Three Not So Perfect Murders
Not So Perfect Murder # 1: Lose Your Head!
First, the police found a human arm and leg in a hotel closet. The next day, the other leg turned up in a trash basket in Paris' Latin Quarter. A short time later, the fourth limb was discovered in a park. A small pond yielded up the torso.
The only missing link was the head, but this delayed identification for some time. A scar on the right forearm finally made it possible to say the pieces of the human puzzle once belonged to Madame Gillet, a Parisian milk woman.
A search was launched for the head of Madame Gillet... and for her killer, who had to be a rank amateur at dissection. Indeed, the dismemberment had turned into a horrible mess. Apparently, the killer had used a blunt scraper, pounding through the bone joints with a hammer.
A few days after the murder, on a day in April 1878, a tavern keeper in the Quarter had been robbed and left dying. A huge manhunt was launched to find the killer. Attention centered on Maurice Barre, a butcher's apprentice, who was very poor until about the time of the robbery, when he suddenly became a Big Spender. Among his purchases, there was a portmanteau, traced to a baggage room in Mans...When the police opened it, they found among a jumble of rags... the head of Madame Gillet.
It's extremely difficult to come up with a good story when you are caught with the victim's head in your possession. Barre could do nothing but confess. He named the former medical student Pierre Lebiez as his accomplice. They had deliberately cut up the body with unlikely tools and used sloppy techniques just to throw the police off their trail. Each had busied himself after the murder disposing of various parts of the body and the loot in different hiding places. When the portmanteau had been checked at the station, Barre and Lebiez both had assumed the other had already disposed of the head...
So, because the killers failed to lose Madame Gillet's head, they both lost theirs on the guillotine.
Not So Perfect Murder # 2: Check the Basics!
Leone Gagliardi and his friend Angelo Donofrio carefully draped the body over the tracks, laying the head neatly on one rail and the legs across the other. After the train passed over Nicolas Sarao, the body would be so cut up that no one would ever suspect he had been beaten to death before the train hit him.
Gagliardi returned to Montreal and went to see his sweetheart Tomasina, a young widow by now, because she had been the wife of Nicolas Sarao. Tomasino was a rich widow too, since her husband had a large insurance policy.
When his son Antonio went to the police, the body of his father already was found. "Did your father had any reason for going out near the Blue Bonnets racetrack?" they asked.
"Yes," young Sarao said. "My stepmother mentioned Leone Gagliardi had stopped by. He told her about an ad in the paper for a gardener and my father went to look if he could get the job."
The police picked up Leone. "You sent Nicolas to that area and he ended up murdered," the inspector said. "Convince me this wasn't a murder plan."
Leone shook his head. "It was an accident. He was hit by a train."
"Oh no, he was not. The railroad track you laid the body on is a spur to the racetrack. It's used only during the racing season. There hasn't been a train over those tracks in months!"
And so, on March 29, 1935, Gagliardi, Donofrio and Tomasino all were hanged.
Not So Perfect Murder # 3: The Wrath of God
George Morton Field was the richest man of Mustoc, Kansas. Stiff-necked, with a stern religious code, he contributed much of the money that built the local church. And when no itinerant preacher was available, Mr. Field himself would sermon the sinners. But Mr. Field too fell victim to the weakness of the flesh, and in this case the flesh had the form of a rosy-cheecked girl named Gertie Day, who had a way with men.
When Gertie found out she was pregnant, George Morton Field was threatened with a scandal. Both Gertie and her unborn child would be better off in some other world, and so Mr. Field went to Kansas City to buy dynamite and other necessarities for making a bomb.
Mr. Field had no problem getting Gertie to church late that night... and when Gertie arrived, he was under the church with a ten-minute fuse. He raced back home and got there by the time an explosion roused the entire community. Mr. Field rushed to the demolished church, knowing Gertie had plenty of admirers and almost anyone could have had a rendezvous with her at the church...
Sherriff Carter poked around in the ruins and found bits of the bomb, but Mr. Field wasn't disturbed. However, when the sherriff called on George Morton Field, he passed along some troubling information about checking the stores in Kansas City with Mr. Field's picture, and a hardware clerck recognizing the man of God as the man who had bought wires just before the date of the explosion.
The sherriff also handed Mr. Field a charred piece of paper, with Mr. Field's own handwriting on it. In his effort to be careful, Mr. Field had wrapped the bomb in paper and unwittingly had used a copy of his sermons. It's a quirk of dynamite that often elements near the explosion escape with much less damage than materials farther away.
The words on the paper were quite clear: "The Wrath of God will slay all sinners!" - And so this sinner was sentenced to life in the state penitentiary and died there 11 years later, in 1926.