CRIME CULTURE: Upon his recent death, rock and roll musician Jerry Lee Lewis was widely lauded by many as a pioneer and icon even when those same obituaries sneered at his incestuous marriage to a teen girl. Yet, marrying his 13-year-old cousin wasn’t even his greatest sin. He was also a murderer of women. Gary Johnston with this account of the man known as ‘The Killer’ who likely killed one, if not two, of his seven wives.
Television ‘personality’ Jimmy Savile, Supreme Court judge Brett Kavanagh, Led Zep plank spanker Jimmy Page, auteur filmmaker Roman Polanski, Bill Clinton, Cristiano Ronaldo and Prince Andrew.
Seven seemingly random public figures, but what do they all have in common?
Sorry, I can only award you half a point if you answered, ‘they’re all c*nts’.
The real connection, and I’ve a feeling that after your initial, understandable response, you eventually twigged, is that all of them – and of course, this is far from a comprehensive list – are unconvicted sexual predators.
In other words, for various reasons, not entirely unconnected to their various levels of power and influence, they got away with it. Never had to answer in a court of law, were never confined to a sentence of porridge-supping in accordance with their plain-as-the-nose-on-your-face ‘crimes and misdemeanours’.
Free, in fact, as a bird. A dodo in Savile’s case, since he assumed room temperature in 2011.
The latest to join this un-illustrious group although in reality he was actually a founding member, is rock’n’roll legend, 1950’s musical icon and by any account, solid gold prick Jerry Lee Lewis. The ‘Great Balls of Fire’ singer joined the choir invisible late last month at the ripe – some would say rotten to the core – old age of 77.
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In a gauge of depravity and debauchery – for the sake of argument, let’s call it the Weinstein Scale – Jerry Lee is up there with the worst of the worst, exhibiting behaviour over the course of his life and career which would make the Roman Emperor Caligula – a man who married his horse – look demure and reasonable. Talk about Great Balls of Fire.
However, you’d never know that if you happened upon the numerous tributes and accolades paid to the man known as ‘The Killer’ – irony alert – over the last few days.
Elton John, Ringo Starr, Bob Dylan and numerous others – Kid Rock and Stephen King anyone? – have all wanked – uh waxed – lyrical over Jerry Lee, the man, the myth and the music, conveniently avoiding the fact the behind the upright piano, there lurked an unrepentant predator, a violent, gun obsessed abuser and, if anything as prosaic as highly persuasive evidence is to be believed, a wife murderer.
So, let’s deal with these ‘allegations’ in logical order.
Predator? Well, in 1957, Jerry Lee married his first cousin, Myra Gale Brown, age 13. By way of justification, and clear proof that there is a significant difference between the twin concepts of law and morality, such a union was actually legal in Mississippi at the time.
Having said that, JLL was still joined in holy matrimony to his previous partner(s) meaning that whilst wedding a pubescent child was acceptable in law, being a two-time bigamist – he’d neglected to bother himself with anything as complicated as divorce – was quite beyond the deep South legal pale.
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Lee was married seven times all up, obviously his taste for marzipan icing being every bit as seductive as his appreciation of other white substances of the whizzing variety, and the depressing tales of his controlling, coercive behaviour are a constant across all of those several coalitions.
Most troubling of all is the backstory of his fifth marriage to a woman called Shawn Stephens, a union which lasted a mere six weeks after Shawn was found unresponsive in the couple’s house in Hernando Ole Miss on the morning of August 4, 1983.
When paramedics arrived they examined Shawn, finding no pulse but noting severe bruises on her arm and dried blood on her hands. Lewis emerged on the scene minutes later.
He had bright red scratches on his arm and blood on his bathrobe but his face was emotionless as he said, “Dead? You sure? Nothing you can do?”
Blood stains were evident everywhere, on the floor, on Shawn’s clothes, on the carpet.
Her fingernails were broken, dried blood underneath.
None of this, incidentally, was in the investigator’s report. Nothing was, in fact.
There was no report.
Jerry Lee Lewis with his fifth wife Shawn Stephens who was most likely murdered by the musician just six weeks into their marriage in 1983 (Image: Rolling Stone / Getty / Supplied)
The lead investigator was Deputy Sherriff Jack McCauley, a notorious law enforcement officer who was said to be one of the richest men in the county, all that on a salary of just over $10,000 a year.
Despite the blood, Jerry Lee’s apparent indifference and evidence that the body had been moved after death, it was concluded that Shawn Stephens Lewis had died as a result of an accidental overdose of sleeping tablets.
There was no inquest, either.
Deputy Sherriff McCauley, in addition to being a bent as coat-hanger, was a good mate of Jerry Lee’s. And after all, that’s what friends are for.
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The Killer’s – no judgment, thats what they called him – fourth wife, Jaren Pate, had also died in mysterious circumstances. Drowned in a swimming pool, days before the final divorce settlement Lee’s lawyers had reluctantly agreed to after hearing evidence that –
“…the defendant (Jerry Lee) has an extremely violent temper… he has choked her (his wife) on numerous occasions, beaten her up, knocked her down and threatened her life …”
Jerry Lee Lewis was, right up until his death, a committed Christian who trusted the Lord to forgive him. “That’s his job,” he once said, a point of view which suggests turning to God guarantees miscreants the ultimate get-out-of-hell-free card, seemingly an useful accessory for those predisposed to unrestrained sin and vice.
Presumably Jerry will now be answering for his wickedness – or cashing in the convenient these-things-happen card, if you believe in that sort of thing, as many similar devout see you next Tuesday’s clearly do.
But anyway, who needs forgiveness in the hereafter, when you can parley your fame and influence for clemency and preferential treatment in the present?
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When, just because you have talent, or money – or in the case of Prince Andrew, neither, save useful connections based on an archaic system of privilege – you can avoid those troubling little consequences of your wicked, wicked ways?
When you eventually shuffle off, your live will be celebrated, homage will be paid, tributes attributed, respect accorded. No one will mention the unmentionable. What a guy. Legend.
You’ll literally, get away with murder.
The Killer, indeed.
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