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ON HISTORICAL GROUNDS

Shotgun Wedding
By Mark C. Gribben

Was twenty-three-year-old Lulu Kennedy of Kansas City, Missouri, a young lady driven insane and most cruelly wronged by men whose intentions were less than honorable, or was she a conniving schemer and cold-blooded murderer?

The courts were divided over the question, but in the end, the Supreme Court of Missouri decided that her trial for the murder of her husband, Phillip H. Kennedy, a clerk and solicitor, was unfairly tainted by the prosecutor's statement that she had previously consorted with a professional baseball player and thus Lulu "could not have been led by Phillip from the path of virtue."

The Supreme Court also found that Lulu's father, a pool hall operator, and her gun-toting brothers did not conspire with her to kill Phillip, despite the fact that they forced him at gunpoint to marry her and several times threatened his life when he sought to annul the shotgun wedding.

In 1903, the Missouri Supreme Court tossed out her second-degree murder conviction and ten-year prison sentence, and ordered a new trial. Unfortunately for us, Lulu's fate after the high court's decision has been lost to history.

Nevertheless, the plight of Lulu Prince Kennedy provides an important lesson to young ladies everywhere about the dangers of entertaining professional athletes and unscrupulous lawyers.

In the last year of the nineteenth century, Phillip Kennedy frequently called on Miss Lulu Prince, a stenographer who lived with her parents, Mr. and Mrs. Charles W. Prince, and her two brothers, Will and Bert Prince (a "world-famous" professional mandolin player) near Olive and Peery Avenues in Kansas City.

Kennedy, who was in his mid-thirties, worked for the Merchants' Dispatch Transportation Company in the Ridge Building on Main Street between Ninth and Tenth Avenues. He lived with his mother, father, brother, and sister on Troost Avenue, and had known Miss Lulu for about two years.

In April 1900, Will Prince confronted Kennedy and inquired whether his attentions were serious toward her. When Kennedy said no, Prince asked that Kennedy cease calling on her.

Apparently Kennedy agreed and the record shows that he and Miss Lulu met just twice after that. Kennedy later began calling on another young lady and they became engaged. The bahns were published around December 1900.

In the summer of 1900, Case Patten, a professional baseball player (a pitcher, no less) who had been recruited from New York to play ball in Kansas City, became acquainted with Miss Lulu. They often took walks and went riding together, and Miss Lulu called frequently at the boarding house where Patten was rooming.

During the course of their friendship, Patten gave her his gold watch and chain, which she carried, and she loaned him a diamond ring, worth $20, which he wore.

Apparently to the twenty-five-year-old Patten, this was merely a summer fling, and when the season ended, he returned to New York. The next year he hit the majors with the Washington Senators. A lanky southpaw from Westport, New York, Patten's baseball career is notable for a couple of achievements: he was an original member of the American League, having debuted with the Senators in the league's inaugural 1901 season, and he helped turn a triple play while pitching for Washington against the New York Yankees in 1905. However, it was Patten's misfortune to spend most of his career with arguably one of the worst teams in the history of professional baseball.

On October 15, 1900, Miss Lulu went to the police station in Kansas City and reported that Case Patten had left town with her diamond ring. Detective Andy O'Hare took the report and Miss Lulu requested that the chief of police write a letter to the chief of police of Westport, New York, asking that Mr. Patten return Miss Lulu's ring.

The chief sent the following letter:

 

Kansas City, Mo., Oct. 15, 1900.
Chief of Police, Westport, N. Y.

Dear Sir:

Miss Lulu Prince called at my office this morning and reported that last July she loaned a small diamond ring to Case Patten, who was a ball player with our local club the last year, and that he left for his home (which is your city) Saturday night, taking the ring with him. Will you kindly see Mr. Patten and get the ring and express it to me?

Thanking you in advance, I am, very truly, etc.

 

However, after several weeks of waiting without response, Miss Lulu lost patience and indicated to Detective O'Hare that she was going to travel to Westport to retrieve her ring.

When the detective told her that it would be cheaper to let Patten keep the ring, Miss Lulu replied that she intended to go and see Patten and get the ring back if it cost her several times its value. She left for Westport after her brother, Will, tried to dissuade her from the trip and offered to buy her another ring, an offer which she refused.

Shortly after her return she met O'Hare, showed him a ring, and told him she had recovered it from Patten in Westport.

A month later, Miss Lulu appeared at the offices of a local doctor, referred to in the records only as "Dr. Cross" (in the Rialto Building at Ninth and Grand Avenue), and stated that she was the wife of Case Patten, a professional ballplayer, and that she was pregnant. She told Dr. Cross that she and Case had been secretly wed and that if news of the marriage leaked out, he would lose his position as a ballplayer. Thus, she asked Dr. Cross to perform an abortion.

Dr. Cross refused to perform the abortion and did not examine Miss Lulu to determine if, in fact, she was pregnant.

In early December she again approached Dr. Cross, told him that another doctor had taken care of the problem, and asked him for a treatment for nervousness. The doctor gave her a prescription for "a simple nerve sedative."

One can imagine the shock that Phillip Kennedy experienced on December 4, 1900, when he received a telephone call from a lawyer named Charles H. Nearing, requesting his immediate presence at the Nelson Building on the corner of Missouri Avenue and Main Street to discuss important business.

When Kennedy inquired about the nature of the business, Nearing replied that he would have to marry Lulu Prince or her father would kill him.

Kennedy went to the Nelson Building and met with Nearing, but told him there was no reason why he should marry Miss Lulu, and in fact, he was engaged to another young lady.

Upon leaving Nearing's office, Kennedy met C. W. Prince and his son, Will, who were in the company of Miss Lulu.

Witnesses would later testify that earlier in the morning, Will had "oiled his pistol" and put it in his pocket, and that outside Nearing's office, C. W. Prince told Kennedy that either he would marry Miss Lulu, or he would be dead in five minutes.

"At this his courage failed him and he went with the defendant, her father and brother to the recorder's office for a marriage license," the Missouri Supreme Court's decision reads.

While sitting at the table in the recorder's office waiting for a deputy to make out the license, Kennedy saw Fred Bullene, the courthouse reporter for the Kansas City Star, and, apparently recognizing him, got up from his chair and started towards him.

However, his future father-in-law stopped him ("his right hand remaining significantly in his overcoat pocket") and ordered Kennedy to sit down.

"This thing is not over yet," C. W. Prince said, threateningly.

"After Kennedy's futile effort to communicate with Bullene he made no further effort to escape, but went resignedly to Judge Gibson's chambers where a marriage ceremony was performed," the court record shows.

After the ceremony, Kennedy went back to work and the Prince clan returned home. That night Kennedy visited the Prince house, but slept at his home with his family.

The next time he saw Miss Lulu, there would be shooting.

Several days after the marriage, Miss Lulu visited Bullene at the Kansas City Star offices and asked him to write an article for publication about her marriage to Kennedy.

Bullene asked her what had prompted the marriage, and Lulu replied that Kennedy had jilted her and for that she wanted him "roasted."

Along with her brother, she admitted that it had been a forced marriage, but that they didn't want that fact published because it would invalidate it. Miss Lulu swore to Bullene and the city editor, Captain Wade Mountfort, that there had never been any intimacy between her and Kennedy.

Will Prince was still quite angry with Kennedy, called him "a puppy" and said he didn't deserve to live.

"I have had one round with that fellow, I gave him his choice of marrying the girl or going to hell, and he chose to marry her," the witnesses recalled Will saying.

Bullene agreed to accompany Miss Lulu to Kennedy's home. He talked privately with Kennedy, who denied that he had ever been engaged to the girl. The Star never printed anything about the marriage.

Kennedy continued to ignore Miss Lulu and the Prince family grew angrier.

"That boy will never live with your daughter," the assistant county recorder testified that he told C. W. Prince.

"He had better do the right thing, or the papers will have something to write about," C. W. replied.

Later, C. W. told a shoe salesman that "I'm not going to let any son-of-a-bitch jilt my daughter."

On New Year's Day, 1901, C. W. sent a bill by messenger to Kennedy.

 

C. W. PRINCE,
Exchange Pool Hall, 717 Central.
Kansas City, Mo., Dec. 31, 1900.
Mr. Phillip H. Kennedy, Dr. to C. W. Prince.
To one month's board and maintenance of your wife . . . . $ 40.00
Please remit. C. W. Prince.

 

Two days later, C. W. and Will showed up at the Merchant's Dispatch Office, again with their hands "suggestively in their overcoat pockets," and demanded payment.

"You can sue me for maintenance," Kennedy replied. "I'm acting under the advice of counsel."

C. W. then pounced on Kennedy.

"I'll show you what a lowdown son-of-a-bitch you are," he shouted. "You don't deserve to live."

Kennedy freed himself from his father-in-law's clutches, and managed to find a constable walking his beat.

Will Prince described his brother-in-law as "the most immaculate coward Christ ever died to save."

Less than a week later, Kennedy filed a petition to annul the marriage, which was published in the Star on January 9.

The day it was published, Miss Lulu and Will Prince showed up at the Ridge Building where Kennedy worked, apparently studying "the lay of the ground."

On January 10, Miss Lulu returned to Dr. Cross and confessed that she was not really Mrs. Case Patten but was in fact Mrs. Kennedy, and that she was still pregnant.

She begged Dr. Cross to tell Kennedy that she was with child, but Cross declined to do so.

She pleaded that she was afraid that when her family was served with the annulment papers that her father and brothers would harm her husband.

Finally, Dr. Cross agreed to go to the Ridge Building to visit Kennedy. Miss Lulu said she would follow him.

"You go down and see him, and then I will come down," the doctor testified she told him.

Cross and Kennedy spoke briefly, and then Miss Lulu showed up.

"Wait a minute, I want to talk to you."

Kennedy replied, "I haven't got anything to say to you."

"Are you going to live with me?" she asked.

"No."

Dr. Cross had turned his back and was headed toward the elevator when he heard the report of a revolver.

Tom Kennedy, the victim's brother and Roland Butler, another employee of the Merchant's Dispatch, raced into the hallway, but it was too late. She emptied the gun into her husband.

Kennedy staggered back into the office and fell.

Meanwhile, Will Prince, who had emerged from a nearby stairwell, attacked Tom Kennedy.

The two of them wrestled and Tom Kennedy got Will Prince up against the wall.

"Who in the hell are you?" Prince asked.

"Yes, who in the hell are you?" Tom Kennedy replied.

"I thought you were attacking a lady," Prince replied.

Miss Lulu approached Tom and Roland, who were holding Will Prince.

"Turn that man loose," she said, coolly. "It was I who did the shooting."

The court would later note that "no sign of recognition passed between the defendant and her brother."

Inside the office, Kennedy was dying.

His brother rushed back into the office and Phillip's dying declaration was that "it wasn't her gun that did it."

He had been hit six times. One of the shots entered from the front of his body, one from the side, two in the back, one pierced his ear and the other struck his forehead.

When Kennedy was pronounced dead, Miss Lulu stepped over to his body.

"Is he dead?" she asked.

"Yes," Dr. Cross answered.

In front of the witnesses, Miss Lulu then kicked Kennedy in the face and said, "He will never seduce another girl."

When Patrolman Crane arrived to arrest Miss Lulu, he took hold of her hand.

"Turn my hands loose, Officer," she said. "I want to fix my hair."

At the police station, Miss Lulu was visited by her father and brother Bert. The police matron, Mrs. Paul Moore, recalled on the stand that the three of them were laughing and smiling.

It was later revealed that Miss Lulu was not pregnant and never had been.

Her defense at trial was "hysterical insanity."

In its opening statement, the defense contended that the sole cause of the killing was that she had been wronged by Kennedy and, distressed in mind by this fact, she had lost her ability to distinguish between right and wrong as to that particular act, and while in this condition of mind had shot him.

The prosecution's case was that Miss Lulu's interactions with Case Patten demonstrated that Kennedy could not have "debauched" her.

"It will be shown in evidence by reputable people that in the years prior to the time when the defendant in this case came into the life of the deceased, her reputation, her conduct and her course of life were such that she couldn't have been led by him aside from the path of virtue."

The State was permitted to introduce the fact that Miss Lulu kept company with a baseball player who lived in New York, and when he went away with her diamond ring she went there in October and got it. These facts were offered, the prosecution argued on appeal, as showing that her conduct was that of a rational person, but the Missouri Supreme Court held that they were offered for the purpose of besmirching Miss Lulu's character, "as is shown by the stress placed upon the fact, both in the prosecuting attorney's opening statement and throughout the trial, and by the irrelevant questions of the trial judge, that the man whom she kept company with was a baseball player."

 

Postscript: Case Patten spent eight years in the big leagues, all but one game with the Washington Senators. In his rookie season, 1901, he posted an 18–10 record with four shutouts, and in 1906 he won nineteen games, threw seven shutouts, and recorded a 2.17 ERA. Between 1903 and 1905, however, Patten had three straight twenty-loss seasons, but he was also the team's workhorse, averaging more than three hundred innings pitched in each of those years. For five of his seasons in Washington, Patten led his club in victories, and considering how mediocre the Senators were at that time—perennial cellar-dwellers, no winning seasons, three last-place finishes—Patten's career record of 105–128 almost seems impressive. Whether Patten's life inside or outside of the ballpark was ever impacted by the death of Phillip Kennedy is unknown.

—EFQ

A lifelong Detroit Tigers fan, MARK C. GRIBBEN is a writer living in Columbus, Ohio. The best summer of his life was spent washing dishes in a Lansing, Michigan restaurant while listening to Ernie Harwell's broadcasts of the Tigers' awesome 1984 World Championship season.

© 2006 Mark C. Gribben

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