Friday, August 11, 2017

The Acreman Family Murder

 

   On May 14, 1906, in the Allentown community, William Glenn Acreman, his wife, and seven children were murdered, and their home burned down over their lifeless bodies.  No one was ever punished for the crime.
   
     On that morning, a neighbor, living about a quarter a mile away, looked toward the Acreman place, but did not see the house.  He contacted other neighbors, and a group of them found the Acreman house in smoldering ruins.  Upon closer investigation, they found the burned bodies of the family.  One of the group went to a nearby turpentine camp, and called the Sheriff's office in Milton.
Judge Rhoda, Sheriff Mitchell, Dr. H.E. Eldridge, and several others, hurried to the Acreman home.
Upon arrival, the ruins were still smoking. Mrs. Acreman was found on the porch with her three-day old baby. The oldest daughter was found by the door leading to the porch from the room her bed was in.  Three boys were found dead in their bed.  Mr. Acreman was found by one of the doors going to the back porch, his weapon next to his body. (Some accounts say it was a shotgun, one claimed it was a revolver.) It looks as though he was trying to defend his family.  He, his wife, and at least one of his sons had crushed skulls.

     W. G. Acreman was the son of Zebulon Rudolph Acreman, and was most likely born in 1869 in Lowndes County, Alabama. He had eight brothers, and one sister.

     In 1902, the Acreman's were living in Mobile, Alabama near the corner of Selma, and Marine Streets. Described as being in desperate circumstance, they were helped by their church. Mr. Acreman was remembered there as a peaceful, harmless man who was very religious, and a bit eccentric. He had no known enemies.

     Apparently, they left Mobile, and settled in Opp, Alabama for about a year, and sometime in 1903, moved to the area where they eventually died.

     There was a subscription in Milton, and Bagdad to raise money for a reward for information. An amount of $1500 was quickly raised, but there were no immediate developments in the case.

     A year after the horrific murders of the Acreman family, two arrests were made in the case.  In Gonzales, Florida, William C. Smith was arrested and brought to Milton. Some newspaper articles claim that he confessed to taking part in the murders.  In Samson, Alabama, located in Geneva County, and not far from Opp, detectives arrested Joe Stanley.  Stanley must have had a fearsome reputation, because the detectives employed some subterfuge to get the drop on him.  They visited his farm asking if he had any tacks they could use to put up a sign with. When Stanley turned to get some one of the detectives got the drop on him, and he was arrested at gunpoint.  After the warrant was read to him, Stanley asked if he could get some clothes from a trunk. The detectives refused, but opened the trunk themselves, and found no clothes, but did find two pistols there.  Stanley also attempted to get his hands on a shotgun, with no success.  Stanley had a wife and two children, and refused to waive extradition to Florida. After the right paperwork was obtained, he was removed to Santa Rosa County, Florida.  

     There was a hearing scheduled for May 15, 1907 in Judge Rhoda’s courtroom, and it was postponed when state witnesses could not be located, and a stenographer was not available.  I found another article that claimed the prosecutor, and judge were under death threats, and did not show up for court.  Regardless, two days later there was a brief hearing, and both suspects were released. The case is officially unsolved.

    When Stanley was arrested, the Troy (Ala) Messenger published an article that mostly reported the same information as the other papers, but they added that, “Stanley has been under suspicion as he is said to have had trouble with the murdered man.”   No other references to this “trouble” could be found.  When the Acreman’s moved from Mobile to Opp, did Mr. Acreman have some kind of run-in with Stanley? 

     There are many articles, in southern Alabama newspapers about confrontations with the law by Joe Stanley. It’s not possible to know if there were multiple Joe Stanley’s living in the area during the same time frame.  There was an article added to Joe Stanley’s Find A Grave memorial that told the story of Jocephus Stanley’s death on March 8, 1928.  I pretty sure this is the same Joe Stanley that had been arrested in the Acreman murders.  Stanley was a policeman in Phenix City, Alabama, which is just across the Chattahoochee river from Columbus, Georgia.  In the middle of the river on an island that is sometimes claimed by both Alabama, and Georgia, Stanley was shot during a confrontation with a gang of gamblers, and bootleggers that based themselves in the “no man’s land”.  Stanley was attempting to arrest a George Chambers who was a customer of James Jennette.  Stanley had been informed of some threats directed at him and went to ask Jennette about it.  During the confrontation, Jennette pulled a pistol and fired three shots. Two missed, but the third hit Stanley in the stomach. Another officer hit Jennette in the head, and at the same time Stanley backed off a few feet, and fired one time, hitting Jennette in the body.  They were loaded in the same car and taken to the hospital, where both died. His body was brought back to Opp where he was buried.  Nothing more on William C. Smith could be found.



  The Acreman family is interred in one mass grave in the Jay Cemetery.  Their headstone has the quote: 

“No pain, no grief, not anxious fear can reach our loved ones sleeping here.”

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Retired School Teacher Kills Three Police Officers


            A neighbor’s complaint to the authorities led to the shooting deaths of three policemen in Ocala Florida on May 28, 1955. After a siege lasting about an hour, an eccentric, 73 year old retired Indiana school teacher, and his wife were taken into custody and charged with multiple felonies.

            Edward S. Lindley, and his wife Bertha, (70), were from the Kokomo, Indiana area where Mr. Lindley had been a math teacher, and school principal from 1921 to 1930. He suffered a stroke, causing his retirement, and in 1932 started drawing disability from the Metropolitan Insurance Company. In March of 1933 Lindley had a nervous breakdown, and was arrested for firing a weapon at one of his neighbors. He was sent to Central State Hospital for 10 months, and after his release, he and his wife moved near Ft. Lauderdale, Florida on some land they had bought in 1910.

            At the beginning of World War 2, the Lindley’s moved to Moss Bluff in Marion county, and lived there for about ten years. While there, Edward Lindley believed his neighbors were spies for Metropolitan Insurance sent to disprove his disability claim.  Feeling persecuted, he and his wife moved to a small house in Ocala.

            Next door to their home was a couple from Long Island, NY.  Mr. Lindley believed they were also spies, and when they moved, he thought they had trained his new neighbor, Douglas Wingfield to spy on him too.  After some items went missing, Wingfield put a “keep out” sign in his yard, and may have gotten into a verbal dispute with Mrs. Lindley. 

            On the day of the shooting, Mr. Lindley claimed that he shot into the air to get Wingfield’s attention since he was hard of hearing.  Wingfield said the bullet came within a foot of his head, and he ran to a neighbor’s house, and called the police.

            About 5:30 pm Deputies Bob Hooten, (56), and Curtis Youngblood, (39), pulled into the Lindley driveway.  A witness James B. Williams was a witness to what happened next.  Mrs. Lindley, carrying a shotgun came out of the house and walked down the driveway to the officers and met them about 50 feet from the house. She told them to put their guns down and there would be no shooting. Deputy Wooten grabbed the shotgun away from her. The witness heard someone yell, “Hey!”, and later Mr. Lindley stated that he shouted at the officers about four times.  Lindley was standing outside on the west side of the house, and shot Deputy Youngblood first killing him instantly. Wooten was then shot, and fell on top of the shotgun he had taken from Mrs. Lindley.

            Mrs. Lindley, calmly walked back to the house, then came back out to retrieve the shotgun from under Wooten’s body. William’s wife Gwen called the police to report the shooting.

            At 5:46 pm, Sheriff Don McLeod, and Deputy W.G. Ergle, Jr.  arrived and McLeod shouted, for the Lindleys to “Come on out!” This was answered by a barrage of shots fired from the house. Assistant Ocala police Chief Mahlon O. Tuck had arrived with other officers, and was standing about 60 yards from the house providing cover for State Patrolman Sam Oswald as he crept up to a window on the west side of the house to toss in a tear gas canister. Tuck was hit and killed at that time.  Deputy Ergle was hit and wounded as he tried to get to Youngblood’s body. The firing continued for about an hour until the tear gas finally forced the Lindley’s to surrender. There were 30 officers involved during the siege and they fired over 1,000 rounds into the little cinder block house.

            Four witnesses reported that they saw Mrs. Lindley in the backyard with a gun during the shooting. She tried to escape at the rear of the yard, but ran back inside when McLeod yelled at her. Mrs Lindley waved a white handkerchief and came out, followed a few minutes later by her husband.

            The Lindley’s were arrested and charged with three counts of murder, and one of assault with intent to commit murder. On July 25th a hearing adjudged Mr. Lindley to be insane and he was to be committed to the State Hospital at Chattahoochee. He appeared to be confused as he was led away for his trip to the hospital.  The next day Mrs. Lindley was released on her own recognizance and returned to Indiana to live with her daughter.  The authorities did not believe they had enough to convict her without her husband to stand trial with her.  She promised to return if there ever was a trial.  Before she left, the Lindley’s bank account of $17,191 was given to the widows of the fallen officers.  In 1956, the guns Edward Lindley owned were auctioned and $499 was raised. This was also given to the widow.  The State Legislature voted a payment of $225 per month to the widows for 13 and a half years.

            Edward Lindley lived until December 10, 1971 never leaving the Hospital in Chattahoochee. Bertha lived to be 96 years old, dying on June 16, 1980.  She lived with her daughter in Greentown, Indiana.
              

            

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Unsolved Pensacola Axe Murder, 1926

What is now a segment of W. Hilary St. in Pensacola, once was known as Chipley Alley.  It lies just south of W. Garden St. between S. Coyle St., and S. Reus St. It was near the site of the old Frisco railroad freight and passenger terminal building.  On the night of July 4, and early morning of July 5, 1926, 410 Chipley Alley was the site of a vicious attack on two adults, and two children by an axe wielding madman.

            Preston Pickerin, a 23-year-old carpenter, and his wife Hattie had spent part of the evening of July 4th in Cantonment at an Independence Day celebration, where Hattie won a cake.  Two children, 6-year-old Emmett Simpson, son of Hattie from her previous marriage, and 13-year-old Lucille Cushings, Hattie’s little sister had remained home.

            A neighbor, Mrs. Ella Martin was awakened just before dawn, by a low rumbling sound she could not identify, and got up to investigate. She walked outside, and looking through the Pickerin’s window.  Seeing the gruesome scene, she ran inside screaming, “Hattie, Hattie!” She later said that Mrs. Pickerin had mumbled something and lapsed into unconsciousness.  In the adjoining room lay the two battered children, still clinging to life.

            Mrs. Martin called the police, and requested they bring an ambulance.  The first officer on the scene was Captain J. R. Simmons, followed soon by Chief of Police William O’Connell.  The officers found the room in disarray, and the walls covered in blood.  There was evidence of a struggle in the adult’s room.

            An axe covered with hair, and blood was found in the children’s bed. The axe was delivered to fingerprint expert Robert Forrest, and after extensive examination, he could find no usable prints. A shoe was also found in the house that showed a defect in the sole that matched shoeprints found outside in the unpaved alley.

            As the rumors spread through the local community, a crowd began to gather to view the scene of the crime. All four victims were transferred to the hospital.  Mr. Pickerin was near death and was only given a few hours to live. His wife Hattie was unconscious with severe gashes to her head.  At this time, the children were reported near death, but a few hours later they regained consciousness.  They both could not remember what happened. They had been attacked while asleep, and had no memory of the assault.

            The police canvassed the neighborhood, questioning neighbors, friends, and acquaintances.  They discovered that bad blood existed between Pickerin and a man named Taylor. As recent as June 28th, members of Pickerin’s family had appeared as witnesses against Taylor.  Taylor and other members of his family were brought in for questioning.  (I haven’t been able to find out what the problem was between the families.)

            The authorities, being concerned about a growing lynch mob atmosphere, beefed up security at the jail in case they were attacked by vigilantes.  Preston J. Pickerin died from his injuries at one pm on July 5th.  His wife, Hattie was still in a coma.

            Hours after Pickerin died, Justice of the Peace, Judge Dan S. Nee summoned an inquest.  On Wednesday, July 7, a six-man jury met a Nee’s office.  Neither the police or the Jury could figure out a motive for the attack. Robbery was discounted because the Pickerin’s were not wealthy, and nothing was known to be missing from the house.

            Eleven suspects were picked up and held for the investigation, but ultimately none were charged with the crime.  Chief O’Connell told the press, “This case is being thoroughly investigated and we expect sensational developments any minute.”

            Police talked to a man named J. H. Perkins, a train dispatcher for the St. Louis and San Francisco railroad. He told officers he had seen a man from the railroad yard the night of the murder. “I first saw him coming from the direction of the Pickerin house.  He entered several yards, and searched through some wood piles.  I saw him in one yard swinging an axe in his hands, then I saw him go toward the Pickerin home.”  He described the man as being burly with black hair.

            The Coroner’s Jury heard all this testimony, including from the eleven witnesses/suspects being held, but all the evidence was considered weak, and circumstantial. With no new information coming to light, the hearing was postponed.

            On Thursday, the eighth of July, the Governor of Florida, John Martin arrived in Pensacola for the grand opening of the newly constructed Pensacola Bay Bridge. An estimated 10,000 cars crossed the bridge in the first 12 hours it was open.

            The next day, Hattie Pickerin came out of her coma. She remembered seeing a man. She did not know who he was. She remembered waking up when her husband was attacked, and she believed she struggled with the assailant, but with no identification, the investigators were at a loss.

            Chipley Alley was now known locally as, “Axe Murder Alley”.  All but 3 of the eleven suspects were released.

            During the investigation of the crime scene, police did find three, five gallon kegs of homemade liquor.  The Federal authorities joined the investigation to find out the origin of the illegal booze.  After a brief probe, they determined that the illegal whiskey had nothing to do with the attack.

            On July 28, Judge Nee resumed the inquest, calling 23 witnesses, including Captain Simmons, and Hattie Pickerin.  Mrs. Pickerin took the stand and related all she could remember from the night of the attack.  After she concluded without revealing any new information, a man stood and approached the witness stand.  When asked if she recognized him, Hattie said no, she had never seen him before.

            The man, (whose name was never revealed in court, and referred to as, “Mr. X” in the papers.), asked her, “Is it not true that you accompanied me on a party at Bayview and had a pistol which you used to shoot a spider on a tree?”  Confused, Mrs. Pickerin said, “No! I never did such a trick and besides I don’t know you.  I have never seen you before!”  After Hattie stepped down, the stranger swore under oath that she had accompanied him to Bayview and fired a pistol at a spider.

            (This whole testimony is bizarre to say the least.  Not only is any such occurrence irrelevant to the case, but what exactly was she being accused of? Why was this witness not identified?  I don’t believe this would never be allowed in a courtroom today.)

            At the conclusion of testimony, the jury verdict predictably was that the crime was, “committed by party, or parties’ unknown.”

            In 1950 a man named Robert Raymond Lassiter, in Greenville, South Carolina, confessed to the murder of Mr. Pickerin. He was arrested and brought to Pensacola, but was determined to be insane and sent to the state hospital in Chattahoochee until he could be found sane enough to assist in his own defense.

            In February 1959, it was determined that his mental condition had deteriorated, and there was going to be no prosecution.  The only evidence against him was his own confession, and he claimed no motive other than being drunk, and only remembered attacking one person. He was released into the custody of his family, who were going to put him in a private institution.

            This crime is also unsolved, and probably always will be.

            Hattie got married to Aulice McKenzie in February 1928, but divorced in 1930. She lived until 1950, passing away in Pensacola.

            Lucille Cushing married Lloyd Williams, and passed away in 2006. She was buried at Pensacola Memorial Park.

            I could not find out what became of Emmett Simpson. There was more than one person of that name in Pensacola, but this one is hard to find.

            It seems that it wasn’t very hard to get away with murder in the Florida Panhandle in the early part of the 1900’s.  I think that unless there were credible eye witnesses, or someone was caught red-handed, there was little chance of prosecution.

Thank you Patricia Wariner of the Santa Rosa Co., Genealogy Society for the old newspapers.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

The Unsolved Murder of Henry Hicks Moore

            There was another killing in a secluded parking area, before the Hinote, Bryars, killings. The location of this one was in the Magnolia Bluffs area off of Scenic Highway.  This occurred months before the last one I wrote about, and is also unsolved.

            Henry Hicks Moore left his wife and son at home on the evening of January 10, 1931 and went to the Saenger Theater to watch a movie.  He was not alone.  He had a date with a 19 year old Miss Gretchen Gregory. Moore was 23 years old and  lived at 503 E. Jackson St., with his wife Eulalie, and son Henry, Jr.  Later, Miss Gregory claimed she had no idea that Henry was married.

            After watching, “The Painted Desert”, they jumped in Henry’s roadster and drove toward East Pensacola Heights, stopping to get a soft drink at a roadside sandwich shop, then proceeded to the area of Magnolia Bluffs on Scenic Highway. About 11 pm Moore parked his car down a secluded path about 75 yards from the main road.

            Just a few minutes after stopping, two men, each shining a flashlight into the couple’s eyes, shouted for them to, “Stick ‘em up!”.  Miss Gregory screamed and one of the assailants shot Henry Moore, and then they disappeared in the woods.  After sitting in shock for a moment, she climbed over Henry and got behind the wheel.  She heard him mumble something, but didn’t understand what he said.  She had only driven a car once before, but after a few attempts was able to get the car started and back out on the highway.  She first stopped at a closed drug store, but finding no one there, she drove to Pensacola Hospital. (Later Sacred Heart on 12th ave.)  Her arrival time there was noted as 11:40 pm. 

            Ten minutes later, Dr. C. C. Webb pronounced Moore dead.  The police were notified. Sheriff Mose Penton was notified since the crime occurred outside city limits. Miss Gregory gave him the details of the night’s events.  When Gregory was informed that Henry Moore was married with a family she was shocked. The police went to the scene of the crime but found no evidence.  The only prints they could find on the car belonged to Moore, and Gregory.

            The Officers did discover, however, two $2000 life insurance policies, payable to the victim’s wife.  One of them had only been written that day.

            Miss Gregory was held overnight in jail as a material witness, pending the outcome of the coroner’s inquest and questioned repeatedly, but her story did not change. The autopsy was performed by Dr. James W. Hoffman, and showed the cause of death as a bullet through Moore’s heart that passed at a downward angle and came to rest in his back by the 8th rib. The bullet was identified as a .38 caliber. Powder burns indicated he had been shot a close range.

            Miss Gregory was released on $7500 bond, and her family retained Attorney William Fisher to look out for her best interests.

            A reporter interviewed Henry’s widow who claimed Henry hardly ever went out at night. He had been home for supper, and played with his son for a little while before kissing her goodbye, and heading for the movie. 

            On Wednesday, a capacity crowd gathered in the courtroom of Justice of the Peace, Dan A. Nee to hear evidence on the Moore case.  Testimony was heard from seven witnesses including hospital and police personnel, but the star was Miss Gretchen Gregory.  She repeated the detailed sequence of events of that night, and the jury found that Henry Hicks Moore died “at the hands of an unknown person, or persons.”

            On February 19, State Attorney Fabisinski called a grand jury to once again investigate the case trying to find new evidence. Even though the Associated Press had reported that Moore’s brother-in-law, R. S. Clark of Greenville, SC, claimed to have furnished clues to Pensacola police officers, the grand jury found no new information about the case.

            The murder of Henry Hicks Moore remains unsolved to this day.

            Gretchen Gregory married Henry C. Longuet on June 30, 1931 in Santa Rosa, County. In the 1940 census they are living on 81st Street in New York City, with a three year old daughter, and her husband was a Superintendent of an apartment building.  They divorced in Escambia county in August of 1958.  She passed away in May of 2003, and is buried In Bayview Memorial Park.

            Eulalie Turner Moore, Henry’s widow, married Lewis Kenneth Cahn in May of 1941, and died March 21, 1982.

            Henry Hicks Moore, Jr. was only 2 years old when his father was killed.  He grew up to be a prominent citizen in Pensacola, and was a community activist who wrote many opinion pieces for the News Journal.  He died on December 26, 2010.  He was an interesting person, and a google search should be productive for those interested.

            I doubt these two cases from 1931 were connected. The crime scenes were not too far apart, but there was no attempt to assault Miss Gregory.  I think it was just a robbery gone wrong. When Miss Gregory screamed, she may have startled one of the robbers into accidently firing his weapon.  According to her, they didn’t stick around after that and took nothing. 


Monday, June 19, 2017

Hinote / Bryars Murders, Unsolved


Arthur Hinote / Bernice Bryars
Murder, 22 Oct. 1931


            Arthur Hinote, born, 7 Mar 1914, and Bernice Bryars, born, 27 Sep 1916, left Hinote’s sister’s house at 1000 E. Brainerd St., in Pensacola to go to a movie.  When the two did not return that night, their families began to search.  They even made inquiries to neighboring states to see if a marriage license had been applied for, suspecting they may have eloped.

            Arthur worked at a mattress factory, and gave most of his money to his mother. On the night of their date he only had seventy cents in his pocket.

            The next day, shortly after noon, two wood cutters, John Engstrom, and John Birthright, were looking to collect some wood near Bayou Texar, about a mile north of Bayview Park.  At the time, this was a secluded area with little traffic.  Engstrom saw an automobile parked in the distance, and being curious, went to take a look.  Horrified, he saw the body of a young man lying next to the running board with part of his face blown away.  He turned to call his partner, and saw the body of a young lady lying about 15 feet away on the other side of the car.

            The young man had been obviously shot in the face.  The young lady had been savagely beaten to death.  It was later found that she had a deep mark on her forehead, a deep looking wound behind her ear, jaw broken in three places, and one of her eyes was discolored.

            Authorities were notified and began to arrive at the scene, and along with them, a growing crowd of gawkers began to gather.  Police identified the couple as Arthur Hinote, and Bernice Bryars, and notified the families. Police found few clues.  There were several wads from expended shotgun shells near the bodies.  The ground around Arthur was pretty much undisturbed, but it looked as if Bernice had put up quite a fight.  Her watch stopped at 10:15 pm, but not due to need of winding.  Some Bayou residents reported that they had thought they heard gunfire around 10 pm.

            Sheriff Mose Penton, Chief O’Connell, and Inspector Andrew Schmitz traveled to Andalusia, Alabama to interview a young man who had worked with Hinote in a sausage factory months before the slaying.  The young man had an alibi, and was cleared of suspicion.

            On Sunday, a dual funeral was held in the home of Arthur Hinote’s parents at 1118 W. Chase St.  Burial was at St. John’s Cemetery, attended by approximately 5000 people. The two young victims were buried side by side.

            The next day Sheriff Penton announced to the press that there were no new leads. He could not find a motive. It wasn’t robbery. It wasn’t revenge because there were no known enemies. He declared it to be the work of a maniac.

            By Monday, rewards for apprehension of the killer reached $550.  City Manager George J. Roark put up $100. The county offered $250. State Attorney Purl G. Adams in Crestview contributed $100, and a private citizen, Joseph Banman put up $100.

            County Solicitor Richard H. Merritt joined the investigation, and Florida Governor Doyle E. Carlton sent a special investigator to lend a hand.  Every day, at least a dozen investigators scoured Pensacola for leads.  Interviewing, double checking, back tracking, and tirelessly seeking answers, they were getting nowhere fast. 

            Finally, 15 days after the murders, Solicitor Merritt announced that he was holding a suspect named Grady H. Faulk, 25 years of age. Merritt said he would give evidence to the Grand jury, and seek a true bill.  Even though every effort was made to keep the evidence secret, the details began to leak.

            The evidence included a bloody shirt found in Faulk’s home in Klondike.
            A shotgun of caliber that killed Hinote with a bent barrel was in his possession.
            Rumor of a compact belonging to Bryars found in his home.

            The evidence was purely circumstantial, but it was strong enough for the Grand Jury to return two first degree murder indictments against Faulk. The court appointed Attorney Ernest E. Mason to defend Faulk.

            On the 8th of March, 1932, the trial began.  The State’s case, based on circumstantial evidence was built on these points:
            Faulk left home night of October 22nd, carrying shotgun.
            He didn’t return home until 3:30 in the morning, drunk.
            Someone noticed blood on his shirt.
            He became increasingly nervous, and didn’t return to work the day after the murders.
            Vanity case similar to Bryars found in his possession.

Faulk himself took the stand and withstood vigorous examination calmly while answering all questions put to him.

The Defense’s case:
            Faulk DID return to work the next day and the rest of the days of the week.

            The shotgun in question was a 20-guage, not 12-guage used in the murder.

            He was in possession of a shotgun but a witness backed up his story that he took it from an acquaintance named Nora Coleman when she attacked him with it. He bent the    barrel on a table while he was trying to break it.

            The blood on his shirt was turkey blood.

            The vanity case in question was never proven to belong to Bryars.

The same night the trial concluded, the jury took 25 minutes to acquit on the first ballot.
The case then went cold for over 29 years.

On May 1, 1951, Sheriff R. L. Kendrick arrested a 58-year-old man at a Crestview bus depot. The law had been looking for this man because they had been told that he had been in a car accident with Hinote several months before the murders.  Allegedly, he had threatened Hinote’s life when he was forced to pay repair charges stemming from the accident.  Due to lack of evidence, he was released.

            With no more evidence, the case has never been solved.  The killer of Arthur Hinote, and Bernice Bryars has never been identified.

            It was 1931, and the field of sex crimes was in it’s infancy.  I think this was the motive that Sheriff Penton could not, or did not want to publicly acknowledge.  This kind of crime became more common with the “Phantom Killer” in the 1940’s in Texarkana, Arkansas, and later the Zodiac killer in the San Francisco area around 1969-1970.
            I believe this young couple found a secluded spot for parking, and were accosted by someone with a shotgun who forced Arthur out of the car and shot him.  Then he assaulted Miss Bryars, and afterwards beat her to death. 
            It is nice that their families buried them together. They had been a couple for months, and all indications were that they would be married.
           

            

Monday, May 8, 2017

Grave of Frank M. Penton, Milton Cemetery


The Short Life, and Fast Times of Frank Penton

                Francis Marion “Frank” Penton was the Chief Deputy under Santa Rosa County Sheriff “Long” John Collins.  He killed two men in Milton in two separate shootouts, and possibly a third in an ambush.  The third one resulted in a Federal court trial; the first two he was cleared by a coroner’s jury. I think if Deputy Penton had lived out west in the 1880s, we would be reading about him along with Earp, and Hickock.

                On the 14th of February, 1909, at Andy’s Restaurant in Milton, Deputy Penton, and a man named Robert Fleming decided to settle their differences.  Apparently, as soon as they saw each other they drew their weapons, and commenced shooting.  Shortly after one pm on that day, Mr. Fleming died of gunshot wounds.  The Coroner’s Jury determined it was justifiable homicide.  It was reported that the shootout was a result of an old grudge. 

                On April 20, 1912, in a downtown Milton poolroom, Frank Penton, and his father, Abner T. Penton, were involved in a gunfight with George Warwick Allen.  Allen was a newly married 24-year-old, and the brother of Minnie Allen Collins, wife of S. G. Collins.  According to newspaper reports, 15-20 shots were fired, and though Frank Penton was wounded, he would recover.  Allen was shot with two different caliber bullets, once in the stomach, and a smaller caliber in the shoulder.  The Penton’s were both arrested, and later indicted for murder of Allen.  The elder Penton was found guilty of manslaughter, and was sentenced to 4 years in prison.  I have not been able to find any information on the sentence, (if any), for Frank Penton.

                 In early April 1906, George Allen had been tried for the murder of Eubesau Whitmire. On December 3rd 1905, they were quarreling at the L & N railroad depot over luggage owned by a traveling salesman.  Both young men were working as, “Hacks”, or porters for arriving passengers. During the quarrel, Whitmire was shot dead.  Allen was acquitted for the killing. As a possible motive for the gunfight with Penton, Allen had testified against Penton in Penton’s murder trial, and was assisting the prosecution against Penton in the Corbin Affair.

The Felix Corbin Affair

                In May of 1910, Felix Corbin fled Emanuel County, Georgia, with a warrant for Assault, and Battery on his head.  Emanuel Co. Sheriff Fields was able to track Corbin to Milton, Florida.  The Sheriff obtained the extradition paperwork, and took a trip to Milton.  When Sheriff John Collins received the paperwork, he arrested Mr. Corbin.  Corbin immediately got an attorney to arrange a hearing on the validity of the extradition papers. At the hearing the papers were declared to be, “irregular”, and Corbin was temporarily freed.  Sheriff Fields swore in an affidavit that Corbin was a fugitive from Georgia, and Corbin was again arrested.  Fields, Collins, and Deputy Frank Penton drove Corbin to Brewton, and Fields, with his prisoner took a train back to Swainsboro, Georgia.

                Once in Georgia, Corbin appeared before the U. S. Commissioner and swore out warrants for the arrest of John H. Collins, Santa Rosa Co. Sheriff, Deputy Frank Penton, also of Santa Rosa Co., and Sheriff Fields of Emanuel Co. Ga.  The charge was depriving Corbin of his constitutional rights by conspiring to take him back to Georgia without extradition papers.

                On June 16th, Collins, and Penton were arrested by Federal authorities for forcibly removing Corbin from Florida without a warrant. They were later released. Penton with a $300 bond, and Collins with a $1000 bond.  They were to appear in the next session of Federal Court.

                On December 6, 1910, Felix Corbin ate supper with his wife, and step-children.  As he finished his meal he heard someone calling his name outside.  He opened the door and was hit with four bullets. He died quickly, without naming his assailant.  Frank Penton was immediately suspected for the killing. He and a man named W. A. Simmons of Foley, Alabama were taken into custody.  On Dec. 9, there was a preliminary hearing, and both Penton, and Simmons were released with no indictment.  There wasn’t enough evidence to move forward with a case.  The Corbin murder goes unsolved. 

                By December 22nd, the federal authorities were investigating the murder. Penton Is no longer a Deputy and is in federal custody on two charges, killing Corbin to prevent him from testifying against him, Collins, and Fields, and a charge of conspiracy to commit murder in the Corbin case.

                On April 3, 1911, Penton was indicted by Federal Court, but was freed on a $2000 bond.  His trial started later, on December 1.  The Government case was presented by Emmett Wilson, and Penton’s attorney was E. A. Pace of Dothan, Alabama.  On Dec. 3rd, after deliberating for 12 hours, the jury reported that it was hopelessly divided, and the court ordered a mistrial.  When the jury began deliberations the 10 man jury was 9 for conviction, and one for acquittal.  After 12 hours of debating the issue it was 6 to 4 for conviction.  Penton was released on the same bond, and was to be retried at the next federal court session. 

                In the March 10, 1913 issue of the Times-Democrat newspaper from New Orleans, it was reported that the U. S. Attorney, nol prossed, (dropped prosecution), in the Penton, and Collins cases.

                One final note on Felix Corbin.  There is a full slab grave marker in the Milton cemetery for Mr. Corbin next to his wife, who died in 1954.  Shortly after his killing, a newspaper in Georgia reported that his body had been shipped back to Georgia to be interred in the Corbin cemetery.  Personally, I think he was buried in Milton, and the Georgia newspaper jumped the gun.  Corbin had three sons from his first marriage living in Georgia, with their maternal grandmother. 

                Frank Penton sometime after being finally cleared of charges in the Corbin, and Allen cases found himself employed as the Fire Marshal  at the Pensacola Shipbuilding Company.  On June 27, 1919 he was shot, and killed by W. P. Cox, who was either on the police force at the shipyard, or was on the fire department with Penton and shared a dwelling with him.  There were no witnesses, and the reason for the shooting, or the fate of Cox are unknown at this time. 

                Good, or bad, Frank Penton was an interesting character.  I would like to know more about him.  I bet there is much more about his short life that would be of great interest. 

                Mr. Penton is buried in section three of our Milton Cemetery on Berryhill.  His marker claims he died in 1920, but the newspaper claims he was killed in 1919.  Felix Corbin’s marker is in section 12 as is Eubesau Whitmire’s.  George Warwick Allen is buried in the Collins plot also in Section 12. (northwest part, near the fence).  Allen’s widow, Eva Jernigan, remarried in 1915.  She, and her husband Henry C. Collins, are also buried in the Collins plot.

The one newspaper article I was able to find referring to Penton's death, stated his occupation as Chief of Police.  His death certificate shows it as Fire Marshal at Pensacola Shipbuilding Company.  The certificate show Homicide by pistol shot, and confirms his date of death as 27 June 1919.


Saturday, April 22, 2017

Why Judging Shadows?

I thought long and hard about what to name my blog.  I wanted it to be unique. While eating lunch with my wife Sandi at Ruby Tuesday’s, we hashed it out.  
The “Shadows” refer to the subjects of these essays.  Many of them are remembered only by name, and the info on their headstones.  Some have stories passed down through their families, but those too will continue to fade over time.  
We may hear these tales, and find old newspaper accounts, and subconsciously, or not we unfairly tend to pass judgement on these folks.  Honestly, there is no legitimate way, to criticize the lives, and actions of those who lived 80-100 years ago.  Hard times does not even begin to describe their existence. Justice was swift, and if it was not handed out in a timely manner, some people dealt it out themselves.  
City, and County police forces were small in the more rural towns, and they tended to selectively enforce the law, depending on the circumstances. County Sheriff’s had the power back in the early part of the 20th century.  

The point is, if someone should see an ancestor’s name in these stories.  Please, don’t be offended.  I assure you, there is no malice intended.  There is no judgement here on the motivations of those that lived decades before.  

Thursday, April 20, 2017

The Fate of Judge Trueman

During the 1931 tragic events in Milton, the attorney and business partner of Spencer G. “Babe” Collins, was a man named Lewis V. Trueman.  In 1933, Trueman departed the Florida Panhandle for new opportunities out west. He and his wife settled in Ogden, Utah, and in 1943, Judge Trueman was killed at night, at his house, in the presence of his wife, with a blast from a shotgun. Amazingly similar to the death of Aubrey Gainer.
Before Gainer was killed, there was an article in the Milton Gazette informing the town that Trueman, his wife and another local couple were going on a trip to Cuba. A few days after they left, on July 18, 1931, Aubrey Gainer was killed outside his home, in the presence of his wife and daughter.  (See previous blog for details)
There was a book written years ago called, “Secrets of the Old Milton Cemetery”, by B. B. Morrell.  In the book Morrell indicated that there was a “Mister X”, who was the puppet master concerning some of the events of 1931.  He didn’t name the person specifically, but my top prospect for that role would be Mr. Trueman.
Babe Collins owned the Collins Construction Company and he built Hwy 37 from Milton to the Alabama state line, south of Brewton.  Of course it is now known as State Highway 87.  His company was to be paid $100,000 for the project.  Bonds were sold by the First National Bank of Milton, and the work was done.  There was a dispute about the money paid to Collins.  He claimed he was owed $15,000, and the Santa Rosa County Commission who  controlled the payout, believed the correct number to be a little over $2,000.  There was a lawsuit and then a change of venue to Walton County.  Unfortunately, Collins was killed before the case went to court.  Trueman, as the lawyer for the estate, settled the case for the $2,000 offered by the county. Incidentally, the only items recovered in the safe after the arson at the ice factory and Collins’ warehouse, were burned remains of road bonds.
During his time in Northwest Florida Trueman had been active in state politics and from 1928 until he left the area in 1933 he was an appointed aide to the Florida Governor Doyle Carlton.  He was also the lawyer for the Santa Rosa Co., school board, and Vice-President and charter member of the Society of the Bar, 1st Judicial District of Florida.
In early 1933, he and his wife Ora, moved to Ogden, Utah, and by January 1939 he was appointed Judge of the 2nd District Court for the State of Utah.


Judge Trueman Grants Divorce to Mrs. Cox

In February 1943 a pregnant Mrs. Wanda May Cox was granted a divorce in Judge Trueman’s court from her drunk and abusive husband, Austin Cox, Jr.  The Cox’s got married in August of 1942 and he was employed at the Utah Naval Depot as a guard.  Soon after marriage, he quit his job, and instead of searching for new employment, he stayed drunk and became very abusive.  He once threatened to cut Wanda’s tongue out. After the divorce Wanda left town and a couple of months later gave birth to a son.  
On the night of July 23, 1943, during Ogden’s annual Pioneer Days Celebration Cox was drinking heavily with friends and around nine o’clock, he received a phone call saying that Wanda was in town and staying at a local address.  He told his friends he was going to see her.
About an hour later Cox drove up to the home of Mr., and Mrs. Bert Stauffer.  When Bert answered the knock on the door Cox demanded that Stauffer, “Send Wanda out here”.  Stauffer didn’t know Wanda and when he told Cox this Cox called him a liar, and threatened him with a shotgun.  Mrs. Stauffer, and her mother, Mrs Burton came to the door pleading for Cox to leave. Losing his patience, Cox began firing his shotgun.  Mrs. Stauffer and Burton were killed instantly and Bert Stauffer was critically injured but survived his wounds.  A neighbor, Dale Brooks, heard the commotion and ran out of his house to have his hand shot off.  Mrs. Brooks ran into the yard and Cox killed her.  Another neighbor, Sam Nelson was killed as Cox was walking back to his car.
After driving to the home of Judge Trueman, Cox stood in his front yard and fired buckshot into the house.  The Truemans had just gone to bed when they heard the noise and got up to investigate. Ora Trueman later testified that the Judge looked out a window overlooking the yard and after asking what was going on, was hit with a load of buckshot and died instantly. She was unharmed.
Cox eluded the police dragnet until just after midnight when he drove up to the police station.  Lt. John A. Smith, Assistant Provost Marshal of the Ogden area, was there helping to direct the search for the shooter.  He looked up in time to see Cox coming through the door brandishing the shotgun and yelled an alert.  Several officers rushed into the room and one was slightly wounded by Cox. Smith and the other officers subdued Cox with a blow to the head.  During the scuffle, Cox screamed, ‘Why in the hell don’t you shoot me? Come on get it over with!”
In the 1940’s justice was swift.  He was found guilty at trial and sentenced to death.  A higher court delayed his execution for eight months until June 19, 1944.
At dawn, Austin Cox, Jr. was executed by firing squad at the Utah State Prison.  As his death warrant was being read he fought his restraints and stuck his tongue out
Judge Trueman was buried at Aultorest Memorial Park in Ogden on July 27, 1943.  His wife Ora moved to Pensacola and lived there until her death in October of 1965.

Mostly compiled from numerous articles published in the Ogden Standard-Examiner, 1943-1944.


Saturday, April 15, 2017

The Killing of John Wesley Penton

John Wesley Penton
(Thank you, Anne Penton Pinckard)

In May of 1891, the ex-Sheriff of Covington County, Alabama, John Wesley Penton, was living in Milton Florida.  It was well known in the Milton area that Penton was wanted in Alabama for fleeing an 1889 life sentence for murder.  The folks up in Andalusia knew where Penton was living too.
There had been an arrest attempt in 1890, that resulted in the severe beating of two officers from Pensacola, who had made the trip to Milton to capture Penton.  Until May of 1891, there had been no further attempts.  
In late April, or beginning of May, the Governor of Alabama, Thomas Jones, demanded that Florida extradite Penton back to Alabama.  Governor Francis Fleming issued a writ of extradition to all the County Sheriffs in the State of Florida. Sheriff Thomas J. Watts, of Washington County, Florida appointed two special deputies to accompany him to Milton. They were, J. S. Ball, the Chipley Fla. town Marshall, and J. R. Shoemaker, a Chipley businessman.
In Alabama, W. D. Cheatham, an Agent for the State of Alabama from Montgomery, Robert Charlson and D. S. Jackson, both of Birmingham took a train to Pensacola, and then on to Milton, arriving about 4:30 pm.  At 5 pm they met the three from Washington County, and a man named Harry Adams from Troy, Alabama.  
Following a consultation at the Railroad Depot, Shoemaker, and Adams walked to town to see if they could spot Penton.  The remaining five posse members boarded the train as if returning to Pensacola.  About a mile or so out of town the conductor slowed the train and the officers jumped off and concealed themselves in the woods waiting for sundown.
After dark, the officers made their way along the track back to the depot, and met Adams and Shoemaker who reported that they had seen Penton in a bar and observed him while having a drink. The officers walked to the town square to see if they could spot Penton. Around 9 pm Cheatham and Adams entered the bar, followed shortly by Charlson and Jackson.  The other three officers secreted themselves close by to provide back up.


Shootout in the Streets of Milton


Not seeing Penton in the bar, Charlson and Jackson stepped out of the bar onto the sidewalk out front, followed a few minutes later by Adams.  Cheatham was still in the bar speaking to the bartender.
The Street was crowded with people, and across the street a man was selling goods by torchlight.  Adams scanned the crowd and spotted Penton in the street talking to another man.  He pointed him out as the man with the long beard.  Cheatham joined the others on the sidewalk, and they planned their approach.
Cheatham and Adams were going to approach Penton from the front, and Charlson and Jackson were going to make a circuit and approach from the rear, all converging at the same time.  As they approached, Penton suddenly started walking toward Adams.  Adams called for him to stop, and said he had a warrant for his arrest. The officers began pulling their pistols.
Penton quickly produced his own pistol and fired two shots, one hitting Adams in the shoulder. The officers returned fire, and closed on Penton taking his arms and keeping him between them.  The shots Penton fired alerted his friends and they began to fire at the officers.  Cheatham and Adams had Penton between them moving him up the street away from the torchlight, while Charlson and Jackson followed them with covering fire.  The other three officers joined the fight, one of them having a double-barreled shotgun.  The shotgun cleared the street as the officers made their way toward the depot.  During the melee, Penton was hit in the back.  He screamed, “My God, I’m shot!” and slowly sank down to the ground.  The officers commandeered a cart, loaded Penton and hurried to the depot. Penton may have lived about 10 minutes after being wounded.
In the midst of the gunfight, Shoemaker, and Jackson got separated and had been set upon by friends of Penton.  They were knocked down, and Jackson’s hand was damaged when someone wrenched his pistol away from him.  When they made it to the depot, the other officers were relieved to see them alive. After wiring for a special train, the officers put Penton’s body in the depot, and set up guard while waiting for the train.
The City Marshal of Milton, took the side of Penton and his friends during the fight and immediately after tried to arrest the officers.  Sheriff Watts told him there was a warrant and they were legally authorized to make the arrest. When the Marshal persisted a fight ensued and the Marshall was knocked to the ground.  He made no further attempt at arrest.


Where was the Santa Rosa County Sheriff?


The Sheriff of Santa Rosa County was William Jackson. During the gunfight he was conspicuously absent.  He knew Penton and knew he was wanted in Covington county for fleeing a life sentence.  Presumably he had also received the writ of extradition from Gov. Fleming
An inquest was convened in Pensacola and determined that Penton died of gunshot by an unknown person.  Nobody knows who fired the shot that killed him. It was determined to be a .45 caliber shot from a pistol from some distance.  Penton’s body was returned to his family.
As the officers from Alabama were buying tickets to return to Montgomery, they were arrested without resistance for murder by Santa Rosa County Sheriff Jackson. The officers quickly got an attorney and filed a writ of habeas corpus and were released.  They were back in Alabama by Sunday afternoon.


Penton’s history


John W. Penton was born in Alabama even though the newspaper claimed North Carolina.  During the Civil War he served as a Private in the 1st Florida Regiment. (After his death, his wife Josephine and his children moved back to Andalusia, where she drew his war pension and ran a boarding house.)
In the 1880 census, Penton is shown as a “Retail Grocer”, but by 1884 he had gained some local notoriety when some U. S. Marshalls traveled to Andalusia to arrest some timber “depredators”.  The marshalls were attacked by Penton and some friends and ran out of town. He was soon elected Sheriff of Covington County, and was serving his term when he killed Robert E. Crumpler.


Penton Kills an unarmed Man


On June 18, 1888 in the late evening, Sheriff John W. Penton shot and killed Robert E. Crumpler.
Penton tried to collect a fine and court costs in a judgement obtained in Chancery Court against Crumpler.  Crumpler had appealed to a higher court and was advised by his attorney not to pay until the court had made a decision.
Just before dark, Crumpler’s two mule team with a wagon of lumber was driven into town by an employee.
Sheriff Penton took possession of the two mules and led them over in front of Prestwood’s Barroom and leaned against a column of the porch, holding the bridle reins.  When Crumpler learned of this he went to confront Penton.  When he accosted the Sheriff, Penton kicked him hard in the side, and Crumpler staggered away.  After gaining control he approached Penton again and Penton shot him in the throat, with the bullet going through the windpipe.  Crumpler died later that night.  (His headstone shows his date of death as the 19th of June, so it was probably after midnight.)


The Inquest


Penton surrendered to authorities on the 20th, and soon after a coroner’s inquest was held.
From the Montgomery Advertiser dated June 27, 1888:

            We the jury, summoned to hold an inquest on the body of R. E. Crumpler, lying dead at the residence of Mrs. Frank Smith, in the town of Andalusia, State of Alabama, upon our oath, after examining all the testimony, state and present that the deceased R. E. Crumpler, came to his death from a pistol shot in the hands of John W. Penton unlawfully on the 18th day of June, 1888 in the town of Andalusia, given under our hands this, the 20th of June, 1888.


H. B. O’Neal
Jno. F. Thomas
J. J. Wiggins
W. B. Baker
Richard Tillis
P. J. Gantt

On Friday, and Saturday, the 25th, and 26th of June, Judicial proceedings before Justice M. V. Hare, resulted in a verdict of Guilty of First Degree Murder, and Penton was refused bail.  The verdict was appealed to Probate Judge Malachi Riley, who rendered his judgement of Second Degree murder, and fixed a bond of $2500, which was paid promptly.   (This must have been the indictment because Penton actually went on trial in March of 1889.)
At the Penton trial in March of 1889, Penton was found guilty of Murder in the First Degree and sentenced to life in the state penitentiary.  Penton had been forewarned about the verdict and did not show up in court to hear the verdict and could not be located.  A reward of $250 was offered for Penton’s arrest and delivery to the Sheriff.
He moved to Milton with his family because he had other family there and was familiar with the area.  He lived openly with no attempt at deception and many people including local authorities knew he was a wanted man.


Milton was an exciting and dangerous place at one time.  Sheriff Jackson was a one termer and was replaced with the first 4 year stint of Long John Collins.  I haven’t found the name of the Milton Town Marshal who tried to arrest the Alabama contingent before they could get out of town.   
I would like to know where the shootout occurred, but cannot pinpoint it at this time.  I’m thinking it might have been on or near Oak street, but that is speculation.



Grave of John W. Penton
Milton Cemetery
Milton, Santa Rosa Co., Florida