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Beulah May Annan (November 1899 – March 10, 1928) was a suspected American murderess.

She is one of the subjects of Maurine Dallas Watkins' play Chicago, which has been adapted into a 1927 silent film, 1975 stage musical, and 2002 movie musical (which won the Academy Award for Best Picture), all by that name, as well as the 1942 romantic comedy film Roxie Hart whose name came from the character she inspired.

Early life

She was born Beulah May Sheriff in Owensboro, Kentuckymarker to John Sheriff and Mary Neel. While living in Kentucky, she married her first husband, Perry Stephens, a newspaper linotype operator. They were divorced and she moved up to Chicagomarker.

In Louisville, Kentuckymarker, she married Albert Annan, a car mechanic. Shortly afterward, they moved to Chicago. In Chicago, Annan found work as a mechanic at a garage and Beulah decided she wanted to work as well, eventually becoming a bookkeeper at Tennant's Model laundry, where she met Harry Kalstedt. It apparently wasn't long before she and Kalstedt, who also worked at the laundry, began having an affair.

The incident

On April 3, 1924, in the married couple's bedroom, Beulah shot Kalstedt in the back. According to her initial story, they had been drinking wine Kalstedt had brought over and got into an argument. There was a gun on the bed and both reached for it, but Beulah got it first and shot Kalstedt while he was putting on his coat and hat. She then sat drinking cocktails and playing a foxtrot record, "Hula Lou," over and over for about four hours as she sat watching Kalstedt die. She then called her husband to say she had killed a man who had "tried to make love" to her.

The trial

Beulah's story changed over time: first, she confessed to the murder; later, Beulah claimed she had shot Kalstedt in self-defense, fearing rape. According to one of her later versions, he told her he was leaving her, she reacted angrily, then she shot him. Prosecutors surmised that Kalstedt had threatened to leave Beulah, and she shot him in a jealous rage. Her final story, at trial, was that she had told Kalstedt she was pregnant, they struggled, and they both reached for the gun.

Albert Annan stood by her, pulled his money out of the bank to get her the best lawyers, and stood by her throughout the trial. The day after the trial ended in acquittal, on May 25, 1924, his wife announced, "I have left my husband. He is too slow." She then divorced him in 1926 on the charge he deserted her.

Later life

In 1927, after her divorce from Annan was finalized, she married Edward Harlib, a boxer. She filed for divorce after only three months claiming cruelty. In the divorce settlement, Harlib paid her $5,000.

After her divorce from Harlib, she was involved with a fourth man, Able Marcus.

Beulah died of tuberculosis at the Chicago Fresh Air sanatorium, where she was staying under the name Beulah Stephens in 1928, four years after her acquittal on charges of murder. She was returned to her home state for burial in Mount Pleasant Cumberland Presbyterian Church Cemetery, Daviess County, Kentucky.

Further reading

  • Thomas H. Pauly (Ed.): Chicago: With the Chicago Tribune Articles that Inspired It. Southern Illinois University 1997. ISBN 0809321297, ISBN 978-0809321292


  1. Kathleen M'Laughlin, "Buelah Annan, Chicago's Jazz Killer, is Dead" Chicago Daily Tribune March 14, 1928, p.3.
  2. Maurine Watkins, "Demand Noose for 'Prettiest' Woman Slayer" Chicago Daily Tribune April 5, 1924, p.1.
  3. "Divorce 7 Year Sequel to Her Murder Trial." Chicago Daily Tribune, August 20, 1926, p.3

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