Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Love Me Tender

A California chef has been tried for murder after accidentally killing and boiling his wife. The case had been simmering for a while. Jurors were not persuaded on numerous fronts. It was difficult to make the case that the man had accidentally boiled his wife, inasmuch as he confessed to sticking her in a fifty-five gallon drum head first, keeping her submerged with weights, and slow-cooking her for four days. This, the jury felt strongly, had intention written all over it, even though--as the defense pointed out--the accused was a professional chef and yet failed to add the celery and carrots at any point. By chance or no, once he discovered he had boiled his wife in a vat, he disposed of most of the remains, by now quite flavorful, in the grease pit at his restaurant. Only the skull was left, and that, he says, he stored in the attic at his mother's house. This had the ring of truth, because the attic is where you store everything you don't really want anymore but can't bring yourself to throw away. Police dispatched to the location were unable to find the skull, but no one ever finds anything they're actually looking for in an attic. If they had gone up there to look for the Christmas ornaments, they might easily have stumbled across the skull. However, to date, no portions of the body are in evidence or, to put it another way, there are no leftovers.

Boiling a corpse is not unprecedented. In 1796, fierce General "Mad Anthony" Wayne sat down and died in a chair of gout. (The local museum still has the Chair Of Gout.) He was buried under the blockhouse and remained there for 13 years before his son arrived to unearth his remains and take them to the family plot in Pennsylvania.  To everyone's surprise, most of him was still in nearly mint condition, preserved by the cold, when he was dug up. The son, who had been counting on a clean set of bones, had him stripped, dismembered, and boiled, and the meat was discarded. Nobody trusts gouty meat.

It is only natural for someone aiming to dispose of incriminating remains to fall back on the knowledge of his own experience--in the case of the California chef, cooking. Rare is the mailman, for instance, who has not given at least some thought to how to hide a body. Practices change over time. In my early days as a letter carrier, we would probably have gone with the old standby, misdelivering the corpse to a vacant house. Everybody does something like that sooner or later. Or, bodies can simply be stacked in the mailman's own garage with the rest of the mail. Modern carriers need only slap a garbled barcode on the remains and slip them in the mail stream, where they will loop endlessly around the country being stamped "undeliverable" until they fall apart.

The jury also had trouble believing that the murder itself was not deliberate, although here the defense was stronger. The accused admitted he had duct-taped his wife and then fallen asleep, and to his dismay she was dead by the time he woke up. Tellingly, he gave several different versions of why he duct-taped his wife, including to keep her from getting into her car while she was drunk and high on cocaine--a public service, if you will--and to get her to quit talking so he could get some sleep. The latter version is the more plausible. Anyone who drops dead when prevented from speaking is probably a pretty noisy individual.

He got away with his crime for two years, but panicked when it appeared that the police were closing in on him. He threw himself off an 80-foot cliff but succeeded only in tenderizing himself. But he was wise to try to avoid apprehension.

They were going to grill him.

98 comments:

  1. Good story...except I have now lost my appetite.

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    1. I'd probably consider that a good outcome.

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  2. Rarely do I read something that tickles my funny bone like this blog did. Well Done!

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    1. You're welcome. I wanted to do something completely unrelated to politics. Half the country is really unhappy today and I wanted to make them smile. Of course, they don't read this blog.

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  3. Leave it to Murr to make murder palatable.

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  4. Obviously, he doesn't watch "Bones" or "Dr.G., Medical Examiner."

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    1. I don't either, but I DID see "Fried Green Tomatoes."

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  5. I never thought anybody could make me smile at something so grisly. Or is it gristle-y? :-)

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    1. Ar Ar Ar! Sadly, Dave and I have discussed this very thing, and decided he would be tough whereas I would be well-marbled.

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  6. The story is great, but the illustrations are fabulous. I love the sock :)

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    1. You can have a lot of fun when you don't know Photoshop.

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  7. I'll be back. Off to hide the duct tape and the canning kettle.

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    1. You were a Girl Scout, weren't you?

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    2. No but I have a powerful survival instinct. Himself is a big Fargo fan.

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  8. The proof of his innocence is the lack of Chianti in hand at the time of arrest.

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    1. And that's Dave's favorite movie. That, and Fargo. Can you tell?

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    2. I love Fargo! I hadn't ever seen it until about a month ago, and it makes me sad I spent so much of my life without having that movie as part of it.
      But Silence of the Lambs? Most hated movie.....ever. Good quote fodder, but horribly scary. Saw it at the Roslyn Theater, and still have vivid nightmares from it this many years later.

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  9. Ha. Clearly he's guilty. A California chef slow-cooking? Never happen. Now if he'd done her up in a nice ceviche garnished with arugula and lemongrass, he'd have been home free...

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    1. Mmm, ceviche. Wouldn't even have to cook her. Ooo! Lutefisk! That would work too.

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  10. Recipe by Bobby Flay?

    Elaine

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    1. You know, that's a bit of an unfortunate name for a chef.

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  11. There is a university in New England someplace I read about with a house back in the woods where they dump dead bodies (of animals) to make skeletons for research and teaching purposes. The house is full of some kind of horrible carnivorous beetles which strip the carcasses absolutely clean in a few weeks. I should think better than boiling in a slow cooker. But then we wouldn't have had your post. I saved my tea until AFTER I read it.

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    1. Good thinking! Although I'm almost certain I've written about carnivorous beetles and decomposition before. It certainly sounds like something I've done.

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  12. Are you sure he wasn't just hungry and didn't feel like food shopping?

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    1. If that were true, the jury surely wouldn't have convicted him. Everybody's been there.

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  13. Poor Anthony Wayne. No wonder he was Mad. I didn't know that you could die of gout, although, from personal experience, I can tell you that there are times you *wish* you could.

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    1. Aw, I'm sorry for you. I didn't know that either. Possibly you need to be actually sitting in the Chair Of Gout.

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  14. I just hate when little accidents like that get blown all out of proportion! For the record, Mad Anthony died in 1796, of gout complications. According to the legend, his son tried to haul his bones home in saddlebags and lost quite a few of them on the way. His ghost is supposed to wander some highway in PA that I forget the number of (it roughly is laid out on the old road from Erie to Philadelphia) every New Year, looking for the ones that got dropped. My Dad was a history professor and a Mad Anthony fan.

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    1. Much obliged! I think the problem here was I read about Mad Anthony on my downstairs computer and tried to remember stuff on my upstairs writing computer, which I don't allow to play on the internet, because then I'd never get anything done. Usually when I don't remember a detail I'd just put in an X instead of the date, but this time for some reason I just guessed he was in the Civil War instead of the Revolutionary War and stuck a real date in as a placeholder, and then when I transcribed the post I assumed I'd already double-checked it. And that's probably more than you wanted to know about my writing process. In any case, I am going to go edit the correct date in, thanks to you. I hate getting stuff wrong. WrongISH is okay.

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    2. You're welcome! Dad did his PhD at Ball State, and the entire struggle for the Old Northwest Territories was an area of local interest.

      Actually, I liked finding out about your writing process and may consider adopting a similar strategy. The internet sort of irritates my ADD, and I am finding that my old way of writing, fountain pens and paper, makes for an extra step that I really don't need sometimes.

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    3. If I had to use pen and paper, I would write nothing. Nothing. I really LOVE word processing. I have allowed a Boggle game to be installed on my writing computer, but no internet.

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    4. I've filled dozens of journals and always write with old fountain pens that fill from bottles. Because I still have that habit, I usually write my more serious stuff that way first. I'm convinced that my vocabulary is about +20% when I hand write.

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    5. Could be, if it slows you down. I, however, can write slow on anything. Think slow, too.

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    6. I'm definitely not fast! I think it may have to do with that theory of body mapping. The brain-pen connection is more reliably hardwired than the brain-keyboard connection for me.

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    7. Makes sense. I'm losing words right and left and sometimes think I took up writing so that I would appear brighter than I do in conversation.

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    8. I used to write like that but writers cramp is not an option when getting older (notice I said older and not old). Wore out two typewriters in college.
      Had it not been for word processors and spell check I'd look like a total idiot now. Oh I haven't checked in the mirror lately... never mind.

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    9. Writers cramp is why I've stuck to the fountain pens. Lighter touch means less pain!

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    10. Writers cramp is why I've stuck to the fountain pens. Lighter touch means less pain!

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    11. You know, Demeur, I'm old enough to have learned the Palmer method of handwriting, and we were supposed to move our arms rather than our fingers to prevent cramping, but of course I never did that. Then I got creative in fifth grade and started embellishing letters and making squirrelly "e"s and what with one thing and another, I can write about two sentences before I get tired, and no one (including me) can read the second one. I once thought that if I could afford an IBM Selectric I would never ask for anything else in my whole life. The word processor is a gift from the gods.

      Swampy, I had one of those pens in fifth grade, with the cool little rubber bulb and all. My father thought it was essential. I don't remember ever using it after that year. I wonder what happened to it?

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    12. Murr, I have a sort of mix of modern ones (they still make them!) and ones from the 1950s and older. I can write all day with one, as opposed to about half an hour with a ballpoint.

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  15. I only read this blog for the pictures.

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  16. there are those who would say it is a shame to waste good meat....he should have eaten her liver with some fava beans and a bottle of chianti.
    the Ol'Buzzard

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    1. Now I have "KeeANTee" going through my head.

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  17. Nowadays with global warming and all, the general's bones would be steam-cleaned, no problem.

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    1. I might have to look him up in Find-A-Grave to see if his kid actually did get him redeposited in Pennsylvania. Or, as the Swamp Lawyer pointed out, most of him.

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  18. Wait...seriously...mail carriers think about WHAT?

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  19. What a great post.......and I do love the punch line.

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    1. From now on I'm going to be nervous when Dave calls me his little dumpling.

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  20. If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. A landscaper would have used the wood chipper, mulch to everyone's disgust.

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    1. I would now like to invite everyone to state his or her occupation and preferred method of corpse disposal. Okay go.

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    2. Feltmaker. Run a body through the drum carder, add olive oil soap, hot water and turn 'em into an area rug. On the other hand, I'm also a raptor rehabber and I can slice a cow's heart into 16 perfect portions for one eagle, 2 barred owls, 2 GHO, 2 vultures, 1 red tail hawk, 2 RSH and 6 screech owls. We could expand the aviary...

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  21. Bookkeeper. Hide it in petty cash :)

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    1. Dammit! I forgot to leave an actual comment about your post! I just wanted to say it was hilarious, and the pictures were SO good :)

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    2. No no! I'm thrilled you're joining in the game! It would be tough for a bookkeeper to come up with something better than a feltmaking raptor rehabber, though. Just don't have the same tools.

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    3. Yeah, you're right :)

      Actually, I intended to say hide the body in the slush fund, but my brain isn't working tonight.

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    4. Must be a bookkeeper joke that nobody gets because it's too boring :)

      Sorry about the multiple comments!

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  22. Paralegal. File it under "U" for urgent, and it will never be seen again.

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  23. Being a lawyer, I don't have any occupation specific body disposal technique. Living by a swamp in south Texas though, I do have ready access to hungry alligators, so I suppose, problem solved!

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  24. I cannot believe no one yet has mentioned that your title is award-worthy.

    Boggle addict here. Wordz and Scramble are the apps that most closely approximate it.

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    1. Dave and I have been hooked, to the tune of playing every day at least a little for the last 20 or so years, to computer Boggle: In Your Face. The letters keep rising and being replaced and you have to smack them down.

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  25. A local gardening guru said that if your pet weighed less than ten kilos you could compost it. I have four compost bins at the moment, and have told the skinny portion that if I buy another he should consider himself at risk.

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    1. Shoot, don't most of them weigh less than ten kilos if they've been dead a while? I suppose that isn't what they mean.

      He should probably keep the pitchfork nearby at all times...

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  26. Isn't it great to have a husband who agrees to be a model? Mine has been Lewis, Clark, Oregon Trail pioneer, Depression Era itinerant, Clovis mammoth hunter, homesteader, and plenty of Joe Sixpacks and Happy Dads.

    Yours has a great sense for drama.

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    1. You am a fine artist. You NEED a good model. My favorite shots featuring Dave have, come to think of it, all involved him being rather sinister.

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  27. I'm sorry, I am too tired to be funny. The best I could do was think of a sushi line that had a "Sue she" in it. I am going to quit because I am yawning and this is turning out terrible, yawning more.

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    1. You may have a pass just this once, but while you're sleeping, the rest of us are going to figure out what to do with your body.

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  28. Just hilarious (and dark, which I love!) Murr. :-) Of course I feel bad for the wife, but who hasn't 'accidentally' cooked a family member? Happens to the best of us ... or not.

    Wanted to stop by and say thank you for stopping by my blog. I'll definitely be hanging around yours now. :-D

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    1. Under the circumstances, I'm happy you said "hilarious" instead of "well done." Come back any time.

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  29. Dearest Murr,

    My wife and I are considering relocating from our Missouri Ozarks home to the northwest. You, as we used to say in Louisiana, are "not right". This, believe it or not, is a COMPLIMENT.

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    1. My sister used to say that about me all the time. Accompanied by a head shake. "She ain't right."

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  30. I go there, through all the sensations of duct-taping and drowning and boiling. And then I run from myself.

    Funny that, as my inner evil twin is so dark I usually can't see her.

    XO
    WWW

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    1. The inner evil twin must come out where we can all see her. All right, we'll wait.

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  31. An article about Crime and PUNishment is always read-worthy!

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    1. Hey, I only started it. The rest of y'all are chipping in too. "Gristle-ly?" [Djan}

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  32. OMYWORD.

    I am way too shocked to form a decent comment.

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    1. I don't believe that for a second.

      Did I already write about the local woman who flushed her boyfriend piece by piece into the toilet? If she'd been on the sewer they'd never have caught her.

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  33. Oh come now! We all know mail carriers get rid of their corpses in the "dead letter office".

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    1. It had to be said.

      But really, no. That's the FIRST place they'd look. Hm. Maybe bury them in the mailman's laundry hamper? Which is the LAST place they'd look.

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  34. I'm telling you now... without duct tape the whole world would fall apart.

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    1. I'm guessing boiling is a good way to get duct tape off a person, also.

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  35. When I read the news story about the chef slow-cooking his wife's body, I was shocked, and traumatized. It was beyond anything I ever could have imagined....and now I get to read a version of it which makes it a bit easier to swallow. Laughter helps when something is too awful to imagine.
    Thanks, Murr.

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    1. You are a better person than I am. But it's a low bar. My first reaction is almost always to splutter. "Easier to swallow!" Ar Ar Ar!

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  36. I read this wide-eyed, wondering whether it was about a real news item or not! Having read the comments, I'm amazed to find it is! I loved your piece - very cleverly written! Thanks for the entertainment!

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    1. Everything I ever write is the absolute truth. Although I have been known to apply certain filters of my own device.

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  37. I love that "boiling people" is now a labeled topic on your blog.

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    1. Now that you mention it, I love that too.

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  38. No clearer sign a chef was in charge than the eschewing of a crock pot (or twenty-seven), which would have done the job admirably, allowing him time to make a few plates of tapas with which to start the evening.

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    1. I know *I* am going to need an appetizer.

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  39. That's given us something to chew over.

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  40. Hey, I have a friend of a friend who's studying forensics at the UW, and we asked what it would smell like to boil a person for four days. Just like chicken, apparently.

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