This is a document from RealityStudio’s collection of primary source documents relating to the death of William S. Burroughs’ wife Joan Vollmer Burroughs.
Ex-Loudonville Girl Shot to Death at Mexico City Party; Husband Accused
Rensselaer Chemist’s Daughter Was Wife of Burroughs Scion
Mrs Joan Vollmer Burroughs, 27, formerly of Loudonville, was shot and killed by her husband Thursday night during a drinking party in a Mexico City apartment.
The husband, William Seward Burroughs, 37, a descendant of the adding machine family, first told police after the shooting he had tried to shoot a glass of gin off his wife’s head, but the bullet struck her in the forehead.
The 27-year-old daughter of Mr and Mrs David W. Vollmer, of Loudon Heights, was taken to Red Cross Hospital where she died without regaining consciousness.
The woman’s parents are vacationing somewhere in the Adirondacks or in Montreal. Efforts were being made by friends and authorities to locate them.
Mr Vollmer, a chemist associated with the General Aniline works, Rensselaer, was scheduled to end his vacation and return to work on Monday.
Officials at General Aniline said Mr Vollmer had planned to visit his daughter this Autumn.
After consulting a lawyer, police said, Burroughs revised his story and told them his wife was wounded fatally when he accidentally dropped the pistol.
The official police report said Burroughs had taken the pistol from a bag and was demonstrating with it. It added that “Burroughs thought she was joking” when his wife fell to the floor from her chair after the gun fired.
He is held on a charge of homicide, pending a hearing scheduled for today.
Burroughs told newsmen at the Mexico City penitentiary that the shooting occurred in the apartment of John Healey of Milwaukee. Also present, besides Healey, he said, were two other Americans whom he knew only slightly.
The latter two were reportedly identified by Burroughs as Jim Herman and Louis Marker of Jacksonville, Fla.
Police said the “William Tell story” of the shooting was related after the former Albany woman died at the hospital.
He is said to have told authorities of wanting to display his marksmanship with a newly bought pistol. The story was that he placed a glass of gin on his wife’s head, fired and missed — the bullet striking her in the forehead.
Later, after discussing the case with an attorney, Burroughs said he had dropped the pistol and it accidentally discharged.
His hair disheveled and his clothing wrinkled, he told reporters at the penitentiary:
“It was purely accidental. I did not put any glass on her head. If she did, it was a joke, and I certainly did not intend to shoot at it.”
He said there had been no argument or discussion of any kind before the “accident.”
“The party was quiet,” he said. “We had a few drinks — everything is very hazy.”
Joan Vollmer and Burroughs were married five years ago. It was the second marriage for both. They had two children, William Burroughs, Jr, 3, and Julie Adams, 7. The latter, Burroughs said, was his wife’s daughter by a former marriage.
Mrs Burroughs was born in Ossining and reared in Loudonville, living in the same house now occupied by her parents.
She attended St Agnes’ school in Loudonville and upon graduation in 1939 was awarded a $300 scholarship to Barnard college, New York City.
According to her her brother, David W. Vollmer Jr, of Corning, Mrs Burroughs was married to Paul Adams of New York city about 1941. They had one child. This marriage, he said, ended in a divorce. Burroughs married her in 1946, soon after he divorced Mrs Ilse Burroughs.
Before her marriage to Burroughs, she studied journalism at Columbia university. Her husband, a native of St Louis, is a grandson of the adding machine inventor.
Relatives in St Louis said Burroughs had made his headquarters in Mexico City for almost two years. They explained he was studying native dialects at the University of Mexico.
At one time he operated a fruit and vegetable ranch in Texas, but decided he was unsuited for business and went back to his studies.
Burroughs was graduated from Harvard university in 1936. For a brief period in 1942 he was a reporter for the St Louis Post-Dispatch.
Burroughs, the grandson of the man who compiled a fortune with the adding machine he invented in St Louis in 1885, was a copy writer for a New York advertising agency in 1944.