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Nancy Evins: It’s tough to play nice now

Nancy Evins • Updated Apr 24, 2016 at 4:00 PM

Back in 1929, a couple, John and Myrtle Bennett from Kansas City, were playing as partners against their neighbors, the Holmes.

John opened a hand that was a few points shy of what an opening bid should be and then misplayed the hand.

He was informed by his loving wife that he was a “bum bridge player.”

He reached across the table and slapped her across the face several times. Then he jumped up and said he was going to a hotel and was leaving town the next day. The Holmes were trying to play nicey-nice when Mrs. Holmes saw Myrtle go into her mother’s room and retrieve a .32-caliber Colt automatic. She told her mother that John was going out of town and wanted to be armed.

John, in the meantime, had gone to the den to pack. The den was close to a bathroom, and minutes later Myrtle dashed into the room with the pistol in her hand.

John, seeing her, ran to the bathroom and slammed the door. Myrtle fired two shots which went into the door. It was pointed out at her trial that she missed both times.

When she realized she had not shot him, she heard him running toward the street.

She shot twice more and killed him, but not immediately as his last words were “she got me.”

She was charged with first-degree murder though the police found her sobbing as she knelt by her husband’s body.

The hand that caused the commotion was this:

Myrtle Bennett

NORTH

(S) A 10 6 3

(H) 10 8 5

(D) 4

(C) A 9 8 4 2

Charles Holmes 

WEST

(S) Q 7 2

(H) A J 3

(D) A Q 10 9 2

(C) J 6

John Bennett

SOUTH

(S) K J 9 8 5

(H) K 7 6 2

(D) 8 5

(C) —

Mrs. Holmes

EAST

(S) 4

(H) Q 9 4

(D) K J 7 6 3

(C) Q 7 5 3

Bridge experts were called, so it was said, and all admitted that John should have made the hand.

Mrs. Bennett’s lawyer advised her to change her testimony a bit and following his advice sobbed constantly all through the trial.

She said her husband had asked her to get the gun as he was going away and normally carried it with him on his trips. She said that while she was getting it, she stumbled over a chair and the gun went off accidently, only wounding her husband, and when he grabbed her arm, it went off again, thus killing him.

The jury – which must have reincarnated into the one for O.J. Simpson’s trial – ignored the fact that there were two bullet holes in the bathroom door and that John Bennett was lying on the floor with no suitcase anywhere near him.

It was reported, though later denied, that the judge was an avid bridge player.

After the trial where she was acquitted, she collected $30,000 from John’s insurance policy, which was a quite a sum during the depression.

It is said that she continued to play bridge but that her partners, when she could find one, were very cautious in their bidding and play of the hand.

Later she played with a man who wasn’t aware of her past. He made a bad bid and as he spread his hand, he said, “Partner, I’m afraid you’ll want to shoot me for this.”  

It was said she had the decency to faint.

A few weeks ago, I had a partner who made a weak two bid with only three points (five being the minimum).

I didn’t even pull out my pepper spray.

Nancy Evins, of Lebanon, is a certified bridge instructor. Email her at na_evins@att.net.

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