Venezuela King decides not to fight the murder charge
This is the conclusion to a three part series.
By all accounts Venezuela King appeared to be in excellent spirits while being held in the Butler County jail on a charge of first degree murder in connection with the death of her husband, George E. King, on Highway 54, about three miles east of Augusta.
A reporter stated that when visiting the jail the morning after her husband’s funeral, Venezuela was lying on her bunk in her cell and said she was feeling “fine” and spent most of her time reading. She also said the food served to her was good and she had high praise for the county officers with whom she was around daily.
Before the reporter left, Mrs. King asked him to open an outside window near her cell as it was unusually hot. The reporter complied and she resumed resting on her bunk and reading.
The next morning the accused murderer made a statement to the press.
“We are not going to fight the case any more. Dad (A.F. Cooper of Great Falls, Mont.) and I talked the matter over yesterday and came to the conclusion that it would be a waste of our money and the county’s money to fight the case,” she added, “They don’t point their fingers at me and whisper as I pass. Everyone is genuine, seemingly with a sincere wish to help me in every way possible.”
Mr. Cooper was emotional, “The officers have done a number of kind things. The kind of treatment I have received here makes a man feel mighty good. It isn’t what I expected.”
He further explained, “I always had the impression that Venezuela and George were happy...Certainly we never dreamed of anything of this sort. We read much about such tragedies every day, but always we say, ‘It couldn’t happen to me.’ But it has. It has been only in the past few hours that I could see a way out - not a complete way, but the best way.”
George Adams, Venezuela’s attorney was released as counsel in the case as it was expected she would enter a plea of guilty in district court. The next step for Venezuela was to sign relinquishment papers on her child. The baby and all property owned by her would be placed in the hands of her father.
Venezuela was anxious to sign the child over to her parents, as an organization in Wichita was reported to be taking steps to have a guardian appointed for the baby.
Mr. Cooper was expected to take the child to Great Falls as soon as the entire King case was resolved.
There had been some doubt about the family being able to collect the $3,000 insurance policy left by King.
Under Kansas law, it would be impossible for Venezuela to collect, but it was believed that her father, as guardian, could collect it for the child.
In addition to the insurance, King left a 20-acre fruit farm between Bixby and Broken Arrow, Okla. The farm was called “Willow Springs” and was valued at $2,500.
“There’s a lot of talk about fees and the like, but what I’m primariliy interested in is getting the baby back to my home...it will be a fine next egg to help with school,” Cooper continued, “If there’s ever any doubt about my fitness to take care of the child, all they will have to do is communicate with just about anyone in Great Falls. There are 35,000 people there and I suppose I know 6,000 of them by first name...and speaking of friendly people, never before in my life have I ever run into a better group of people than most of those I’ve met here.”
Venezuela King, 27, pled guilty to first degree murder of her husband in Division No. 2 of Butler County District Court at 12:30 p.m. on Feb. 15, 1939.
Before the hearing opened, she spoke with her father, two sisters and her child. She wept bitterly as she cradled her baby. It was only the second time she had seen the child since the murder.
As Venezuela was without counsel, District Court Judge George J. Benson asked if she desired an attorney. She stated that she didn’t, but the judge suggested that she should have counsel and she consented. L.J. Bond was named.
Mr. Bond, Venezuela, her father and sister, all conferred in Judge Benson’s chambers. They returned to the courtroom in about five minutes.
Gale Moss, county attorney, read the information to the court. He then called Will R. Feder, news editor of The Times, to the stand. He was the only witness. Feder was asked to testify regarding Venezuela’s confession made on the morning of Jan. 29th to Mr. Moss, and in the presence of her sister, her nephew, and Erma Knust, court stenographer.
The confession was then offered in evidence and read to the court by Moss. It was the only exhibit offered.
Judge Benson asked next if Venezuela understood the charge against her and asked about any wishes.
Although pale from her several weeks of confinement, she was quite composed and made her plea, “Guilty!” in a firm and unwavering voice.
Judge Benson sentenced her to serve the remainder of her natural life at the Women’s State Industrial Farm, at Lansing. The hearing was over and had lasted only a half hour.
Venezuela showed little emotion when the sentence was pronounced.
Over 30 people, most of the employees of the court house, were in the court room when the sentence was pronounced. Many of them had been on their way to lunch when they heard that Mrs. King would be in court and they flocked to the court room.
A few days later, Arthur Stanley Reade, 43, admitted close friend of Mrs. King, was released from the county jail. Reade, who had been held as a material witness since shortly after the murder, was given his freedom after being held at the county jail on a $2,500 bond.
Afterword: Research did not produce an abundance of information on Venezuela King’s life after the trial. I was not able to ascertain how many years she served at Lansing, but did confirm that she was living free only 11 years later when she remarried on July 22, 1950 in Billings, Mont. She was 38 and her new husband was 68. A census conducted in 1956 indicated that Mr. and Mrs. Welch were living in Great Falls, Mont. Her new husband’s name was also George.
Sources: The Augusta Daily Gazette, January, 1939; The El Dorado Times, January, 1939; The San Antonio Light, January, 1939, ancestry.com.