Cases Involving

Homicides That Are Apparent Suicides

Includes Self-Caused Accidental Deaths (Involuntary Suicides)

21 Cases

Main Menu

AL - Mobile - Donnie Mays 2001

CA - Los Angeles - Fred Rogers 1941

FL - Escambia - E. J. Fudge 1916

FL - Polk - Andrew Golden 1989

IL - Cook - Sammie Garrett 1969

IL - Wabash - John Cochran 1888

MD - Baltimore - Nick Bagley 19611

MI - Oakland - Dr. Jack Kevorkian 1998

MI - Wayne - Lonnie Jenkins 1931

MI - Wayne - Walter A. Pecho 1954

MS - Forrest - Stephanie Stephens 2001

NV - Clark - Tabish & Murphy 19982

NJ - Essex - Raffaelo Morello 1918

OH - Franklin - Kevin Tolliver 20012

OH - Warren - Ryan Widmer 20082

TX - Cameron - Susan Mowbray 1987

VA - Powhatan - Beverly Monroe 1992

VA - Wise - Merry Pease 1993

England - Ryan James 1994

England - Nico Bento 20051

France - Jean Calas 1761


1 Plausibly a Suicide though Cause of Death is Undetermined

2Possible or Probable Involuntary Suicide




Date of Alleged Crime


Mobile County, AL Donnie Mays Apr 12, 2001 (Mobile)

Donnie Mays was convicted of the murder of his wife Kaye.  On the day of Kaye's death, Donnie, who worked for American General Auto Finance, received a phone call from corporate headquarters telling him that someone had forged his signature on expense reports.  Kaye subsequently admitted she had forged Donnie's signature.  Not knowing the severity of the wrongdoing or that Kaye had actually stolen money from his employer, Donnie suggested they call his boss, Jim Martin, whom both Donnie and Kaye were close to.  However, Kaye decided it would be best to wait until the following morning.

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Los Angeles County, CA Fred Rogers 1941

Courtney Fred Rogers was sentenced to death for the murders of his parents.  In Oct. 1941 his 50-year-old father was rescued from a burning house, but later died of smoke inhalation.  Investigators found burning candles in the house and determined that fires had been set in several rooms.  The death of Rogers Sr. was ruled a suicide.  Eight months earlier, Rogers' mother had died from the inhalation of chloroform.  Her death had also been ruled a suicide.

Four months after the death of his father, Rogers was arrested for making a false $400 insurance claim.  Police found that the 24-year-old was heavily in debt and began to wonder if he had killed his parents in order to collect on life insurance.  Rogers, however, received no insurance proceeds for the death of his mother, although he did receive full ownership of the home he had jointly owned with her.  He received only $1000 for the death of his father plus $2300 for damage to the house.  Such proceeds were small compared to Rogers' debts.

After 16 days of more-or-less continuous questioning by police, Rogers confessed to the murders of his parents, a confession that he soon retracted.  Nevertheless, he was convicted of these alleged murders.  In 1943, the California Supreme Court unanimously threw out Rogers' convictions.  Evidence that his mother had committed suicide was clear and convincing.  The same was true in regard to the death of his father.  Neighbors had testified at how despondent Rogers Sr. was over the death of his wife and how he often had spoken of taking his own life.  Neighbors also said he had spoken of his dread of being left alone, after Rogers Jr., his only son, answered a draft call into the army.  Rogers Jr. was scheduled to report the day after the fatal fire.  At retrial, in the face of no evidence against Rogers, the retrial court dismissed charges.  (ISI) (Time) [2/09]


Escambia County, FL E. J. Fudge June 27, 1916
E. J. Fudge was convicted of the murder of his two daughters Ethel and Tennie, ages 7 and 10 years.  Evidence indicated the girls' deaths were suicides as Tennie left behind three notes in her handwriting giving reasons for her and her sister's suicides.  At trial the state introduced a possible motive for Fudge to kill his daughters and argued that he forced Tennie to write the notes.  However, the state's theory of the crime was unsupported and appeared to only be a remote possibility.  In Mar. 1918, the state supreme court overturned Fudge's conviction for insufficient evidence.  Charges against him were subsequently dropped.  (Fudge v. State) (MJ) [12/10]


Polk County, FL Andrew Golden Sept 13, 1989 (Winter Haven)
Andrew Golden was convicted and sentenced to death for the drowning murder of his wife, Ardelle.  Golden's rented car was found submerged in Lake Hartridge at the end of a boat ramp.  The body of his wife was found floating in the lake.  Although the medical examiner had concluded that there was no evidence of foul play, the prosecution argued that Golden was in debt and stood to collect on a life insurance policy if his wife were to die.  There was no eyewitness testimony, no confession, and no other evidence tending to show that Golden's wife had been murdered by anyone.  Golden's lawyer did little to prepare for trial, having assumed that the case would be thrown out before trial.  He did not argue that Ardelle may have committed suicide, having been depressed over the recent death of her father.  He did not tell the jury about the four death notices of her father that Ardelle had with her in the car.  On appeal, the Florida Supreme Court reversed the conviction, holding that there was simply no evidence on which to base the conviction.  Golden was exonerated of all charges and released in 1994.  (FLCC) (DPIC) (Golden v. State)  [12/06]


Cook County, IL Sammie Garrett Nov 9, 1969
Sammie Garrett, a black man, was convicted of murdering his 28-year-old white girlfriend, Karen Thompson.  Thompson had been in a “highly emotional state” and left a purported suicide note.  Two police officers testified at Garrett's trial that, given the length of the shotgun and the location of the wound, it would have been impossible for Thompson to have shot herself.  Since there was only one bullet hole on the exterior of her head, they assumed it was an entrance wound.  However, five years later Thompson's remains were reexamined and the examination disclosed an entrance wound in the roof of her mouth that the original pathologist had overlooked.  The Illinois Supreme Court overturned Garrett's conviction in 1975 and the State's Attorney dropped charges.  (CWC) (People v. Garrett)  [1/06]


Wabash County, IL John Cochran Oct 16, 1888 (Mount Carmel)

On Oct. 16, 1888 John Buchenberger, a businessman from Evansville, Indiana, was found unconscious with a gunshot to the head.  His revolver, with one empty shell chamber, was found by his side.  Buchenberger had bought the revolver the day before his shooting.  He died three days after the shooting without regaining consciousness.

In November, John Cochran, a local man, whom Buchenberger had met, was tried for Buchenberger's murder. At trial, Charles Reese, a horse thief, testified that Cochran admitted to the murder. The jury found Cochran guilty and he was sentenced to life in prison.  However, unknown to the defense, Buchenberger's wife in Evansville received a letter from her husband four days after the shooting.  In it Buchenberger stated, “he was about to part from the world of mortals to dwell with his heavenly father.”  The wife eventually made the contents of this suicide letter known.  Because of the letter, Illinois Governor Fifer pardoned Cochran in August 1890.  (CWC)  [9/07]


Baltimore City, MD Nick Bagley Nov 28, 1961

Nick Donald Bagley was convicted of the murder of Donald J. Davis.  Davis operated a retail meat store on Falls Road in Baltimore City.  Around 7 a.m. one morning, he was found in his store lying in a pool of blood with a gunshot wound to his head.  A revolver belonging to Davis was on the floor close to and pointing toward the left side of his head.  He died four days later.  The medical examiner reported that his findings indicated a typical self-inflicted wound.

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Oakland County, MI Dr. Jack Kevorkian Sept 17, 1998 (Waterford Twp)
Dr. Jack Kevorkian was convicted of murdering 52-year-old Thomas Youk.  Youk was terminally ill and suffered from Lou Gehrig's disease.  Youk wanted to commit suicide as a means to end his suffering and enlisted the aid of physician Kevorkian to ensure that it was done right.  Kevorkian videotaped Youk's consent to his assistance and the assisted suicide.  Kevorkian aired the tape to a national audience on the 60 Minutes TV show.  Physicians reportedly assist the terminally ill end their lives all the time and they are not even investigated, but Kevorkian's crime was to document his assistance.  Kevorkian was paroled in June 2007.  [10/05]


Wayne County, MI Lonnie Jenkins Oct 15, 1931
Lonnie Jenkins was convicted of the murder of his wife.  Initially a Coroner's jury found that Mrs. Jenkins had committed suicide by shooting herself.  However, Jenkins was later arrested for her murder.  At trial a 17-year-old girl who lived at the Jenkins' home testified she had written his wife's suicide note at his dictation.  Jenkins' daughter (who was 12 at the time of the shooting) later brought the note to the attention of FBI experts who determined the handwriting on the note was that of Mrs. Jenkins.  Jenkins conviction was vacated in Dec. 1940; he was released after serving 9 years in prison.  (News Article) (Photo) (MJ)  [12/10]


Wayne County, MI Walter A. Pecho June 9, 1954 (Detroit)
“Walter A. Pecho [an Oldsmobile plant worker] was wrongly accused and convicted of murdering his wife [Eleanor] after he called police to report that she had committed suicide by shooting herself with a shotgun.  He was convicted on the testimony of the prosecution's pathologist erroneous conclusion that Pecho's wife didn't commit suicide.  In 1950 he was pardoned by Michigan [Governor] Mennen Williams and freed after 6 years imprisonment when his wife's ring fingerprint was found on the trigger guard of the shotgun.” – FJDB  (Time)


Forrest County, MS Stephanie Stephens May 1, 2001 (Hattiesburg)

Stephanie Stephens was convicted of the murder of her 59-year-old husband, Dr. David Stephens.  David was chief of surgery at Hattiesburg's Forrest General Hospital.  David appeared to have died in his sleep, while Stephanie slept next to him.  However, two drugs were found in his system, Etomidate, an anesthetic, and Atricurium, a drug used to relax muscles during surgery for patients on life support. Without life support, Atricurium is lethal as it will paralyze a person's heart and lungs.

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Clark County, NV Tabish & Murphy Sept 17, 1998 (Las Vegas)

Rick Tabish, a trucking contractor, and Sandy Murphy, a one-time topless dancer, were convicted in 2000 of murdering Murphy's boyfriend, Ted Binion.  Binion, 55, was formerly an executive of the Horseshoe Casino and had an estate worth $50 million.  Tabish and Murphy allegedly killed Binion by forcing him to swallow a mixture of black tar heroin and the sedative Xanax.  Murphy stood to inherit about $1.5 million from Binion's estate.  Tom Dillard, an investigator hired by the Binion family, gathered evidence against the pair and got police to file charges.  Defense argued at trial that Binion was a well-known heroin addict and had simply overdosed.

Binion reportedly became depressed in March 1998 after the Nevada Casino Gaming Control board permanently barred him from his family's casino because of his reported drug use and his association with a known mobster.  The day before Binion's death, he was prescribed a month's supply of Xanax, which is useful for combating the withdraw symptoms of heroin.  However, it seemed unlikely that he planned to use the Xanax for that purpose, for later that day, he bought 12 balloons of black tar heroin from a drug dealer.  Tabish and Murphy's convictions were overturned in 2003 and the two were acquitted on retrial in 2004.  (L.A. Times) (American Justice)  [12/06]


Essex County, NJ Raffaelo Morello 1918
Raffaelo E. Morello, a recent immigrant to the U.S., was convicted of murdering his wife in 1918.  His wife of a few months had threatened to commit suicide if he left her to answer a draft call for service in the World War, but Morello ignored her and his wife carried out her threat.  Morello explained through an interpreter that he was responsible for his wife's death by his insistence on becoming a soldier.  However, his remarks were misunderstood to merely mean that he was responsible for killing his wife.  In prison after he learned to express himself well in English, he told his story to welfare workers who launched an investigation into his conviction.  In 1926 this investigation resulted in him being pardoned of the crime.  (NY Times)  [8/10]


Franklin County, OH Kevin Tolliver Dec 29, 2001

Kevin Alan Tolliver, a black man, was convicted of murdering Claire Schneider, his white live-in girlfriend.  According to Tolliver, Schneider killed herself with a self-inflicted gunshot wound.  Although she was clinically depressed and had not taken her Paxil medicine in 4 days, Schneider's shooting of herself in the mouth, happened so unexpectedly that it appeared to be an involuntary suicide.  She may not have been aware that the gun was loaded.  The shooting occurred shortly after midnight.

Tolliver was a severe dyslexic since childhood, and emotionally went to pieces following his girlfriend's death.  He screamed and cried.  Two neighbors in his building, hearing his screams called police, but police came and left without finding the source of the disturbance.  Police finally were summoned back by Tolliver's ex-wife, more than an hour after the shooting.  Police arrested Tolliver immediately and performed no investigation.  They did not test either Tolliver's or Schneider's hands for gunshot residue.

The coroner was prepared to rule that Schneider's death was self-inflicted, until the police gave their theory.  He still ruled that her death was undetermined. The prosecution argued murder and Tolliver was convicted because of ineffective defense and the perjured testimony of a jailhouse snitch.  Tolliver is serving 16 years to life imprisonment.  (Free KT)  [4/08]


Warren County, OH Ryan Widmer Aug 11, 2008
Ryan Widmer was convicted of murder for the bathtub drowning of his wife, Sarah Widmer.  The drowning occurred at the Widmer's home in Hamilton Township.  Police testified that when found, Sarah's body was drier that it should have been according to story given to them by Ryan.  This alleged discrepancy was basically the sole evidence against Ryan.  There was no known motive and no evidence that either Sarah or Ryan engaged in a struggle.  Sarah's family did not believe the charges against Ryan and held up Sarah's funeral so Ryan could attend.  Friends and family said Ryan had no known history of getting angry. They also said Sarah was known to spend hours in the bathtub and that she habitually fell asleep, even as she sat in a car on her way to social outings or during movies.  It is possible that Sarah suffered from an undiagnosed seizure disorder or narcolepsy.  Some jurors at Ryan's trial engaged in apparent misconduct by conducting their own drying time experiments.  ( (Google)  [6/09]


Cameron County, TX Susan Mowbray Sept 16, 1987

Susie Mowbray was convicted of murdering her husband, J. William “Bill” Mowbray, Jr.  After incessantly protesting her innocence, she was granted a retrial in 1996 by a Texas appeals court that ruled prosecutors concealed a crucial report on the blood splatter evidence that supported Mowbray's innocence.  When retried in 1998, forensic evidence supported the defense claim that Mowbray's husband committed suicide while she was asleep next to him in bed.  Dr. Herbert MacDonnell testified that it was likely Bill Mowbray committed suicide.  Mowbray was acquitted.  [10/05]


Powhatan County, VA Beverly Monroe Mar 4, 1992
Beverly Anne Monroe was convicted of the murder of Roger Zygmunt Comte de la Burdé, her wealthy lover.  De la Burdé, 60, died at Windsor on his 220-acre estate.  His body was found on a couch in his library with a bullet in his head from his own revolver.  Monroe had been his companion for 12 years.  In 2002, a federal judge overturned Monroe's conviction due to the withholding of exculpatory evidence by the prosecution.  The judge also ruled that “The physical evidence necessary to show whether [de la Burdé's] death was a murder or a suicide was . . . either tainted or lost.”  Monroe was subsequently released from prison.  (TruthInJustice)  [5/08]


Wise County, VA Merry Pease Nov 18, 1993 (Exeter)
Merry Pease was convicted of murdering her husband, Dennis Pease.  Merry maintains her husband shot her, after which he turned the gun on himself and committed suicide.  Merry was prosecuted on the theory that she shot her husband, and then shot herself to cover-up her crime.  The case prosecutor withheld evidence at trial such as a medical examiner's report that ruled her husband's death a suicide.  Merry's conviction has been overturned twice, but the Virginia Supreme Court reinstated her second conviction.  Merry was paroled in 2006.  (Bristol Herald Courier) (American Justice)  [12/05]


England (Stafford CC) Ryan James Jan 13, 1994

Ryan James was convicted of the murder of his 39-year-old wife, Sandra James.  Sandra died from drinking a glass of orange juice that contained a fatal dose of immobilon, a horse tranquilizer.  Ryan, a veterinarian, had access to the drug.  He also been having an affair with another woman, Catherine Crooks.  The lovers had left their spouses to live together, but the cost of running two homes drove Ryan back to his wife.

Sandra's death would have allowed Ryan to start a new life with Catherine on the proceeds of a £180,000 life insurance policy.  Besides these proceeds, £143,000 in debts were wiped out by Sandra's death.  At trial, Ryan's defense argued that Sandra had committed suicide, but made it look like murder.  However, the crown argued that it was murder made to look like a suicide.  Ryan was sentenced to life in prison.  His trial judge, Justice Anthony Hidden, told him he was “the most evil, selfish, and criminally callous man” he had ever sentenced.

While in prison Ryan married Catherine, who never believed he killed his wife.  While going through her new husband's belongings, Catherine found a handwritten note stuffed inside one of Ryan's professional journals.  It was in Sandra's handwriting and said, “Ryan, I leave you absolutely nothing but this note – if you find it in time, Sam.”  Sam was Sandra's pet name.  Because the note indicated suicidal intent, Ryan's conviction was quashed in 1998 and he was released from prison.  There was some additional evidence that Sandra was depressed.  She had taken anti-depressants in the 1970s.  At the time of Sandra's death there were puncture wounds in her foot.  It was alleged that she had experimented with the immobilon drug by injecting it into her foot, then injecting herself with the antidote shortly thereafter.  (Innocent)  [10/08]


England (Luton CC) Nico Bento Dec 13, 2005 (Bedford)

Amilton Nicolas Bento (aka Nico), a Portuguese immigrant, was convicted of the murder of his 26-year-old Polish girlfriend, Kamila Garsztka.  The alleged crime occurred in Bedford, England in or near the River Great Ouse.  A CCTV security camera caught Garsztka walking alone on the embankment of the river toward Priory Lake which adjoined the river.  Garsztka's coat, scarf, and shoes were found by the river bank about an hour later.  Bento reported Garsztka missing and pestered police to step up their search for her and keep him informed.  He told police Garsztka had left her handbag in his apartment, which police later retrieved.  Seven weeks after she went missing, canoeists found her body floating in Priory Lake.

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France Jean Calas Oct 1761
“Jean Calas was wrongly convicted on March 9, 1762 of murdering his son [Marc-Antoine] by hanging him. 63-year-old Calas was executed later the same day he was convicted by being strangled and burned. Calas had been horrifically tortured in an effort to extract a confession, but he did not confess. Voltaire took up the cause of finding evidence to prove Calas was innocent. On June 4, 1764, France's Great Council annulled Calas' judgment of guilt. On March 9, 1765, Calas was acquitted after a retrial, and his son's death was officially ruled a suicide. After the decision was announced, Voltaire wrote, "This is an event that seems to allow one to hope for universal tolerance." At the time Voltaire was 71-years-old. After making an application to the King, Madame Calas was awarded 12,000 livres, his two daughters were each awarded 6,000 livres, 3,000 livres was awarded to each of his sons and the Calas’ housekeeper, and 6,000 livers was awarded to the family to cover legal expenses. One thousand livres was equal to 10.8 ounces of gold, so these were very significant sums in 1765 given the generally low standard of living in France.” – FJDB