Peete at her first murder trial in Los Angeles
|Born||Lofie Louise Preslar
September 20, 1880
Bienville, Louisiana, U.S.
|Died||April 11, 1947
San Quentin, California, U.S.
Cause of death
|Execution by gas chamber|
|Other names||Louise M. Gould
|December 20, 1944
|Imprisoned at||San Quentin State Prison|
Louise Peete (September 20, 1880 – April 11, 1947) was a convicted American murderer. Peete was convicted of murdering wealthy oil magnate Jacob C. Denton in 1920 and sentenced to life in prison. She was paroled in April 1939. In May 1945, she was convicted of murdering her employer, Margaret Logan, and sentenced to death. She was executed in April 1947 making her the second, and one of only four women, to be executed in the California gas chamber.
Peete was born Lofie Louise Preslar in Bienville, Louisiana into a relatively wealthy family. Peete would later say that she "came from cultured, educated people. My parents were not delinquents, and did not rear delinquent children." She attended a private school in New Orleans but was expelled at the age of 15 for stealing from her classmates and engaging in promiscuous behavior. In 1903, she married a traveling salesman named Henry Bosley; he committed suicide in 1906 after discovering Peete in bed with another man. After Bosley's death, Peete relocated to Shreveport, Louisiana where she worked as a high-class prostitute and stole money from her clients.
In 1911, Peete made her way to Boston and changed her named to "Louise M. Gould". She then began claiming that she was 19-year old Dallas heiress named R.H. Rosley. As Rosley, Peete said that she had been confined to a convent by her family but had run away. She ingratiated herself into several high society Boston families with her beauty and charm and managed to convince one wealthy family to take her in. She then proceed to charge items to the family at some of Boston's most high priced stores. She also stole money from the family's friends and employees. After Peete's true identity was discovered, police allowed her to leave town to avoid embarrassing the high society family.
Peete later moved to Waco, Texas, where she became involved with wealthy oil baron Joe Appel; one week after the two met, Appel was found shot to death and his diamond jewelry missing. Peete was arrested for his murder, but convinced a grand jury that she killed Appel in self defense after he attempted to rape her. In 1913, Peete moved to Dallas where she quickly married Harry Faurote, a night clerk who worked at the St. George Hotel. Shortly after the two married, Peete stole $20,000 worth of jewels from the hotel's safe. Police questioned Faurote but he was cleared of any involvement. Police suspected Peete of the theft and questioned her but had no evidence of her involvement. Embarrassed over being accused of theft and despondent over his wife's continued infidelities, Faurote shot himself. His death was ruled a suicide.
By 1915, she had moved to Denver and married salesman Richard Peete. They had a daughter, Frances Ann (known as Betty), in 1916. The couple fought constantly and finally separated in the summer of 1920. Peete left her estranged husband and daughter and made her way to Los Angeles where she met Jacob C. Denton. Denton was a retired millionaire mining engineer whose wife had recently died. Denton was looking to rent his 14-room English Tudor mansion at 675 South Catalina Street (near Wilshire Boulevard) for $350 a month while he traveled for business. For unknown reasons, Denton agreed to allow Peete to rent the mansion for $75 a month. She moved in on May 26, a few days before Denton was to leave on his business trip. The true nature of Peete and Denton's relationship is unclear; she has been identified as Denton's live-in girlfriend, housekeeper and tenant despite the fact that she never signed a lease. Peete would later claim the two were romantically involved.
On June 2, 1920, Denton disappeared. Peete was the last person to see Denton alive. A few days after Denton disappeared, Peete hired a gardener to transport a load of dirt to the basement of Denton's home claiming she was planning to grow mushrooms. In the weeks that followed, Denton's friends, business associates and neighbors began asking after his whereabouts. Peete gave several stories to explain Denton's disappearance including one story that Denton was on an extended business trip in various locations and would return shortly. In the interim, Peete took over Denton's financial affairs. Three days after Denton's disappearance, she forged his signature to withdraw $300 from his bank account and gain access to his safe deposit box. When a bank official noticed Denton's signature looked unusual, Peete claimed that Denton had been shot in the right arm by an angry "mysterious Spanish woman" with whom he had gotten into an argument. As the injury required amputation, Peete said she had to help Denton write checks and sign his name with his left hand. She later expounded on this story claiming that Denton was in seclusion as he was "ashamed" by his amputated arm and would only speak to and see her.
Peete continued to spend Denton's money and also began driving his Cadillac, pawning his jewelry and possessions, renting rooms in his mansion and collecting the rent money. Peete also convinced tenants of his rental properties in Phoenix to make their rent checks out to her. In August, Peete charged two expensive dresses at Bullock's department store in Denton's name claiming to be his wife. An attorney hired by Denton's teenage daughter also inquired about Denton's whereabouts. Peete told the attorney she did not know Denton's present location but would forward his financial and business documents to attorney as soon as possible. In September, she rented Denton's mansion out and returned to her husband and daughter in Denver. With Peete out of the home, Denton's family were presented with an opportunity to search the premises. On September 23, a private detective hired by the attorney Denton's daughter had retained searched the home. Jacob Denton's decomposing body was found buried in wooden cubicle under the basement stairs. He had been shot in the head and strangled. His body was bound in numerous cords and wrapped in a quilt. Police tracked Peete down in Denver and questioned her about Denton's murder. She maintained the she was not involved but offered different scenarios to explain his death. Peete claimed the unidentified Spanish woman who she claimed had shot Denton in the right arm necessitating amputation was his killer. This theory was quickly dismissed as Denton's body was found with his right arm uninjured and still attached. Peete then claimed that the body was not Denton's but that of a double whom Denton had killed. Peete was brought back to Los Angeles and was indicted on one charge of first-degree murder. Her trial began on January 21, 1921.
Peete's trial was a highly publicized media event and was documented by newspapers nationwide. Coverage by the Hearst Corporation-owned newspapers, known for their yellow journalism, was especially intense. Thousands of spectators lined up daily to watch Peete, who was dubbed the "Tiger Lady" by the press, walk into the Hall of Justice. On February 17, 1921, Peete was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life imprisonment. Throughout her trial and during the first two years of her prison stint, Peete's husband Richard remained steadfastly loyal and continued to believe she was innocent. In 1923, Peete told Richard that he should divorce her so he would be free to remarry. Richard Peete obliged but vowed that he would "wait forever" for her release. Soon after the divorce was finalized, Peete stopped answering Richard's letters and refused to see him. Despondent over his her rejection, Richard Peete shot himself in an Arizona hotel room in 1924. Peete later said her ex-husband killed himself due to poor health and because he felt guilty over her conviction.
Post prison years and second murder
Louise Peete was first imprisoned at San Quentin State Prison before being transferred to the California Institution for Women in Tehachapi, California. She was considered a model prisoner who worked as a dental assistant, maintained the prison's flower garden and wrote for the prison newspaper. After serving 18 years, she was paroled for good behavior in 1939. She was released into the custody of Jessie Marcy, a woman who had lobbied for her release, and began working as her live-in housekeeper. Marcy died shortly thereafter. Her death was attributed to natural causes. Peete then moved in with her probation officer Emily Latham and acted as her nurse and housekeeper. Latham died of heart attack in 1943. Neither deaths were investigated at length as police were unaware that Peete was the notorious "Tiger Woman" who was on parole for murder (Shortly after her release, Peete had legally changed her name to "Anna Lee").
After Latham's death, Peete moved in with Arthur C. Logan and his wife Margaret in Pacific Palisades. Peete had met Margaret Logan, a retired social worker, while she was in prison and the two struck up a friendship. Margaret Logan believed that Peete was innocent and had also lobbied for her release. The Logans had also cared for Peete's daughter while she was in prison. Peete worked for the couple as a live-in housekeeper and nurse to Arthur who was suffering from age related dementia and had been declared mentally incompetent. Around this time, on May 2, 1944, Peete married banker Lee Borden Judson. Peete did not disclose to Judson that she had been previously convicted of murder and spent 18 years in prison.
Soon after Peete began working for the Logans, she began telling neighbors that Arthur Logan had fits of rage and physically attacked her and Margaret on several occasions. On June 1, 1944, Margaret Logan disappeared. Three days later, Arthur Logan was committed to Patton State Hospital by Peete who claimed to be his foster sister. When neighbors began asking where Margaret Logan was, Peete claimed that Arthur Logan had attacked his wife in a frenzy and bitten her nose so severely that she was left disfigured. When Peete's husband began asking about Margaret Logan's whereabouts, Peete told him Logan has been disfigured by her husband and had gone into seclusion to undergo plastic surgery. For the next six months, Peete and her husband continued to live in the Logans' home. As she had with Jacob Denton, Peete began spending the Logans' money and forging their names on checks. On December 6, 1944, Arthur Logan died while still committed to Patton State Hospital. Peete donated his body to science.
Around this time, officials at the Logans' bank detected one of the forgeries Peete made and called police. On December 20, 1944, six months after Margaret Logan disappeared, police discovered her decomposing body buried in a shallow grave under an avocado tree in the backyard of her former home. Peete was arrested a few hours after the discovery. During questioning, Peete claimed that Logan was bludgeoned and shot by her husband Arthur during a "homicidal frenzy". Peete admitted that she buried Logan but said that she did not kill her. She said she did not report the murder because she feared she would be blamed due to her previous conviction. An autopsy determined that Margaret Logan had been shot in the back of the neck and sustained a skull fracture.
Lee Judson, Peete's husband, was also arrested and charged with murder. The couple both maintained their innocence. On January 11, 1945, the murder charge against Judson was dropped due to insufficient evidence and he was released. The following day, he jumped to his death from the ninth floor of the Spring Arcade, an office building in Los Angeles. Upon learning of her husband's death, Peete wept and told reporters, "I'm to blame for that. [...] He couldn't face disgrace. As long as I was associated with him, he was a marked man."
Second conviction and execution
Peete's second murder trial began in Los Angeles on April 23, 1945. Prosecutors theorized that Peete killed Logan to gain control of her finances. They alleged that she killed Logan after the two had an argument about a $200 check Peete forged in Logan's name. On May 31, a jury found Louise Peete guilty of first-degree murder and sentenced her to death. While her sentence was being read, Peete sat in the courtroom reading The Importance of Living, a Chinese philosophy book by Lin Yutang. She looked up briefly to make a mocking facial expression to the prosecutor and continued reading.
In the years following her conviction, Peete continued to maintain her innocence. After several failed appeals, Peete was executed in the gas chamber at San Quentin State Prison on April 11, 1947. She was the second woman in California history to be executed by the state. Louise Peete is interred at Angelus-Rosedale Cemetery in Los Angeles.
References in popular culture
Her story was dramatized in an episode of Deadly Women.
- "'Carbon Copy' Killer To Die". The Spokesman-Review. October 28, 1946. p. 7. Retrieved February 6, 2015.
- (Keyes, Lawler 2013, p. 33)
- (Odell 2010, p. 387)
- "Mrs. Louise Peete Goes On Trial For Murder". Prescott Evening Courier. April 23, 1946. p. 2. Retrieved February 7, 2015.
- (Keyes, Lawler 2013, p. 36)
- Levins, Peter (July 6, 1947). "The Cubicle Under the Stairs". The Milwaukee Sentinel. p. 23. Retrieved February 8, 2015.
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- (Booth 1947, p. 209)
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- Mann, William J. (2014). Tinseltown: Murder, Morphine, and Madness at the Dawn of Hollywood. Harper Collins. ISBN 0-062-24222-9.
- Newton, Mike (2006). The Encyclopedia of Serial Killers. Infobase Publishing. ISBN 0-816-06987-5.
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- Odell, Robin, ed. (2010). The Mammoth Book of Bizarre Crimes. Running Press. ISBN 0-762-43844-4.