Luetta Parsons and the Child Bride Murder Case of St. Francois County
Luetta was arrested and held in the jail at Farmington to await trial. However, the picture of her that emerged in the wake of her arrest was not nearly that of the demonic stepmother that had been painted by the newspaper. Luetta's grandparents soon produced papers proving that Luetta was only 13 years and 3 months old at the time of Lillie's death. She was described as comely and physically "overdeveloped" for her age but with the mind of an 8-year-old, an illiterate and uneducated girl who enjoyed playing with dolls and other toys. Prior to her marriage, Luetta had lived with her mother and stepfather. The mother reportedly was subject to "spells," and Luetta did not get along with the stepfather. She had married Parsons mainly, she later said, because she was afraid her parents would "whoop" her if she didn't. Apparently the parents wanted to get rid of her and had signed papers indicating she was older than she really was, allowing her to marry Parsons, who was kin to Luetta's stepfather and who had four children, including Lillie, by a previous marriage. Luetta said that, although her marriage to Parsons had not been exactly voluntary, he was "awful good" to her and that she always got along fine with him and his kids. She said the shotgun had gone off when she, Lillie, and the 8-year-old brother had started to the woods to meet Parsons and she was taking along the shotgun to "scare up" a rabbit or a squirrel for supper. The gun accidently discharged as she was breaking it to see whether or not it was loaded.
Luetta's case was promptly transferred to juvenile court and she was charged not with first degree murder but with manslaughter. At her trial in May of 1921, the jury acquitted her, finding that Lillie's death was, indeed, an accident. However, rather than setting her free, which would have probably meant returning her to her 40-year-old husband, the judge ruled that Luetta was a ward of the court, because he reportedly could find no responsible person to take charge of her. The grandparents reportedly were planning to seek an annulment of the marriage, but they apparently did not want to take custody of Luetta or else the judge did not deem them fit guardians, because he awarded temporary custody of Luetta to her lawyer.
In late June, a St. Louis court of appeals ruled that the judge had overstepped his authority in retaining Luetta in custody, and she was released into the custody of an uncle with whom she was reportedly going to live at Bismarck. What happened to her after that is unknown, although she apparently never returned to Parsons.