The Murder of Forrest Teel

I came across this story when I was looking for new true crime books to read through Barnes and Noble.  Sometimes I get sick of reading or seeing television shows on the same subject over and over so it is refreshing to find something new that I have never heard of.  The other appeal for me when it came to this story was the fact that it took place in Indianapolis, Indiana where I grew up (although this story took place many years before I was born).  

Another appeal to this story is that there is not a lot of information out there.  When that happens it makes you want to find more and more.  I came across a book called "In the Eyes of the Law" by Tom Faulconer (his father was the trial judge) and a few articles spread out from the time.  However, this is not the first older case (not that they do not continue to do it) that I have found where one cannot always rely on the newspaper stories of the day.  I have read many things that indicate that when it comes to crime many what would be considered to be respectable newspapers were little more than the tabloids we see today.  In fact, it may have been worse.  Today when a newspaper or a tabloid prints false information at the very least there is an easier, or faster way, to dispute it.  You also hear more stories of people (especially celebrities) suing for defamation of character from false stories printed or reported.  While I do believe we have often become a "sue happy" society one would also expect there to be accurate information given.  This was not always the case in the case against Connie Nichols, the murderess of Forrest Teel.   

In 1958 Forrest Teel was an executive at Eli Lilly in Indianapolis; he was considered to be a very prominent man in the city.  He was married with a 14 year old son and from the outside had the ideal life.  He lived in an elaborate home in a prominent community.  He and his wife emitted the aura of happiness.  Their home was remodeled often to stay "with the times"; they went to and had their own social events.  But, then again that is how things were in 1958.  In the 1950's life was like Vegas; what happened behind closed doors, stayed behind closed doors.  Few people truly knew what really went on in a marriage no matter how close they thought they were to someone.  And, those who did know did not say anything because people did not get into the business of others, as well as, except in the rare occasion a lot of households were the same.  The man all but ran the house.  He was the breadwinner and as such he was in control.  Women did as they were told and domestic violence was even more hidden than it is today.  Divorce was still looked down upon.  It is not that people did not get divorced, because they did.  Divorce however, put a 'mark' on someone; a mark that most did not want, especially when you were as prominent as the Teels.  

Connie Nichols was a divorcee.  Actually she was a double divorcee.  It has been said she had a difficult childhood and it had affected her greatly.  By 1958 she had been employed at several places but at the time was all but being taken care of by her lover of 15 years, Forrest Teel.  They had met when she was working at Eli Lilly herself.  Their affair had started before her second marriage.  By the time 1958 rolled around Forrest Teel was paying her rent and all of her bills but she knew something was not right.  They had met at particular times every week for several years but suddenly Teel was cancelling and not spending as much time with Connie as usual.  She began to follow him.  By all accounts Teel had caught her at least once and confronted her about it.  Connie discovered that Teel was seeing another woman by this time also.  The other woman worked for Eli Lilly also.  According to Connie, Teel had assured her that this woman was not "replacing" her and that he was sure that affair would soon be over.  Connie also indicated that she knew there had been other women that Teel had been involved with while they were dating and she continued to maintain that she was not intimidated by this woman but her actions indicated differently.

After several months the affair between Teel and the other woman continued and it also seems that Connie's paranoia about that relationship increased.  Connie believed that in four years time that Teel would be divorcing his wife as his son would be 18 and they would be married.  She had already put 15 years into this relationship but she saw it unraveling as Teel continued to cancel planned meetings and was seeing Connie less and less.  

In July 1958 Teel was visiting the other woman.  When he returned to his car about 1:00 in the morning he found Connie hoovering in the passenger seat of his vehicle.  At this point only two people know what truly happened and one of those people died so the only story to relay is Connie's.....


Connie's story is that she had been by the other woman's apartment and saw Teel's Cadillac in the parking lot.  From my understanding all Eli Lilly executives drove white Cadillac's, something that they would change later due to the Teel scandal.  Connie says she then drove back home where she made a thermos full of pineapple juice and sleeping pills.  She also had written at least one suicide note.  She had obtained a gun within the preceding days.  This became a controversy at her trial due to the fact that she had purchased the gun at a shop on another side of town and the store owner testified she kept speaking of a trip to California.  The store owner said he felt it was odd the amount of times she mentioned the trip, as if she kept repeating it so that he would remember her story.  At some point during the night of the murder Connie also put the gun in her purse.  It is unsure if she took it with her initially or if she obtained it when she returned to her home a while later.  She claims she went home simply because she needed to use the bathroom.  At any rate she returned to the area where Teel's car was, parked down the street and walked to his vehicle.  She found it unlocked and got into the passengers seat to wait for him.  She stated that when Teel got into the car he was of course surprised to find her there and that until he pulled from the parking place he said very little.  Then of course he was rather angry with her for following him, still indicated the new affair was nothing she should be concerned with, however at that point supposedly just broke things off with Connie blaming her paranoia.  According to Connie at that point she pulled the gun out of her purse and threatened to kill herself.  She says that Teel grabbed for the gun and in the ensuring struggle that the gun had gone off (apparently 4 times).  She also used this "struggle" as the basis of some apparent nerve damage she suffered in her arms later.  

After the shooting Connie got out of Teel's car, went to her own and went to a remote place where she drank the concoction of pineapple juice and sleeping pills where she was found the next day unconscious.  Teel on the other hand apparently tried to drive away from the area it seems and was mortally wounded to the point he could not control the vehicle and had crashed into a telephone pole.  When officers arrived at the scene Teel was still hanging on to life but refused to acknowledge what had happened.  He soon died. 

Connie Nichol's never disputed that she shot Forrest Teel. The media from all across the country swarmed onto first the hospital, where she remained a patient for approximately 8 months and then later the jail and the courthouse. Today this would not seem to be unusual, but in 1958 this was not the norm. One of the more interesting aspects as far as the spectators were concerned was the fact that while there were those who felt Connie was justified (as well as believed), there were many (especially from women) that believed her to be a 'vixen"  for even having the affair with Teel but there appeared to be sympathy for the woman that he was currently having the affair with and had left her home.  She had actually been able to stay out of the limelight of the affair.  She had told the police what she knew but had then left the state for California.  The prosecution wanted her to testify at trial but according to the rules of 1958 she could not be compelled if she lived more than 1,000 miles away.  It was said that she and her lawyer made a calculated move in having her move to California so that she would not be forced back to Indiana to testify.  

The jury consisted of 12 married men who in the end decided she was guilty in voluntary manslaughter.  While the prosecution tried to bank on the idea that her purchase of the gun (where and when) was an indicator that she intended to murder Teel apparently according to the jury they did not even consider this issue.  Was this because it was 1958 and the idea of putting a woman on death row was even more rare than it was now?  The jury also said they did not consider the behavior either Connie or Teel when it came to the fact that they were having an adulterous affair.  No one can say for sure.  Connie was actually let out on bail as her attorneys considered whether to file an appeal but in the end she served approximately 21 months in jail.

According to reports Teel's wife supposedly never suspected that he was being unfaithful.  But then again, we are talking about 1958 "Vegas."  It is unclear if she would have told.  It has been speculated or reported that his wife had become an alcoholic over the years which was often indicative of issues going on in the marriage that others were not aware of.  Just as the second mistress was able to stay out of the spotlight so was Teel's wife and son for the most part.  Sadly however, in the spotlight or not it seems that it all took a toll on her.  A few years later she died as a result of a fire in her home caused by a cigarette in her bed (which has been speculated to have been aggravated by alcohol).  

While reading and learning about this case I often thought of the Betty Broderick story.  I seriously doubt that if Connie Nichol's would have committed this crime today that she would have only spent 21 months in jail.  Obviously the biggest difference between Betty Broderick and Connie Nichols was the wife where Connie was one of apparently more than a few mistresses that Teel had.  However it does appear that Teel, like Dan Broderick, had tried to convince Connie that her paranoia was not warranted. Also, Connie, like Betty, claimed that when the murders were committed she did not intend to murder but to commit suicide.  I have often said that the Broderick case was one of the few cases in which I felt little to no sympathy for the victims for the things that they put Betty through.  I am not quite to that point in this case but I am pretty close.  Like Dan Broderick, Forrest Teel was very prominent in the area and by many accounts he knew so.  He appeared to be the type of person who did what he wanted, when he wanted and how he wanted without any consequence or care as to who he hurt.  Did he deserve to be murdered?  Absolutely not.  No one deserves to be murdered.  However, did his actions bring it onto himself?  One could argue that he did.  

Comments

  1. My mother is related to Forrester Teels wife. Her brother was H.B. Williams who was raised by my Mother's geandmother, Francis Burton.

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  2. I was raised in the Indianapolis area and was 11 years old when the murder occurred. I was thinking of this case when watching 48 hours depicting a similar story of a big executive that had a secret life. You did a great job recapping the story that was front page news for several months in the Indianapolis newspapers.

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