Euzebe Vidrine was one of Louisiana’s earliest serial killers. After being sentenced to death for one murder in Evangeline Parish, Vidrine asked the judge for time to write his memoir and confessed to murdering four other men.
“This murderer was certainly not a normal man. He was a willful and cold blooded killer.”
Those words were printed in the days following the hanging of one of America’s earliest serial killers in Louisiana’s Evangeline Parish.
Euzebe Vidrine was born in the quiet town of Ville Platte in Evangeline Parish, Louisiana on July 12, 1898. He was known as a hard working and well behaved young man who never displayed violent tendencies. But his wife, Lillian, and the few who were close to Euzebe in his early 20s, said something seemed to shift in him.
They described him as increasingly emotional with dark moods and fits of weeping. At the age of 23, that inner darkness, turned to outward violence…and murder.
Evangeline Parish farmer, Pierre Vidrine, who shared the same last name but was no relation to Euzebe, mentioned to fellow farmers that several hogs had been stolen from his farm. Weeks earlier Euzebe’s dog had killed one of Pierre’s sheep and Pierre told folks he had seen Euzebe around the farm on the days the hogs went missing. When word of this got back to Euzebe he was enraged that the farmer would accuse him of such a thing. His anger was followed by several days of lows with Euzebe inside his home weeping over the rumor.
Three days later, on April 25, 1921, Euzebe emerged from his home carrying a loaded 12 gauge shot-gun. He headed straight for Pierre Vidrine’s field where the farmer was plowing. Euzebe hid behind a tree and waited until the 70 year old farmer was plowing a row near him.
Euzebe raised his gun, aimed and fired both barrels. Pierre Vidrine was nearly torn in two by the blasts and died in his field as Euzebe ran home and hid his gun.
When the farmer’s body was discovered the local sheriff rounded up a posse, including Euzebe Vidrine, to hunt for the killer. Euzebe aroused suspicion when he mentioned details about the murder that fellow members of the posse didn’t know. Vidrine was arrested and tried for the murder of Pierre but would not be convicted. Euzebe remained calm and maintained his innocence. The jury believed him and returned a verdict of not guilty. When he was set free the judge offered him a formal apology for the injustice of his arrest and the suspicion that fell on him.
Months later, Euzebe’s desire to kill overtook him again.
His crops failed and he left Evangeline Parish to find work in Lafayette, Louisiana. Just outside of Lafayette, on December 2, 1921, Euzebe met his next victim. He was on foot when Charles Garbo drove by and pulled over to ask if he could give him a ride. Euzebe thanked him and got into the car. A few miles into their drive, Garbo pulled over to check one of his tires. It was late in the evening, no one was around and Euzebe Vidrine felt the urge to kill this man. He pulled a 32 caliber pistol from his coat and as Garbo leaned down to check his tire, Euzebe put the gun to Charles Garbo’s head and fired, once. He took the $4 Garbo had in his pocket, loaded Garbo’s body into the back seat of his car, drove the car a few miles down the road and pushed it into a ditch. Euzebe abandoned the vehicle and the body of the man who had died trying to help a stranger and he walked to the train station in Lafayette.
The next morning, Euzebe met another man willing to show kindness to a stranger. He struck up a conversation with John Roy who told Euzebe he was headed toward Eunice, Louisiana. Euzebe explained he didn’t have train fare and Roy offered him a ride. The men chatted for a while and one mile outside of Eunice, Euzebe Vidrine asked Mr. Roy to pull over so he could smoke a cigarette.
Mr. Roy joined him, lighting a cigarette as the men stood on the side of the road. Within minutes of that stop, Eubeze pulled his pistol from his coat and shot John Roy in the head. He took a nickel and cheap watch from Roy’s pockets and walked to the Eunice train station. He planned to go to Alexandria but only had the train fare to make it to Pine Prairie where he remained for four days, spending time with his father in law who lived in the town and had no idea his son in law was on a killing spree.
When Eubeze Vidrine left Pine Prairie in late December 1921, he headed toward Orange, Texas to try to find work. Shortly afterward arriving in town, Euzebe met Lee Duke who offered him a ride to Beaumont where he said Euzebe could find work. Once again, Euzebe asked the driver to pull over and join him for a cigarette. Lee Duke was shot and killed by Euzebe Vidrine who robbed Duke of 75 cents, a 38-caliber pistol and a watch.
Euzebe Vidrine satisfied his urge to kill and headed home to Ville Platte, Louisiana. Back in Texas, a man named Frank Smith was accused of the murder of Lee Duke. He was tried, convicted and sentenced to 15 years in the Texas State Penitentiary, all the while maintaining he did not know Duke and had not killed him.
Euzebe’s periods of moodiness and days of continuous weeping would come and go for the next few years. But his urge to kill would return in May of 1924 when he made the mistake of killing again…close to home in Evangeline Parish.
27 year old Robert Leo Wiggins was the son of the parish sheriff, Robert Lee Wiggins. Late in the evening on May 19, 1924, Leo was headed home to the new house he had just built for his new wife.
As he was driving he noticed a man walking and pulled over to offer him a ride. When he got closer he saw it was someone he knew, a childhood friend, Euzebe Vidrine. Euzebe thanked Leo for the offer and acted as if he was about to get into the car. As he moved to get into the car, he grabbed his revolver and shot Leo Wiggins in the chest. This time, one shot did not kill his victim. Leo continued to move, tried to get out of the car, but Euzebe shot him again.
Euzebe dragged Leo’s body behind a tree and tried to drive the car off the main road but it hesitated and died.
Euzebe left the scene on foot and went home to hide his gun and change out of his blue serge suit. Later in the day, he remained calm when he encountered a group of men in town discussing the discovery of Leo Wiggin’s body. Eyewitnesses said they had seen a young man “wearing a blue serge suit” running from the area where Leo’ body was found.
Euzebe did what he had done back in April of 1921. He immediately offered to help with the posse that was organized to search for Wiggins’ killer.
One thing was different this time around. Bloodhounds were rounded up to help with the search. Those hounds followed the scent from the murder scene, right back to the spot where Euzebe Vidrine had encountered the group of men discussing the murder. The hounds then tracked the scent to Euzebe Vidrine’s home and straight to his bedroom. There, authorities found a blue serge suit on the floor of his room along with a loaded .38 caliber revolver with cartridges that would match the bullets at Leo Wiggins crime scene.
Euzebe was arrested and initally denied he had anything to do with the murder of Leo Wiggins.
But on May 21, local authorities had a statement in hand signed by Euzebe Vidrine. The Times Picayune printed the confession which read:
“I killed Leo Wiggins. I had been drinking. I asked Wiggins for a ride and as he opened the door of his coupe I shot him in the breast and he fell. Then I shot him in the head. I didn’t know it was Leo Wiggins until after I had dragged the body behind a tree. I mistook him for an old enemy.”Euzebe Vidrine
Euzebe also pleaded for mercy for the sake of his mother, saying if he was executed, it would destroy his mom.
Days after Euzebe’s arrest in Evangeline Parish, the Lafayette Parish Sheriff arrived in Ville Platte to notify the sheriff that a watch found on Euzebe at the time of his arrest, matched the watch John Roy had when he was murdered and left on the side of the road. Authorities also matched Euzebe’s fingerprints to a set of prints lifted from Lee Duke’s crime scene outside of Beaumont, Texas.
When the sheriffs presented this new evidence to Euzebe Vidrine, he maintained his innocence saying he had killed Leo but was not responsible for these other crimes they asked him about. When asked how he felt after he killed Leo, Euzebe said it made him feel better, like a weight had been lifted.
Euzebe Vidrine stood trial for the murder of Leo Wiggins on June 29, 1924.
The Weekly Ville Platte Gazette noted that on the day the trial started Vidrine was visibly trembling as he entered the courtroom. The author speculated that “sleepless nights and perhaps the fear of the rope left him in such a state.
Euzebe asked for and received the court’s permission to represent himself when court was in session. He was convinced he would get life in prison for his crime. He directly addressed the jury to explain he had been out of his mind, fueled by alcoholic rage and a victim of his own unexplainable desire to kill when he shot Leo Wiggins. Euzebe wrapped up his closing argument with a direct plea to the jury saying: “Please save my life. I’m sorry I killed Leo.”
The jury felt Leo Wiggins had gotten no mercy and they could not extend mercy to Euzebe Vidrine. Ten minutes after the jury started deliberations, they sent word they had reached a verdict: Guilty.
When Euzebe Vidrine stood before the court for sentencing, the judge ruled that Euzebe would hang for his crime. Euzebe begged the judge to give him time to cleanse his soul and write his memoir, as a warning to other men who were considering a life of crime. On July 12, 1924, the judge ruled that Euzebe Vidrine be given little time to write. His execution date was set for August 8th.
Euzebe spent every waking moment in his jail cell writing a record of his crimes. His memoir revealed that over the past four years, he had been responsible for the deaths of five men.
He confessed to the murders of Pierre Vidrine, Charles Garbo, John Roy, Lee Duke and Robert Leo Wiggins in his memoir, The Life of Euzebe Vidrine.
As Euzebe wrote the record of his crimes, his defense team worked to save his life. They appealed to the court, arguing Euzebe Vidrine was clearly and insane and unbalanced man and should be in prison for the rest of his life.
A lunacy commission was appointed by the judge overseeing the case and the commission would declare Vidrine sane. When informed of the news that his execution was moving forward, Euzebe Vidrine said to his attorneys, “Well, I guess that’s it. The jigs up.”
Euzebe Vidrine was cheerful when he met with his mother, brothers and wife on his execution day. When the time came to leave his cell and head to the gallows, Euzebe appeared calm and delighted that thousands of observers gathered in the courtyard in and around the jail. Euzebe Vidrine liked an audience.
When he was in the jail yard being marched toward the scaffold, he paused and was allowed to pose for photographers who wanted to get one last photo of the cold blooded killer. Euzebe refused to walk on until he heard from photographers that he had posed for the perfect shot.
When he was led to the gallows, he was said to have drawn back his shoulders and smiled as the death mask was drawn down over his face. Just as the sheriff was about to cut the rope and release the trap, Euzebe cried out and asked for the chance to speak.
The sheriff agreed and removed the mask. For the next 20 minutes, Euzebe Vidrine was allowed to preach his own funeral sermon; he spoke of regret that as he was to burn in hell, his mother and wife would have to live with the shame he had brought upon the family.
“When the rope is cut that will be the end of me. My troubles will be over. My mother’s troubles, my wife’s troubles and the grief of human beings I have made widows and fatherless will have just begun. This rope now seems easy and kind compared to this dreadful remorse. Maybe the spectacle of my death will heal the hurt.Euzebe Vidrine
Euzebe said he killed because he couldn’t help himself.
“A desire to kill would suddenly take possession of me and I had to pull out my revolver. I had to kill the first person I saw. If I had known what it is to really pray I could have found peace somehow. I would never have harmed anyone. But I’ll never find it now until the trap drops.”Euzebe Vidrine
Euzebe, obsessed with himself until the end, asked that another photo be taken of him. A photo showing the rope around his neck. The sheriff allowed a photographer to come forward and take the picture and then Euzebe asked for one more…a final photo showing him smiling. When the photo was taken, the black death mask was once again drawn down over Euzebe’s head.
Before the trap door opened, Euzebe’s final words were: “Do not gamble. Do not drink whiskey…You’ll end up like Euzebe Vidrine if you do.”
The trap was sprung at 12:42 and as one newspaper wrote, “the soul of Euzebe Vidrine was swept into hell.”
At 1:21pm, the 26 year old was officially declared dead and his body placed in an open coffin in the jailhouse where thousands of people viewed the body of the first person to legally hang in Evangeline Parish.
Days after the execution of Euzebe Vidrine, the widow of the first man he had murdered, Pierre Vidrine, was revealed to have been a prophet of sorts. On August 12th, the Town Talk of Alexandria, Louisiana published a piece that noted there had been no rain in Ville Platte for weeks. The day after Euzebe had been sentenced to death, Pierre’s widow vowed rain would not come until Euzebe was dead and gone and the Parish could be cleansed of his evil.
Euzebe was executed on a Friday, and rain fell in the parish on Sunday.
On August 16th, The Ville Platte Gazette featured a By Request notice from Euzebe Vidrine’s mother and her living sons:
By November 1924, justice was finally carried out for Frank Smith. He had been convicted of murdering Lee Duke and had been in prison for the murder since 1922. Euzebe Vidrine had written of Smith in his memoir, saying it brought him pleasure to know someone else had been accused of his crime. In his final statement of confession, Vidrine wrote that Frank Smith was an innocent man who should be free.
Local authorities in Texas opened a new investigation and the Governor of Texas pardoned Frank Smith.
In the days and weeks following the execution of Euzebe Vidrine, there was passionate public debate over whether it was proper to publish the memoir of a cold blooded killer.
The Ville Platte Gazette and countless Louisiana newspapers printed op ed pieces noting that the broadcasting of Euzebe Vidrine’s crimes could in no way suppress crime as Euzebe had argued when he asked the judge for time to record his confession. The op ed pieces argued that publishing the book would only tell of crime and create a hero out of Euzebe…and there was concern that Euzebe Vidrine’s memoir could inspire other criminals to follow his lead.
“If the aim in the issuance of Vidrine’s life of crime was at public uplift, moral welfare, then its projectors should circulate it FREE, not commercialize it for its filthy profit. The memoir was published with ads running in some newspapers with details on where you could buy a copy of the thrilling life story of Euzebe Vidrine.”The Ville Platte Gazette, 1924
The memoir would be published and ads pushing the sale of the book were published in many newspapers, highlighting the thrilling tale of the cold blood killed, Euzebe Vidrine.
The concern over copycat killers was valid, but like Euzebe Vidrine, some kill for the thrill and need no guide or memoir to inspire their evil acts. For this Vidrine family, it may have been in the genes.
In April 1937, The Eunice Louisiana News wrote of the shocking murder of local Evangleine Parish woman, Frozina Vizanat.
Her common law husband was a local farmer known as a charming, blue eyed, dreamy looking man who had fallen for Frozina. She was still married to another man who would not grant her a divorce.
The two lived together as common law spouses but in April 1937, Frozina’s best friend went to police to ask that they help her find her friend who had not been seen in five days.
The sheriff agreed to look into the matter and went to the couples home to question her partner who initially said he had no idea where the woman was. The sheriff noticed there was blood in the home and what appeared to be a trail of dried blood from the house to a wooded area. The man was arrested but continued to claim he was innocent.
The sheriff pushed the man to confess to what he had done and noted that he bore a striking resemblance to another man he had watched hang back in 1924.
The man the sheriff was questioning was Melvin Vidrine, a cousin of Euzebe Vidrine. He pushed Melvin and asked if his heart was as dark as the heart of the man he saw swing from the gallows in the parish? He told Melvin he could swing from the gallows too, or confess and earn mercy from the court. Melvin confessed and led the sheriff to Frozina’s body in a shallow grave near their home.
Melvin would confess to her murder three times and had several stories as to what happened to Frozina. He initially said they had argued and he killed in a fit of rage when he learned she may be leaving him.
He then argued that he found her in the woods that day, distraught and unwilling to go on living. She asked him to shoot her because she was not able to pull the trigger. Melvin would testify in court that killing Frozina was a last act of love to help the woman who was in so much pain. But that last act of love, as Melvin Vidrine described it, was carried out with a gun in one hand, and their baby in the other. Melvin was holding his 18 month old child, when he shot the child’s mother.
He confessed to this when he pleaded for mercy at trial saying he had offered mercy to his suffering Frozina. The prosecution asked for the death penalty, but the jury would convict Melvin Vidrine and recommend life in Angola Prison.
At sentencing the judge said the jury had made a mistake and not been brave enough to recommend death. It was clear the judge preferred to see Melvin hang like Euzebe had when he was swept away to hell in 1924.
A Century of Local News. Ville Platte Weekly Gazette. 22 June 2014
Now I Am Ready to be Hanged! St Louis Post-Dispatch. 13 July 1924
Euzebe Vidrine Goes To Gallows Anxious That Pictures Be Good. The Daily Advertiser. 8 August 1924
Vidrine Dies on Gallows. The Shreveport Journal. 8 August 1924.
Vidrine’s Plea to Jury. The Ville Platte Gazette. 9 August 1924
By Request. Ville Platte Gazette. 16 August 1924.
Convict Freed By Word of Man Who Was Hanged. The Chillicothe Constitution. 4 November 1924.
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