Love Crazy

The nurse, the cop, the yegg: Fate brought them together and claimed four lives. Then the newspapers stepped in, and things really got insane.

Evans had married Lewis in 1914, which made him a bigamist, since he'd never bothered to divorce Emma. (Future mayor Ben Stapleton, then a justice of the peace, performed the ceremony.) The second marriage apparently fell apart sometime in 1917, after Evans told his wife that he "loved someone else and was going to have a good time." On another occasion, he told her he was going to a "house of ill repute" and she could go with him or do as she pleased -- he didn't give a damn. The divorce became final in 1920.

More dirt: The third wife, Lillian Evans, had sought a divorce, too, less than a year after her 1923 wedding, claiming to be the victim of "extreme and repeated acts of cruelty." But she'd withdrawn the complaint.

While Evans was getting dissected in print, the paper's top female reporter, Frances "Pinky" Wayne, pursued an interview with Farice King. Raised in Central City, the daughter of Colorado's first congressman, Wayne was a redheaded terror who'd worked her way up from sob sister to newsroom diva. She was the only woman to cover the 1914 Ludlow Massacre. She was also the author of a page-one jawdropper that yielded the most Bonfils-esque headline of all time: DOES IT HURT TO BE BORN?

Jason Edmiston
A woman scorned: Before Farice King became Robert 
Evans's nurse, she was his lover. Then she became 
his killer.
A woman scorned: Before Farice King became Robert Evans's nurse, she was his lover. Then she became his killer.

Wayne was 54, an ardent feminist and a sloppy, preachy reporter, even by the haphazard standards of the Post. Throughout the King case, she wore her sympathies on her sleeve, her outrage stretching into shriller octaves with each new detail she discovered.

King's people were from Kansas and Missouri. Good Midwestern stock. She had three brothers: a druggist, a dentist and a mortician. The twin girls, Farice and Clarice, had both become nurses. But Clarice had succeeded with marriage and children while Farice had failed; for a woman of her time and circumstances -- even a professional nurse -- there wasn't much else.

Right around the time Bobzine ditched his first wife in Iowa and changed his name to Evans, Farice King married a doctor in Kansas City. He left her after twelve days. He also left her pregnant. The baby girl died in 1913 at the age of five months. King filed for divorce and moved to Denver, where most of her family now lived. Depressed over the loss of her child, she was terribly vulnerable -- the perfect prey, as Wayne saw it, for a smooth-talking ladies' man like Bob Evans.

Wayne was the first reporter to talk to King. The clandestine interview took place at the county jail three months after the shooting. Recovered from her wound, King had just been brought back from a period of observation at a psychiatric hospital to determine if she was fit to stand trial. Wayne was struck by how much older the woman looked than her twin sister or even her own photographs -- older than a woman in her late thirties had a right to look. The ordeal of her near-suicide and imprisonment, during which she'd frequently been overheard calling out for her own death, had left her gaunt and hollow-cheeked. Her physical appearance became a constant theme of Wayne's stories. She'd been "battered to a mere skeleton of a woman by regret and despair...everything carnal seems to have been burned away in the fire of suffering."

King talked about her first meeting with Bob Evans, in 1916. He was a blind date, a last-minute replacement for another fellow. He walked into the room, a tall, broad-shouldered fellow with keen, dark eyes, and -- boom! -- just like that, she was a goner.

"He looked at me and I looked at him," she told Wayne, "and all the rest of the world just melted away for both of us."

Evans was still married to Cecily Lewis at the time. King didn't know anything about that, and by the time she found out, it didn't seem to matter. They went out a few times, and then Evans told her he loved her and wanted to marry her.

She told him about her previous marriage and the dead baby. He told her they would have a child of their own and he would put his name on the dead girl's tombstone so that the kid would have a "father" at last. First, though, there was this little matter of the war in Europe and his plans to enlist in the Navy, but as soon as the Kaiser cried uncle, he'd be back, don't you worry your pretty little head.

She didn't worry. Not even when, shortly before he left for his naval training, Evans demanded sex from her. ("He begged of her one great sacrifice," her lawyer would delicately explain to the jury.) It wasn't something she liked to admit. She didn't tell Wayne about it; when questioned by a prosecutor shortly after the shooting, she insisted that she and Evans had shared a "chaste love." But by the time she went to trial for murder, she was ready to tell the world: She gave herself to Bob Evans in the spring of 1917.

Because he asked.

Because they belonged to each other.

In the months that followed, letters from Evans bearing a San Francisco postmark arrived frequently. "Whenever I see a little baby I always think of you," he wrote. "How I wish for your sake that your (our) little girl was alive. It would be such company for you while daddy is away.... You, dear, I love above anything on this earth, and if I can't get you, I don't want anybody."

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