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.

It was San Diego all over again, only worse. She was worse than a fool; she was a bottle cap, a stick of gum, something to be used and thrown away. Frantic for some explanation, she went to see Evans at the garage where he worked. He told her that he was forced to marry Lillian, that there was a baby on the way. But after it was born, he would leave her -- yes, by golly, leave her and marry Farice after all.

Of course, there was no baby. But the letters and clandestine meetings started up again, and for a little while it was possible to pretend that there might be a future for them. Evans told her how miserable he was in his marriage -- Lillian felt the same way, judging from her 1924 divorce complaint -- and King giddily reported the admission in her diary: "My dearest, I did today. I went to you and asked you. You told me it was true, and said you were very unhappy. I am so glad you are."

Then the letters and the meetings stopped, and King had to struggle to maintain some faint hope of deliverance against an overwhelming wave of despair and recrimination.

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.

June 1, 1924: "I will always love you. The man you used to be. But if it's true I am your bitterest enemy -- the man you are."

June 13: "You have always been honest, fair and square with men and in business. Why haven't you been with me?"

June 14: "Dear you, I hope some day you will be hurt just as you have hurt me.... I want you to be deeply, deeply hurt."

July 1: "Dear, I love you anyway, tho you haven't been fair. I will always love you. You can't keep me from it. You belong to me and I can never give you up."

On July 13 she sent him a birthday card and wondered if it would wind up in the wastebasket: "Every year on this day I wish the same wish, that the door will open before this day the next year."

More months, then years, and it began to sink in that Evans was never, ever going to marry her. In 1927 she went to Texas with a private patient and returned engaged to a Dallas man, James Daniels. But her fiancé didn't seem to mean anything to her, her sister said. She threw Daniels's letters in the trash and wept over the old letters from Evans. She wrote poems about death and discarded flowers: "Love to the heart is like dewdrops to violets/Left on the dust-ridden roadside to die."

She'd been back in Denver only a few months when a door finally opened, and there was Evans in her hospital ward. He greeted her with open arms.

"Farice," he said. "Where have you been? I've been thinking of you."

The flappers lined up early in the morning for seats in the west-side courthouse, which towered over Colfax at Speer Boulevard. There was no standing room permitted, and many were turned away. But battles over evidence and the defendant's own hysterics frequently interrupted the week-long trial, clearing the courtroom and giving latecomers a shot at the action.

Those hoping to catch the vengeful gaze of the Woman Scorned were sorely disappointed. She sat slumped in a heap of fur at the defense table, barely visible to the spectators, her brother Leslie hovering by her side. The heap moaned and sobbed whenever her baby or Bob Evans was mentioned, and even, on occasion, swooned. For a clearer picture, you had to turn to the descriptions of her in the Post, courtesy of Pinky Wayne: "If ever Farice King had any claim to beauty, that claim has been nullified by the suffering she has endured...[she] sits wild-eyed, wracked with sobs...pale and haggard...a ghost of her former self.... There is in the trial of Farice King a note of medieval cruelty that amounts to obscenity."

The King family had hired the best legal talent in town to defend their sister: Lewis Mowry, also known as "the Clarence Darrow of the West." Mowry had a flair for high-profile, oddball criminal cases; his biggest triumph was the 1925 defense of Elmer Blazer, a doctor who'd poisoned his 32-year-old, severely disabled daughter out of fear that there'd be no one to take care of her after he died. Like King, Blazer had tried to commit suicide.

Mowry had told Blazer's jury that the mercy killing was a blessing. He'd referred to Blazer's armless, legless, mute daughter as "a human husk," a "thing," an "it." (The Post was more charitable, calling her "a helplessly paralyzed imbecile.") The jury was deadlocked, and the charge was later dismissed.

In the King case, Mowry adopted a similar strategy: Strip the victim of all humanity, stress your client's desperation. King was clearly not guilty by reason of insanity, he said; she was suffering from a form of madness known as melancholia or "love mania." Her "balance wheel was knocked out of gear by shock after shock," he explained, starting with the collapse of her marriage and the death of her baby. Evans had seduced her, deceived her, played with her until she snapped.

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