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Claim:   A woman dead her bedmate over his behest and comedy of a arch duke in 1929.

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The Murder:   It is wisely said there are three activities a affiliated brace should never attack to undertake together: comedy bridge, adhere wallpaper, or apprentice how to drive. The disagreements so affronted can all too generally prove to be murder. Literally.

On the black of 29 September 1929, John and Myrtle Bennett of Kansas City were hosts to their accompany Charles and Myrna Hofman for a affable bold of elastic bridge. (A bald 1/10th of a cent a point was at stake.) The Bennetts were flush and lived in a ample accommodation with Mrs. Bennett’s mother. The Hofmans lived in the aforementioned accommodation building.

Like so abounding affiliated couples who are fool abundant to comedy as arch partners, the Bennetts formed a far from ideal partnership. They were a far from ideal affiliated brace as well, John Bennett actuality in the addiction of slapping his wife during moments of frustration. That night, these factors would amalgamate to accompany about Bennett’s undoing.

For the aboriginal hour or two, the Bennetts were beating the Hofmans. As the black wore on, however, the Hofmans managed to bolt up, and at the time of the baleful duke were arch by a baby margin. The tables had been turned; the advantageous advance of beforehand in the black had evaporated like dew afore the morning sun, abrogation the two couples bound in a dart for the wire.

Although the absolute agreement of the baleful duke was not remembered, the behest was recalled in a constant address by all the actual parties: John Bennett

opened one spade, Charles Hofman overcalled two diamonds, and Myrtle Bennett concluded the bargain with a jump to bold in spades. Afterwards Mr. Hofman fabricated the aperture lead, Mrs. Bennett advance as copy a accumulating of cards Myrna Hofman afterwards would appellation “a rather acceptable hand.”

Though Myrtle Bennett acutely believed the copy she’d laid out, added to the ethics her bedmate had to accept had for his aperture bid, should calmly accept produced game, Mr. Bennett managed to abort in his arrangement by two tricks. During the finger-pointing that followed, Mr. Bennett was appear to accept opened on beneath than abounding values.

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Non-bridge players may abort to acknowledge this point, but in the pasteboard boscage it is able-bodied accepted that if one is in the addiction of aperture light, one had bigger be able to comedy the spots off the cards. To both accessible ablaze and abort to accomplish the consistent arrangement adds up to a arch abomination aloof a cut beneath trumping partner’s ace or adopting one’s own pre-empt.

After Bennett played the duke to its blameworthy conclusion, his wife gave articulation to her assessment of his comedy by calling him “a bum arch player.” Then, according to the affidavit of Myra Hofman:

He came appropriate aback at her. I don’t bethink the exact words. This kept up for several minutes. We approved to stop the argument by ambitious the cards, but by this time the row had become so arresting that Bennett, extensive beyond the table, affective Myrtle’s arm and slapped her several times. We approved to intervene, but it was futile. While Mrs. Bennett afresh over and over in a artificial banausic accent “Nobody but a bum would hit a woman,” her bedmate jumped up and shouted, “I’m activity to absorb the night at a hotel. And tomorrow I’m abrogation town.” His wife said to us: “I anticipate you association had bigger go.” Of course, we started to go.

John Bennett went off to the bedchamber and began to backpack his suitcase. Myrtle abject to her mother’s allowance to aback her mother’s loaded gun.

Charles Hofman had angry aback to accept a chat with John Bennett afore abandonment and appropriately was continuing abreast him back an armed Mrs. Bennett came aloft them. Aloft seeing the gun, Bennett anon abrupt into the bathroom, bolting the aperture abaft him. Mrs. Bennett was not to be beat by a bankrupt door: she attempt through it twice, anniversary time missing her husband.

Bennett agilely exited the bath through addition aperture which opened assimilate a baby hallway. He fled bottomward the hallway, out into the active room, and was aggravating to accessible the advanced aperture of the accommodation back his wife felled him with two added shots.

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The badge were summoned, and Myrtle Bennett was answerable with aboriginal amount annihilation for the cutting afterlife of her husband.

The Trial:   The balloon of Myrtle Bennett did not go bottomward in the account of jurisprudence as one of the added fair and balanced examples of amends in action. Mrs. Bennett wept abundantly throughout the proceedings, at one point avowing that she’d “rather accept been dead” than to accept acquired the afterlife of her husband. (This band of aegis was abundant facilitated back the adjudicator beneath to accept into affirmation Mrs. Bennett’s aboriginal account to the police, in which she had told a rather altered story.)

At the trial, a new circuit was placed on the contest of that night. Bennett’s “… and tomorrow I’m abrogation town” was adapted from an “I’m abrogation you forever” account into an advertisement that he had business the abutting day in St. Joseph, Missouri. According to Mrs. Bennett’s affidavit (supported by her mother’s affidavit about what Mrs. Bennett had said back she came to aback the gun), Mr. Bennett had instructed his wife to accompany him the pistol. Mrs. Bennett claimed that he commonly agitated it with him on out-of-town business trips. Mrs. Bennett added claimed that while bringing the gun to her husband, she stumbled into a chair, causing the pistol to go off accidentally, acid Mr. Bennett. Bennett afresh affective her arm, either to advice her achieve her antithesis or to booty the gun abroad from her, at which time the gun went off again, acutely acid him.

Mrs. Bennett was acquitted. The board chose to avoid the concrete affirmation of two ammo holes begin in the bath door, and of Bennett’s anatomy lying by the advanced aperture afterwards a attache in sight. Despite accepting chased her bedmate through the apartment, accepting attempt at him four times, and accepting hit him twice, Mrs. Bennett was acquitted on the area that her cutting of her bedmate was accidental. Myrtle Bennett afresh calm on her husband’s $30,000 activity allowance policy, a far from bush sum in those Depression years.

Although some now anamnesis the case actuality disqualified one of acceptable assassination based on John Bennett’s behest and play, in accuracy his afterlife was accounted to accept been brought about by adventitious acquittal of a firearm. Admitting Myrtle Bennett had succeeded in accepting off scot-free for the annihilation of her husband, she bootless to set the antecedent that would accept fabricated the cutting of a arch accomplice acceptable in the eyes of the law — provided it could be accepted the victim’s comedy had affronted a arduous response.

In his 1934 accumulating While Rome Burns, ball analyzer and columnist Alexander Woollcott had this to say of the fair murderess in her post-acquittal years:

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Myrtle Bennett has not accustomed her arch to abound rusty, alike admitting she occasionally encounters an explicable adversity in award a partner. Recently she took on one amateur with her history. Accepting fabricated an abrupt bid, he put his duke bottomward with some diffidence. “Partner,” he said, “I’m abashed you’ll appetite to shoot me for this.” Mrs. Bennett, says my informant, had the acceptable aftertaste to faint.

The Hand:   The acclaimed Bennett Annihilation Duke will always abide a mystery. None of the three survivors remembered its exact composition, and the cards themselves were beatific aerial during the argument amid the Bennetts, authoritative it absurd that any of the badge alleged to the arena would accept had a adventitious to appearance it. As such, the duke broadly believed to accept been Mr. Bennett’s Waterloo is acceptable as abundant a fiction as the account told by his wife on the stand. Nevertheless, a “reconstruction” of the abominable duke began to broadcast in periodicals anon afterwards the crime:

The bidding, as you will recall, had gone one burrow by Bennett, two chunk by Hofman, and four spades by Mrs. Bennett. Four spades was a makeable arrangement on the blueprint apparent above.

(Only arch players are acceptable to affliction about this part, but the aperture advance adjoin this fabulous duke was the ace of diamonds, followed by a about-face to the jack of clubs at ambush two. According to lore, afterwards acceptable the baron of clubs, Bennett was declared to accept misguessed the area of the trump queen and from there accept gone on to authorize but cut himself off from dummy’s acceptable clubs, catastrophe up bottomward two. It was a abominably played hand, but I’ve apparent abounding a blueprint butchered abundant worse by declarers who lived to acquaint about it.)

At the time of the Bennett murder, America was a country gone crazy over bridge. That addition eventually or afterwards was activity to get attempt over it was a given; it was aloof a catechism of when. That the aboriginal arch annihilation happened in the heartland of America with a wife cutting her bedmate seemed alone appropriate — endless spouses had by that time dreamed of accomplishing the aforementioned affair to their loved-one-turned-bridge-partner-monster. Aloof as Lorena Bobbitt would decades afterwards be apparent as accepting addled a draft for the wives of cheating husbands everywhere, so was Myrtle Bennett placed on a agnate basement by abandoned arch players beyond the land. Notice had been served that corruption the copy ability advance to added than one annealed actuality alone at the arch table.

Speculation over what the blueprint of the cards had absolutely been (and appropriately how admirable Bennett had been of his fate) bound gave way to dueling analyses of the duke as accustomed in the newspapers. Several arch authorities (most conspicuously Sidney Lenz and Ely Culbertson) were alleged aloft to assay the behest and the play. In the final analysis, admitting Bennett was accounted to accept not played the cards as able-bodied as he could have, annihilation in his band of comedy was so actively awry that his analysis the aberrant queen of trumps wouldn’t accept affected it. “My commonwealth for a horse,” said Richard III. “My activity for a queen,” was what Bennett should accept said.

Barbara “black(wood) humor” Mikkelson

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Last updated:   1 June 2014

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