LOS ANGELES, CA — At last, Elizabeth “Betty” Ferreri had enough. On October 26, 1948, the too-long-abused housewife threatened Jerry Ferreri, the husband who routinely beat her up and cheated on her, by swinging at him with a heavy, sizable pipe wrench.
This particular day, Jerry brought a young female model to the couple’s spacious Hancock Park home, prompting his wife’s overdue explosion. After Jerry fled from the wrench, Betty summoned Alan Adron, their live-in handyman. She feared, correctly, that her spouse would return in a violent fury. Adron got hold of a pistol.
That’s exactly what happened. Upon storming back home, Jerry dragged Betty by the hair. Adron pumped two shots into the enraged husband. The gun then jammed, leaving Jerry alive and moaning. Breaking loose, Betty grabbed a meat cleaver from the kitchen and swung it down on Jerry’s head 23 times. He wasn’t alive after that.
Betty and Jerry Ferreri met in New Jersey several years earlier, when she was 18 and he was 24. Jerry came from a family with enough money to relocate him to L.A.’s swanky Hancock Park, but he rarely worked. Instead, he drank, womanized, and physically savaged his wife and their young son.
Among Jerry’s transgressions was ordering Betty to have sex with an auto mechanic in order to pay off a bill, then punching her so hard when she said no that he ruptured her eardrum. Upon receiving the doctor’s bill for the incident, Jerry punched Betty in the other ear, reportedly saying, “Maybe he’ll give you two for the price of one.”
Jerry also allegedly brought a puppy home for their son but, when the animal disobeyed him, he hung the dog on a clothesline and beat it to death with a baseball bat while the child watched. This atmosphere of physical, mental, and emotional torture finally exploded against Jerry once Betty grabbed that cleaver.
Police arrested Betty and Alan Adron on the spot. Public sympathy came down fast on the side of the defendants. Even Deputy District Attorey J. Miller Leavy acknowledged that Jerry’s behavior toward his family had been “tempestuous, obstreperous, ferocious, turbulent, quarrelsome, and vicious.” Still, the prosecution argued premeditation.
It was a tough sell, particularly when Betty took the stand and convincingly testified before breaking down in tears:
“[Jerry was] sadist, an incorrigible brute, a bully, a beast…. Sometimes he gagged me and locked me in a bedroom closet, threatening to kill me if I made a sound, forcing me to endure the sounds of his lovemaking to another woman. When he let me out, he expected me to cook for him.”
By the time in the trial that Judge Charles W. Fricke came off the bench and took the witness stand for the defense, the case was down the road to a clear outcome.
Even building a case against Adron, who fired the gun into Jerry, proved daunting for the prosecutors. The silent handyman came off almost catatonic in court, if not inwardly deranged. The press deemed him “Robot Man.”
Betty’s lawyers wanted to enter an insanity plea for Adron, but he refused. Instead, he hired his own attorney, who stated that Adron had been under the influence of “hypnotic suggestion” during the melee, but had since returned to normalcy.
In early 1949, the jury of seven men and find women found both defendants not guilty. Nobody protested.
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Main photo: Meat cleaver [WikiMedia Commons]