The spectators were still abuzz with Alice Burdick’s testimony when her mother entered the courtroom the following day, leaning on the arm of her attorney. Maria Hull wore a heavy mourning veil. Coatsworth led her through an introduction: she was the widow of James Hull, and Alice’s mother. She had lived with the Burdicks about seven years.
Coatsworth no doubt sensed Mrs. Hull was a tougher adversary than Alice Burdick. Rather than firing questions at her, as he had with the other witnesses, his questions were thoughtful and he allowed lengthy pauses after each answer. “You knew your son-in-law and daughter had marital difficulties?”
“You believed Arthur Pennell was the cause of these marital difficulties.”
In response to the DA’s questions, Mrs. Hull admitted knowing that Edwin once choked Alice to get access to her letters. Though she used smelling salts to revive herself occasionally, Mrs. Hull never betrayed any weakness in her manner. Her voice remained calm, controlled.
“Were you present when the altercation occurred?”
“Who told you of it?”
“Burdick forced your daughter to leave the home on two occasions. Did you know why, specifically, he did so?”
The witness was only aware of the general situation, not the specifics that precipitated her daughter’s departure.
“Did you not ask?”
“No, I thought they must work it out between themselves.”
“Did you ever tell Burdick that he was as much to blame for their troubles as your daughter?”
“But you thought he was?”
“I don’t know that I did. I thought if he had done differently, she would have.”
“So you thought your daughter was more to blame?”
“At the time my daughter left home, I thought she was somewhat to blame. Her conduct had been very imprudent, to say the least.”
“You cared for the children after Mrs. Burdick left?”
“Weren’t you the primary caretaker before she left, too?”
“I assisted with their care.”
“Were your feelings toward Arthur Pennell resentful?” Coatsworth asked.
Mrs. Hull said she wrote to Pennell twice in 1901, after Alice left. In the first letter she said “very earnestly” that Pennell had been a guest in their home and he should be above making trouble in it. Her second letter pleaded with him to leave. “He sent a very cold reply and said he would not be driven out of Buffalo.”
“Tell us when you last saw your son-in-law and what he was doing.”
“I saw him after dinner the night he was killed. He was talking to Marion around 7:30, and he was carrying a bottle. I thought it strange we could not find the bottle the next day.”
“You didn’t see or hear him after 7:30?”
“I put the children to bed at 9:30, and I heard him on the steps sometime soon after. He said, ‘Good night, Mother Hull’ as he passed my doorway.”
Mrs. Hull slept soundly and awoke at her usual time without being called.
She was dressing in the bathroom when Maggie Murray, the maid, called to her that the front door was open and the kitchen window was raised. Maggie said the den door was closed and Mr. Burdick was nowhere to be found.
They went downstairs. “I opened the door of the den a little way, and called ‘Ed, Ed, Ed’. I could see something on the couch.”
“You didn’t know what it was?”
“No, the room was dark.”
Mrs. Hull said she turned to Maggie and said, “I fear that something has happened. I do not dare go in there! What shall we do?” She told Maggie to call Dr. Marcy.
“Why were you frightened?” the DA asked. “Why not call a neighbor?”
“I thought it was Ed in there. If he had been sleeping, my screams would have awakened him.”
“Yes, as loudly as I could. I was afraid to find him dead in there.”
“You had no reason for expecting to find him dead in there?”
“No, except he didn’t respond to my screams.”
The DA showed Mrs. Hull a photograph of Burdick’s body covered in pillows with the head wrapped in a quilt. Mrs. Hull acknowledged it was what she had seen in the den that morning.
Coatsworth offered a gruesome image of Burdick’s body after the quilt and pillows were removed. “Is this how the body appeared after Dr. Marcy arrived?”
Mrs. Hull’s hands trembled. “I never saw it.”
Coatsworth left the picture in front of her. “What did you tell the children?”
“Before we sat down to breakfast, I told Marion her father was ill in his den.”
“What happened when Dr. Marcy came?”
“He came out of the den and said, ‘He has been murdered.’”
Mrs. Hull said she did not ask the doctor what happened or how Burdick died.
“Didn’t you speak to Dr. Marcy alone?”
“You are sure you didn’t talk to the doctor alone?” The witness again denied it.
“What did you do then?”
Mrs. Hull said she telegraphed Alice: Come home, Mr. Burdick is dead.
Coatsworth sat down.
Mrs. Hull’s lawyer, Attorney Hubble, rose.
“Did Burdick treat you kindly?”
“Did you stay in the house after your daughter left, only on account of love for the children?”
“Yes, and for Mr. Burdick’s sake.”
Mrs. Hull was dismissed, and Hubble helped her to the door.
Even with this extra service, it seems to me that Attorney Hubble was likely overpaid, considering his very few contributions. Mrs. Hull, however, seemed satisfied. The newspapers reported that she smiled as she left the courtroom.