frankly doubted Louise’s boast that Denton had made her a gift of all his paintings, furniture and diamonds “to dispose of as I saw fit.”
Yet the defense produced one witness who saw a “Spanish-type woman” at the Denton house early in May. Another witness swore he had seen Denton after June 1 – with one arm missing. And Mrs. Ida L. Gregory, a Denver friend of Louise’s, testified that on the day of the crime she had been with Louise, who was in high spirits, dancing and singing around the house. “This was hardly the action of a person who has just committed murder,” Mrs. Gregory said haughtily.
Reporters covering the trial were impressed by Louise’s iron nerve. Taken out to the Denton home by police, she stood by calmly while every inch of the house, including the hole where Denton’s body had rotted for four months, was taken under close scrutiny.
As the final week of the trial approached, speculation increased about Louise taking the stand, as she had claimed she would, or whether her attorneys would not let her face Woolwine’s saberlike cross-examination. The climax was a disappointment. The defense attorneys, without warning, announced: “The defense rests.”
The all-male jury returned in four hours with its verdict: guilty. On the first ballot they had voted eight to four for hanging. Louise was sentenced to life imprisonment at San Quentin.
In time, the case was forgotten, Louise continuing to proclaim her innocence. Then, in 1924, the body of Richard C. Peete was found in a third-rate Tucson Hotel. He had committed suicide, still a victim of the shame he felt Louise had brought on his reputation. With barely a hint of concern, Louise wired the Tucson authorities, asking them to contact Peete’s Denver relatives to make burial arrangements.
Every year Louise applied for parole and every year she was turned down by the board because they saw no way she could support herself in free society. She was transferred to the new women’s prison at Tehachapi. Somewhat stouter, her brown hair now streaked with gray, she tended the prison rose garden. Her friends the Logans were frequent visitors on visiting day. As she continued to serve her sentence, rumors circulated that she was not destitute and could support herself if granted parole.
Early in 1939 her case came up for review again. One of the parole board members spoke to Caroline Walker, the reporter whose coverage of the trial had been an outstanding journalistic achievement. Miss Walker said, “That woman is too dangerous to be set loose on society again. She’s managed to exist all her life by stealing, by lying, by violence. Mark my words, if you turn her loose, it’s going to be tragic for someone.”
“That’s the trouble with you newspaper people,” said Emily Latham, the parole board member. “You just can’t believe prison can reform a person.”
On April 11, 1939, Louise walked out of Tehachapi.
Under the name of Anna B. Lee, she faded into obscurity and nothing was heard of her for five years. She worked as a housekeeper, reporting regularly to her parole officer, Emily Latham. In the summer of 1943, Miss Latham became ill and Louise moved into her apartment to care for her. Two weeks later Emily Latham died of a stroke. When she left, Louise took away a .32-caliber pistol that had belonged to Emily Latham’s dead husband. Otherwise, her first five years of freedom had resulted in nothing to justify the skepticism of reporter Caroline Walker.
At this point an old friend of Louise’s, Mrs. Margaret Logan, stepped forward and offered Louise a job as practical nurse to her near-invalid husband, Arthur Logan, who was 75. The parole board approved, and Louise moved into the comfortable house in Pacific Palisades, overlooking the ocean. It was November, 1943. Margaret Logan, who worked at a war job in an aircraft factory, also had a real estate broker’s license. She had believed firmly in Louise’s innocence ever since 1921, and gladly signed the monthly parole reports.
Before long Margaret and Louise were discussing the question of having Arthur Logan committed to a mental institution. In November, 1943, Louise managed to get the papers filed with the court, but the judge refused to sign them. Instead, he had Mr. Logan placed in a general hospital for observation. At Thanksgiving Margaret, bothered by her conscience, brought him home. Then, early in 1944, she gave up her factory job to devote her full time to real estate—which gave her more time to care for her husband.
During these first few months in the Logan home, Louise had let it slip that the story of the Denver estate that had been left to her was true and that she would soon be seeing the first of the money. On the strength of promised financial help from Louise, Margaret Logan invested heavily in property which she hoped to sell at a profit—without paying the full amount. When the legacy did not materialize, Margaret loaned Louise money for train fare to Denver to look into the matter.
Louise returned with no definite news, of course, and a few days later met a bank teller named Lee Borden Judson. A gray-haired man who wore gold-rimmed glasses, Judson had been a newspaper reporter and advertising man before going into the banking business. Like Bosely, Peete and Denton before him, once he felt the persuasive charm and physical promise of Louise at close range, he found her quite desirable. They were married a week later, Judson agreeing to keep the wedding secret since it was a violation of Louise’s parole. Margaret Logan welcomed Judson into her home as a friend of Louise.
That spring Louise began to build up the case against Arthur Logan. She told friends and relatives of the family that he was getting dangerously out of hand and should be committed. By this time Margaret was being pressed for the final payment on her real estate purchase and Louise’s “legacy” still had produced nothing. Margaret, in danger of taking a drastic loss, was understandably annoyed, but the breaking point came in view when Louise forged a $200 check with Margaret’s signature. When the bad check was discovered, Margaret told the bank it would be made good and told Louise that doing so was her responsibility. Louise tried everything to raise the money, even approaching Lee Borden’s son, who scoffed at the Denver legacy story.
On May 29, 1944, Louise told her husband to stay at the Glendale hotel where they were living while she went out to Pacific Palisades to discuss a business matter with Margaret Logan.
No one ever saw Margaret Logan alive after that day.
On May 31 Louise cashed a set of train tickets for Denver and made good on the bad check. Then she and Lee Judson moved into the Logan home.
Early in June Louise told a probation officer from the psychiatric ward that Arthio Logan had gone berserk on May 29, had hit Margaret in the face and bitten her severely on the nose and neck. She told him Logan was too much for two women to handle, begging him to get Logan committed.
On June 5 Arthur Logan was sent to the Patton State Hospital for the insane—by court order.
In the next few weeks a series of friends and relatives visited or called the Logan home and found that Margaret was not at home. For each Louise had a logical but slightly different answer. Generally, however, she spun her story around the fact that Margaret Logan did not want anyone to see her because of the disfiguring injuries she had received from Arthur Logan.
In the meantime, Arthur Logan, bitterly believing his wife had callously left him to a dreary existence in the hospital, died alone on December 6. Advised of his death, Louise ordered the authorities to turn over the body to medical research—in compliance with “Mr. Logan’s wish.”
With Arthur Logan out of the way, crafty Louise had every reason to think she was secure in her little cottage. She had fooled everyone—her benefactress, her new husband, all of Margaret Logan’s friends and relatives, the officers of the psychopathic ward, a superior court judge, the bank and the authorities at Patton. She even fooled the state parole officer, Mrs. Weisbrod, for several months.
One day in December, shortly after Arthur’s death, Mrs. Weisbrod, reading a backlog of parole reports, noticed something strange about the June, July and August parole reports on Louise. She took them to her superior, Walter Lentz, chief investigator for the district attorney. He studied the handwriting carefully. “They’re not the same. She’s evidently signing them herself, and that’s a violation, of parole. By the way—what did she do time for?”
“First degree murder,” was the answer. “She served 18 years for the Denton killing.”
Lentz promptly took the reports to District Attorney Fred Howser. Howser, remembering the 1920 murder, assigned homicide chief Thad Brown to investigate. Brown’s discreet inquiries among the Logan friends and neighbors convinced him the Denton murder had been duplicated. Neither of the Logans had been seen for nearly seven months. Louise and her husband had been living there since June, having alterations and repairs made as though they owned the house. Every friend of the Logans had been told a different tale to account for Margaret’s absence. The police also discovered Arthur hadn’t had a single visitor between June and December.
December 20, 1944, had a cold, foggy evening. Two carloads of detectives descended on the Logan place. While detectives Ray Vaughan and Harry Hansen explored the cellar, Thad Brown and investigator Marjorie Jones slipped onto the front porch and peered through the Venetian blinds. They saw Louise and her hubby examining the contents of a strong box. Brown rang the bell. Surprised and not all pleased, Louise reluctantly admitted him. He began asking questions. “Louise, where is Mrs. Logan?” he asked.
“Oh, she’s in a sanitarium near Patton, Her husband died there on December 6,” was the glib answer. “Why, Margaret was here just a few days ago. She’s been having some plastic surgery done.”
“Plastic surgery?” Brown said. “What for?”
“Why, to cover up those awful wounds she got when Arthur beat her and bit her so horribly on the neck and nose,” Louise promptly replied. “It was a horrible nightmare. I even got bit on the hand myself. It was an awful mess of blood to clean up. Mrs. Logan left the next day and went to see her own doctor. She comes back here occasionally, but she won’t sleep in the house.”
Thad Brown had heard a lot of tall tales in his time and he didn’t conceal his impatience. “Suppose we get down to facts. You’re still on parole, aren’t you?”
“Yes,” admitted Louise.
“Who’s been signing your parole reports since last June?”
“Why, Mrs. Logan, of course.”
“She hasn’t signed your report since last May,” Thad stated. “You’ve been forging them, haven’t you?”
“Well, I did sign them,” Louise admitted, as bashfully as a child caught in some minor indiscretion. “But Mrs. Logan asked me to do it. While she is away I’m tending to all her business. She doesn’t want to be bothered with these details.”
“What really happened, Louise? Did you blow your cork and do what you did before?”
There was a momentary pause and then Louise sighed, as though resigned to the inevitable. “You know, Gene Biscailuz (the Los Angeles County sheriff) told me some day I’d blow my top again. I’ll talk to him and no one else. Let me see Gene.”
Louise was bundled into a cab with investigator Marjorie Jones and ordered taken to the Hall of Justice where district attorney Fred Howser was waiting. Meanwhile detectives started an exhaustive search of the Logan premises. Looking out the window of the breakfast nook, Thad Brown’s practiced eye spotted something that didn’t look right. A fresh, damp plot of earth, bordered by flowers and a neat brick edging, extended between the kitchen and bedroom windows, ending at the foot of a big avocado tree. And sticking up like a headstone at the end of the plot was a neatly painted white board. Brown nudged police chemist Ray Pinker. “You don’t have to look any more, Ray. There’s where she hid the body.”
“You’re crazy, Thad,” Pinker replied.
“Just dig there and you’ll find what we’re looking for,” Brown insisted.
With Hansen, Vaughan and Brown taking turns with the spade, the soft earth, yielded a human foot and the stench of decaying flesh. Margaret Logan had been interred squarely within view of her own breakfast nook, with an avocado tree to shade her grave.
Louise, after being grilled by the district attorney, was brought back to the murder scene. It was nearly midnight and a battery of floodlights cast a garish illumination on the jammed garden. The place was swarming with newspaper reporters and photographers. Louise was led to the edge of the... [ellipsis in online source]
“I don’t want to see it!” she exclaimed. “I won’t look.”
“What don’t you want to see?” asked detective Harry Hansen. “What are you talking about? Who do you think is there?”
Louise didn’t answer. Hansen spaded some more dirt aside, exposing another foot. “Louise, is this a body buried here? Is this Mrs. Logan?”
“Don’t!” she wailed. “Please don’t make me look. I don’t want to look at it!”
Grilled again about her tale of Mrs. Logan going away for plastic surgery, Louise admitted the tale was a fabrication, “for the same reason I told everything else that wasn’t true. I just kept telling one lie to cover another.”
After a three-hour session with Sheriff Biscailuz, in which she made a statement nine pages long, she admitted burying Mrs. Logan’s body. She denied she murdered Margaret, however, claiming that Arthur Logan, in a fit of rage, had beaten and shot his wife to death. She calmed him down with sedatives she said and then sat down to consider her dilemma. Positive no one would believe her because of the previous murder conviction, she decided that her only solution was to bury the body and then have Arthur Logan committed to an insane asylum.
While Howser and Biscailuz were trying to digest this fantastic fable, detective Ray Vaughan was searching Louise’s bedroom. In a dresser drawer he found a .32-caliber Smith and Wesson revolver initialed “E.B.L.” – the gun stolen from deceased parole officer Emily Latham.
Crime lab technicians found blood traces and a smashed .32-caliber slug in the living room – enough evidence to reconstruct the murder. Mrs. Logan had been sitting near the telephone stand when she was shot in the neck, from behind. Autopsy surgeon Frank Webb, who had done similar duty in the Denton murder, announced Mrs. Logan had been beaten about the head with a blunt instrument, the blows being the immediate cause of death.
At the coroner’s inquest Dr. Webb painted a graphic picture of how Mrs. Logan had been clubbed to death. Lee Judson testified, with a trace of sadness in his voice, that he had believed everything his wife told him. “Everything she told me seemed so plausible I never had any reason to doubt her. She is the sweetest, dearest, most kindly woman I have ever known. She couldn’t have possibly been connected with the murder of Mrs. Logan.”
The coroner’s jury held Louise for trial and detained Judson as a prime witness. Later, at a municipal court hearing, Judson was exonerated. A day later, brooding over the ugly shame that had ruined an idyllic marriage, heartbroken at discovering his wife was a paroled slayer, Judson took the elevator to the 12th floor of a downtown office building and hurled himself to death down a stair well.
Gentle, trusting Lee Judson became Louise’s seventh and last victim.
Again defended by the public defender, Louise came to trial before Judge Harold B. Landreth and a jury of 11 women and one man. Louise was calm as prosecutor John Barnes began to spin a web of evidence. There were 37 deadly parallels between the Denton and Logan murders, said Barnes, and the state would be derelict in its duty if it did not point out the frightening similarities between the two crimes.
“When Mrs. Logan, disillusioned and bitter at discovering Louise Peete’s true nature, sat down at the telephone to phone the parole officer, the defendant, realizing her life of luxury was endangered, knew it was finally time to act. She took this revolver and shot Margaret Logan in the back of the neck, in exactly the same spot she shot Jacob Denton 24 years before. But she missed the spine. Mrs. Peete then took the gun and beat Mrs. Logan to death with repeated blows to the skull. The broken handle of the gun fits the impressions in the skull exactly.”
A comely neighbor of the Logans, Mrs. Edythe Fish, gave damaging testimony. “On the night Arthur Logan died, the telegram was delivered to me by mistake. I took it to Mrs. Peete and she read it,” Mrs. Fish said. “She seemed very excited. Then she said, ‘I’ll show you my two new hats.’ She got the hats and held one in each hand, putting them on alternately as she danced around the room. I was astonished at her behavior. ‘I thought you were a good friend of Mr. Logan,’ I told her. She answered, with a giggle, ‘Oh, he’s an old sick man and he’s better off dead.’”
The full force of this evidence came the next day when the State introduced the transcript of the Denton trial to prove how similar the two homicides were.
In spite of the crushing weight of this evidence, Louise insisted on taking the witness stand. She made an excellent witness, speaking in a soft, cultured voice. The magic of her personality made the grim life-and-death drama seem more like a genteel tea party. She purred her answers to Barnes’ scathing cross-examination. When asked, “Did you kill Mr. Denton?” her answer rang out, crystal clear:
“I did not. I don’t know to this very day whether he is alive or dead!”
When she calmly told her version of how Logan killed his wife and how she buried the body, Barnes was ready with a question. “How long did it take you to dig the grave and dispose of the body?”
“Oh, Mr. Barnes, I don’t know,” she snapped. “The night was endless and I don’t want to talk about it any more.”
In summing up his case Barnes asked the jury, “I wonder how many nights during those 18 years in prison this cruel, scheming woman sat awake in her cell trying to figure out what went wrong in the Jacob Denton murder and how to commit her next crime?”
On May 28 the jury took only three hours to reach a verdict of first degree murder, without a recommendation for mercy. On June 1, 1945, Judge Harold Landreth rapped his gavel and pronounced sentence.
In his autobiography, The San Quentin Story, Warden Duffy told how Louise, although resigned to her fate, still protested her innocence. “It makes me sad to think back about those days,” she sighed.
“Of course it does,” Duffy agreed.
“Oh, I don’t mean what you might think,” she said. “It’s sad because they are doing this to me and I am innocent. If these people want my life, well, then, there’s not much I can do about it—but it’s so wrong.”
When Duffy left her, she had a radio turned on, listening to the mournful strains of a blues song. When he returned the next morning .she was calm and resigned. Fifteen minutes later the grim ritual was ever, and the lethal saga of the Louisiana siren had come to a close.