Original caption: "I grabbed the gun. I didn't intend to use it. It went off.
It was all a fog." —From Mrs. Archie Carter's Testimony While
on the Stand.
Wild Interlude of Jealousy, Killing, Madness — in the Life of a Loving Couple.
When the Young Wife's Bullet Cut Short the Life of the "Girl Who Interfered" Her Husband and Child Came to the Rescue and Marital Loyalty Survived a Dire Test.
The dictionary of the English language describes love as "a strong, complex emotion or feeling in spired by something, as a person or a quality, causing one to appreciate, delight in and crave the possession of the object and to please and promote the welfare of that object." Then it gives a much more brief definition: "The affection existing between husband and wife, or between lover and sweetheart."
But the dictionary of course doesn't suggest the many intricate problems that are brought on by experiencing this emotion — the joys, heartaches, jealousies — or the strange and violent actions taken by persons under the influence of the little and big quarrels that occur "between husband and wife" or many times between husband, wife and sweetheart — or the amazing reconciliations.
Most folks know what it is to be a participant in a lover's quarrel. You can recall how angry you were at the time and later, the joy that filled your heart and made the day perfect, when everything was patched up; how you and the person you fought with enjoyed many a happy laugh when it was all over.
But — not all quarrels between loving couples are straightened out easily and amicably! There are moments of wild ness and ungovernable rage, when a person in love will do anything — even kill — to maintain this feeling that holds them in its viselike grip. And if a lover's quarrel such as THAT can be patched up afterward — well — there's hope!
Such was the case of Mrs. Gladys Carter, pretty 29-year-old housewife of Newhall, a small town in Los Angeles County, California, who shot and killed beautiful Frances Walker, a 20-year-old boarder in her home. The young girl's life was ended by Mrs. Carter in a moment of jealous hatred — the jury said insanity — because of the girl's tragic involvement with her husband, Archie Carter, a deputy sheriff. Mrs. Carter was, according to the foregoing definition, gripped by "a strong, complex emotion inspired by a person (Archie Carter)" and she killed because she "delighted in and craved the possession of the object" — Carter again. The unusual aftermath — the liberation of Mrs. Carter, her return to her husband, their living together again in perfect amity — showed in a strangely emphatic way how circumstances — even legal circumstances — will "move over" to make room for love.
Frances had come to live with the Carters about a year before, when she taught school in the vicinity. Then she lost her job and stayed on, paying her board by helping Mrs. Carter with the various household duties. Before long Archie Carter began to pay attention to the beautiful, young schoolteacher. The exact time when Frances began to return his attentions is unknown, but at any rate, she did.
Gladys Carter had no suspicion of what was going on between her husband and her girlish boarder; she didn't know that Frances had fallen madly in love with her sturdy husband. One day they all took a trip to the country; Gladys, Archie, Frances and the Carters' little 7-year-old blonde daughter, Virginia. While the wife played with the child, Archie and Frances had eyes for no one else but each other.
Original caption: SHE WORE A STAR: An Exclusive Snapshot, Taken Shortly Before
the Tragedy, Showing Frances Walker With Archie Carter. Note the Deputy-Sheriff
Badge Worn by Frances, as Though It Were a Fraternity Pin, Given Her by Archie.
At one point during that endless afternoon, Glady's looked up — to see Frances proudly wearing her husband's sheriff's star ... Just as a schoolgirl wears her boy-friend's frat pin!
Even at that time, Mrs. Carter didn't think much of it, but when Archie started to take Frances to work with him every afternoon, Gladys remembered that day in the country. Her mid was in turmoil! Before her very eyes, "the object she craved possession of" was being stolen! Strange spasms of pain shot through her heart. But just how far had it gone? The distracted young wife didn't know.
Her daily routine became unendurable; her mind constantly wracked by suspicions and fears. What was to become of her; of little Virginia? What would happen to the supremely happy life that she and Archie had been leading? Unable to stand the uncertainty any longer, she followed the couple one afternoon. Before her tear-dimmed eyes they drove into a grove of trees. Mrs. Carter rushed home and threw her arms around little Virginia. It seemed that the wild sobbing that followed would literally tear her heart apart.
It was the following night that the affair came to tragedy — Gladys Carter openly accused Frances of being in love with Archie. The young girl became angry. The husband, sitting in the next room, was heard to laugh at his wife's accusations. Little Virginia looked on.
Suddenly Mrs. Carter couldn't endure her maddening thoughts any longer. The long weeks of terrific agony and strain welled up in to a moment of blankness. A wild interlude — then the crack of Archie's service revolver crashed through the house. Frances slumped to the floor, dead.
At the sound of the pistol shot, Cartger came tearing into the room, to find his sweetheart stretched out on the floor and his wife aiming the weapon at herself. As he lunged for the gun it spat out another leaden bullet, this one ripping through the flesh under Mrs. Carter's left arm. He grabbed the revolver before any more harm could be done, placed his hysterical and bleeding wife on a couch and rushed out to get a doctor and inform the police.
By the time the investigating officers and surgeon arrived, there was nothing to be done for Frances. She was dead. Gladys carter was instantly removed to a hospital, under guard. Archie wandered around completely dazed. To all questions put to him at that moment, he muttered: "My wife went haywire; I don't know why she did it." The coroner ordered an immediate inquest after the double shooting.
At this inquest, little Virginia was the principal witness. Her childish version was a classic of simplicity:
"Mama was in the front room with Frances. Daddy was in the kitchen. Mama told Frances that she was going out with my Daddy and Frances said she wasn't. Mama said she was. Daddy was just laughing in the other room. Mama had the gun in her hand, I guess she got it off the dresser.
"Mama pointed the gun at Frances who was sitting on the couch. Then Mama shot her. Daddy ran and tried to get the gun and it went off again. I don't know whether Mama or Daddy had the gun. Then I ran outside and pretty soon Daddy came out and we went for a doctor for Mama."
Mrs. Carter quickly recovered from her self-inflicted wound, and, charged with murder, entered a double plea of "not guilty" and "not guilty by reason of insanity." Under the peculiar California State law, a person charged with murder and pleading insanity as a defense, has to face two trials; first, a trial on the facts in the case and then, if found guilty, a trial as to the sanity or insanity at the time of the crime.
During the course of the trial on the facts, the Carter child was again a star witness. She was put on the stand by the prosecution but turned out to be an invaluable witness for the defense. For three long hours, the little girl answered questions. And she made some startling added revelations.
Her childish voice barely reaching the spectators, Virginia testified:
"Mama said to Frances, 'Won't you let me help you? You're going to have a baby.'
"Frances said, 'Don't say things like that to me.'
"Then Frances' hand fell on Daddy's gun which was on a table.
"Mama rushed over and got the gun and said, 'Tell me the truth, Frances!'
"Then Daddy rushed in and grabbed Mama and the gun went off."
As she said this, Virginia picked up her father's pistol and showed the jury that her mother really hadn't been pointing the gun at Frances. The jury and spectators listened attentively and by the time the child concluded her narration of the shooting, they were visibly moved. The prosecution was astounded at the detailed character of the youngster's recollections.
Original caption: KILLED FOR LOVE: After the Shooting, Mrs. Archie Carter
Had to Spend Some Time ina Jail Hospital, Recovering from Her Self-Inflicted
Gladys Carter took the stand in a hushed courtroom, declaring in her own defense:
"I didn't know until we took a trip several months ago with Frances that thee was anything between my husband and her. Then I saw that he was attentive to her. But even then I didn't think much about it. He used to take her to work every afternoon and I got suspicious. I went up a hill and watched them and saw them drive into a grove of trees.
"The next day I found evidence of my husband's infidelity," she continued. "I wasn't jealous of Frances. I didn't blame her! I only blamed my husband!
"That night I told her I knew she was about to become a mother and wanted to help her. It made her angry. She reached out and her hand fell on Archie's gun, which was on a table. I was frightened and I grabbed the gun."
The spectators listening to the story leaped forward expectantly. Mrs. Carter's voice rose:
"I wasn't pointing it at her. I didn't intend to use it. But Archie rushed in and grabbed me and the gun went off. I don't remember shooting myself. It was all a fog."
Then came the big surprise of the trial. Archie Carter went to bat for his wife in the only way he knew would help her.
The "lovers' quarrel" was over now and he was defending the woman he loved!
On the witness stand he admitted he and Frances had had an affair. He told all about it, taking the entire blame. Yes, he'd been the aggressor. Yes, it all had occurred under his wife's very nose. Yes, there'd been plenty to hurt her, to drive her half-wild. It was his fault, and he'd been a brute! Such was the sum and substance of Archie Carter's testimony — in the course of which he corroborated little Virginia's version of the shooting.
The jury of nine women and three men retired for a short time and returned a verdict of manslaughter against Gladys Carter — the lightest sentence they could turn in without declaring her innocent. Then came the second trial, before the same jury, to determine her sanity at the time of the crime.
Alienists for the defense held that she was temporarily insane at the moment of the shooting, while the State's experts declared she was sane. The jury found her insane — but she'd since completely regained her mental balance — and so Gladys Carter was freed from all further responsibility for the death of Frances Walker.
All of which didn't at all please Judge Fletcher Bowron. He gave a startlingly severe summation when he read this report. "The jury's verdict," he declared, "will have a serious effect on the public mind. It will cause all law to lose force and dignity. The manslaughter verdict, in my opinion, was a fair one. But that of temporary insanity, following it, results in a travesty on a tragedy."
He branded as "palpably false" the testimony of little Virginia, saying that her story "different completely from that she told at the inquest and at the preliminary hearing. Obviously it was a story taught her by some one interested in the outcome of the case. The conduct of the counsel for the defense was not all it should have been. The defense lawyers, as officers of the court, should have taken steps to prevent the young child telling such a falsehood."
Then came a surprise move by the State! The District Attorney's office filed a complain against the romantic Archie, charging him with having contributed to the delinquency of Miss Walker, who was a minor at the time of her death.
So the ex-deputy sheriff — he'd lost his star by now — was arrested and tried. At the trial, which possessed the unusual aspect of not having the injured party appear against the defendant, the principal weapon of the prosecution was Carter's own testimony concerning his relations with Frances — the same testimony that had helped save his wife. Now it was used against him. The judge thought this sufficient evidence to warrant a sentence of one year in jail.
Archie immediately appealed and was let out on a $2,500 bond. And now for the love story denouement:
Mrs. Carter and little Virginia had "disappeared." Carter, free on bond, also vanished from his old haunts. His appeal won't come up for some time. And—
A short time ago, all three were discovered to be living happily together in a little apartment situated in a Los Angeles suburb, with a palm tree in the middle of the front yard and everything!
Their "lovers' quarrel" had been patched up, but at what a cost! Gladys Carter contentedly said:
"I still love Archie, because he is the father of my little girl and because he sacrificed himself, on the witness stand, to tell the truth when I was on trial. We are starting all over again and we're very happy!"
"I love my wife. I may have to serve a year's sentence, but if I do, I will feel that I have told the truth and that she at least has understood the situation!"
1. An alienist is a psychiatrist who specializes in the legal aspects of mental illness.
2. The age of majority in California was 21 until March 4, 1972, when it was lowered to 18, following the passage of the 26th amendment to the U.S. Constitution in 1971.
News article courtesy of Tricia Lemon Putnam.
Click image to enlarge.