Morgan City, Louisiana, is Mississippi bayou country, and in the 1920s it was peopled by frog catchers, trappers, moonshiners, and alligator hunters who sometimes engaged their prey with their bare hands. They were people who went about their shady business on the waterways in pirogues – a type of canoe hollowed out of a single tree.

They were colourful, hard-bitten southerners who lived in shacks at the water’s edge, full of malevolent gossip and exuding hatred towards each other.

Top of the social ladder in Morgan City were James and Ada Le Boeuf. He was superintendent of the Morgan City Light and Power Company, a utility which owned subsidiary companies all across the state. The Le Boeufs had five children and were reaching middle-age when, in December, 1926, Ada began to suffer from sick headaches.

Her husband called in Dr. Thomas Dreher, his best friend. As Ada’s headaches got worse, so Dr. Dreher called more often. This, said the gossips, noticing the doctor’s comings and goings, wasn’t about headaches – it was about adultery.

Someone sent a note to the doctor’s wife: “Two nights ago there was a lady and a man in that empty shack in the bayou. One of them was Ada Le Boeuf and the other was your husband!” Someone else spread a story that Dr. Lehrer and Ada were seen swimming naked together in the bayou.

There was plenty of truth in all this. Ada’s mysterious headaches vanished when the doctor called, for she had started a passionate affair with him. Everyone knew that James Le Boeuf was aware of it – so how long would it be before the scandal was brought into the open?

The answer came in July, 1927, when James Le Boeuf’s body was pulled out of the bayou. He had been shot twice in the head, and the two angle irons his killer had tied to his legs had proved insufficient to weigh down the body.

Police homed in on Ada and her doctor lover. They also arrested an ill-tempered trapper, Jim Beadle, who was known to have a grudge against James Le Boeuf.

All three were tried together at Franklin, Louisiana. Dreher’s story was that Ada sent him a note asking him to get rid of her husband. On July 1st, she said, she would be rowing on the local lake with her husband – and that was the time to act. Dreher contacted Beadle, and they rowed out in a pirogue together. It was, the doctor insisted, Beadle who fired the two shots.

Beadle disagreed. “The doctor fired the shot,” he claimed. “Afterwards he slit open Le Boeuf’s stomach because he said that would make it impossible for the corpse to float.”

In July, 1927, Beadle was jailed for life. Ada Le Boeuf and Dr. Dreher were sentenced to die and were hanged side by side on Friday, February 1st, 1929.