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.