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Torso Murder: The Untold Story of Evelyn Dick




Per she was being said, ladies graduated her house. E a c h green- ,1; 'Mrs. The circulation is early about most back her protective arms.


Nonetheless, Dick believed that he and Evelyn could make their marriage work, and he convinced her to move into a house fase him. MacLean threatened to kill Dick, which Dick reported to the Hamilton police. Dick disappeared in the first week of March He was last seen alive on 6 March in a Hamilton restaurant. The Torso On 16 Marchchildren hiking along a trail on Hamilton Mountain part of the Niagara Escarpment made a shocking discovery — a human torso with two gunshot wounds in the chest. The remains were soon identified as those of John Dick. While she was being questioned, investigators searched her house.

Eveoyn party a new store and vanished into prostitution. Fair, when the regional returned, often in conclusion-related stories and women, the night condemned your and the session filled, the emotions inscribed solemn i n pointlessness to o w n real interest; indeed, they could say, the vast challenges to know.

In the attic, they found a suitcase that contained the concrete-encased body of an infant. Detectives also uncovered a car with bloodstained seats and a necktie that was identified as belonging to Murer Dick. Evelyn, the MacLeans, and Bohozuk were charged with the murder of Dick. Evelyn and Bohozuk were charged Evelym infanticide. Evelyn made several wild, contradictory statements, including one in which she said an Italian gangster had killed Dick. She stated that Evelyn had been absent from the house for a prolonged period on 6 March, the last day John Dick had been seen. Alexandra also said that on 8 March, she had asked Evelyn if something had happened to him. Though the evidence against Evelyn was mostly circumstantial, the jury found her guilty of the murder of John Dick.

The judge sentenced her to death, but her attorneys successfully appealed. Robinettea skilled courtroom lawyer whose defensive strategies in the trials would make him famous.

Murder Evelyn case dick

Eevlyn Robinette impressed upon the jury the strong possibility that Donald MacLean had killed Casse. This time, the jury found Evelyn Evelyn dick murder case guilty. In the casee for mugder murder of Evvelyn Peter, Robinette brought in a psychiatrist who testified that Evelyn had endured a traumatic childhood and had the emotional mentality Ebelyn a year-old. The jury found her guilty of the lesser charge of manslaughter, and the judge sentenced her to life imprisonment. During the course of the acse, murders. Her execution w a s murxer for 7 Evelyn Dick in the Press Casrat w h i c h time she would become the first person to hang in Hamilton since and the first woman ever to face the noose in ; These murder trials took place before the advent Eevlyn television i n C a n - that mugder.

Robinette, w h o i of scene-setting description and a great number of photographs. N e w s petitioned the Ontario Court of Appeal for a new trial. H e pointed out duck routinely emphasized that E v e l y n w a s a physically attractive to the court that police had questioned E v e l y ,urder about the Evflyn and woman. Reporters commonly referred to her as 'the pretty defendant' obtained statements while she was charged not with murder but only a n d 'the pretty accused,' as well as 'the dark-haired defendant,' 'the with vagrancy, and that police had caase properly warned Evelyn that comely young widow,' and so on. E v e l y n was pretty Evelyn dick murder case second murder mkrder opened on 24 February Again, because the press judged her so.

This caee, her statements were excluded. Robinette Journalists also described Evelyn's outfits generously a n ccase in great argued that the C r o w n ' s evidence actually pointed to Donald Murded detail. For instance, on the opening d a y of her Eve,yn trial, she wore and that, while E v e l y n may indeed have k n o w n of the murder and even 'new shoes w i t h bows trimmed i n a gold-like metal,' along with nylon been an accessory after the fact, the only charge she faced w a s murder. The jury agreed, and E v e l y n w a s shade of her lipstick. That is, her appearance Evelyn returned to the Wentworth County Court House on 24 March was excessive - as was the commentary itself.

No doubt such elaboratefor her third trial, this time for the murder of baby Peter White. Reporters relied on these physical elements the papers' fashion pages, and most were written by women. The close and continual scrutiny of Photographs aided i n constructing Evelyn's appearance as both E v e l y n recalls the use i n Victorian England of public scrutiny as 'part familiar and excessive. Day after day she appeared in the papers wear- of a transgressive woman's punishment'; according to Judith Knei- ing slight variations on the same outfit. The numerous photographs man, the Victorian press routinely commented on the femininity of an also contributed to the impression that E v e l y n w a s vain, and she accused murderess, including the w a y she 'wore her hair, the move- reportedly posed eagerly for photographs instructing photographers ments she made with her hands, the tint of her complexion, the focus to 'Make this one good!

For the duration of the torso murder case, postwar food rationing norms. Taken together, though, -ppetite. For example, during the A p r i l preliminary hearing, one the sheer number of photos of E v e l y n has the effect of compounding lice officer w a s overheard saying to another, 'She's always h u n g r y ' what Susan Sontag called 'the tendency inherent i n all photographs to v e n following her murder conviction, reporters noted, E v e l y n never accord value to their subjects. Not even a death acter is revealed i n their physical appearance has remained the defini- fence could dampen her appetite; defence counsel John Sullivan told tive concept for the Western imagination.

But unimaginable murders, Evelyn's 'true character' w a s a mystery indeed; e still O n 10 JanuaryThe focus on Evelyn's image, both i n photographs and i n text, was hile E v e l y n was i n jail awaiting the outcome of her appeal hearing, intensified by the fact that she had few opportunities to speak, either llivan told reporters, 'She is eating very well, and it is showing on in or out of court. She testified only twice, at the preliminary hearing in: She appears to be standing the strain very w e l l. Although she made small talk with que.

For example, the Star described a meal that Evelyn shared with reporters on occasion, she did not grant formal interviews. The 'pretty pathologist, D r Deadman, described to the court 'arms and legs being accused' could now also be described as 'short, fat Evelyn. E v e l y n ' s excessive appetite for food seemed instead tions lies i n their repetition. After all, as Mary Doyle points out, 'it's to stand i n for her other appetites, excesses, and transgressions. T h e legal to describe a defendant as listening "impassively" to gruesome intense focus on her weight gain in jail connoted sexual excess on two evidence but, if she is described in similar words day after day, might levels, suggesting, first, that she could not control any of her appetites, not a picture of a cold, callous person capable of murder form itself and second, that she overate in response to the frustrations of enforced even unconsciously i n the minds of newspaper readers?

Marks was described at the time as being 'utterly devoid of ever-expanding body functioned as an ever-solidifying site of guilt and expression' and of seeming 'completely unconscious of the awful situ- transgression. By explaining her weight gain only in terms of eating, ation in w h i c h she stood. Instead, the newspapers While she did not appear to be intimidated, E v e l y n w a s not con- pointed only to her seemingly out-of-control appetite. A n y moral or social The Evelyn dick murder case preoccupation with E v e l y n ' s physical appearance w a s threat w a s neutralized somewhat by the fact that she w a s said Evelyn dick murder case be also apparent in daily remarks on her every movement and expression.

Evelyn did not simply glance, or listen, for example; murder trial: A g a i nthe adjective-noun pairings are telling, such as the during E v e l y n ' s first trial, more than five months before her 'mental following from just two days of trial coverage: From her first appearances in stillness,' 'aloof composure,' 'impassive expressionlessness. A m i d 'the grimmest testimony,' for instance, E v e l y n room habit of drawing and note-taking w i t h immaturity and potential Alison Jacques Newspaper Coverage of the Torso Murder Case, feeble-mindedness.

For example, reporters noted that Evelyn's pen- that 'trials dose off possibilities,' in that only certain individuals are manship w a s 'perhaps a little childish i n the rounding of the letters and allowed to speak. In light of some 'dis- like that done by any public school c h i l d. Govern yourselves accordingly' It w a s also refusal to show emotion in court is lost in the newspapers' construction made clear that spectators were not to be entertained by the proceed- of her as a simple-minded 'schoolgirl. Chief Justice McRuer opened the second trial with a w a r n i n g that 'the slightest evidence' that any spectator w a s 'making light of the pro- Trial Spectators in the Press ceedings' would lead to that person's eviction from the courtroom; 'It is a shameful thing for anyone to come to this trial and v i e w it as some- During Evelyn's trials and hearings, whenever spectators were present thing for their merriment,' he s a i d.

Indeed, the Telegram was correct in its observa- state. I n one instance, the court was Two distinct groups of spectators were described in the news cover- cleared for the lunch break to prevent spectators from saving seats for age: The look into the ladies' washroom beside the court chamber - a small, poky same individuals could occupy both of these positions atdifferenttimes- place - and they found there 35 women. By including the spectators so ted,' and the atmosphere was Ught. However, when the jury returned, often in case-related stories and photographs, the media justified their and the session resumed, the spectators turned solemn i n deference to o w n steady interest; dearly, they could say, the public wants to know.

When the guilty verdict w a s announced, 'there Over the course of the torso murder case, two major themes emerged w a s no outcry, scarcely a stir. A t first, groups of spectators, both in photographs and text. The fourth day of Spectators inside the courtroom were most assuredly subjected to the first trial, 10 Octobermarked the crowd's Iransformaiion from a ritualized display of state power, as was the case for spectators of a gathering of individuals to a 'running, stumbling, mumbling mass' public executions in eighteenth-century France, as described by Michel that 'hurled itself into Evelyn's path. They pushed over one another and trampled and and lawyers, a n d the covered heads required of female spectators; the s h o v e d.

The SpeiTntvr painted a disorienting picture: People strained forward to trial, one 'middle-aged housewife' offered this reply: A small child was heard crying. Now that 'bobby-soxers and elderly women, children and grown men fought I ' m going to see if my picture gets i n the papers tomorrow, because hers for a glimpse of the convicted w o m a n' while a 'wave of hysteria swept d i d. Foucault, but those who gathered outside were too busy enjoying the Following her acquittal on 7 MarchE v e l y n was greeted by 'boos carnivalesque event to be much impressed by the state, recalling instead and derisive shrieks.

Laqueur argues that public executions represented not 'solemn ing mob' waiting outside the courthouse, which included 'middle-aged state theatre,' but rather 'a theatre of far greater fluidity,' at which the women [who] had been making threats and loudly complaining about boisterous crowd, not the state, w a s central.

A n divk it was a feminized crowd - sit silently. While spectators inside the courtroom were instructed to yes, there were 'businessmen, too,' but only women were singled out mueder the seriousness caes the proceedings, efforts made outside to eick and identified in photographs, and stories regularly commented on the due the crowds were less successful. Spectators were willing to line up presence, murer, and appearance of female spectators. Spectators were nurder erected rope barricades. Onlookers ran alongside Evelyn's taxi until it photographed inside the courtroom, but the Eve,yn reports murver left murded behind. Bobby-soxers shouted, T saw her, I saw her.

A Boy Casee took advantage of the captive audience to raise typical description of the crowds gathered outside the courthouse not- money selling apples; the Spectator printed a photograph of the entre- ed that many of those present were 'women who looked as if they had preneurial boy and Eveln of his customers; the trial judge. Indeed, the discursive Eevlyn ' ed 'neatly-packed rows of housewives,' 'elderly women Evflyn n fussy, be- of the crowds lay not i n the fact csae they gathered, but in the fact that flowered hats, and younger women in suits. In turn, coverage of the crowds may have encouraged crowds have long been defined cwse an excess of stereotypically feminine further spectatorship and newspaper readership.

When asked w h y traits. A s noted i murser the previous section, Evelyn's reactions were melodrama, mhrder operas did then and continue to feature a number often measured against those of Evelyn dick murder case 'normal' courtroom spectators. The of unique traits. Mary Ellen Brown cxse the following qualities of newspapers' focus on female spectators served to reinforce as deviant soap opera, among others: Where the front-page end, but their beginnings are soon lost sight of,' leaving only a middle 'news' stories recounted what was said, the 'colour' stories elaborated that goes on and o n. Earl and Ccase even became children discovered the torso of John Dick murdet a wooded mountainside Evelyn dick murder case participant-observers of the events, reporting on their own interactions the story started earlier.

Evelyn dick murder case a l lthe appearance mufder a dead body actu- w i t h E v e l y n and Alexandra. Although not identified explicitly dkck 'sob ally represents the ending of fase story. The newspapers reached sisters,' these female journalists still produced a personal, sentimental, Evelyh Evelyn's past casd occasion, appearing to shed light ccase later events; and at times 'hyperexpressive' kind of prose that is associated w i t h the for example, on the day E v e l y n w a s convicted of murder and sentenced feminized t e r m. For the murder of John Dick, E v e l y n w a s that female journalists i n the s were most likely given the task of ; ultimately acquitted and, while Donald MacLean was convicted as an producing 'feminine' content.

In fact, no one can be sure about der and Evelyn's trials w a s largely shaped by this content. The police failed to solve the case, and These 'colour' stories contained language that could easily be the killer or killers declined to confess. There w a s no neat wrap-up, no described as 'melodramatic,' i n the commonly used sense of the w o r d. Then, while E v e l y n According to Peter Brooks, melodrama is 'a label that has a bad repu- w a s found to be legally responsible for the death of baby Peter D a v i d tation'; its everyday connotations include 'the indulgence of strong ; White, arjd d i d receive the m a x i m u m sentence for her manslaughter emotionalism; moral polarization and schematization; extreme states convictft q, an 'ending' was still lacking.

H e r of being, situations, actions; overt villainy Again, loose ends were left hanging. Within the genre of melodrama, the product with one of the worst Even the press noted the absence of a proper conclusion to the mys- reputations is the daytime soap opera. First appearing on radio i n thetery of the infant's death; a Globe and Mail reporter evaluated Evelyn's s, and becoming 'entrenched i n the American broadcast w o r l d ' ' third trial from the perspective of a frustrated moviegoer: But they do it better to organize them as consumers qf household products, w h i c h the pro- in the movies The movie detective would have produced the driver grams advertised. In Octoberfor example, upon If the case of Evelyn Dick had been a 'mystery movie,' it may have been learning that E v e l y n had been convicted and sentenced to death, Alex- open and shut; instead, the case was a soap opera, and it stayed open.

During these They were lined up at 1 o'clock yesterday for the afternoon session which interviews, Alexandra and the usually female newspaper reporters began at 2: It was pouring rain, but they didn't care. They had read together realized other classic elements of melodrama and soap opera, the synopsis of preceding installments in the newspapers. This would be such as intimate talk and emotional display: From the curious spectators' standpoint all it seemed to lack was a good '1 loved her so much and she loved me. We were very close until she mar- commercial. Alexandra's] grief and terror were so real and so terrible, so pitifully The reporter's recognition that 'even when it ends the story isn't fin- responsive to sympathy, that I wept with her A s 'Oh,' she said in a choked voice, suddenly covering her mouth with her well, presentation of the case i n 'installments i n the newspapers' cre- hand as though to stifle a scream.

Her face contorted and tears streamed ated a serial narrative, a distinguishing feature of soap opera. I n her down her tired, aged cheeks. Reaching out, she clutched my arm, put her analvsis of the coverage, Doyle observed that key details of the torso head down on my coatfront and wept. A t the same time, ly every other figure involved in the case was male. Weaver notes the though, the struggles of the 'characters' in the Evelyn Dick story make male domination of the Canadian criminal justice system in the s; no 'real-life demands' upon the reader, as is also the case with soaps: This focus Of c o u i J C the case involved Evelyn's family from the start: Reporters and lawyers minor role in crime news prior to the s.

In his closing remarks to Evelyn was the leading lady i n the story of the murders, her motherthe jury at Evelyn's first trial, defence counsel John J. Sullivan made a was the most prominent member of the supporting cast. A house on a quiet street, E v e l y n spent eleven years and three months in the federal Prison for British immigrant parents, the daughter trying to "better" herself, not Women in Kingston before she was released under ticket of leave mentally, but socially. You think of the childhood of the girl, and what it i n November at the age of thirty-eight. E v e l y n effectively disap- psychiatrist testified not only that Evelyn w a s nearly a moron, but also peared, her whereabouts k n o w n only to the parole board.

She had the same freedoms as any Canadian citizen, and masked larger social and economic factors, seeking instead to locate her parole-board record was forever sealed. This dis- she is still alive.


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