DITTMER, Mo. — A 65-year-old Missouri woman charged with fatally shooting her boyfriend in 2004 once told a cousin she did so because she was curious to know if “killing someone was as pleasurable as sex,” court documents allege.
Alice Patricia Weiss, 65, of Columbia, was arrested Wednesday and charged with second-degree murder in the death of James Summers. Authorities said Summers was found lying dead against the detached garage at the couple’s Dittmer home the night of April 27, 2004.
Summers, 47, had been shot in the face and in the back, according to the Missouri Attorney General’s Office. A .22-caliber handgun belonging to Weiss was found on the ground nearby.
Weiss was a person of interest at the time, but no arrests were ever made and no other suspects ever emerged in the case, authorities said.
Attorney General Eric Schmitt, who in December created a Cold Case Unit in his office, said his investigators decided to take another look at the Summers case. They were assisted by Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office detectives, who had been reinvestigating the case since 2011.
“As Missouri’s Attorney General, one of my most solemn duties is to tackle the violent crime issue in Missouri,” Schmitt said in a statement. “While getting the current violent crime issue under control is incredibly important, it’s also crucial that we do not neglect or forsake the often-forgotten victims of violent crime whose cases have not been solved or have gone cold.
“The passage of time does not, in any way, diminish the importance of certain cases.”
Schmitt said at a news conference last week that putting “a new set of eyes” on Summers’ murder helped lead to Weiss’ arrest. The case is the second cold case solved by the new unit since it was established last year.
“We will continue to fight for the families and loved ones of victims of violent crime who have little hope, who have waited long years — and sometimes decades — for justice to finally be served,” Schmitt said.
Watch last week’s news conference below.
Jefferson County Sheriff Dave Marshak told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch last week that investigators discovered new evidence in the case, though he declined to say what the evidence is. He said the murder case, which he brought to Schmitt’s office eight months ago, was “reworked from the beginning.”
“After hearing about the (Attorney General’s) Cold Case Unit and the aggressive prosecutors who were assigned to it, I knew it was a match for us,” Marshak told the newspaper.
Weiss’ niece has spoken out, proclaiming her aunt’s innocence in the 17-year-old crime. Maha Armush called Fox 2 in St. Louis to express the family’s shock at her arrest.
“She wouldn’t hurt a fly,” Armush told the news station from her Washington, D.C., home. “She cares about other people, and she really, really loved Jim. There’s been a big mistake.
“We’re all really shaken up about it because she’s stuck in a situation where she’s innocent, and she’s old and frail, and she’s suffering for something she didn’t do.”
Armush, who has set up a website devoted to her aunt, as well as a GoFundMe page, said online that Weiss uses a wheelchair due to health issues. She said the family is concerned for her welfare, particularly in light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Authorities allege, however, that another of Weiss’ relatives, a cousin, gave some of the damning statements that ultimately led to her arrest.
A probable cause affidavit written by Jefferson County Detective Kevin Sullivan states that Weiss called 911 the night of the homicide to report that she’d found Summers lying on the driveway of their home in Dittmer, a small, unincorporated community about 40 miles southwest of St. Louis.
The couple, who met while working in information technology, lived there with Weiss’s father, Gilbert Weiss. Alice Weiss was his caretaker.
When deputies arrived at the house, they found Summers dead and Weiss, who was dressed in a pink bathrobe and towel, standing nearby. Weiss, then 47, told them that Summers had just left to pick up his daughter from a gymnastics class.
“She stated as Summers left the home, she went to the master bathroom to take a shower,” Sullivan wrote. “Weiss stated while in the shower for two minutes, she heard two ‘pops’ and decided to stop her shower to go investigate.”
She said she went outside and found Summers, whose keys and drinking cup were on the ground next to his body. Sullivan theorized that the items’ location, as well as the position of Summers’ body, indicated he was not involved in a struggle prior to being shot.
In the middle of the 911 call seeking help for her boyfriend, Weiss called the mother of his daughter to tell her he had been shot and would not be picking up the girl from her class, the affidavit states.
Weiss told detectives who responded to the scene that she had not gone near Summers’ body but “could just tell” he was dead by looking at him from a distance. When shown the gun police found on the ground, she said the weapon was hers and that it was usually kept, unloaded, in a bedroom closet.
Weiss initially said she had not fired the gun in 20 years. The weapon was determined through ballistics testing to be the one that killed Summers.
Read the probable cause affidavit below.
After taking Weiss’ initial statement, deputies began swabbing her hands for gunshot residue, according to court documents.
“Weiss attempted to stall by twice claiming she had to use the bathroom,” Sullivan wrote in the affidavit. “When Weiss was told she could not use the restroom, she told deputies she just remembered she had shot the .22-caliber handgun … earlier in the day.”
No one could corroborate Weiss’s statements about the gun or what led up to Summers’ death. The only other person in the home at the time of the shooting was Gilbert Weiss, who suffered from advanced dementia.
“He was unable to walk without assistance, and when questioned by investigators, he was not able to provide any coherent statements about the events that evening,” Sullivan wrote.
Detectives and deputies canvassed the other homes in the neighborhood, and several neighbors reported hearing the shots that killed Summers. Some of those neighbors were either outside at the time or had been driving by the couple’s home.
None reported seeing anyone who didn’t live in the neighborhood at the time of the slaying.
According to investigators, Weiss gave inconsistent statements in her multiple police interviews about the shooting.
“Most notably, Weiss’ statements about the location of the .22-caliber handgun prior to the shooting differed,” the affidavit states. “She also gave conflicting statements about her shooting the firearm previously.”
Weiss’ bathrobe was seized by detectives and sent to the Missouri State Highway Patrol’s lab for testing.
Gunshot residue was found on the left sleeve.
Weiss, who said she was not wearing the robe when she allegedly fired the handgun earlier in the day, could not offer an explanation for the presence of the particles.
Detectives involved in the initial investigation also recreated what Weiss claimed took place by placing an audio recorder in the shower of the home and firing a .22-caliber handgun in the driveway.
“The sounds were barely audible, and investigators concluded that unless you know exactly what to listen for, a person would likely not recognize the sounds as gunfire,” according to Sullivan.
She denied shooting her boyfriend, and when asked what she thought happened, she said the “only thing (she) could think of” was that Summers confronted an intruder who had somehow gotten her gun from inside the house.
“Weiss was confronted with the improbability of this scenario, and she agreed it did not seem possible,” the detective wrote.
Thrill of a kill?
Detectives weren’t the only people who allegedly got inconsistent statements from Weiss.
Her cousin, whose name was not made public, told investigators that he’d picked Weiss up from the Sheriff’s Office the night of the homicide and driven her home.
“According to the cousin, on the ride home Weiss stated she ‘(expletive) up’ several times and explained how she had changed her story about never shooting the handgun when deputies performed a gunshot residue swab on her,” the affidavit states.
When her cousin asked her for details of what had happened, Weiss’ story differed from what she’d told authorities.
Weiss told her cousin that she and Summers had been chatting in the house when Summers heard an intruder in the detached garage. She said Summers grabbed her .22 and “went to confront the intruder” while she got in the shower.
“The cousin stated he confronted Weiss about the oddity of her getting into the shower when Summers was going to confront an intruder with a firearm, but Weiss never provided an explanation,” Sullivan wrote.
The affidavit didn’t make clear if detectives first talked to the cousin in the days immediately after the shooting or after the cold case was reopened.
The cousin did tell detectives more recently, however, that Weiss confessed to the shooting after her father, Gilbert Weiss, succumbed in 2008 to his illness. The man said he’d accompanied Weiss to Walmart, where she made incriminating statements.
“He stated while in the store, Weiss stated she always wanted to know if killing someone was as pleasurable as sex,” according to the affidavit.
The cousin said he asked her why she’d shot Summers.
“Weiss replied that there was ‘little difference between love and hate,’” Sullivan wrote. “She then went on to compare Summers to her older brother, whom she hated.”
Weiss’s cousin said she also told him that day that if she was ever charged in the murder, she could blame the crime on her now-dead father, the detective alleges.
Sullivan, who was among the detectives who arrested Weiss as she left her home last week, described her demeanor for the Post-Dispatch.
“She was somewhat surprised, matter-of-fact about the whole thing,” Sullivan said.
Weiss’s defense lawyer told Fox 2 and the newspaper that his client continues to maintain her innocence in the murder.
“The Jefferson County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office chose not to file charges 17 years ago for a reason,” attorney John Schleiffarth told the Post-Dispatch. “I have every expectation that the circumstantial evidence, portrayed at (Thursday’s) unusual and theatrical press conference, will prove to be misleading.”
Armush, Weiss’ niece, wrote on social media that her aunt, who she said uses a wheelchair because of health issues, is not being provided with her medication in jail. She said Weiss, who suffers from food allergies, is also not receiving appropriate food.
“An injustice is being committed against her, and we will not stop until her name is cleared,” Armush wrote.
Schlieffarth said he believes Weiss should be allowed out on bond while awaiting trial.
“I don’t think she’s the type of person who should be in jail. This alleged incident would have taken place 17 years ago and she’s never been someone who’s had a criminal record of any kind,” he told Fox 2.
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