Monday, June 6, 2011
Friday, October 1, 2010
"THE KISS OF DEATH MURDERESS"
"GERMAN WAR BRIDE VANISHED AFTER KISS OF DEATH MURDER!"
These are the sort of headlines that make you want to read more. Hildegarde's story in particular, is a mysterious and sad one. Hildegarde's dreams ended on a desolate back road far from her home in Germany, on Feb. 1, 1953.
William T Pelton, a World War 2 veteran and airline mechanic was found propped up against his English convertible on a deserted road in Alameda County. He had been shot nine times in his face, neck and head and his body had been draped in a red hook rug. The blood on his forehead had been wiped clean and a bold kiss marked in lipstick print had been planted there.
As the birds sang their morning song and the wind whispered through the tress the police stared at the bizarre sight before them. The detectives scanned the area for clues and found a scarf that contained the murder weapon tossed into the woods. It's bright color stood out against the earthy hue of the dead leaves.
As a result of finding the slain veteran, a hunt was on the way for his German war bride of 4 years, Mrs. Hildegarde Pelton. The police soon discovered that William Pelton had been granted an unconditional divorce in January, just a month earlier. Friends told the police that the couple was attempting a reconciliation when Pelton was found murdered, propped up against his prize possession.
Hildegarde, 32, and William Pelton, 26, had met while he was stationed in Germany. They were married in Bavaria in 1947 and she accompanied him back to California when his enlistment ended. I'm sure her dreams were of a perfect life, with her handsome new husband in the United States of America, when she decided to leave all of her friends and family behind come to a country where she knew no one. It would not work out that way.
Pelton was working as an airline mechanic in San Francisco when the murder took place. The couple reportedly had already separated 3 times since their marriage.
It would appear that the bloom wore off of the rose quickly in the May/December relationship and
after their marriage had come to an abrupt end, with William Pelton's bullet ridden body, propped up against his sports car, the elusive Mrs. Pelton had vanished into thin air.
The rendering above was circulated nationwide as everyone remained on the look out for Hildegarde Pelton.
Later, the police would find out that Hildegarde had obtained a ride approximately a mile east of where the "death car" was found. The driver of that car described yet another strange scene to the officers that questioned him.
The man had been driving slowly through the fog at approximately 9pm the night before, when he came upon a woman walking down the center of the road. It required him to suddenly brake as the woman suddenly appeared through the mist. He exited his vehicle to see if he could assist her and noticed that she had fresh blood on her cheek. The mysterious woman spoke in a thick German accent and asked for a ride to the bus station.
The Greyhound Bus ticket seller told police that the woman bought a ticket to Los Angeles at 12:30am and ten minutes later asked him for a refund. At 1am she returned and wanted to buy another ticket to Los Angeles. The ticket seller remembered because it was a lot of work to make refunds and he remembered asking the woman
"Aw lady are you sure?"
He described Hildegarde as being "hatless", wearing a tan or grey coat and carrying an overnight bag.
Three bags containing Hildegarde's possessions had been found in the "murder car."
Every newspaper carried the story and the sensational headlines screamed out from the front pages, as the entire country was on the look out for the German woman who had planted a bloody kiss of death on her dead husbands forehead and disappeared into the night.
"KISS OF DEATH SUSPECT SOUGHT IN SOUTHWEST!"
"PELTON SEARCH BACK IN LA!"
Finally on March 31st the headline read:
"WAR BRIDE ADMITS 'KISS OF DEATH' SLAYING OF HUSBAND!"
Hildegarde Pelton had finally been arrested by the FBI while walking down a Manhattan street. The agents later stated that she had freely admitted to shooting her husband during an argument that took place in his sports car as they sat on the little dirt road and argued.
She had spent her time in New York living in a cheap hotel on West 47th St. and working in a Broadway theatre at the candy concession stand. The movie playing at the theatre, when Hildegarde was apprehended, was the Alfred Hitchcock film "I Confess."
"KISS OF DEATH BRIDE TELLS ALL!"
A photo of Hildegarde Pelton, the year before she shot her husband.
Even though Hildegarde was no longer the gorgeous young woman that Bill Pelton had married in 1947, she flirted with the police officers and freely told them of her crime.
She opined that she had met Bill Pelton in Munich, Germany and that they were married when his enlistment had ended there. She eagerly accompanied her new husband to California, anticipating a home and a white picket fence, however, after moving to the United States, neighbors would later testify that they constantly quarreled and separated on several occasions.
Shortly before Christmas of 1952, during one of these separations, Hildegarde was working at another theatre Job in Flagstaff, Arizona and it was there that she went out and purchased a gun.
Hildegarde's American dream was falling apart.
The gun was a 22 caliber Harrington and Richardson and Hildegarde told the FBI that she bought it to "…kill my husband."
In mid-January Hildegarde came up with an excuse to return to their South San Francisco apartment and brought the weapon along with her. It seems that while Hildegarde was in Flagstaff, Bill Pelton had managed to obtain an "interlocutory" decree of divorce by default. This act had infuriated Hildegarde and had prompted the purchase of the gun.
By now, 5 years of heavy drinking and fighting with her husband had taken it's toll out on Hildegarde's appearance. Once a beautiful woman, the press would now refer to her as "frumpy."
This provides a clue as to how desperate she must have been at the time of her meeting with Bill Pelton. She had left everything for him and now she had nothing...not even her looks.
Finally, on Sunday, February 1st, Pelton told Hildegarde that she had better leave and to prove he meant it he had packed her bags for her.
Before they left the apartment that day Hildegarde slipped the pistol into one of her bags.
According to Hildegarde they left the San Francisco apartment and proceeded to a bar. In light of the situation not the best idea. Here, they had more words, this time fueled by alcohol. Afterwards they climbed back into Bill Pelton's car and drove to Alameda County, still arguing.
At some point Hildegarde asked Bill Pelton to stop the car. The couple ended up on a back road, somewhere near the town of Niles. The argument raged on.
Finally, she pulled the gun from the bag and fired it "a number of times" in the direction of her former husband.
When the smoke cleared Hildegarde proceeded to walk about the crime scene. She cleaned the blood from her dead husband's forehead and planted a kiss there and threw the gun, wrapped in the scarf , into the woods where the police would later discover it. The investigators speculated that Hildegarde had held it, hidden from her husband until the moment she had shot him.
Hildegarde immediately obtained a ride to San Jose with the kindly stranger. There, she eventually would catch a bus to Tijuana, Mexico, but just for a day.
Hildegarde was actually arrested in Northern Mexico and subsequently handed over to the police in Los Nogolas, Arizona where she spent the night in jail. It is not clear what Hildegarde was arrested for but the police in Arizona were not aware of her husband's murder and released her the next morning.
One week later she was in New York City and was able to lose herself in the crowds of people. She found work at a movie theatre and took a room in a mid-Manhattan hotel.
She was walking down the sidewalk, on her way back to her hotel room, when she was arrested by the FBI.
Described in one newspaper as "plump and grey-eyed" with "strawberry blonde" hair, it was reported that she "smiled frequently" at the police, the FBI and the District Attorney while confessing to killing her husband. "I kissed him after the shooting." she said.
"JURY TOLD OF BRIDE'S THREATS TO KILL MATE!"
On June 24th Hildegarde's trial was well underway and Mrs John Nunez testified that she was riding in an automobile with the Peltons when Hildegarde said "I'm going to kill him. No kidding. I'm going to kill him." Mrs Nunez went on to say that Bill Pelton replied "I'm getting tired of waiting for you to do it."
Hildegarde Pelton confers with her attorney, Benjamin F. Marlowe.
On July 1st 1953 the headlines screamed…
The newspapers were saturated with language like "kill and kiss pistol slaying" and "buxom German war bride" which furthered the feeding frenzy.
It was a 6 man/6 woman jury that found Hildegarde Garne Pelton guilty of second degree murder, rejecting the prosecution's argument for first degree yet holding her responsible for the death of her husband.
Hildegarde Pelton at trial.
Hildegarde received the verdict with no emotion at all and only a murmur arose from the crowd in the packed court room. She clutched a white handkerchief to her breast and kept her eyes riveted on the leg of the counsil table in front of her.
There had been indications early on that the panel was agreed that Hildegarde killed her husband but was split on the degree of guilt.
Hildegarde Pelton accompanied by an FBI agent after being arrested
on the streets of New York City.
In the end Hildegarde was sentenced from 5 years to life for the murder of her husband and was able to stay out of the public eye for 4 years.
On February 1, 1957 the head lines read:
"KISS OF DEATH WIFE NOW FREE ON PAROLE!"
The article goes on to explain that the parole was conditional. Hildegarde would have to return to Germany which she eventually did.
No more information is available on Hildegare but this story left me feeling very sorry for the woman who was dubbed the "Kiss of Death Murderer."
Paris Creative, LLC (copyright 2011, all rights reserved)
Tuesday, April 13, 2010
New York City, NY. Dorothy Mori was a pretty 34 year old woman by all accounts. In 1927 she won a beauty contest in St. Louis, Mo. Part owner of a candy shop, Dorothy somehow had found herself in the company of one “Red Murray” Pershing in October and November of 1940.
Theirs was a tumultuous relationship. Pershing was 40 years old and had been paroled from Comstock, NY after serving 10 to 20 years for assault and robbery. It was reported that he had threatened to kill Dorothy several times in recent weeks.
As the story is told Pershing stole a $150.00 diamond ring from Dorothy after beating her up so badly that she had to be taken to the hospital to be treated. One news report stated that Pershing had “slashed Mori’s finger in an attempt to remove the ring.”
Dorothy and her dog in better times.
I guess Pershing didn’t consider that Dorothy might go to the police, however she did and subsequently set up a meeting with Pershing at the Manhattan Tavern. Police suggested that she kiss him when he so they would know who he was.
Dorothy agreed and when Pershing came into the bar, she ran to him and threw her arms around him, kissing him passionately.
The detectives closed in quickly but not quick enough. Pershing drew his weapon and fired off 5 shots but none of them “took effect.” The police blazed away at Pershing and struck him 6 times before he fell at their feet, dead.
On November 15th 1940, the headlines were splashed across the front pages of every newspaper:
“GERMANS TURN TO DOG AND FOX MEAT”
“IRON GUARD REVOLT IN RUMANIA FAILS”
“ITALIANS FALL BACK FROM KORITZA”
“CONVICT GETS KISS OF DEATH”
Just before “Red Murray” Pershing went to meet Dorothy Mori that fateful night he told some acquaintances:
“I might have a little trouble with Dotty.”
Tuesday, February 23, 2010
Mary Margaret Collins acquired her nick name from the press, who faithfully followed her trail of death as the years passed by.
“Mary changed the color of her hair as fast as her boyfriends find bullets.” Said one acquaintance.
Mary was a woman with “gangland” connections. Most of her male friends had nicknames like Bulldog, Gloomy and Dandy Jack and she never wanted for a boyfriend, even after she had earned the nickname ”Kiss of Death Girl.”
“Dandy Jack” shouted towards the barkeep, Henry Bing:
It was then that a steward, Leopold Guth, closed in on Jack, brandishing a bottle. It took little time however, for Jack to turn around and shoot him dead.
Amazingly, another policeman, Detective William O’Malley (no relation) heard the shots and entered the bar firing on “Dandy Jack” and hitting him with one of his bullets.
As “Dandy Jack” Sheehy lay there dying, his last words were:
“Gee, they shot me. What do you know about that. The coppers shot me.”
Mary Margaret never did get her bucket of ice, but she did get her name in the paper.
“Dandy Jack” Sheehy was victim #1.
He had less than a year to live.
It seems that Johnny was involved in a brawl at a place called the “Northern Lights Café” one night. He had started the fight by beating up a female entertainer who worked there.
The police wanted to question her in connection with a shooting that took place in a Florist Shop but this was not just any Florist Shop. The shop belonged to the notorious “Dion O’Banion” who ran a big liquor business on the side.
At the time Mary was Dion’s girlfriend, so this caused Caruzzo and O’Banion to tangle and become bitter enemies.
As a result of this spoiled relationship…Dion O’Banion died in a hail of bullets not long after this event.
Victim #3: Dion O’Banion
Mary must have loved being a blond because a few months later, although the boyfriend had changed, the hair color remained.
Sonny’s bullet-riddled body was found on the morning of August 28, 1925.
Victim #4 Irving Sonny ”Schlitz.”
Five years pass by . Not one to be idle, Mary seems to have been working her way up the gangster social ladder. By 1930 she was socializing with some real big shots in the “underworld.” Her company was in great demand and she is now seeing Eugene “Red” McLaughlin, kidnapper, robber and murderer.
It was June 7, 1930 that “Red's” body surfaced when a tugboat, chugging through a drainage ditch, in Summit, Il churned it up.
Eugene “Red” McLaughlin, victim #5.
The time was the Great Depression and kidnapping was rapidly becoming a profitable business. It was commonly referred to as the “snatch racket” among criminal types and that was Sammy Katz's specialty. Mary seems to have genuinely grieved for Sammy and was upset over his sudden demise.
Sammy was one of 3 kidnappers shot down in June of 1932, in a police ambush. The ambush took place in the office of Morris Shachter, a gambler.
When Mary heard the news she commented to the press “Sammy was one grand guy.”
Victim #6: Sammy Katz.
Davey “Jew” Bates had been seen escorting Mary Margaret Collins around town quite a bit in the following years. In the process of trying to execute a “hit” in Cincinnati, on another gangster, Davey tangled with police and lost big.
Davey “Jew” Bates: Victim #7
It is now 1933 and Mary’s reputation has followed her. For Mary’s contemporaries, a little thing like a “jinx” was no deterrent and such was the case for “Gloomy Gus” Winkler, a big time dealer in hot bonds and money.
As the undertaker was laying “Gloomy Gus” out in his coffin early the next morning, he got a telephone call from Mary.
“I’m coming right over!” she sobbed. ”I want to kiss him goodbye!”
And come over she did, indulging in histrionics over “Gloomy Gus’” as he lay in his expensive coffin.
Mary cried out:
Mary lost no time exiting the building.
“Gloomy Gus” Winkler #8
It was shortly after Gus’ funeral that Mary was picked up for questioning again by the police. She was arraigned on a vagrancy charge and brought before a judge on Friday, October 13, 1933.
“Aren’t you superstitious?” Judge Erwin J Haster asked her.
“Not a bit!” Mary shot back.
However for the next 2 years everyone else WAS superstitious even if Mary was not. She was no longer able to find playmates that were willing to play with her. She changed her hair color from blond to brunette, then redhead and back again but no one was tempted. They were not willing to risk her company. By now Mary's nickname as “The Kiss of Death” Girl was securely locked in place and no man wanted to end up on a slab in the morgue.
It took Mary two years to find the exception, Sol “Bulldog” Feldman.
The year is 1933 and Greta Garbo is expected to return from Europe and come back to America.. Pretty Boy Floyd is in the news and suspected of killing a police officer. But bigger than both of those stories is a headline that reads:
“GANGLAND SEES DEATH KISS WORKING.”
Apparently Sol Feldman had scoffed at his friends when they tried to warn him of the jinx that Mary Margaret Collins had carried with her for years.
On November 29th Sol Feldman was shot and wounded after smashing a furrier’s window and stealing a fur coat. He was taken to the hospital and released a month later almost fully recuperated. As he left the hospital he was greeted by taunts from his companions who reminded him of Mary Collins and her list of fatalities.
“The Diana of Doom”
On February 5, 1940 there was much to read in the evening paper. Some of the headlines read:
"NAZI TROOPS THREATENING SWEDEN!”
“ARMED WORKERS IN GAS STRIKE!
Actress Ann Sheridan, dubbed “The OOOMPH Girl” came out with her annual top 10 Eligible Hollywood Bachelors list and left off all of the big glamour boys in favor of lesser-known actors.
Amongst the big stories of that day the “Kiss of Death”-Girl makes what will be one of her final appearances in print.
“SHOPLIFTING SUSPECT DIES IN CROWN POINT!”
“DEATH OF PAL GIVES LIBERTY TO JINX WOMAN!”
“The Kiss of Death Girl was freed from the Lake County jail at Crown Point last night on a dead woman’s bond.”
Incredibly the curse of Mary Margaret Collins had struck again in Feb of 1940 and this time it was a female who suffered the ultimate price for sharing the company of Mary Margaret Collins.
Mary was charged with Grand Larceny and conspiracy to commit a felony in connection with a Gary, Indiana shoplifting plot.
Mary’s $1000 bond on the conspiracy charges was signed by a Dominie Pungatore but the money was meant for her co-defendant Anna Williams, 58, one of 5 people charged.
Mary Margaret stunned everyone with the headline. Another of her associates comes up dead. The coroner’s office ordered an immediate autopsy on Miss Williams, who succumbed in a Crown Point hospital.
Feb. 19 1940:
“KISS OF DEATH WOMAN ON TRIAL”
The article states that Mary Margaret Collins, alias Margaret Martin also known as gangland’s “Kiss of Death” girl, pleaded not guilty.
Mary's final appearance in print would tell this sad story:
Sunday, August 25, 1940 the headline reads:
“KISS OF DEATH GIRL NABBED IN NARCOTIC RAID”
This time Mary Margaret surfaced in Chicago and was being held on what the police referred to as “dope charges.” The article goes on to say that 4 women and 2 men were arrested in a North Chicago apartment where over $4000 worth of heroin was found. Officials referred to Collins and one of her co-defendants as “dope addicts.”
Sad to think of the potential of this glamorous, enigmatic woman who ended up a thug and a drug addict.
I will always wonder just how Mary Margaret Collins met her end?