This woman murdered her husband, and she got away with it

(written by lawrence krubner, however indented passages are often quotes). You can contact lawrence at: lawrence@krubner.com

I passed through Madrid, New Mexico in the year 2008. There was one main bar. If you went to that bar, most nights, an older woman came in. She was probably in her 50s or 60s. She was a regular who had been coming in for awhile. She might have also been an alcoholic. That was not unique there — that is a small town in the middle of nowhere and the people there drink heavily.

Once she had a few drinks, she would tell this story: that she’d been living in a trailer, with her husband, but he was a bastard, so one night when he got very drunk, she drank less, stayed clear headed, then set the place on fire with a cigarette, which could easily be attributed to him. She murdered him via arson.

My impression was that she was telling the truth. She always spoke like she was offering a confession, and only after a few drinks. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that she had a guilty conscience because she seemed to think he was a real bastard who deserved it. Still, it was something emotional that she needed to process. She had killed someone. That’s a big deal. So when she was drunk enough, she would talk about this at the bar.

When she told this story, she would caution anyone listening: “The important thing is you only do it once. The police can’t catch you if you do it once. If you kill two husbands like that they say, hey, there is a pattern here, this is how her first husband died. Then you end up on one of those TV shows. The detectives figure out if you have a pattern. So you can only do it once. They can’t accuse you if you only do it once.”

Was there forensic evidence that might have implicated her? I suspect that the police in Madrid lacked the resources to do a real investigation, and the notion that this guy got drunk, fell asleep, the cigarette fell on the rug, set the place on fire — all of that seems believable. Trailers are notorious death traps when it comes to fire. The woman claimed she was at a friend’s house and came running when people started shouting about a fire.

In other words, I think the woman was right. There are situations where you can murder your spouse and get away with it. As long as you do it once, how could the police prove you were guilty? She was correct to say that if she did it twice, then the police could argue that she had a pattern, but since she only did it once, how could this be proven?

Some might ask me “Why don’t you report this to the police?” The obvious answer is that the murder had happened years before, there was no forensic evidence, an investigation had not been done, the only evidence was her confession, and if she was in court she could simply claim the protection of the 5th Amendment — she does not have to repeat the confession in court. Knowing all this, there is almost no chance the police would go after her. As she said, she is safe, so long as she does not ever do anything like this again.

There is some small risk that she is talking about this too much, and some day a cop will come into the bar and overhear her. That is a small risk because it is something of a biker bar, and cops seem to be unwelcome. All the same, the risk is there.

I’ve no idea if she still goes to that bar, or if she still talks about the murder. I don’t even know if she is still alive. But her story sticks with me. She’s the only person I’ve ever met who told me she killed someone, in a manner that I believed her.

A few things to note:

1.) I don’t endorse murder (just in case I need to say this)

2.) I don’t recommend that you kill your spouse, even if your spouse is a real bastard. If things are really bad, please seek a divorce instead.

3.) She was probably helped by the fact that she was in a town with almost no police. If she lived in a major city, with a well financed police force, her case might have gotten more scrutiny.

4.) She might have been helped by the fact that she was a woman?

5.) She might have been helped by the fact that the locals knew her husband was, in fact, a bastard. If her husband had been well-liked, perhaps one of his friends would have demanded an investigation.

With all those caveats in mind, still I wonder, how often to people murder their spouse and get away with it? How often do people commit murder of any kind, and get away with it?

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