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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. 

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