Velma West – The Jazz Murderess – The Flapper Slayer – The Hammer Killer
One morning in early December 1927, Eddie West doesn’t show up for work at his family’s nursery business. His brother James went to Eddie’s bungalow to see if something was wrong. He found the door unlocked and went into the house, and finally up to the bedroom. There he found a horrifying scene.
The room was in chaos. Blood stains were on the floor, the walls, and the bedding. A bloody hammer lay on the floor near the bed. On the floor lay a lifeless body, hands and feet bound with twine, a bloody pillowcase over the head, and covered by a blanket. It was his brother Eddie.
James immediately called the sheriff, “Big” Ed Rasmussen.
Big Ed’s first step was to find Eddie’s wife Velma West. He finally found her at her mother’s house in Cleveland. He took her back to Perry for questioning.
Velma, known as Val, was born in Cleveland, Ohio to Catherine and Bert Van Woert. At the age of 3 she won the “Perfect Baby” contest at a theater in Cleveland. She spent most of her childhood ill with diphtheria and mastoidal problems.
Val met Eddie in the summer of 1925 at a picnic. Eddie was 24 and Val was 19. She was a petite blonde with a lively personality. Eddie was tall dark and handsome. Eddie convinced her to elope with him on the 4th of July 1926. They drove from Cleveland to Ripley, NY. After they were married, they drove to Pennsylvania and took a train to Chicago. They soon ran out of money and Eddie left Val with some friends while he looked for work. He returned a week later with enough money to get them home to Perry. Eddie went back to work at his father’s nursery business for $112 a month and free rent on their bungalow. Everything seemed fine for the newlyweds.
The trouble started July 1927 when Mabel Young, came to Perry to spend a vacation with some neighbors of the West’s. Velma West and Mable met and instantly became close friends. They went swimming and fishing together almost every day. Val at this time had taken to wearing boy’s clothing and had cut her hair. Mabel had to go back to Cleveland. Val used to visit her often in Cleveland. When they weren’t together, they wrote long letters to each other. Eddie began to resent the friendship between Val and Mabel and began intercepting the letters addressed to his wife. Val went to Big Ed to complain about Eddie reading her mail and Big Ed said he would speak to her.
On the night of Eddie’s murder, they started fighting again. They had both been invited to a Bridge Party at Mabel Young’s house. Eddie was jealous of Mabel and said that Val neglected him because of her love for Mabel. Eddie refused to go to the Bridge Party and told Val that she could not go either. Val fought back and Eddie hit her and made her nose bleed. Val became so enraged that she picked up a hammer that she had used earlier to hang curtain rods and hit Eddie in the head with it while he sat on the bed, knocking him to the floor. He tried to get up and she hit him again. He tried to get up four times in all, and Val hit him each time. Finally, when he lay still, she got some twine and tied up his hand and feet, put a pillow case over his head, hit him some more and finally stopped and covered the body with a blanket.
She washed up and changed her clothes and headed for the party at Mabel’s.
According to witnesses at the party, Velma West and been gay and carefree. She played bridge, laughed, sang, danced, and played jazz tunes on the piano. The party ended at 11:30 and she spent the night with Mabel. The next morning, she went to her mother’s home and the two went shopping. Val apparently bought Christmas presents for Eddie. The two ate lunch at home and then Big Ed showed up and took Val back to Perry.
After four hours of intense interrogation, where Val chained smoked and would not admit to her guilt, the Prosecutor, Seth Paulin came in with a newspaper with a big bold headline T. Edward West Found Slain.
Val fainted and when Seth left to get her some water, she told Big Ed that she would tell the truth and wrote out her confession. In her confession besides the murder, she also admitted to having a love affair with Mabel.