It was a strange marriage, even by backwoods Cajun standards.
Louis Paul Lemoine stood tall and erect.
He was well scrubbed for the occasion. You see, it was Louis's wedding day and, while that might not be strange in itself, it was a day he never thought he would experience.
Louis Lemoine could neither hear nor speak.
As if to compensate for these obvious deficiencies, Louis was a crack shot, a first-rate hunter and a hard worker.
He eked out a dubious living in the logging industry.
Addie Mae Lavespere was only 15 when she stood before the preacher man, her 23-year-old Louis at her side.
We will never know what thoughts passed through Addie Mae's mind that day in the small town of Natchitoches, Louisiana, when she wed Louis.
To an outsider, her choice of a husband might be strange, but to the swamp folk attending the wedding, her choice was simple enough.
Addie Mae was attempting to escape her own home and the dawn-to-dusk, back-breaking labour of looking after her many brothers and sisters.
The wheel had returned to its starting point. One day, Addie Mae realized she had traded the drudgery of her parents' home for the drudgery of her own. She and Louis had no friends and no diversions, if you discount work and sex.
Addie Mae realized other women were leading a far better life than she.
They went to parties, had friends into their homes and, above all, had someone to speak to during the long lonesome evenings.
Louis' silence became a stifling, hated thing in Addie Mae's mind.
She had to escape.
Running away was not in Addie Mae's nature. She loved her children and took pride in her modest home.
Addie Mae sat Louis down and explained to him she wanted a divorce. Louis was stunned.
Stoically, he took his rifle down off its rack and went into the woods with his dog.
Twenty-eight-year-old Addie Mae wasn't fooling. She went into town, contacted a lawyer and instituted divorce proceedings.
In 1955, the divorce became final and Addie Mae was free. But was she? She still had her seven children.
It wasn't long before she realized her brood needed a father. The turmoil that had driven her to divorce now returned.
She felt cast adrift. Everyone had a husband except her. Life was different without a husband, even a man who couldn't hear or speak.
Addie Mae returned to Louis, who was ecstatic. He would make things better than they had been before.
The family moved to the Belledeau area, where Louis could supplement his logging income by hiring himself out picking cotton.
He tried hard, but it didn't work. Soon Addie Mae found herself in the same old rut. She worked all day. At night, she had no one to talk to.
Then there were Louis's moody excursions into the woods. Sex alone wasn't enough to hold them together.
Addie Mae was divorced, but she wasn't divorced. She was married, but she wasn't married. She came to the conclusion she would never be free as long as Louis lived.
She was now 35 years old and had been legally married for 13 years and divorced for seven.
She had seen several of her children grow to be young adults.
Everything had changed and yet nothing had changed. There was still Louis. The idea of his death became an obsession.
In April 1962, Louis disappeared. When neighbours inquired about him, Addie Mae would shrug and tell them he had probably gone off on one of his hunting trips.
Louis had been taught to tell his brothers his precise destination when he went off on one of his hunting excursions.
In this way, should he meet with any mishap, his family would know where to find him.
Now, one of Louis' brothers simply didn't believe he had gone off on a hunting trip without telling him first.
It was this brother who went to the local sheriff and officially reported our Louis missing. The sheriff made inquiries. He learned Louis had left his home at 7 o'clock on the morning of April 23 to walk to his employment with a logging contractor some miles away in Hessmer. The contractor was questioned.
He told the sheriff Louis had not shown up for work, which was out of character.
He had never missed a day's work before. Whenever he went on his periodic hunting trips, he always made sure it was between logging jobs.
During May and June, nothing new turned up concerning the missing man.
On July 4, Addie Mae travelled the few miles to Marksville to let the sheriff know she had heard from Louis. She turned a soiled letter over to him.
It was dated May 26 and had been sent to one of her sons from an aunt who lived in Baton Rouge.
The letter was a chatty note, which concluded with the informative paragraph, "Your daddy was down here a few days ago and he said to send you and the other children his love when I wrote. I suppose he'll be returning to you and your mother soon now.''
The sheriff had Addie Mae write out a simple note giving him permission to show the letter to whomever he pleased.
The wily sheriff smelled a rat. He wanted a sample of Addie Mae's handwriting. It appeared to him the writing on the envelope and the writing on the letter had been made by different people. The letter from Baton Rouge had been written by Addie Mae.
The sheriff took the letter to the attorney general, who agreed you didn't have to be an expert to see Addie Mae had written the letter to her son. Accompanied by the attorney general, the sheriff drove out to Addie Mae's house. He noticed her washing machine was on the front porch, rather than in the wash shed where it was usually kept.
As if anticipating the question, Addie Mae explained that it was so hot she had moved it onto the porch. The two stern-faced men produced the incriminating letter and informed Addie Mae that they would be contacting the writer in Baton Rouge. Addie Mae turned white, but otherwise didn't lose her composure. She told the men, "That won't be necessary, I think you already know what you'll be told. The letter my son received said nothing about Louis being in Baton Rouge. That letter I showed the sheriff was written by me. I wanted you all to think my husband is still alive.''
Then Addie Mae pointed to the wash shed and quietly continued, "you'll find Louis in there, beneath the wash house. I put him in his grave the day after Easter, after I shot him.''
Addie Mae was taken to Marksville, where she was charged with the murder of her husband.
The sheriff, together with workmen, returned to the Lemoine home, where they uncovered Louis two feet down under the wash shed. The body had been wrapped in several sheets and blankets. There was a gaping hole under Louis' left ear.
In her jail cell, Addie Mae wrote out a detailed confession.
She described her every move on the day she took Louis' life.
"I walked to the bed where Louis was, put the barrel of the gun about six inches from his head and pulled the trigger. I then put a blanket around the gun, ran out of the house and stopped by a bush. I intended to shoot myself, but lost my nerve.''
Addie Mae went on to describe how she prepared the body, moved it to the wash shed and buried it.
"I took my shovel and dug a shallow grave, rolled Louis into it and covered it up. I then put the boards back in place.''
Tested at East Louisiana State Hospital, Addie Mae was found to be sane.
On Oct. 15, 1962, she stood trial in Marksville for her husband's murder.
At the last minute her counsel entered a fresh plea of guilty as charged without capital punishment.
The court accepted the new plea and in so doing no doubt spared Addie Mae's life.
She was sentenced to life imprisonment in the Louisiana State Penitentiary for Women.
Addie Mae Lemoine was paroled on Dec. 1, 1970. Prison authorities tell me that she has since led an exemplary life and was released from parole on Nov. 26, 1986.