Hi. Barb here.
I’ve just returned from a month in Key West where I am a deep devotee of The Key West Citizen, the wonderful daily newspaper. My favorite page is Page 2, which contains the Crime Report as well as the “feedback” from local citizens (Perpetual issue: Is there too much nudity at Fantasy Fest, Key West’s annual pre-Halloween celebration? Deeply held opinions on all sides.)
When Vicki Doudera was visiting I was able to illustrate why I love Page 2’s Crime Report. In that day’s story, Ms. Dulcinea dePoo was arrested for shoplifting at several stores on Duval Street. Ms. dePoo, who gave her professions as “artist,” at first claimed someone else had put the goods in her bag. Then she claimed she had an arrangement with one of the store managers who allowed her to shoplift, but they were fighting that day, so instead the manager called the cops.
My main reaction to this story was, “Damn, why have I never named a character ‘Dulcinea dePoo?'” Because is that not the best name ever?
For more than a week, I was completely captured by the drama of another Page 2 feature–This Day in History. Here’s how it unfolded.
Fifty Years Ago Today, January 13, 1964
This item was buried in among the bullet points about blockades of Cuban fishing boats and Cuban refugees burning Castro in effigy.
Betty Fernandez, 32, was on trial for second degree murder in Criminal Court. Fernandez was charged with the knife murder of her husband, Armando.
Hmm, a sad story no doubt, but not all that interesting.
Then the next day came this little gem.
Fifty Years Ago Today, January 14, 1964
The trial of Betty Fernandez for the murder of her husband was in its second day. Caridad Gomez was the key witness because Fernandez allegedly stabbed her husband in the heart in Gomez’s apartment in March 1963.
Ah-ha! It becomes clearer. Betty Fernandez stabbed her husband in the apartment of another woman. We can all imagine how this played out.
Then, two days later:
Fifty Years Ago Today, January 16, 1964
Mrs. Betty Fernandez took the stand and testified for 2 hours and 47 minutes to give her account of the events that led to her plunging a knife in the heart of her husband.
Betty takes the stand! Was that more the norm 50 years ago, or did her defense attorney think she had a particularly compelling story to tell?
Fifty Years Ago Today, January 17, 1964
The jury found Mrs. Betty Fernandez not guilty in the death of her husband, who she stabbed in the heart because she was trying to attack his girlfriend and stabbed him by accident.
Betty gets off! The jury believes her. Killing her husband was accidental–she actually meant to harm his girlfriend. This makes me wonder about the testimony of Caridad Gomez. She must have been a witness for the prosecution. Did she somehow make the jury sympathetic to Betty? Did the jury want to kill Caridad, too?
At this point, I figured the story was over. But wait–there’s more!
Fifty Years Ago Today, January 18, 1964
Mrs. Betty Fernandez, who was acquitted in the murder of her husband, was entitled to a share of his estate.
Well, I guess she would be, if she was innocent, right?
Fifty Years Ago Today, January 20, 1964
The Cadillac owned by Mrs. Betty Fernandez, who was acquitted of the murder of her husband, was destroyed by fire.
That can’t be a coincidence! Someone is very angry that Betty is inheriting her husband’s property. But who? Friends of Caridad Gomez who think she should have inherited? Armando’s family, angry that the person responsible for his death is getting the estate? Or is there just general town disgruntlement with the verdict which is being played out as vandalism? Also, though Betty is just 32, her husband owns a Cadillac. Were they weathy? I am dying to know.
Fifty Years Ago Today, January 21, 1964
Court records show that taxpayers paid nearly $2,000 for the trial of Mrs. Betty Fernandez, who was acquitted in the murder of her husband.
I’m not sure what the point of this was. That Betty should never have been subjected to prosecution, since she was innocent? Or, just another reason for the local citizenry to be riled up against this woman who has apparently gotten away with murder.
But alas, the final note about Betty’s travails is this.
Fifty Years Ago Today, January 22, 1964
Mrs. Betty Fernandez, who was acquitted in the murder of her husband, was being terrorized by anonymous phone calls.
And that is it. I’m intrigued by what happened to poor Betty after that, but the trail grows cold. But then, isn’t that what writing fiction is all about–filling in those blanks?