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
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 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
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
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
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
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
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
“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
“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
“Amputated!” Haydon was both amazed and shocked.
“Why, just the other day he was in here and nothing was wrong with his
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
“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
“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
“I don’t want to see it!” she exclaimed. “I won’t
“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
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
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
“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
“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
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
“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.