Dead Woman Walking: Louise Peete, Part 3

louise_prisonWhen I wrote part two of Louise Peete’s story I thought for sure I’d be able to wrap it up in part three — I was wrong. Louise’s criminal career demands at least one more post after this one!  So, let’s get started with part three of her tale.

Louise Peete was sent to San Quentin in 1921 to begin serving a life sentence for the murder of Jacob C. Denton. According to prison authorities Louise was a model prisoner, and model prisoners don’t make news.

However, in August 1924 Peete made news in spite of herself when her ex-husband, Richard, committed suicide. Apparently Richard had preferred death to poverty and illness. He traveled to Tucson, Arizona where he purchased a small bore rifle, he then put a bullet in his brain. He died instantly. Louise had no comment.peete suicide pic

In July 1926 Louise made news again when she came forward with yet another version of Jacob Denton’s murder. Louise had outdone herself, the new version was a doozy! Louise claimed that William Desmond Taylor was killed by Denton’s slayers!

Louise obviously had one hell of an imagination.

Deputy D.A. Davis, head of the homicide bureau, said:

“It is ridiculous and just another product of an imagination working overtime in an effort to escape just punishment. There never has been a shred of evidence connecting the two crimes.”

William Desmond Taylor

William Desmond Taylor

Municipal Judge Turney, who had been a Deputy D.A. and part of the team that prosecuted Peete, weighed in:

“William Desmond Taylor was never mentioned in the case. So far as we knew he never knew Jacob Denton, and Mrs. Peete never mentioned him in any of the twenty or more conflicting statements and inconsistent stories she has issued. She was convicted on overwhelming evidence.”

Louise had never let reason or truth stand in her way before, and she wasn’t about to start. When asked why she had kept the names of the real murderers concealed, she said it was because emissaries of the killers had threatened the kidnapping or murder of her little daughter Betty.

She went on to say:

“William Desmond Taylor knew Jacob Denton intimately. He was a frequent visitor at the Denton home. After Denton was murdered and I was sent to prison for life, Taylor knew I was taking the medicine for others. Why? Because they would kill Betty if I talked. Taylor knew the truth, too. He stood it as long as he could. Then, when he could no longer bear the burden of seeing me in prison for a crime that I did not commit, he threatened to tell everything. He paid for that threat with his life.”

Proof of the maxim that there is “a sucker born every minute” was made manifest when a number of club women and other sympathizers, convinced of Louise’s innocence, began a campaign to have her released from prison!

Louise’s attempts to win parole were unsuccessful until 1939 when she was granted her freedom. There was a problem though — Louise needed a job and, not surprisingly, there weren’t any offers forthcoming.freedom delayed

The soon-to-be ex-con wanted to work as a housekeeper but given the fate of her last employer, Jacob Denton, no one was willing to give her a chance. Really though, can you blame them?

Finally a good Samaritan named Margaret Logan offered Louise employment as a housekeeper and companion. Of course upon her release Louise couldn’t resist talking to the press. She said:

“I still insist I am innocent. I don’t believe it was Jake Denton’s body at all that was found buried in the cellar of his home. If it was his, I don’t know how it got there or who was responsible. I believe some day Denton will let the world know he is still alive.”

Louise kept a low profile from her release in 1939 until December 1944 when the body of her benefactor, Margaret Logan, was discovered buried in the back yard of her Pacific Palisades home.

peete new deathHad the sword wielding Spanish looking woman reappeared?  Perhaps the slayers of William Desmond Taylor were trying to mess with Louise by tangling her up in another murder. Or maybe, just maybe, harmless looking Louise Peete was a multiple murderer and a sociopath.

NEXT TIME: Louise’s second murder trial in twenty-five years.

24 thoughts on “Dead Woman Walking: Louise Peete, Part 3

    • Poor Margaret was only trying to be a good Samaritan, so sad. I think that the FBI would categorize Louise
      Peete as a serial killer, and I know that I do.

  1. Fascinating – I’m really enjoying reading this blog. Have to admit I chuckled at the above photo of Mr. and Mrs. R. C. Peete in “happier times” – if those are their happy faces, I’d hate to see them on a bad day.

    • Robert, thank you very much for your kind words and readership. I’m glad that you’re enjoying the stories. Louise Peete’s tale is
      particularly fascinating. She looked so benign, yet she was bad to the bone! Can’t judge a book…right?

  2. What became of young Betty after her father’s suicide? Amazed at the unthinking actions of L. Peete; did all those years I’m prison not impress upon her the wisdom of not carelessly disposing of the corpse on the premises? Her disposal methods were incredibly slapdash.

    • Betty was adopted by a loving family and Louise was prevented from having anything to do with her. I’m going to poke around to see
      if I can find out anything further, but I sincerely hope that she went on to have a normal and happy life. At least she was very young when Louise was tried and convicted for the Denton murder. Thank you so much for your comment. I appreciate your readership.

      • Very glad to hear that Betty seems to have been spared. Almost everyone in Mrs Peete’s path ended up dead in suspicious circumstances, dead by their own hand (particularytrue of her husbands) or outright murdered by Mrs Peete. Thank you for your wonderful research and commitment to uncovering deranged crimes.

        • Mara, it was a relief to discover Betty’s story and that she had made a normal life for herself away from the evil of her mother’s deeds. As you said, there were other mysterious deaths in Louise’s life, and I am convinced that she was responsible for a couple of deaths for which she was never held accountable. I love doing the research, it’s such fun for me and I’m pleased to hear that you’re enjoying the blog. I sincerely thank you for your readership. Best, Joan

  3. What became of young Betty after her father’s suicide? Amazed at the unthinking actions of L. Peete; did all those years in prison not impress upon her the wisdom of not carelessly stashing corpses on the premises? Her disposal methods were incredibly slapdash. Makes me suspect that she was more of an opportunistic killer desirous of pretty things than a careful pre-meditated planner.

    • Nothing seems to have made any impression on Louise Peete at all. She was a classic sociopath, she was supremely narcissistic and lacked empathy. She seems to have murdered on impulse, but was arrogant enough to believe that she could talk her way out of any situation. The stories she told were so utterly fantastic that I have never really understood how she expected them to be believed (e.g. the Spanish speaking woman, and the tale she told about the killers of Jacob Denton being the same ones who were responsible for the murder of William Desmond Taylor!). Again, I imagine it was her narcissism and arrogance that gave her absolute faith in her ability to deceive. She was definitely a piece of work. Best — Joan

      • Another interesting facet is how many people were reluctant to believe that she was capable of these crimes, in spite of the evidence against her and the bizarre “explanations” she offered to disprove said evidence. People obviously found her outwardly trustworthy- even her parole officer employed her! A wild tale and thank you so much for bringing this sociopath to our attention.

        • Mara, it’s incredible that because she was pretty in her youth she got away with behaving badly (and probably at least one murder). Then she aged into a benign looking matron able to pull the wool over the eyes of her own parole officer! I have absolutely no doubt that Louise would have continued to kill until she was either locked up for life or executed. She was clearly a sociopath. Thanks again for your insightful comments.

  4. It is said that Margaret and Arthur Logan cared for Louise’s young daughter during her trial for the Denton murder and that this is how they initially became involved with her. Then, believing in her innocence, they kept up the friendship during her years in prison and eventually, after her parole, offered her employment in their home. Do you know if it is true that they cared for the girl? I am interested because I am related to the Logans and the story of their deaths is a bit of black family folk lore. The Logans had lived overseas for may years and had only just returned to the US in February 1920, so it is odd that they so quickly insinuated themselves into her story. On the other hand, that they should have had do-gooder impulses perhaps is unsurprising. Arthur was the son of missionaries and had grown up in Micronesia; he later served for a few years as a missionary in the Pacific Islands before taking up commercial work in Asia. Possibly they were a bit naive, trusting and unprepared to deal with someone like Louise.

    • Della – I’d say nearly everyone who ever encountered Louise were unprepared. She appeared benign, but she was obviously a stone cold killer. Thank you for your comment, and thanks for reading the blog — I appreciate it.I’ll check my notes and see what, if anything, I can turn up on
      the Logans Best, Joan

    • Della, as far as I can discover Louise’s daughter lived with her father, Richard Peete, in Denver until he committed suicide in
      1924. Following her father’s death, the daughter appears to have been adopted. According to the L.A. Times dated April 13, 1939
      she had been adopted by a family who nothing of her past. On April 10, 1947 (the night before her execution) Louise’s daughter
      was described by the L.A. Times as a married mother living in Canada.

      • Thanks for checking. Too bad. I’d been hoping to fill in a little bit of what the Logans were up to in the 1920s by verifying that they had cared for the daughter. I guess they were just groupies. I mostly feel bad for Arthur, stuck away alone in the asylum wondering why his wife and sister had abandoned him. And I imagine Louise back in their house, ransacking it for anything of value and throwing out his life’s collection of Asian and Pacific curios.

        Did you notice that the Logan’s house on Hampden Place was sold a couple of years ago? A major selling point was its interesting history.

        • Della, I imagine you’ve searched for info on the Logans. Margaret sent gifts to Louise while the latter was in prison
          for Jacob Denton’s murder, but it’s not clear to me when or how their association began. It sounds like Margaret was a kind hearted do-gooder,
          and maybe she, like many others, couldn’t believe that Louise was capable of murder for gain.

          Yes, I’d noticed that the Hampden Place house sold a while back and it is interesting that its notoriety was a selling point!

  5. I am Betty’s grandaughter and I want to let everyone know that she lived a very happy life after her mother’s instructions she had 5 children (one of witch is my father)with a amazing husband and eventually made her way back to California

  6. While organizing some old family photos I came across one lableled “Peete Jury”.
    My great-grandfather is in the photo of the twelve man jury.
    I did not know of him serving or anything of this story. It’s very sad but fascinating.
    Thank you for the written account.

    • That’s amazing. Did your great-grandfather leave a written account of his time on the jury?
      Which Peete jury was he on, the one in the 1940s? Louise Peete looked harmless but she was
      a malignant narcissist who cared only for herself.

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