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.

The prosecution's case took only a few hours. Mowry took days to make the case for love mania. King's brothers, her sister and her mother testified about Farice's brooding depression, her pathetic faith that Evans would return to her, her obsession with "souvenirs" of her lover ranging from used toothpicks to dirty laundry. One family friend talked of finding her in bed with the body of her recently deceased brother Ray, raging at a God that would take Ray instead of her. (The incident occurred in 1915, which suggests that King's balance wheel was already wobbly before she met Evans.)

Distinguished alienists took the stand to explain her psychiatric condition. "If I had a class, I could not imagine a better example of melancholia than this defendant," said defense expert Dr. Leo Tepley, exhibiting a thick Russian accent. King's initial impulse had been to kill herself at Evans's feet, he said, but then she'd been gripped by the delusion that the two of them could be united in heaven.

District Attorney Earl Wettengel countered the love-mania defense with alienists of his own, who insisted that King knew what she was doing when she bought that six-dollar revolver. The DA asked King's brothers and fellow nurses why, if she was so damn buggy, they'd continued to let her work as a nurse for so many years. He fought like hell when Mowry demanded access to the letters and writings that had been seized by the police the day of the shooting and never shown to the defense.

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.

Ultimately, King's sister Clarice was allowed to read a handful of Evans's letters to the jury. But the flappers didn't want the dead man's fairy tales; they wanted to hear what King herself had to say. Anticipation over her testimony built steadily until Thursday afternoon -- at which point the courtroom erupted in a dramatic demonstration of love mania, "a scene that is probably without parallel in Colorado criminal courts," gushed the Post.

Called to the witness stand, King leaned on Mowry's arm, moved sobbing and shaking toward the chair, then abruptly threw herself on a pile of bloodstained clothing on the floor. The clothes were the pajamas Evans was wearing when she shot him, conveniently forgotten after Mowry had removed them from a laundry bag in order for an earlier witness to identify them. King hugged the clothes, shrieking, "Oh, Bob, my Bob!" She refused to give them up, even as Mowry and then two patrolmen struggled to haul her to her feet.

Mowry called for a recess and hustled her out of the courtroom. The alienists tried to calm her down. She raved incoherently. Mowry told the judge his client wouldn't be testifying after all.

Observers wondered whether King had feigned the fit or if Mowry had hoped to trigger some genuine mania by leaving the clothes where she could get to them. Without her testimony, it was left to Mowry to summarize her last few nights with Evans: how she'd been thrilled to see him at first, then torn by conflicting emotions; how he'd suggested they renew their sexual affair, but declared no interest in marrying her; how she'd tried to make him jealous by mentioning her fiancé, but failed; how she'd tried to kiss him, only to be pushed away; how, on the last night, she'd tried to shoot herself in a bathroom but couldn't pull the trigger.

King and Evans talked some more, Mowry said, and Evans told her for the first time about the wife he'd left in Iowa. "When she asked him why he did not marry her, he said, ŒYou got as much as the others got.' The black clouds of melancholia swirled up and overwhelmed her.... She remembers writing nothing and can recall nothing of the shooting."

The flappers were deeply moved. None of them, alas, sat on the jury. Under Colorado law at the time, women couldn't serve as jurors. The all-male panel took to heart only one element of Mowry's closing argument: his insistence that they either find King guilty of first-degree murder or acquit her on the grounds of insanity. Without any instructions on other options -- manslaughter, for instance -- they took just a few hours to make up their minds. They were back in court Sunday afternoon to return a verdict of guilty, a verdict that carried a sentence of life in prison.

Mowry got busy on his appeals. He told reporters that the foreman of the jury may have been prejudiced against his client, since he'd shot his wife during a scuffle over a gun and alleged infidelity four years earlier. The attorney vowed to investigate.

Pinky Wayne asked King if she thought a jury of women would have freed her. King readily agreed. "Men juries free pretty, pathetic-looking girls, with plump cheeks and red lips," the pale-haggard-ghost-of-her-former-self told the reporter. "What they have given me is worse than death. Death is what I wanted."

While the woman who killed Patrolman Evans longed for death, the yegg who put him in the hospital fought to stay alive.

Sentenced to hang for the murders of Ohle and Reese, Eddie Ives went nuts. He dipped his grub in toilet water. He barked and babbled, grinning an idiotic, toothless grin. By the time King's verdict came back, he'd stopped talking to anyone.

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