By Michael Roberts
By Michael Roberts
By Michael Roberts
By Michael Roberts
By Michael Roberts
By William Breathes
By Jonathan Shikes
By Michael Roberts
Forget Kobe. Adios, JonBenét. To hell with Court TV.
Crime ain't what it used to be.
A place is shaped by its resident evil as much as its good, and by how the community deals with its transgressors. If you want to understand why it was once a privilege to live in Colorado -- and possibly get bludgeoned, stabbed or shot here -- then you need to travel back a few generations, to a more distinctive, passion-soaked era.
You must return to the Denver of the 1920s, a very special time and place. Starring, in no particular order: A city still rough around the edges but doggedly on the make. A loud, shameless brute of a newspaper that dipped its headlines in red ink, the better to keep its ledgers solidly in the black. Bathtub hooch, gum-snapping flappers, pistol-packing district attorneys and hoods named Orville. Love nests crawling with jazzbos hopped up on cocaine and goofballs. Egghead alienists, pushy dame reporters and dulcet-toned defense lawyers. It was a time when murder mattered, damn it, and every big criminal trial was a freaking circus.
Amid this plenty, one case stands out: The strange saga of Farice King, woman scorned, packed the courtroom and electrified the city. It sent the press into ecstatic convulsions and launched the Denver Post on a breast-beating crusade that lasted six years. King's trial made mush of prevailing theories about sanity and "love mania" and exposed fundamental flaws in Colorado's justice system; the grotesque execution of one of the key players in the drama changed the state's approach to capital punishment. Then its tragic lead vanished, her fate a lingering mystery -- until now.
Seventy-five years later, it's still a hell of a story.
Sherman, set the Wayback Machine for November 22, 1928, the night that set a bizarre chain of events in motion -- "the tangled skein one bullet started," as the Postput it. This one is for all the star-crossed lovers out there.
The bootleggers came out at night. So did the Denver vice squad. On the night in question, patrolmen Harry Ohle and Robert K. Evans spotted a suspected liquor car rolling through downtown. They tailed it.
Shortly before midnight, the car pulled up outside a boardinghouse on Curtis Street, a well-known "party house" in the heart of the city's black district. The white driver headed into the house with a gallon of moonshine whiskey.
Ohle and Evans crashed the party. They nabbed the jug of booze and the delivery man, John Morrissey, and ordered a dozen black men and women to line up against a wall. Ohle found another man sitting by himself in a dark bedroom and sent him to join the others. Something about the scene didn't seem right. Ohle knelt down to shine a flashlight under the bed.
"Think I'm a damn fool?" he snapped. "Come out!"
The man under the bed opened fire. Ohle dropped dead to the floor, shot in the head and shoulder. Louvenia Reese, the owner of the house, was hit in the chest as she stood in the doorway. The slug went through her and caught Evans in the right arm, spinning him around. He jumped out of the way of a fourth shot and retreated.
Evans had trouble unlocking the front door with his left hand. Sweating like a hodman, he ran into the crisp November night, found a phone and called for backup. Carloads of cops roared into Curtis Park and Five Points, but the gunman had fled the area. Police chief R.F. Reed and Bert Clark, the captain of detectives, were prowling Lawrence Street in search of a snitch when they were flagged down by a black man named Henry Hill.
Hill identified himself as the man who'd been sitting on the bed when Ohle entered the room. "It was Eddie Ives who killed that copper," he said.
Ives was no stranger to police. He was a 44-year-old barber, heister and petty burglar -- a yegg, in the parlance of the times. He'd been in prison or on the lam most of his life. He'd begun his thieving ways as a child, boosted into open windows so he could unlock doors for older accomplices. Two of his brothers had died badly, one shot by Oregon police and the other in a fight in Denver's city jail. Eddie usually got his prison stretches knocked down for good behavior -- he was a prince behind bars -- but when he got out, he couldn't seem to stick to barbering. Still, he was a shrimpy white guy who weighed just eighty pounds, not the kind of sport you'd expect to find at a moonshine party on Curtis Street.
Hill had met Ives in prison, he told the cops, and had recently bumped into him at a beanery on Larimer. Hill had invited him to come by the Reese home for a "slug of mule," and Ives had accepted. What Hill left out of his story -- the first time around, anyway -- was that he and Ives had held up a pharmacy earlier that night and were celebrating when Ohle and Evans showed up. Ives must have thought they were coming to collar him for the robbery, detectives theorized, and that's why he hid under the bed and started shooting.
Evans hadn't seen the shooter. But shortly before she died of her wounds, Louvenia Reese identified a mug shot of Ives as that of the white man Hill had brought to her house.
The police busted down the door of Ives's place. They found him in his bed, not under it. His aged mother said her boy had been there since seven that evening. But there was an automatic under his pillow and burglary tools in his room, as well as a list of promising holdup targets: "Piggly Wiggly collector living at 5050 Meade Street; Edgewater post office...Fountain railroad station."
Ives denied knowing Hill. Then he said the gun belonged to Hill. When witnesses from the party house were brought down to headquarters to ID him, he seemed amused. "I never saw so many crows in my life," he said.
It didn't look good for Ives. Nineteen Denver police officers had been slain in the line of duty since 1889, but only one cop killer had ever hanged for the crime; most of the cases were unsolved. The police brass wanted to see Eddie swing -- provided, of course, they could keep Ohle's brother and father-in-law, both on the force, from choking the little bastard before the state could.
Evans's prospects were much better. The wound wasn't that serious; he was expected to be back on the job in a few days. He'd been a patrolman for almost three years, and now he was a sure bet to make detective when his four-year stint was up. The next day's papers would hail him as a hero.
He was taken to Denver General Hospital, where he was delivered into the loving care of a special night nurse. She was a woman he knew well but hadn't seen for more than a year.
Her name was Farice King, and she was a much better shot than Eddie Ives.
Louis Smith was recovering from a hernia operation when Evans was brought to his ward. Smith noticed that his nurse seemed to recognize the big cop.
The next night she leaned confidentially over Smith's bed. "I know Bob Evans, the policeman over there," she said. "Would you mind if I talked to him a moment?"
Smith didn't mind. He was a fireman himself. He watched as Farice King, a 38-year-old doe-eyed brunette, went over to Evans's bed. The two talked in low tones. Then she was back at Smith's side, seeing that he had everything he needed. Smith dozed off.
For the next four nights, it was the same. King checked on Smith frequently but always circled back toward Evans -- pacing, someone would later say, like a caged lion. The pair talked quietly, seemed quite friendly. Smith couldn't hear the conversations and slept through most of them.
On Tuesday, November 29, a doe-eyed brunette walked into a pawnshop on Larimer Street and asked to see some firearms. She settled on the cheapest pistol in the place, a six-dollar, nickel-plated revolver. Pawnbroker Isadore Berger offered to sell her a box of bullets. She said one round of shells was all she needed.
Berger asked her what she wanted the gun for. "A woman living alone needs protection," she replied.
She gave her name as May Wilson, paid for her purchase and left.
That night, King and Evans talked well into the evening. Evans was going to be released from the hospital the next day. Fireman Smith heard King crying. He saw her sit down at a table and begin to write. She was still writing when he drifted off.
He awoke at dawn to an explosion of gunfire. King had shot Evans twice at close range while he slept. One in the head, one in the heart. Then she shot herself in the breast and collapsed on the bed next to his.
Evans died instantly. Although badly wounded, King was still alive. The bullet glanced off a rib and missed her heart. DG staffers rushed her into surgery.
The police were mortified. Two officers gunned down within a week -- first by this Ives character, and now a deranged nurse. It didn't help that the crazy frail had left behind a note that seemed to promise further scandal to come.
"Dearest Bob," it read, "you belong to me and I cannot go on any longer -- living without you. And you shall not go on.
"I have waited over 5 years for this chance, and it came. I hope no one else will ever know the real cause for this. Only you and I. Farice."
A second note was addressed to King's brother Floy, a mortician. In it, she asked to be buried near Evans and apologized "for the grief and sorrow this brings to all of you."
The notes were only the beginning. At the house on Garfield Street that King shared with her twin sister's family, detectives found a tidy collection of newspaper clippings, mementos of every arrest by Patrolman Evans that had ever made the papers. They also found more than 200 letters from Evans to King, many of them dating back to the Great War, as well as King's diary -- the inside dope on the whole affair, a record of betrayal and obsession played out over more than a decade.
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.
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?
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."
He called her Darling Farice and My Dear, Dear Sweetheart. He signed himself Your Big Boy Bob. "I want you all the time, morning, noon and night," he purred, "but the evenings when I am not working is when I miss my baby.... How I long for you, day after day. I don't believe, come what may, I could ever stop loving you."
King's dead daughter was a favorite topic. Evans couldn't stay away from the subject, referring to the baby as if it had been his own, binding his lover's loss closely to him: "Listen, dear, do not forget to go to our little one's grave before winter sets in. Will you, dear, and let me know how it looks? We will have it fixed up nice next summer, won't we, dear?
"I can't imagine how you felt the night that you left me at the depot.... I never want to leave you again that way. I will never leave you for a single day and night.... I want to make you so happy for the rest of your days. I send you my life's love."
Evans didn't say much about his work. Eventually, King learned that he hadn't enlisted in the Navy at all. He came back to Denver to do that, giving her some story about having been rejected the first time around. But he pledged his undying love before heading off to the naval station at San Diego. The next day, King received an anonymous letter telling her that she was a fool, that Evans was married and that his wife had taken the train with him to California.
King couldn't believe it. She wrote to Evans, who assured her that the letter was a vicious lie. He begged her to come to San Diego. She went. He didn't meet her at the station. She called him at the training station. He came to her hotel the next day and took her to the beach. The day after that, she waited in her hotel again, but he didn't show.
She sought him out on the docks. She caught him unawares, clutching a letter he was about to mail, addressed to another woman in Denver. He took her back to her hotel, offered various excuses why she couldn't walk him back to his ship. He said he was going to stop by the YMCA. She said farewell, then followed him at a distance. He walked past the YMCA and into another hotel. She discovered that Evans was registered at the hotel. So was a Mrs. Evans.
She went home. She tried to bury herself in work, she told Pinky Wayne, but Evans wouldn't leave her alone. After the war was over, he showed up at her house one day to pick up a trunk he'd left there, acting as if nothing had happened. He told her he was getting a divorce.
"He took me in his arms and said he loved me more than ever," she recalled, "and we began all over again. He said when we married, we'd have a real home with a little one in it to make us happy."
Evans became a frequent visitor at the King house, especially at the dinner hour. Farice's family didn't care for him much, but she hotly defended him against even the mildest criticism. She did his laundry. She turned one of his old shirts into an apron. She kept his picture under her pillow, clipped his name out of the phone book and plastered it in a scrapbook. She saved a toothpick he used.
The wedding was repeatedly postponed. Evans always had reasons. First it was waiting out the divorce from Cecily. Then it was the need to save money. The reasons kept coming, and the months piled into years. In 1922, Evans belatedly tried to extricate himself from the situation, penning a nimble kiss-off letter:
"There is no use for this to continue longer. Not that I think any less of you, Farice.... The fact is, I have made up my mind that I am better off as I am and will never marry again.... I would like to call just as a friend of the family, if I can be considered such. But I do not wish to cause you to have any false hopes."
For a few weeks, Evans continued to call, and King continued to hold out hope. From her diary of August 10, 1922: "Your visit was wonderful, dear, and I'm happy tonight. I think the door opened just a little. You seemed your old self again."
August 1923: "It has been one long year since that wonderful night you came back to me. You held me in your arms again. Now you are away."
Far away, yet so close. One day she attempted to phone him and found out that he'd moved to north Denver. She checked the city directory and discovered that there was a woman living at that address, too: Mrs. Lillian Evans. The man who'd told her he would never marry again had changed his mind, settling on a bride he'd been courting for five years.
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.
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.
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.
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.
A reporter visited him at the county jail. Ives jabbered in an unknown tongue for an hour. Then he said: "Horses! Horses! Goin' to the races! Worms! Worms!"
The prison warden and the man who'd prosecuted him thought Ives's execution should be delayed while he was evaluated in Denver. The alienists poked and prodded and pronounced him sane.
On the drive back to Cañon City, Ives kept on spouting gibberish. After an hour or so, the warden told him to knock it off, the act wasn't fooling anyone anymore.
Ives stared at the mountains and sighed. Then he uttered his first coherent sentence in six months. "For God's sake, give me a cigarette," he said.
In October 1929, three weeks before the stock-market crash, the plan to hang Ives hit another snag. The worst prison riot in Colorado history gutted three cell houses and left twelve dead, including seven guards. The first hostage to be killed in the uprising was Jack Eeles, 77, who'd been the prison's hangman for thirty years.
Ives was offered a hammer by the rioters but refused to join in the slaughter. He'd become an ardent Catholic and protested to the end that it was Henry Hill who shot that cop from under the bed, not him. But the governor could not be swayed.
Early in his criminal career, the littler burglar had been warned by a Denver detective that the path he was following could lead to the gallows. Ives supposedly responded with an eighty-pound sneer. "Hell," he said, "they couldn't hang me if they wanted to. A noose couldn't crack my neck. I'm too small to spring the trap."
After the Ohle killing, Ives's remark was revived by reporters as one of those "prophetic" statements crooks make about their own doom. But nobody knew how prophetic the quote would prove to be. On January 10, 1930, while the other convicts slept, Ives took the long walk to the penitentiary gallows -- and put on a show the assembled witnesses would never forget.
A guard pulled a lever that sent a weight hurtling down a chute. The weight was supposed to pull the rope taut; then the prisoner would break his neck as he fell through the trap. But Ives was too light for the apparatus. As the weight fell, he went flying toward the ceiling. The rope jumped off the pulley and Ives fell to the floor, gasping for breath.
The rope was rethreaded. "You can't hang a man twice," Ives protested.
But they did. According to one witness, it took three attempts. They never did snap his scrawny neck. The state choked him to death for 23 minutes, slowly squeezing the life out of him like one of those ghouls in the newspaper.
Ives was the first of seven condemned men to hang in Colorado that year. The hangings were closed to the press, but the sheer awfulness of Ives's death eventually leaked out. "Colorado has one of the most ghastly hanging machines possible," Thomas Tynan, the pen's ex-warden, told the Rocky Mountain News."More than half of the men executed at Cañon City have not been hanged at all. They have strangled."
In 1933 the state legislature decided to replace the noose with the gas chamber. It was one little man's lasting contribution to society.
Farice King was the first woman in Colorado to receive a life sentence for killing her lover. Some people thought that was a sign of progress, of growing equality for women: "If they can vote, they can hang," the reasoning went. Previously, murderesses had managed to secure lenient treatment by claiming some sort of provocation -- a sock in the jaw, a threat, an insult -- that would hardly be considered justification if the perp was a man.
But popular sentiment was on King's side. Her crime was seen as a distinctly female response to an impossible heel of a man, and women's clubs rallied to her defense. One hundred thousand people signed a petition circulated by a nurse seeking a new trial for her, a record-breaking figure for the state. The male judges turned her down.
Pinky Wayne thought that was outrageous. After King's appeals were exhausted, the Post announced its own petition drive, running front-page stories by Wayne every day for a week to drum up support for a pardon. This was being done, Wayne informed her readers, without King's participation: "When I last saw her at the state penitentiary, she spoke of herself as one who, 'being dead, should be left in peace.'"
Despite the blitz, despite the overblown headlines (WHOLE STATE BACKS FARICE KING PARDON) and overheated prose, the Postwas able to gather only about 15,000 signatures. Ten times that number probably wouldn't have made any difference; Governor William Adams was a law-and-order man who'd won the paper's endorsement in part because of his adamant refusal to grant paroles or pardons. Adams took the petition in hand, thanked the Post for its efforts -- and shitcanned the whole business as soon as he could.
Wayne didn't give up. When Ed Johnson took over the governor's chair, she renewed her crusade. Compared with Adams, "Big Ed" was a soft touch. It helped that District Attorney Wettengel had joined the cause by this point; he figured that King had already served enough time for what should have been a manslaughter conviction in the first place. In 1933, Johnson commuted King's sentence to twenty years. The following year, he granted her a furlough to visit her dying, 81-year-old mother. She was still out when Johnson announced her parole.
King was reportedly overcome with emotion at the news, which is probably why her quotes in the Post -- thanking the governor, her many fans and "the loyalty of the Denver Post" -- sound a lot like something Pinky Wayne might say.
And with that, King buried her mother and disappeared. It doesn't appear that she ever talked to a reporter again. She vanished like yesterday's news.
Prohibition was over. So was the Bonfils-Tammen era at the Post. Tammen died in 1924. Bonfils followed him in 1933, after an ear infection "worked its way into the brain," according to his front-page obituary.
With Bonfils's passing, respectability descended on the Postlike a shroud. In 1947, at the age of 77, Frances Wayne quit, was fired, or retired from the newspaper, depending on whose version you believe. She went to work as the editor of the Central City Register Call and kept slinging type until shortly before her death in 1951.
One by one, the other principal players made their way to the obituary columns. Attorney Mowry became a dairy farmer, working a bucolic pasture that later became a congested strip mall; he died in 1965. Clarice Hanson, Farice's twin sister, died in 1975. Evans's widow, Lillian, outlived him by more than fifty years before finally expiring in Texas in 1981.
No obituary for Farice King ever appeared in any Denver daily. Her closest local relative, a 76-year-old nephew living in Lakewood, says he has only the barest childhood memories of his aunt. He lost touch with her long ago, he adds, and doesn't know what became of her.
What little is known about her fate can be found in seven sentences in the September 4, 1969, edition of the Bates County Democrat, published in Butler, Missouri. The item deals with the passing of Mrs. Earl C. McBurney, 79, a former nurse. Mrs. McBurney was "a former resident of the Amsterdam community" before moving to Butler.
Her husband died four years later. There were no children, nobody to correct the cemetery records, which identified her as Francie, not Farice. No one to tell the good folks of Butler about the multiple tragedies in her life before she married Earl and returned to Missouri.
But who's to say that Earl wasn't the great love of her life? She outlasted her obsession with Bob Evans and her flirtation with death. For Farice King, it was possible to survive even an undying, crazy love.