These are the stories included in this blog. They are listed in order of latest to earliest added. You can either enter a search in the provided space, or scroll to the bottom to find the earlier posts. I hope you enjoy reading these as much as I enjoy researching and writing about this aspect of our local history.

Burden of Guilt
Solution to a Cold Case
A Killing, A Brothel and ....
The Armantrouts of Pensacola
A Very Tragic Chain of Events
A very sad tale
Murder on South Palafox
Workplace violence in 1905
The Tragic Death of Big Ed Morris
Fight at a Fatal Fish Fry
The Curious Killing of Charles Sudmall
Successful Russian Businessman killed in town
Tale of a Lynching
Prisoner J.C. Evans, left dead on the side of the road
Sheriff McDaniel of Jackson County
Shootout in his Driveway
The 1915 Wyman Murders
Home invasion and killing of Elderly Couple
The Kidnapping of Mrs. Phelps
Holmes County 77 year old widow kidnapped and beaten.
The Mulat Murders
Murder of Julian, and Mae Edwards
Bank of Jay Part II
Were the robbers Pensacola Police Officers?
The Jay Bank Robbery
January 1963 Bank Heist
Killing in Crestview

Was there really Justice for Lester Wilson's death?

The Phantom Ghoul of Whitmire

Grave desecration at the Roberts, and Whitmire cemeteries

Tragedy Near McLellan

The murder of Daisy Locklin Padgett

The Turpentine Feud of 1911

The Cooley family ambush and events leading up to it.

The Allen-Whitmire Shootout

Articles about the shootout at the L&N Depot in Milton

The Acreman Family Murder

The murders and arson of an entire family near Allentown

Retired School Teacher Kills Three Police Officers

Happened in Ocala, Florida

Unsolved Pensacola Axe Murder

Family attacked as they slept

Unsolved Murder of Henry Hicks Moore

Pensacola Lovers lane murder

Unsolved Hinote/Byers Murder

Young couple killed

The Short Life and Fast Times of Frank Penton

Chief Deputy and local Gunslinger

The Fate of Judge Trueman

Killed in Ogden, Utah

The Killing of John Wesley Penton

Shot down in the street in Milton

The Trial of C. B. Penton

Suspected of killing S.G. "Babe" Collins

The 1931 Pursuit and Capture of Criminals Near Milton

Captured in Mulat swamp

The Gainer/Collins Murders

More to come on this one

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Saturday, October 17, 2020

Burden of Guilt


The Crime

            At 2 am on 1951’s Easter Sunday, a truck driver from Chickasaw, Alabama named J.W. Kitchens, stopped to refuel at Joe Guidry’s Standard Oil Service station, at the intersection of Hwy 98, and State road 85, near the Indian Mound in downtown Ft. Walton Beach. Upon entering the station, he found the body of the attendant, Romeo A. Beaudry, a crippled ex-pilot who was working there on his scheduled night off.

            Kitchens spread the alarm, and soon was joined by night-policeman Buck Burnham, and Constable Oscar Bengtson. The victim had been shot 4 times, twice near the heart, once in the throat, and once above the left eye. There was no evidence of a robbery. The next morning Paul, and Arthur Bond, children of the Spanish Villa operator, discovered a .32 caliber pistol hidden beneath a piece of tin, on the Indian mound, and turned it over to the police.


The Victim

            Romeo Albert Beaudry was almost 50 years old the night he died. He lived in the Santa Rosa Community about 15 miles east of Ft. Walton Beach. His background is not well documented. He was born in Baltimore, Maryland 30 March 1901. He was in the U.S. Army as a Private in the 38th Infantry from Nov. 1923 to April 1927. His WW2 draft registration shows him living in Washington Co, Mississippi in Feb. 1942. He had worked for a time at Nowak Radio and Appliance Service in Warrington, Escambia Co., Florida off and on for a few years, and had left there in mid-February, shortly before beginning his job at the Standard Oil Station at the highway 90 intersection in downtown Ft. Walton Beach.

            On early Easter morning when he was killed, he was wearing a red jockey hat with Army Air Corp wings. It is unclear when he would have earned them unless it was during his time in the Mississippi National Guard. In WW2 he was in Norfolk, Virginia as a radioman working in a shipyard. A couple of nights before he was killed, he talked to a local reporter, Jane McCreary, of the Playground News. He told her he had been injured in a crash during his service. “There’s hardly a part of me that hasn’t been patched up”. Injuries kept him in hospitals for years, and got him a disability pension from the government. He told the reporter that he had lived in Jackson, Miss., where he met and married his wife and operated a radio shop. He was a member of the Miss. National Guard, and had piloted a crop duster, spraying cotton fields for the boll weevil. He was an honorary game warden and an insomniac who sometimes wandered the streets at night. He spoke fluent French, and also drove an ambulance for the McLaughlin Funeral Home in Ft. Walton Beach.  He told the reporter, “Civilization is nothing but refined barbarism”.




The Investigation

            There were no obvious clues left at the scene. Beaudry wore braces on his legs that had to be adjusted before he could stand. Since there seemed to be no attempt to stand, and a partially eaten sandwich on the desk, it was then assumed that the murder was committed by someone known to the victim. The gun found by the Bond children was traced to a shop in Pensacola. It had been purchased on 13 February, but there was no record of the buyer. Beaudry had started working at the station around that same time, and Constable Bengtson learned that Beaudry’s wife Cora, had taken out an insurance policy on the 2nd of February. By April 1, a reward of $1200 had not been claimed, and “all leads were exhausted”. Then in walks 19-year-old William Whoolery.

           On July 31, 1951, Constable Bengtson announced the arrests of William Dickson Connerly, a Pensacola radio repairman on a murder charge. Also arrested was the victim’s wife Cora Beaudry as an accessory. Also held was a 19-year-old Destin fisherman named William Homer Woolery.

            Constable Bengtson said that on Sunday, July 29, William Whoolery came into his office and claimed that he knew who killed Beaudry, because the victim’s widow had told him. Bengtson then began using Whoolery as an undercover investigator because he lived near the Beaudry home. The 19-year-old claimed that Mrs. Beaudry had tried to kill herself, by taking pills, and while being driven to the White Clinic in Ft. Walton Beach, tried to jump out of the moving vehicle. Dr. White, at the clinic later told Bengtson that he thought Mrs. Beaudry had swallowed about 20 aspirin tablets, and about 8 phenobarbital pills. He said when she was brought into his clinic she was in a, “highly nervous, and excited condition.” When asked if he could tell if she had ingested phenobarbital, the Doctor said, “I don’t think it was anything else.”

            Whoolery claimed that while at the clinic, Mrs. Beaudry told his parents to “Go get Willie”, because she wanted to tell him who did it.


            Bond was set at $5000 for Connerly, and $2500 for Mrs. Beaudry. Whoolery requested to remain in jail for the time being.  From his cell, Connerly, a Pensacola Naval Air Station Radio Mechanic, and former vocational school instructor said, “It was the greatest shock of my life when ‘Lou’ Beaudry was killed”, then a greater shock when he was arrested. “I’m charged with the murder of my best friend.”  Connerly said he and Beaudry met in Jackson, Mississippi in February of 1942 when both were members of the state guard.  When the two families moved to the Panhandle, they remained in touch. “I can prove I was attending a wake, and a funeral the night Lou was killed”.

            In her cell, Mrs. Beaudry said she did not believe Connerly killed her husband. She also denied attempting suicide. “I’ve got two children; I’m not going to do anything that will bring shame to them”.  She said she asked the Whoolery’s to take her to the hospital when she had a gall-bladder attack, and had taken 4 to 5 aspirin. She also said she had discussed her husband’s death with Whoolery, and had mentioned Connerly, but had never accused him of the murder.

            On the 3rd of August, the Pensacola Journal reported that Connerly had been released from jail on a writ of habeas corpus filed his Pensacola attorney, Richard Merritt. The finding was that there was insufficient evidence. In the same hearing, Mrs. Beaudry was to remain in jail due to testimony from Whoolery, and his mother, who both said they had heard her say she knew who did it. The charges against Connerly were dropped.

            Mrs. Cora Beaudry was released 30 August when an Okaloosa Grand Jury refused to indict her. She eventually remarried and passed away in 2001 while living on the Kenai Peninsula in Alaska.

            There was another man detained by Constable Bengtson named William Floyd Carnley. He was questioned for a few hours, and released. This was done without a warrant. Of course, his name was later listed in the local newspapers as a suspect in the killing. In 1952, two $50,000 lawsuits for malicious prosecution, and false arrest were brought against Bengtson, by both Connerly, and Carnley. Both suits were thrown out in July.


Mr. X confesses to a Cold Case


            On March 7, 1963, a married construction worker with three children living in Johnstown, NY confessed to his priest about killing a crippled man during a botched service station robbery in Ft. Walton Beach, Florida early on Easter morning back in 1951. Easter was approaching and the christening of his 8-month-old child was to be held Sunday. The priest talked him into going to a local attorney, Mario Albanese. The attorney called Ft. Walton Police Chief Ralph Hendrix and said a client had told him he knew something about the Beaudry case.  His confession was due to a heavy burden of guilt with the possibility that some innocent person had been punished for the crime.

            Reporters from the Pensacola Journal, learned of the confession and the man’s name, and location. They called Attorney Albanese, and he confirmed the name of his client. The reporter then called his client and he was more than willing to tell the Journal his story. He claimed he and a companion were involved in the killing, and he had let the authorities know the name of his accomplice. He also said that he could not remember exactly if he had pulled the trigger. He claimed they had been drinking at The Spanish Villa shortly before they decided to rob the gas station.

            The Journal referred to the man as “Mr. X”, because he hadn’t been arrested, or charged at the time they talked to him.  Mr. X revealed that at the time of the murder, he, and his companion were Air Policemen at Eglin, AFB in Ft. Walton.  After the killing, they went AWOL and were both arrested for robbery in Maryland. He served one year of a three-year sentence and stayed out of trouble, getting married and having three children before his confession.

            In the Saturday issue of the Pensacola Journal, Mr. X was revealed to be Anthony F. Glionna, of Johnstown, New York. He was being detained in New York. Sheriff Ray Wilson, and State Attorney William Frye were in Baltimore to arrest Glionna’s alleged accomplice.

            There were extradition hearings in both New York, and Baltimore for the two suspects, and on April 5, 1963, it was reported that Deputy Reubin Hendrix departed for Johnstown, NY to return Glionna to Crestview for trial. A hearing to return Glionna’s alleged accomplice, Walter Richard Allen was scheduled, but Allen waived extradition and was transported to Okaloosa County. Glionna’s extradition papers were signed by New York Governor Rockefeller and he was turned over to Okaloosa Deputy Driscoll Oglesby on April 5. They both arrived at the Okaloosa County Jail within hours of each other. On 10 April they were both arraigned and entered pleas of innocence.

            On May 3, an Okaloosa Grand Jury returned a true bill indicting Anthony Glionna with First Degree murder in the death of Romeo Beaudry. Since April 29, Glionna had been at the State Mental Hospital in Chattahoochee when court-appointed psychiatrists found that he was not capable of assisting with his defense. Walter Richard Allen had been granted immunity by State Attorney Bill Frye, and was to be used as a prosecution witness.


Walter Richard Allen’s Story


            Allen sat for a two-hour interview after his testimony at the Grand Jury proceedings. This is from the Pensacola New-Journal, Sunday, May 5, 1963.

            “Glionna and I were both stationed in the Air Police Squadron at Eglin Field. We were the best of friends, where one went the other went. We just seemed to be compatible, and in fact, he was the only person with whom I had ever been close until that point in my life.

            “Glionna was a three-striper at the time and I was a one-striper. I had been at the base for about a year and Glionna had been there for two years. On the night of the slaying, we did not go into town together, although I’m not now sure of the reason. It could have been one of us had a date, or one had late duty or some other reason. We first met that night in town, and this is not hard to do in Fort Walton Beach in 1951 because the entire community was centered in just four blocks along Main Street.

            “At first sight it was apparent that Tony was different than I had seen him before, because he showed me a pistol and said he intended to do away with the town constable, (The late Oscar Bengtson), with whom he had been involved in an altercation much earlier. He was heading toward the constable’s office on Main Street and I talked long and hard and pulled at him to keep away from completing his mission. We walked on past after a delay in front of the office and continued the argument about doing away with the constable and then we entered the Hi Hat where we ordered a drink.

            “Tony produced the gun below the level of the bar and threatened to kill the owner and his wife and I quickly pushed him toward the door. I didn’t feel that I was in danger myself because throughout the arguments he acted as though he needed me. We started the argument again about his intention of killing someone and after we passed the Spanish Villa, I finally left him and returned either to the bar or café portion of the Spanish Villa. I was tired of arguing and told him he was on his own.

            “It was only a short time later, maybe 10, or at most 15 minutes, when he came in and said he had shot the service station attendant and threw the gun away. He told me that I was in it with him and asked what we should do. The only thing I could think was to get back to the base. We hailed a taxi and made the trip to the base in complete silence and that was the last time that we ever talked of the murder until we met again in the Crestview jail. It seemed to build a barrier between us, and at the same time it caused a kinship to develop that I couldn’t seem to shake.

            “We both remained at Eglin for a period of five months and contrary to some reports, I did not go AWOL, (Absent, without Leave), from Eglin. I worked for a transfer and finally got shipping orders to the west coast and Tony decided that we should not be separated and he decided to go AWOL and returned to Baltimore with me on my delay leave. We ran out of money on the way and decided to hold up a grocery store, along with another boy that had joined us. We pulled the job and got caught and after being sentenced and while in jail I was declared AWOL.

            “After we finished our time on that sentence and were paroled, I remained in Baltimore and Tony went back to his home in New York. I saw him only one time before being returned to Crestview and that was about a year after we were released from the Maryland reformatory. He came to Baltimore and suggested that I should join him on a trip to Miami. We spent several weeks in Miami and in New Orleans and at the result of breaking our parole. I felt that someday Tony would tell about it but all those years I just kept trying to disappear.

            “When I learned of Glionna’s statement implicating me, I felt he had done it to prove a reason for the slaying, but after talking with friends in Baltimore I decided to turn myself in and face the consequences, although with my record I felt it was five-to-one against me. After I stood in the Baltimore Police Station for a few minutes, I walked on out another door without talking to anyone. Then I decided to return and went straight to a telephone and called my friend before asking for Sgt. Callahan of the fugitive squad. Callahan had been the officer that visited my friends and I’ll have to admit that he played fair with me and kept me posted on the case. In fact, it was his information about Glionna being extradited that led me to agree to waive extradition and head for Okaloosa County to have the thing over with.

            “I saw Tony soon after I arrived in Crestview, and although we exchanged greetings and shook hands in the lobby of the jail we didn’t really talk. It was one of those things like, ‘Hi, Al, how are you?’ ‘I’m fine and you, Tony?’ Even after they moved Tony into a cell by himself, a cell next to the one in which I was being held we still didn’t really talk except for Tony asking for cigarettes.


            “It’s hard to explain what I felt I would find when I was brought back here, but it was pretty rough territory when I left and there didn’t seem to be much possibility that it had changed. Since we’ve been in Crestview, I’ve spotted several people that I’d known while stationed at Eglin. It seems that a great many of them are either still here or have retired or settled in the Eglin area.”

            Allen became a trusty during his time in the Okaloosa County jail after being granted immunity by Judge Charles A. Wade on a petition filed by State Attorney William Frye. The state wanted to use him in Glionna’s prosecution.

            Allen soon was released with the promise to return when, and if, Glionna stood trial. In the Sacramento Bee on Feb 15, 1964, there is a report of Walter Richard Allen charged with the burglary of the West Sacramento Post Office on November 27. Charged with theft of government property, and bail was set at $5000. I haven’t been able so far to find any further information about Allen.



            Over the next few years Anthony Glionna was returned to Okaloosa County periodically for examination to determine if he was mentally able to stand trial for the Beaudry murder. In 1966 during one of his examination periods, Glionna went on a hunger strike in the Okaloosa County jail. Sheriff Wilson returned him to Chattahoochee.

            In February 1974, the murder charges were dropped. Glionna had been committed to the State Mental Hospital in Chattahoochee since 1963 when it was determined that he exhibited Schizophrenic, and psychotic behavior. While dropping the charges Assistant State Attorney Walter Anderson notified the court that the chain of evidence was “hopelessly broken”. He cited the deaths of material witnesses, including some investigators, and the fact that Glionna did not have council before he confessed and the possibility that he may have been insane at the time.

            Anthony lived until 26 March 1998 when he passed away in Camillus, Onondaga County, New York.


            An interesting sidebar to this case is the State Attorney William Frye. When the original crime was committed in 1951, he was a member of the same Air Police unit that Glionna, and Allen were members of. In 1963 he was the State Attorney who traveled to New York to investigate the claims of guilt made by Glionna, and would have prosecuted him if he went to trial. In 1972, Frye was the District Circuit Judge where Glionna was released.




Thursday, August 6, 2020

A Killing, A Brothel, and .....

In the early evening of August 26, 1924, James R. Armantrout, a ship's carpenter living in Bay Point, (about 5 miles south of Milton), along with his 12-year-old son J.R., Jr. walked into the store near the L&N Depot owned by S.G. Collins, and shot Roland MacArthy four times killing him on the spot.

Armantrout then went directly to Sheriff Henry Clay Mitchell and handing him the murder weapon, surrendered peacefully.  Sheriff Mitchell called a Coroner’s Jury and visited the site. Armantrout retained Milton Lawyer W.W. Clark to be his attorney, and bail was eventually set at $5000. 

Armantrout said he killed MacArthy due to “Domestic Trouble”, claiming he was defending his home. Armantrout married Daisy Anderson from the Holley area back in 1909. They had five boys at the time of the killing. One of the boys, Vernon, who was born in 1919, was apparently fathered by MacArthy. Maybe Armantrout had just found out that a 5-year-old son that he was raising, was a product of an affair between his wife and MacArthy. Vernon was listed as an Armantrout in census records, but later used MacArthy as his surname. So, Armantrout claimed MacArthy had “improper relations” with his wife.

He was found guilty of 2nd Degree murder, and his lawyer appealed the sentence. I haven’t been able to find out what his sentence was, or how the appeal turned out. He and Daisy divorced in 1931, and in August of 1934 he married Billie Hollingshead in Santa Rosa County. In 1935 he was living in Okaloosa County.  James Armantrout died in Ft. Walton Beach in 1948, and was buried in the Whitmire Cemetery in Pensacola.

Roland MacArthy was buried in the Bagdad Cemetery

The Five boys in the Armantrout home were James Roscoe, Jr. born in 1912,

Victor Hugo, (Hughey) Born 24 March 1915.

Lonnie Eugene, born 13 Feb 1917

Floyd, and Lloyd were twins born 9 July 1922. 

In 1935, Daisy Armantrout was arrested in Pensacola during a series of Liquor raids. I could not find out anything more. She was probably released and not charged.

In May 1941, Daisy Armantrout was the proprietor of the Bay Hotel, and Bar on South Palafox. On the evening of the 16th, the hotel was raided by the Escambia County Sheriff’s Department and nine people were arrested. Solicitor Forsyth Caro petitioned for a restraining order to close the establishment saying that it would be “manifestly injurious to morale, manners, and the health of our community,” and created a nuisance. The petition also stated, “ The defendants will continue to operate said business and to carry on the illegal acts unless restrained by order of the court.” The petition was directed at Daisy, Lloyd, Floyd Armantrout, Billie Armantrout Soto, (former daughter-in-law of Daisy), and Eva Mitchell who were arrested on a charge of operating a “House of Ill Fame.” Five additional females were being held on vagrancy with the possibility of facing additional charges after further investigation. 

In the 17th century references can be found about Houses of Ill Fame. The next century saw the usage of “House of Ill Repute”. It’s funny that in the mid-twentieth century, such archaic terms were still being used. 

The hearing for the Restraining order was before the Judge of the Court of Record, R. Pope Reese. Judge Reese was the son of a Confederate Veteran and was born in Smith Co., Texas in 1868. After his father’s death the family moved to Auburn, Alabama where his mother’s family was from. By 1888 he was living in Pensacola. Reese was admitted to the bar in February 1896, and was appointed to his present position in 1938.  He had also been elected to the Florida Legislature in 1907, and was well-known, and respected throughout the Panhandle. Judge Reese would pass away a little over two months after this hearing, and be buried at St. John’s Cemetery.

At the hearing, John M. Coe, who in a short time would be a pallbearer at Judge Reese’s funeral, would be representing the Armantrouts. 

On May 22nd Judge Reese would not have a hearing after he noted that the defendants were in jail and Solicitor Forsyth Caro made no effort to have them brought to court. He also referred to the absence of Herbert Latham, attorney originally retained by Mrs. Armantrout, and suggested that the State Bar Association, “Look into a few things.” Latham has not represented the Armantrouts in court. Hobart Villar, attorney for Mrs. Soto, was associated with Coe in cross examination of witnesses. 

On the 23rd all were present in the courtroom and the hearing proceeded. 

Chief Deputy Guy Harvey, called as the first witness testified that the establishment had the “general reputation” of a “house of ill fame.”  Judge Reese insisted that the witness deal separately with the Bar and the Hotel in his testimony. “What I would suggest, is that Mrs. Armantrout is not connected with all this. This woman, indicating Mrs. Soto, (I assume the defendants had been brought to the hearing), runs the rooms, or has a room there...we’ve got to make a line of they’re separate” he concluded. 

No Sir, they’re not,” Harvey insisted, “the stairway that leads upstairs runs right down into the bar rooms.” “Yes Sir, the Merchants Hotel, and the San Carlos Hotel stairs lead right down into the bar, yet how are you going to tell?” Judge Reese demanded.

Harvey said, “Mrs. Armantrout, her twin sons, the Mitchell woman, and Daisy Hudson were downstairs, and Mrs. Soto ran upstairs when we entered the Barroom to make the arrest.” He also said Mrs. Armantrout told him she was in charge of the place.  “In charge of the whole building from top to bottom?” inquired the Judge.

When Defense attorney Coe asked Harvey if he knew of any other houses of prostitution, Caro objected. Judge Reese overruled him saying, “Everybody knows those things go on at the Plaza, the Manhattan, and the Merchants. I do!” Coe asked Deputy Harvey as to whether four other hotels had “call girls” but Harvey would not give an opinion on their reputations, insisting that if he had that information he would arrest the proprietors.

Harvey said the Sheriff’s Department had received its first complaint on Mrs. Armantrout’s place from a man who had, “filled a date” down there. “What’s his name?” the Judge demanded. Deputy Harvey sent someone to get the name from the records. “He was a Piker if he did come in and make a complaint like that. He was worse than a piker. I’ll tell the world!” The Judge was clearly upset. (Piker: One who does things in a small way. Tightwad, cheapskate.) 

Dr. W.T. Sowder, the U.S. Public Health official liaison officer for the local army/navy and local officials, said the Health Department treated 13 women for “social diseases” who gave the Bay Hotel as their address. Coe objected to that statement as hearsay, and Judge Reese sustained him. 

Sowder said he followed up many of the cases and had found that a “substantial number” of them did live there. He later named three girls and said the Health Department had administered 11 treatments to one of them. 

“Did you hang a sign on the place?” Reese asked. Sowder said he told Mrs. Armantrout to tell the girls that they “shouldn’t operate anymore”, and would have to leave town. “Did you tell her that in the presence of the girls?” the Judge asked. Sowder replied that Mrs. Armantrout was in his office and the girls were outside the door. Judge Reese said, “I’m going to rule that out. Not proper testimony.” He then said to Coe, “You better get up here and make some objections.”

Twenty-year-old Daisy Hudson testified that Mrs. Armantrout and two other people came to her house in Holley to get her to “work the floor.” She said she worked for commissions from the “Jook organ”, and sale of wines and that “the guys pay for the rooms and we go to them.” She said she objected to “filling the first date”, but Mrs. Soto, who made the date for her, told her “it would be alright.” She said Soto got dates for her several times during the week she was there, but denied Mrs. Armantrout had ever suggested that she fill any dates. 

Mrs. Armantrout, described as a “plump, bare-legged, middle aged woman wearing a blue waitress uniform”, testified that she was the proprietor of the Bay Hotel and Bar, and denied she ever kept girls there for “immoral purposes”. She said she told all the girls she employed, “All you got to do is get money for the Victrola, and serve drinks.” Asked if she either knowingly, or unknowingly permitted girls to “fill dates” in the upstairs rooms, “Mama Daisy” as she was called by the girls, said “No Sir, I told them, they did not have to do that.”

On cross, Solicitor Caro, asked her about two girls named Nellie Smith, and Mary Riley. She said a man known to her as Jack Kirkland, (actually his name was Daniel Washington Kirkland), had offered to go to Dothan, Alabama and get his wife and sister to work for her after she complained that, “All the girls had left town.” She described how he returned one morning with two girls and she was surprised by their youth but did not learn until later that they were not his wife and sister. Kirkland was later arrested in a fight with some sailors in which he was allegedly defending the two girls, she testified. 

Mrs. Armantrout’s son Hughey had accompanied Kirkland on the trip to Dothan to pick up the girls. “He went because I had been up all night, or I guess I would have gone,” she said. She also testified that part of her establishment’s licenses were in the name of her son, J.R. whom she had bought out. “Is that the boy that’s at sea?” the Judge asked, “Yes”, she said.

Daisy denied Mrs. Soto had anything to do with her establishment, or with renting out of rooms upstairs. She said Soto was formerly married to her son and was here on a visit from her home in Texas. Judge Reese asked, “You weren’t running any house of prostitution, were you?” “No sir! I made my living downstairs.” she said.  She also stated that she had a sign posted saying, “Furnished rooms for Men Only”, but sometimes took couples who registered as man and wife. She admitted telling the girls they “can make $9, or $10 a week if they try.”

Nellie Smith, 19, and Mary Riley, 17, were brought to Pensacola Kirkland, and “Mama Daisy’s” son  Hughey and that Mrs. Armantrout greeted them by saying, “Well you got two pretty ones this time.” “You can make plenty of money if you use your head.” She claimed she had request to fill dates but none of them came from Mrs. Armantrout. 

After hearing the testimony, Judge Reese denied the petition on his opinion that there was insufficient proof of prostitution. He did enter an injunction restraining Mrs. Billie Soto from remaining in the hotel or doing business there. About Mrs. Armantrout, the Judge said, “I knew her father, old-man Anderson, lived up there in Holley, and they were the best people I ever knew in my life. That’s why I went into this case the way I did.” (Does that fully explain his obvious favoritism and bias for the fate of the Bay Hotel, and Bar? It makes you wonder.) 

Judge Reese reduced Daisy’s bond to $100. “Can you make that bond, Mrs. Armantrout?” “No sir, I can’t,” she replied. “If you can’t I’ll cut it down more. I’ve always found you to be a square woman and I don’t want to keep you in jail where your business is going to rack and ruin.” 

After this hearing, Daisy Armantrout was held on a Mann Act violation by U.S. Commissioner E. W. Eggart, Jr. Her bond was set at $350. 

The Mann Act was also known as the White-Slave Act of 1910. The Long Title: An Act to Further Regulate Interstate and Foreign Commerce by Prohibiting the Transportation therein for Immoral Purposes of Women, and Girls, and for other Purposes.

A hearing was conducted in Federal court in which five witnesses were examined and sufficient evidence was found to hold defendants, (Daisy, her son Hughey, and Kirkland), to the next term of Federal Court, (November). The five witnesses heard were:

Mrs. Daisy Armantrout

Nellie Smith

Mary Riley

Deputy Eugene Forsyth

J.D. Colglazier, FBI Special Agent

It was only necessary to prove that the two girls were entered “into conditions which would tend to lead to debauchery.”

Mrs. Armantrout admitted her car was used to make the trip to Dothan to pick up the two girls. She also supplied a full tank of gas, and $8 for the trip. She was down to only one girl for “hustling money on the Victrola”, and getting men to buy drinks. She spent the previous night in a cell in the U.S. Marshal’s office after being picked up on a complaint signed by Colglazier. (She must have been detained after the previously described hearing in the Court of Judge Reese.) 

Daisy was serving a one-year sentence at hard labor in the Escambia County jail when the November term in the Federal Court started. She, her son Hughey, and Jack Kirkland were to be tried for violating the Mann Act. This time she was in Federal Court and had no friends on the bench. 

On May 8, 1942, Judge A.V. Long sentenced Daisy Armantrout to serve two years in the Federal Industrial Institute for Women in Alderson, West Virginia, upon conviction of violating the Mann Act. Daniel Washington Kirkland, (alias Jack), was also convicted on the white slave charge and received two years. Victor Hugo (Hughey) Armantrout was found not guilty. 

Assistant U.S. Attorney William B. Watson handled the prosecution and the defendants were represented by J.M. Coe, and John Lewis Reese. Reese was the son of the late Judge R. Pope Reese, and Coe was a pallbearer at the Judge’s funeral. 

After Daisy finished her prison sentence she and her family moved to the Galveston, Texas area. She passed away there on 21 Jan 1968 of Chronic Hypostatic Pneumonia.

Both J.R. Armantrout, Jr. and his brother Lonnie Eugene had long careers as Merchant Mariners. J.R. died in Texas in 1976, and Lonnie died in King Co., Washington in 1987. 

Hughey died in Los Angeles in 1979. Lloyd passed away in Jan 2000. 

Floyd Armantrout committed suicide in January 1972. 

Daisy, Lloyd, Floyd, and J.R. are buried in Harris Co. Texas at the Forest Park East Cemetery. 

The location of the Bay Hotel, and Bar is not clear. It seems it was located next to the San Carlos Hotel and shared a stairway going to the bar. 

Daisy was the daughter of Johann Victor Anderson, and Caroline Frances Harvell of the East Bay/ Holley area in Santa Rosa Co., FL.

This material was heavily plagiarized from the Pensacola News Journal articles from May 1941, and others. 

Monday, July 13, 2020

A Very Tragic Chain of Events

This is one of the most tragic tales I have stumbled across so far. So many different families affected by the actions of two lawless young men. There was a fight in a cafe/bar with a young man dying. Then a female companion of the two killers was murdered because of what she witnessed, stripped of identification, and covered with tree limbs in an unsuccessful attempt to conceal her body. There was an attempt to kill two young boys who were in the wrong place at the wrong time, with one of the boys later killing his own father, and a policeman. Then later one of the original killers in this story stabbed, and killed a fellow inmate in the state prison.

John Andrew Riley, and Jerry Wayne Blow

On April 9, 1969, John Andrew Riley, 25, his girlfriend, Barbara Pike, 20, who was married with a 3-year-old child at home, and Jerry Wayne Blow, 19, went to the Starlight Café in Birmingham, Alabama. While there they had an altercation with 22-year-old, Terry Norman Tranthan, who was an acquaintance of theirs. Witnesses said that the foursome had sat and drank together for a while, and about 11:15, a fight broke out and Tranthan was shot, and killed. The other three quickly fled the scene.

On Wednesday, May 21st, Riley went to Mrs. Pike’s home to pick her up and they left, apparently going to Pensacola and staying with Jerry Blow, who’s mother was living in the area.

The Todd’s go fishing

On May 24, 1969, Bartoe J. Todd took one of his children, Pete Todd, 6, and a friend, Albert Lee, 9, fishing at Bayou Marcus, in West Pensacola. About 5:40 pm Mr. Todd sent the two boys to where their car was parked to get some water. While walking through the woods toward their car they heard a series of gunshots. Curious, they continued to their parked station wagon where Pete climbed in to retrieve a canteen of water. Young Pete heard Albert moan and was stunned to see him stumble in front of the car and scream, “They cut me, run!” Pete ran toward the swampland, but before he got too far heard a shot, and felt a sharp pain in his elbow. He continued running as bullets whizzed past him. He kept running until he reached his father. “Daddy, I’ve been shot! They’ve hurt Albert bad!”  Mr. Todd picked up Pete and started quickly walking back to the car. About halfway there, he found Albert moaning in pain. He picked him up and carrying both of the young boys, he reached his car and sped down the dirt road until he reached Ezell’s Grocery store in Bellview where he phoned for an ambulance, and the police.
Sheriff Sgt. Don Powell, and Deputy Steve Dunn arrived at the store at the intersection of Bellview Cutoff, and Lillian Highway. The officers searched the scene of the attack looking for spent cartridges or any other evidence and loosely covered with branches found the body of a young woman with multiple gunshot wounds. Apparently the two little boys were attacked because they stumbled upon the aftermath of a murder when the victim’s body was being concealed. The two boys survived their wounds. Pete was treated and released, but Albert had to be admitted to Escambia General Hospital in Satisfactory condition. Pete had a gunshot, and stab wound to his arm. Albert had gunshot wounds and stab wounds.

Identification, and Capture

The female victim had been shot three times with a .22 caliber firearm, and also shot with number 9 bird shot in the chest. She was dressed in a black and red pin-striped blouse, black slacks, and brown loafers. She had no identification on her.
Identification was made when the Sheriff’s Department Identification Officer Robert Grant lifted a fingerprint off the body, and later described in to the FBI. The victim was identified as Barbara Pike, 20-years-old from Birmingham, Alabama. She had been arrested earlier in the year for prostitution. On Sunday, May 25, the victim’s father Ted Pennington traveled to Pensacola to provide information about his daughter. I believe this is when the authorities issued the “be-on-the-lookout”, for Riley, and Blow.

On May 26, Mrs. Pike’s body was flown from Pensacola back to Birmingham for her funeral on May 29.

The car that was used in the disposal of her body was identified as a green and white 1957 Chrysler 4-door sedan with Georgia license plate 4-A-1959.

About 31 hours later in Lansing, Michigan, 25-year-old Estelle Beardsley, a former exotic dancer who was now working as a waitress, saw two men drive her car away from the restaurant where she was working. The restaurant was across the street from City Hall/ Police station, and as her employer ran across the street to report the theft, Estelle removed her high-heel shoes, and started running barefoot down the street after her car. The car had stopped at a traffic light. When the light changed, she jumped into a cab and told the driver to, “Follow that car!” They followed the car for a couple of blocks until the stolen car stopped next to a car with Georgia plates where one man started transferring belongings to her car. Jumping out of the cab she ran up to the driver of the car and yelled, “What are you doing in my car?” The driver, later identified as Jerry Wayne Blow, pointed a gun at her. About this time the police arrived. The two men fled, and after a brief chase and a warning shot fired, the two men surrendered. Riley, and Blow were arrested for auto theft, but soon it was found that they were sought for murder in Florida.

On May 27, Riley, and Blow were transferred from the jail in Lansing, to the Ingham county jail in Mason. The Lansing police department contacted Florida authorities that the two wanted men were in custody. States Attorney Curtis Golden, Escambia County Sheriff W.E. Davis, Investigator John Greathouse, and Identification Officer Robert Grant departed by car for Michigan. The Florida contingent drove the 900 miles to Mason due to the amount of equipment and material they wanted to bring with them. The only charges on Riley, and Blow at the time were Grand Larceny for the auto theft. After questioning the two men waived extradition and returned to Florida on May 31. The 1957 Chrysler sedan was driven back to Pensacola by Officer Robert Grant.

Jerry Wayne Blow was no stranger to the Montgomery, Alabama police department. In November 1966 he was arrested for assault with intent to murder in connection with the stabbing of two other youths in September, at Norman Bridge Road, and Augusta St. He had escaped from custody of Youth Aid Division detectives on August 3 where he was held for burglary. He was eventually paroled in March of 1969.

In January 1970, Jerry Wayne Blow was convicted of murder after a jury of 9 men, and 3 women deliberated 4 hours and 22 minutes. The jury recommended mercy and Blow was sentenced to life in prison. In August 1980, at the State Prison in Starke, FL, Blow killed fellow inmate Bennie Boykin by stabbing him 7 times. Boykin was pulling a 30-year sentence out of Palm Beach County for second degree murder. The motive for the slaying was not reported. He received another life sentence for Boykin’s murder. As of July 2020, he was still incarcerated at Cross City Correctional Inst., Cross City, FL.

In May of 1970, John Andrew Riley was also found guilty, but in his case, there was no recommendation for mercy, and he was sentenced to death. At the time of his sentencing no one had been put to death in Florida since 1964. In the June 1972, ruling in Furman v. Georgia, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled by a vote of 5-4 that capital punishment, as it was employed at the time on the state and federal level, was unconstitutional. It was reinstated in 1976, but the previous death sentences had been commuted to life terms. John Andrew Riley died in prison in 2013.

The Sad and Violent Life of Peter Todd

Little Pete Todd was about 8-years-old when he and a friend of his, were shot, and stabbed by Riley, and Blow, because the two men thought that the boys had seen them kill Barbara Pike. Imagine what it must have been for him to process seeing his friend get assaulted and seriously injured, and himself shot, and stabbed. Pete was plagued by nightmares following the May 1969 assault. He became paranoid, and aggressive in the Special Education classes he attended before he quit school after the sixth grade.

His father, Bartoe James Todd, Sr., was born in 1911, and was reported to have around 18 children. In 1974 he was convicted of manslaughter in a car crash on Fairfield Ave, in which 22-yr-old Stephanie Forehand was killed. He was traveling westbound on Fairfield and Forehand was eastbound. Todd attempted to turn left onto Hollywood Ave, and hit Forehand’s car on the driver side. She died about 2 hours later. Her two-year-old son had minor injuries. His blood alcohol level was measured at .14 two hours after the accident. The three children he had in his car were treated and released at Baptist Hospital. I don’t know how long he was in prison but by the summer of 1980, the Todd’s were living at 610 North D. street.

On August 30, 1980, Peter Todd was riding a bicycle when he was shot in the hand. He was taken to the emergency room at Baptist Hospital to get his hand treated. He became violent and had to be restrained by ten people while he growled and barked like a dog. He was transferred to the University Hospital Psychiatric ward, and one of the Pensacola Police Department officers transporting him was Amos Cross. A retired Air Force security policeman who had been in the PPD for about a year, and a half.

While under treatment at Lakeview Center, Peter received anti-psychotic drugs, but even so, he crawled on the floor, hallucinated, continued to bark, and growl and exhibit explosive behavior. On September 5, the psychiatrist treating him, believing Todd had improved, released him from the hospital. Within an hour, Todd was thrown out of a bar, tossed a brick through a window, and shot a gun at the man who he believed shot him in the hand.

The next day he was arrested, along with the man he accused of shooting him in the hand. On September 8, County Judge William Henderson, unfamiliar with Todd’s past, or that he was on probation for a previous offense, released him on his own recognizance.

On the night of September 12, 1980, Peter got into an argument with his father. Someone called the police, and Officer Amos Cross was the first to respond. As he stepped up on the porch, Peter Todd shot him twice in the face with a shotgun, killing him instantly. Officer Gary Cutler exchanged gunfire with Todd, and suffered wounds to his hand, and leg but shot Todd in the head. The scene was secured and Todd was taken to the hospital and survived his wound. During the investigation at the house, Peter Todd’s father was found dead in the backyard with a shotgun wound. Relative’s later stated that the night before the shooting, Peter had spent the night in a closet barking like a dog.
After the killings that night, Peter Todd went under court-ordered treatment at the Forensic Unit and the Florida State Hospital in Chattahoochee. The psychiatric reports about Todd in 1980-82 described Todd as flagrantly psychotic, and incapable of standing trial. In December 1983, Dr. Robert Berland reported that Todd’s condition improved enough for him to stand trial. He faced two murder counts, and one attempted murder for wounding Officer Cutler.

In August 1984, Todd pleaded no-contest and received a mandatory two life sentences, plus 30 years for attempted murder in the shooting of Cutler. He is still in prison, (as of July 2020), at the Lake Correctional Inst. In Clermont, Florida.

Officer Amos Cross

There were three Pensacola Police Officers killed in the line of duty in the first 9 months of 1980.
Officer Cross was a native of the small town of Adel, in Cook County, Georgia. He was retired Air Force where he had been a Security Supervisor. He moved to Pensacola in October 1978. He was well liked by the other officers that knew him, and had a good relationship with the civilians he had contact with. He was married, and had three sons. He, and his wife Margaret, attended classes at Pensacola Junior College.

Margaret Cross filed a lawsuit against the Lakeview Center, and the Psychiatrist who released Todd from custody the week before the killings. In April 1987 a jury consisting of 6 women ruled the defendants not responsible. The attorney’s for Lakeview had offered a $450,000 settlement during the trial, because they felt there was a real risk of losing the case. Mrs. Cross turned down the offer, because she rightfully wanted them to be held accountable.

Officer Amos Cross was buried with full military honors at Ft. Barrancas National Cemetery at Pensacola Naval Air Station.
Officer Amos Cross

More Todd Tragedy

About 7 pm on March 4, 1995, Bartoe J. Todd, Jr. was in a phone booth at the Citgo Station at 4404 N. Palafox, when a 16-year-old boy, who was acquainted with him shot him in the chest. Todd ran to his car and pulled out onto Palafox, then looped back around and parked at the station. When EMS arrived, he was almost dead. He died soon after. His wife was 9 months pregnant, and he went to pick her up at a hair dresser. She wasn’t ready yet so he went to the Citgo to buy a soda. It is believed he was calling to see if his wife wanted him to get her something to drink. The police believe robbery was the motive.

So, there it is. A tragic chain of events that is mind-boggling. So many families and individuals affected by these events. The bravery of Estelle Beardsley causing the two killers to be captured. (although, realistically I’m sure they would have been caught soon. They weren’t the smartest crooks) Barbara Pike’s little boy growing up without his mother. The family of the original victim, Terry Tranthan losing their son. Margaret Cross, losing her husband, and her three sons losing their father, and even the Todd family and the pain they suffered through Peter’s life, and dealing with the death of their father. It is so sad.

Sunday, May 31, 2020

Murder on South Palafox

Workplace violence in 1905

John White, owner of the John White Store on South Palafox St. in Pensacola, was sitting near the entrance to his store reading the afternoon newspaper. His 17-year-old son, Eddie, was standing about four feet from him. A clerk named William Fletcher Williams, who worked for Mr. White, walked into the store, passed by the seated owner, turned around quickly and shot him twice. Eddie later testified that Williams said, “I don’t give a damn for any of you.”
Williams then turned and shot James White, also a son of John who was the manager of the store. He then turned and shot Edwin Dansby, manager of Furnishing department, in the neck. Dansby collapsed immediately. Williams then shot at fellow clerk, James Nix, missing him as he dodged behind a counter.

Williams fired five shots, only missing when he shot at Nix. He ejected the empty cartridges and was attempting to reload when he was tackled by James White, covered in blood from a chest wound. Entering the store at this time was Constable Charles Bobe who heard the shots from the sidewalk, Robert McLellan, and Cuyler McMillan. James White yelled, “Take him, Mr. Cuyler, I don’t know whether he has killed me, or not.” McMillan grasped Williams around the arms, and body and Constable Bobe, and Mr. McLellan wrestled the gun away from him.

At the time Williams began shooting, John White was seated with Eddie standing nearby. James White was standing back, and to the left of his father. Dansby was showing clothing to a customer a little farther back. James Nix was showing a lady customer goods on the other side of the store. Ernest W. Elliott, and Chris Hendricks, also employees were closer to the rear of the store, and took cover.

Williams was taken directly to the county jail by Constable Bobe, and Mr. McLellan. As they crossed the Plaza, they met Deputy Sheriff Sanders. When they informed Sanders that Williams had just shot and killed Mr. White, Williams said, “Me, killed John White? I don’t remember anything about it.”
James White was helped to the office of Dr. D’Alemberte where he was examined and sent to the hospital. Edwin Dansby was taken directly to the hospital, where he was not expected to live, and died on July 22 about 4 am. He was later buried at St. John’s cemetery.  John White’s body was taken to an undertaker, then to his residence at 423 East Gregory Street.
A Coroner’s Jury was assembled by Judge Landrum consisting of, D. Hale Wilson, W.W. Watson, Charles F. Steward, W.C. Walker, Eddie Forchiemer, and William A. Bond. The Jury examined the evidence at the crime scene and interviewed witnesses. Williams was then charged with First Degree Murder.

John White

He was 58 years old, born in Austria, and lived in Pensacola for 36 years. He started selling tobacco, and articles used in the seafaring trades on the street. He was successful, and over the years expanded until he established the John White Store on South Palafox. It was the largest store of its type in the city. He was married and had four children. He had a son, Mario who was in New York; his son James who was managing the store, and two younger sons, Eddie, 17, and Tommy 14. He is buried at St. Michael’s Cemetery.

The Cause of the Shooting
Over a period of time, it was determined that stock was missing from the store. Edwin Dansby received a letter from a friend of his stating that a brother of Williams named Archie was selling goods with John White markings at a store he owned in the town of Century, in the northern part of the county. Mr. White asked Constable Charles Bobe to investigate. Bobe, and Dansby took the train north to Century and found the items being sold in the store. Later, when confronted, William F. Williams denied the items were stolen and with no further evidence, and feeling a bit sorry for Williams, Mr. White dropped the matter.

The other employees, however, were keeping an eye on Williams. Williams felt the not-so-subtle surveillance and began brooding about the situation. He also began drinking, and the day of the shooting had been drinking steadily. Shortly before the shooting he was sorting and rearranging stock with fellow clerk James Nix. He then left the store for about five minutes. When he returned, he began shooting.

Jailhouse Interview

Williams lived at 1101 West Government Street. His mother lived on West Gregory and recently opened a boarding house there. He was about 24 years old. About 30 minutes after the shooting, in his cell, he was interviewed by a Journal reporter named Percy S. Hayes. Hayes later said that Williams was very drunk, and had vomited in his cell. He asked Hayes if John White was dead. When convinced that was the truth, he said, “Well, some people thought me soft, but they found out different. If I die for this, I will die honestly, and will be like a man. John White was the best friend I ever had. He helped me out of trouble. If he had kept other people out of his business, and not listened to them I never would have done it. It is not him I was after; it was other parties. They drove me to it. I won’t say who they are. They have dollars where I haven’t even got cents. They are the ones who are the cause of it all. Just because I tried to build myself up, they tried to pull me down. I started digging roots and built myself up to what I am today. My only fault was that I drank some. Yes, I may hang for this, but John White was surely my friend. He was the best man in Pensacola, but then he brought it upon himself. If he had done right, he would be alive today.”

On August 2, James White was moved to his home on East Gregory Street from St. Anthony’s Hospital. He recuperated quickly, and was able to provide testimony at both murder trials.
A month from the day of the shooting, Williams was found guilty of first-degree murder with a recommendation for mercy. This meant he was going to receive a life-sentence. There was general disgust in the city that he did not get the death penalty. When it was announced that he would be tried in Marianna for the murder of Ed Dansby, it was felt that maybe a jury there would give him hanged. It was not to be, however. The trial in Marianna produced the same result. The jury voted 7-5 for a mercy recommendation resulting in a second life-sentence. The total costs for both trials was $6000. Williams was brought back to Pensacola to wait until it was decided where the state was going to put him. His father-in-law brought him meals while he was in the Pensacola jail.

It was generally felt that Williams had come from a good family. He was one of ten children of William Julian Williams, and Lucretia Brown. He was the oldest boy, born in August of 1882. His father worked as a Sawyer at a lumber mill in Muscogee, and in 1900, the family was living on West Government Street. In Mr. Williams 1932 obituary, it states that he was well thought of in the Muscogee area. The article lists some of his children, but doesn’t mention the one who created all the havoc on South Palafox in 1905. Archie Williams later operated a market on East Garden street and died in 1950.

The End of Mr. Williams

In the 1910 census, William Fletcher Williams is listed as an inmate at a State Prison in Tallahassee, but by August of 1911 he was a trustee at the T.W. Shands Company convict camp near Belmore, Florida. This was part of the controversial state convict lease program. There were numerous camps across Florida where the State would lease prisoners to privately owned turpentine camps, logging camps, and even railroad construction. These companies paid the state for the use of prisoners with no compensation going to the men performing the labor. It was basically legally sanctioned slave-labor. It was quite profitable for the state.

As a “trustee”, Williams had more freedom of movement, and on August 11, he rode away from the camp. Green Cove Springs is about 16 miles northeast of Belmore. Williams rode a horse into the yard of Mrs. Jessie Meeks with the intention of robbing the place. Mrs. Meeks’ husband was away visiting a sick brother, and when she heard someone outside, she assumed it was her husband returning home. She opened the door and Williams shot, and killed her. Her 16-year-old son Walter Meeks, ran toward the door and Williams shot him in the leg. Walter secured a shotgun, and returned fire, hitting Williams in the leg. Williams turned to flee, and young Mr. Meeks shot him in the back. Williams collapsed in the roadway, and lay there until he died the next morning. I assume the house was isolated, which is probably why Williams selected it as a target. Meeks did not leave the house and apparently no one happened to pass by until the next day.

The remains of William Fletcher Williams were brought back to Pensacola, and later buried at the Pine Barren Cemetery, north of the city.

James Anicetta White, died March 5, 1943 and is buried at St. Michael’s Cemetery in Pensacola.
Ironically, both James White, and William F. Williams were born in August 1882.

All pictures from the Pensacola News Journal July 1905.