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Paralytic wife seeks freedom for husband who shot her

Kevin Collier • Jul 21, 2015 at 12:19 PM

Rena Kulos, the victim, did not die — she survived — but was paralyzed from the waist down and never would walk again. She became a ward of Ottawa County, reportedly “at great expense” to taxpayers, lodged at the county infirmary at Eastmanville.

It all began around 5 o'clock on the ill-fated morning of Aug. 13, 1911, when Rena was seen speaking to a stranger on the street in front of their residence moments before the shooting. The Grand Haven Tribune reported Mrs. Kulos, witnessed by others, was apparently “excited and trying to explain something to the stranger.”          

Rena was in fear for her life.          

When the stranger — said to be a traveler passing through — walked off, Rena's husband came down to the street to ask who the man was. His wife threatened to call the police and rushed back upstairs to their second-floor dwelling.          

According to the Grand Haven Tribune, her husband “lit a cigarette, calmly walked upstairs and fired three shots at the woman.”          

All bullets from the .38-caliber revolver had been shot from behind, indicating Rena was trying to flee when the weapon was discharged.          

William Kulos fled the scene, leaving his wounded wife lying on a hallway floor. He was later captured by Deputy Sheriff Frank Salisbury, promptly jailed and charged with attempted murder.          

Dr. William De Kleine arrived at the Kulos apartment to attend to Rena and found her bleeding profusely. She had been shot in the right hand, left shoulder and once in the back, damaging her spine. She was rushed to Hackley Hospital in Muskegon, where she would stay for several months.          

By that evening, Rena, conscious and out of danger, made a statement to police from her hospital bed as to circumstances leading up to the shooting.          

The Kuloses had allowed four fellow Greeks to board with them. One of whom was Peter Johns. William Kulos reportedly had grown insanely jealous over Johns' attentiveness to Rena and imagined the pair were engaging in an affair.

It was learned later that Johns was more of a confidant and friend than a love interest to Rena.          

According to Rena, she became alarmed the day before the shooting when she discovered a .38-caliber pistol and a knife hidden under their bed. It so frightened her that she didn't dare go to bed that night and chose to sleep — what little she could — on the kitchen floor.          

Born Rena Kophobolius in Greece in 1892, she had been married to William Kulos since age 13. Now, paralyzed at age 19, her devotion to her husband would play out at his trial three months later.          

According to the Grand Haven Tribune, during the trial, spectators were shocked when Rena “was brought into the courtroom (laying) on a cot” to give testimony. “To the surprise of everyone, she refused to convict him of the evidence,” the newspaper added.          

Another shocking moment was when William took the witness stand and claimed his wife had “shot herself” in the back. The defendant claimed his wife had run upstairs and grabbed the gun, and while wrestling her hands behind her back, the weapon discharged.          

Even though Rena had forgiven her husband, the jury sentenced William Kulos to 20-40 years in prison at Jackson.

But the story didn't end there.          

While at the county infirmary, Rena learned to write in English, and from 1914-15 penned many letters to authorities and petitioned the courts “begging for the release of her husband,” it was reported. Superintendent of the Poor, Charles Dickinson, on behalf of Mrs. Kulos, met with Gov. Woodbridge Ferris on March 13, 1914, in Coopersville for the purpose of obtaining a pardon for William Kulos. At the time, it was reported Rena was “most enthusiastic.”          

Rena had told everyone her husband had promised her that, if released, he would provide for her care and the two of them would return to their native homeland of Greece.          

The pardon request for William Kulos was denied.          

Rena Kulos died April 18, 1918, from complications related to her injuries at the state hospital in Kalamazoo. In the end, the shot fired seven years earlier by her husband had killed her.          

“And now that sad and little romance is ended,” the Tribune wrote on April 25, one week after her death. “A story, like that seen in the films, is closed.”         

William Kulos was never retried for the murder of his wife. He was released after serving 20 years and vanished into history.

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