Infamous Mississippi murder re-visited
This week’s “Dart” takes us to the McNeill cemetery, where in the spirit of Halloween, it seems appropriate to revisit a real-life horror story with roots in Pearl River County.
Jack Spiers, McNeill Cemetery Board Member, recalls the story of Ouida Keeton, who some have referred to as “Mississippi’s Lizzie Borden.”
The grotesque murder of a wealthy Laurel, Miss. resident, Daisy Keeton, became a national news story in 1935 after her daughter Ouida Keeton was arrested for the crime. Spiers explained that Daisy and Ouida Keeton originally lived in McNeill, not very far from where the cemetery is located today.
“They moved after the mysterious death of Daisy Keeton’s husband, John Monroe Keeton, who died suddenly in a mysterious railroad accident,” Spiers said, adding that there had been multiple life insurance policies taken out on his behalf not long before his death.
Ouida Keeton was accused of shooting her mother and chopping her body into pieces. Spiers said that she supposedly disposed of her mother’s remains by burning them in the fireplace and flushing them down the toilet. The only body parts remaining when she was finished were her mother’s legs, which she secured in a cloth and abandoned on the side of an isolated country road.
A hunter and his dog soon discovered the severed legs, and Ouida Keeton had been seen driving on that road not long before the hunter found them. The trail of evidence she left led the authorities to her, and she was arrested shortly afterwards.
Spiers said the entire country was captivated by the trial as she tried to blame the murder on her former employer, confessing that she caught him in the act. After a short trial in which she pleaded insanity, the jury found Ouida Keeton guilty and sentenced her to life in prison.
Daisy Keeton’s legs were brought back to McNeill, where they were supposedly buried in the middle of the night in the McNeill cemetery – that is where they remain to this day. Spiers said that because of the publicity surrounding the case, the legs were more than likely buried without an official ceremony to avoid any attempted grave robbing.
Ouida Keeton died in 1973 and was buried next to her mother. The victim and the perpetrator of what Mississippi author Hunter Cole referred to as one of the most sensational crimes in Mississippi history, found their final resting places side-by-side beneath the lawn of the McNeill cemetery in Pearl River County.
For those that are interested in reading more on the subject, Cole wrote a book entitled “The Legs Murder Scandal” which describes the situation in excellent detail.
Anyone who visits the McNeill Cemetery looking for Ouida Keeton’s grave should look for a bare patch of dirt. Spiers says that for whatever reason, grass does not grow over her infamous grave.
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