Tag Archive for firearm

Pushing Her Luck

Dorothy Glaser

Experienced gamblers do not depend on luck. If they believe in it at all, they do not ever count on its help.
A frequent gambler favoring bingo and dog tracks, Dorothy Glaser had ample opportunity to learn this but her greed made her careless. With one successful murder under her belt, Dorothy had the bright idea that lightning could strike twice; it did, but not in the way she expected.
The twice-widowed homemaker from Warner Robins, Georgia, did benefit from the murder of her third husband, Jerry Glaser, although it was only temporary: She did not get away with the crime and so will die behind prison walls.
There are not many new lessons for us to learn from this tragedy. Yet Dorothy’s lethal bravado, the coldness in which she pursued a plot that came straight from Hitchcock’s pile of rejected scripts, and the twists of fate (or was it luck?) that helped bring her to justice certainly make its study worthy of our time.

Jerry and Dorothy

Dorothy’s motivation to kill Jerry remains a mystery. There was conflicting testimony whether Dorothy and Jerry fought over money, and her actions following the crimes prove she is a cold-blooded murderer who may have been on the cusp of achieving serial killer status. Dorothy’s own words about her complete and utter lack of regard for Jerry — and for that matter her own children — reveal her true character.
Dorothy’s first marriage ended tragically. Although the facts remain hazy and the investigation has long since been closed, re-opened and closed again after Dorothy was convicted of Jerry’s murder, that first death was still considered suspicious although ruled an accident.
Death ended Dorothy’s second marriage when her husband died of cancer before he was 30. He left Dorothy with two sons, both under the age of 3.
Dorothy didn’t seem particularly upset with losing two husbands back-to-back. During a police interview, Dorothy’s son remarked that the only photograph he had of his father was the man’s driver’s license.
Sometime later, she met Jerry and they were wed. Jerry was very close to Dorothy’s boys, whom he adopted and who was the only father they had ever known. He and Dorothy had a daughter together who was a young teen at the time of his murder.
After his death, police could not find a single person who had anything bad to say about 41-year-old Jerry, and it is clear why. He was was described as a strong, confident, loving husband and father, (a “man’s man,” his son told police) who was a civilian contractor at a nearby military base. He was an active athletic booster and a community baseball league coach.
Nobody had much to say about Dorothy — bad or good — except that she liked to spend money and did not care about running up credit card bills, something that exasperated Jerry. She could be found twice a week at a local Moose Lodge playing Bingo, and with her husband went to the nearby dog track when she wanted some faster action.
Aside from monetary policy disagreements, which Jerry told his counselor resulted in “mild-to-moderate marital problems,” and a neighborhood peeping tom who had spied on his daughter recently, Jerry had no reason to think anything was wrong in his life.

The Failed Attempt

Dorothy’s plot called for Jerry’s murder to happen on Oct. 4, 1985, a typical Friday when the Glaser family planned to attend the Northside High School football game. Sometime after the family left, the hitman entered the Glaser home and waited in Jerry’s own bedroom to complete the contract.
During halftime at the football game, Dorothy complained of nausea and other flu symptoms before pretending to vomit. Naturally concerned for her welfare, Jerry offered to take her home. Their son and his younger sister (the oldest son was married and away at college) each had other means of getting home and stayed behind.
Shortly after 9:30 p.m., while most potential witnesses were miles away at the football game, Dorothy followed her husband through the carport into the home where she expected him to die.
According to the statements Dorothy gave that night and again repeatedly to investigators over the next few months, she decided to rest on the couch. She asked Jerry to go into their bedroom to fetch a pillow.
Inspector Hank Lowry of the Houston County Sheriff’s Department testified to what happened next. According to Lowry, both Jerry and Dorothy told similar stories.

Question: Tell me what you spoke to [Jerry] about and what the nature of the conversation was…
Insp. Hank Lowry, HCSD: …When they arrived at the residence, they entered through the garage door into the residence. She went into the den and was going to lay down on the sofa…She stated she asked him to go back and get her a pillow.
Q: Did he state that that was so, that she did ask him to go get her a pillow?
HL: That’s correct. And at that point he started telling me that he was walking down the hallway to the master bedroom, which is the last bedroom on the left down at the end of the hallway…
He started entering the bedroom door, turned to the right to turn on a light switch, and at that point he heard an explosion, saw a bright flash from the right side of his face.

The explosion knocked Jerry to the ground. As the gunman continued to fire, Jerry tried to get to his own guns by crawling toward the closet where the .38 Smith and Wesson revolver, a .22 rifle and an expensive shotgun were stored. As Jerry unsuccessfully tried to find the pistol, the shooter approached him and pointed the gun — Jerry’s gun, it turns out — at him and pulled the trigger. The gun, never found, misfired.
The intruder left clues that he was very familiar with the Glaser property. Not only did he know how to get into the house without breaking in, more importantly he also knew where Jerry kept his firearms. Because nothing in the house was disturbed, investigators wondered if the killer had been tipped to their location, strongly indicating an inside job.
The list of possible suspects was quite large, according to the initial police report: “An inspection of the exterior of the residence and the area was made and it was noted that there was no signs (sic) of forced entry into the house through the window or back door…Mr. Glaser stated that they kept a key in the dresser drawer out in the carport area and all of the kids’ friends knew the key was kept there.”
The first responding officers found what appeared to be a bloodbath.

Upon entering the house it was noted that there was blood on the door leading from the carport into the house. It was also noted that there was blood on the telephone in the kitchen and drops on the kitchen floor leading into the back bedroom…
An inspection of the bedroom revealed blood on the inside door facing, blood on the shelf of the closet, and two bullet holes on the west wall near the window. There was also a bullet hole at the foot of the bed in the center.

Based on the amount of blood found at the scene, it was a fair assumption that Jerry had been seriously hurt in the attack. That was not the case.
Despite firing four shots, the gunman only hit his target once and that was by the narrowest of margins. The bullet grazed Jerry’s temple, cutting the skin but otherwise doing no physical damage to his skull or brain. That the wound was to his head explained the amount of blood. He was treated and released from the ER before investigators had cleared the crime scene.
The only description either Dorothy or Jerry could provide was that the shooter was a white/Hispanic male dressed in blue jeans.
n.b. It was Dorothy’s sister. If you disagree, you are wrong.
Foiled in his attempt, the luckless gunman fled and left Dorothy to figure out a contingency plan on her own. Like an expert gambler, Dorothy — who had apparently recovered from her bout of the flu — kept her head despite holding what looked to be a losing hand. But walking away from the table was not an option. The alternative, according to Dorothy, meant doing nothing until Jerry “put 2 and 2 together,” followed by a long prison term.
Where frontal attack had failed, perhaps bluff would succeed, she reasoned. Adopting as her guide the ancient proverb that whom the gods destroy, they first make mad, Dorothy hatched a cruel plot to push her husband over the edge mentally. The plan would culminate in an “accidental shooting” caused by Jerry’s paranoid behavior.
Dorothy and the investigators went to work, everyone anxious to the solve the problem of this failed murder.


There were no fingerprints or forensic evidence at the scene that could not be accounted for by the family, and the few neighbors who were home that night were unhelpful.
The first person of interest was the man suspected of being the neighborhood peeping tom. Warner Robins Police Detective Andy Chratian and Lt. Mac Derrick met with Lowry from the Sheriff’s Department who was handling the peeper case. However, the man was quickly eliminated as a suspect in the shooting — but not the peeping — due to a solid alibi of sitting around with friends and being too high to do anything except ponder the lint in his navel.
Almost from the get-go, Dorothy began reporting harassing telephone calls from someone who she alleged was watching the house.
The investigators put a strap on the two lines in the Glaser house which would trigger a recorder when a call was connected, but were unsuccessful in catching the caller although the harassment continued.
From the beginning police looked for any role Dorothy may have played in the crime. Because no one could be eliminated as a suspect, Dorothy was at the top of the persons-of-interest list. However, she did nothing to incriminate herself. While police continued to follow every lead they encountered, no matter how odd, the aggravated assault and burglary cases quickly went cold.
Until a new lead on the gunman was developed, there was little they could do except wait to for the killer’s next play. No one realized that it was already happening right before their eyes.


Dorothy was working twice as hard, driving Jerry insane and making the police waste their time chasing bogus leads.
Jerry was prescribed tranquilizers but he did not like to take them. His reluctance proved no problem for Dorothy, who laced his food with Benadryl. Living in a semi-permanent dissociative state multiplied the effect of normal post-traumatic stress to the point where Jerry could not sleep, was incoherent and amnesiac. He would not move — literally — without taking his new handgun with him.
At the suggestion of the case investigators, Jerry agreed to see a psychiatrist. The doctor’s visit with Jerry shows how Jerry was doing less than one week after the shooting.

The patient was visibly upset throughout the session, was quite concerned that he suffers from periods of amnesia, and has adopted phobic behavior when outside the home environment. Apparently he is quite uncomfortable when he and his wife go to the shopping mall because he anticipates that someone is watching him and is out to harm both him and his wife…
The patient also reports that on one occasion his wife said he went into an amnesiac state and had pointed a gun at her, although he was not consciously aware of any of these actions and the situation was conveyed to him by his wife.

The doctor agreed with police and recommended all of the firearms be removed from the Glaser house. The guns remained in the home. There was no legal basis at that point for the authorities to get an order, and Jerry was unable to decide what to do. At times he would admit the guns were a danger and that they should be removed, but as his son testified, he went nowhere unarmed.
The psychiatrist’s report, delivered to the Warner Robins Police, also describes Dorothy’s demeanor in a very unflattering way.

The patient was seen individually which did apparently cause some distress to his wife and she would frequently ask the secretary “What is is he asking him and why does he have to see him all by himself?” The wife appeared to be quite resistant to psychological intervention and was visibly upset with her husband for wanting mental health assistance.

Jerry never saw the counselor again. On Oct. 22, Dorothy called and cancelled his appointment, saying “all the talking in the world is not going to help this problem. We are going to put him in the hospital.”
Suffice to say that Jerry’s natural fear, compounded by the surreptitious drugging and its side effects, turned into full-blown paranoia within a few weeks of the murder attempt. While many people could attest to the profound change in Jerry’s personality, John Dillon saw first-hand how far gone his father was.

He didn’t trust himself and he didn’t trust me and he didn’t trust my mom, he didn’t trust nobody. He went out and got that other gun…and he told me not to come in that house until I knocked and said who it is because he was afraid he’d shoot me. He said he was afraid he’d (PAUSE) Just he said he didn’t trust himself and he was afraid…

His brother told police of watching Jerry mow the lawn with the revolver tucked in the back of his pants and how he would watch television with the pistol in his lap covered by a sweater or blanket.
Dorothy described the scene at home after the murder attempt to officers investigating the fatal shooting:

He depended on me for everything, even in the mornings. On the mornings he would go to work I would walk out into the garage because he was scared. He would look around. Took his gun with him and look around and always breathe or look a sigh of relief when he got in his car and drove off.

He would have (PAUSE) sometimes he would be sitting there as normal as I’m sitting here talking to you and all of a sudden he’d like doze asleep a few minutes and then he’d wake up and he’d act normal, but he had no recollection of it (PAUSE) He would talk to friends that would come over and he didn’t remember. He would lose 16 hours one time, 24 hours another time and then this morning he didn’t know me.

Whether by luck or just because of her meticulous malevolence, Dorothy’s plan was right on the money. It looked like this dog could be a winner.

The Murder

Sometime shortly before 11 a.m. on Halloween 1985, Lowry received a frantic call from Dorothy Glaser. Working the voyeur case and over the past several weeks, he had taken a special interest in Jerry and Dorothy’s plight. Lowry was not part of the official shooting investigation team, but he was the one Dorothy called when the showdown came.
“Hank, this is Dorothy. Please help me,” Lowry reported Dorothy as saying. “I’ve shot him.”
“Shot who?” Lowry asked, possibly expecting her to say she shot an intruder — either the gunman or the peeper (who by this time had added a panty fetish).
Instead he was shocked to hear that the casualty was Jerry. He left the Sheriff’s office and headed to Warner Robins, on the way alerting the local police and EMS.

Hank Lowry, HCSD. Supplemental Report
We arrived at the residence at 11:14 a.m. I approached the door in the garage leading into the residence and knocked on it. Mrs. Glaser opened the door and was holding a blue steel pistol in her left hand by the handle. I asked her 3 times to drop the weapon. She finally put it on an end table just behind her. I…went to the master bedroom. I found Jerry Glaser laying on the bed, his right arm was hanging off the bed on the left side as you are looking at the bed from foot to head. Also, his head was hanging off the same side. I checked for a pulse at the wrist and throat but could not find one. I noticed a blood stain on his t-shirt near the middle of his chest. I also noticed a tan holster laying on the floor near his right hand.

Being a few minutes ahead of the Warner Robins detectives, Lowry was the first to hear the story Dorothy would stick with until the bitter end.
Dorothy told Lowry that she awoke early in the morning and Jerry told her he was not going in to work that day as he felt awful. She let him sleep and tended to her morning chores.
This much was confirmed by the children. She dropped the children at school and returned home, resuming her work. She was interrupted by a call from her son who had forgotten a project for French class, so she ran to the store and then delivered a plate of croissants for him. She headed home, passing Lowry who was at the time on the road. He noted it was 10:45 a.m.
By this time Dorothy was wondering about Jerry’s plans and went into the room where he was sleeping. She got into bed with him and spooned. Dorothy told the inspector that Jerry rolled over and looked at her with a blank stare. She saw he had his pistol and was pointing it at her.
“Who are you and what do you want?” Dorothy said her husband asked.
She instinctively struggled for the gun and it went off, shooting him in the upper abdomen.
Dorothy, perhaps with a touch for the melodramatic, made sure that Lowry knew Jerry’s last words were “Oh, Dorothy. I’m sorry.”
This time the shooter did not miss. The single gunshot wound right below the sternum could not have been better placed if it had been aimed.

Questions, Answers and More Questions

Dorothy Glaser was taken to the Warner Robins police headquarters for her initial interview. While she was booked on Suspicion of Voluntary Manslaughter, she was not under arrest. The men who interviewed her, Detective Andy Chratian and Lt. Mac Derrick, took no chances and they Mirandized Dorothy anyway.
On the surface, the story is not that bad, particularly when compared to her original “burglar killed my husband but not me” plan. That plot would not have held water past dinner time. But police were not interested in what was on the surface, and that is where Dorothy almost messed up.
Dorothy’s performance in this crucial interview was pitiful. This was one conversation she had to know was coming and yet she was woefully unprepared. As she had no intention of telling what truly happened, we should expect someone as cunning as Dorothy to have a cover story that has an answer for every question a detective might ask.
Answering “I don’t know” to a basic question such as “In which hand did you grab the gun?” is a warning bell for investigators and Dorothy was setting off a lot of them.

Det. Andy Chratian, WRPD: Okay and after you screamed, what did you do?
Dorothy Glaser: I reached for the gun.
AC: Did you grab the gun?
DG: Yes.
AC: How did you grab it?
DG: I don’t know.
AC: With one hand, with both hands?
DG: I don’t know. I was just wrestling with it to get away from him and he was like in a weird, I don’t know what it was he just was (PAUSE) when I reached for it it just went off. I guess I pulled the trigger. I don’t know.

Continuing to probe this most important aspect of the shooting, Chratian and Derrick get stonewalled again:

Det. Andy Chratian, WRPD: Did you get the gun away from him?
Dorothy Glaser: Um hum. He had it in his hands and he had the hammer pulled back. It was pulled back and when I grabbed it all of a sudden it was just BOOM!

Lt. Mac Derrick, WRPD: All right. When you got it away from him…why would it be pointed back at him?
DG: No. It was just like I was wrestling with it. (PAUSE) And I don’t know how it happened.

MD: Okay, Dorothy, I’m gonna ask you one more thing and then I’ll let Andy here finish it up. Approximately how far away were you when the gun went off?
DG: Okay, I’m going to try to be precise. (PAUSE) I’ve got a king size bed. (PAUSE) Jerry was laying here. (PAUSE) I came in and laid down on my pillow at first and then I reached over to hug him. I don’t know exactly how close but I had my arms around him when I realized he had a gun…
MD: You don’t know if you were right up on him or…
DG: No, I wasn’t. I was back a little bit because when I saw it I got back and I screamed “Jerry!” like that, you know. And I saw the gun come down like that and I reached. I just don’t know. I just (PAUSE) It was so fast (PAUSE) I don’t know.

The problem with the telephone recordings also came up and Dorothy’s only means of addressing it was to throw her teen daughter under the bus.
The single trace and record device was put into place the day after Dorothy reported receiving a menacing phone call. Whenever a call was received by the Glasers, a tape would begin recording and the telephone company would trace the number. However, the single-trap device was moved randomly back and forth between the children’s phone and the main line. As if by magic, almost every call went to the untapped line. The calls that were caught were traced to local payphones.

Lt. Mac Derrick, WRPD: Okay, Miss Dorothy, I want to go back and ask you some questions that’s puzzling me. Maybe you can give me an answer: On these phone taps that Det. Lowry has placed on one phone and on the other, how do you suppose that this person that is making these calls knows when these different phones are changed?
Dorothy Glaser: I don’t know.
MD: Doesn’t it make you think that it’s somebody that’s in your house — that’s been in your house that knows what’s going on.
DG: Let me explain that most of the time when these calls would come through that as far as the tapes are concerned, he didn’t talk. He just made deep breathing sounds. There was a couple of times that he did talk, a few times, he did talk, but unfortunately it was at the times when we had turned that tape off or either we put it on the other phone.
MD: Okay, that’s what I’m saying.

Only the family was supposed to know of the phone taps, but Dorothy speculated that word had gotten out. She particularly blamed her teenage daughter, who was reportedly upset that her phone calls may be recorded.
Unlike her statement to police, Dorothy confessed later she told Jerry the caller was watching the house because he knew when they were coming and going. Jerry shared this with the psychiatrist.
As a red herring, Dorothy suggested perhaps the gunman was a parent who disagreed with how their child was being coached. Sometimes, Dorothy said, these parents would “cuss him out until they were blue in the face.”
It was not until about 30 minutes into the interview that Dorothy realized she was missing one important piece of information that might have made all of this drama meaningless. As far as she knew, Jerry was alive when he was taken to the hospital. Before Dorothy could get there, Jerry was pronounced dead and she was driven to police headquarters.
“Oh, God! Did he ever regain consciousness?” she asked. “I wanted to see him so bad.”
Chratian’s response was non-committal: “I didn’t go to the hospital.”
The rest of Dorothy’s interview was a recitation of how much she loved Jerry, how she wished it had been her, how they had no money problems, and other lies. There is one exchange, however, where Dorothy makes a very odd statement that provokes a number of chilling questions:

Lt. Mac Derrick: We’re just trying to cover all of the bases, Mrs. Glaser.
Dorothy Glaser: You know I want you to believe me. I feel so terrible. I feel like a murderer.
MD: Well, I wouldn’t be mentioning that kind of word at this point.
MD: You’ve got enough on your mind.

Was it the most oblique confession ever, a taunt, or a bluff meant to draw out her opponent?

Forensic Evidence

Autopsy report for Jerry Glaser
…Located 22 inches from the top of the head and in the midline of the upper abdomen at the xyphoid, there is a gunshot wound of entrance which measures up to 1/4 by 3/16 in. No powder residue is noted on the skin. Free flow of blood is present from this wound. No powder residue is noted on the skin of the anterior chest or of the abdomen. Examination of the clothing includes a V-necked tee shirt that is blood stained. No powder residue is identified on the shirt…

Once the autopsy results were delivered to police, investigators knew that Dorothy’s story was untrue.
The angle of the wound and the gunshot residue results were not consistent with the struggle as she described it. Rather than having the expected circular shape made by a bullet striking the body at a 90 degree angle, the wound was slightly oblate. This evidence was interesting but not useful as a one sixteenth-inch difference from perpendicular could easily be challenged as rounding error.
More importantly, there was no stippling, or gunpowder tattooing, on Jerry’s body, as there should be if the shot was fired from as close as Dorothy claimed.
When a gun is fired, soot, unburned powder, wadding, and dust is propelled out the barrel along with the bullet. Depending on the amount of residue found near the wound, investigators can estimate the distance the shot traveled.
The process for estimating distance based on what are erroneously called “powder burns” (the powder is present because it did not burn) is more complicated than one might think at first. Instead, investigators must know a great deal about the type of bullet and the quantity and chemical portrait of the gunpowder. Once those variables have been calculated and environmental conditions are factored in, a distance estimate can be made.
The accepted scientific standards for stippling determine that if the struggle happened the way Dorothy said, Jerry’s body would have a ring of soot with powder embedded in his skin. There was a strong likelihood that his body would also bear an imprint of the muzzle and front sight of the gun. Autopsy photo close-up of muzzle imprint
Yet the ME reported four times that no powder residue was present. For that to occur the muzzle of a gun would holding .357 caliber bullets of the type that killed Jerry could be no closer than 5 feet away.
By the time investigators received the results, Dorothy was no longer cooperating, so they never got a chance to ask her about it.

Cold Case Closed

The medical examiner ruled the death a homicide, but Dorothy asked for a coroner’s inquest to look into the death. On December 30, 1985, the coroner’s jury — 2 persons who took the only sworn testimony Dorothy ever gave about the incident, overruled the medical examiner and said Jerry’s death was accidental.
No charges were filed, nor should any have been at that time. With only the lack of stippling as solid evidence that the shooting did not occur as she described it, the investigation was stalled. There was plenty of other evidence — that of Jerry’s bizarre behavior, for example — that a savvy attorney could easily use concoct a plausible alternative theory of what happened.
Frustrated, the detectives were also confident that the case would eventually get hot again. Someone knew who did this and they could lay good money that person was no stranger to local police somewhere. In cases like this, sooner or later that somebody else who knows more than they should will be happy to supply the lead that breaks the case.
In the end they were right, but even so, they had no idea how much they had underestimated Dorothy Glaser.
Over the next few years, Dorothy concentrated on collecting the double indemnity insurance policy and suing the shrink who failed to cure her husband in the one session they had together. The insurance company was balking at making the payout because it suspected Jerry’s death was not accidental and did not want the main suspect, Dorothy Glaser, to profit from her crime. The psychiatrist should have known that Jerry was a danger to himself and others, she argued, asking for $1 million.
It was a lot of money on the table — around $1.25 million and Dorothy was determined not to leave any there. In the end both the life and malpractice insurance companies folded, paying Dorothy the $250,000 life insurance payout and a $40,000 nuisance settlement on the malpractice allegations — a little gravy to top things off.
By the time the lawyers took their share, Dorothy’s walked away with “just” $180,000 — a little less than 15 percent of what she was hoping.
Dorothy lived well on the blood money for a while, but all good things must end. It is surprising how fast $180k disappears when you spend it on things like new cars, trips, a swimming pool and gifts for family. In almost no time at all, Dorothy was back where she started.
In need of a cash influx, Dorothy and her sister, Nell Matkin, agreed to repeat the crime with Nell’s husband as the victim.
dorothyglaser2Dorothy contacted her nephew, Bobby Spargo, hoping that Bobby would do the killing.
Instead, Bobby, a career criminal facing legal troubles of his own, went to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, which wired him with a listening device to catch the conspirators. Bobby came back with more than just a request to kill Andy Matkin.
For Dorothy to commit herself on tape, Bobby had to get her to talk about the crime. Bobby opened the discussion by expressing a reluctance to do the job. To the stunned amazement of everyone involved, she tried to encourage him by sharing her experience five years earlier and provided a solid gold revelation served up on a silver platter: a step-by-step admission of guilt. For years Dorothy stood just out of reach of the long arm of the law and here she was talking herself into a murder charge.
In one conversation Dorothy told Bobby how she hired someone to kill Jerry on October 4, but “the little son-of-a-bitch didn’t do the job right.”
Dorothy also confessed to planning and carrying out the October 31 murder.

He was acting delirious and going crazy and all this shit and paranoid. I had set that scene, too, for a whole month. I had a whole month to prepare the police and neighbors and friends about his delirium, his paranoia, his schizophrenia, his idea that someone was coming back to get him.

In answer to the prosecutor’s prayers, she admitted she “shot Jerry with his own gun.”
She was tried for attempted murder and malice murder, convicted and sentenced to life in prison. Nell Matkin was convicted of conspiracy and received five years.
If Dorothy learned anything from her crimes it was probably if you want something done right, do it yourself.

The Mayor Pays His Debt

Samuel McCue

The citizens of Charlottesville harbored a love-hate relationship with their former mayor and municipal court judge J. Samuel McCue. While Sam did have friends and admirers, for the most part local feelings tended toward an intense and passionate dislike.
In 1904, Samuel McCue, 45, was a ruthlessly successful attorney in Virginia specializing in debt collection and domestic relations cases. He had been a powerful mayor for three terms and sat on the bench of the municipal court where he was known for his unyielding tough-on-crime stance.
Gossips around the courthouse were convinced that Sam had the largest loan portfolio of any member of the county bar association, but some clients suspected he was financing his sideline business with their money in the form of collected, but undeclared, debt payments. One published account reflected the commonly held belief that Sam’s professional duties provided him with a hold over some of the community’s leading citizens who might have over-extended themselves financially, legally or romantically.
Lesser known generally, but also a dangerous activity on his part, Sam was a philanderer.
Any of these actions makes accumulation of enemies almost a certainty.
After his execution for murder, the Bluefield (Maryland) Daily Telegraph — perhaps the only newspaper in the area that did not support the verdict — speculated that Sam’s reputation had more than a little to do with his conviction.
“There was another thing that worked to his undoing. He was a man of overbearing disposition, and hated the poor and the humble with lofty disdain and frequently with insulting demeanor,” an editorial in the newspaper read. “When the first breath of suspicion came, these people fanned it into a flame.”
The Daily Telegraph did not comment on the fact that the jurors were brought in from various locations around the state — Fredericksburg, Petersburg, Warrenton and Richmond –and were unaffected by the local mood immediately after the crime.
In the end, Sam reaped the same kind of justice that he sowed after he killed his 42-year-old wife, Fanny, in a violent frenzy. For his crime he died on the gallows in February 1905.
At the turn of the 20th century, the McCue clan — Sam, along with his brothers Judge Edward O. McCue and Dr. Frank McCue and various kin created by decades of marriages among the elite — was among Albermarle County’s leading families.
“The McCues have always been prominent in Albermarle, exhibiting on all occasions positive and masterful dispositions in the conduct of their affairs,” according to The McCue Murder: Complete story of the crime and the famous trial published by reporters James H. Lindsay and John S. Patton shortly after the case reached its conclusion.
According to the book — a pamphlet, really — the McCue family fortune came from its large farming and cattle operation. Sam McCue was educated on the farm by a private tutor, later entering a prep school which led to a study of the law at nearby University of Virginia.
Sam maintained at best a gentleman’s C average until he left school to learn the law directly from those who practiced it, Lindsay and Patton wrote.

It is not likely that he took to books from a love of letters, but with the well-defined purpose to make use of his attainments as an asset in getting along in the world. The sparkling of the cadmean waters did not tempt him to deep and frequent draughts, and when he hung out his shingle as a young lawyer in 1884, his academic achievements and legal attainments were probably unattested by parchments.

Diplomas or not, Sam quickly established himself as an aggressive and skilled legal collections enforcer for local businesses. One client said “I turned over to him accounts I failed to collect, no matter how urgently I sought payment. Invariably, Sam McCue got the money.”
Those who were pursued by McCue cursed his name and sang a ditty that summarized their feelings: “Maunfra, maunfra, what’ll I do/To keep out o’ the hands of Sam McCue.
The attorney entered politics and was elected alderman in 1888, serving in that position until 1894. His first run for the mayoralty resulted in a third-place finish but Sam’s second try was successful. After he defeated the incumbent who had trounced him previously rumors of Sam’s stranglehold over some of the town fathers began to surface.
He served two terms as mayor and Sam’s draconian presence on the municipal bench drove the citizens to change the city charter. They established a city police court with an elected judge and stripped the mayor of all judicial duties.
Despite being the sole cause of its creation, Sam chose to seek the newly created judgeship rather than a third term as mayor. In that race Sam faced off against his brother who, to the surprise of no one but the now ex-mayor, beat him handily.
Based on the character sketch of Judge Edward McCue in The McCue Murder, it is easy to see why voters chose Edward over Sam:
“Samuel McCue had been a hard man,” wrote one contemporary reporter summarizing Sam’s murder case. “He had sent scores to jail, and had seldom tempered justice with clemency. Many who were the recipients of his justice insisted that the quality of his mercy was badly strained.”
Regarding Edward, the authors had high praise.
“It is no exaggeration to say that there has never been a better administrator of justice in any petty court than Justice McCue,” said the authors. “Even the people whom he convicts love him for his moderation and just findings.”
In 1902 Sam was reelected to the mayor’s office. When his wife Fannie was killed, he had just retired from that position to concentrate on his private practice and his position as deacon of the local Presbyterian church.

The Crime

Fannie McCueThe crime that put the noose around Sam’s neck began after he and Fannie returned home from a Sunday night service at the Presbyterian Church where Sam was a deacon.
“The McCues were a church-going people,” a retrospective on the crime published the day after the ex-mayor’s execution the Harrisburg (Virginia) Daily News reported. “Deacon McCue invariably sat well to the front in the sacred auditorium, and Mrs. McCue, always looking trim, sat primly at his side.”
Later, witness after witness would recount how the McCues appeared to be quarreling and did not, as was their custom, walk to their pew together. Sam explained this away as a red herring caused by an ill-timed bathroom break on his part.
Following the service the husband and his wife of nearly 20 years walked home together in silence.
“Mrs. McCue’s manner, as afterward testified to in court, appeared depressed and preoccupied, failing to observe or respond to the greetings of friends who they passed on the way,” the The Daily News told its readers.
It was only a few minutes after the couple entered their home and closed the door that Dr. Frank McCue came running to the house clutching his medical bag and a pistol. Charlottesville beat cop Daniel C. Grady was close behind him. Something was very wrong behind the doors of the mansion on Park Street.
There were plenty of people strolling down the exclusive thoroughfare where the McCues lived, and many, alerted by the hubbub, turned from walkers to gawkers.
“In a few minutes a piece of news — startling, horrifying news — spread with the rapidity with which bad news alone seems to travel,” according to one contemporary report. “Crowds hurried to the McCue home to learn the worst, and how it had happened.”
The worst was the brutal murder of Fannie McCue; how it had happened was proven in court to have been at the hands of ex-Mayor Sam McCue. The “why” — motive — was disagreement over Sam’s infidelities.
Exactly what transpired in the upstairs of the McCue home on September 4, 1904, that led to Fannie’s death is unclear; Sam gave a number of statements that were variations on a theme, but with enough differences regarding important details that make deconstructing the events connected to the crime difficult.
Other witnesses gave strong statements that incriminated the ex-mayor but later recanted them on the stand.
Sam’s testimony at the Coroner’s Inquest was the only version of events he gave under oath. It is not too lengthy, the relevant parts are included here, and — as Sam admitted later in the shadow of the noose — is a complete fabrication.
It begins with the couple in their bedroom, preparing for bed.

I picked up a paper, reading the last Council proceedings, and I think Mrs. McCue was undressing in the meantime and talking about the affair. She laid her clothes on a chair. I had gone over to my chiffonier and took my coat off and my collar and negligee shirt.
I was standing at my buffet and I noticed some figure moving toward me. I think I rushed over towards the gun which stands in the corner — we keep it there — and that is all I remember. I think I must have been unconscious after that. He and I had a scuffle. I am pretty positive he was a white man, a kind of dirty white man. I think his beard was out a little.
…I could not say which door he came through, for my back must have been to the door. It seems to me I heard a sound, when he came in, some sound of a click like. I do not know how long after this sound before he came in.
I do not know if he had anything in his hand, but possibly he did.

mccue home mapDr. McCue testified at the inquest and his brother’s trial about what he found when he reached his brother’s home. He said he received a call from his brother about 9:15 p.m.
“Come down here,” the doctor remembers his brother saying. “Someone has knocked me senseless and I think has murdered Fannie.”
When Dr. McCue got to the scene, he found that Sam was “dazed and could not give a good account of himself.”
“Arriving, I found the front door ajar and went directly upstairs,” he testified at trial. “I saw my brother’s wound when I got to the hall, blood was dripping to his undershirt. One hand was pressed to his head.”
Dr. McCue said his brother was incapable of providing any assistance due to his head wound.
Entering the second floor, Dr. McCue said he smelled the odor of burnt gunpowder and heard the sound of running water from the bathroom.
The bathroom was dark; he turned up a gas burner and in the flickering light he saw Fannie McCue dressed in a nightgown, bent backward over the tub. Her head was submerged. The running water had washed away most of the blood from Fannie’s body and diluted some of the blood stains on her gown, but there was a great deal of blood ringing the tub. A bloody baseball bat lay on the floor of the bathroom.

Wounds, Fatal and Otherwise

Dr. McCue was quickly joined by two other physicians, Charles S. Venable and Emmett Early, who removed Fannie’s body from the tub and carried it to her bedroom. Venable and Early examined the dead woman’s wounds. It was clear that the struggle had been violent.
The lace at the collar of her nightgown was torn away. Her right ear had been struck with a blunt instrument — presumably the bat — hard enough that it split her outer ear in half. She suffered a small laceration on her nose, which Venable said had bled profusely. One of her fingernails was bent nearly at a 90-degree angle, evidence Fannie fought with her killer.
The doctors agreed that at least one wound was inflicted post-mortem.
“The third wound was a small transverse wound on the back of the head, but it gave out little blood,” Venable said in testimony confirmed by Early. “I concluded that that wound happened afterwards. I believe it would be produced by falling with her head back and hitting the bath tub.”
But neither the head wound nor submersion in the tub was the cause of death. That came from a shotgun fired at close range.
“There were powder marks right in the wound; it was black,” Venable testified at trial. “Leather wadding was taken from the spinal column.”
The examination revealed the shot had gone downward and front to back, the pellets destroying several ribs, which in turn stopped them from passing completely through her body.
“There was a great deal of disorganized blood in the cavity,” Venable said. “We turned the corpse over, which caused blood to pour out.”
The consensus among physicians was that Fannie could not have been shot and been able to get to the tub afterwards.
“Death from a gunshot wound like Mrs. McCue would result almost instantaneously,” Early testified. “The person would drop in his tracks after receiving such an injury.”
Dr. McCue was the only one of four physicians who testified about a wound on Sam’s cheek who said he saw it bleeding. His story, however, changed from the inquest to the trial with Dr. McCue increasing the severity of the wounds. At the inquest Dr. McCue referred to the wound on his brother’s cheek as bleeding. At trial, however, he testified that he “saw his nose was bleeding. Blood was oozing from his nose; I saw it. After any injury to the head we often look for bleeding from the nose. It is one of the symptoms we carefully observe.”
Another doctor who examined Sam the day after the murder said the wound was not serious.
“I have most frequently seen it on football players who have been scraped on the ground,” said Venable. “I don’t think the wound on McCue’s face was such a one as would indicate an injury sufficient to cause unconsciousness.”
The fourth doctor who saw Sam at the crime scene gave a much different account of the wound.
“I saw what seemed to be a scratch on Mr. McCue’s right cheek bone,” said Dr. Hugh T. Nelson. “The wound seemed to be very slight. It was like a child had scraped his knee on the ground.”
He soundly rejected Dr. McCue’s belief that it was an assailant carrying a sand-filled cosh who killed Fannie and rendered Sam unconscious. Unlike Dr. McCue, Nelson had seen injuries caused by blackjacks.
“A blow on the cheek to have produced unconsciousness would have produced discoloration and a ‘puffing up,'” he said. “Unless done with the fist, it would almost certainly have fractured the jaw bone. It probably would have caused some vomiting and would have a tendency to make the pulse slow.”
Sam failed to exhibit any symptoms of a closed-head injury in the time following the murder.

A Possible Fall Guy?

While the doctors were examining Fanny’s corpse, Officer Grady was searching the house for evidence. What he saw did not provide much support for Sam McCue’s version of events.
Grady found no signs of a struggle in any room, and no evidence of a crime anywhere except in the bathroom. A blood-stained baseball bat was on the floor near the corpse, and McCue’s shotgun, a Winchester pump, was found outside the bathroom door, an empty shell with No. 6 birdshot still chambered.
Briefly burglary was considered the motive, but that was quickly discarded. Nothing was taken from the home, it was early in the evening on a Sunday and was still light out. Only the most foolhardy thief would have committed a break-in under those circumstances.
One scenario that did interest investigators was the chance that one of the ex-mayor’s many enemies came to collect a debt of his own. In short order two witnesses came forward with information that around the time of the murder a white man ran up to the home occupied by Judge Edward McCue and knocked violently on the front door. The man waited about 30 seconds then ran across the street to Sam’s house.
“The few minutes which elapsed between this incident and the announcement of the crime at Sam McCue’s may have been sufficient for the accomplishment of the tragedy,” reported the Daily News.
Although never conclusively shown, the state’s theory is that the witnesses saw another concerned citizen alerting Judge McCue to the events across the street. No one ever identified the man or came forward to acknowledge the act.
Owing to his position on the bench and his brother’s time as judge, Edward McCue theorized that someone who previously appeared in dock came to settle accounts.Edward theorized that the man — Leslie Marshall — planned to eliminate the two McCue brothers “in one grand performance.”
“(The judge) had in mind a man whom he and his brother had caused to be punished more than once for misdemeanors, and it was understood that this man was very resentful toward them,” read the article in the Daily News. “His brother’s description of the man who assaulted him fitted this one as well as any other.”
Marshall recently appeared before Judge McCue and was punished for public drunkenness. The crime not only resulted in a fine, but because Marshall violated an order “to be on good behavior” handed down by Sam McCue when he was municipal court judge, Marshall forfeited a bond.
Beyond his ill feelings toward the McCue brothers, Marshall had a strong reason to hate the ex-mayor with a vengeance: Sam McCue was not only the divorce lawyer for Marshall’s wife 22-year-old Hattie, Sam and his client were lovers. But it would have been nigh impossible for Leslie Marshall to have a better alibi for the time of Fannie’s murder: He was in church with his mother.
“Well for him that he had an alibi so easily and perfectly established,” an anonymous wire service reporter wrote. “If he had been arrested and brought to Charlottesville charged with the murder of Mrs. McCue he would have been in grave danger, even if he had not been lynched.”
Marshall struck back against his accusers by sharing his own theory of the crime — or at least his potential involvement in it.
“He did not hesitate to charge that there was a conspiracy in which (his) wife was involved to connect him with the crime — and that the conspiracy antedated the murder by at least two days,” read a wire story in the Burlington (Iowa) Evening Gazette
Hattie MarshallHattie Marshall filed for divorce in August and moved from the family home in Earleysville, a town about 10 miles from Charlottesville, where she took up residence.
Speaking to reporters who smelled a story, Leslie Marshall said two days before the crime Hattie sent him a “long gossipy and affectionate letter” urging him to come to her on Monday morning — the morning after the murder.
“I wish you could arrange it so you could come to town Monday,” she wrote. “I will give you money to pay your way to Proffitt’s (the railway station closest to Earleysville). If you could come early Monday morning and go back Monday eve, that would be the very thing.”
Despite his hopes that Hattie wanted to reconcile, Marshall was unable to make it to Charlottesville on Monday, appearing there on Tuesday. He was disappointed by the reception.
A wire story that received play across the country, reported that “his wife received him coldly, he said, and refused to make up.” According to the article, when Marshall questioned his soon-to-be ex-wife why she summoned him, her response was chilling.
“Her reply was that for a few hours after the murder he was under suspicion and she wanted him to come clear himself. ‘How was it, then, that you wrote to me before the crime?’ was his next question, the answer to which was not reported.”
It should be noted that the Marshalls were involved in a most-contentious child custody issue, with Leslie attempting to get custody of two of the couple’s three children. To the youngest he denied paternity and wanted nothing to do with it. Once the investigation zeroed-in on Sam McCue, the theory that there was any kind of murder plot involving Marshall as the fall-guy was not pursued.
Hattie strongly repudiated any improper relationship with her divorce lawyer, although evidence introduced at his trial indicated they had a rendezvous in Washington, D.C., over Thursday, Friday and Saturday before the murder. It was apparently the second time Fannie confronted her husband over this particular infidelity. The first was shortly before her murder when she said she “found him locked in with another woman, and when he came to the door he looked ‘sheepish,'” was how her brother recalled the incident.
Letters Hattie sent to Sam while he was awaiting trial show that their relationship was intimate, but there was never any indication she was a participant in the crime.
When the evidence failed to support the revenge theory, Sam McCue became the primary suspect.
He was arrested for the crime the day after his wife’s funeral. Sam’s brother recused himself from the bench when the police applied for the arrest warrant, so he would not have to sign it.

A Perfect Hell

For those in the McCue inner circle — particularly those from Fannie’s family — the crime almost came as no surprise given the terrible state of the marriage.
Sam McCue, much of the testimony at the murder trial revealed, was as tough on his wife as he was on debtors. One witness called for the defense admitted on cross-examination that Sam McCue recently told him his domestic life was not a happy one.
“‘My life here on Earth for the past four or five years has been a perfect hell,'” quoted lawyer John S. White, who had worked with Sam McCue on legal issues. White recalled Sam said Fannie was “the most jealous woman I had ever known.”
Her brother, Ernest Crawford, also an attorney, boarded at the McCue home between 1899 and 1901 and testified that “It was the most unhappy couple I ever saw.”
“The quarrels were always about other women,” he testified. “I never saw him kick or strike her, but have heard him curse her in the most violent manner repeatedly.”
Willie McCue, 17, one of the four McCue children, reportedly said his parents fought viciously. To police investigators and before the Coroner’s jury, Willie not only confirmed what his parents fought, but said near-homicidal violence had occurred in his presence.
“For the past three or four years it has been a perfect hell on earth,” Willie said. “My father and mother lived like cats and dogs.”
Willie told Detective Alfred Baldwin that he recently had to protect his mother from an enraged Sam who was chasing her with a pistol. He said that his father threatened his life when he became involved.
N.R. Martin, a jailer, testified to to a conversation he overheard between Willie and his father about the event.
“You know what Crawford said about my drawing a pistol on your mother is not true,” Sam said.
“Yes it is,” Martin recalls Willie as responding. “You know she ran and got in my bed and asked me to defend her.”
Willie made his claims in sworn testimony, as well as in repeated interviews with police, conversations with relatives on both sides of the family and in multiple letters to his maternal aunt, and was considered so reliable that he was included on the prosecution’s list of witnesses.
In a letter to his maternal aunt Willie described his position.

Aunt Sallie, I am fighting one of the greatest battles now. I am among all my father’s people, and they, of course, wonder why I took such a step in this case, but I am going to do what I think is right…I will never be in worse trouble than this. I cannot sleep, and when I go to bed and wake up with the same trouble, I feel as though I cannot stand it.

On the stand during his father’s trial, however, Willie recanted what he could and denied what he couldn’t. When confronted with claims of other witnesses that he talked of the bad state of affairs between his parents, Willie simply said over and over: “No. I deny it emphatically.”
“Verily, it was a case of the quick or the dead! And the quick was the winner,” according to a report the day after Willie’s trial testimony. The writer waxed eloquently about his motivation for changing his story.

Mayhap the memory of the unhappy woman, upon whose grave the flowers hardly yet have withered, still touch the heart of the son, who was wildly hysterical on the night she perished by an assassin’s hand. And mayhap he will never forget the wretched but tender little woman who one ran to him, then a mere stripling, for protection from her husband. But the living are even stronger than the dead; the present from the absent. Not ten feet from the witness chair where young William sat gleamed the metallic blue eyes of his father, boring into the very heart of the son like an augur of steel. Those cold blue eyes have subdued others. Yesterday they subdued young William McCue.

Because Willie was considered a hostile witness, the prosecution was allowed to impeach his testimony.
“On 14 important matters he was been contradicted by independent witnesses. I do not count the detectives,” said Col. Micah Woods, one of the prosecution team in his summation. Woods accused the McCue clan of exerting undue influence on the boy.
“He perhaps was told that his father was standing on the scaffold near the trap door, and that if he were to repeat what he told…he would spring the trap and would send his father to his death,” Woods orated. “I think that what he may have done in this case should provoke sorrow and pity rather than abuse and vituperation.”

Witnesses Tell What They Know

But the prosecution had other witnesses who could and would share what they saw and heard on the night of the murder.
The first witness was coachman Charles A. Skinner, who was employed by a neighbor of the McCues and whose room was close enough to their house to hear crying and screaming around the time of Fannie’s murder.
Skinner said the screaming went on for several minutes until he heard a single gunshot. Watching from his window that overlooked the McCues’, Skinner saw Dr. McCue and Officer Grady arrive on the scene.
More important to the prosecution’s case was the testimony of 17-year-old John Perry, a houseboy in the McCue home. On the night of the murder Perry, whose room was adjacent to the bathroom, testified that he heard Fannie being beaten, and fleeing to the bathroom, begging for her life until the fatal shot was fired. On the stand, like Willie McCue, Perry was loathe to convict his boss. He changed his testimony between the inquest and the trial, backing away from his earlier statements that Fanny had been begging Sam not to kill her.
At the trial, Perry denied telling detectives that he heard Fannie from the bathroom say, “Oh, Sam, Sam, don’t kill me. I am going to die anyhow.”
Instead, Perry claimed he told the police she said: “Sam, Sam, he is killing me!”
Although Perry could hear the assault, he was powerless to help — the servants’ quarters door to the second floor of the house was always locked. The servants were expected to use the back stairs which led to the kitchen.
The prosecution explained away the servant’s recantation by positing that Perry, was a black man concerned for his position with the McCues, and so denied he ever implicated his employer.
The prosecutors introduced a written statement from Willie McCue drafted the morning after the murder — before Willie had a change of heart — where Perry provided a more detailed version of events.

I said “John, I want you to tell me just what you heard.” The first thing he said was “You know last night I was afraid to tell those gentlemen on Mr. McCue. I heard him slap her first because I got up and put my head out the window. Then it sounded like he was hitting her and thumping. Then I head him choke her and heard her like she was strangled. She said, “Sam, you out not to treat me like this. I promise not to do it again.”

The only physical evidence indicating that Sam had been involved in any crime was his wet shirt that bore signs of diluted blood on the cuffs. The blood was perhaps the most important clue because Sam claimed from the beginning that he had not seen Fanny after he regained consciousness. Sam never touched Fannie’s corpse or the bathtub, in fact, he never went into that room during the post-crime investigation. Thus, blood could only have gotten there because Sam was the killer, the prosecution argued.
The shirt was taken by Dr. McCue and placed in the laundry. It was rescued before it was washed, and Dr. McCue denied that he was trying to hide it.
A baseball bat covered in blood was assumed to be the weapon that Sam used to beat his wife to the point where her ear was nearly severed. There was some testimony that the day following the murder Fannie’s throat showed signs of strangulation, but there was no proof that the marks on her neck were put there by the killer — the discoloration may have been caused by her submersion in water or were simply signs of decomposition. On the other hand, strangulation marks on her neck could account for the wet, bloody cuffs on Sam’s shirt.
Some of the most interesting rhetoric was reserved for the summation of lead defense attorney John L. Lee, who compared Fannie McCue’s murder to Jesus’ crucifixion.

Gentlemen, what was the most important event in all the history of the world? Was it not the scene enacted upon Calvary, when Jesus Christ, the Savior of mankind, gave up his life for humanity…I trust that you will receive what I saw with reverence for this Holy Book upon which you have already taken your oath. The life and liberty of a man is at stake, and only in this crisis do I venture to use the inspired words to save him.
Now, gentlemen of the jury, are you prepared to say that the main fact of the crucifixion did not occur because four different accounts of it, written by the saints themselves, differ — and differ radically?

His eloquence in trying to make McCue into a martyr was unsuccessful. After enough time to make it look like they were seriously deliberating, jurors convicted Sam McCue for the murder of his wife. He was sentenced to hang.
After the sentencing was over and the jury had been dismissed, one juror approached Sam and extended his hand.
“You have done me a great injustice,” Sam said.
“That rested with you,” said John A. Traylor of Richmond. “I did my duty as I saw it.”

A Debt is Settled

After two unsuccessful appeals and fruitless request for clemency from an old political comrade, McCue resolved himself to his fate. He became quite religious and eventually confessed to his crime. Publicly, Sam’s confession sought to put the blame on some unnamed “evil power” for the crime and and he denied that anyone else was involved.
Three of his ministers released a statement that McCue “did not wish to leave this world with suspicion resting on any human being but himself. That he alone was responsible for the deed, impelled by an evil power beyond his control; and that he recognized that his sentence was just.”
Privately, Sam confessed that he and Fannie started arguing after his return from Washington and that she had picked up again while they were changing for bed.
Enraged, he struck Fanny in the face and she responded in kind, giving him a slight raspberry on the cheek. They began fighting violently. She picked up the baseball bat which she brought into the house for protection. He wrestled it from her and began beating her with it. She fled to the bathroom where she had been running water for her bath. Sam followed her, exchanging the bat for his shotgun.
As Fanny knelt on the bathroom floor and pleaded for mercy, Sam pointed the shotgun at his wife and pulled the trigger. The force of the shot pushed her back into the tub. He did not address the issue, but the theory is that Sam’s shirt got wet and covered with blood as he attempted to strangle or drown her before using the shotgun. He then attempted to cover up the crime with a burglary claim, later changed to a killing motivated by revenge.
At dawn on February 10, 1905, a calm and composed ex-Mayor Sam McCue ascended the gallows and paid his debt to society in full.