March 4, 1921
Iron Mountain, Missouri
Luettia Parsons (13) fatally shoots her 6-year-old stepdaughter
Luettia† had married John Parsons (38) on February 26, 1921. Six days later, Luettia shot her 6-year-old stepdaughter Lillie†† Parsons in the face with a shotgun.
Luettia, dubbed the “baby bride of the Ozarks” due to her young age, was arrested and brought to trial for murder. During the trial, her stepson, 10-year-old Johnny Parsons, stated he had witnessed Luettia order his sister to bring her a pan of water and a comb. Lillie hesitated and was shot because “she refused to submit to having her hair combed.”
It was also revealed during the trial that Luettia had visited a neighbor shortly before the shooting in search of her husband, whom she accused of being unfaithful with the neighbor. When she could not find John, she offhandedly mentioned she planned to “get even” with him. It was presumed Lillie’s murder was what she had planned as revenge.
In her defense, Luettia testified, “It was an accident. When I started to break down the gun it went off, and I can’t understand how it happened, unless it was cocked and I pulled the trigger. We had not been mad at each other and were playing.” John told the court he was in the habit of safely storing his gun while not in use and left it unloaded, damaging the credibility of Luettia’s testimony.
Luettia was convicted of murder, but her sentence was soon overturned and she was acquitted. She informed reporters she was not going to return to her husband — whom she had married “before she knew her own mind” — and instead planned to move in with her uncle in Bismarck, Missouri.
The Daily Constitution reported, “This [case] was said to be the first time a married persons was ever tried in juvenile court in Missouri.
† Her name was reported as Luetta and Letta in newspapers while her marriage license listed Luettia. Lillie’s death certificate offers yet another spelling, referring to her as “Mrs. Lauetta Parsons”
†† Her name was spelled as Lily, Lilly, or Lillie in newspapers, though her death certificate shows Lillie
Iron County Register [Ironton, Missouri]. 3:3. July 7, 1921
“Accused Child Wife Is Allowed Freedom.” The Seattle Star. June 29, 1921
“Letta Parsons Free From Legal Restraint.” The Salina Daily Union. June 28, 1921
“‘Baby Bride’ Held Guilty By A Jury.” The Daily Constitution [Chillicothe, Missouri]. May 27, 1921
“Child Wife Is Tried For Murder.” Fall River Evening News. May 20, 1921
“Child Wife on Trial for Murder of Stepdaughter.” Fort Worth Star-Telegram. May 19, 1921
“Young Married Woman Murders Step-Daughter.” The Dexter Statesman. March 18, 1921
Lillie Elizabeth Parsons. Missouri State Board of Health. Bureau of Vital Statistics. Certificate of Death. Digitized: https://www.sos.mo.gov/images/archives/deathcerts/1921/1921_00008588.PDF
Missouri, U.S., Marriage Records, 1805-2002. Digitized: https://www.ancestry.com/imageviewer/collections/1171/images/vrmmo1833_c19870-0366?usePUB=true&_phsrc=szC11&_phstart=successSource&usePUBJs=true&pId=507386219