On November 1st, 1982, police were called to the St. Peters, Missouri home of Lloyd and Shirley Allen. Shirley brought first responders to her bedroom, where her husband Lloyd was dead in their bed. Lloyd Ray Allen had been sick for several months, so it wasn’t exactly a surprise when he passed away. Initially, authorities felt this was not a suspicious death and assumed the man died of natural causes. However, those who loved Lloyd were not so sure and pushed for a thorough investigation.
Lloyd Ray Allen was born August 23rd, 1942, in Campbell, Missouri. Lloyd served in the United States Air Force. Upon discharge, he returned to Missouri and purchased a home in St. Peters. As a single man, Lloyd moved both of his parents into his home. In May of 1981, Lloyd’s mother died of cancer and his father moved out of the home. That summer, Lloyd started to date a woman he met at the hospital while his mother was ill, Shirley Hawkins. By July, the two were taking trips together and Shirley had quit her job as a nurse’s aide at a local nursing home.
The thirty-nine-year-old bachelor was head over heels in love with Shirley, a blonde woman with a glass eye and two teenage daughters. In September of 1981, the two married. The instant family was not without problems, however. Shirley’s seventeen-year-old daughter Norma was constantly rebelling and running away. She would spend that Christmas in a juvenile detention facility. Despite the difficulty, friend and coworkers described Lloyd as “sociable, likeable, the kind of guy who would help anybody anytime” (Bixby Defty, 1982).
Lloyd worked at Intertherm Inc., a producer of heating and air conditioning equipment. He was an excellent employee, but within months of his marriage to Shirley he began to get sick. His former supervisor told the St. Louis Post Dispatch (1982) that the symptoms began in February of 1982. In early March, the jovial man became irritated and short-tempered. According to co-workers, Lloyd came in on Monday mornings in a stupor, but Lloyd was never known to consume more than a few beers. He showed his supervisor a bottle of medicine that his wife had obtained for him from her doctor; a bottle with no label or identifying information.
On Thursday, April 8th, Lloyd left work in good spirits. The next day, however, he called off due to illness. This was his first absence from work since starting at the company in 1964. Lloyd’s health was deteriorating and in May he was hospitalized for a week while doctors ran tests. In June, he was referred to a cardiologist and again hospitalized for a week. All the tests seem to be inconclusive and failed to yield a diagnosis. Lloyd remained on sick leave, collecting disability insurance benefits.
By the fall of 1982, neighbors had noticed Lloyd’s deteriorating health. Lloyd continued to try to work in his yard, but he had poor endurance and was generally very weak. The plump man began to rapidly lose weight. Neighbors also noticed behavioral changes. “You’d talk to him, and he’d just stare at your like he was in stupor” Bixby Defty, 1982). Shirley Allen told neighbors that Lloyd had an inoperable brain tumor, but Lloyd told his neighbor that the doctors were not sure what was going on. As Lloyd grew sicker, his wife began to isolate him from others, stating it was for his protection and dignity. In fact, when a neighbor came by to borrow a wheelbarrow, Shirley pressed trespassing charges on the man. A month later, Lloyd Allen died in his bed.
Shirley Elizabeth Goude was born in 1941 in south St. Louis, Missouri. Shirley would later tell neighbors that she had been smuggled into the United States as an infant by her grandfather. She also stated that she grew up very wealthy with a maid, but both of these were fantasies. Shirley’s mother later told the St. Louis Post Dispatch (1982) that “They were raised poor, understand- but they all had beautiful childhoods”, referring to her eight children. Shirley was the eldest of those children and was raised by her parents in St. Louis. Her father was a foreman at a casting company and a string musician. According to Shirley’s mother, she was a daddy’s girl from a very young age.
At age fourteen, Shirley graduated from Trinity Luthern School in south St. Louis, giving the graduating class speech in a dress her mother had made for her. She had dreamed from a very young age of becoming a nurse. Those plans became derailed, however, when Shirley ran away at age seventeen to Kansas, dropping out of high school. In Kansas, Shirley met the man she claimed to be her first husband, although no one could substantiate the marriage. She returned a year later, pregnant.
After the birth of her first daughter, Shirley met Paul Hawkins and they began a long-term relationship. The couple lived together for several years, and Shirley gave birth to three more children by Paul. Shirley eventually married Paul but claimed to have married another man before that. However, that cannot be confirmed either. Shortly after marrying, Shirley filed for divorce from Paul citing mistreatment. However, Paul tells a different story.
According to Paul, in the summer of 1969, he suddenly became violently ill. “At midnight I drank coffee, and it tasted just like Listerine, real sweet. That’s all I can remember” (Brasch, 1982). He then started to get a severe headache and visual disturbances. Shirley took him to the emergency room the next day, where he was told he had heart problems. He later went back to the hospital with internal bleeding, but claims doctors never found a cause. He would later state that he believes Shirley had tried to poison him. Her next husband divorced her quickly after he believed she had tried to poison him as well. This husband reported her to authorities, but no action was taken.
Daniel Null became Shirley’s next husband in 1977. Daniel was born on April 7th, 1935, in Chicago. Daniel was a United States Navy veteran, serving in the Korean war from 1951-1953. He was married before and the father of five children. Daniel’s life ended shortly after he married Shirley. On February 17th, 1978, Daniel collapsed and died suddenly. Authorities ruled the death natural, stating cardiac issues. His newlywed wife, however, was irate when she learned that Daniel had not changed his life insurance policies, meaning she would not be the beneficiary to any claims. A few years later, she married Lloyd Allen.
A funeral was quickly planned for Lloyd Allen, but authorities halted his widow’s plans after receiving several calls from an anonymous source stating that Lloyd Allen had been murdered. The tips were coming from Shirley’s own daughter, seventeen-year-old Norma. She eventually sat down with authorities, telling them she had witnessed her mother poison Lloyd with anti-freeze. In fact, she said she was told to go buy more so that her mother could “finish him off” (UPI, 1984). Norma’s younger sister collaborated her story.
According to the Shirley’s daughters, Shirley had been placing antifreeze in Lloyd’s beverages for months. When the cyanide-laced Tylenol capsules terrified Chicago, Shirley told the girls to go look for tampered Tylenol bottles at the store, but they couldn’t find any. Norma also stated that her mother had taken the phone away from Lloyd the day of his death so that he could not call for help. With this information, an autopsy was ordered on Lloyd Allen’s remains. The autopsy found that his brain, liver, and other organs were saturated in ethylene glycol, antifreeze (Koman & Futterman, 1984). Shirley was arrested and charges with capital murder.
Antifreeze, or ethylene glycol, is odorless and does not produce a foul taste. Initially, someone who consumes antifreeze would experience inebriation symptoms, similar to consuming alcohol. Those symptoms quickly subside, but as the body breaks down the ethylene glycol, crystals form and interfere with the body’s acid-base balance and organ function. Symptoms of poisoning include shortness of breath, central nervous system depression, abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, and respiratory distress. Eventually, the organs fail causing liver and renal failure, followed by coma and death.
After her arrest, Shirley told several wild tales. First, she told authorities she was five months pregnant with twins. She was not pregnant and had actually had a hysterectomy several years earlier. It wasn’t the first time she lied about being pregnant, however. She once told her neighbor she was carrying a dead baby in her womb. She also told authorities that she was a Registered Nurse, but that was also false. Instead, she worked as a barmaid where an altercation led to her eye being shot out. According to Shirley, an argument with another woman over a man caused the altercation and ended with her having a glass eye.
Following her arrest, the family of Daniel Null became suspicious and asked for his body to be exhumed and tested for poisoning. The second autopsy, however, showed now evidence or proof of antifreeze poisoning. Other husbands also came forward, claiming Shirley had given them different beverages that they believed contained poison during her former marriages. Witnesses stated that Lloyd Allen even stated that his drinks tasted off, but his wife explained she had put an iron supplement in them to boost his health and energy.
Shirley’s daughters agreed to testify against her if the State of Missouri would not seek the death penalty. With this arrangement in mind, the only sentence under Missouri law for Shirley if convicted was life in prison with parole possible after fifty years. Shirley’s mother and attorneys claimed that her daughter was getting revenge on her mother for being too controlling by framing her for murder. The defense suggested Norma was an angsty teen who wanted to get back at her mother. The defense pointed out that Mr. Allen was under the care of three doctors at the time of his death and that his wife had taken him to seek medical care several times throughout his illness.
The prosecution, however, presented a different theory. They believed that Shirley Allen had married multiple times, seeking to benefit financially from her husbands’ deaths. When Lloyd died, Shirley was at the insurance company a day later trying to cash in on a recently purchased $25,000 life insurance policy. Greed was her motive; poison was her weapon. The jury agreed, convicting her quickly. Shirley was sent to the Missouri Department of Corrections to serve a life sentence with parole eligibility after fifty years.
Shirley died in prison in 1998 at age fifty-six.
Koman, K. (1982). Piecing together life of suspect in poisoning. St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Bixby Defty, S. (1982). Poisoning victim’s friends ask if they could have helped him. St. Louis Post Dispatch
Brasch, P. (1982). Ex-husband thinks he was poisoned. St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Bixby Defty, S. (1982). Antifreeze victim showed slow, steady decline. St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Koman, K. & Futterman, E. (1984). Housewife accused in antifreeze killing goes on trial today. St. Louis Post-Dispatch.