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The mysterious, murderous postmistress of West Palm Beach

The mysterious, murderous postmistress of West Palm Beach

In August 2020, we told you about the Lonely Hearts murder, near Sebring. Here’s another sizzling romance-based murder that, at the time, became a sensation. It was about the murderous postmistress.

Lena Marietta Thankful Clarke, 35, had confronted her former assistant, Fred Miltimore, in an Orlando hotel room on Aug. 1, 1921. She said she suspected him of stealing $32,000 the previous week. She later told the police chief she only had drugged Miltimore, but then admitted to shooting him, saying he’d planned to implicate her in the theft.

A 1921 newspaper photo of Lena Clarke and F.A. Miltimore.

Finally, she admitted it was she who had stolen the money, and she had tried to get him to take the fall for it. Clarke, who had succeeded her brother as West Palm Beach postmaster, reportedly admitted she had discovered a $38,000 shortage in 1918 and suspected Miltimore.

Miltimore, married with four children, had left the post office job three months earlier and was running a small restaurant in Orlando.

The grave Lena Clarke at Woodlawn Cemetery in West Palm Beach, October 14, 2015.

“Old-timers in West Palm Beach say it was common knowledge that Lena Clarke and Fred Miltimore had an ongoing romantic affair and that he jilted her, hence the killing,” Judge James Knott wrote in a two-parter on Clarke in his famed “Brown wrapper” series in The Palm Beach Post.

Going Postal, 1920s Style:The Strange Case of Lena Clarke

Podcast:The Mysterious Postmistress Of West Palm Beach

Florida history:The bloodiest day ever for the FBI

Clarke, already well-known back in West Palm Beach, would become a downright celebrity in jail. She received flowers, packages, telegrams and letters of sympathy and support. She painted and decorated her cell. Friends offered to raise thousands for her bail, but the judge refused.

Newspaper headlines and a photo of sisters Maude, left, and Lena Clarke.

Clarke’s sanity is questioned

At her trial, the Vermont native told how she had been present at the Creation and was blocked from leaving Eden with Adam and Eve, that she later became the goddess Iris, and that she was a friend of Cleopatra. She said she expected, in an upcoming incarnation, to be president of the United States.

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