I fancy myself a connoisseur of sordid crimes. (The Woodwards? All over it.) So imagine my surprise when I came across a reference to the tawdry 1943 Lonergan murder in a history of gay Hollywood. What is this? I thought to myself in excitement. That excitement grew when I discovered that the murder has no Wikipedia page. Consider me your Wikipedia!
The most amazing thing about the murder of 22-year-old Patricia Lonergan by her 25-year-old, Royal Canadian Air Force cadet husband, Wayne, is how much of the truth was unprintable at the time. Lonergan met Patricia’s father, William O. Burton, during the 1939 World’s Fair, where he was employed as a rickshaw driver. Mr. Burton took a shine, shall we say, to the young Canadian, and became the latest in what Lonergan admitted to be a long string of male patrons.
When Burton died and left Patricia $7 million, Wayne and Patricia married. Naturally. They even had a son! But while Wayne was in New York City on a weekend pass, he went cruising the gay bars and drinking heavily. Patricia was doing the same at the Stork Club with a gentleman whom the papers made quite clear was a homosexual (one of his skills was salad making, they practically lisped).
When they both arrived at their triplex apartment at 313 E. 51st St. at dawn, they tumbled into bed and started to make love. For whatever reason—most people say he was baiting her with tales of his recent sexual exploits—Patricia bit Wayne’s dick during fellatio, which threw him into a rage. He strangled her and then bashed her head in with an antique candelabra (so that’s what’s behind the candelabra!), then cut up his bloodied uniform, threw it into the East River, bought pancake makeup to hide the scratches she gave him, and calmly told police later that he couldn’t have killed Patricia, because he was getting laid with some soldier he had picked up. Oh yeah, and the soldier stole his uniform.
Except he didn’t leave it at having had anonymous sex. He supplied a name, one that ended up being that of a factory worker who had served in two wars and who definitely came forward to say that he hadn’t stolen Lonergan’s uniform, let alone fucked him. He also made the mistake of buying pancake makeup at a nearby pharmacy. When the police discovered the makeup at the apartment of Lonergan’s friend where he stayed after the murder, it didn’t take long until they had a positive ID of him as the makeup buyer.
So eventually Wayne was sentenced to 35 years to life. He was eventually paroled in 1967, and lived out the rest of his life in obscurity in Toronto.
His son was told he was an orphan growing up, but did inherit that $7 million.
Another choice tidbit! A soldier questioned as part of the investigation killed himself by jumping off of the Empire State Building. He landed in the middle of pedestrians doing their Christmas shopping.