The love triangle turns deadly when the school teacher breaks

In December 1948, the Associated Press made a curious announcement, the marriage of Elizabeth Elfers Walker to Dr. David Roberts, a veterinarian from Waukesha, Wisconsin. The bride was 33 years old. The groom, 83 years old.

The 50-year age gap wasn’t the only thing that made the event newsworthy.

Thirty-one years earlier, Roberts was part of a deadly eternal triangle that made headlines across the country. The killer was a lovesick bachelor, Grace Lusk, 35, with whom the doctor had had a long secret affair. The victim was his first wife, Mary Newman Roberts, 52.

At the end of May 1917, Mary, a Sunday school teacher, received an anonymous letter.

“I have wanted to speak frankly to you about the situation between Dr. Roberts and myself for a long time,” was the first line. “You must have known long ago that your husband’s affections had left you; that he cared about someone else. This is sufficient nullification of any marriage vow that was ever taken.

Then she quoted a feminist writer of the time, Ellen Key.

“In the Eternal Triangle, our souls demand the elimination of a character.”

Lusk met Roberts at a party four years earlier, shortly after she left Menomonee Falls for a teaching job in Waukesha. Roberts, a local veterinarian, owned a profitable dairy operation and made Cow Tonic and other patent medicines for barnyard animals. Rich and educated, he was also handsome, with a big mustache and thick hair.

Except for his marital status, he seemed like a good match for a woman like Lusk.

Born in Stoughton, Wisconsin, Lusk was a shy and anxious bookworm as a child. In college, she worked so hard that she pushed herself into a nervous breakdown. But she eventually recovered, excelled, and traveled abroad to study.

She has earned an excellent reputation as an educator. One of her supervisors described her as “wonderfully mature in her mental attainments and a splendid teacher, a most faithful friend, a young woman of pure and noble character, a brilliant girl”.

All of those beautiful attributes evaporated after her dates with Roberts. They first started meeting regularly so she could help him with a book he was writing about cattle breeds. During these seances, he complained about his unhappy marriage to a shrew.

Before long, the pair were sneaking into Chicago hotels. Lusk was madly in love.

After almost two years, she became restless. She wanted to become the next Mrs. Roberts and demanded that he divorce Mary. He said he would – at the right time.

That moment never came, so Lusk took matters into her own hands and sent the letter to her rival. Roberts convinced his wife that it was just the rantings of an unstable character that was pursuing him.

The once respected teacher has become a wild woman. She bought a gun and pointed it at her lover begging him to leave his wife. She showed up at the couple’s doorstep in a rage. Roberts pushed her away from the door and escorted her to the rooming house she called home.

Mary visited Lusk the next day, demanding an explanation for “your silly performance last night”.

Lusk showed Mary some of the doctor’s letters and told the story. Mary telephoned her husband and ordered him to report immediately and explain himself.

As Roberts and a friend approached the address, they heard three gunshots. They walked around the house and called the police and a doctor.

Inside, Mary lay dead. Two bullets had ended his life.

Lusk, holding a gun, stood at the top of the stairs, bleeding from a chest wound. After shooting Mary, she had turned the gun on herself.

“Where is my heart? she asked the doctor. He showed his own heart. For the second time, Lusk aimed the muzzle at his chest and pulled the trigger. Again, she failed to kill herself.

It took Lusk a year to recover from his self-inflicted injuries so he could face a jury.

“The story of ‘Love Gone Mad’ will be told in a sensational trial,” a Wisconsin newspaper promised on May 13, 1918.

Her former lover was the prosecution’s star witness. On the stand, Roberts painted a portrait of a delirious temptress pursuing him.

“It’s not true! It’s not true!” Lusk cried out during his testimony, tears streaming down his cheeks. “Oh, you dog! »

National media covered the story and letters poured in from around the country, the Green Bay Press-Gazette noted. Most expressed great sympathy for the accused.

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One woman wrote: “Remember the old adage: women give and forgive and men receive and forget?

That’s how it happened in this case. Lusk was convicted and sentenced to 19 years. When she heard the verdict, she jumped on the prosecutor and tried to strangle him, but was quickly overpowered.

In 1923, the court granted him a conditional pardon due to his failing health. She died alone seven years later.

Roberts served a minor prison sentence for a morals charge. Many years later, his face was in the papers again when he said “yes”, for the fourth time.

“Over 50 women have told me they love me, but now I’m going to have to say to all the others, ‘bye girls, I’m done,'” the old man boasted to the PA.

He added: “Marriage is beautiful. I haven’t been embittered by my previous marital troubles, and life is just beginning for me at 83.

JUSTICE STORY is The Daily News’ exclusive take on true tales of murder, mystery and mayhem for over 100 years. Click here to read more.

About Hector Hedgepeth

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