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CRIME: Lady of Le Mans

3 minute read

Lady of Le Mars

For a decade the citizens of placid little Le Mars, Iowa (pop. 4,700) have been puzzled by the goings on of tall, statuesque Mrs. Maybelle Trow Knox. Her neighbors knew she was the daughter of a Civil War veteran, who left her enough money to amass a valuable collection of antiques and a reputed fortune in unmounted gems. She queened it over a household composed of her aged mother, Mrs. Lucinda Trow, and her half-cousin and husband, Sumner Knox, a mild little man who had been a mail clerk, later worked in the county relief office.

As county chairman of the W. C. T. U. in the 1920s she had led a series of violent raids until she was sued for smashing up a soft-drink parlor. She was also imprisoned for a year for trying to collect $10,000 on a forged note from the estate of an eccentric Le Mars lawyer named T. M. Zink. This year Mrs. Knox knocked out the teeth of a relief official at a meeting where she was protesting the laying off of Sumner Knox. When neighbors began to note the absence of Mr. Knox and Mrs. Trow, Le Mars grew suspicious.

More suspicious than most were two reporters from the Le Mars semiweekly Globe-Post, who tried to get a picture of 91-year-old Mrs. Trow on Election Day, were refused. When they returned with policemen and broke into the house, they found Mrs. Knox ill in bed, no trace of her mother. Mrs. Knox told the sheriff that her mother was on a trip, that she had hired a woman to impersonate her. She had been collecting her mother’s $40 monthly Civil War pension. Pressed, Mrs. Knox said Mrs. Trow had gone to Nebraska with a friend named Ed Roach.

In Nebraska City, Ed Roach said he had visited Mrs. Knox after she wrote a matrimonial letter describing herself as “37, unmarried and attractive,” was frightened off when she interviewed him in a black silk evening gown amid her antiques.

He had not seen her since.

Hearing that Mrs. Knox had dug in her garden at night, police took spades and unearthed an old kitchen cabinet. Inside, wrapped in a black shroud, were the remains of Mrs. Lucinda Trow, buried about six months. Then police reported that they had found in Abel, la. a decree, dated 1934, purporting to divorce Maybelle Trow from Sumner Knox.

So Mrs. Knox was arrested on the charge of forging her mother’s endorsement to pension checks, but she refused to believe her mother was dead, could not explain the whereabouts of Sumner Knox. When a State detective tried to snatch a letter from her, powerful Mrs. Knox jerked his arm so hard that she broke a knitting fracture in his neck. Her lawyer announced: “She wants the public to feel that she is at least halfway human—not at all the monster that idle rumor has made of her.”

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