Tales from the Morgue

A woman reported murdered in Texas was likely quite happy to be in Tucson when she heard of her own death. She was visiting her friend, Ina Gittings, when the news of her own death reached her.

From the Arizona Daily Star, Nov. 11, 1933:

'SLAIN' WOMAN IS FOUND ALIVE IN TUCSON HOME

Reported Murdered for Diamonds, Gives Proof It Isn't So

MYSTERY UNSOLVED

Las Cruces Authorities Trying to Unravel Complications

Mrs. Lee Hirt, apparently identified as a woman who had been killed under mysterious circumstances in Texas, was very much alive in Tucson last night.

She explained that she left Fort Worth, Texas, Friday, Nov. 3 with J. E. Anderson, bookkeeper to her late husband. She stayed in Midland Friday night, went on to El Paso Saturday, did some shopping and had dinner and went on to Las Cruces Saturday night, where she registered at a hotel. Sunday morning she left the hotel and proceeded to Tucson, where she reached the home of her friend, Miss Ina Gittings, women's physical education director at the University of Arizona before 8 o'clock that evening.

She has been with Miss Gittings in Tucson ever since.

As nearly as the story could be reconstructed in Tucson last night, the hotel keeper at Las Cruces, who is an old acquaintance, identified the body of a dead woman as that of Mrs. Hirt.

Meanwhile officials of the city linked her with a woman described as having a black eye and wearing gray pants, a brown coat and black boots who asked their help in catching men who, she said, were attempting to steal diamonds from her.

Mrs. Hirt explained last night that she never asked help from or was molested by anyone on her trip to Tucson. She never wore any gray pants or any black eye, making the entire trip in a simple green frock with an orange leather coat and a small green hat.

"And here are my diamonds," she explained last night exhibiting a modest stone attached as a pendant to a small gold pin on her dress and some small stones set in her wedding ring.

She expressed regret that a tragedy had occurred and some alarm at the possible worry which might be caused among her friends by publication of her name in connection with the dead woman. Meanwhile she was at a loss to know how she had become identified with a story involving diamonds, wicked men pursuing a woman with a black eye, dead bodies and other unpleasant things. She simply does not fit the picture in any detail and she is at present enjoying her visit in Tucson with her friend, she said.

HERE'S STORY THAT STARTED INVESTIGATION

EL PASO, Tex., Nov. 10.—(AP)—An attractive woman, about 35 years old, whose nude body was found near Van Horn Tuesday morning probably was the victim of jewel robbers from whom she had been fleeing from California, Sheriff Chris P. Fox said today.

She was stripped of all clothing by the thieves for examination at their leisure for diamonds sewed in the lining, Sheriff Fox believes.

This development came after Las Cruces, N. M., police reported that a woman with a black eye, wearing gray pants, a brown coat, black boots and sun glasses jumped out of an automobile there Sunday and asked for a policeman. She was traveling with two men in a California automobile.

"Two men in a California licensed automobile have been following us," she told Deputy Sheriff Victory Royball. "They tried to run us off the road between here and Lordsburg, N. M., I think they are after my diamonds."

Gives Name of Hirt

Royball drove the woman about Las Cruces seeking the automobile she described. They could not find it and the woman and the two men with her registered at a Las Cruces hotel in separate rooms. The woman gave the name of Mrs. Lee Hirt and one man registered as J. E. Anderson, Ft. Worth. The other man did not register. The left the hotel Monday morning.

Mystery was added to the case when attendants at a tourist camp reported that two men and a woman resembling the three who registered at the hotel, stayed at the auto camp Sunday night under the names of Mr. and Mrs. T. M. Barton and E. Leonard.

Sheriff Fox thinks the same party registered at both places to confuse possible pursuers. The description of the woman who asked for police protection in Las Cruces is the same as that of the woman who rode with two El Pasoans from Ysleta to Fabens, where the woman was forced, over her protest, into an automobile by two men in a California licenses auto late Monday. She was slain and her nude body left near Van Horn, a few miles farther east, a few hours later.

Sheriff Fox said the woman possibly left her companions at Ysleta in an effort to confuse her pursuers and had the misfortune to be discovered by the pursuers at Fabens.

The confusion seems to be at the hotel registration desk. Either the clerk remembered incorrectly, there were two clerks and they made mistakes, or the clerk was in on the job.

Or perhaps this was a pre-Internet identity theft.

Johanna Eubank is an online content producer for the Arizona Daily Star and tucson.com. Contact her at jeubank@tucson.com