Tag Archive for Missouri

Cold Feet

Porter and Giancola

If the groom is going to be murdered on his wedding day, we expect the killer to be a jilted lover driven to madness by a broken heart or a rival suitor of the bride who cannot stand to let another take his place. In these cases their crime is motivated by jealousy inflamed by passion. We do not expect that the woman who arranged the murder to be the groom’s sister who wanted him killed for the insurance money.
 
For doing exactly that Marie Porter holds the dubious place in history of being the first woman to die in Illinois’s electric chair. It is an honor she well deserves.
 
For acting as the actual triggerman in the 1937 murder, Angelo Ralph Giancola, 21, preceded Porter to the chair. His story is not new: A weak young man duped into committing murder by a stronger-willed older woman. He is unique in the annals of crime as the only killer whose case of poison ivy proved to be fatal.
 
For his lesser role in the plot, John, Anthony’s younger brother, received a sentence of 99 years.
 
The crime committed by the 38-year-old, 250-pound widow and her young lover was so heinous that even the state’s governor, staunchly anti-death penalty, refused to commute her sentence as he had done for every other woman condemned to be executed.
 
At their sentencing, the judge said the crime shocked the conscience.
 
“If there ever was a more deliberate, premeditated, cold-blooded and atrocious murder. I’ve never heard of it.” Judge Dick A. Mudge said in passing sentence. “I have earnestly, but in vain, examined the record to find some mitigating circumstance in connection with this crime.”
 
The seeds of Porter’s plan to kill her younger brother, William Kappen, were planted back in 1935 when Porter’s husband was gunned down by her father during an argument. The old man was judged insane and taken to an asylum. Porter collected a decent insurance settlement on her husband’s death, but with four children to feed and clothe, she was soon facing the threat of poverty. For reasons known only to herself she chose murder as the answer to her problems.
 
Her criminally insane elderly father was not much help — as a potential victim — so she began looking at other relatives. After careful consideration she settled on William. Her brother had never married and named his poverty-stricken sister as the beneficiary of a $3,000 life insurance policy (A bit more than 50K today).
 
In the early days of 1937 Marie became involved with the bricklayer Giancola, taking the young man as her lover. Almost immediately, she told police, she began planting the idea that Kappen needed to be “put away” (the term is hers).
 
Her main argument, to which Giancola testified at their trial, was not that they would live like royalty on a one-time 3-grand payout, nor was it that she would use the money to support her four daughters, the eldest of whom was 15. Instead, in between lovemaking sessions Porter said Kappen had been relying on her support for years and now it was time to pay back.
 
“I carried my brother through the Depression,” she later told police. “And when he told me he was going to get married, I didn’t want him to, because he still owed me a good sum of money.”
 
Once Giancola surrendered to her coaxing, the pair started researching various ways to kill Kappen. After her arrest for her brother’s murder, Porter discussed the mechanics of the crime with cold dispatch.
 
“We discussed drowning him but this didn’t seem advisable, for Bill was a good swimmer,” she said. “We also thought about pushing him off a bluff at Riverview Park. That was several months ago.”
 
On July 4 police in Belleville, Illinois, on east side of the Mississippi about 15 miles from St. Louis were alerted to the body of a man on a deserted stretch of road. Clues at the scene made it obvious that the man had been kidnapped.
 
“The man had dressed hastily, for he wore no underclothing,” a reporter in the American Weekly wrote. “Two blood-soaked handkerchiefs were found in a poison ivy weed. The gun was not found.”
 
St. Louis had a very active underworld at the time and the crime had all of the earmarks of a gang rubout. Thus the case was treated for about 24 hours by investigators, until a jilted bride came forward with a mysterious tale.
 
Irene Traub was the wife-to-be of Bill Kappen who, the day before, was left at the altar of St. Anthony’s Catholic Church in St. Louis. She said she had not spoken to Bill since July 2, the day before the intended wedding. There was nothing in his demeanor that indicated he was getting cold feet.
 
Irene told police that after the initial tears had passed, her sadness turned into anger and she was determined to find Bill and hold him to account. At least that was her plan until she read in the paper that Illinois police had the body of an unidentified man whose description matched Bill’s.
 
Before taking her fears to the police Irene went to Bill’s apartment to see if it held any clues to Bill’s actions. The scene in the flat fit the clues at the crime scene the way a key fits its lock.
 
“Neatly pressed, the bridegroom’s wedding suit was laid out on the bed which had either been freshly made or not slept in the night before,” reported American Weekly.
 
Bill was interrupted in the process of getting ready for a bath. The tub was half-filled with water, but the washcloth and soap looked undisturbed.
 
One clue was difficult to explain, however. Bill was not a smoker, but several cigarette butts were crushed into the carpet in his bedroom. This indicates someone else was in the apartment, of course, but were they lying in wait or did they arrive after Bill?
 
If the killers were waiting to kidnap Bill, why was he allowed to start a bath? If he had been in a long conversation with someone he knew, why had he dressed so quickly? Why would he allow someone to grind out their cigarettes on his rug?
 
Irene was taken to the morgue where she identified Bill’s body.
 
Police quickly established that Kappen was in no way connected with St. Louis organized crime and had no known enemies. There was only one person who would benefit from his death and that was his sister, Marie Porter.
 
She was brought into the station for an interview that quickly turned into an interrogation. The cops had done their homework in a very short time and confronted Porter with their knowledge of her young lover, and said he was being interviewed in a nearby room. If they had hoped this would loosen her tongue they were sadly mistaken.
 
Down the hall Giancola was quite uncomfortable, and not just because of the bad case of poison ivy that was driving him crazy. It was his scratching that really broke the case wide open because it unquestionably put him at the scene of the crime and was something he could not explain away. One does not simply walk around urban St. Louis and catch a case of poison ivy.
 
Confronted with this, Giancola gave his first confession which was mostly bogus.


I met Mrs. Porter on the night of the murder and she gave me $10 to hire an automobile. She told me to drive to Kappen’s home. I waited outside and half an hour later she and Bill came out together. She got in the back seat and Bill got in front with me. We stopped at a roadside tavern for some drinks. Bill was getting worried, for he was going to be married the next morning. We told him we would get him back in time. As we drove out toward Belleville, Mrs. Porter called to Bill. As he turned around I heard a shot and he slumped over toward me…

Parts of the confession are truthful: he explained that he caught the poison ivy after using the handkerchiefs to wipe blood off his hands and clothes, and the murder occurred where he said it did — at least in the geographic sense.
 
The immediate destruction of the relationship between the widow and the bricklayer, forged with such fragile bonds, probably happened like Giancola said.
 
“She told me if I said anything it would be too bad for me,” he confessed.
 
There was no blood in the car and the amount at the scene indicated Bill was standing beside the car when he was shot point-blank. No witnesses could be found who could place Porter with either Bill or Giancola.
 
This looked as if it was going to be one of those cases where guilt could be established everywhere except in a court of law.
 
Murderers must lack two emotional traits to be successful. They must not possess any moral compunction against killing and they must not fear being caught and punished. Those who kill know this by consciousness — without thinking about it at all — while the rest of us shake our heads in bafflement. But one thing that people who play close attention to crime instinctively know, but which killers do not count on, is that murder brings on feelings of guilt and a never-ending feeling of impending doom.
 
In this case, those unexpected emotions proved too much for one young man to bear, and in an attempt to ease his conscience, Giancola’s brother, John, whom police had not even considered as a suspect, appeared at the detective bureau and promptly confessed everything.
 
John not only implicated himself in the crime, he said his brother pulled the trigger while he stood by as a willing participant. The motive was $800 promised by Porter. The timing was the forthcoming nuptials.
 
“Last Friday night she said she couldn’t wait another day because Bill was going to get married,” he confessed. “He would probably sign over his insurance to his wife. Mrs. Porter said she would bury her brother and give us $800 out of the insurance money.”
 
Giancola and Porter quickly folded and confessed.
 
At trial the goal of the Giancola brothers was to make sure Porter shared whatever fate was in store. Both men took the stand, confessed their guilt, pointed a finger at Porter as the ringleader and threw themselves on the mercy of the court.
 
Porter’s “They Acted Alone” defense was a miserable failure and three guilty verdicts were returned. Appeals were quickly dismissed and the punishments were allowed to stand.
 
The executions were placed on hold after the mother of Giancola, desperate to save her son’s life, convinced the lieutenant governor who was acting as temporary governor in the absence of his boss that she had new evidence that would save her child. The new evidence — Porter gave Giancola a sexually transmitted disease — was not enough to tilt the scales of justice in the young man’s favor.
 
On January 27, 1938, the governor of Illinois said he could not find any justification for granting clemency to “stolid Mrs. Marie Porter or to Angelo Ralph Giancola, the handsome youth she hired to kill her brother,” the Associated Press reported.
 
The next day, shortly after midnight, Giancola and Porter died, one after the other, in the electric chair. From start to finish the executions took under an hour. The two condemned prisoners, who had not seen each other since the trial, made similar statements expressing remorse for their crime and praying for God’s mercy.

Maybe I’ll Meet You on the Run

Sharon Kinne

Sharon Elizabeth Hill Kinne is not a typical serial killer. She was very specific in her choice of victims and had a solid motive for killing each one. Most interesting, Sharon is one of few who has escaped from prison, remained at large, and may even still be alive somewhere south of the border with Mexico.

The Murder of James Kinne

The daughter of an alcoholic single mother, Kinne grew up fast in Independence, Missouri, thanks to her beauty and physique.
 
In 1956 at a church social, Sharon Hill, then 16, met her eventual husband and first murder victim, James Kinne. Although he was a shy Mormon attending school in Provo, Utah, John, 22, was smitten with the blonde beauty and they began a heated sexual relationship. But when the summer ended, James returned to Utah to continue his studies, promising never to forget Sharon and pledging to write.
 
The two corresponded by mail and at the end of the year Sharon wrote to James telling him (falsely) that she was pregnant. James returned to Independence and the two were married, living next door to his parents. Unable to get pregnant to cover up her lie, Sharon opted for the next best thing. She pretended to have a miscarriage.
 
Later that year, however, Sharon did become pregnant, giving birth to a baby girl the couple named Danna.
 
By 1959 Sharon had bored of James and his plain vanilla lifestyle and took several lovers. Her most-frequent partner was her former high school beau, John Boldizs, who, as an ice cream vendor, had access to a lot more flavors.
 
James, however, could not admit his marriage was over and unsuccessfully tried to work things out with Sharon. For him divorce was out of the question. By this time Sharon had given birth to a son, Troy. Unable to get rid of her husband by the traditional method, Sharon chose a much more radical means.
 
James KinneOn March 19, 1961, a single shot broke the quiet in the Kinne bungalow. According to her later statement to police, Sharon rushed into the bedroom where James was napping. Standing beside the bed, or so she claimed, was 21/2-year-old Danna. A .22 caliber pistol, one of several in the Kinne house, was on the bed beside John, who was bleeding from a fatal gunshot wound to the head. It appeared Danna had accidentally shot her father to death.
 
At first the police were quite skeptical that a toddler could pull the trigger on a pistol, but when Danna demonstrated that she could, that, combined with the lack of evidence of foul play, prompted the coroner to pronounce the death an accidental homicide.

The Murder of Patricia Jones

Once the insurance check cleared, Sharon headed to Kansas City, where she bought a new powder-blue Thunderbird and met a new lover.
 
“Sharon was in the market for a car; (salesman) Walter Jones was in the market for a little side action,” The Kansas City Star reported in a retrospective. “Despite a wife and kids at home, Walter enjoyed messing around. And what a day it was when he met Sharon Kinne; he sold a car and began a new affair.”
 
Over the next few weeks Walter and Sharon enjoyed a few dates and once spent the night in a motel.
 
As these things tend to do, the affair cooled and Walter announced that he was reconciling with his wife, Patricia, a clerk with the Internal Revenue Service. But Sharon, who was also still seeing Boldizs, did not want things to end until she said it was time. She told Walter she was pregnant, but he did not fall for the ruse.
 
“I told her to wait and see what happened,” Walter testified at one of Sharon’s trials. “I told her it was all over between us.”
 
Having her bluff called sent Sharon into a rage.
 
“Naked and screaming, Sharon followed Walter’s car into the street, cursing and threatening to get even with him, as neighbors watched carrying-ons of a woman who had lost her husband less than three months earlier,” the Star reported.
 
Abandoned by Walter, Sharon was determined to get even. She contacted Walter’s 23-year-old wife and arranged a meeting for May 26, 1960 in a quiet area outside Kansas City. Sharon’s plan was not to ruin the Jones marriage by ratting out Walter. Instead, she pulled out a pistol and fired four shots into Patricia in the form of a cross (well, the prosecutor pointed out it was cross-shaped, but a secular perspective yields a diamond shape).
 
It was not a foolproof plan. Before she left for the meeting Patricia told some friends that she was going to see Sharon. The last time anyone saw her alive is when her friends watched her get into Sharon’s Thunderbird.
 
When Patricia failed to return home and Walter learned of the planned meeting between his wife and ex-lover, he immediately suspected foul play. He confronted Sharon. Walter told authorities that he searched Sharon’s purse for evidence. The 6-foot, 200 lb. car salesman also held a knife to Sharon’s throat and asked her if she knew anything about Patricia’s whereabouts.
 
Sharon was nonplussed. “No,” she responded.
 
Two days later Kansas City police received a telephone call from Boldizs that he and Sharon had been out looking for Patricia when Sharon suggested they call off the search and go parking at one of their favorite spots. Driving down the lovers lane, Boldizs’s headlights shone on what he thought was a pile of abandoned clothes. Sharon was more certain of what they saw, Boldizs testified later.
 
“Is that her?” Sharon asked. “It could be her. I’ll bet that’s her!”
 
When Walter was cleared by a polygraph test, suspicion naturally turned to Sharon and Boldizs. But Boldizs also passed the lie detector test. Sharon refused to give any statement or take a polygraph.
 
On June 1, 1961, Sharon was charged with Patricia’s murder, even though authorities did not have a gun or any direct evidence that Sharon was involved. The circumstantial evidence should have been more than enough to establish her guilt. A co-worker of Sharon’s at a local camera store, told police that he bought a .22 pistol for her. Sharon told police she took the pistol with her to visit relatives in Washington state and left it there. Later she claimed it was lost. It would turn up much later.
 
Shreds of weeds — they were wild oats — were also found on the undercarriage of Sharon’s car.
 
Not one to let the grass grow under his feet, Walter Jones left town and remarried two months after Patricia was murdered. Eight months after Patricia was slain and more than 10 months after James died, Sharon gave birth to another daughter.
 
After a 10-day trial in 1961 involving 27 prosecution witnesses and 14 defense ones, an all-male jury acquitted Sharon of killing Patricia Jones. Perhaps it helped that her defense attorney said he could not defend her morals, and “it was obvious that she likes boys.” A juror told the prosecutors after the trial that the state’s case had “just too many loopholes.” Another juror asked Sharon for her autograph.

Sharon on Trial Again (and Again and Again)

Sharon was not off the hook yet; the prosecution had already arrested her for James Kinne’s murder and a January 1962 trial was planned.
 
John Boldizs was supposed to be the prosecution’s star witness in the trial; during his grand jury testimony he said Sharon had offered him $1,000 to kill James Kinne.


It was approximately two weeks to four weeks before Kinne’s death. W was talking about her husband. She said, ‘Would you kill my husband for $1,000?’ I said, ‘No. Hell no.’
‘Do you know of anybody that would?’
I said ‘Yes; I know somebody.’
She said, ‘If you find somebody, let me know.’
I said, ‘Yes.’ But I never did.”

The prosecutor pressed him.
 
“Do you have a feeling she was serious in her request?”
 
Boldizs replied: “I believe so, now.”
 
However, when he took the stand at trial, Boldizs hedged while expanding on the conversation:
 
“Man, I’d like to carry you off if you wasn’t married,” Boldizs recalled saying.
 
“Well, I’ll just give you a grand,” Sharon reportedly replied. “You can bump off my old man.”
 
Sharon’s defense attorney, James Quinn, asked him if he thought it was a joke.
 
“It was just like if I’d say to you, ‘I’d give you $100 to jump off city hall,'” Boldizs answered.
 
Prosecutor J. Arnot Hill attempted to do damage control during his summation. “(Boldizs) now tries to take the sting out of what he said before,” Hill told the jury. “I’ll leave it up to you to draw your deductions as to why he changed his testimony.”
 
Meanwhile, Quinn attempted to smooth over Sharon’s reputation, telling jurors that it was not their role to judge her for being loose.
 
“What ever breach of the moral law, she has suffered and her God will chastise her,” he said. “She has done plenty of penance for that.”
 
After 51/2 hours of deliberation, the jury convicted Sharon of first degree murder. Meeting the verdict with a stoic appearance, Sharon was sentenced to life in prison.
 
“Not until she was changing into her jail uniform did a few tears mist her eyes,” a jail matron told the Associated Press. “She didn’t weep. She said she didn’t feel too good.”
 
Sharon told her attorneys that she was confident she would be freed on appeal, and she was right. In 1963 the Missouri Supreme Court found enough errors in the trial record that she was granted a new trial. The second trial was an abortive affair. Just a few days into it, the judge declared a mistrial when it was learned that one of the jurors had once been a client of one of the prosecutor’s law partners.
 
The third trial began in the summer of 1964 and was almost a repeat of the first, except that Sharon took the stand for the first time.
 
Sharon KinneHer performance, as one would expect for a woman like Sharon Kinne, was masterful. She blamed 21/2-old Danna for the murder.
 
Dressed in black, Sharon recounted her version of how James was killed. He had just cleaned his .22 and left it on the pillow beside him while he took a nap. The couple was supposed to attend a church function and she was in the bathroom getting ready.

Danna came into the bathroom trying to get me to play with her. She made several trips to the bedroom trying to get attention from James. She brought in several toys and asked him questions. Then I heard Danna in the bedroom. She was saying ‘Show me this, Daddy. Show me this.’ just as she had done several times before with her toys.
And I heard a shot, I guess it was a shot. I went into the bedroom and Danna was standing there and James was lying there and I saw the blood and I thought he was dead. I picked up Danna and put her on the couch and called James’s father.

After two days of deliberation the jury announced that it was hopelessly deadlocked and a mistrial was declared. Immediately Prosecutor Hill announced that the state would try her a third time for James Kinne’s murder.

La Pistolera

Sharon Kinne mugFree on $25,000 bond posted by her in-laws, Sharon was awaiting her next trial when she decided to take a vacation to Mexico City with a new friend, Sam Puglise of Chicago. The pair met a few months earlier in Kansas City and she fell in love with him. She said they were in Mexico to get married.
 
However, on September 18, 1964, the lovebirds had a quarrel and Sharon left the hotel room. She decided to get a drink in a nearby bar, when she met Francisco Paredes Ordonez, an American ex-patriot. She later told authorities that when she began to feel ill, Parades offered to take him to his hotel room.
 
“I lay down; he took off his jacket and got me a glass of water,” she said. “After a while I started to feel better and told Mr. Paredes that I was leaving. He made some advances. When I pushed him away, he hit me and then put his knee on my stomach. He hit me several times,” she continued. “He covered my mouth so I could not scream, but I managed to throw him off and onto the floor. It give me time to pull my gun from my purse. I fired — I don’t know how many times; one or two.”
 
In her haste to escape, Sharon also shot and wounded the hotel clerk.
 
Investigators later determined that the serial number on Sharon’s gun was the same that was being sought in the Patricia Jones murder.
 
Mexican justice was swift, and after a brief trial, the woman known to Mexicans as La Pistolera was convicted and sentenced to 10 years in prison. She appealed, of course, and was surprised by a quirk in Mexican justice when the appeals court added 3 more years to her term.
 
That was not the end of Sharon Kinne, however. In December 1969, Sharon once again made headlines when she escaped from a suburban Mexico City women’s prison. Her escape was aided by a former Mexican secret service agent and several ex-prisoners, authorities said. Lax security allowed her to scramble over a wall. A subsequent investigation revealed that four guard towers were unmanned. It was not likely that this was part of the escape plan, however. The towers were used as trash dumps.
 
Kinne Age ProgressingSharon had plenty of money to aid her escape. The ex-agent was suspected of a recent robbery where $15,000 American was stolen from two couriers.
 
From December 7, 1969, Sharon Kinne has been on the run. Authorities have said they believe she made it over the border to Guatemala.
 
Although she would be in her late 70s, there is no reason to doubt that she is still alive. The strongest evidence that she is dead, however, is that she has not been linked to any other murders.