Raleigh v. Raleigh

CourtCourt of Appeal of Missouri (US)
Citation5 S.W.2d 689
Docket NumberNo. 20167.,20167.
PartiesRALEIGH v. RALEIGH et al.
Decision Date01 May 1928

Appeal from Circuit Court, Audrain County; Emil Roehrig, Judge.

"Not to be officially published."

Action for alienation of the affections of her husband by Josephine E. Raleigh against Nellie Raleigh and another. From a judgment for plaintiff against the defendant named, the latter appeals. Affirmed.

Rodgers & Buffington, of Mexico, Mo., and O'Bryan & Janes, of Moberly, for appellant.

Hostetter & Haley, of Bowling Green, and Fry & Hollingsworth, of Mexico, Mo., for respondent.


This is an action for damages for the alienation of the affections of her husband, instituted by Josephine E. Raleigh, as plaintiff, against Nellie Raleigh, her mother-in-law, and Thomas F. Raleigh, an uncle of her husband, as defendants. The case was tried to a jury, resulting in a directed verdict for defendant Thomas F. Raleigh, together with a verdict in favor of plaintiff, and against defendant Nellie Raleigh, for the sum of $7,500. Judgment was duly rendered in conformity with such verdict, from which, after a denial of her motion for a new trial, defendant Nellie Raleigh has appealed.

The petition alleged, in substance, that, at the time of plaintiff's marriage, her husband loved her, treated her with kindness and affection, and rendered her the aid, companionship, and society due to a wife from her husband; but that, shortly thereafter, the defendants, with the wicked, willful, and malicious intent of causing her husband to lose his affection for her, and to leave and abandon her, and of depriving her of his aid, support, companionship, and society, did willfully, wrongfully, maliciously, and wickedly, by artifices, intrusions, and persuasions, and by defaming plaintiff in her good name and ability as a housewife, and by wrongfully and wickedly contriving to cause and causing her husband to seek the society and companionship of other women, cause and induce her husband to lose his affection for her, and leave and abandon her, and thereafter fail and refuse to support her and the child born of their marriage.

The answer of defendant Nellie Raleigh, with which alone we are here concerned in view of the fact that she is the sole appellant, was, in effect, a general denial.

As might readily be expected, the preparation of a statement of the facts in this case is a matter attended with no little difficulty, due to the irreconcilable evidence offered by the parties, whose conflicting testimony, in most instances at least, may not be excused upon the ground of honest mistake. However, it is not within our province to weigh the evidence, so that our duty will be fully performed when we merely search the record to determine whether the verdict returnd for plaintiff is supported by substantial evidence. In so doing, we shall necessarily observe the familiar rule of practice, that plaintiff must be given the benefit of all testimony that was adduced in her own behalf, as well as of any favorable testimony on the part of defendant's witnesses, in addition to which she must be allowed the benefit of all reasonable inferences of fact on all the proof. Williams v. Kansas City S. R. Co., 257 Mo. 87, 165 S. W. 788, 52 L. R. A. (N. S.) 443; Stauffer v. Metropolitan Street Ry. Co., 243 Mo. 305, 147 S. W. 1032; Trask v. Dunnigan (Mo. App.) 299 S. W. 116; Hayward v. People's Motorbus Co. (Mo. App.) 1 S. W. (2d) 252. Otherwise stated, we must regard plaintiff's evidence as true, so long as it is not impossible, or entirely beyond reason, and defendant's evidence must be taken as false where, as is often the case, it purports to contradict that offered by plaintiff. Toeneboehn v. St. Louis-S. F. R. Co. (Mo. Sup.) 298 S. W. 795; Dixon v. Frazier-Davis Construction Co. (Mo. Sup.) 298 S. W. 827; Wair v. American Car & Foundry Co. (Mo. App.) 285 S. W. 155; Clower v. Fidelity-Phenix Ins. Co. (Mo. App.) 296 S. W. 257.

Passing, therefore, to a narration of the outstanding facts in the case, it appears that plaintiff and her husband first became acquainted in 1920, and that, after a courtship extending over a period of one year, they were united in marriage on October 26, 1921. Plaintiff was then 23, and her husband 21 years of age. At the termination of their honeymoon, they returned to the home of the husband's parents, under an agreement with them that the son was to share in the proceeds of the farm in return for the labor of himself and his wife upon it.

Plaintiff testified that, when she first began her residence with the older couple, she was accorded courteous treatment by them, and that her husband was very devoted to her. Shortly thereafter, however, the first intrusion of her mother-in-law into her domestic affairs came about when defendant Nellie Raleigh (hereinafter referred to as defendant) endeavored to instruct plaintiff in regard to means to be employed to prevent conception, telling her that no husband was willing for his home to become burdened with children, who would be objects for his care and support. Such advice met with instant disfavor from plaintiff, due to the fixed religious scruples she entertained upon the subject of birth control, although she did communicate, the fact of defendant's suggestion to her husband.

Subsequently, plaintiff found defendant in tears on one occasion, and, upon making solicitous inquiry as to the reason for her grief, was told:

"Well, you will never know how I feel until you have a son of your own that gets married and brings a wife home, and you have to take a back seat, and be left out of it."

Later in the same conversation, defendant added:

"You know, I would rather have given him two or three dollars a week, and sent him to Bowling Green or Middleton, than to have seen him get married."

At first, plaintiff accompanied her husband about his work on the farm, but later defendant requested her to remain at the house, and she herself went with her son to the fields. It thus came about that, while her husband was attentive to plaintiff when they were alone, he would be cool and indifferent to her in the presence of his mother, and would take pains that defendant should not observe him in the display of any affection for his wife. Such latter attitude, often continuing for several days, was particularly noticeable after those frequent occasions when defendant and her son would engage in private conversations, held out of plaintiff's hearing. During a subsequent illness of plaintiff, objection was voiced by defendant to her son's going to his wife's sick bed, the reason given plaintiff being:

"I don't want you to be telling him that you have to have things cold, and things like that; it is just imagination. He ought to be at work, and he hasn't got time to be running over town after those things."

After many domestic altercations, the first positive breach occurred when defendant became so bold as to inform plaintiff, when speaking of her husband, that "he was a good boy until he met you, and there never was any trouble in our home." At this juncture the husband seems to have been prompted to come to the aid of his wife, and he informed his mother that she had overstepped her rights, and that he intended to take plaintiff to a home of her own, although he had no idea where the place would be. Even in the face of such opposition, defendant was still resourceful, and intimated that he go to live with certain of her relatives in Peoria, Ill., giving as her reason, "There's where you have the pull."

The suggestion of defendant was acceded to by her son, who went forthwith to Peoria, where he was joined some time later by plaintiff. While residing there, plaintiff first became aware of the relationship existing between her husband and one May Freeman, which fact plays an important part in the subsequent developments in the case. Miss Freeman was a sister of defendant, and was approximately five years older than plaintiff. Having been left an orphan, she had been reared from childhood in defendant's home, until she left for Peoria in 1920, for reasons which we shall have occasion hereafter to disclose. Omitting minor instances of misconduct, it will serve the purposes at hand to say that one evening plaintiff happened to go into the bedroom of her home, and, upon entering, observed May Freeman standing in the closet in a state of nudity, and saw her husband running out of the room. On the following evening, Miss Freeman again called at plaintiff's home, and, when the time came for her departure, plaintiff's husband made it his business to accompany her to the car line. Being duly suspicious, plaintiff followed the couple, and came upon them having intimate relations behind a billboard in a vacant lot.

Strange as it may seem, plaintiff forgave her husband's derelictions; and a short time later, at defendant's request, they moved back to the farm, and resumed their residence with her husband's parents. Plaintiff then informed defendant of the incestuous conduct she had observed between her husband and May Freeman, whereupon defendant narrated to her a story which, for shocking details, goes to the very depths of human degradation.

The story was that plaintiff's husband and his aunt, May Freeman, had always entertained an inordinate affection for each other, developing into an intimacy which culminated in May' becoming pregnant, although such condition was not discovered by the older people until the time came for her to be delivered. When at last it became apparent that the moment for parturition had arrived, May, upon being abused by her relatives for her misfortune, escaped to the fields, and lay down in a patch of weeds, which happened, however, to be within the view of any one who might be passing along the road. The desire for secrecy forbade that she be brought back to the house, for the reason that carpenters were working...

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