This is a document from RealityStudio’s collection of primary source documents relating to the death of William S. Burroughs’ wife Joan Vollmer Burroughs.
Burroughs, Held Without Bail, Tells New Death Story
Now Says He Shot Wife While Checking Gun to See If It Was Loaded
William Seward Burroughs, formerly of St Louis, Mo, held in the fatal shooting of his wife, the former Joan Vollmer of Loudonville, told a judge in a preliminary hearing at Mexico City yesterday that his pistol went off accidentally while he was looking to see if it was loaded. This changed some points in his original story. He was held without bail for further hearing tomorrow.
During the hearing, Burroughs, 37-year-old namesake of his grandfather, who invented the adding machine, testified he and the former Loudonville woman had filed for divorce by mutual consent in Mexico about a year ago but later became reconciled.
“I am sure she loved me as I loved her,” Burroughs declared, according to the Associated Press.
He was questioned for 90 minutes before Criminal Judge Eduardo Urzalz Jimenez. Defense Counsel Bernabe Jurado and Prosecutor Rogalio Barriga Rivas asked the questions.
Mrs Burroughs, 27, the daughter of Mr and Mrs David W. Vollmer of Loudonville, died Thursday night in Red Cross hospital an hour after a bullet pierced her forehead.
The shooting occurred in an apartment of a friend of the couple and Burroughs said he had “eight or ten drinks” there, “I don’t remember exactly.”
Burroughs’ version of the shooting yesterday changed some points in his signed version to the police investigator early Friday according to the Associated Press reports of the hearing.
He first told the judge he was not showing someone how to handle the pistol as the police report said. Instead, he had said, he opened the pistol to see whether it was loaded, the carriage slipped and the shot was fired.
Burroughs claimed he bought the pistol about six months ago. He explained he did not know whether it was loaded because it was three months since he had handled it.
Burroughs said he had come to Mexico three days before. Friday he told reporters he had been in Ecuador to see about a farm.
His wife was already in Mexico, he said.
Friday, police said Burroughs first told them he shot his wife in a “William Tell” act using a glass of gin on her head as a target instead of an apple. Burroughs later denied the story.
Mrs Burroughs parents, Mr and Mrs Vollmer, returned to their home at Loudonville last night after news of the shooting reached them in Montreal where they were vacationing. Up to last night they had received no official word of the death and were trying to obtain information by telegraph. Mrs Vollmer said they had made no plans as yet on whether they would go to Mexico City.
The Vollmers were informed of the tragedy after friends in Loudonville saw the newspaper reports and reached them at a Montreal hotel. Mr Vollmer is a chemist and supervisor at the General Aniline Works in Rensselaer.
He said last night he had not seen his daughter or her husband in a couple of years although he and Mrs Vollmer planned to visit them in Mexico City at the first opportunity. Mr Burroughs has been in Mexico City about two years studying native dialects at the University of Mexico.
“There was nothing to indicate things were not satisfactory with them,” Mr Vollmer said. “I have no reason to believe the shooting was otherwise than accidnetal.”
Mrs Burroughs was brought up in Loudonville and graduated from St Agnes school in 1939. She attended Barnard college and Columbia university, New York City. She and Burroughs were married five years ago and it was the second marriage for both. Two children survive her, one by each marriage.