Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Alice Crimmins Case

The Puzzle of Personality

Taken to the vacant lot without knowing in advance what she was going to see, Alice was escorted directly to the corpse of her four-year-old daughter. Tiny Missy, a delicate-featured blonde, lay on her side. The girl was dressed in a white T-shirt and yellow panties. A blue flower-patterned pajama top was ominously wound and knotted about the childs neck.

Crimmins swooned and Piering caught her. Its Missy, she mumbled.

Alice with detectives after Missy's indentification
Alice with detectives after Missy's
She had to be assisted back to the unmarked police cruiser. However, she did not cry, a fact that struck the detectives as damning. Indeed, all during the drive back home, this mother who had just suffered what would be, to a normal person, the most grievous loss imaginable shed no tears. Rather, she sat in the car, staring into the distance and answering questions in a flat, expressionless tone.

At her home, she stepped into a swarm of photographers lights popping off in her face and suddenly started sobbing.

That settled it in the minds of the investigating officers. Alice Crimmins did not care about her children. Her swooning at her dead daughters side was theatrical; she only cried on camera in a calculated attempt to simulate grief.

Their very negative opinion of her would soon be reinforced the next morning when she kept the officers who wanted to question her waiting while she finished putting on her make-up. As Ken Gross wrote in The Alice Crimmins Case, both police and public were outraged at the idea that a woman who was supposed to be in the ultimate stages of grief and anxiety (her son was still missing) was more concerned about her appearance!

10 year old Ralph Warneke points to where he found Eddie's body (CORBIS)
10 year old Ralph Warneke points to
where he found Eddie's body
Her sons badly decomposed body was found several days after his sisters body. Then, within a week of the funeral, Alice Crimmins, mother of two small dead children, appeared to simply resume her normal life. Normal life, in this case included not just doing housekeeping chores and cooking for herself and her husband she and Edmund had reconciled but evenings at bars and nightclubs where she drank and danced the nights away.

Perhaps this behavior did indeed point, as so many believed, to an abnormally callous mentality and one that was capable of murder. Then again, all of it is subject to less sinister interpretations.

It is commonly accepted that shock can dam emotional expression. Perhaps the visual flash of camera bulbs suddenly jolted it out of Crimmins. Subsequent events would show Piering hasty in judging the swoon as faked since Alice would show a tendency to faint under most extreme pressure.

There is a poignant explanation for her apparently obsessive concern with her appearance. "It was an important part of her, the make-up," Gross wrote, "Later it would be misunderstood, dismissed as cold vanity. But the adolescent acne of her well-scrubbed Catholic girlhood had burrowed into her a permanent feeling of inferiority. It would take her the better part of an hour but that great affliction of her acne-scarred complexion would be disguised with expert care." Finally, her resumption of an active nightlife and, soon after that, an active extra-marital sex life might also be viewed as a coping mechanism. Just as she had previously fought off loneliness through sensuality, so now she tried to escape an overwhelming grief with the pleasures of the flesh.

Husband Edmund Crimmins had his own share of peculiar personality traits. Since their separation, he had installed a wiretap on her phone and another wiretap from her bedroom to the basement so he could listen to her making love to other men when he surreptitiously entered the home. In one instance, he had been in the basement while Alice was in bed with another guy. Edmund Crimmins had burst into the bedroom and chased the lover naked into the street. He would sometimes sneak into the home when he knew she was not there simply to be around the items she owned.

Even more disturbingly, he had told Alice that, during their separation, he had once exposed his genitals to some little girls in a park. Later, he claimed that he made up the story to ease Alices guilt feelings about the demise of their marriage and make her think he was as bad as she was. However, whether the story was true or false, telling it certainly marks Edmund Crimmins as an odd man.

But the cops saw Alice as the more sinister of the two.


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