Monday, March 21, 2016

Lue Burns, Black Widow Who Shot to Death Two Husbands – 1941, Missouri


FULL TEXT (Article 1 of 2): John Palmer (Jack) Burns, owner of a small jewelry shop in downtown East St. Louis, was shot and killed last night by his wife, Mrs. Lue Burns, following one of the petty quarrels which had disrupted the Burns household at 735 Post place, East St. Louis, the last five years.

He was her fourth husband. Nine years ago Mrs. Burns shot and killed her third husband, Shelby Clay, at their home in Madison, after he had attacked her with a butcher knife. A witness to both tragedies was Gene Rodemich, Mrs. Burns’ son by her second marriage, a second cousin and namesake of Gene Rodemich, the late dance band leader.

Burns, 44 years old, was shot four times and was dead on arrival at Christian Welfare Hospital. Mrs. Burns, 38, was treated at St. Mary’s Hospital for hysteria and for a bruise on the head suffered in the scuffle with her husband, and then removed to jail.

Chief of Police Michael J. O’Rourke told reporters police had been called to the Burns home several times in the last year by Burns, who told them he was worried because his wife complained people were persecuting her.

Mrs. Burns had been been committed by court orders to the Illinois State Hospital at Alton twice for brief stays within the last five years on complaint of her husband. In both instances she was discharged when alienists reported that she was not insane.

~ Police Called Before. ~

She apparently had not grasped the fact that she had killed her husband until this morning, when she asked about her son. Told that he had been released on bond but would appear at the  Coroner’s inquest, she said: “Is Jack dead? I didn’t mean to kill him. I was afraid of people.”

~ Quarrel After Dinner. ~

The quarrel last night began shortly after dinner, Mr. and Mrs. Burns were in the living room. Rodemich, a student, had gone upstairs to study for his midyear examinations. The negro maid, Leonia Harris, was washing dishes in the kitchen.

The maid told police she heard Mrs. Burns begin to denounce her husband because he had forgotten to bring home some new clothes for her which had been delivered at the jewelry store.

“Mr. Burns told her he was tired of having her packages delivered to the jewelry store,” the maid sad. Mrs. Burns told him she needed the clothes for work tomorrow, and Mr. Burns to stop cursing his mother, and he and Mr. Burns started to fight. Mr. Burns slipped into the downstairs bedroom, and the next thing I heard was a shot.”

~ Fired Six Shots. ~

Mrs. Burns had gone to the bedroom to get a .32 caliber revolver which she had brought several months ago. As the scuffle between Burns and Rodemich moved into the hall, she fired at Burns.She fired six shots in all, then told her son to call police.

When police arrived they found Burns lying outside the house on the back steps. He had been shot in the left eye, chin, throat and chest. There were powder burns on his face, indicating he had been shot at close range.

Mrs. Burns was lying on the dining room floor. She had a cut on her head and was moaning hysterically. The revolver was clutched in her right hand.

She was too hysterical at Police Headquarters to tell a coherent story, but she told police that fights in her home were frequent and that she and her husband had come to blows as recently as two weeks ago. She and Burns, who had operated the jewelry store at 320 Collinsville avenue for 16 years, were married seven years ago.

~ Similar Considerations. ~

The circumstances under which she killed her third husband were somewhat similar in those of last night. She and Clay quarreled frequently, and she shot him four times after he had slashed her on the arm with a knife. A verdict of justifiable homicide was returned at the Coroner’s inquest.

She told police her second husband was Edwin Rodemich, a railroad engineer, and a brother of Gene Rodemich. She said he was drowned about 18 years ago when he fell off the cab of his train into an ashpit filled with water.

Mrs. Burns was unable to recall the name of her first husband, whom she had married as a young girl. “His name just doesn’t come to me,” she said.

[“Kills Her Fourth Husband, As She Did No. 3, In Row – Mrs. Lue Burns, 38, Shoots East St. Louis Jeweler Four Times as Son Looks On.” St. Louis Post-Dispatch (Mo.), Jan. 24, 1941, p. 1]

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FULL TEXT (Article 2 of 2): Mrs. Lue Burns, in their home at 753 Post street, was found not guilty of murder late yesterday in City Judge William F. Borders’ court.

The jury of six men and six women deliberated three hours. On the first ballot, the Post-Dispatch learned, one juror voted for conviction of murder, six for conviction of manslaughter, and five for acquittal. The second ballot showed seven for conviction of manslaughter and five for acquittal. Four additional ballots were taken.

Forewoman of the jury was Mrs. Mildred Weidmann of Belleville, wife of a State grain inspector. She told reporters she was unable to recall how the men and women on the jury divided on the early ballots.

Mrs. Burns, 38 years old, heard the verdict with no show of emotion, except that her face reddened. Later, talking with reporters, she laughed and smiled, and said: “Justice always wins.”

She had told the jury she killed Burns as he was choking her 21-year-old son, Gene Rodemich, who had intervened when her husband “hit me, beat and kicked me.” The quarrel began, she testified, after dinner, when she asked her husband to return to his jewelry shop in downtown East St. Louis to get some parcels, purchases of lingere which she had ordered delivered C. O. D. to the store.

The weapon with which she killed Burns was a revolver she purchased last October “to protect myself.” Burns was shot four times, but in her testimony she did not recall how many shots she fired.

Mrs. Burns shot and killed her third husband, Shelby Clay, when he attacked her with a kitchen knife. Her second husband, Edwin Rodemich, a locomotive engineer, was killed when he fell from his cab.

[“Mrs. Lue Burns Acquitted Of Killing Husband – Verdict Reached on Sixth Ballot After Three Hours – Defendant Says, ‘Justice Always Wins,’” St. Louis Post-Dispatch (Mo.), Mar. 14, 1941, p. 3A]

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For links to other cases of woman who murdered 2 or more husbands (or paramours), see Black Widow Serial Killers.

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