The Most Famous Murder Case of the Century
                                                            The Most Famous Murder Case of The Century
                                                                                   By Joan Schepps
 
In the late 1920' and early 30's when contract bridge was in its heydey, newspapers reported bridge divorces, assault and battery cases and even bridge deaths.  THIS IS TRUE.  The most famous case of them all is THE BENNETT MURDER CASE.  In Kansas City in 1931, a housewife, Myrtle Bennett, committed one of the decades most headlined homicides by shooting her husband, John, a prosperous perfume salesman.
 
The victim met his death as a result of a game of bridge in which he played with his wife against another married couple, Mr. and Mrs. Hoffman.  His crime?  He butchered the play of a hand as declarer, going down in a very makeable four spade contract.  A bitter quarrel followed, and according to testimony at the trial, Mrs. Bennett grabbed a revolver from the bedroom and ran toward her husband. Mr. Bennett, seeing the gun, dashed into the bathroom and slammed the door behind him, but not before being hit with two bullets.  Bennett staggered out, fell into a chair moaning, “She got me” and died.  Mrs. Bennett was acquitted.  She also collected his $30,000 insurance policy! From that time to the present, any bridge book written about the history of bridge includes reference to this case, as well as a diagrammed deal of the bridge hand that cost John Bennett his life and of course, the way it should have been played.
 
EPILOGUE - Five years later Myrtle Bennett was seen playing bridge with a stranger at a duplicate bridge club.  As her partner was laying down his hand, he apologetically remarked, “I hope you don’t shoot me for this one”.  Mrs. Bennett fainted.
 
The alleged hand that cost Mr. Bennett his life was as follows:
  North  
  SP A 10 6 3
H 10 8 5
D 4
C A 9 8 4 2
 
West   East
SP Q 7 2
H A J 3
D A Q 10 9 2
C J 6
  SP 4
H Q 9 4
D K J 7 6 3
C Q 7 5 3
  South  
  SP K J 9 8 5
H K 7 6 2
D 8 5
C K 10
 


 
 
THE BIDDING:
 
Mr. Bennett                     Mr. Hoffman                Mrs. Bennett                Mrs. Hoffman
 
   South                               West                             North                            East
 
      1sp                                 2d                                4sp                                  Pass
     Pass                               Pass
 
 
OPENING LEAD - Diamond Ace by Mr. Hoffman.
 
Can you make four spades?  Play it as if your life depended on it.
 
Ely Culbertson, leading Bridge Expert of the day analyzed the deal as follows:
 
There is no doubt that Mr. Bennett had overbid his hand, but he might have saved his life had he played his cards a little better.  Four spades was not an impossible contract.
 
Mr. Hoffman led the diamond ace, then shifted to the club jack.  The proper play by declarer would have been to establish the club suit before drawing trumps.  Suppose that Mr. Bennett took the club king at trick two.  Then ruffs his last diamond in dummy.  Plays a trump to his king at trick four and then leads the club ten.  When Hoffman follows low take the ace.  Then play the eight or nine of clubs.  If  Mrs. Hoffman covers with the Queen, Bennett should trump and let Hoffman over trump or not.  (If the club Queen is not played pitch a heart and play another club.)  If Hoffman after winning this trick led a heart or a diamond the contract and a life would have been saved, In all, Bennett would have lost a spade, a diamond and heart.
 
However, a trump return by West would be fatal to Bennett, but he still would have had the satisfaction of knowing that he had played the cards dealt to him by fate to the best of his ability.