An 80-year-old Kansas City woman accused Thursday in the baseball bat killing of her husband appears to be the oldest woman ever charged with murder in Missouri.
Jackson County prosecutors charged Annie B. Oliver with first-degree murder and armed criminal action in the death Wednesday of her 75-year-old husband, Ronald W. Oliver.
Despite Annie Oliver’s diminutive 5-foot, 1-inch frame and frail health, prosecutors say she beat her husband so severely that his skull was exposed when authorities found him dead inside the couple’s home in the 4300 block of Norton Avenue.
“She was a sick woman,” Toni Oliver, a sister of Ronald Oliver, said of her sister-in-law’s health.
Ronald Oliver, in contrast, was in good health and active. The retired truck driver and U.S. Army veteran always made himself available to help “anybody who needed help,” his sister said.
“He was a working, participating citizen of society,” she said.
According to court records, Annie Oliver told officers that she hit her husband with a baseball bat.
Police were called to the couple’s house just before 1 p.m. Wednesday by the victim’s granddaughter, who had received a call from Annie Oliver. Oliver told her that she “hurt the victim pretty bad,” according to court records.
The records gave this account:
Oliver told the granddaughter that her husband was helping her when he hit her on the hand and started “talking smart” to her. She “lost it,” hit him in the head with a bat and cut him with a knife.
The granddaughter and police found Ronald Oliver lying in a pool of blood. Blood spatter discolored the floor and wall. A baseball bat was propped upright against a dresser.
Police found Annie Oliver in another bedroom, getting dressed. She had blood spatter on her shoes and a piece of human tissue on her forehead. She had a cut in the webbing of her left hand, in between her thumb and forefinger. She told police she was “tired of the victim’s verbal abuse and him taking her clothing.” She was taken to a hospital before being transferred to jail.
She later declined to talk to detectives, instead requesting an attorney.
Police were called to the house one other time in the past two years, according to police dispatch records. Officers went there Feb. 25 to check someone’s welfare. It was unclear what prompted that call.
Oliver’s case marks the second time this year that an elderly Kansas City resident has been charged with murder in the death of a spouse. In January, 93-year-old Harry D. Irwin was charged with second-degree murder for the stabbing death of his 95-year-old wife.
According to the Missouri Department of Corrections, the oldest woman convicted of murder in Missouri was Faye Copeland, who was 69 when a jury convicted her of participating with her husband in the killings of five men at their northern Missouri farm in the late 1980s.
In 2000, a 79-year-old woman in Platte County was convicted of involuntary manslaughter and sentenced to three years in prison for driving under the influence of alcohol and causing the death of another woman in a traffic crash, according to the records.
Copeland’s husband, Ray Copeland, may have been the oldest man convicted of murder in Missouri. He was 76. Both Copelands were sentenced to death. Ray Copeland died in prison in 1993. Faye Copeland’s death sentence was commuted to life in prison, and she died in 2003 after being paroled for medical reasons.
An 80-year-old man was convicted of manslaughter in Mississippi County, Mo., in 1976, according to the Department of Corrections’ records.
In Kansas, the oldest person accused of murder was believed to be 80-year-old Eugene F. Coffman, who was charged in Wyandotte County in 2005 with first-degree murder in the strangulation death of his 78-year-old wife. Later convicted of voluntary manslaughter, he died in prison in 2008, according to Kansas Department of Corrections records.
The oldest Kansan convicted of murder was 80-year-old Francis Patrick Doyle, who was convicted of first-degree murder in 1999 for the baseball bat beating death of a 77-year-old man in Leawood. Doyle, who was 79 at the time of the killing, is now 93 and remains in prison, according to state records.