In November 1948, the Boulder community was rocked by the murder of University of Colorado engineering student Theresa Foster. After police asked the public for assistance, The Denver Post stepped in and began a campaign to catch the coed’s killer. The locals got more than they bargained for.
Within days, the Post took over a whole floor of the Hotel Boulderado. The newspaper then hired prolific fiction writer Erle Stanley Gardner to look at Foster’s murder through the eyes of his lead character, defense attorney Perry Mason.
Foster had last been seen shortly after 10 p.m. on Nov. 9 when she left a Catholic club meeting on University Hill. Then she started walking down Broadway to her rented room in a private residence near 8th and Spruce streets.
Detectives determined that the CU student had been picked up by her killer, taken to Lee Hill Road in North Boulder and strangled with her own jacket. Her body, however, was found in a frozen ditch on Rocky Flats in Jefferson County, just south of the county line.
An autopsy revealed that the young woman also had been hit with a “blunt instrument.” Parts of a handle and clip of a .45-automatic pistol were found at the murder site, while the rest of the gun was recovered near her body.
“The killer pulled Theresa from the car,” surmised Gardner. “After a desperate struggle, he forced her to the snow-covered ground.” Not to be outdone, the Rocky Mountain News published its own rendition of the young woman’s attack, featuring a close-up image of “how the frenzy-filled eyes of the killer may have looked.”
Eleven days after Foster’s murder, police arrested Joe Sam Walker, a sheet-metal worker from the nearby community of Eldorado Springs. On the night of the killing, he had returned to his home with blood on his clothes and told his wife that he had been in a fight. After suspecting him for several days, she turned him in to the police.
Walker admitted giving Foster a ride in his car, but he claimed that “a short stocky blonde man” was the real killer. Crowds packed the third-floor courtroom in Boulder’s downtown courthouse for Walker’s trial where he quickly was found guilty of second-degree murder and sentenced to 80 years-to-life in prison.
After 20 years, however, the Colorado Supreme Court reversed Walker’s conviction and released him because of the excessive pretrial publicity. Suddenly free, he drifted around Colorado, then ended up in Waco, Texas. In 1982, when he was 65 years old, he hanged himself in a motel room. His body was unclaimed and buried in Waco at county expense.
Was he guilty? No one knows.
At the time of Walker’s trial, a disgusted Boulder reader wrote a letter to the editor of the Daily Camera. “By printing half-truths, theories and playing up obscure facts that may be sensational,” he wrote, “these newspapers are appealing to morbid curiosity, which probably sells newspapers, but is not fair to the victim, to her family, to Boulder, to the university and to justice.”
Silvia Pettem writes about Boulder County history. She can be contacted at email@example.com. She and Carol Taylor alternate the “In Retrospect” history column.
Boulder Daily Camera
www.dailycamera.com , https%3A%2F%2Fwww.dailycamera.com%2F2022%2F06%2F05%2Fin-retrospect-sensational-newspaper-coverage-hyped-up-1940s-murder-trial%2F , Latest Headlines,Local News,News,Boulder History,In Retrospect, #Sensational #newspaper #coverage #hyped #1940s #murder #trial