Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Belle Gunness

Body Double?

Anderson's testimony shocked the courtroom, greatly surging the defense's staying power in three relevant ways. First, there was allegedly another woman present in Mrs. Gunness' company only 48 hours before the fire. Second, and equally beneficial, by describing the mysterious visitor as "not quite as large as Mrs. Gunness," the description supported earlier testimony from Dr. Gray who, during autopsy, estimated that the victim had weighed, before fire shrinkage, no more than 200 pounds — some 80 pounds less than the Norwegian temptress. Third, the fact that Sheriff Smutzer hadn't mentioned Anderson's statement looked bad for the prosecution.

Prosecutor Smith's cross-examination fell on deaf ears; Anderson was stalwart. Climax was high, and Worden wouldn't let it drop. Next, he summoned McClung Road neighbor Daniel Hutson who knew Mrs. Gunness well; he lived within walking distance and he had spent a season last year working for her five days a week. Says writer Lillian de la Torre, "he had an astounding story to tell and he told it with dramatic gusto".

Worden: Have you seen Mrs. Gunness since the fire?

Hutson: On the road near the hog pen.

Worden: What date did you see her?

Hutson: On the ninth day of July. I was coming from town with a hayrack, and I saw through the trees Mrs. Gunness and a man walking in the orchard. Even at that distance, I could recognize her plainly. I knew her size, I knew her shape, and I knew her lumbering walk. I never saw another woman who walked like her. She had on a light skirt, black waist, a wide-trimmed hat with a black veil that came down to the chin and a white veil over that. There was a man with her. He weighed about 165 pounds. He had a gray mustache and gray hair.

Worden: What did you do?

Hutson: I started up my horses to try to get up the hill to the orchard before she could get away, but when I got within two wagon lengths of the buggy, they ran to it, clambered in, and raced straight for the main road. I tried to follow them, but they got ahead of me, and I did not like to follow them anymore. There was a good chance of me getting a chunk of lead!

Again, a dose of whammy from Worden. Here was not only a reliable townsman vouching in behalf of Belle's longevity, but the fact that she had been accompanied by a man (who looked nothing like Lamphere) might answer many who all along figured Belle to have had an accomplice and had tried to pin that role on young brown-haired Ray Lamphere. The fact that the couple escaped when Hutson neared them was damaging.

Mr. Hutson's two daughters, Evaline and Eldora, followed suit. Both had, on separate occasions in and around July, seen Belle Gunness and the same man either cutting through the backwoods of the farm or travelling in a buggy down McClung Road. Of her experience, the older of the two, Evaline, testified, "She was in a buggy with a man. She had on two veils. The black one was over her face. When she saw me, she turned her face away from me."

Two boys playing near Pine Lake Cemetery also claimed to have seen the woman "the Thursday after Independence Day." Glancing at a pocket calendar, Worden announced that that was July 9, the same day Daniel Hutson had espied her. They saw her face when she lifted a pair of veils to take a sip from a water pump.

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