Imperfect Murder # 3: Check the Weather Report!

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Frederick Small beat his wife Florence over the head with a lead pipe, strangled her with a rope, and – to be sure! – shot her. Nex thing to do, was burn Florence to death in a fire that would occur later that day, “by accident”, when he was in Boston, many miles away from their summer cottage in Mountain View, New Hampshire.

Small got busy with rosin, a cloth and thermite – a substance used in blast furnaces to produce very high heat very quickly. He applied the preparation to the neck, face and head of his wife and when this was done, he set up a device with an alarm clock, batteries and spark plugs. He placed the body in the living room and doused the room with kerosene. His timer would produce a spark and the spark would set off the kerosene, rosin, and thermite. The blaze would melt or burn the corpse, the cottage, the bullet and his infernal device.

In Boston, Small concentrated on making sure he was seen by people who knew him well. Later that evening, he caught a train back to his New Hampshire house, where he would feign shock and play the role of the heartbroken husband (he could console himself later with his wife’s fortune). But on his arrival, he was immediately arrested for murder. The fire had broken out as planned and had razed the cottage, but the floor had collapsed and corpse, timer and all had fallen into the basement, where water had seeped in because heavy rains had raised the level of the nearby lake. The water doused the flames, leaving intact not only the body, but also Small’s telltale devices. He was sent to his execution on January 15, 1918.

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