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October 26, 1948, Abused Wife, Betty Ferreri, Kills Husband With Meat Cleaver - Today In Crime History

On this day, October 26, in the year 1948, Betty Ferreri killed her abusive husband, Jerry, with a meat cleaver, in their Los Angeles home with the assistance of handyman Alan Adron.

In 1943, Jerry and Betty moved to Los Angeles.  Betty soon gave birth to their son and got a job as a car-hop to support the often unemployed Jerry.  Jerry's parents gave the couple $8,000 to put down on a $27,000, 15-room home in upscale Hancock Park.  Strapped for money, the couple rented out four rooms and hired Alan Adron, a 52-year-old handyman, to baby-sit and take care of the house.

While Betty worked at her $200-a-month job, Jerry cruised the city's fashionable streets, occasionally bringing home female guests.  About the only thing Betty could rely on from her husband were regular beatings that gradually increased in severity. As she later would testify, she prayed to make it through the day without losing her teeth, having her eye swollen shut or being killed.

Jerry once asked his Betty to have sex with an auto mechanic to pay off a bill he owed.  When she refused, he struck the side of her head so hard that it ruptured her eardrum. Later, Jerry became angry about the doctor's bill and struck her other ear, reportedly saying, "Maybe he'll give you two for the price of one." On another occasion, Jerry brought a puppy home for the couple's son but then killed the poor animal with a baseball bat in front of the boy.  

On Oct. 26, 1948, Jerry arrived home with a young model.  Enraged, Betty threatened the couple with a pipe wrench and they fled. Suddenly terrified that Jerry would return and kill her, Betty asked Adron, the handyman, to come to her rescue.  When Jerry later returned, he began dragging Betty by her hair in the family home.  Hearing her screams, Adron rushed into the room where Betty was being beaten and shot Jerry twice before the firearm jammed.  But Jerry wasn't dead, so Betty finished him off with a meat cleaver, striking him in the head approximately 23 times.

Despite clear evidence of abuse, prosecutors decided to charge Betty Ferreri and Alan Adron with murder.  At trial, the prosecutor admitted that Jerry had been "tempestuous, obstreperous, ferocious, turbulent, quarrelsome and vicious." But he also argued that Betty had willingly engaged in sexual relations with her husband and that this murder had been premeditated.

Betty took the witness stand at trial and was questioned by her criminal defense attorney and the prosecutor.  Betty testified that her deceased husband was a "sadist, an incorrigible brute, a bully, a beast" who nonetheless gazed at her with "big puppy-dog eyes."  According to Betty, "sometimes he gagged me and locked me in a bedroom closet, threatening to kill me ... if I made a sound, forcing me to endure the sounds of his lovemaking to another woman. When he let me out, he expected me to cook for him."  Unable to control her crying while testifying about her tumultuous relationship with her husband, Betty collapsed on the witness stand, producing one of the trial's dramatic interruptions.

Ultimately, the jury of five women and seven men acquitted Betty and her co-defendant, finding that the state had failed to prove the charges beyond a reasonable doubt.

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