Joan Vollmer - Death

Death

Three days after Burroughs returned from his South American trip, Vollmer was balancing a water tumbler on her head as her husband aimed a handgun at it. When Burroughs fired, the bullet missed the water tumbler and hit Vollmer, who died later that day from a gunshot wound to the skull, aged 28. Vollmer's death was ruled a culpable homicide, after Mexican police investigated and Burroughs gave several contradictory versions of events. He initially claimed he accidentally shot Vollmer during a William Tell act, but changed his story, possibly after being coached by his Mexican attorney, Bernabé Jurado. The day after in court, Burroughs claimed he accidentally misfired the gun while trying to sell the weapon to an acquaintance.

Burroughs was held in custody on murder charges for two weeks before being released on bail after his brother arrived from St. Louis to dispense thousands of dollars in a variety of legal costs, which may have included bribes to Mexican jailors. Vollmer was buried in Mexico City and her two children were taken back to the United States. Her daughter Julie was raised by her father, Paul Adams, and his family; her son was raised by her in-laws. For a year, Burroughs reported every Monday morning to the jail in Mexico City while his prominent attorney worked to resolve the case. However, when Jurado fled the country after accidentally shooting and killing a trespasser on his property — a child of a government official — Burroughs re-entered the United States, where he was fortunate that Louisiana had not issued a warrant for his arrest on the previous narcotic charge. In absentia, Burroughs was convicted of manslaughter in Vollmer's death. He received a two year suspended sentence.

In the introduction to Queer, a novel written in 1953 but not published until 1985, Burroughs states, "I am forced to the appalling conclusion that I would have never become a writer but for Joan’s death ... o the death of Joan brought me into contact with the invader, the Ugly Spirit, and maneuvered me into a lifelong struggle, in which I had no choice except to write my way out". (Queer, 1985, p.xxii)

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