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.


3 comments:

  1. This is great stuff. I have reposted to a number of historical pages on facebook. I'll also post it to the INCOUNTRY blog I use. incountry.blogspot.com.

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  2. Thank you Vic. I'm glad you liked it.

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  3. I enjoyed the story. Do you have any information about a murder that may have occurred before 1938 on the old Bagdad Hwy? My mother refered to the place as the "Old Campbell Place". Voncilleb@aol.com

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