In Mississippi we do like murder mysteries, and we like scandals, especially when they’re true. Hunter Cole’s book, The Legs Murder Scandal, is billed as ‘the engaging story of Mississippi’s Lizzie Borden and the sensational matricide that mystified the nation.’ If that doesn’t intrigue you, read on.
In Laurel, in 1935, a daughter in a wealthy and troubled family stood accused of murdering her mother. On her testimony, authorities arrested an equally prominent and well-to-do businessman, her reputed lover and accomplice.
There’s more. Ouida Keeton apparently shot her mother, chopped her up and disposed of most of the corpse down the toilet and in the fireplace, burning all but the pelvic region and the thighs. Attempting to dispose of these remains on a one-lane, isolated road, Ouida left a trail of evidence that ended in her arrest. Witnesses had seen her driving there, and within hours a hunter and his dogs found the body parts and the cloth in which they were wrapped.
“I sell a lot of copies of this book,” said Diane Shepherd, owner of Main Street Books in Hattiesburg. “I haven’t read it yet, but my customers tell me it’s very good.”
Touted as the most sensational crime in state history at the time, the Legs Murder of 1935 is almost entirely forgotten today. The controversial outcome has been left muddled by ambiguity. The book presents an intricately detailed description of the separate trials of Ouida Keeton and W.M. Carter. Having researched trial transcripts, courthouse records, medical files and vast newspaper coverage, Cole reveals new facts previously distorted by hearsay, hushed reports and misinformation.
The author pursues many unanswered questions such as what did Ouida Keeton really do with the rest of her mother? It’s an interesting but harrowing story and the book attempts to provide clarity.
The book was published in 2010 and has a postscript by acclaimed Mississippi writer Elizabeth Spencer. Cole, a Brandon resident, retired in 2003 as associate director and marketing manager of the University Press of Mississippi.