Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Emma LeDoux and the "Trunk Murder of 1906" (Part One)

Photo by R. Boulware (taken @ Haggin Museum)


I have always been fascinated with history, especially true crimes of the past. I remember several years back while up in Amador County researching information for my book "Behind The Walls," I came across a book in the Amador County Library that spoke of the trunk murder of 1906. The main character or villain in the true crime was a lady by the name of Emma LeDoux. I skimmed through the book and became enthralled with the story right away. I made some notes and planned to go back and research it further in the future.

One day while in Stockton, I spoke to a friend who mentioned the Haggin Museum. I remembered hearing about the museum on the Travel Channel's "Mysteries at the Museum." I put two and two together and realized the trunk I had heard about while watching the television program was the same trunk that was spoken about in the book I had found at the library. I came home and quickly did some searches online for information about Emma LeDoux, but couldn't find any real in-depth information about who she was prior to the murders and details of her as a person, in order to get a good idea of whether she was capable of such a heinous crime or not.

If you are unfamiliar with the story, Emma LeDoux was convicted for the murder of her husband, Albert McVicar. She stuffed his body in a trunk and it was accidentally left on the platform at the Southern Pacific Railroad Depot on March 24, 1906 where it was then discovered.  The details of the murder, witnesses statements and reports being published about the trial daily exploded into the papers as one of the biggest media sensations of the time. Not much was documented about Emma's life and experiences prior to the murder, but for someone who loves to dig, the challenge was a lot of fun for me. And I am always up for a challenge.  Although the story that catapulted Emma into infamy took place in 1906, I felt the need to give Emma a back story before proceeding to the ghastly details of the murder.

 Early Years & Marriage # 1

Emma LeDoux was born Emma Theresa Cole on September 10, 1875. She was born in the small town of Pine Grove, which is just east of Jackson in Amador County, California. Her parents were Thomas Jefferson Cole from Ione,California. Her mother, Mary Ann Gardner's family was originally from Ohio, although Mary Ann was born in California.

San Francisco Call (3/26/1906)
By the time Emma was about 3 years old, her family moved to Oregon for about 10 years until returning back to Amador County in 1888, when Emma was about 12-13 years of age. By the age of 16 years, records show that Emma was married to Charles Barrett of Pine Grove who was approximately 22 years of age at the time. The marriage took place on March 2, 1892 with the permission of her mother Mary Ann, who I am guessing went against her husband's wishes. Literally 8 days after obtaining the marriage license for Emma and Charles to wed, Emma's father Thomas Cole left Mary Ann.

Rumors spread that meddling parents were the cause of their marital ruin, and after 4 years of marriage Charles left Emma. Friends of both Emma and Charles claimed that it may have been due to the fact Emma allegedly had "extra marital" relations. By 1898, after the divorce case had been held up for nearly 3 years, the judge granted the divorce decree.


  Marriage # 2
Emma LeDoux (SF Call 5/20/1909)


Next, Emma married her second husband, William S. Williams. Now many newspapers at the time stated that Emma met and married her husband in Amador County, however other reports conclude that she married Williams in Arizona while she was living there. The date in which she actually married Williams, I could not seem to find, however his death was one I couldn't miss.

In fact, Williams died in Bisbee, Arizona on June 20, 1902 under suspicious circumstances. According to the Stockton Daily Evening Mail dated March 31, 1906,

"According to information from Bisbee, William S. Williams, A.N. McVicar and the woman accused of McVicar's murder at Stockton were quite well known in Bisbee prior to and during 1902. Williams died under suspicious circumstances being attended by Dr. C.L. Edmundson at the last. Poisoning by nitric acid was suspected, but it was later decided that Williams had died of natural causes, presumably heart failure. He was quite heavily insured. The widow secured between $4000 and $5000, $2000 of it being from the Ancient Order of United Workmen and the balance being the old line insurance.


Williams was a member of the Miners Union in Globe and that organization forwarded $75 to the widow for burial expenses. The fraternal insurance was paid to her by Lewis Hunt, recorde of the Workmen. The money was paid to the woman under the name of Mrs. Emma T. Williams. There is also a story that she lived in Mexico before going to Bisbee and that while she was there she was married to a man named Barnett, though whether she left him or he died is unknown.

Williams lived in Bisbee for five or six years, being known as a steady, reliable and straightforward man. Long prior to the death of Williams, according to report, he had occasion to take his wife to task for her familiar associations with McVicar, whose attentions gave him much concern. Undoubtedly this fact had something to do with the doubts that arose at the time concerning the “regularity” of Williams’ death, but they were not strong enough to occasion further investigation after the opinion that death occurred from heart failure was rendered.”-

Marriage # 3

Williams body hadn't even been in the ground  2 months and 12 days before Emma up and married husband #3,  none other than Albert Newton McVicar on September 1, 1902 in Bisbee, Arizona.  What I find very interesting is that upon their marriage, Emma moved back to California travelling between her mother and step father James Head's ranch in Jackson and the "Tenderloin" district (well known at the time for prostitution) in San Francisco. All the while in the absence of her husband McVicar.

So by this time Emma has been married a total of three times, and it didn't seem she planned on stopping there. Although she was married to McVicar, Emma seemed to enjoy her freedom gallivanting from San Francisco to Amador County, while McVicar was somewhere else. Emma claimed she managed to "support herself" by means of working as a seamstress and by the help of her "gentlemen friends." I suspect she dabbled in the oldest profession secretly, more than likely while in San Francisco.

Marriage # 4

By August 26, 1905 the fact that Emma was already wife to McVicar, that didn't stop her from becoming a bigamist and marrying her 4th husband Eugene LeDoux of Sutter Creek, CA. From the reports, LeDoux was very quiet prior to and during the ceremony which was performed at the County Clerk's office in Woodland, CA.

LeDoux and McVicar knew nothing about the other during this time. I am not sure how Emma managed to keep McVicar a secret, but probably the fact he had been absent most of the marriage aided in Emma's deception and allowed her the ability to act as if she was legally free to wed LeDoux. By the time that Emma had married LeDoux, McVicar had already moved to California and was actually just about 46 miles south of LeDoux in Jamestown, California working at the Rawhide Mine as a timber man.

During this time, Emma would frequently spend time with both husbands without either one learning of the others existence.  No one could have imagined what was going to take place next.....................


J'aime Rubio (2013, Copyright - www.jaimerubiowriter.com)




5 comments:

  1. J'aime -- Love this story! Wow, Emma was a player. I can't wait to read the next installment. Joan

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    1. Thanks Joan. Part 3 will be up tonight, too. I had a lot of fun researching this story. This lady was a big player and a huge manipulator. And there is still so much more to tell!!! :-)

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  2. This is a fascinating insight to the earlier days of this woman.
    Your hard work is obviously paying off with a great story.

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    1. Thank you Veronica. This woman was truly an oddity for that time period. I am glad you are enjoying my installments of this morbid murder mystery.

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  3. Woe I am impressed at the detailed research! Fascinating story!

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