I won’t try to eulogize Alice Uden. Her life sentence ended this week when she died at age 80, still being punished for one of the four—probably five—murders she either committed herself or took part in carrying out.
Children and grandchildren know what she did, and they are horrified. They also remember her as a grandmother who liked to garden and cook, and teach her grandchildren those things. Never underestimate the memories a grandparent can leave, even a murderous one.
I wrote a book about Alice and her husband Gerald. They killed their victims, bought a farm, and lived happily ever after while detectives chased them for almost 40 years. When she died, several reporters called me and asked for a comment. It forced me to reflect on the words one chooses when speaking of the dead who, in this case, was uncommonly evil but still human. I wrote a whole book—about 95,000 words—about the evil part, and I struggled to find even a half dozen words about the human part.
Last night, I went back to another description of Alice. It was written to me by Richard Walter, one of the nation’s foremost forensic psychologists and a founder of the famous Vidocq Society. He consulted on the Udens’ case for detectives, and then for me during the writing of “Alice & Gerald: A Homicidal Love Story.”
What he said isn’t kind, but is fitting for a dead killer:
The Udens exemplify the human ability of not living up to their potential. In fact, by choice and decision, to be evil and exploitative. That said, betwixt the two, Alice, by far is more sinister and coldly ruthless to the core. For she, like a scorpion, would willingly kill all, including self, who would challenge her control and power. As for Gerald, the spineless and feckless sponge creation was/is without decency, who aided in killing his own children…because she told him to do so! Ah, you may ask, why did he confess? The answer is to protect his mentor.
I don’t celebrate the death of any human being, but neither will I waste much time mourning this one.
Bestselling crime writer Ron Franscell is the author of “Alice & Gerald: A Homicidal Love Story,” published in April by New York publisher Prometheus Books.