Only a handful of witnesses remained: Alice Burdick, Mrs. Hull, and the Burdick servants. Alice Burdick was to be questioned first, and her testimony is so remarkable that I’m including much of it verbatim.
Had his life not been cut short so violently, Alice would have ceased to be Edwin Burdick’s wife two weeks earlier. Instead, she entered the courtroom in deep mourning, as a grieving widow. She was flanked by her mother, Mrs. Hull, and their attorneys Hartzell and Hubble.
DA Coatsworth helped Alice introduce herself to the courtroom spectators: In response to his questions, Alice described herself as a 42-year-old mother of three. She met Arthur Pennell “three or four years ago” at a card party.
The Burdicks and the Pennells became friendly. They all belonged to the Elmwood Dancing Club. They also enjoyed short vacations, and in 1898, Alice Burdick took a fateful trip with them. They were going to New Haven, Connecticut where the Pennells had met and married. Edwin Burdick was not with them: work kept him in Buffalo.
Nothing of importance happened in New Haven, Alice said.
Coatsworth approached the stand with a package of letters in his hand. “Do you recall receiving a letter from Pennell in 1900, written from New Haven?”
“I’ll read it,” the DA said. “’Yesterday, I was at the gateway on the Campus Grounds where more than two years ago, I drew you in the darkness. This place is enshrined to me.’ Now do you remember receiving it?”
“I never received any such letter,” Mrs. Burdick cried.
One of the Burdick attorneys stood and asked the DA the purpose of his question. Justice Murphy said, “You can object to her answering any questions that might hold her up to public ridicule.”
“We do not wish to object,” Hartzell replied, reseating himself. “We trust that no unnecessary questions will be asked.” How quaint!
Coatsworth turned back to Mrs. Burdick. “You don’t remember receiving the letter?”
When she did not answer, he handed it to her. “Do you recognize the script?” The witness indicated it was Pennell’s handwriting.
“Do you know what he’s referring to?” Alice said she did. “Did he at that time take you in his arms?”
“Did you remonstrate with him for that conduct?”
“I think I did.”
The DA asked whether the witness told her husband or Pennell’s wife of the incident.
The answer, of course, was no, and thus began the affair between Arthur and Alice that lasted five years, until Pennell’s death thirteen days earlier.
The DA read another letter, wherein Pennell describes finding her gloves in his pocket. “Dearest, my darling… I kissed them because your hands were in them. I smoothed them out and kissed every finger because they had touched you.”
“I don’t recall it,” Mrs. Burdick said.
“Here’s another. ‘I telephoned you as soon as I arrived in New York, just to hear your dear, sweet voice.’ Do you remember that?”
“Do you remember speaking to Pennell over the telephone?”
“He says, ‘I will meet you at 1-2-3 on Wednesday.’ What does that mean?”
“I don’t know,” Alice replied.
The DA smiled. “Are you sure, Mrs. Burdick, that you don’t know?“
“I’m as sure of that as I am of sitting here,” she replied.
Coatsworth referenced another letter, in which Pennell describes looking at a locket with her picture in it. “Do you recall that?” Surprisingly, the witness did recall that Pennell had a locket with her picture.
Another letter, written in September 1900, describes the “paradise within your arms” and vows, “I love you more than I can tell and am only beginning to realize you are the only woman in the world for me.”
Mrs. Burdick said she had never received it.
“But it is Arthur Pennell’s handwriting and it is addressed to you, isn’t it?”
“Seems to be.”
“What does he mean by the paradise within your arms?”
“I don’t know.”
Another letter, sent from the Waldorf-Astoria, was produced. Mrs. Burdick didn’t recall receiving it.
Finally, DA Coatsworth moved on.
Alice said she kept the love letters she received from Pennell in a locked box at home. The box was the focus of a fierce argument with Edwin Burdick on January 1, 1901.
“Did your husband know you received letters from Pennell?”
“I don’t know.”
“Do you remember giving him the letters?”
“Yes, he forced me to open the box… He took me by the throat.”
“Why was he so anxious to see the contents? What made him so insistent?”
“I don’t know.”
Interestingly, Edwin didn’t confront Alice with Pennell’s letters, even after gaining access to them. Instead, he gave the box to Alice’s mother for safe-keeping.
The DA said, “Sometime after this, you reserved a letterbox at the post-office. When did you get it?”
“I don’t remember.”
The DA abruptly changed his line of questioning: “Why were you anxious to be divorced from your husband?”
“I had no love for him,” Alice Burdick said coolly. She added that Arthur Pennell hired attorneys to represent her in the divorce. He also arranged for detectives to follow Edwin, and it was he who asked her to get the letterbox at the post office though she paid for it.
She confirmed her husband ordered her away from home in May 1901.
“Why did he force you to leave?” DA Coatsworth asked.
“He said I had been untrue.”
The inquest adjourned for the evening.