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.
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”.
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.