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.

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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Thursday, November 21, 2019

The Kidnapping of Mrs. Phelps

The Kidnapping of Mrs. Phelps

Mrs. Sophia Phelps of Bonifay, Holmes County, Florida, 77 years old and described as a crippled 95-pound woman, was the widowed wife of Confederate Civil War veteran, John Lucas Phelps. She was his third wife and had been married since 1890. Mr. Phelps received a pension from his service in the war, and had received a fairly large settlement not long before he died in 1931.

            There must have been rumors in the area that the widow Mrs. Phelps had a large sum of money secreted away in her home in Bonifay.  On the 17th of May in 1934, two brothers named Millard, and Dewey Keith, along with a friend named Bonard Retherford took a trip from Geneva, Alabama down the road to Bonifay and knocked on Mrs. Phelps front door.

            She answered the knock and when they told her that her Daughter-in-law was dead, she opened the door and let them in. Reportedly this was when Millard Keith slapped the 77-year-old woman and demanded money. She initially resisted, and then produced $1.80 and claiming that was all she had, gave it to them.  Not believing her, they took her out of the house and put her in their car. About this time, neighbors, Mr. and Mrs. Robert Bailey were stopped outside near the house by Dewey Keith and at gunpoint told to get in the car.

            Unknown to the kidnappers, there was a guest, Mrs. Minnie Hudson, in another bedroom and she fled the house through the back door and went to the home of a neighbor named, Walter Fielding. Before the police could be notified the three men along with Mrs. Phelps and the Baileys, had departed the area.

            The kidnapping trio, took their hostages 12 miles north of Bonifay to a wooded area near a lake. Mrs. Phelps later said that one of the kidnappers told her he was John Dillinger and that, “I don’t want to kill you, but I will if you don’t give me your money”.  He also threatened to kill her if she didn’t keep her mouth shut. According to Retherford’s later testimony, Millard Keith beat Mrs. Phelps and she finally told him she would give them her money. They returned to her home, but the Sheriff and a crowd of people were there. They abandoned her in the still moving car and fled the area. The Bailey’s had stayed under guard by Retherford, (according to his own confession), at the lake until released at daylight unharmed. I believe Dewey was the one who stayed with the Baileys at the lake. When the Sheriff arrived at the lake, the kidnapper thought it was his partners returning. When he saw the Sheriff, he jumped into the lake and swam away, later to be arrested at a friend’s house.  The Baileys hid in the woods until they saw it was the Sheriff and they were safe.

            The authorities investigated and found that Mrs. Phelps had $1200 in her home. They made her put it in a local bank. The three men were quickly arrested and held at Chipley in Washington county for their safety.

            On July 4, 1934, James Bonard Retherford, and Millard Keith were found guilty with no recommendation for mercy in the kidnapping.  Dewey had a separate trial and on the 14th of July he was found guilty but received a recommendation for mercy.

            These three young men were found guilty under the new “Lindbergh Kidnapping Law” which called for the death penalty if found guilty without a recommendation for mercy. Millard Keith, and Retherford were sentenced to death, and Dewey Keith was given a life sentence.

            In September of 1935 the convictions, and death sentences were overturned by the Florida Supreme Court and the two were granted a new trial due to the finding that the Holmes County Circuit Court failed to charge the jury correctly.  It was decided that the crime did not qualify as a kidnapping due to the fact that Mrs. Phelps was released after 2 hours, and no ransom was paid. It was considered an armed robbery. They were still found guilty and sentenced to life terms.

            Mrs. Phelps passed away 24 Nov 1939. She is buried next to her husband in the Red Hill Cemetery in Holmes County.

            I don’t know much about the Keith brothers after their convictions. I know Millard Keith was married and living in Jacksonville, FL by 1946.  He passed away in Gadsden Co., FL on 15 Sep 1987.
            Admiral Dewey Keith, (yes, that was his name), passed away in Geneva County, Alabama on 17 November 1996.

            Then we get to James Bonard Retherford and the rest of his short life. 

            Bonard Retherford, and the Keith brothers entered prison on December 20, 1935. On March 20, 1940, Retherford and two others escaped from a prison road camp in Alachua Co. On the 20th of July, 1940, he was recaptured and returned to the prison camp.

            He was paroled March 20, 1943 and registered as a criminal with the Orlando Police Department on the 27th of July.  He found employment as a truck driver by a friendly manager at the X-Cel Feed Company. After a few weeks, Retherford stole the manager’s car and drove it “Jooking” all over Florida and up into Alabama. He finally abandoned the car near Tallahassee, and was soon arrested on the 29th of December, and returned to Orlando. He pled guilty of the auto theft and was fined $100 and given six months in jail. His parole was revoked and he was returned to prison to serve more of his life sentence in the Phelps case.

            When his parole was revoked by Judge W. M. Murphy, Jr. Retherford turned to police officer, Sgt. Cloyce Palmer, who had tracked the auto theft case and brought Retherford back to Orlando, and told him, “I’ll be back.”

            On April 5, 1944, Retherford escaped from the road camp in Floral City, Florida. He made his way to Orlando, and took a taxi to the home of Sgt. Palmer. When Palmer answered the door Palmer told him, “Make a move, and I’ll kill you.” Palmer immediately attacked and grappled with Retherford, and during the struggle the escaped convict was fatally shot.

            Sgt. Cloyce Palmer retired from the Orlando Police Dept. on 30 June 1967 after 28 years on the force including 25 as a Sgt.  He passed away on Sept 18, 1987. 

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

The Mulat Murders

The Edwards Murders
June 29, 1951
(Lawrence Cormack)

            Lawrence Cormack, 22, was awaiting transfer to Raiford for a 10-year sentence for the burglary of a Milton Grocery store, that he committed with his 16-year-old brother, Neal. Lawrence escaped from the county jail in Milton on Friday morning, 29 June, and stole a .32 caliber revolver from the car belonging to Santa Rosa County Deputy Clyde Murphy.

            Julian Edwards, 75, and his wife Mae, 73 lived just south of the L&N railroad track in Mulat.  Around 11:30 pm, Cormack entered their house, and using the stolen revolver, shot and killed the elderly couple in their bed. Mr. Edwards was shot 5 times, and his wife once through the back with the bullet piercing her heart.  The black leather holster for the stolen revolver was found the next day about 50 yards away from the house.

            Ernest Edwards, the slain couple’s son, lived about 200 yards away. He said he heard shots fired around 11:30, and went outside of his house to quiet the dogs down. He rose early the next morning to do chores, and discovered the bodies of his parents about 8 am.

            A large posse was formed in Milton, with the intention of finding Cormack. He was an immediate suspect, especially with the discovery of the holster identified as belonging with the stolen revolver. 

            About 7 am the jailer, Steve Stephens found Cormack sleeping in the Circuit Judge’s office. He alerted Deputy Murphy, and Cormack was taken into custody without a fight. He claimed that with everyone looking for him, the courthouse seemed a safe place to hide.

Approximate location of the Edwards Home.

Cormack Background

            Lawrence Cormack was only seven years old the first time he was sent to a reform school. His father was an abusive drunk, and he later stated that his mother was deaf, and really did not provide a stable home. He did not remember the reason he was sent away, but that he did run away from home more than once. By the time he was a teenager, he had been arrested for petty theft, breaking and entering, car theft, and mail theft.

            He went to Wichita as a teenager and was picked up for vagrancy. He then went to California and joined the Merchant Marine. He was caught opening packages that were on their way to servicemen serving in the Philippines.   He was sentenced to 5 years in an Army stockade, and fined $2000.  When released he found his way to San Diego where he was arrested on a burglary charge. He was sent to reformatory in Lancaster, California for 15 months.  Soon arrested again for auto theft, he was sent to prison in El Reno, Oklahoma where he was released after 19 months for good behavior.  He spent Christmas at home, and then joined the Army. After six months of training, he was sent to a school for cooks, and bakers from where he deserted a week later. He went to San Francisco to stay with an uncle where he stole his car, (possibly a 1950 Nash), and returned home to Bird City, Kansas.  He was joined by his 16-year-old brother Neal and committed numerous burglaries in Bird City, and stole license plates in the Kansas City area.

            After making their way to Milton, they broke into the Jitney Jungle and stole $71. While sleeping in the woods near DeFuniak Springs they were taken into custody when a farmer reported suspicious characters to the local police department.

            Lawrence took the blame for the burglaries, and his brother Neal was shipped back home. He was sentenced to 10 years in the state prison at Raiford, and was awaiting transportation when he escaped.

            Cormack escaped the jail by hiding when the prisoners were being returned to their cells after a work detail of scrubbing part of the building. He hid and the jailer did not miss him. He sneaked into the grand jury room of the courthouse and watched from a window until Sheriff Hayes, and Deputy Cobb left for the day. He then tried to steal Murphy's car but couldn't hotwire it, but he did take a .32 caliber pistol and shells from the glove compartment.

Cormack’s account of the murders.

            Cormack stated that after escaping, he hid out most of the day before looking for food. I think he followed the railroad track from the courthouse until he arrived at the Mulat area and saw the Edwards home. Leaving his shoes and socks with the leather holster, he entered the house through a window and was rifling through Mr. Edwards’ pants pockets when Edwards woke up and confronted him. He panicked, and began shooting. Mrs. Edwards was shot while trying to help her husband against the intruder.
            Cormack fled the scene, leaving his shoes, socks, and the holster. He stopped at the wayside park on Pond Creek and highway 90 and threw the gun in the water.  Then he walked to the courthouse and hid in the second-floor office of the Circuit Judge. He slept there until discovered by the jailer.


            There were two different trials for the two murders. It was felt that he could not get a fair trial in Santa Rosa county, so a change of venue was granted and the trials were held in Escambia County. Cormack was found guilty of first-degree murder in both trials, and sentenced to two life terms. After only 20 years in prison, he was paroled, but violated the terms of his parole when he traveled to New York City. He turned himself in back in Jacksonville two years later, and was returned to prison. 

            In December of 1978, he was nearing another parole date, when he escaped from the minimum-security camp after stealing $1700 from the prison canteen. He was recaptured about 9 miles away in Stark, Florida while walking along Highway 301.

            I haven’t found when he was released for good from prison, but he died in Jacksonville, in November 1993.

Milton Gazette
July 5, 1951

Transcript of Cormack’s confession to Woodrow Melvin, Santa Rosa County Attorney.
Statement taken at the Santa Rosa County jail, Milton Florida, July 1, 1951 at 11 pm.

Mr. Cormack, I am Woodrow Melvin. I am the County Attorney for Santa Rosa County. The lady who is taking down your testimony is Miss Marguerite Williams. The gentleman sitting next to her is Mr. Clayton Mapoles, the editor of The Milton Gazette.  The gentleman sitting next to him is Sheriff Marshall Hayes, Sheriff of Santa Rosa County.  The gentleman standing just behind Mr. Hayes is Mr. Wade Cobb who is a Deputy Sheriff of Santa Rosa County. The gentleman standing just behind me is Mr. Hilson Crawford.

Q- Your name is Lawrence William Cormack?
A- Yes, sir.

Q- Lawrence, I understand that you would like to make a statement concerning the details in connection with the death of Mr. and Mrs. Julian C. Edwards, Is that correct?
A- Yes, sir.

Q- Have I, or the Sheriff, or the Deputy Sheriffs, or anyone offered you any reward for making this statement or are you making it freely and voluntarily?
A- I am making it freely and voluntarily.

Q- You realize that this statement made by you could be used as evidence should the State of Florida prosecute you?
A- Yes, sir.

Q- Lawrence, I would like for you to start at the beginning and talk slowly so that Miss Williams can write it down and tell us whatever it is you want to tell us about what happened after you left the Santa Rosa County jail last Thursday night, June 28th. June 28th is the night you got out of the Santa Rosa County jail, Is that right?
A- Yes, sir.

Q- After you left the Courthouse what happened, Mr. Cormack?
A- I got in the car down there and there wasn’t any keys in there nor nothing. I went in the glove compartment looking for keys and found a box of shells and gun. I tried to wire the car u but couldn’t so I took the gun and shells with me. I went over to the green Ford and there was a key in the glove compartment but it wouldn’t work so I beat it. I went up the street, I don’t know what the name of it was. I went out the highway, walked three or four miles until daylight Friday morning, then I went back in the woods and tried to sleep but ants and mosquitoes were too bad and I went back to the road. I come on to the creek, went swimming in it and I laid down and went to sleep and it was after dark when I woke up Friday night. I tied my clothes in a bundle and waded the creek until I come to a place where there was an empty house and I crossed the road and I come to this house and sit down there and left the scabbard to the gun.

Q- You left the scabbard where?
A- Where I was sitting.

Q- Now you are speaking of the scabbard and gun you got from the car. Was the gun a rifle or what kind of gun?
A- A .32 pistol. I left the scabbard outside and in front of the house. Then I crossed over to the gate, took off my shoes, went up on the porch.

Q- Did you take your socks off?
A- I took them off.

Q- What happened?
A- I went in the kitchen, got a drink of water then I went to the bedroom by the bathroom and I was going to get this man’s money and I seen what looked like his clothes on a stool in the bedroom. Just as I went through the door the man sit up and said something like, “Get the hell out of here.” It scared me and I pulled the gun out of my pocket and started shooting.

Q- Did his wife get out of bed?
A- No, sir, she sat up in the line of fire and said, “Who is that shooting.” I turned around and ran out the way I come in and somebody turned on the light in the bedroom when I ran out the back door, so I run on down the road. I walked until I come to the crossroads, turned left there, and went to the back door of a house and got a drink from a pump and went on down the highway. From the highway I went down to the park and sit around there.

Q- You went to the park, did you say?
A- Yes, sir.

Q- Is that park about a mile west of Milton on the highway?
A- Yes, sir. I sat around there for awhile, drank some water and thought about shooting myself in the head with the gun—then backed out. In the meantime I loaded the gun again and threw it in the water.

Q- You threw it in the water. You threw it from the bank or the bridge?
A- From the bridge.

Q- From which side?
A-It was on the right side coming toward Milton. I took the shells out of my pocket and threw them in also. I walked back to Milton and I was I Milton a little after daylight. I was going to turn myself in and I got scared and stayed in the County Commissioner’s room most of the day and slipped to the back of the Courtroom and laid on the back benches, then I went in the room where I thought there was an X-ray machine.

Q- Lawrence, did you stay in the room where the machine in until after dark?
A- I stayed in the Courtroom until after dark.

Q- When did you change over to the room where the jailer found you/
A- About 12:00 o’clock.

Q- That was Saturday night, last night, that you speak of having spent here in the Courthouse in Milton, particularly from 12:00 o’clock midnight until you woke up?
A- Yes, sir.

Q- Did you leave out of the Courthouse building from the time you entered a little after daylight Saturday morning?
A- No, sir.

Q- In other words, you didn’t leave the Courthouse building from the time you entered a little after daylight Saturday morning?
A- That’s right.

Q- Lawrence, let’s go back now a little bit. When you came up to this house in which you later killed the man and his wife on the bed, I believe you said, what did you say you had in mind when you went in the house?
A- I was going in to get some money. I thought about getting some food and decided I would make too much noise because I couldn’t see my way around in the kitchen.

Q- You went in the building, rather dwelling house, for the purpose of committing a robbery?
A- Yes, sir.

Q- Now, can you tell us how many times you shot the man who raised up in bed?
A- No, sir.

Q- Did you keep shooting them until the gun ran out of bullets?
A- Yes, sir.

Q- Did you snap the gun after it was empty?
A- Yes, sir.

Q- You didn’t attempt to reload the pistol after you fired it out?
A- No, sir.

Q- The light that turned on—was it in the room Mr. and Mrs. Edwards were in or was it in a different room?
A- In the same room.

Q- Apparently either she or he turned the light on?
A- I was about one-half way out when the screen door slammed. Sounded like the screen door.

Q- But they turned the light on?
A- They turned the light on.

Q- When you snapped the gun empty were you shooting at the man or the woman?
A- I don’t remember.

Q- Did you walk around at the foot of the bed and shoot either of them?
A- No, sir.

Q- You did all of the shooting from the inside leading from the inside of the bedroom?
A- Yes, sir.

Q- Lawrence, you know that you had the gun loaded when you went in the house?
A- Yes, sir; it had five shells in it when I got it and I put another one in it on the first night.

Q- You know that you unloaded the gun on Mr. and Mrs. Edwards in the bedroom?
A- Yes, sir.

Q- Now, when you left, you left your shoes inside the gate—the same place you left them when you went in the house?
A- Yes, sir.

Q- What kind of socks were you wearing?
A- Army tan.

Q- Do you remember if they had size 11 stamped on them?
A- Yes, sir, they did.

Q- Then, these socks and shoes are yours?
A- Yes, sir.

Q- Has the Sheriff carried you back to the house?
A- Yes, sir.

Q- Is the house you went in the same house you were in when you killed those people?
A- Yes, sir.

Q- Do you know whether this was in Santa Rosa County?
A- (Unknown)

Q- Did you go in the same room with the Sheriff as you went in and shot those people?
A- Yes, sir.

Q- Did you see the blood stains on the bed?
A- Yes, sir.

Q- You recognized that place as being the place where you had been?
A- Yes, sir.

Q- Since the Jailer found you yesterday morning sleeping in the Judge’s office, has anyone mistreated you in any way, Lawrence?
A- No, sir.

Q- You have talked to the State Attorney?
A- Yes, sir.

Q- Did he mistreat or abuse you in any way?
A- No, sir.

Q- Did Sheriff Hayes mistreat or abuse you in any way?
A- No, sir.

Q- Did Deputy Sheriff Wade Cobb mistreat or abuse you in any way?
A-No, sir

Q- How about Mr. Harvell Enfinger?
A- No, sir.

Q- Have you been treated just as nice by the Sheriff and his force since you were taken back Sunday morning as you had been treated before you got out Thursday night?
A- Yes, sir.

Q- None of them have promised you that they would talk to the Judge for you or get you any consideration?
A- No, sir.

Q- By “no sir” you mean that none of them have promised you anything?
A- Yes, sir.

Q- Lawrence, is there anything else you would like for her to write down?
A- That’s about all.

Q- When you took your shoes off at the gate that was so you could go in quietly and come back and pick them up?
A- Yes, sir, but when I heard that door slam I thought someone was after me and I run on down the road without them.

Q- You were out in the yard when you took your shoes off?
A- Yes, sir.

Q- Had you already decided to rob who ever lived in there?
A- Yes, sir.

Q- Did you see anyone moving around in the house while you were sitting outside?
A- No, sir.

Q- Did you know who lived there?
A- No, sir.

Q- At the time you saw cars on the highway would you jump out in the woods and hide?
A- Yes, sir.

Q- Did you see the Sheriff’s car going down there?
A- No, sir.

Q- No, at that time you were back here.

Q- Lawrence, as you walked back from the Edwards’ house barefooted, what did that do to your feet?
A- I got a blister on one foot.

Q- Which foot?
A- Left foot.

Q- On the instep of your left foot?
A- Right on the ball.

Q- Did you notice any blood on your clothes?
A- No, sir.

Q- Mr. and Mrs. Edwards’ son lived just below them, about 200 yards. Did you notice a light on in this house, or did you know there was a house down below?
A- No, sir. I didn’t know there was a house there and didn’t see a light.

Q- You do know that a light was turned on in the house, which you left, immediately after you left.
A- That was the reason I left my shoes.

Q- The pistol that you used to shoot Mr. and Mrs. Edwards with—Is that the same pistol that you took from Mr. Clyde Murphy’s car?
A- Yes, sir.

Mr. Melvin—Will all of you please go outside the room and leave just the three of us.

Q- Now, Lawrence, there is no one in here except you, and I and Miss Williams. I just want to ask you again if the statement that you have made has been made by you freely and voluntarily?
A- Yes, sir.

Q- No one has promised you anything to get it?
A- No, sir.

Q- You realize that the statement you have just made can be used as evidence against you? Realizing this, you do re-affirm and tell me that all you have told is the truth?
A- Yes, sir.

Q- When you were first questioned today by the Sheriff or by the State Attorney, when did you tell them that you came back to the courthouse?
A- About 12:00 o’clock Friday night.

Q- Did you tell them that you had been in the County Courtroom or building until you were found this Sunday morning/
A- Yes, sir.

Q- When did you finally decide to make the statement that you made here this evening?
A- About 7:00 o’clock when I was talking to Mr. Crawford.

Q- You decided to make the statement. Did Mr. Crawford promise you anything?
A- No, sir.

Q- Was it that you had your mind burdened and wanted to get it off your mind?
A- Yes, sir.

Q- Did you tell Mr. Crawford that you wanted to make the statement?
A- Yes, sir.

July 2, 1951, typing at this point started at 10:23 pm. I have read the foregoing six and one-half pages of the statement and I hereby state the statement was made freely and voluntarily in answer to questions as listed on these pages in the exact wording as typed except for the correction I made on page 4. I had previously been advised that I did not have to make statement and that any statement that I might make could and might be used against me in Court, and that under the Constitution of the United States and of the State of Florida that I did not have to make any statement, that I was entitled to have an attorney and to talk to an attorney, and that any statement that I made or gave would have to be made freely and voluntarily made and that I did make the statement and do now sign the same as my statement concerning this case and the happenings as set forth herein as being a true and correct statement of what happened and as my free and voluntary statement.



Friday, April 19, 2019

Jay Bank Robbery, Part II

Whether through rumors, scuttlebutt, or maybe the indiscreet whispers of one of the participants, by late summer 1963, Pensacola Police Chief D.P. Caldwell felt he knew who committed the robbery of the Bank of Jay.  
            Getting enough evidence to prove it however, was a different story. On the 25th of October, Chief Caldwell suspended, and asked for dismissal of Officers Luther Ingram, and Louis J. (Jimmy) Dees. The two officers had been partners for years, and Ingram once lived next door to Dees, in a house owned by Dees.

            The charges levied against Dees were, 1-holding ownership of a bar. 2- failure to reside within city limits, and 3- failure to be qualified as a registered voter.  Ingram was charged with Insubordination, and failing to obey a lawful order.

            On the 25th of October, Jay bank officials, Price Malone, and Jesse Golden traveled to the office of Police Chief Caldwell to view two line-ups. One line-up had Officer Ingram, and three other officers. Golden told the Chief that Ingram looked very much like the man in the hold-up, but couldn’t positively identify him. Malone said he would be willing to testify that Ingram was the man who held a gun on him during the robbery.

            An hour after his line-up, Ingram was called back to the Chief’s office and told to put on a raincoat, and dark glasses of the type that the bank robbers wore.  Ingram requested to confer with his lawyers, Forsythe Caro, and Joe Harrell.  He then refused to don the items requested and was suspended from the force.  Officials would not say who was in the other line-up, but it is interesting to note that Ingram’s partner, Dees was suspended the same day. 

            There was a hearing on November 26th, where Ingram was found guilty of insubordination by a 2-1 vote of the City Service Board.  At his hearing Ingram testified that he refused to wear the items in the line-up because he knew he was a suspect in the robbery, and he knew that the two bank officials from Jay were there to view him. He also claimed to have heard from a relative in Jay that the bank officials had mistakenly identified another suspect in Jacksonville. Ex-Santa Rosa County Sheriff Henry Clay Mitchell spoke on Ingram’s behalf by stating that he did not believe a person should be ordered to “don the garb” of a robber and appear before witnesses. 

            The decision by the City Service Board was eventually overturned and Ingram returned to the Pensacola Police Department. He eventually resigned in November of 1972.  He had been suspended many times in his 16-year career and Caldwell tried more than once to get him dismissed from the force. It has been told to me by an ex-officer of the Pensacola Police Dept., that for the rest of his time on the force, Ingram would never don a raincoat. Not even while investigating auto accidents in the rain.  Ingram passed away at the age of 51 on April 8, 1983.

            Louis J. (Jimmy) Dees resigned from the force that day of the line-up in November 1963. He was the owner of the Liberty Bar, located at Zaragoza, and Baylen.  In 1970 he bought the Castle Lounge at 500 East Gregory St. He sold it and moved to the Atlanta area in 1978, but later returned to buy Al’s Bar and Package Store on Gulf Beach Highway. He passed away in December 2005.

            The Robbery of the Bank of Jay was never officially solved. No one was prosecuted for it, and no one was formally accused of committing it.  The Pensacola Police Chief, D.P. Caldwell definitely was convinced of the officer’s involvement, and tried to use any reason to get them off the force.

            A week after the Robbery in Jay, Officer Ingram was awarded “Policeman-of-the-Month” by the Greater Pensacola Chamber of Commerce.

            During the time Jimmy Dees owned the Castle Lounge, an unknown person placed a sign out front that read, “Financed by the Bank of Jay”.

            Officers Ingram, and Dees were not prosecuted for the robbery, and Ingram returned to the force for another 9 years before resigning.  

I was talking to an ex-Pensacola Police Officer who was in attendance at the Jay Historical Society when I gave a talk about the Bank robbery. He told me that when the FBI had the Loot burial site staked out, a PPD patrol car slowly approached and parked right next to where the loot was stashed. In the car was Luther Ingram, and a young lady. The FBI gave up on their stake-out.

Monday, March 18, 2019

Bank Robbery in Jay

On Wednesday, the 23rd of January, the small town of Jay, Florida was in the grip of a severe cold spell. The temperature had dipped down to 5 degrees. Around noon, two young, well-dressed men wearing grey plastic raincoats, dark trousers, and shined shoes walked into the Bank of Jay, and walked up to the desk of Jesse L. Golden, the Executive Vice President, and head cashier. One man was later described as about 30 years of age, 190 pounds, with a slender build and light brown hair. The other about 27, 5 feet 8 inches tall, medium build with dark wavy hair and a broad forehead.

            There were ten people in the bank at that time including three customers. Calvin Scott, his wife and eight-year-old daughter were in the office of Price W. Malone, bank President.  Along with Malone, and Golden were two bank examiners, John W. Ellis, and Robert McCartney. Also were Mrs. Evelyn Westmoreland, Mrs. Sara Youngblood, and Mrs. Linda Windham. (Presumably, tellers.)

            Mr. Golden looked at the two men as they drew pistols, and ordered everyone to lie on the floor in a back room. One of the gunmen entered Malone’s office and told him and the Scott family to get down on the floor. Mr. Scott told his daughter, “Honey, don’t open your mouth.” The robber said, “Fella, you open your mouth again, I’ll blow your head off.”  The people in the other room were told, “We will shoot if you raise your head.”  The taller of the two men paced back and forth between the two rooms while his partner emptied the teller drawers.

            After he had the money from the teller drawers, the same man entered the room where the bank employees and examiners were on the floor, and place his pistol to the back of John W. Ellis’ head and ordered him to open the safe. Ellis was a chief bank examiner with the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. Ellis refused saying he did not know the combination. When the man threatened to shoot Ellis, Jesse Golden volunteered to open the safe. While this was going on, four other bank examiners who had been out to lunch walked into the bank, and were immediately ordered to the floor.

            Back in the lobby, the gunmen ordered Golden to unplug the phones, but Golden told them the phones did not have plugs. After filling pillow cases with money from the vault, and apparently deciding two bags containing $700 in nickels, and half dollars were too heavy to manage, the robbers left. They told everyone to remain on the floor for five minutes, but about a minute later, Mr. Malone called the Sheriff’s office, and the FBI reporting the robbery.  The robbers had overlooked about $20,000 in Silver bills, and securities in the vault, and left the heavy bags of coins about half way from the vault to the bank door.

            This was the first time the bank had been robbed since it was organized in July 1951. There was no bank guard there. Malone later estimated that the whole robbery took between 10 and 15 minutes.

            It was determined that the robbers had gotten away with $54,611. They drove west on Hwy 4 at a high rate of speed to Century, and beat the road blocks that were quickly installed. The next day it was discovered that they had switched cars in the parking lot of a Century elementary school. They left a 1961 blue-green Falcon Futura, and according to witnesses, drove away in a 1959 white or cream-colored Chevrolet. The Futura had been stolen from the Auto Center on West Garden St. in Pensacola on January 13, and probably stashed somewhere until the robbery.

            On February 10th, a “ragpicker”, who has remained anonymous, was scavenging in a wooded area between Olive and Creighton roads east of Ninth Avenue for any metal he could sell and saw an area that looked as if it had been freshly dug up, and filled back in. Curious he dug down about a foot and found an aluminum Coleman cooler. Inside the cooler were two insulated picnic bags with $40,220 of the loot stolen from the Jay robbery. After consulting with his brother, he contacted the authorities, who staked out the site for two weeks, hoping the robbers would return. Then the FBI went public asking the public for information. Many tips came in, but ultimately the authorities did not discover who committed the robbery, or buried the money. They did discover that the cooler was purchased at Hess Marine on New Warrington Rd., on January 24. Sales people remembered the customer quibbling about the price and receiving a discount. The insulated picnic bags were traced to Harvell’s Pharmacy on North Palafox, and Brent lane.

            The man who found the buried money did not receive any reward for turning it in. The bank’s holding company, the Hoover Insurance Company of New York, refused, saying they had no policy of giving rewards.

            There was a robbery in Marianna, Florida with a lot of the same characteristics, but it was determined to not be linked to the Jay robbery. The same month also had a robbery nearby at Ellyson Field, also found not to be linked, even though there was some suspicion that the Jay robbers might have been sailors from Ellyson because of the shined cordovan shoes, and the confident manner of the two men, and the proximity of the Naval installation to the burial site. It was also thought that a Pensacola police officer could have been involved, but ultimately, the case was never solved.

The pictures are all from the Pensacola News Journal, January, and February 1963.