On the evening of March 19, 1960, police were summoned to a ranch-style home in Independence, Missouri, 10 miles due east of Kansas City. There, a young housewife claimed she heard a gun go off in the bedroom where her husband James Kinne had been sleeping. Upon entering, she said, she found her young daughter Danna holding a .22 caliber pistol, and her husband shot in the back of the head. The victim was loaded into an ambulance; by the time he arrived at the hospital, Sharon Kinne’s husband was dead.
After an investigation in which the toddler proved she could indeed pull a trigger on a .22 caliber pistol, the police declared James Kinne’s death an accident. Kinne was free to go—but she would soon be under suspicion again.
In April of that year, using money from her husband’s insurance policy, Kinne purchased a Ford Thunderbird from a car salesman named Walter Jones. The two hit it off and soon began an affair. Their relationship was troubled from the start—Jones was married at the time to a woman named Patricia. In May, Kinne requested Jones join her on a trip; Jones declined. Upon her return at the end of May, Kinne informed Jones she was pregnant with his child. She expected he would leave his wife. Instead, Jones broke off their relationship.
Not long after that, Patricia, Walter Jones's wife, went missing.
After filing a missing persons report, Jones spoke with Patricia's friends in hopes of uncovering clues as to the whereabouts of his wife. One group who carpooled to work with Patricia had an intriguing story to tell. They informed him that Patricia had received a mysterious phone call on the day of her disappearance; the caller was female and wished to speak with her after work. Patricia agreed to the meeting, asking her carpool driver to drop her off at a meetup spot in Independence. They confirmed that a woman was waiting for Patricia.
Jones confronted Kinne; she admitted she had indeed met with Patricia that day and told her about the affair. Afterward, Kinne claimed, she dropped her off near the Jones household. Jones, dubious, demanded Kinne come clean. Kinne stuck with her story, claiming innocence. She even enlisted an old high school lover named John Boldizs to help search for Patricia.
Sure enough, the pair quickly discovered Patricia Jones's body, riddled with bullets, in a remote area outside of town.
Police questioned Kinne, John Boldizs, and Jones, and subsequently arrested Kinne for the murder of Patricia Jones. What's more, they announced that Kinne would also be tried for the murder of her husband, James Kinne. But Sharon Kinne was pregnant, and the trials would have to wait until after she delivered her baby.
Kinne was tried separately for each murder. The trial for the murder of Patricia Jones began in June 1961. The media soon arrived to cover the sensational case. In the end, citing a lack of concrete evidence, the jury found Kinne not guilty of Jones’s murder. One juror even asked for Kinne’s autograph after the verdict was read, a moment captured by photographers.
The trial for James Kinne’s murder, however, proved far more complicated. The first trial in January 1962 ended in a conviction, yet the verdict of life behind bars was overturned due to procedural irregularities. A second trial ended abruptly in a mistrial, while a third trial in July 1964 ended in a hung jury, allowing Kinne out on bond.
Before her fourth trial could begin in October 1964, Kinne skipped town and headed to Mexico with a boyfriend named Francis Puglise. She claimed they intended to get married there. But Kinne just couldn’t resist another violent episode. After meeting an American tourist, Francisco Parades Ordoñez, in a bar, Kinne went back to his hotel room. She claimed he tried to rape her, and she shot him, killing him and wounding a hotel employee who entered the room after he heard gunshots. A return on ballistics revealed that the gun that killed Ordoñez was the same gun that had killed Patricia Jones.
Mexican police didn’t believe Kinne’s protestations about attempted rape, and tried her for homicide. In October 1965, she was convicted and received a 10-year prison sentence. A subsequent appeal and judicial review had an adverse effect on Kinne’s case, extending her sentence to 13 years, claiming the first had been too lenient. Kinne spent the next four years in a Mexican prison, earning the nickname “La Pistolera”, the gunfighter.
Then, on December 7, 1969, Sharon Kinne didn’t show up for the daily roll call in prison. By the next morning, it was obvious she had escaped. Some believe she bribed the guards and made her escape during a convenient blackout the night before. Others believe her boyfriend aided in her escape. One lurid theory claims that the family of her last victim busted her out of jail for the pleasure of killing her themselves.
The FBI, working in tandem with Mexican authorities, entertained a brief search for Kinne, claiming that it was unlikely she would return to the United States and had instead probably made her way into Guatemala. Kinne’s warrant for the murder of her husband James, issued in 1964, is still active to this day, making it the longest outstanding arrest warrant in the Kansas City area and one of the longest outstanding felony warrants in United States history.
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Sharon Kinne’s good looks and sensational story made her a larger-than-life figure in the press at the time. Now that over 40 years have passed with Kinne on the lam, it’s obvious that she is no common criminal. La Pistolera is likely still out there, somewhere.
All photos: Alchetron