By Alan Prendergast
By Michael Roberts
By Michael Roberts
By Amber Taufen
By Patricia Calhoun
By William Breathes
By Michael Roberts
By Melanie Asmar
The press sniffed a feast in the making. The troops deployed on two fronts. One platoon of reporters descended on Evans's distraught widow, Lillian, who'd been married to the man for five years. King was obviously insane, she said. She'd come across this madwoman on the street, mumbling strangely to herself. Once, King sat across from her on a streetcar and glared at her. Her husband had told her that the woman wasn't right in the head.
A second unit cornered King's twin, Clarice Hanson. She told them that if her sister was crazy, then it was Bob Evans who'd made her that way. He'd used Farice abominably, she said. Promised marriage and reneged, loved her up and discarded her. What woman wouldn't go mad if she loved a man like Evans?
But what kind of a man was he? As the news hounds quickly found out, that was a buzz saw of a question.
Chief Reed smiled the first time he read the wire. Some yokel in Des Moines, Iowa, was claiming to be the son of Patrolman Evans, even though his name wasn't Evans. Wanted to know about the funeral arrangements, and the life insurance his pop had supposedly taken out, naming him, his poor ma and his brother as beneficiaries. What hooey!
Reed wasn't smiling two days later when a scarecrowish farmer walked into his office followed by a sullen eighteen-year-old named Carl. The chief had made inquiries, and the story checked out. Not the life-insurance part -- that would go to Lillian Evans -- but the rest. Reed saw that the visitors were taken to Olinger's Mortuary to view the body.
The farmer studied the corpse in silence, paying particular attention to a scar on Evans's cheek, a souvenir of a boyhood encounter with a barbed-wire fence. Finally, he announced, "This is my brother, John Bobzine."
Carl Bobzine said little. He'd never known his father. The man had skedaddled in 1912, leaving his wife, Emma, with two yowling rugrats and no explanation. Emma took in laundry, waited patiently for eleven years, then finally divorced her deserter in 1923, just a few months before Robert Evans married Lillian Hirzel in Denver.
John Bobzine had been an auto mechanic in Gilman, Iowa. His family didn't know he was calling himself Evans and working as a cop in Denver until 1927, when Carl's older brother Marion tracked him down. Evans had written a few letters to Marion in recent months, but not a word to Emma. Then the family saw in the newspaper that he was dead, blown away by another old flame.
For the Denver Post, this latest development in the King-Evans affair was very good news indeed. As the dominant newspaper in the state -- and, in its own humble opinion, "The Best Newspaper in the USA" -- the Post had a huge stake in the matter.
The blustery broadsheet had a boundless appetite for tales of murder and mayhem, bruited in breathless, quasi-grammatical headlines:
HEAD CHOPPED TO BITS BY KILLERS
IN FIENDISH ATTACK ON LONELY MAN
TONG MEN FLOCKING TO DENVER
TO AVENGE MURDERED CHINESE
BODY JAMMED IN PIPE OF FURNACE
AFTER LIFE CHOKED OUT BY NOOSE
STATE SENATOR BOGDON SLAIN IN
'LOVE NEST' BY JEALOUS MAN
EYES ARE GOUGED OUT
AND FACE CUT TO BITS
The stories were invariably accompanied by a sneering slogan in thick black type: Crime Never Pays.But for purposes of boosting Post circulation, crime paid like a drunken sailor in a rub joint.
Formerly a moribund political rag, the Posthad been shanghaied by hustlers Harry Tammen and Frederick Bonfils in 1895. They quickly built it into a powerhouse through a bewildering combination of promotions (sponsoring everything from boys' bands to their own circus), populist crusades (delivering coal to subscribers to thwart the "coal trust"), lurid journalism (lionizing Molly Brown, rehabilitating Alfred Packer, crucifying Tom Horn) and plain hokum. That the pair had been known to blackmail advertisers and physically assault rival publishers didn't hurt, either.
Yet it was robust crime coverage that made the Post addictively readable. Bandits, bootleggers, jealous husbands, trunk murderesses and choke-happy ghouls were all served up hot and juicy -- nobody did it better. By the '20s, the city had cleaned up its infamous red-light district, but the simultaneous rise of Prohibition and decline of pre-war sexual mores presented new variations of bad behavior. And the King case had them all. It started out as a routine bootlegging shootout, then blossomed into a Gothic romance-revenge yarn, and now here was this whole Lothario angle on the cop and his former sweethearts. And the story was barely a week old.
The Postjumped into the evolving melodrama with knives -- and wallets -- drawn. The paper paid Emma Bobzine to reminisce on the front page about her rat of a husband. An astrology-minded scribe checked into Evans's sign and concluded that, although he was a Cancer, his "strange dual personality" was due to the influence of Gemini. A Post staffer drove the Bobzine clan to the funeral; others set out to excavate additional dirt. Poking around yellowed court files soon turned up yet another wife: Cecily Pearl Lewis, whose family owned a block of property on Santa Fe Drive.