"...we should pass over all biographies of 'the good and the great,' while we search carefully the slight records of wretches who died in prison, in Bedlam, or upon the gallows."
~Edgar Allan Poe

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Newspaper Clipping of the Day

Via Newspapers.com

Many things have been known to inspire murder plots, but I believe a broken clothesline is one for the record books.   The "Santa Rosa Press-Democrat," November 9, 1949:

PORT ORCHARD, Wash., Nov. 8 (UP) Jobless, Wilford Piatt, 34, explained today why he "just can't get mad" at his wife, who admits plotting to kill him after 15 years of "too much loving." 
"She was upset," he said, "over the spell of bad luck we've been having, that's all. A wife just doesn't kill a husband who loves her." 
Wilford, who, romantically speaking, thinks he's "only average," visited the petite, blue-eyed Margaret Susan Piatt yesterday, following her arraignment in Kitsap county court. His 31 -year-old wife, mother of two children, has until next Monday to answer the charge of attempted murder. 
After her arraignment yesterday, Mrs. Piatt, dressed prettily in a black and white figured dress and high-heeled pumps, met her husband in the jail visiting room. They kissed and hugged. 
Leaving her with a sack full of apples, Wilford beamed: "She's wonderful!" 
"And I think I know now what the real trouble is," he said. "It's only the way our luck's been going." 
"Two years ago, I wrecked my new 1947 Ford and woke up 21 days later in the hospital. After that the roof fell in. 
"This spring Margaret was operated on for the tumor. Then Jimmy, my 9-year-old son broke his ear drum." 
"It was Fourth of July when Jimmy, his hands sticky from candy he was eating, lighted a firecracker, threw it and then clapped his hands to his face. The explosive had stuck to his hands. 
"Six weeks later a police dog knocked him down and bit his face," Wilford said. 
"Not long after that, my daughter Sherry fell 30 feet and broke her shoulder. That was on my wife's birthday." 
Seven days later Piatt fell and broke his arm while apple picking in Cashmere, Wash. 
"About that time is when she started acting funny. Wouldn't talk to me, reason with me," he said. "Just barely noticed me. Seems like everything in her snapped the next Sunday, when the clothesline broke." 
With her husband unable to work, she had been working two jobs 16 hours a day. Sunday was washday. 
It was that weekend that Mrs. Piatt met Hollis D. Scott and outlined her plot to murder her husband. 
"She was just depressed, that's all," said Wilford. "Then she pulled that fool stunt soon after. That's why you can't get mad at her." 
At the arraignment yesterday, her attorney, Ray R. Greenwood, challenged the validity of the attempted murder charge, arguing that the information as drawn up did not constitute a crime. 
"No overt act was committed," he pointed out. Prosecutor James Monroe contended solicitation to commit murder is the same as attempted murder.

Mrs. Piatt's attorneys, rather amazingly, managed to get the attempted murder charges against their client dropped, but a new charge--forgery--was brought against her. (When she sold her husband's car to pay for his murder, she falsified his name on the title papers.) When she was released on bail, Wilford welcomed her back with open arms, saying "We sure do need you home."

"Akron Beacon Journal," November 9, 1949

I suppose it is a matter of individual opinion whether Wilford Piatt was the most understanding, tolerant man on the planet or simply the biggest idiot on two legs.

The forgery charges were eventually dropped as well, and the Piatts disappeared from the newspapers.  Hopefully, this brush with calamity moderated Wilford's sexual desires and Margaret's homicidal ones, and the pair went on to live happily ever after, but I somehow doubt it.


  1. According to find-a-grave, she died in 1990 and he died in 1996. They are buried together and share a headstone. Who'd have thought they'd last?

    1. I'm glad to hear that. A bit surprised, but glad. I wonder if this whole episode became a beloved family tradition. "Mommy, tell us again about the time you tried to order a hit on Daddy!"

  2. Who'd have thought there was this much humor in Port Orchard! I lived there ten years and it certainly had a reputation, as a sign on one persons fence reads: "Come on vacation, stay on probation". It was a beautiful part of the Washington coast but a crap place to live, frankly.

  3. A run of bad luck culminating in a murder plot. Perhaps the last item in the list of bad things burned the run out, and they were able to start again. If so, I wouldn't recommend such a drastic practice for everyone.


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