The Bizarre Tale of Murderer Louise Peete In 1944, Her Crime on Hampden Place Led to the Gas Chamber

When realtor Bill Kerbox received a listing for a house on 713 Hampden Place (off Swarthmore Avenue), owner Ruth Wollbruck gave him a brief history of the property that she has rented out for the past 40 years. Kerbox instantly knew he was faced with the most bizarre disclosure in his real estate career. Fact: one of the home’s previous owners had been murdered and buried in the backyard by housekeeper Louise Peete, a notorious murderer who was sent to the San Quentin gas chamber in 1947. Since the murder happened more than 60 years ago, Kerbox wasn’t required to disclose it to prospective buyers, but he chose to go the other direction by bringing the story to the Palisadian-Post. ‘My feeling is that it was such a documented event, that it would be inappropriate not to disclose it up front,’ Kerbox said. ‘We decided to turn it into part of the marketing for the house because there might be someone who finds the history fascinating.’ Several sources, including The Palisadian (before its merger with the Palisades Post) and a 1945 article in Time magazine, provide the facts of the story. Louise Peete was born into a wealthy family in 1883. Her father was a prominent newspaper publisher in New Orleans and Peete was bought up as a classic Southern Belle and given a good education at the best private schools. Unfortunately, Louise was expelled from an expensive finishing school because of her sexual escapades. In 1903, she married Henry Bostley, a traveling salesman, and went on the road with him. Alas, he shot himself after finding Peete in bed with a local oilman. Louise sold Bostley’s belongings and moved to Shreveport, where she worked as a prostitute until she could afford a trip to Boston. She specialized there as a hooker who made house calls. At the homes of wealthy clients, she stole the wife’s jewelry and sold most of the pieces to supplement her income. When she was eventually discovered, she high-tailed it out of town to Waco, Texas. Wasting no time, Peete met and wooed oilman Joe Appel, who was known for the diamonds that studded his belt buckle and even the buttons of his clothing. A week later, he was found dead with a bullet hole to his head and his diamonds were missing. Peete was arrested and called before a special grand jury, but when she explained that Appel had tried to rape her and she acted in self-defense, members of the jury openly applauded as they set her free. In 1913, low on cash, Peete married hotel clerk Harry Faurote in Dallas. Her flagrant adultery drove him to suicide and left her a widow for the second time. Moving to Denver, she took another husband, Richard Peete, and had a daughter with him, but she soon tired of her lifestyle and moved to Los Angeles in 1920. . While looking for a place to rent, Peete met wealthy oilman Jacob D. Denton. They soon shared a residence and it was rumored that Peete wanted Denton to marry her. He refused, but Peete took it in stride. She had the caretaker dump dirt in the basement, explaining that she wanted to grow one of Denton’s favorite foods: mushrooms. Denton disappeared on May 30, and a weeping Peete helped the police look for clues, but nothing turned up. She sublet the house and moved back to Denver to resume her married life. In September, however, investigators returned to Denton’s house and discovered his body buried in the basement. Peete was convicted of murder in 1921 and sentenced to life imprisonment. Her husband faithfully wrote letters to her while she was in prison, but when several went unanswered, he committed suicide in 1924. San Quentin’s warden, Clinton Duffy, later described Peete as projecting ‘an air of innocent sweetness which masked a heart of ice.’ But Peete was a model prisoner, and thanks to the help of a probation officer, Emily Latham, she was released in 1939. Peete returned to Los Angeles and found a job as a housekeeper for Jessie Marcy, age 60, who died shortly afterwards. Peete then kept house for Latham, who also died. After both deaths, police investigated and listed the deaths as ‘natural’ causes. Peete finally made her way to Pacific Palisades in 1944, when she became a housekeeper on Hampden Place for mentally-ailing Arthur Logan and his wife Margaret, a real-estate broker. While working for them, Peete married her third husband, a Palisades bank teller named Lee Judson. Shortly after their marriage, Margaret Logan disappeared. Peete told the aged Arthur Logan that his wife was in a hospital and wasn’t allowed visitors. A few months later, she convinced authorities that Arthur was insane and he was committed to a state hospital. Bank teller Judson, who was living in the Logan house with Peete, grew suspicious of his wife when he found a bullet hole in the wall and a mound of earth by the avocado tree, but said nothing. He became even more suspicious when the missing woman’s life insurance policy listed Peete as the sole beneficiary. As The Palisadian later reported: ‘Suspicion was first directed at her [Peete] when signatures on Mrs. Peete’s regular parole report, purported to be those of Mrs. Logan, failed to correspond with known signatures and were detected by an alert parole officer.’ Authorities came to the house and discovered Margaret Logan’s body buried in the back yard on December 20, 1944. She had a bullet hole in her head. Brought to trial, Peete had a logical story: Arthur had killed his wife in a fit of insanity and she didn’t want to report the death because of her background: she had been convicted of first-degree murder in 1921, sentenced to life imprisonment and was out on parole. When she moved in with the Logans, she confided her past, but rather than dismissing her, they were empathic and embraced her, which was ultimately their undoing. The Logans were among many who liked and trusted Peete. By all accounts, she was charming, sweet and believable. During her trial fellow prisoners rallied to her side by keeping her hair dyed and waved, as well as washing her nylons. ‘A jury of 11 women and one man, sitting in the court of Superior Judge Harold B. Landreth on Monday found Mrs. Louise Peete guilty of murder in the first degree for the killing of Mrs. Margaret Logan,’ reported the The Palisadian on June 1, 1945. ‘The decision was reached on the first ballot after three hours of deliberation.’ Shortly after Peete’s conviction, her husband, who had been acquitted, committed suicide by jumping from the 13th floor of a Los Angeles office building. Peete was widowed a third time. On April 11, 1947, the motherly Peete went to the gas chamber at San Quentin–one of only four women ever to be executed in California. While the matron and fellow prisoners wept, Peete said: ‘Don’t be troubled, my dears. Death is merely an eventuality in all our lives.’ ****************** Open house for the 713 Hampden Place listing is planned February 23 and 24. The two- bedroom, one-bath, 900-sq.-ft. house is listed at $1,010,000. Awasabi Green Living is overhauling the property with an environmental staging that includes new landscaping, an eco-friendly paint job, restoring existing flooring and using environmental materials whenever possible. The company is also bringing in a feng shui specialist. Contacts: Realtor Bill Kerbox at Miramar Coastal Properties (310) 600-4484 or Awasabi Green co-owner Erin Garrity at (310) 795-1899.