It was October, 1915 in San Francisco and Mr. Pamias who had a job as a conductor was surprised when his wife told him she wanted to sleep in another place besides the rooms they rented in a lodging house. When he pressed her on the reason, she admitted to killing a peddler who she said had tried to attack her after she refused to elope with him. She wanted to flee the city, but her husband took her to the police station the following day.
When the detectives arrived to the front room situated on the second floor, they found the walls spattered in blood, but initially no body, until they decided to look in the box couch. They found Mr. Weinstein, neatly dismembered, with body parts wrapped in newspaper. On top of the remains was his wooden leg since he was a cripple, and the murder weapon, a hatchet.
Once the police started to question Mrs. Pamias a little closer, it turns out there was some history between Michael Weinstein and her. Mrs. Pamias was beautiful and only 22-years-old, and had only been married three months. No doubt the detectives believed that there had to be something sordid in that history that ended in murder.
She told police that her original name was Mary Boettcher, and she lived with her widowed mother in a lodging house in Atlantic City. This was where she met Michael Weinstein four years before. He was entranced with her, and insisted that she should come and lived for a time with his wife and him. She did so, claiming at all times that he was proper and that in time she grew more attached to his wife than him.
Whatever the arrangement had been, during this time Mrs. Pamias' mother had relocated to San Francisco. In November of the prior year she had come to visit her from Atlantic city and this was when she had met her present husband. It was a whirlwind romance and by February they had married. After her marriage she said the Weinsteins kept up correspondence with her, urging her to return for a visit.
Three months after her marriage she had gone for a short visit, and once she returned she had received a letter from Mrs. Weinstein stating that she had left her husband once and for all. Shortly thereafter she received a letter from Michael Weinstein telling her that he planned to visit her in California. Feeling obligated after her stay in his household she welcomed him, and even took him to dinner accompanied by her husband.
During one of his visits, he gave her valuable papers to hold. Then one night shortly after his arrival in the city, he come to her home when she was there alone. She said that he gave her $220, told her to buy something pretty for herself, and then insisted that she had to leave with him. She said she laughed until she realized he was serious and tried to embrace her. She ran to the kitchen and got a hatchet she kept there. She told him that if he didn't leave she would use it. Then he made as if to strike her with his crutch and that's when she hit him over the head with it.
His body fell on the carpet next to the couch, and when she saw that she had killed him, she proceeded to dismember him, and placed the parts in the couch where he had fallen. After that she couldn't remember anything else, except when her husband told her they should go to the police.
The police questioned her as to the whereabouts of the papers Mr. Weinstein had given her. First she said she had burnt them, then that she didn't remember and lastly she said that they didn't amount to anything anyway. The belief was that the papers held the answer as to why she had committed the crime. They wondered why she had not run for help. Mr. Weinstein was missing an arm and a leg, she could easily have escaped and asked for someone to call the police.
Within a few days, her story started to fall apart. The first was a difference in the time of the murder. A watch the victim had was stopped at 12:40 when he was struck, which would change his time of death at shortly after noon instead of at night as she had claimed. She said that she had left the house within an hour of his death, but it was estimated it would have taken in excess of two hours to dismember him.
Finally the whole truth came out. It turned that Weinstein had been her lover and was using love letters to blackmail her. One night Weinstein had been out for the evening with her husband, however he returned back to the lodging house without her husband. She demanded the return of her love letters, and a photo he kept of her in his watch. She was afraid her husband would learn the truth of her relationship with the peddler. He refused which is when she struck him with the hatchet.
After killing him she tried to fit him into the couch box, but was unable to do so. She then put the body into a trunk. That night after her husband came home, she told him the truth but he didn't believe her. The following day when she was alone she hacked up the body, put it inside the box couch and then went out to rent a room where she planned to spend the evening with thoughts of fleeing the city. Her husband refused to accompany her which is when he saw the proof and he brought her to the police.
Shortly thereafter it seemed that this version of the truth was anything but that, after San Francisco police received a telegram from the Atlantic City police. It turned out her real name wa Mary Hurd, and she came from Bridgeport, Connecticut.
Weinstein was known to the community and had lived with his wife in Syracuse, New York. Mary Hurd had lived in the same town with a half brother named Lee Roberts, and another man named Charles Hickman also lived there. Mary Hurd said that he was only a lodger in the home. Weinstein's wife did not claim the body, and it was left up to the city to dispose of the remains which would be kept until Mary went to trial.
Within eleven days of the murder a coroner's jury arrived at a verdict which stated: "Deceased came to his death while said Mary Pamias was defending her life and honor, and we hereby declare that said killing was justified and exonerate said Mary Pamias from all blame in the matter".
Despite the verdict of the coroner's jury, Mary Pamias was charged with the murder and went to trial January 1916. On January 25th after 20 minutes of deliberation the jury found her not guilty.
In February, she was charged with the mutilitation of his body. She was kept in jail until November of the same year when all the charges were dismissed.
Mary died Oct 2nd, 1918 from an undisclosed reason, possibly from Spanish Influenza as the first cases were reported that month in San Francisco. Her husband Joseph went on to remarry and died in 1945.
Source Woodland Daily Democrat 1915-1916
Stranger Than Fiction Stories by M.P. Pellicer