The Trail Went Cold – Episode 56 – Mary Marrs Cawein

July 5, 1965. Lexington, Kentucky. After a night of heavy drinking with her husband and another couple, 39-year old Mary Marrs Cawein returns home. When morning hits, Mary is found dead in her bedroom chair and an autopsy would reveal she was murdered after ingesting carbolic acid. Suspicion immediately falls upon Mary’s husband, Dr. Madison Cawein, who had conducted affairs with two other women during their marriage. However, the case is further complicated by strange actions from Madison’s former mistress and the jealous husband of his current mistress, causing them to also become potential suspects. So who was actually responsible for the death of Mary Marrs Cawein? This week’s episode of “The Trail Went Cold” almost resembles a soap opera, as we chronicle a very bizarre whodunit which has been dubbed the “Carbolic Acid Cocktail Murder”.

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Additional Reading:’s-murderer-was-‘clever’-smart-and—so-far—has-eluded-justice-for-46-years/’s-unsolved-murder-has-all-the-juicy-elements-of-a-mystery-novel/’s-murderer-was-‘clever’-smart-and—so-far—has-eluded-justice-for-46-years/

The Reading Eagle (Sep. 4, 1966)

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The Trail Went Cold is produced and edited by Magill Foote.

All music is composed by Vince Nitro.

2 thoughts on “The Trail Went Cold – Episode 56 – Mary Marrs Cawein

  • Is there any chance maybe Mary was never the intended victim to begin with but that Madison was? I ask because people used to keep bourbon in glass bottles one could casually open and close and pour themselves a drink out of at leisure. So isn’t their a possibility that Emma broke into the house while the group was out and laced the bottle of bourbon with carbolic acid,but had the unlucky break of Mary and Sam returning home while she was in the act,panicking she hid planning to slip out after Mary fell asleep but when she did come out to leave Mary was dead from drinking the bourbon she’d laced and left for Madison. Not wanting to take the fall Emma calculated a plan on the fly to set Madison up to take the fall. She called the hospital and left the message for Hershal through the operator to get him to leave the hospital since she didn’t want him seeing her there that night when she wasn’t supposed to be on shift as with everything going on with Barbra and Hershal she thought he’d probably definitely remember seeing her at the hospital that night. She than waited outside the hospital til she was sure Hershal left and went in taking a syringe she knew had Madison’s fingerprints and returned to where Mary’s body was injecting her and leaving the syringe in the bedroom drawer she than left the scene. Idk it might be a bit convoluted but it would explain why the crime was so premeditated that carbolic acid was what caused Mary’s death as for at least the first part was premeditated it just happened it ended up killing the wrong person and gives Emma a clear motive and a reason to be bitter about the cops continuing to try and question her about a crime as if she was responsible she wants the investigation to die already so she could stop looking over her shoulder. Plus Emma does have some markers of a serial poisoner when you consider the death at the previous hospital she was at and her attempt to treat Barbra with Nitrogen Mustard which I can only imagine probably would have some severely negative side effects, though I can’t be sure because we don’t know the details concerning this death at the hospital she previously worked at or if anyone under her care in the future died under suspicious circumstances but idk it just seems to me if carbolic acid was anyone’s weapon of cchoice it’d be Emma’s. Hershal seems to clear headed to try and murder Madison’s wife and it’d be pretty sick for Madison to try and kill Mary with the children in the house plus it seems like Mary would have more to lose if they got divorced not Madison, though I could be wrong on that point of course. To me the only one who seems in the right (or rather the wrong enough) head space to murder Mary is Emma if she was trying to kill Madison she probably would’nt have been thinking logically per say and once Mary died instead of Madison I imagine the kids being in the house would hardly matter to Emma as she had initially intended to be nowhere near the scene when Madison drank the poisoned bourbon but now she had little choice in that matter and needed to start covering her tracks fast.

    • I also believe that it is likely that Emma could be the murder, I do not think that the murder of Mary was an accident and that Madison was the intended target. While people did often keep bourbon in a glass decanter, putting the acid into as a way to murder your target doing so would leave too many variables. First, you would have to make sure that only your target drank bourbon and no one else in the house or any of their friends think it at all. Second there you have to make sure that there is only enough bourbon in the decanter so that once the target drinks the bourbon and dies that no one else will drink the poised bourbon.

      While on the surface it does seem that Emma would not have a strong motive to kill Mary since Madison was having an affair with Barbara I do see the logic in Emma’s mind of killing Mary. She kills Mary and makes it look like Madison could have been the killer but not leave enough evidence to get him convicted. With Madison looking guilty but not enough evidence it would do one of two things, first give Emma a way in with Madison by playing the worried and concerned colleague/ex-lover over his wife’s murder and him being a suspect. Second, it could also allow her to plant the seed in Madison’s mind that Barbara could be the killer, making Madison second guess Barbara and Emma are there to pick up the pieces.

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