MS. REBECCA SHEIR
Who doesn't love a good love story? But, you got to face it, love stories don't always have a storybook ending. In fact, some of the country's most famous relationships have ended with mug shots and murder trials. In honor of the upcoming holiday of love, D.C.'s Museum of Crime And Punishment is highlighting crimes committed in moments of romantic fury. Lauren Hodges paid a visit.
MS. LAUREN HODGES
On most museum tours, visitors come away with a colorful map, a souvenir photo in front of a blue screen and occasionally a gift shop coffee mug. But couples visiting the Museum of Crime And Punishment during Valentine's Day weekend will leave with a pair of handcuffs, fuzzy pink handcuffs to be exact, which bind each couple together on the annual tour of the nation's most famous crimes of passion, many of which happened right here in Washington D.C. Operation's manager, Rachel Penman, helped start the event three years ago.
MS. RACHEL PENMAN
There was a much better response than we expected. We were pretty overwhelmed.
But Penman says the reason behind the event's popularity doesn't surprise her at all. The marriage of crime and romance proves irresistible to the public.
People love crime. I mean, you can't turn on a TV without seeing a crime show and every single one almost always has some sort of romantic entanglement, some sort of scandal.
The Crimes of Passion tour focuses on the true crime stories that capture the dark side of romance. Penman's favorite happened in Lafayette Square in broad daylight.
February 27, 1859, congressman from New York, Daniel Sickles, murdered Phillip Key, who was a son of Francis Scott Key across from the White House. Key had been having an affair with Sickles' wife, Teresa. Someone sent him an anonymous letter.
So Sickles confronted his wife, who confessed everything in detail. Key, who was unaware that their scandalous secret had been spilled, came looking for Teresa that night.
And Sickles came out and went after him with a pistol and shot him three times. Many people witnessed it.
One would think Sickles would be on his way to life in prison, but things didn't turn out that way.
The public completely supported Sickles, thought he was justified in killing Key. President Buchanan even supported Sickles, but it still went to trial. They claimed not guilty by reason of temporary insanity and it was successful and, you know, the public cheered. They were totally on his side.
Penman suggests that the public support stemmed from an ability to relate to the scorned husband. After all, many people can understand the powerful emotions brought on by a relationship, even when those emotions cause extreme behavior.
Killing someone in broad daylight right across from the White House with many witnesses, was considered not guilty. You know, he lost his mind. He didn't know what he was doing in a moment of delusional fury.
The Sickles story happened right after Valentine's Day, which Penman says is an especially high time for crime.
Crimes of passion usually tend to increase around holidays in general, including Valentine's Day. So I mean, there's numerous couples that exchange, you know, candy, flowers, then a couple hours later, one of them is dead. It's the intensity of, you know, a relationship.
So while Halloween might be the official holiday of fright, perhaps Valentine's Day boasts an even bigger monster, passion. It can bring out the best and the worst in people. So much so that sometimes living happily ever after can take a backseat to simply getting out alive. I'm Lauren Hodges.
The annual Crimes of Passion tour runs through February 14th at the National Museum of Crime and Punishment. Visit our website, metroconnectio.org, to find out more.
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