Because a ouija board under her fingers assertedly “ordered” the death or her husband, pretty Mrs. Dorothea Irene Turley, once voted the most beautiful girl in America, has been convicted of intent to murder. Thereby bringing one of the strangest cases of the year near its conclusion.
The woman’s husband was killed, so the testimony showed, in order that she might be free to marry n handsome cowboy whom she had met a short, time before. The husband, Ernest Turley, was shot twice in the back on the afternoon of November 18, 1933, and died a few weeks later.
But the wife herself did not do the shooting – that’s what makes the case doubly weird and involved.
Mattie Turley, 15-year-old daughter of the Turleys, raised her own shotgun given to her by her dad and killed him as he carried a pail of milk from the cowpen, she testified. Having no animosity toward him, she did this tragic thing solely because the ouija board had commanded her to, and because her mother had assured her that edicts of the ouija spirits must be obeyed. Mattie understood, she declared, that “mother must be freed in order to marry the handsome cowboy.”
The girl herself pleaded guilty in juvenile court and wan sentenced to an Arizona reform school. The mother, after fighting long and futilely for dismissal, was tried in the county court at St. Johns and convicted. Penalty for intent to murder is five years to life.
During the course of the investigation, which extended over six months, a young fellow identified by the County Attorney as the “handsome cowboy” in question also was brought up for lack of hearing. But he was released for lack of evidence. His name was Kent Pearce, and he had all the outward appearance of a movie-type cowpuncher, big hat, neckerchief, tight pants, bow legs and all. A very frightened young man, he denied any untoward associations with Mrs. Turley.
It was at Crestwood, N. J., in the hectic war year of 1917 that a newspaper chain concluded its national bathing-beauty contest. This chain had set out to find the girl most deserving of the title, “American Venus.”
More than 50,000 entries came in – exquisitely beautiful maidens from every corner of every State. The judging could not have been easy, but in the end everybody was satisfied with the selection made. Dorothea Irene Kelynack, of Astoria. N. Y., who had been singing on the stage after studying music abroad, was as nearly perfect as a girl could be. She tallied to the fraction of an inch with the proportional measurements of the classic Venus de Milo.
The Nation was almost literally at Dorothea’s feet in worship of her surpassing beauty. Every sort of acclaim came to her, including many hundreds offers of marriage. She typified all that was desirable. But a young man of the United States Navy, Ernest Turley, wooed most ardently of all. His dash and brilliance won her; and America thrilled; then they eloped.
The daughter, Mattie, was born to them in Boston in 1918. Next year a son, David, was born, and in 1921 the family moved to California, settling at Coronado. Everything seemed rosy for the next decade, but poor health then began to claim its toll. Also, the adulation that Dorothea had known was now denied her; Mr. Turley’s navy salary was not quite in keeping with her “American Venus” style.
Sinus trouble caused Mrs. Turley so much suffering that the family began to cast about for a climatic change.
“Why not try Arizona?” a friend suggested.
“The air is high and dry and delightful there. Many persons are relieved from nasal pains by going there.”
It. was true and, besides that. Arizona’s expansive mountains offered a fine, vacation outing, anyway. Son David and daughter Mattie especially were elated. They demanded of daddy it they would be allowed to go fishing and hunting; David hinted that, with a real gun, he might even bag a mountain lion.
THEY chose a spot high in the White Mountains They couldn’t possibly have pickerd a more romantic one. The only people to be seen arc relatively uncultured but fine-charactered cattle ranchers. One of them stalked up the first city they arrived, knocked at their ugly rented cabin, and said he understood they were newcomers and if possible he would like to have a job.
“We will let yon know,” smiled a very pretty woman in answer. “My husband is away from the house just now. What is your name?”
“Reckon It’s Kent Pearce.” he answered. Then his face, too. broke In a wide, appreciative cowboy smile.
Maybe it was the isolation, maybe it was the illness, maybe it was the longing for applause and admiration that girlhood days had known, but something in Mrs. Dorothea Turley began to breed discontent.
They had come to Arizona in August of 1933, and by September she was having frequent seances with her ouija board, seeking whatever comfort its alleged “spirits” could give. One day she found some odd picture rocks nearby, designs scratched by some prehistoric Indians which even archeologists could not fathom now. She consulted the ouija board about them.
The board informed her that the rocks were over buried gold. Therefore, she prevailed upon a rather disgruntled husband to do extensive searching. He dug and dug. oven used dynamite, until his back was breaking. Eventually she went to ouija again, and the board admitted so Mrs. Turley said, that some mistake had been made. Mr. Turley never quite forgave her for this “tomfoolery.”
Often she and her husband had little spats and quarrels. Twice, it was revealed later she even threatened his life “Every time I look at you I want to kill you!” she screamed at him in a rage one time.
On another occasion, so the trial testimony later showed, she inquired of her husband about his life insurance, learned that he had two policies totaling $5000, and asked him how she could collect it if ever occasion arose. On still another occasion, she and Mattie asked him one day how far away Mattie’s gun would kill a deer. He told them about twenty yards. They, of course, never mentioned to him about the ouija board seances which pointed to his death.
ON the night of November 17, 1933, a skunk got under the Turley cabin and had a fight with their cat. The noise and odor so disturbed them that they could sleep no more that night. They maintained a watch for Mr. Skunk, but he wouldn’t come out.
They kept the watch up all next morning. After lunch, however, Mrs. Turley and David said they would go to the village store for groceries to have a dinner that night in honor of David’s birthday.
“Stay with daddy, Mattie, and help him catch the skunk,” Mather suggested
“I won’t help catch him, but I might shoot,” Mattie replied. The two drove away, leaving Mattie holding her loaded shotgun and eating an apple.
Before they returned, Mr. Turley got his bucket and went out to the corral to milk their new cow. Mattie followed him, still holding her gun. Soon he came out through the gate and started toward the house. She still remained behind.
With no warning at all, two quick shots rang out. Mr. Turley, hit in the back, tumbled down, and glanced around to see Mattie’s gun smoking, she herself being on her knees.
“Oh-h-h-h, Daddy, have I hurt, you?” Mattie screamed, and ran to him. He was in great pain, but he sent her rushing for help. As she left he told her, “You should be more careful. Let this be a lesson to you.” He assumed that the shooting was accidental.
Mattie met her mother and David returning and told them the news. In a few hours the doctor and a number of neighbors had come in. Kent Pearce himself held the lamp that night, while Mrs. Turley tended her husband. Everybody was sympathetic for the hysterical Mattie, who said she had stumbled and that her gun had gone off as she fell. But Mr. Turley was expected to get well. Many people came in to offer sympathy, and, of course, the officers of the county had to make some inquiries, as a matter of customary form. One of these officers, though, developed a curiosity.
HE LEARNED that the bullets traveled downward, not upward, through Mr. Turley’s hip. That was funny, reasoned he, when Mattie said the gun went off as it struck the ground. It would seem more like he had been shot while he was still standing, maybe with the gun at her shoulder! How about it. Mattie?
That blew up the story. Mattie did a complete about-face, and admitted she had deliberately shot her dad in obedience to the ouija board. She said she raised the gun first as he passed through the cowpen gate, but lacked the nerve to pull the triggers.
“Then I remembered how important it was to Mother for her to marry her handsome cowboy,” testified Mattie, “so I raised the gun quickly again and shot both barrels.”
The seance with the ouija board was described in detail. It had taken place, she said, in a dim, almost dark room at their home. She and her mother had had their fingers on it, sure enough. The board had spelled out that she was to kill her daddy.
“I asked Mother if I had to do what the ouija board said,” Mattie explained, “and she told me there was no escaping its command.”
When Mrs. Turley heard of this confession by her daughter, she became enraged. She accused the officers of browbeating Mattie so much by third degree methods that the girl would have confessed to anything.
Asked about this “mistreatment,” Mattie said calmly that she hadn’t been mistreated ac all, but had only done what she felt she should. Mrs. Turley however, stuck firmly to Mattie’s first story that, the shooting was accidental. Mattie went before the Juvenile Judge and h» sentenced her to the reform school until she reaches maturity of 21, which means six years,
Meantime, Mr. Turley got no better at McNary, and a United States Marine Corps plane from San Diego, Calif., flew over and carried him to the naval base hospital there. There he died on December 26. That made it murder, and Mrs. Turley then was jailed in default of bond, on a charge of intent to murder.
[Donald Rogers, “Fickle Ouija Board Deserts Its Victim - Former American Venus Who Communed With “Spirits” Found Guilty of Murder Conspiracy by Arizona Jury,” Oakland Tribune (Ca.), Jul. 22, 1934, Magazine Section, p. 4?]