Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Abused Heiress - Anne Scripps Douglas


Anne Scripps Douglas lived the typical life of a battered woman the whispered telephone calls, the lies to friends and family, the coded messages to the few she could trust. Like a frightened animal she jumped at every loud sound, each ring of the phone, and most of all at the drunken curses of the man she had once loved but who now terrified her.

Edward Wyllis Scripps, founder of Scripps Howard newspaper chain (CORBIS)
Edward Wyllis
Scripps, founder of
Scripps Howard
newspaper chain
Her life had not always been this way. She grew up a child of privilege, the descendant of the men who founded what would one day become the Scripps Howard newspaper chain, once publishers of the Detroit News, Cincinnati Post and other newspapers across America. The Scripps family was as tough as any publishing group in the days of the Penny Press, but they were philanthropic, too. Annes father, a retired merchant marine captain, was running the Tracy Foundations alcoholic rehabilitation center in upstate New York when she was born in 1946.

Anne Scripps as a young woman (AP)
Anne Scripps as a
young woman (AP)
Growing up, Anne was subjected to a rigorous academic and disciplinary course at the all-girls Sacred Heart Convent near Albany and after graduation returned to Manhattan where she studied at the Duchesne Residence School, a two-year college for Catholic women. It was also run by the Religious of the Sacred Heart. Anne, an interior design student, graduated in 1966. A comment on her record by Mother Clare Krim, the director, described Anne as "very attractive, pleasant, very active on the social service committee and always willing to help others."

After graduation, Anne followed the course of so many other well-to-do young ladies and entered the debutante arena, coming out at cotillions in New York and Europe.

Anne enjoyed life in Bronxville, New York, an upstate commuter city. It was there that Anne and her new husband, Anthony Morell, a bond trader, settled after their society wedding when Anne was 23. Her bridal attendants included Princess Immaculata Hapsburg of Vienna and the ushers included Victor Emmanuel Jr. of the House of Savoy, direct descendant of the king of Italy.

What Anne wanted most was the quiet life of a suburban housewife. Friends said she sought the ideal marriage that only seems to exist on television. She wanted to be waiting each night at the doorway as Tony, whom she referred to as her "prince in shining armor", returned from the city to dinner on the stove, the children playing in the yard, the martinis cooling in the glass.

Shortly after they moved to Bronxville, Anne became pregnant and eventually the family included daughters Alexandra and Anne. Anne was determined to give them the close parenting she had not received and friends recalled that there was nothing in the world more important to Anne than the girls.

"She spent so much time with the kids," said Sharon Boles, a friend for two decades. "I'd say to her, 'You're doing the kind of thing I wish we had done. You stop and smell the roses.' She truly loved those kids. She couldn't love them enough."

Each day Anne would walk her daughters to school, return to pick them up for lunch and take them back after. At the end of the day she would walk them home from school.

But Tony liked the fast-paced world of high finance and parties. The marriage lasted until the girls were teenagers, but in the end their differences proved irreconcilable. Tony and Anne divorced in 1988, after 18 years of marriage.

"It was hard for her to be single," said another friend, Gretchen Devlin. "Anne was more afraid of being alone than anything else. She had believed in Tony, believed in marriage . . . She was afraid to be alone raising her kids."

Shortly after the divorce, Anne met Scott Douglas at a party and the two became friends. What Anne saw in Scott, few others in her circle did, but that made no difference to her. She shrugged off their warnings and began dating the younger man.



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