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|
|Resting place||Angelus-Rosedale Cemetery|
|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 first convicted of murdering wealthy mining engineer Jacob C. Denton in 1920 and was 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. Her father was a prominent and wealthy newspaper publisher. 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 name to "Louise M. Gould". She then began claiming that she was a 19-year-old Dallas heiress named R. H. Rosley. As Rosley, Peete said that she had been confined to a convent by her family and had run away. She ingratiated herself into several wealthy Boston families with her beauty and charm and managed to convince one family to take her in. She then proceed to charge items to the family at some of Boston's most expensive 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 family.
Peete later moved to Waco, Texas, where she became romantically 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 cleared him 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 infidelities, Faurote shot himself. His death was ruled a suicide.
By 1915, she had relocated to Denver and had 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. Shortly thereafter, Peete left her estranged husband and daughter and moved to Los Angeles. It was there that she met Jacob C. Denton, a recent widower with a teenage daughter who had made millions as a mining engineer before retiring. Denton and Peete after she inquired about Denton's 14-room English Tudor mansion (located at 675 South Catalina Street near Wilshire Boulevard) which Denton was hoping to rent out 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, days after Peete moved into Denton's home, he disappeared. Shortly after Denton's disappearance, Peete hired a gardener to transport a load of dirt to the basement of Denton's home claiming she was planning to grow mushrooms. On June 5, Peete forged Denton's signature to withdraw $300 from his bank account and to gain access to his safe deposit box. When a bank official noticed Denton's signature looked unusual, Peete claimed that Denton's right arm had been amputated after he was shot by an angry "mysterious Spanish woman" with whom he had gotten into an argument. Peete said that Denton's signature looked unusual because 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.
In the weeks that followed, Denton's friends, business associates and neighbors began asking Peete, who was the last person to see him alive, of his whereabouts. Peete gave several stories to explain Denton's absence including a story that Denton was on an extended business trip in various locations and would return shortly. Meanwhile, she continued to spend Denton's money and also began driving his Cadillac. She pawned his jewelry and possessions, rented rooms in his mansion and collected the rent money. Peete also convinced tenants of Denton's 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. Around this time, Denton's teenage daughter hired an attorney in an effort to find out her father's whereabouts. The attorney questioned Peete who said she did not know where Denton was, but agreed to forward his financial and business documents as soon as possible. The following month, Peete rented Denton's mansion out and returned to her husband and daughter in Denver. With Peete out of the home, Denton's family were finally able 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 basement of the home in wooden cubicle under the stairs. An autopsy showed that 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 that the unidentified "mysterious Spanish woman" with whom Denton supposedly argued and been shot in the right arm by was his killer. This theory was quickly dismissed as Denton's body was found with his right arm uninjured and, despite Peete's claim that the injury required amputation, was still attached. Peete then claimed that the body was not Denton 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 sensationalized reports and liberal use of 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 her rejection, Richard Peete shot himself in an Arizona hotel room in 1924. Peete later said her ex-husband killed himself because he felt guilty over her conviction and was despondent over his own poor health.
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 and worked as a dental assistant. She also maintained the prison's flower garden and wrote for the prison newspaper. After serving 18 years, Peete 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 of natural causes shortly thereafter. Peete then moved in with her probation officer Emily Latham and acted as her nurse and housekeeper. Latham died of a 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, an elderly couple who lived 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 about Margaret Logan's whereabouts, 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 the Logan story, adding that Margaret 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.
Shortly after Arthur Logan's death, employees at the Logans' bank detected one of the forgeries Peete made and called police. While investigating the forgery, police searched the Logan home where Peete and her husband were still living. 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 the home. Peete was arrested and charged with murder 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 denied killing 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 had 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 Margaret 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 then resumed 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.
- Pascoe, Sue (February 14, 2008). "The Bizarre Tale of Murderer Louise Peete In 1944, Her Crime In Hampden Place Led to the Gas Chamber". palipost.com. Retrieved August 18, 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)
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