It’s 2014, and 53-year-old Todd Scott is in the witness box during a sensational murder trial at Laramie County District Court in Wyoming. The evidence he is giving takes the court back decades to the 1970s when Todd was just a young child; the accused against whom he is testifying is his own mother, Alice Uden.
And as we’ll see, Alice Uden and her fourth husband Gerald – not Todd’s biological father – had more than their fair share of the darkest kind of secrets. What’s more, after the couple were arrested in September 2013, those secrets were finally revealed – and the Udens’ children may have been shocked to their cores.
Alice and Gerald Uden lived in the sleepy Missouri hamlet of Chadwick in Christian County, with the two having settled there some 30 years before Alice faced her son in court. The township is set in the midst of the scenic hills and rivers of the Ozarks, in the Mark Twain National Forest. And, apparently, nothing unduly shocking had taken place in Chadwick since its foundation in 1883 – that is, until the truth about the Udens emerged.
Consisting as it does of nothing more than a few houses, a post office and a school, you could almost drive through Chadwick without even realizing it. And as far as their fellow citizens were concerned, the Udens were a perfectly respectable couple – both in their senior years and both regular church attendees.
All that most of their neighbors could have told you about the couple was that Alice had worked as a nurse before she retired and was not in great health, suffering from cataracts and diabetes. Gerald had served in the U.S. Navy and had later worked as a truck driver.
Speaking at the time of the arrests to KSPR, one of the Udens’ neighbors, Allen Bishop, said, “They were good people; we’ve known them for about 12 years now. They’re the kind of neighbors that you leaned over the fence and talked about your chickens with. They were just the old neighbors next door.”
But these positive opinions were to be shattered in the fall of 2013 when the Udens were both arrested, with Alice aged 74 at the time and Gerald aged 71. And soon after their arrests, the couple were each charged with first-degree murder.
But the pair weren’t charged with jointly murdering someone; astonishingly, they were charged with entirely separate and independent murders. Let’s first deal with the indictments that Gerald faced: the first-degree murder of his former wife and her two children.
The disappearance of Virginia Uden and her two children in 1980 had been a complete mystery for Wyoming authorities for more than three decades. Virginia was married to Gerald, and the two boys, Richard, 11, and Reagan, 10, were her biological sons and the adopted children of Gerald. Finally, in November 2013, Gerald told the world what had happened to them.
Pleading guilty to three first-degree murder charges for the slaying of Virginia, Richard and Reagan, Gerald told the court the gruesome story of what had happened. He and Virginia had married in 1974. After they divorced in 1975, Gerald started his relationship with Alice. Then he murdered Virginia and the two children in 1980 in Fremont County, Wyoming.
Gerald subsequently disposed of the bodies in the depths of Fremont Lake. Chillingly, People magazine reported that Gerald told the court, “I knew that if I killed one, I was going to kill all of them. I have no excuse.” Gerald’s step-daughter Erica Hayes, Alice’s child, told People, “He finally admitted it. I sat there and thought, ‘Son of a b****.’”
Gerald had killed his three victims by pretending to take them on a hunting trip and then shooting them to death in cold blood with a .22 rifle. In his evidence to the court, Gerald said that he’d shot Virginia and Ronald at close range and gunned down Reagan as he tried to run away. “Killed him instantly,” Gerald said. “As far as I’m aware, none of them suffered.”
And Gerald had murdered his former family four years after he married Alice. His only explanation for his hideous crime, then, was his claim that Virginia had been causing difficulties in his relationship with his new wife. “Alice was giving me a hard time,” Gerald said in court. “Virginia was giving me a hard time… It got to where it was intolerable.”
Meanwhile, Alice Uden was charged with the murder of the third of her four husbands, Ronald Holtz. Holtz was 25 when Alice shot him to death in the 1970s. She later tossed his body down a mineshaft on a ranch where she’d been working as a caretaker. And there it stayed, until it was discovered some 40 years later.
A police cold case team had tracked Alice down in Missouri after Holtz’s remains were identified by DNA testing. In fact, the authorities had already questioned both Alice and Gerald about the disappearances of all four victims. But in the absence of any evidence – admissions or remains – the police could prove nothing.
Unlike her husband, Alice pleaded not guilty to the murder she’d committed. She claimed that she had shot Holtz to protect her two-year-old daughter from his violence. But the jury didn’t believe her, and she was convicted of second-degree murder. Alice was sentenced to life in prison, with Gerald receiving the same punishment for his actions.
We heard earlier of the anger of Alice and Gerald’s daughter Erica Hayes at finding out that her mother and step-father were cold-blooded murderers. But the couple actually have a total of five adult children. And their son Todd has also spoken out about what it’s like to discover that your parents have killed.
However, in an extraordinary twist to this outlandish story, Todd has said that Alice actually confessed to her son that she had killed Holtz. Furthermore, she allegedly told Todd about her terrible crime when he was just a child.
CBS affiliate KOSA reported Todd’s words at his mother’s trial. “She just, out of the blue, told me how she got up one night, got a .22 and shot Ron in the head. I don’t know why a mother would tell her children that she killed somebody,” he said. Reportedly, Todd also addressed his mother directly in the court. “I hate you” were his blunt words.
So, after decades, two murderers were finally brought to trial, found guilty and sentenced to life in prison. And the victims of their crimes extended from the people that the pair actually killed to the other members of their family. After all, the children of the Udens now have to live the rest of their lives in the knowledge that their parents are convicted murderers.