EXCERPT: “The Blood-Soaked Woman at the Top of the Stairs”

Dropping on August 15, 2014… Now available for pre-order!!!

Coming August 15 to an ebookseller near you!!!

Now that we know the whole story, we have to wonder what was going through the veterinarian’s mind the day his girlfriend kept calling him.

Dr. David Roberts, former Wisconsin State Veterinarian and wealthy breeder of exotic cattle in Waukesha, had been watching his two-year relationship with Grace Lusk spin out of control for several weeks. His wife was onto them, for one thing, but he explained that away by saying the spinster school teacher was simply obsessed with him after they had worked together on his cow book, and that if they ignored her, she would lose interest. Still, Mary Newman Roberts said that she wanted to talk to the woman and warn her off. Roberts forbade it. That was an era where a man might be able to forbid his wife to do something, but it didn’t work. It was also an era where a man could go to jail for cheating on his wife. That threat apparently didn’t work, either.

Grace first called him at home early on the morning of Thursday, June 21, 1917. He put her off, saying he had to go to his office, which was next door. She soon called him there, and he tried to calm her, although he knew that his wife was on the warpath and did not know the true nature of their relationship. Grace came by the office early in the afternoon on her way to teach a class at the YMCA. Later, his wife came in and said she was going to go visit her friend Mrs. Noble.

Dr. Roberts had his associate, L.D. Blott, a young man whom the doctor had raised and was now a partner in his veterinary pharmaceutical business, follow her. They were both on foot, and in trying to be surreptitious, he lost her in the park, but noticed she was heading toward the library. So he went back to the office, got in the doctor’s motor car and drove around trying to find her, but could not. When Blott got back to the office, the doctor ran out and met him at the curb. Mrs. Roberts had just called, he told Blott, summoning him to the home of Bianca Mills, where Grace Lusk boarded.

By this time, the veterinarian surely knew something bad was going on, that his web of lies was getting irrevocably tangled, and within moments they were at the little brown stucco Mills house. As their machine pulled up in front, they heard a gunshot from within. The veterinarian frantically rang the doorbell and started to bang on the front door when he realized it was ajar. He opened it. The house was silent. He tentatively shouted out his wife’s name. No reply. He went first to the dining room, finding it empty, then doubled back to the parlor. In a corner of the front room lay  the veterinarian’s wife, fatally wounded, breathing slightly.

“I’m afraid I’m going,” she said to her husband before she slipped into the final unconsciousness.

Roberts ran across the street to the home of Sam Mills, the house where he first met Grace Lusk, to call for a doctor and police. Blott stood in the front yard, and a moment later, he heard another shot and ran back into the house. He checked the downstairs room, then put a foot on the first step of the curved staircase just in time to see Grace emerge from her room pale, one hand pressed to the front of her bloody dress, flourishing a pistol with the other.

“Stop!” she commanded and pointed the pistol down the stairs. “Don’t come up here!”

Blott stepped back, and almost bumped into Dr. R.E. Davies, who had already checked on the wife and found her dead. So he turned his attention to the bleeding woman at the top of the stairs.

Davies greeted her calmly, then slowly moved past Blott and started up the stairs, but Grace waved the pistol at him and he stopped.

“If you come up I’ll shoot,” she screamed at him. The doctor quickly stepped back onto the landing.

Grace looked glumly at the hand placed over the gunshot wound in her chest.

“Will I die?” she asked.

“It is too low,” he said. “You missed your heart. I think you will recover.”

“That’s too bad,” she said. “I want to die. There can be no mental nor spiritual recovery, so why the physical?”

About that time, Chief of Police Don McKay arrived.

“This is Mr. McKay,” said the doctor. The chief of police bowed gravely.

“I know Don McKay.” Grace said in a hysterical burst of laughter. “I know something about him, too. I am very pleased to meet you, Chief. Are you really going to marry the pretty widow?”

“Yes,” the chief said in surprise, staying at the bottom of the stairs with Davies and Blott.

“Will you permit the chief of police to come up?” Davis asked.

“No!” she cried and kept the gun pointed at the three men.

She called for Roberts several times during the hour-long standoff. They told her he wasn’t here, even though he was in the parlor with the dead body of his wife. The other men advised him to stay put.

“Where is Mrs. Roberts?” Grace asked

“Mrs. Roberts is dead,” Davies said.

“Oh, I am so sorry,” she said.

She asked Dr. Davies to take some messages so he got some paper and wrote down what she said, a note to her father before she died. She wept as she dictated:

“Dr. Roberts told me again and that he loved me, and cared for no one but me. He said he cared more for me than for anyone in the world. He said that he and his wife never loved each other, that he cared for no one else. He said he would tell her by June 15th. He swore it on a Bible. When he came back with me across the park, I told him that he must tell her that he doing a dishonorable thing by deceiving her. I went to see her last night and he brought me back through the park. I asked him again if he loved me, and he said he did. I asked him if he would tell her, and he said he would. I called him on the phone, and he said that he had told her. But when she came to see me she said he had told her merely that I was infatuated with him, that I had been chasing him, and that I was the damndest fool he had ever met. She called me every name, every name. I loved him so dearly. Mrs. Roberts called me such awful things. Mrs. Mills must be paid for the damage to the place. Pay her for everything very well. Father, you will see to this.”

She said more, but Davies was out of paper. He pretended to continue to write, however, and summarized the rest of her dictation in court.

“She said the reason she shot Mrs. Roberts was because of the names the doctor’s wife called her,” Davies would testify. “She kept calling for the doctor, and when I said he wouldn’t come she said, ‘The dirty coward! Is he afraid I’ll hurt him?’”

For nearly an hour, either standing at the landing or seated on the top step, Grace kept the three men at bay, brandishing her pistol.

“I wouldn’t have done it but she called me such awful names,” she said time and again.

Finally, Chief McKay asked her if he could take her to jail.

“Never!” she said.

She began to poke her fingers around her wound, and then raise the gun to the spot, as if she had found the angle she wanted, then her shaking hand would drop. She did this a second, a third time, then told the men to go around the corner, out of her sight. They complied, and as soon as they were gone, they heard the explosion of a gunshot rang out and Grace’s weary voice coming from her room: “You may come up now.” Then they heard the sound of a body hitting the floor.

Davies and Chief McKay ran up the stairs to her room. She had shot herself again, but had apparently tried to find a more fatal spot with her hand, and ended up shooting off the end of her finger. The mistake probably saved her life, as the bullet once again missed her heart and passed through her slender body.

“That was the most unfortunate miss I ever made,” she said.

While they waited for help, Grace remained conscious, moaning over and over: “I love him and he is a coward. He left me to suffer.”

“It is so strange,” she said to Davies as the ambulance crew removed her on a stretcher, “but I love him still.”

Find out how the illicit and illegal affair deteriorated to this point on August 15, 2014 when A Two-Dollar Terror #5 is officially released….



UNSOLVED: The Girl Scout Murders

Please welcome April Atkinson of Adairsville, Georgia, as a new contributor to True Crime Historian.

By April Atkinson
True Crime Facebook Group

On June 12, 1977, a group of Girl Scouts were camping in Mayers County, Oklahoma, at a well known camping ground known as “Camp Scott.”

On the first night a vicious storm forced all the campers to huddle inside their tents, waiting for it to pass. The following day the bodies of three Girl Scouts, aged between 8 and 10 were found dumped in the woods not far from their camp, sexually molested and murdered.

A few months earlier, a camp counselor attending a training session had returned to her tent to find all of her things messily strewn about and her doughnuts had been taken. There was a handwritten note inside the doughnut box which stated that the writer would murder three campers in one tent. The counselor was not concerned. It was a place of scary campfire tales after all, and pranks were very common. She threw the note out, but just two months later, the note seemed to have been a real  warning.

On June 13, Carla Emery, an 18-year-old camp counselor, was on her way to the showers when she discovered the dead body of 10 year old Doris Denise Milner. There was a towel and a rope wrapped around her neck and she was naked from the waist down. Nearby she found the bodies of 8 year old Lori Lee Farmer and 9 year old Michele Guise. Both of these girls had black electrical tape over their mouths, and their bodies had been put inside their sleeping bags. Doris had been strangled to death. Michele and Lori had been bludgeoned to death. All three bodies had been removed from the tent and carried more than 100 yards away from the camp ground.

The hunt began to find the killer. The floor of the tent, a wooden board, was airlifted to a crime laboratory due to the apparent unsuccessful attempt of someone who tried mopping up all the blood with towels and mattresses. A red flashlight which had a piece of newspaper inside it, a nylon rope and a roll of electrical tape was found near the bodies, and several pairs of prescription glasses were also found lying around.

K-9 police dogs were called in and tracked the area. It was found that the murderer had passed by a counselor’s tent to get to the girls. A cave was found nearby which had a newspaper in it, the same newspaper that fitted the scrap in the flashlight. Photographs of two women were also in the cave. It was discovered that the pictures were taken by a prison guard who was an occasional photographer, and had been developed by prison escapee Gene Leroy Hart.

Gene Leroy Hart had kidnapped two pregnant women (both who wore spectacles), driven them to a wooded area where he bound and raped both women. He put duct tape over their nostrils and left them to suffocate to death. The victims were able to free themselves and escape, which lead to his arrest.

Gene Leroy Hart was tracked down and arrested (and found wearing women’s glasses). He was charged with the murder of the three girls but the jury of his peers, six men and six women, could not find irrefutable evidence and Hart was acquitted.

As he was an escaped prisoner, he was thrown back in prison, and a year later collapsed and died of a heart attack. He proclaimed his innocence up until his death.

In 2008 a DNA test was performed using material from the crime scene. The investigators stated the results were “inconclusive.”

The case is officially still open, although inactive. Camp Scott had served Girl Scouts for almost half a century but has never re-opened since this tragedy.

News from my publisher

Big news from History Press, publishers of “Cincinnati’s Savage Seamstress: The Shocking Edythe Klumpp Murder Scandal,” due September 16:

Arcadia Publishing Acquires The History Press, Inc.

Charleston, SC — Arcadia Publishing has announced the acquisition of The History Press Inc., a wholly owned US based subsidiary of UK based The History Press Ltd, in a private sale. The deal creates the largest publisher of local and regional books in the U.S. with a staggering combined total of more than 12,000 titles available for sale.

Arcadia is committed to maintaining the creative aspects of both businesses and will keep existing brands entirely separate.

In a message sent to Arcadia and History Press employees late Monday, Arcadia Publishing CEO Richard Joseph shared the following:

“I have given a lot of thought as to what we are about and where our future lies. The combination of Arcadia Publishing and The History Press creates the largest and most comprehensive publisher of local and regional content in the USA. By empowering local history and culture enthusiasts to write local stories for local audiences, we create exceptional books that are relevant on a local and personal level, enrich lives, and bring readers closer – to their community, their neighbors, and their past. We are committed to the pursuit of new growth opportunities and to increasing the availability, depth, and breadth of local books. Driven by genuine pride in our work and an infectious enthusiasm for what we do, we are universally dedicated to the success of our authors, employees and stakeholders.”

Commenting on the sale, Stuart Biles, Chief Executive of The History Press Ltd said, “We are enormously proud of the fine company we have built together in just a few short years. We’re extremely sad to see the business leave our group, but have to recognize the significant benefits which will be achieved by joining History Press Inc. with Arcadia, both creatively and operationally. We thank Brittain Phillips for his leadership, and his team, for their substantial contribution to our business.”

The new partnership will strengthen the foundation of both businesses and Joseph is hugely excited for the future. “We’re joining the talented staff of two great companies and together we’ll continue creating books people love. We hear moving stories from readers every day that remind us that the content we produce is personal, relevant, and valuable,” he said.

Q: What is the greatest joy of writing for you?

A: When writing true crime history, I especially love the early part of the process, the joy of discovering an interesting crime and delving into it to see if it would make a good story for me. I can get lost for days in a newspaper archive following a thread. And then there’s the joy of having a finished story in hand. Like Dorothy Parker famously said, the best part of writing is having written. All of the stuff in between is work and diligence and the reason I want to get paid for it.

See the rest of the “interview” at Smashwords.com, publishers of my series of Two-Dollar Terrors….

No big surprise then…

… that a few years later, Lorel Wardlow would be dead and his wife tried for his murder…

Wanted his horse, but Wardlow did not care so much about his wife
Hamilton Democrat July 6, 1905

Read about how Belle Wardlow and her boyfriend, the farm hand Harry Cowdry, poisoned her husband in the Two-Dollar Terror, “The Arsenic Affair.”

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