Ridley P. Poe Essay, Research Paper
Well, we got a call from a frightened Ms. Leimbach who lived on the forth floor
of the Pleasant Valley Apartment building, Lieutenant Henderson said.
So……? What d she say? I asked.
She said there was a body lying in a safety net that some construction crew had
left outside her back window, Lieutenant Henderson said.
So what d you do then, LT? I asked.
Hey Miller why don t you stuff a doughnut in this kid s mouth so I can tell my
tale. and turning to me, he added Patience young man, patience.
Flicking an ash from the end of his Dunhill toward the aluminum foil ashtray in
front of him and missing, he continued, Anyway, Sergeant Richards took the call, and the
info that he got outta Ms. Leimbach was sorta vague. She said that she couldn t tell who it
was because the face was covered in blood, but she estimated that it had happened within
fifteen minutes before calling us. She said that she had finished the dishes at her sink in
front of that window just before The Tonight Show started at 11:00, and the body wasn t
there then. When she called us at 11:15, she said she had just gotten up to make herself a
cup of tea when she noticed the body.
At first, me and Richards wondered if that old coot hadn t been seeing things
again. After all, this was the same Ms. Leimbach who had called us about four months
before this, screaming something about her Hoover attacking her.
What ya do about that? Detective Miller asked.
Well, first I called her doctor and had him meet me there with some sedatives. I
decided to bring a starter pistol loaded with blanks. When I got there, she was locked in
her bathroom, and the Hoover was lying upended in the middle of the living room floor. I
coaxed her out of the bathroom to watch me shoot six blanks into that poor old Hoover.
Then the doctor did his business, and I left with a new Hoover for the office. The next day
she called the Captain and asked that I be commended for taking care of that quote
wretched beast .
Lt. Henderson crushed out his Dunhill and grabbed a glazed one from the Dunkin
Doughnuts box in the middle of the table. He shoved half of it into his mouth and
continued talking while he chewed, Anyway, we had to check this one out regardless of
how many times she cried wolf, or beast, or whatever. When we got there, we found
exactly what Ms. Leimbach had described. He pronounced it deffcrived with help from
There was indeed a body lying in a safety net four stories above the apartment
building parking lot. Since we had no way to get to the body, we called the fire department
and had them bring in a step truck to take us up. He swallowed down the half chewed
lump in his mouth and stuffed in the other half.
Richards and I went up with one of the firemen and what I saw was probably the
most disgusting sight I have ever had the privilege of witnessing. He was very dead. I
mean this guy didn t even have a face left. We assumed he had lost it somewhere between
the top of the twelve story apartment building and the safety net.
So it was a jumper? Detective Miller asked. I remained silent.
Yeah, that s what we thought. But this is where the whole thing started getting
really bizarre. You see, we assumed it was a suicide, and figured that the guy just jumped
and left his face on a ledge or something on the way down.
When we got the body down, we checked him for a wallet, a suicide note,
anything that would tell us who the hell this guy was and what brought him there. We
checked the roof and the entire front of the building with nothin more than the man s shoe
prints on the roof. Most of his teeth were knocked out, so we couldn t ID him by his
dental records. So the only thing we had to go on were his fingerprints, which we sent off
to the FBI for analysis, hoping that they would have them on file.
Since it was already late, we decided to send the body to the coroner and wait until
the next morning to question the residents of the building so we could find out if anyone
had heard or seen anything. We knew that it wouldn t be until then that we got the results
of the fingerprints back from the FBI anyway. Once we got the ID of this guy, all we
figured that we would have to do was to notify the next of kin, fill out the proper
paperwork, and that would be that. Case closed. And then this John Doe would soon be a
Doesn t sound too bizarre yet, I said.
Yet is the key word here — listen on, Lt. Henderson responded, lighting up
another Dunhill. The next morning we received three rather important bits of
information. The first two were expected; the other was…..well, quite the opposite. A fax
from the FBI came first with the results of the fingerprint analysis. Our John Doe was
positively identified as one Ridley P. Poe, of 61 East Sprague Street. I decided to go
myself and look for the suicide note, if Mr. Poe had bothered to leave one. And of course
Like any good jumper would, added Miller sarcastically.
Yes, like any good jumper would. But unlike most good jumpers, Mr. Poe left us
with the beginnings of a mystery that would take more twists than an Agatha Christie
novel. The Lieutenant paused to ruminate. You know, come to think of it, I believe we
still have that case on file. If you gentlemen would give me a minute, I could let Mr. Poe
tell you of his demise in his own words.
With that, Lt. Henderson slid his chair back, got up, and retreated to the records
room behind his office. He returned two short minutes later shuffling through an
overstuffed file folder. He sat back down, pulled several yellowing pieces of paper from
the folder, and lit another Dunhill.
He began talking with the cigarette wiggling in the corner of his mouth. Mr. Poe
starts out with the normal I m so depressed, and the world hates me bullshit, and then
let s see…..da de da dadaaaa……Ah! Here we go….. Six weeks ago, my mother told me
that I was not living up to her expectations as a son, and because of this she said that she
was taking me out of her will and removing me as the beneficiary of her life insurance
(Excerpt from the suicide note of Ridley P. Poe)
…..so I concocted what I thought was a foolproof
plan to get the money before she actually took
care of ending me. Since my mother typically
procrastinates with everything she does, I
figured that I would have at least two or three
weeks to kill her. My plan was pretty simple
actually. You see, since my father started
drinking heavily again five years ago, he has
been in the habit of threatening my mother with
an unloaded shotgun in an effort to train her,
as he was fond of saying. All I would need to
do would be to put a single shell into that
shotgun and wait until my father got wasted
again. If anything in this cold, fucked up
world had gone my way, I would be a rich man
right now, my mother would be dead and my
father would be in jail for the murder of that
So it has been six weeks since I put that
single shell in my father s twelve gauge. I have
been over to their plush little Pleasant Valley
apartment every single day since that one to
make sure that the shell was still there.
Although she hasn t told me, I figure that
by now, my mother has already changed the
will and the insurance policy. And I know
she s a fairly lazy bitch, but I don t think she s
waited this long. So I will go over there when I
finish this letter, and if my mother is still alive,
I will jump off the top of that pleasant building.
I can only hope that my parents are looking out
their window when I fall by, so they can see the
anguish that they have spent twenty-eight
years putting on my face. Fuck you
And then it s signed Ridley P. Poe, Lt. said.
Sounds like he got his just reward, I said.
Yeah, he sure did, but certainly not like he or anyone else expected. I told you
before that we found out something quite unexpected that morning. Well…..it came by
way of a phone call from the coroner. After I finished reading the suicide note at the dead
guy s house, Sgt. Richards called me on the radio and told me to meet him at the Pleasant
Valley Apartments. He said that he had found something out that he was sure I would find
I met him there about fifteen minutes later, and he told me that we needed to start
questioning the residents of the building in reference to the murder of Ridley P. Poe. I
corrected him, saying that it was an obvious suicide, and to emphasize my point, I showed
him the note that Mr. Poe had left us. He then told me that the coroner had told him that
Mr. Poe had not lost his face in an impact but rather from the blast of a shotgun. He also
told Richards that the man died instantly from the blast. Richards said that no evidence of
gunpowder was found on his hands, indicating that the blast probably came at the hands of
With the possibility of foul play thrown into the mix, we decided to find out what
happened inside the elder Poe s apartment during the previous night.
When we called by, Margaret Poe invited us into the eighth story apartment, and
what we found surprised us. A twelve gauge shotgun was resting in a corner next to the
front door minus one shell. Shotgun pellets had pocked the frame of the screen door
leading out to the balcony, and there was a gaping hole in the screen door next to that.
Shotgun chaff lay in the living room carpet forming a V pattern beginning ten feet in
front of the screen door. But curiously there was no evidence of blood anywhere in the
apartment or on the balcony.
Where was Mr. Poe while you were doing all this? Miller asked.
Margaret went to wake the old man up while we took our little tour, and when
Warren Poe came out, it was apparent to us that he had spent the previous night imbibing.
He stumbled over his own feet and nearly knocked Sgt. Richards over. When we asked
him what had happened there the night before, he just looked dazed and said that he
couldn t recall. So we asked his wife, and she told us that the damage was there when she
came home from shopping or something at 4:00 in the afternoon. But we knew that she
was lying because her voice began trembling as she spoke. That s when I told them that
we had found their son dead the night before.
So what were their reactions? I asked.
I wasn t really interested in their reactions. With what I already knew of the
relationship that they had with their son, they could have shown indifference and that
would have only meant that they didn t give a shit one way or the other if their son was
alive or dead. But for what it s worth, both displayed shock, but no grief.
I decided then that we had enough evidence to arrest them on suspicion of
murder. Of course, they strenuously objected saying that they were not murderers and that
they loved their son and blah, blah, blah. I think you have both heard some form of that
line once or twice before.
So we brought them here to the station and began questioning them once their
lawyer arrived. We first questioned Mr. Poe, and he maintained that he couldn t recall
anything from the entire day before. We actually believed that because the old man was
still drunk and by then it was already 10:00 in the morning. So we began questioning
Margaret, and at first she stuck to her original story, adding that nothing pertinent
happened after she got home from shopping. That was when I told her about the suicide
note. I told her that I knew about her husband s habit of threatening her with the shotgun.
That s when she broke, and what she told us then is what we now know as the truth.
She told us that Ridley had come over just before 11:00. When he walked in, he
saw that his father was wasted. He told his father that he hoped he died inside that bottle.
Then he flipped his mother the bird and walked back out. After he left, Margaret told her
husband that the reason his son was a failure was because Warren was a failure. That
comment precipitated in an angry argument. She said the argument ended when Warren
grabbed the shotgun and pointed it at her. She said the gun exploded causing the damage
that we witnessed that morning. She said that her husband was so shocked and upset by
the blast that he began crying and wound up crying himself into a drunken sleep. She said
that is all she could tell us and it was the truth, so help her God.
And I believed her, said the Lt.
I know you re not about to tell me that Ridley P. Poe left that apartment, went up
to the roof, jumped off and then was accidentally shot dead by his drunken father on the
way past their eighth story balcony, Miller said.
That s exactly what I m going to tell you, said the Lt.
Impossible! Miller and I said in unison.
I can understand your reactions because I felt the same way for awhile. So we
decided to have the forensics lab check the evidence to back up Mrs. Poe s claim. And
this is what we found out:
Shotguns are designed to kill flying foul. Everyone knows this. But what most
people don t know is that when the bird shot exits the barrel of the gun, it comes out in a
very tight pattern. As the pellets get farther out, the pattern takes the shape of a sideways
elongated figure eight. Lt. Henderson gestured this pattern in the air with his finger.
And the farther out the pellets go, the less concentrated this pattern becomes. So it is
possible to accurately judge the distance between the gun and the object hit by measuring
the distance between each pellet mark. When forensics measured the pellet wounds on the
face of the deceased, the wounds were exactly one quarter inch apart, putting the distance
of the body eighteen feet away from the point where the shot left the barrel of that
shotgun. It was easy to find where Warren Poe was standing when the gun went off, just
by looking at the chaff lying on the living room carpet. This was exactly ten feet from the
screen door. The rail of the balcony is thirteen feet from the point of the blast. Eighteen
feet gentlemen is mid-air. And unless Ridley P. Poe knew how to slip the surly bonds of
earth, he was free falling when he was hit by that birdshot.
The Lieutenant leaned back, locked his hands together and stretched his arms high
above his head as we ruminated over what we had just heard. He lit up another cigarette
So which one of you is going to be the first to ask me who got charged with
what? the Lieutenant asked.
I m sure you had to charge the old man with something, he killed someone,
accident or no, I said.
True enough, but you have to consider that there was never any intent by the old
Mr. Poe to commit a crime. Technically, the only intent involved was that of the dead guy.
He intended to kill someone, and fortunately or unfortunately for him, depending on which
way you look at it, that someone happened to be himself. He was the victim of the crime
that he had planned for his mother.
Wow, this guy just had no luck at all, said Detective Miller.
Well, that s not even the worst of his luck either, said the Lieutenant. Don t
forget, we found his body in a construction crew s safety net. If he hadn t been shot, he
would have landed harmlessly in the net to reconsider his fate. And if that wasn t enough
insult to his fatal injury, if he hadn t died that day, he would have found himself to be a
very rich man just three days later.
Huh? I said, confused.
Mr. and Mrs. Poe died in an automobile accident three days after Ridley did. And
although Margaret did, in fact, change the will and the insurance policy out of her son s
name, she changed it to her husband. And her husband s will and insurance policy was
still made out to one Ridley P. Poe.
Life sure does suck, doesn t it Lieutenant? I asked.
Yes my good man, life certainly does suck, answered Lieutenant
Henderson. It certainly does.