Then and Now — 1931 & 2023 — 134 18th Ave N
From 1931: “Lifetime asbestos roof. Hot water heater with pressure boiler, oak floors up and down stairs except tile kitchen, breakfast nook, porches. Four bedrooms, 3 up and 1 down, three tile baths, 2 up and I down. Plenty of closets. Large 2-car garage and laundry located high and dry among the oaks in the north shore section. Never been lived in and brand new. $12,500.”
Here is a house that unfolded a story of intrigue, murder, and suicide.
The house was purchased new in 1931 by Mrs. Wylma Mickley, born Wilhelmina Breish in Philadelphia, Pa in July of 1875, the youngest of three children, her father a butcher.
Wilhelmina received her schooling in Philadelphia and after graduating High School took a job as a dress maker. On October 17, 1893, when she was 18, she married Mr. William B. Usher. This marriage, however, began a number of short lived marriages during Wilhelmina’s life. She and William Usher were divorced a year after they were married (1894). Wilhelmina moved back in with her parents where she lived for the next six years.
On September 16, 1901, Wilhelmina married Mr. John Wesley Blackburn of Philadelphia, this marriage also lasted a year when they were divorced. Five years passed until Wilhelmina married for a third time, and the longest marriage. She married William Taylor Roache, who was a superintendent at Bell Telephone in Philadelphia. This marriage lasted 19 years and resulted in the birth of Wilhelmina’s only child, Dorothy in 1911.
Wilhelmina and William Roache were divorced in 1926, she was 51. It was at this time that she began using the name Wylma or Wilma and moved to Long Beach California. Wylma took a job as a home nurse for Mr. Edgar J. Mickley, a wealthy 60 year old businessman, who was in poor health. Here is where the intrigue begins. In less than a year, Wylma and Edgar were married and soon after he changed his will, leaving his entire estate to Wylma. Within a few months of their marriage, Edgar died. There was a heated and protracted battle by Edgar’s brother and niece over the will. Their claim (backed up by witnesses) was that Edgar had stated that he felt he was ‘imprisoned’ and that Wylma might try to ‘poison him’. After a lengthy trial, the judge ruled in Wylma’s favor, and she got to keep the sizable inheritance.
It was at this point that her daughter Dorothy, who was 18, legally changed her last name from Roache, to Mickley.
After the lawsuit was settled Wylma moved to St. Pete and bought this featured house (1931) and began taking part in society functions in the city. She met Mr. Robert S. Ashley and the couple were married on May 27, 1934, he was 66 and she, 58. The wedding ended in divorce after 8 months.
Within 6 months, Wylma was married again, this time to Mr. Charles Burton Riedinger, a merchant from Atlantic City NJ., whose family was once very wealthy, but had lost most of their money in the stock market crash.
Wylma and Burton (as he was called) had a short lived marriage which ended in both of their deaths. Here is the St. Pete Times 1936 article that tells the story of what happened that fateful February morning in 1936. As a postscript, Wylma’s daughter Dorothy inherited this house and lived there until her divorce in 1957.
St. Pete Times: February 18, 1936: “Wife Slayer Trapped – Ends Life with Gun – Murder and suicide committed in rapid sequence yesterday solved for all time the marital and financial differences of 58-year-old C. Buron Riedinger and Wylma, 62, his bride of last summer. Bodies of the two victims lay in local morgues last night as police fitted together, piece by piece, the story of the tragedy which impelled Riedinger to kill his wife in their home at 134 18th Ave North shorty after 9 o’clock yesterday morning and ended his own life less than two hours later as officers closed in on him while he was hiding in underbrush neat the Masonic Home.”
“Mrs. Riedinger died instantly, her brain pierced by a .32 caliber bullet that struck her in the cheek, just below the left eye. Her husband lived only 20 minutes after he fired a single shot from the same gun into his own head as arrest neared.”
“Romance, of the type that comes swiftly in the spring, and tragedy, even more swift, were strangely combined in the narrative that investigating officers had pieced together last night after a day of investigation.”
“Riedinger, a widower, once co-proprietor of a boardwalk yarn shop in Atlantic City, later moved to Toms River, and it was there, after a short courtship, friends said, that he married his second wife, the then Mrs. Wylma Mickley, on June 8th.” Mrs. Riedinger, is reported to have inherited a substantial estate from her late husband.”
“There were no eyewitnesses to the actual slaying of Mrs. Riedinger, but from Sanders Livingston, their houseman, the police learned what happened just before the fatal shot was fired. Livingston said he was in the kitchen when Riedinger came downstairs and asked to have his morning repast served in the breakfast room. He had seated himself, the houseman said, when Mrs. Riedinger entered the kitchen and told Livingston to serve her in the dining-room. Showing evident signs of anger, Riedinger arose, Livingston said, and accosted his wife. “Are you going to give me that money?” he demanded according to Livingston. “I don’t want to talk to you about money anymore”, Livingston quoted Mrs. Riedinger as saying as she left the kitchen. The houseman said he heard her start upstairs, and saw Riedinger, drawing a .32 caliber breakdown revolver from his pocket, start swiftly after her.”
“There was the sound of a single shot. Livingston said almost immediately Riedinger brushed past him, rushing through the kitchen, out the back door and disappearing behind the garage at the rear of the house. Entering the living room, Livingston said he found Mrs. Riedinger sprawled lifeless on the landing, six steps up from the living room. In the center of the room stood a heavy traveling bag, completely packed.”
“Police, from information given by Livingston and by neighbors, surmised that Riedinger was prepared to leave for the north and that the quarrel which precipitated the shooting followed an argument as to whether his wife would give him funds he needed for the journey. Neighbors indicated that they heard frequent disputes between the couple, usually over the question of money.”
“After he found Mrs. Riedinger’s body, the excited houseman told Mrs. Patty F. Roberts, a neighbor, of the crime, and then telephoned police headquarters. There the call was misunderstood, and Detective Capt. E.E. Lipphard responded immediately, believing someone had committed suicide. First knowledge that murder had been committed came when the houseman told the officer: “She’s in there dead and the man has gone out the back way.” The Captain immediately obtained an accurate description of Riedinger and telephoned headquarters requesting other officers to report immediately to the house. A few seconds later taxicab companies, beer parlors, Gandy bridge and the ferry were advised to be on the lookout for the fugitive murderer. Officers were dispatched to cover the North Shore section. A short time later Constable Todd Tucker and Deputy Sheriff Sid Saunders were cruising through the territory adjacent to the Masonic Home. “Wait a minute. I think I caught a flash of someone wearing a blue coat over that way.” Deputy Saunders declared suddenly, and the automobile was brought to a quick halt. The officers proceeded to scan the territory north of the Masonic Home when Constable Tucker discovered fresh tracks in the sand. “I think we are close to the man.” He exclaimed. An instant later he discovered Riedinger, crunched behind an abandoned automobile.”
“Tensely, Riedinger raised his revolver, Tucker covered the murderer with his service revolver. “Take it easy, Buddy, I don’t want to hurt you, but I am here to put you under arrest.” Tucker declared. Riedinger made no response, he moved his head toward his revolver and an instant later he fired a bullet into his head, just above the right ear. His hat bobbed off his head and he slumped unconscious on the ground.”
“A Wilhelm ambulance was summoned, and the man was rushed to Mound Park hospital, where he died in the emergency room.”
“An examination of the Riedinger’s revolver disclosed but two exploded shells. Magistrate L.G. Ramsey, who was called to investigate the double tragedy, announced no inquest will be necessary. “Papers I examined disclose that Riedinger has been worried over financial matters. It is an evident case of murder and suicide. No inquest will be ordered. He said.”
“Mrs. Riedinger was well known here and was a director of the St. Petersburg Civic association, She came here six years ago from Philadelphia, and divided her time between this city and Toms River, NJ, where she had a summer home. She is survived by a daughter, Mrs. Dorothy Hewitt, this city, and a brother in Philadelphia.”
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