A Case of Untenable Uxoricide
You may ask yourself, Why write an article on East Central Georgia with a headline like this?” Fifty six years ago this week, a former Dublin woman was murdered and brutally dismembered by her estranged full- time employer and part- time lover. The untenable uxoricide, described as the most fiendish murder in the history of Baltimore, made headlines throughout the nation. While all too many such murderers are still haunting our country, it is important to note that in the last few years before World War II murder was much more common than it is today. Warning! The faint of heart should stop reading now.
Evelyn Byrd New Rice, a former wife of William Brooks Rice, Sr. of Dublin, was a pretty, petite, auburn-haired, brown-eyed mother of two. Following the couple’s divorce, her husband was awarded custody of their children, Brooks and Jack. She was last seen in Dublin in January 1938. Mrs. Rice was married to Robert Finney for several years before the couple parted while Finney was stationed at Fort Screven at Tybee Island. Mrs. Finney changed her name back to Evelyn Rice and moved to Baltimore to find work. Though she never saw Finney again, Evelyn remained in contact with Rice and her two sons.
Evelyn Byrd New Rice began working as a mind reader and finally as a bar maid in the East Baltimore bar of Italian immigrant Marcus “Marco” Aurelio Tarquinio. Tarquinio immigrated to America and joined the Army Corps of Engineers in World War I. He worked as a tong runner in the Sparrows Point plant of Bethlehem Steel. In 1937, he opened a bar. Marco invited Evelyn to move in with him and keep his house. The couple argued bitterly and regularly. A neighbor, Mrs. Nizidek urged Evelyn to leave town and return to Georgia to be closer to her children. In the months before her death, Evelyn wrote Brooks that she was afraid of Marco.
The conflicts between Evelyn and Marco occurred more frequently and became even more vehement. Marco began to lock Evelyn in a room before leaving the house. Around midnight of April 14, 1939, the couple got into one of a series of bitter arguments. Neighbor Frank Peterson heard the fussing from his next door house. Peterson later told police that they argued for about two hours. “I heard Evelyn scream and then she stopped. I didn’t hear anymore so I went to sleep.” Peterson said. A few days later Peterson asked Marco about Evelyn’s whereabouts. Marco said, “Evelyn’s gone again.” Peterson responded, “Where?” “Aw, she‘s got plenty of friends, and she’s been all over eighteen states,” Marco declared.
It was almost dark the following night when nine-year-old Nicholas Kemper climbed down into a Lombard Street sewer to retrieve his rubber ball. As he was scanning the floor of the dark and filthy sewer, Nicholas noticed a bundle of newspapers. Upon a closer examination, the boy discovered a hand protruding from the comic section. “It’s a hand down here! It’s a hand,” exclaimed Nicholas.
The grocer on the corner heard the boy’s screams and summoned the police. Patrolman Paulk climbed down into the hole and found a second bundle, this one containing one of Evelyn’s lower legs. An all out search was instituted in the sewers about a block from the Tarquinio home. Throngs of curiosity seekers and volunteer searchers swarmed the site at the intersection of Lombard and Chapel Streets. Joe Wosk and Jack Bernsein found a right foot and the other lower leg in a sewer a block away. Searchers found her internal organs carefully wrapped in recent newspapers as if they had just been purchased from the local meat market. Evelyn’s blood stained lounging pajamas were discovered in yet another location the following day. Two days after that, an arm was found cater-cornered from the site of the initial gruesome discovery. A hospital worker found two-thirds of her torso in a dump next to the Baltimore city hospital. In the case dubbed “The Torso Murder,” police found the victim of the crime before they knew that she was missing from her home.
A couple of days later, Marco went to the East Baltimore police precinct to report Evelyn’s disappearance. Suspicious of Marco’s culpability in the matter, the police chief sent a couple of men to shadow the barkeeper. At first, the police conducted a vigorous investigation, but the search soon waned after hundreds of tips from a horde of drunks, eccentrics and amateur sleuths failed to lead police to any clues as to Evelyn’s location.
The Baltimore police arrested Tarquinio on suspicion of murder. The suspect was interrogated for more than six hours before he confessed to the heinous murder. Tarquinio told police that the couple had argued mostly over her drinking and other men as they always did. He admitted that in the heat of the moment he struck Evelyn and that she fell down the stairs into the basement to her death. The
police conducted a search and surmised that Tarquinio panicked and took Evelyn’s body down into the basement, where he methodically dissected it and scattered her remains throughout the neighborhood sewers. The most damning and readily identifiable evidence against Tarquinio was discovered just outside the basement door in a small back yard garden. Eighteen inches below a bed of newly blooming tulips and beneath a slab of concrete was the head of the former Peach Festival beauty queen. The walls of the Tarquinio back yard were lined with onlookers hoping to get a glance of yet another decaying part of Evelyn’s body. Peering over the fence, Frank Peterson watched police as they excavated Evelyn’s head from the flower bed. He cried out, “That’s Evelyn.” Buried beside the tulip bulbs were her two upper arms, two upper thighs and the remainder of her torso. When police presented the suspect with a typed summary of his confession, he recanted his story and denied any knowledge of the details of his former lover’s murder. Police gathered Evelyn’s remains in a tub and presented them to Marco. When questioned as to identity of the mutilated corpse, he responded, “That’s Evelyn, Evelyn Rice.”
Tarquinio was indicted, tried and convicted of the murder of Evelyn Rice. The State of Maryland demanded the death penalty, but the court sentenced him to life in prison. For some inexplicable reason, the convicted wife killer was paroled after serving only fifteen years in prison. He vanished from the community, but according to the terms of parole, he remained in contact with his parole officer, who found him to be a gentle man who adhered to the terms of his parole.
Evelyn’s body was cremated and her ashes were buried in the family plot in Americus. Her right hand was never found.