The Burdick Scandal – Part VIII

Sixteen-year-old Marion was Edwin and Alice Burdick’s oldest child. She was also an uncooperative witness, at least in the DA’s opinion.

She said “Yes” or “No” as often as possible, in response to questions put to her, and refused to elaborate. When the DA asked her the same question, phrased slightly differently, a number of times, Marion raised her voice sharply and said, “I don’t know.”

Marion couldn’t – or wouldn’t – add anything to what was already known of the day of the murder. She had eaten dinner with the family and talked to her father for a little while afterward. Later, she went upstairs to her bedroom and went to sleep. Like her sisters and her grandmother, she heard nothing during the night.

Alice and children
Alice with her daughters Alice, Marion, and Carol

Marion said that on the following morning, her grandmother looked into the den and told the girls their father was ill. Dr. Marcy arrived a short while later. In the meantime, she went to water the flowers in the conservatory and her grandmother assisted her.

“Did you express a wish to see your father?”


“Did you ask your grandmother for more information?”


“But why did you take so little interest in your father’s illness?” DA Coatsworth demanded.

“I knew that when it was proper for me to know Grandmother Hull would tell me,” was Marion’s demure reply.

In answer to more questions, she said she loved her father and he had always been good to her. Marion knew of the divorce proceedings and sympathized with her father, but refused to say whether she agreed with exiling her mother. She knew of no meetings between her mother and Pennell.

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The Reverend Levi Powers, of the Messiah Church, testified as well. Mr. and Mrs. Burdick and Mrs. Hull were members of the congregation. He spoke to Burdick twice about his marital difficulties, and said the victim told him that Pennell had threatened suicide, and forced Alice to resist the divorce and eventually launch a counter-suit. Burdick said he had threatened to make the letters between Pennell and Alice public, if they continued to resist the divorce.

He’d also had an interesting conversation with Mrs. Hull. The reverend quoted her as saying acidly, “Alice is not without fault, but if you knew the whole thing, you would not think the fault is all on one side. Burdick will get his divorce, and I don’t see why Mrs. Burdick and Mr. Pennell should wish to fight it.”

Reverend Powers said Mrs. Hull did not ask him to intercede with Burdick on her daughter’s behalf.

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Helen Warren
Helen Warren

Mrs. Helen Warren was frequently mentioned in the newspapers. Alice Burdick named her in her counter-suit, alleging that Edwin had an affair with her. However, Mrs. Warren was never called to the stand, probably because she had relatively little knowledge of Burdick and none at all of the crime.

It could also be that DA Coatsworth simply refused to deal with this confusing biographical sketch: The woman in question was born Helen Cleveland. A native of Buffalo, she married J.B. Warren and moved to Cleveland with him. Years later, she left Warren and Cleveland, returning to Buffalo and the Clevelands.

Though there were insinuations that it was Edwin Burdick who had broken up the Warren home, Mrs. Warren and her father said it was untrue. Helen, her father, and her ex-husband had solid alibis.

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Miss Hutchinson

Miss Hutchinson, who had at one time worked for Burdick, was also questioned. The rumor was that Hutchinson was the “Jane Doe” with whom Alice had alleged Edwin had been unfaithful.

The police decided to share an update, via the newspapers. Surveillance of Mrs. Gertrude Paine and Miss Hutchinson was over. Both women were officially cleared of any wrongdoing.

This did not happen entirely without incident; the police bungled the investigation.

Miss Hutchinson was subjected to grueling questioning and strip searched for evidence. Finding none, the police were forced to issue an official apology.

Read Part IX.