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Monday, February 24, 2020

Devoured by Nothingness:
The Alice Parsons’ Case Revisited

By Michael M. DeBonis
(author, “Death by Disappearance: The Secret Story of Alice Parsons,” January 1, 2020)
Courtesy of the Associated Press

When wealthy Long Island heiress and society matron Alice McDonnell Parsons went missing from her rural Stony Brook estate on June 9, 1937, an entire country became mystified. Her husband William H. Parsons, formerly of Standard Oil, Inc., was now a retired “gentleman farmer,” raising pigeons and other birds for sale to Long Island and New York City restaurants. The Parsons were a well-to-do north shore Suffolk County couple, listed in the Three Village Social Register, but they were seldom seen partying with their fellow Brookhaven Town neighbors.

From their 11-acre home, called Long Meadow Farm, Alice was allegedly abducted at 11:45 AM, on the ninth of June 1937. She purportedly left her home in Stony Brook (a small village situated on the Long Island Sound) for Huntington, New York, another (then) small north shore village, also located in Suffolk County. Alice had a property in Huntington she owned that was up for sale, …and she was supposedly leaving Long Meadow Farm to show her Huntington estate, called Shoreland (near Lloyd’s Neck) to a middle-aged couple, interested in buying the seaside home. Shoreland was given to Alice by her (deceased) rich uncle, Colonel Timothy C. Williams, an ex-president of the Brooklyn Rapid Transit Company.

Alice’s maid, a lovely Russian √©migr√© named Anna Kuprianova, was the last person to see her alive, and the only person who vouched for her suspect departure in the morning, Alice disappeared. Alice never showed up at Shoreland, which was about 20 miles west of Long Meadow Farm. When Alice’s husband William came home (from NYC) to Stony Brook, via the LIRR later that evening, Alice failed to pick him up at the train station. William had been dropped off earlier that morning (at 7:45 AM) by Alice. Will was furious that Alice had forgotten about him, and he was forced to take a taxicab home.

Anna told William that Alice left Long Meadow Farm for Shoreland and that Alice had never come back to Stony Brook. Will got on the horn with New York State troopers and the Brookhaven Town Police Dept. He explained to them both that his wife, Alice McDonnell Parsons, was gone. Local and state authorities began combing Long Meadow Farm searching for Alice, …and not a trace of Alice materialized. An interstate bulletin was instantly put out for Alice, and by the next day, June 10th, 1937, the FBI was called in to take over Alice’s missing persons case.

Shy, sickly Alice was not to be found. The pleasant Long Island woman had been injured in her youth…and was left unfertile as a result. This is why the Parsons were childless. Then in the early 1930s, after Alice suffered a bout of ill health, Anna Kuprianova was brought in to assist Alice with keeping house and to help William raise his squib (pigeons). Alice and William were married in 1925, and they were reputedly a happily wedded couple. Yet, there was a huge disparity in what seemed to be as opposed to what was actually.

A detective from Suffolk County, Bert Walker, found a ransom note in the backseat of Alice Parsons’ car, covered entirely by the floor mat. The note was written in an awkward, clumsy English…that briefly mingled educated parlance with street slang. The ransom note demanded $25,000.00 from William to be delivered to a Jamaica, Queens bus station, without the presence of police. The would-be kidnappers of Alice said that if William did not bring the money and come alone, they would kill Mrs. Parsons.

Police examined Mrs. Parsons’ car thoroughly the day before…and they had found then nothing. Something was very suspicious about this ransom note, which somehow had made its way into a locked vehicle (supposedly in broad daylight) and was put in a spot where no one would ever think to check. Remember, according to Anna Kuprianova, Alice Parsons (with the exception of her morning drive to the Stony Brook train station) did not even use or open her car on the day she disappeared. The FBI and EJ Connelley were having tremendous doubts about Anna’s accounting of things…but more on this later.

Historical sources disagree as to whether or not William Parsons went to Queens to obtain his wife’s release from her captors…some sources specifically state William did go to Queens, tailed by undercover police, and that Alice’s abductors never showed up. Still, others say William never bothered to leave Long Meadow Farm in Stony Brook. In any event, one fact is undisputed: William never bothered paying out any ransom to anyone, that may or may not have seized Alice Parsons, by force. After a few days of intense press coverage, William evacuated newsmen and police from his farm in Suffolk, so that he would be free to meet with Mrs. Parsons’ kidnappers. William made this announcement over the radio. Once it had been carried out, none of Alice’s would-be accosters ever were to reveal themselves. Will Parsons’ efforts were futile and also suspect. Did he just go into NYC on June 9, 1937, simply to sell his squib? Or did William know more than he admitted knowing to Connelley and his G-men? This debate has been argued ever since 1937. With no definitive leads on Alice or of the hypothetical middle-aged couple, who purportedly took Alice into their car, on the ninth of June 1937, (according to Anna Kuprianova)… the riddle remains unanswered to present times.

In the year that followed Alice Parsons’ enigmatic vanishing, she was never to turn up. EJ Connelley and his Federal crew combed and re-combed Long Island’s north and south shore beaches, coves, and inlets, …and he discovered nothing. Connelley went back to Long Meadow Farm and carefully excavated it. And still, then Connelley found only more of nothing. Bloodhounds were of no help in recovering Alice…they too missed the mark. 10 months would pass before Suffolk County DA Fred Munder would petition the FBI for their records. Connelley, who was still hard at work looking for clues, was asked to back off of his investigation…he reluctantly capitulated and turned his files over to Munder. Munder was forced to leave Suffolk County for Washington, DC, to accomplish his goal.

At this point, it was DA Munder who would roll back his Parsons’ probe. Since there was nobody unearthed to prove a crime had been committed, Munder (against his better judgment) decided the current investigation must end. Suffolk County authorities marked Alice Parsons’ missing person case unsolved. And so it remains, to our present day. EJ Connelley had unofficially deemed Alice’s disappearance the result of a calculated homicide, which was likely committed by those people closest to her, William Parsons and Anna Kuprianova.

Alice’s probate was the subject of much intense infighting by her family. Although Alice had been legally declared dead in 1946, William Parsons and Anna Kuprianova Parsons were married in 1940. They had resettled in California and put Long Island behind them. The newly married couple did not like the gossips back in Brookhaven, and they were both devoted to keeping mum on Alice Parsons’ enigmatic vaporization, to their very ends. William Parsons had legally adopted Roy K. Parsons, shortly after Alice disappeared. Being Anna’s only child and now the only heir to William’s fortune, Roy also stood to gain from Alice Parsons’ will $15,000.00. Alice’s fortune had been valued at around $125,000.00 dollars. Alice’s brothers Frank and Howard McDonnell had Alice’s assets successfully frozen from her husband Will, in 1938. A probate judge in Suffolk County approved their petition, and he subsequently appointed an overseer to inventory and control Alice’s assets until 1946…when Alice’s probate was finally settled.

The probate Judge Hawkins only honored Alice’s first will, which was drawn up in 1936. Under this contract, only Roy’s award of fifteen thousand dollars would be honored. Roy would get it only when he turned 30 years old. Anna, who was written in the very dubious second of Alice’s wills, was to get $10,000.00 upon Alice’s death. This second will of Alice was drafted only 22 days before Alice Parsons permanently went in absentia. Alas, Anna was awarded nothing from Alice Parsons’ estate. Her new husband William was to get $35,000.00 in the event Alice was to die before him. Will Parsons agreed to receive only $200.00 in jewelry, owned by Alice, as per Judge Hawkins and the McDonnell brothers. The remainder of Alice’s money and assets would be divided up by her nieces and nephews in the McDonnell family.

Alice Parsons’ shady disappearance scandalized Long Island indefinitely, and her case is open and unsolved to this very day. Police found no evidence of blood spilled, struggles, or theft at the house during their entire investigations. But Anna Kuprianova’s tale of Alice being picked up from Long Meadow Farm by a forty-something married couple was never confirmed, and it has always been open to a wide range of philosophical speculating. A missing bottle of chloroform from the Parsons’ household was never explained, or even found… Was Alice Parsons murdered on or before June 9, 1937? Why were Suffolk County police agencies slow and abrasive when working with EJ Connelley and his FBI team? Why was Alice’s body never located? And why did Alice draft a will only 22 days before her own demise? Such questions beg for abundant and worthy answering…and yet, as of 2020, only riddles resound in the missing person case of Alice McDonnell Parsons, a woman enveloped by nothingness and hidden from history.

About the Author: Michael Mauro DeBonis is a poet and a historian from Long Island, N. Y. Mr. DeBonis graduated from both Suffolk County Community College and SUNY Stony Brook (B. A. English). Michael’s work first appeared in the Village Beacon Record and the Brookhaven Times newspapers. His latest work (poetry and prose) may be found in The New York History Review.