Sex and Murder on the Bayou
One of the most explosive sex murder trials ever to hit Louisiana began in strange circumstances. In 1925 Ada LeBoeuf, 36, a wife and mother of four, who lived in Morgan City, Louisiana, started suffering from migraine headaches. Coincidentally, most of these attacks occurred at times when her husband, Jim, was out on extended fishing trips in the bayou country. The family physician, 46-year-old Dr Tom Dreher, was most solicitous in his treatment of Ada, calling at all hours of the day and night. Before long a full-bown affair was underway.
Ada worked out a simple signaling code. If Jim, who worked as the city power plant superintendent, was at home, she would hang a pillow slip in the window, as if she was airing some washingt. No slip meant that Jim was away and the coast was clear for some steamy sex. The code worked well enough. But it didn't fool the neighbors. They wondered why a seemingly healthy woman required so many home visits from her doctor. Word soon got around that Doc Dreher was prescribing sex, and plenty of it.
At first Jim LeBoeuf was oblivious to the affair, and almost two years passed before the small town gossip reached his ears. His reaction was volcanic. When he confronted Ada, she angrily refuted the rumors, insisting that Dr Tom's only concern was for her well-being. But Jim LeBoeuf was not convinced. He stormed off, burst into Dreher's office, and threatened to kill the doctor if he didn't quit seeing his wife. Dreher was badly shaken. And his equilibrium was further disturbed by later stories of Jim's increasingly bizarre activities. Reportedly, driven frantic by suspicion and jealousy, Jim had once even donned his wife's clothes and had then driven around Morgan City at dusk with a loaded shotgun on the passenger seat, just hoping that Dreher would mistake him for his wife, flag him down, and give LeBoeuf the opportunity to empty the shotgun into his cheating rival.
This development jolted Ada into action. She told Dreher that if he didn't strike first, then Jim was sure to get him. Dreher's whole world seemed about to crash around his ears. He and Ada began scheming, wondering how best to relieve themselves of this little domestic difficulty. At the time the newspapers were full of Snyder/Gray case murder case which had created headlines nationwide. This New York couple had also disposed of an inconvenient spouse and Dreher and LeBoeuf reportedly studied their methods. Considering that Snyder and Gray had made proper hash of the murder and were currently resident on Sing Sing's death row, it does beg the question of just why Dreher and LeBoeuf were so enamored of such an ineffective template. But plans were made and the plot set in motion.
Murder Plot Hatched
Item number one on the agenda involved Ada cozying up to Jim, ostensibly in an attempt to patch up their rocky marriage. How 'bout, she said, we take a skiff out on Lake Palourde, just you and me, a romantic, moonlight boat trip, like the old days. Poor unsuspecting Jim jumped at the chance.
So it was that midnight on July 1, 1927, found these two erstwhile lovebirds gliding across Lake Palourde. Suddenly, from beneath the Spanish moss-covered branches, another boat emerged. It contained Dreher and a trapper friend of his, James Beadle, who also did odd jobs about the doctor's house. One of these two – it was never firmly established who – raised a shotgun and fired twice. Jim LeBoeuf slumped back in the boat. Poor Ada, understandably distraught, then quit the scene. She had a car parked handily close by and was able to make her way home without being spotted. Meantime Dr. Dreher summoned up his surgical skills. He ripped open LeBoeuf's belly from groin to sternum, releasing the internal gases and thereby allowing the body to sink more readily. He added some insurance in the form of a pair of railroad angle irons, which acted as an anchor. Then he tipped the body over the side. As it slid beneath the oily waters, Dreher felt confident that it would ever be seen again.
Ada was counting on this, also. Over the next few days she told inquisitive neighbors that Jim was away "on business," but that she expected him back soon. And she carried on like nothing had happened. Until July 6. That was the day when frog giggers out on Lake Palourde suddenly felt their flat-bottomed skiff grate over something hard. Shining a light into the shallow water they saw a strange shape. They peered more closely. Then they called the sheriff.
The investigators agreed that it was a male body, but five days in these alligator-infested waters hadn't left much to identify. Even so, putting a name to the remains didn't take long. First, there was the fact that Jim LeBoeuf hadn't been seen for almost a week and then LeBoeuf's dentist was able to recognize the upper and lower dentures teeth as belonging to the missing man.
Cracks Begin To Appear
Under severe police questioning, Ada switched her story repeatedly. With her private life a matter of public knowledge, she was grilled about Dreher. Ada continued to insist that she had never has sex with Dreher and that theirs was a normal doctor/patient relationship. Oddly enough, investigators were never able to find a single pharmacy that had filled a prescription for Ada.
Ada began to crumple and things went downhill even faster when Dreher was hauled in for questioning. Before long both confessed to having participated in a plot to kill Jim LeBoeuf. Except that both claimed that it was Beadle who had fired the lethal shots. For his part, Beadle said that he had been acting on orders from Dreher, and it was the doctor who had shot LeBouef. So, whose hand was on the trigger? This was the conundrum that dominated proceedings when all three stood trial for murder. Eventually, on August 6, 1927, a jury returned unanimous guilty verdicts, but with a recommendation of mercy for Beadle. As a result he was sentenced to life imprisonment. Dreher and LeBoeuf were condemned to death.
The Kingfish Says No
As no white woman had ever been executed in Louisiana it was expected that Governor Huey P. Long would follow tradition and, at least, commute Ada's sentence to life. But the Kingfish was in no mood for mercy. This was an appalling crime, he said, and his only regret was that Beadle had avoided the death penalty. He declined to intervene. After several appeals and stays of execution, on February 1, 1929, Dreher and LeBoeuf – like their mentors Snyder and Gray – paid the full price demanded by law.
Ironically, the Louisiana lovers were only caught through a fluke. At the time they disposed of the body, the lake was in full flood and it was the receding waters a couple of days later that revealed LeBoeuf's body which had stuck on a sandbar. Furthermore, locals familiar with Lake Palourde said that, had the body been dumped a mere 25 feet from where it was found, it would had plunged into a pit several fathoms deep and the crime might have escaped detection forever.
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