It has been awhile since Earl last graced this blog with one of his columns, but he is back today. The cases he finds are simply mind boggling. They also serve as story idea generators for the writers among us. The case of Sharon Kinne is the subject of Earl’s guest post today.
HISTORY’S RICH WITH MYSTERIES
When I look at the past, I find stories about people which fascinate me, particularly those in which there is a curious mixture of fact, legend, and mysterious uncertainty. In this series of articles, I want to explore some of those stories. I think of them as mysteries swaddled in legend. While truth is always desired in most things, truth easily becomes staid and boring. Legend, on the other hand, forever holds a hint of romanticism and an aura of excitement borne of adventure, imagination and, of course, mystery.
SHARON KINNE – She Killed Three and Got Away by Earl Staggs
Sharon Elizabeth Hall was born in Independence, Missouri, in 1939. At the age of sixteen, she met twenty-two-year-old James Kinne. They dated until James returned to college in Utah. Sharon then wrote a letter to James telling him she was pregnant. James returned to Missouri, and they married in October of 1956. She later claimed she miscarried the child which brought about the marriage. She soon announced she was pregnant again, and their daughter Danna was born in the fall of 1957.
Sharon, a free spender who wanted the finer things of life, spent her days shopping and with other men. Before long, she was enjoying a steady affair with John Boldizs, whom she had known in high school.
By 1960, James Kinne wanted to divorce Sharon because of her spending habits and because he was sure she was being unfaithful. Sharon also wanted out of the marriage, but she was smart enough to know she would be better off financially as a widow than as a divorced wife. John Boldizs said she offered him $1000 kill her husband. Later, he claimed he thought she may have been kidding.
On March 19, 1960, Sharon reported she heard a gunshot. She rushed into the bedroom where James had been sleeping to find him bleeding from his head. Their two-and-a-half-year-old daughter, Danna, was on the bed holding one of her father's guns, a .22 caliber pistol. Sharon called for an ambulance, but James died before reaching the hospital.
Police were unable to recover fingerprints from the pistol, and neither Sharon nor Danna were tested for gunshot residue. Several family members said James often allowed his daughter to play with his guns. Police conducted a test in which the child demonstrated she was able to pull the trigger on the gun.
With no evidence to the contrary, investigators had no choice but to rule James Kinne's death an accidental homicide. Sharon collected about $29,000 in life insurance, equal to more than $200,000 in today's dollars.
Sharon wanted the gun returned to her, but the police kept it. She had a friend secretly buy her another .22 caliber pistol, but asked that it not be registered in her name.
Sharon used some of her life insurance proceeds to buy a Ford Thunderbird from Walter Jones, a salesman at a local dealership. The pair soon began an affair. Sharon wanted Walter to be her second husband, but he refused to leave his wife. When she told him she was pregnant with his child, he ended the affair.
The next day, Walter filed a missing persons report when his wife, Patricia, did not return home from work. He questioned his wife's coworkers and learned Patricia had met with another woman immediately after work. The description of the woman matched Sharon Kinne, and Walter confronted her.
Sharon admitted to meeting with Patricia to tell her about the affair. She told Walter she dropped Patricia off near her home after the meeting.
After talking to Walter, Sharon called John Boldizs and asked him to help her look for Patricia. Sharon and John found Patricia's body in a secluded area outside of town where they had often gone on dates.
Patricia Jones had been shot four times with a .22 caliber pistol. Investigators were not able to find the gun.
Sharon, Walter, and John were interrogated by police. The two men admitted to dating Sharon, and both gave signed statements and took polygraph tests. Sharon gave an oral statement but refused to sign a written one or take a polygraph test.
Sharon was arrested for the murder of Patricia Jones on May 31, 1960, the same date of Patricia's funeral. At the request of the county sheriff, she was also charged with the murder of her husband, James. Sharon's attorneys were successful in having her released on bond.
The pistol that had killed James was ruled out as the weapon used in Patricia's death since that gun was still in police custody. The friend who had purchased a new .22 caliber gun for Sharon admitted to doing so, but Sharon claimed first that she had lost it on a trip out of state and later that it had simply disappeared.
She had told the truth when she told Wayne Jones she was pregnant. Her trial was delayed due to her advanced pregnancy. Sharon gave birth to a daughter, Marla Christine, on January 16, 1961.
PATRICIA JONES MURDER TRIAL
Sharon was tried first for the murder of Patricia Jones. After an all-male jury was seated, the trial began in mid-June 1961.
Across Missouri, Sharon Kinne became a household name. Extensive press coverage had made her more a celebrity than a criminal. In his book, “I'm just an ordinary girl: The Sharon Kinne Story,” author James C. Hays said:
“Sharon had control of that courtroom. She had control of the jury. She had control of the spectators. Everybody’s attention was focused on Sharon Kinne, even to the point where on the second day after the trial started, Sharon came moseying in late, fashionably late probably in her mind. The trial went on for about 10 days. The jury came back after deliberating only an hour and a half with a verdict of not guilty. The courtroom erupted in cheers. Jurors came out of the juror box and went over and got Sharon’s autograph. People in the audience came and got Sharon’s autograph.”
The jury had decided the prosecution's case was not solid enough and found Sharon not guilty. After the verdict, Sharon was photographed giving her autograph to one of the jurors. She was returned to jail the same day to await trial for killing her husband.
THREE TRIALS FOR THE MURDER OF JAMES KINNE
At the first trial in January 1962, Sharon was convicted of killing her husband and received a sentence of life in prison. In March of 1963, the Missouri Supreme Court overturned that conviction on a legal technicality. Sharon was released on bond pending retrial.
The second trial ended in a mistrial.
The third trial ended with a hung jury in July 1964.
Sharon was again released on bail to await the fourth trial, scheduled for October 1964. That trial never took place. By then, Sharon had traveled to Mexico with a new boyfriend, Francis Puglise. She left her children with James Kinne's father and traveled as Jeannette Pugliese, pretending to be the wife of her traveling companion.
In Mexico, Sharon went out alone to a bar one evening in September 1964 and met Francisco Parades Ordoñez, a Mexican-born American citizen. According to Sharon, he invited her back to his hotel room to show her some pictures. When he made sexual advances, she said she was forced to fire her gun to protect herself. She claimed she had no intention of killing him, but her bullets struck him in the chest, and he died instantly. A hotel employee, Enrique Martinez Rueda, heard the shots and entered the room to investigate. Sharon said she feared he was also going to harm her and fired at him. Although injured, Rueda left the room, locked Sharon inside, and called police.
Francis Puglise was cleared of charges and deported to the United States.
Author James Hays felt Sharon was smart enough to do something with her life besides murder. He said:
“She could’ve used her intelligence and used her wit. She could’ve been a pioneer woman in politics or in academia or anything, but she chose to go the other way around. She let greed, avarice, and promiscuity rule her life.”
All things considered, I'd say Sharon did whatever she wanted to do no matter what, and considering the small amount of time she spent behind bars, she came out way ahead on the scales of justice.
As further proof of that, w
Texas author Earl Staggs earned all Five Star reviews for his novels MEMORY OF A MURDER and JUSTIFIED ACTION and has twice received a Derringer Award for Best Short Story of the Year. He served as Managing Editor of Futures Mystery Magazine, as President of the Short Mystery Fiction Society, and is a frequent speaker at conferences and seminars.
He invites any comments via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
He also invites you to visit his blog site at http://earlwstaggs.wordpress.com to learn more about his novels and stories.