Hello everyone, and welcome to Forgotten True Crime by Okie Investigations, the True Crime Podcast where we tell the stories of crimes that happened long ago. If you are a true crime fan, make sure you subscribe to the podcast. That way, when we have new episodes, you will be the first to know. Also, check us out on our Facebook page Okie Investigations and visit our blog TrueCrime.Blog where we post a lot of the cool things we found for each episode. This episode, “A Fatal Decision in New York,” has a lot of exciting stuff for you to dig into. Make sure you go there and check it out.
Parts of this story may contain opinions and speculations and should be taken as such. These stories depict violent crimes of all types and may be a trigger for some listeners. Listener discretion is advised.
Hello everyone, I hope you are well. We got a unique story for you today, one that keeps going, even after the verdict. I really like these because they give me many more avenues to research and find little tidbits about each person in different parts of their lives. You would be surprised how much can be found when you do a little digging.
This story takes place during World War I in Binghamton, New York.
Albert Latham knew this time was coming, and when it did, he didn’t fight it. During the great war, some 2.8 million Americans would be drafted into military service. The one thing that he was worried about was that he and his wife had been separated for some time. They tried to stay together, but things were just not working out.
But in light of being drafted and going to war. Albert contacted his wife, Gertrude, and asked if he could write her while he was gone. Gertrude agreed but made no promises that she would often write back.
But as the war went on and the letters kept coming in, Gertrude started writing back. For many on the battlefield, it was letters like these that helped them survive. For Albert and Gertrude, it was how they fell back in love with each other.
Albert survived the war and came back a family hero. He served his country and saved his marriage. They decided that living apart was no longer needed, and they found a beautiful home, number 4 Highland Avenue in Binghamton (Bing-him-ton), New York.
Actually, if you google that address, you will find that the home is still standing. It’s in a charming neighborhood and has been well-loved.
When the couple first moved in, they were known as the cute loving couple. But it didn’t take long for all of that to change. Over the next couple of years, they would soon be known as the couple that was always fighting.
In 1922, things were particularly hard for the Latham family. Albert had been laid off from several jobs, and Gertrude was trying to make ends meet by working in a shoe factory. Their tempers were as high as ever at home due to the day-to-day stress building up.
Then on one faithful day of Friday, March 3rd, 1922, 5 unmistakable gunshots were heard. They came from number 4 Highland Avenue. Albert came limping from the home. He clutched his hand, which was bleeding profusely and was also bleeding from a head wound. He looked as if he were in a terrible state. He quickly went to a neighbors house. One that he knew could help him. It was the home of Officer Earl D. Fish.
Earl’s wife attended to Alberts wounds as Earl made a phone call to the local station. He relayed the information that Albert told him. That his wife had a gun and had shot him and threatened to shoot herself. Moments later, Captian Lewis DeWitt and several other officers arrived and stormed the Latham home. There they found 28-year-old Gertrude Latham dead on the floor.
Right away, Detectives were on the scene, and they knew that there was something fishy going on. They found Gertrude, dead, in the bedroom doorway and lying on the floor, face down. The gun was on the floor on the other side of the room. Detectives believed that if she had shot herself, it would be next to her body. The other thing that worried Detectives was the number of times she supportively shot herself. She had three wounds, two to the chest and one to the head. It’s not uncommon for a suicide attempt to fail, causing the person to try again, but something about this didn’t add up.
Albert was taken to the hospital. They worked on his hand the best they could. It was severely damaged from the shot. The doctor asked Albert how he got the wound on his head, and Albert didn’t quite know. He told the doctor that he believed that when he looked down at his wounded hand, he thought his wife hit him with the butt of the gun. Upon examination, it was found that the wound was actually a bullet graze, just inches away from striking his brain and killing him instantly.
When interviewed by Detectives, Albert was still in the hospital, and they pressed Albert for details on what had happened. They wanted to get his story down as quickly as possible. Albert started telling a story, and this was his statement.
“My wife befriended a disreputable woman, and they began hanging around. I asked her time and again not to go with her and pleaded with her to stay away from the woman, but still, she continued to accompany her to wild parties. She had a terrible temper, but I loved her just the same. I don’t know why she should try and take my life, for I have always treated her on the square.”
“Last night when I went home to supper, she was apparently preparing herself for another party, and again I pleaded with her to cut that woman out. After supper, we went into the dining room.”
“This is situated between the parlor and the kitchen. We had a chat. I tried to tell her what a terrible woman this married companion of hers was. I didn’t seem able to impress her, so I finally decided to leave the house forever. I told her several days ago that I would leave her, as I did before the World War, several years after our marriage, but she didn’t seem to care whether I did or not. But last night, I was determined to leave and leave for good.”
“I left the dining room and walked into the bedroom. She was following directly behind me. I took my hat and coat down off the hook and placed them on the bed. Then I walked over to the dresser and placed several little articles together. She was in the room all this time, and I looked up at her. I could nearly tell that something was running through her mind. I walked over and picked up my traveling bag, which was standing in back of the bedroom door, and placed it alongside of be dresser.”
“It was when I placing my collars and ties in the bag that she first attacked me. She had the gun in her hand, and the only thing I could do was grab her and hold on. It was in the dresser drawer where I had all of my collars.”
The Detective immediately asked, “How did she get ahold of the gun when you were standing in front of the dresser?”
Albert replied, “I had just bent down to put some of the collars in the bag when she reached over my shoulder and grabbed it.”
“I dropped the collars I had in my hand and dove for her just as she was preparing to shoot. She had the gun clutched tight in her hand, and I couldn’t take it from her. I grappled with her for several moments, trying my best to make her drop it on the floor. I had my hand around the muzzle of the gun and was pushing her arm back when she pulled the trigger, and a bullet whizzed through my hand. It stunned me, and I lost my power. I let her go then, and I walked over to the door, never believing that she would fire another shot. I was standing near the room, my head bowed down, holding my hand to keep the blood from flowing rapidly, when I received an awful jolt. I didn’t know if she shot me or hit me on the head with the butt of the gun until I arrived here at the hospital, and the doctor told me that I had two bullet wounds, one in the head and one on the hand.”
It was then he suggested this was the moment he would flee from the house, and she soon after took her own life.
Alberts story quickly made its way to the press. Many believed the story of a domestic squabble gone bad. Some questioned whether or not Albert was genuinely telling the whole story. Little did Albert know, his wife’s autopsy was just completed just hours after his statement to the police was made, and it told a completely different story.
The Corner was very quick with its assessment of the case. They found that Gertrude was shot once in the back of the head. This did not kill her. They also looked at the two wounds on her chest. One of the bullet wounds was in her back, so they knew she was shot from behind. The other was in the front and was in the heart and was the fatal wound. The Corner believed that Gertrude died just moments after this shot.
There was no way that Gertrude could have shot herself in the back. This information was quickly relayed to the police Detectives on the case, who immediately returned to interview Albert again in the hospital.
Things were a little different now. They let Albert tell his story, they took everything down words for word, and now they had the evidence to show that what he told them was not the truth. They would be able to leverage this when they pressed him for a confession to what really happened.
Albert was surprised that the Detectives were back to interview him so quickly. He was probably glad that they had gone. But when they returned, they had come back with challenging questions that Albert would have to answer.
Right away, they reminded Albert of what he had told them. Then they told him about the autopsy and how it didn’t match up with his story. Albert seemed shocked and ashamed as they described the wounds to the back of the head and how horrible it all was.
At first, he tried to deny killing his wife, but then he broke down and started confessing to what really happened.
You see, Albert had become suspicious that his wife had been going out with other men. She would go to work and then the theater before returning home. This was on top of going out with friends and meeting new people.
Albert was jealous that his wife was becoming independent and suspected that she was being helped along by another man in her life. So, on the morning of the murder. Albert kissed his wife goodbye as she left for work. She told him that she would be going to the theater and meet her on Court street at 10PM if he wanted to walk her home.
Albert was determined to see if his wife was actually going to the theater or if she was going somewhere else with another man. So that day, he stopped at the store, and he bought bullets for his gun. Then when he got home, Albert loaded the weapon, and he stated that he placed it in the side table drawer.
Then, around the time she got off work, Albert waited near the theater to see if his wife showed up and if anyone was with her. He waited and waited, but in the crowd that came and went, he didn’t see her. So then he waited near the place that his wife told him that she would be meeting him. By this time, Albert had spent all evening trying to catch his wife cheating on him. All this time, he was working up these ideas and thoughts in his mind about what could possibly be going on.
Then around 10PM, he spotted his wife in the distance. Albert stated that he thought he saw her say good night to another man. She then proceeded down the street, and Albert then waved her down, and she spotted him and then walked up to him.
Albert immediately started asking about the other man and accusing Gertrude of cheating on him. Gertrude refused to fight in public. She hated looking like a couple that fought, even though many knew that they did and often.
So they went home, and as soon as they walked through the front door, Albert again accused Gertrude of stepping out on their marriage. Gertrude denied the accusations, and according to Alberts’s confession, he then told Gertrude that he was leaving her, and that’s when he walked to the bedroom to gather his things.
He stated that Gertrude followed him, and when she saw the gun, she grabbed it. Albert grabbed the front of the weapon, and Gertrude fired it, shooting through his hand. Albert then screamed, and this alarmed Gertrude, who let go of the gun. Albert then took the gun, and he pointed it at her. She then turned her head away, and he fired it, striking her in the back of the head. He then said that he grabbed her before she could fall, and he tried to kiss her, as if he were coming to his senses and wanted to make up. But she pushed him away and called him a coward. This enraged Albert even more, and he then shot her two more times, once in the chest and once in the back. He stated that her last words were, “Oh, Al…”
The Detectives took down Albert’s statement, and then they had him sign it so that it would be near impossible to fight if he changed his story later.
Albert was arrested, and once he was released from the hospital, he was booked in the local jail to be held for trial.
The trial was set to begin in June 1922, just 3 months after the murder. Albert was able to get an attorney, and together, they put together a deal for the state. Albert would plead guilty to second-degree murder, a lesser charge than what he was initially charged with, first-degree murder.
The state didn’t take long to think about it. The trial would set them back 12 thousand dollars. Adjusting for inflation, that’s about 197 thousand dollars in 2021 American dollars. They also didn’t know if they could prove that Albert planned the murder ahead of time, something they would have to prove for a first-degree murder charge. So they accepted the deal and dropped the charge to second-degree murder.
In June of 1922, Albert was sentenced to life in prison. This carried a minimum of 20 years in prison. He was initially sent to the Auburn Prison.
Through the years, Albert served his time well. He quickly started working within the prison and worked his way up to a full trustee, who the guards believed could be trusted. He was then assigned to a road camp where the workers would spend their time working on and repairing highways.
These camps were not guarded well, and the prisoners were kept in army-style tents instead of prison cells. On July 28th, 1930, three inmates walked out of camp and escaped. One of them was Albert.
The odd thing about this was that Albert was coming up for review for parole. He didn’t know it, but they were about to look over his case and see if they could let him out early for good behavior. This escape ruined that chance.
He was caught in Courtland, New York, when he asked for a ride from a truck driver. The truck driver became suspicious about Albert’s behavior when he was dropped off on the side of the highway, and he saw Albert run into the woods as if he were getting out of sight. The truck driver alerted the police just in case and gave a description of the person he was giving a ride to. They searched the area and found Albert, who was trying to hide out.
A year later Albert came up for parole in 1931 and was denied. This would happen three more times until 1937, he would be given his freedom. He moved into the Courtland YMCA after his release, only to find out how hard life would be after prison.
On September 14th, 1938, Albert committed suicide. He was found by workers at the YMCA who helped him with housing.