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26 July 2016

Terri Williams (Moore) (1941 – 1976) dancer, wife, murdered

Frank Felice, from Detroit, moved to Lansing, Michigan in 1972, where she became Terri Williams.

She first came to police attention when a murder investigation led to a gay bar and she was able to be a witness. In 1974 Williams told the police about a man who had stayed in her apartment and spoke of a triple murder in Florida as part of a jewel robbery. Williams, in his male persona, was flown to Florida to testify, and a conviction and death penalty followed.

However by that time, Terri was ready for surgery and had a series of transgender operations 1974-5 in Lansing, Michigan performed by a professor at Michigan State University. Terri was then outed by a local television reporter under the impression that penile inversion was a new development. A Michigan state legislator brought up the issue and questioned the use of public funds for such procedures. This became a furore when the appropriations bill for the state medical school came up.

The same reporter later found her engaged to be married, but this broke up and Terri moved to Denver late 1975 to start over.

She had few job prospects and became a topless dancer. While working at that job she met Richard Moore, and they were married May 14, 1976. Apparently Terri did not discuss her history with Richard, but Mr and Mrs Moore briefly visited Lansing, and met Terri’s friends.

It was noted that Richard’s mood changed rapidly, and he even spoke of killing his wife. Mr and Mrs Moore left early to return to Denver.

Terri’s body was found on June 1 close to Interstate 80 outside Newton, Iowa with her two dogs, only one of them alive. Terri had been shot. In her purse they found her marriage license, and her note book listed friends in Lansing and in Denver, and the make, red Mercury, and license number of Richard’s car.

The police quickly put the story together and watched for the car to turn up at Richard’s address in Denver. He was arrested and charged with murder. During jury selection he suddenly attempted to confess and plead guilty. A competency proceeding was conducted and he was found competent to stand trial.

At the trial, Richard Moore denied that his wife was transsexual, but said that she had had her tubes tied. He also said that he was the country singer, Johnny Cash, that the police had bugged his car, and that the key policemen were imposters. His father testified that Richard had become mentally ill years before, and had spent two months in a mental hospital in Pueblo, Colorado.

He was found guilty of murder and sentenced to life imprisonment. He appealed on the grounds that his removal from the courtroom after several verbal outbursts violated his constitutional right of confrontation. He also claims trial court abused its discretion in admitting murder scene and autopsy photographs and should have instructed, on its own motion, on diminished capacity. The appeal court affirmed the original conviction.

Nobody claimed Terri’s body, and so she was buried in Newton.
Transas City
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The surgery at Michigan State was pioneering, and Terri was one of the first transsexuals in Michigan. I do not understand why she is not included in this LGBT Heritage Timeline for the state, especially as it is hosted by Lynn Conway’s university.

Penile inversion was new in Michigan in 1975, but had been developed by Georges Burou 20 years earlier, and Stanley Biber in Trinidad, Colorado had been doing such operations since 1968.

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