Featured Post

The Blue Sink Murders

Tampa Tribune 19 Oct 1967   On the 19 th of October 1967, students at Florida High School in Tallahassee were summoned to a meeting with Dr...

Book For Sale!

Book For Sale!

Blog Contents, (not the book)

This is an incomplete list of the stories included in this blog. They are listed in order of latest to earliest added. You can either enter a search in the provided space, or scroll to the bottom to find the earlier posts. I hope you enjoy reading these as much as I enjoy researching and writing about this aspect of our local history.

The Gainer / Collins Murders
The Infamous Coldest Case
The Treachery of Mrs. Vann
Husband believed in her innocence
Area War Dead
One small portion of a much too long list
Killer on the Road
Robbery, Kidnapping, Murder
Burden of Guilt
Solution to a Cold Case
A Killing, A Brothel and ....
The Armantrouts of Pensacola
A Very Tragic Chain of Events
A very sad tale
Murder on South Palafox
Workplace violence in 1905
The Tragic Death of Big Ed Morris
Fight at a Fatal Fish Fry
The Curious Killing of Charles Sudmall
Successful Russian Businessman killed in town
Tale of a Lynching
Prisoner J.C. Evans, left dead on the side of the road
Sheriff McDaniel of Jackson County
Shootout in his Driveway
The 1915 Wyman Murders
Home invasion and killing of Elderly Couple
The Kidnapping of Mrs. Phelps
Holmes County 77 year old widow kidnapped and beaten.
The Mulat Murders
Murder of Julian, and Mae Edwards
Bank of Jay Part II
Were the robbers Pensacola Police Officers?
The Jay Bank Robbery
January 1963 Bank Heist
Killing in Crestview

Was there really Justice for Lester Wilson's death?

The Phantom Ghoul of Whitmire

Grave desecration at the Roberts, and Whitmire cemeteries

Tragedy Near McLellan

The murder of Daisy Locklin Padgett

The Turpentine Feud of 1911

The Cooley family ambush and events leading up to it.

The Allen-Whitmire Shootout

Articles about the shootout at the L&N Depot in Milton

The Acreman Family Murder

The murders and arson of an entire family near Allentown

Retired School Teacher Kills Three Police Officers

Happened in Ocala, Florida

Unsolved Pensacola Axe Murder

Family attacked as they slept

Unsolved Murder of Henry Hicks Moore

Pensacola Lovers lane murder

Unsolved Hinote/Byers Murder

Young couple killed

The Short Life and Fast Times of Frank Penton

Chief Deputy and local Gunslinger

The Fate of Judge Trueman

Killed in Ogden, Utah

The Killing of John Wesley Penton

Shot down in the street in Milton

The Trial of C. B. Penton

Suspected of killing S.G. "Babe" Collins

The 1931 Pursuit and Capture of Criminals Near Milton

Captured in Mulat swamp

Search This Blog

Tuesday, October 3, 2023

The Blue Sink Murders

Tampa Tribune 19 Oct 1967

 On the 19th of October 1967, students at Florida High School in Tallahassee were summoned to a meeting with Dr. H. Clay Bishop, where they were informed of the deaths of two of their classmates. Dr. Bishop urged the students to stop the rumors that were spreading about their classmates’absence. Some of the girls were seen crying as they filed out of the room. The two victims had attended class on the 17th and were well-liked by the others.

            At around midnight on the 17th, an anonymous caller said that he had been at a place where he should not have been, and therefore could not identify himself, but felt that he should report having seen two bodies in the woods near Blue Sink. This was a small lake located just south of Tallahassee, in the Apalachicola National Forest. Sheriff Bill Joyce arrived at the scene just after one of his deputies. The bodies of two young females were found about 10-12 feet apart. Information in the girls’ purses led to their identification and positive ID was established later in the hospital morgue.

            The girls were identified as Elizabeth Ann Wood and Flora Kay Granger, both 17 years old and high school students at Florida High. They were both shot and stabbed. One was fully clothed, and the undergarments of the other were missing. They were found on their backs on a blood-soaked bed of pine needles with signs of a struggle. No murder weapon was found.

            Both victims were described by those who knew them as pleasant, happy, average high school girls. Ann played a horn in the student orchestra, and Kay was in the chorus. They both lived within walking distance of their school, the educational training school for Florida State University. Kay worked after school at Krispy Kreme on West Tennessee Street. The manager said she was on the job from 4 to 7 p.m.

            The girls were last seen alive the night they were killed between 8:30 and 9 p.m. They had left the Granger home at about 8, and the Wood family station wagon they left the home in was found abandoned the next day in front of a hamburger place on West Tennessee Street. The two bought ice cream sandwiches from J.M. Fields between 8:30 and 8:40 from a clerk who knew them. The clerk said they were alone, and she didn’t see them leave. The proprietor of the Wagon Wheel Drive-In, on South Monroe Street said Kay bought some potato chips at the service window after 8, but he did not notice Ann.

An Arrest is Made:

            Around 1:30 a.m. on October 18, Sheriff Simmie Moore of Madison County, Florida was told of a man at Madison Memorial Hospital with a gunshot wound. Sheriff Moore found Robert Scott Sanders there with a wound to his arm. Sanders told the Sheriff that he was watching TV with his friend and roommate, James Friesner, when a .22 caliber revolver that Friesner was cleaning accidentally discharged, hitting him in the arm.

            Later in the day, when Sheriff Moore heard about the killing of the two girls, he went to the Cherry Lake Friesner home with State Beverage Agent William Eddy and brought both men to Madison for questioning. He phoned Sheriff Joyce around 12:30 p.m. When Joyce arrived, he interviewed and later arrested Sanders for killing the two girls.

Sanders’s account of what happened.

            Sanders said he was driving along the road from Blue Sink. He had dropped James Friesner off at a bowling alley on Apalachee Parkway and was heading toward Blue Sink when he changed his mind and turned the car around. As he was heading back toward Tallahassee, he met a car and heard screams for help. He once again turned his car around and gave chase. At a flashing traffic light, the car slowed down, and as it drew near, someone threw a bottle at his car. This made him angry and he sped up until he was able to cut the car off, forcing them to stop. He claimed there were two men in the car, and he began to fight one of them. Sanders claimed that the blood found later on his front tire came from the lip of the guy he was fighting. He said the other man shot him in the left arm, then got back in the car and sped away. He said he fired his .22 caliber revolver at the fleeing car. The screams could still be heard as it sped away. He said it was a cream-colored Ford with round taillights. He did not get the tag number.

            James Friesner said that Sanders told him the same story when he picked him up at the bowling alley around 11:45 p.m. There were blood stains on the front seat, an arm wound, a smashed windshield, and a bullet hole in the right rear window. Friesner said the car was his, and he later discovered blood in the trunk when he took it to the service station where he worked to clean it up. Sanders told him the blood in the trunk came from his arm while he was looking for something to use as a bandage. Friesner said he often loaned his car to Sanders. When he heard about the two slain girls, he demanded that Sanders tell him the truth, but Sanders stuck to his story. When Friesner later saw a picture of Kaye Granger in the paper, he recognized her as someone Sanders had occasionally dated. She had even been to the Friesner home on one occasion. Witnesses verified that Friesner was at the bowling alley from 8:15 to 11:45 p.m.

Some Sanders Background

            Sanders was born in 1946 in Adelanto, California. I haven’t found out much about his childhood, but by 1962, he and his father, Michael C. Sanders, were living in Milton, Florida. In September 1965, Sanders quit school while attending Milton High School as a junior. He was a student in the Diversified Cooperative Training Program, attending classes and taking job training. He worked first for Dr. Herbert Lundy, a Milton Veterinarian. Dr. Lundy recalled that Sanders had trouble with his grades. He was failing when he went to work for him, but he was a hard worker around the animals and did bring his grades up to passing. Dr. Lundy said that because of Sanders’s interest in cars, he recommended him to Gentry Ford Company, to which he transferred in the co-op program. Richard Lane, President of Gentry Ford, said he let Sanders go because his work was unsatisfactory.

            In 1964, the Milton city directory listed Sanders living on Route 4, Box 204. A former neighbor who knew Michael and his son was located by reporters. Her name was Mrs. Della Redfield. She became friends with them when they moved there in 1962. She said that Robert had “several hot rods around all the time and was always working on them.” Robert was described as quiet and well-mannered. Michael Sanders worked as a bookkeeper in Milton and ran a small country store east of the city on U.S. Highway 90.

Robert Scott Sanders was inducted into the army in Milton after being drafted on May 25, 1966, four days after his twentieth birthday.

Sanders went AWOL, (absent without leave), from his post with the Ninth Division, U.S. Army in Fort Riley, Kansas, which was preparing for departure to Viet Nam. He traveled to Tallahassee and was hired by Hank Mannheimer,  owner of the Mannheimer Service Station, located at Tennessee and Adams Streets,  who later said that Sanders, “only had two things on his mind, girls and the hot rod he was building.” Sanders worked at the station until he was stopped for speeding and arrested on May 16. The next day he was turned over to the Military Police from Fort Benning, Georgia, and taken there to await further orders. Mannheimer said he never saw Sanders again.

Two days after arriving at Fort Benning, Sanders volunteered to donate blood at a bloodmobile. He went in one door and departed from the back door, losing his guard. He returned to Tallahassee, finding his friend James Friesner. They moved from Tallahassee to Madison five months before the murders.


Hearings and Trials

Being indigent, Sanders was appointed representation at his first hearing. Murray Wadsworth, a young attorney just beginning his legal career, was given the case. Wadsworth filed a writ of habeas corpus for a hearing on a petition that stated he had not had an opportunity to interview his client until 4:15 on the previous Friday. After the interview,, Wadsworth decided he wanted Sanders to be given psychiatric and neurological examinations. After an objection by the State Attorney, W.D. Hopkins, the judge issued an oral order granting the exams. Wadsworth also requested that the preliminary hearing, scheduled for November 3, be held with no reporters present. Hopkins also objected to that.

On January 12, 1968, Wadsworth requested a change of venue from Tallahassee to Miami due to what he called “prejudicial” newspaper and television publicity. He filed his motion with 26 clippings from the Tallahassee Democrat to support his charge of media bias. He included an advertisement from the paper pointing out an increase in circulation of 34 percent since 1960, to show that more people than ever got their news from the paper. He also cited a year-end roundup story in the paper, labeling the Blue Sink murders as the “Number One” news story in Tallahassee in 1967.

At Jury Selection on February 7, nine men and three women were chosen. Wadsworth asked them during questioning if they would deliberate objectively, without becoming too emotional when presented with the evidence. He also asked if they could return a verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity if evidence showed insanity at the time of the crime, and whether they would give weight to psychiatrist testimony. He was also concerned about their objectivity surrounding the use of a gun in the crime, and that his client was AWOL from the army.

It is interesting to note that one of the jurors selected was Mrs. Guyte McCord, Jr. She was the wife of one of Leon County’s four circuit judges. Judge McCord was the judge who appointed Murray Wadsworth as the defense council for Sanders. Neither side objected to her being a jury member. The jurors would be sequestered at the Floridian Hotel for the duration of the trial.

The opening day was attended by the parents of Sanders. Michael Sanders and Mrs. Ann Gaff sat on opposite sides of the courtroom.

This trial would only be for the murder of Miss Granger. Wadsworth unsuccessfully tried to get the two murders tried together, but the trial for the murder of Miss Wood would not be until 1971. Kay Granger’s first cousin, Lt. Dick Granger, was the first person to learn of the double slaying while on duty as radio dispatcher the night of the killings.

At the opening of testimony, Attorney Murray Wadsworth admitted that his client, “did it or probably did it,” as he began his defense. “At the time he did it he was legally insane and there was no evidence of how he did it.” Both a psychiatrist and a psychologist testified for the defense. They said they had both examined Sanders and, in their opinion, he was temporarily insane at the time of the murders.

Wadsworth introduced what would be described as “a Bombshell” by calling Florida Highway Patrol Trooper, Jim Hawkins, to the stand. Hawkins testified that he heard a tape recording of a phone call at the police station and recognized it as a “maniac” who had the reputation of being a “sex pervert.” Hawkins said he had arrested him, who he identified as Harold Dean Cope, for drunk driving “about a week before” the murders. He said the man was coming out of the Blue Sink Road area at the time, and there was a hatchet on the floorboard of his car. The Hawkins testimony was before Judge Walker in the absence of the jury. Hawkins testified that the man told him he had “just beat up a girl and thrown her out of the car.” He said he went back to the location, but could not find her. State Attorney Hopkins objected strongly to this testimony, but the judge allowed it since the state had earlier brought up sex crime allegations.

Sanders admitted the gunshot but claimed not to remember the stabbings or bludgeoning. Defense claimed someone else, (such as a pervert in the area), could have attacked the bodies of the two girls after Sanders left the scene. Sanders admitted being with the girls and shooting one of them, which he said happened accidentally, but that he drew a blank after that until he saw the girls’ bodies sprawled in pools of blood on the ground beside the car.

During his testimony, Sanders claimed that his own childhood was so horrific, that while living in Milton, he would go to the county jail and ask to be locked up so that he wouldn’t have to go back home. Sometimes he would stay in jail for “two, or three days.” He claimed many of his problems with his father were because he “stuck up for” his mother, even though he said she had beaten him and his two half-brothers with a “broom handle or something” for the first ten years of his life. “He threw me against the wall and beat me with a belt because he didn’t want me sticking up for my mother.” At one point he said he pleaded with the Santa Rosa County Judge to send him to the Florida School for Boys at Marianna to get him away from home, but the judge wouldn’t do it. He claimed he had blackouts before like the one he had the night at the Blue Sink.

Sanders’ revised story.

He said he met the girls by accident after leaving Friesner at the Parkway Bowling Alley. He had dated the Granger girl before, and he said she and Miss Wood drove up beside him while he was stopped at a red light at Monroe and Tennessee Streets about 9 p.m. Kay jumped out of the car, ran over to his car and kissed him, followed by an invitation to meet the two girls at the Burger Chef Drive-In on West Tennessee. From there they went riding, winding up at Blue Sink to spy on teenage lovers, but found no one there. He claims the girls started teasing him. He said during the course of things, he took his pistol out of his pocket for a reason he could not explain, and that Kay grabbed his arm, and the gun went off. Ann screamed she had been shot. He said he remembered a series of gunshots and nothing else until he found himself standing by the car with the two girls’ bodies lying on the side of the car.

On cross-examination, Assistant State Attorney, Henry Morrison brought out testimony from Sanders showing there was blood all over the car when Sanders washed it off at a filling station on the way back to town, indicating that the stabbing and beating had all taken place before Sanders left the Blue Sink that night.

After all the testimony was heard, the jury deliberated for two hours and fifteen minutes to find Sanders Not Guilty by reason of Insanity. Sanders sobbed when he heard the verdict.

On February 12, the next day, some of the jurors were concerned that the prosecutors did not follow through in some major areas of the case. They were concerned with the exact cause of death, the exact type of weapons used, and the possible involvement of the person who called the sheriff’s office to report finding the bodies. Several of the jurors said that Sanders should receive psychiatric help and that the jury felt that Sanders should never be allowed to go free. The verdict was based primarily on the testimony of the psychiatric witnesses.

State Attorney William D. Hopkins stated that Sanders would be tried for the murder of Ann Wood. He made no comment on the verdict in the Granger case. He was asked if there was precedent for conducting a second trial when two murders were committed at the same time when the first jury declared the defendant insane at the time of the crime, and he replied, “I don’t know. I don’t know what you mean by precedent.” He said he did not know yet when the second trial would be held. Judge W. May Walker had not yet ruled on Sanders’ fate. The judge could commit him to a mental institution. Sanders would remain in the Leon County jail until Walker handed down his decision.


Sanders Sent to Chattahoochee

On October 14, 1968, Sanders was transferred to the State Hospital at Chattahoochee. He had been in the Leon County jail since the day he was arrested. Circuit Judge W. May Walker ordered Sanders committed because he said his “discharge or going at large will be manifestly dangerous to the peace and safety of the people, as well as to the defendant himself.” At the same time, Judge Walker ordered an indictment charging Sanders with Miss Wood’s murder dismissed because he said the jury’s verdict of insanity in the Granger murder precluded another jury from trying the case on the same evidence with the possibility of coming in with an “irreconcilable” verdict that he was sane at the time. State Attorney Hopkins said he planned to appeal Judge Walker’s decision.

Should the medical staff at the State Hospital find in the future that Sanders is sane he will not be automatically released.  Judge Walker explained that a full hearing would be held at which medical experts would testify, the state and defense attorneys would give arguments, and it then would be up to the judge to determine whether to release him. Defense Attorney Wadsworth told the jury at the trial he felt Sanders should be confined to the hospital for life. Jurors, after rendering their verdict, said it was based on the feeling that Sanders would be confined for life. (This is important to remember.)

After only about three weeks at Chattahoochee, hospital official, Dr. C.A. Rich, said that Robert Scott Sanders was sane and should be released. He said, “Sanders is dangerous to the welfare of the patients,” and that he had already tried to escape.  Judge Walker strongly rejected any suggestion of freedom for the man who was acquitted of two brutal murders by reason of insanity. Sanders’ attorney, Murray Wadsworth, said he visited his client the week before and reported “he is no more trying to get out than the man in the moon. He is probably happier than he has ever been in his life. He is ten times better off than he was in the county jail. He put on 12 pounds in the first three weeks he was there. He knows he needs treatment, and he wants treatment.”

Dr. Rich, who had examined Sanders before the trial, testified for the prosecution that he found Sanders to be at no time insane. Sanders was committed to the hospital on October 14 and interviewed by the hospital staff on November 7, “at which time it was the staff’s opinion that there was no evidence of any major organic psychiatric disorder which would undermine the patient’s competency or make necessary his psychiatric care and treatment at this institution,” Dr. Rich said in his letter to Judge Walker.

The Trial for the Murder of Miss Ann Wood

Attorney Hopkins’ appeal of Judge Walker’s earlier decision must have been successful, because in October 1971 Sanders was tried for the murder of Ann Wood. The verdict ended up being the same as the first trial, but some new information was revealed. The victim had suffered a flesh wound by gunshot and was stabbed 66 times.

A surprise witness for the state, Mrs. Patricia Strickland, testified that she and a companion, Johnny White, drove into the Blue Sink area around 11:30 p.m. on Oct. 17, 1967. “When we pulled in John said there were two bodies there,” she said. “I only saw one body. We were there about 15 seconds, then we immediately backed up and drove to town where we called the police.” She said White called from a phone booth in front of the Leon County courthouse. Police officials testified that they received a call about 11:45 p.m. The defense questioned whether the caller was White. During the first trial of Sanders for the Granger murder, the defense maintained that the caller was a man identified as Harold Copp, (or Cope), a “known sexual pervert,” who had been seen in the Blue Sink area, and who had a high effeminate voice, which corresponded with the caller’s voice. Strickland said the reason White did not identify himself that night was because he was married at the time, and he felt it might be embarrassing for it to be known he was at the Blue Sink with her.

On 13 November 1971, Judge Ben C. Willis recommitted Sanders to Chattahoochee, “held and cared for as an insane person, and not to be released or allowed to go at large without the consent of this court.”


At this time, we should familiarize ourselves with something called The Baker Act.

The Baker Act is a Florida law that allows for involuntary institutionalization, (72 hours), for evaluation and determination of the status of loved ones in need. It can be initiated by judges, law enforcement officials, physicians, mental health professionals, and close friends and relatives. The Act was named after Maxine Baker, former Miami State representative, who sponsored the Florida Mental Health Act of 1971, referred to as The Baker Act.

There are several possible results concerning the patient after an examination. The patient could be released into the community. The patient could be involuntarily committed to treatment. The patient could voluntarily consent to treatment. Some of the reasons for involuntary treatment are there is reason to believe that the person is mentally ill, the person refuses a voluntary examination, or the person is unable to determine if an exam is needed. The main point is that there is the likelihood that without care or treatment, the person will cause bodily harm to themselves or anyone else in the near future.

Not covered under the Baker Act are developmental disability, intoxication, conditions manifested by antisocial behavior, or conditions manifested only by impairment of substance abuse.

Upon passing of the Baker Act, Attorney Jon Caminez was named the first Baker Act Examiner.

The Release of Robert Scott Sanders and the scapegoating of Mr. Caminez

Jon Caminez examined Sanders in July 1973, concluded that he was dangerous, and denied him release. In April 1974, after three days of hearings where he found Sanders to be a “walking time bomb,” Caminez stated that he intended to transfer Sanders to another facility. He stated that he felt Sanders had reached “maximum benefit” from his time at Chattahoochee. Sanders, on the other hand, let it be known that his goal was to be released and go live with his father, who was now in Texas, and help him run a lumber business.

In June 1974, the management of the Chattahoochee institution quietly released Sanders without having a court hearing. Sanders indeed went to his father’s home in Texas. but for whatever reason, that arrangement did not last long. Soon Sanders was on his way back to the Florida Panhandle. He got a room in a halfway house in Pensacola and found a job as a security guard. Mostly he worked unarmed at a Pensacola library, but he also served as an armed guard at a Rodeway Inn.

Circuit Court Judge Ben C. Willis and State Attorney Harry Morrison found out about the status of Sanders and had him taken into custody and transferred back to Chattahoochee for examination. Sanders was picked up while making his rounds on 18 Feb 1975. At the time of his arrest, Sanders was not armed. M.W. Mackey, the operator of the Southern Patrol Service, said he hired Sanders upon the recommendation of Robert Hughes, a counselor at the Florida State Vocational Rehabilitation Center. No background check was performed before Sanders was hired.

Sanders had been living at the Halfway House, 1201 W. Hernandez St. while employed as a security guard.

At the subsequent sanity hearing in Tallahassee, one psychiatrist testified that Sanders was dangerous and should be kept under close supervision. Hervey Cleckley of Augusta, GA, also a psychiatrist, testified that Sanders had a personality disorder and apparently had not overcome sadistic tendencies and contempt for his mother. Cleckley considered an authority on personality disorders, wrote the book, “Three Faces of Eve”, a study of a woman with three personalities that was made into a movie starring Joanne Woodward. A psychiatrist for the defense, Dr. William Merrill Corry Wilhoit of Pensacola, testified that Sanders was no longer a threat to society.

The HRS counselor who approved the hiring of Sanders as a security guard used “very bad judgment,” and was suspended for five days without pay, according to HRS secretary O.J. Keller.

Former Baker Act Hearing Examiner Jon Caminez said it was clear the Florida Dept. of Health and Rehabilitative Services violated state laws in the premature release of Sanders. He made the statement on his return from Chattahoochee where he approved and sent to the committing court a plan to release June Byrley, a Bartow mental patient found temporarily insane in the slaying of her newborn baby. Caminez was fired by the Cabinet over the Sanders controversy and was relieved of the post officially on April 1.

“The release of Sanders without a hearing and without a court order is more than just bureaucratic bungling,” Caminez said. “It is apparent the intent was there to circumvent both the committing court and the hearing examiner.”

            Caminez outlined his part in the Sanders release in a letter to Gov. Reubin Askew, pointing out that:

       On March 15, 1974, he wrote Judge Willis, with a copy to HRS counsel James Mahorner, that no release was to take place without court authorization.

       In May 1974, in a telephone conversation with Mahorner, he had no objection to a transfer for Sanders to a halfway house but said another hearing would be necessary and the state attorney and Judge Willis must approve the release.

       In June 1974, he advised State Attorney Morrison of his conversation with Mahorner, which prompted a letter from Morrison to HRS informing the agency the hearing examiner’s order could not be construed as authorization to transfer Sanders to a halfway house.


“That was my last contact with the Sanders case in my capacity as hearing examiner,” he wrote the Governor.


So, in the aftermath of all this, Jon Caminez was blamed for the untimely release of Sanders. He didn’t take it lying down, however. He was publicly berated by Governor Rueben Askew for saying that Sanders was armed when he was working and fired from his job on April 1, 1975. After the Governor discovered that Sanders indeed was working as an armed security guard on occasion, he apologized to Caminez. Caminez was still out of a job as Baker Act Examiner, but he had a long-distinguished career as an attorney and passed away in 2016.

From the Tallahassee Democrat 16 April 1976; Sanders was freed from Chattahoochee and moved at the state’s expense to live with his mother and stepfather in Ketchikan, Alaska. He had a convalescent work release from the Gateway Community Mental Health Center in Ketchikan for vocational rehab at a cabinet shop. Mr. and Mrs. Bjorklund, his mother and stepfather, were already clients there. Their address was 1939 Tongas Ave., Ketchikan, AK.

The Okaloosa News on 16 Dec 1976 reported that Sanders was working in his stepfather’s carpentry shop. His stint as an armed security guard triggered two major changes in Florida law. Courts now have jurisdiction over the release of mental patients and private security guards must pass background checks and be licensed by the state.  Sanders was released into the custody of his mother, Ann Bjorklund. His stepfather’s name is Peter Bjorklund. Someone in Florida sent newspaper clippings that caused a stir in the community. Sanders was a subject of discussion on a local talk radio show.

Well, there it is. A man kills two teenage girls for no reason and receives no real punishment for his crimes. I don’t know whatever became of Sanders. I have searched all the records I have access to. He may have passed away. He would be around 77 years old now. Maybe he lived the rest of his life without getting into trouble or causing any further pain.

Tallahassee Democrat 20 Oct 1967

Pensacola News-Journal 3 April 1975



Wednesday, May 31, 2023

Marianna's Day of Tragedy


          On the rainy night of April 24, 1963, Melvin Allen Weaver either hitchhiked or drove a stolen car into Marianna, Florida in the Panhandle’s Jackson County. It was reported later that he had eaten in a downtown diner and then made his way to a Mo-Jo service station east of Marianna on Highway 90 where he asked the attendant, Lee Edgar Tidwell, Jr., about buying a fanbelt. When Tidwell turned his back to reach for one, Weaver hit him in the head with a car generator that was lying on the floor. He struck him a second time then dragged the unconscious Tidwell into an adjoining room. The attendant later said he regained consciousness as Weaver ripped a telephone from the wall and used the cord to bind his feet. Unfortunately, Weaver picked a station owned by the county Sheriff, W. Barkley Gause, for his robbery. The crime was reported quickly and roadblocks were set up within a 50-mile radius.  The Sheriff and Deputy J.J. McCrary sent out a description of the robber and a youth from Malone named Charles Russ told the Sheriff he saw the suspect heading toward Campbellton. The two officers captured Weaver about 20 minutes later on a dirt road near Campbellton, about 15 miles northwest of Marianna. He was identified by three people who saw him enter and leave the Mo-Jo station.

            Melvin Weaver was originally from Franklin, Ohio, and had been Absent Without Leave, or AWOL from the U.S. Air Force for a little over a year. He was assigned to the 966th AEW&C, (Airborne Early Warning & Control) Squadron at McCoy AFB near Orlando, Florida until February 1962 when he went on the run. 

            Weaver didn’t have money for his $2500 bond so he sat in jail until his arraignment on May 13th. He entered a plea of guilty and his sentencing was set for July 2nd.  On that day, the Honorable Judge R. L. McCrary, Jr. sentenced Weaver to life in prison. Nowhere in the court documents does it state that Weaver was charged with assault on Mr. Tidwell. The only crime he was charged with was the robbery of $19.

            Nothing that Weaver did over the next two days can be excused. His sentence was indeed harsh, but realistically, he probably would have been paroled in a few years. Spending time in the Florida State Prison at Raiford must have seemed like the end of the world for him so on the evening of July 3rd, he set the mattress of his cell on fire. Before the fire was extinguished, Weaver and three other inmates were overcome by smoke. Some reports state that Weaver was unconscious and had to be revived. Some say he was unofficially thought to be dead before he was resuscitated. Early on the morning of Thursday, July 4, 1963, Deputy R.V. (Brooks) Gainer departed the hospital leaving Deputy Allen Finch, 43, and Deputy Aaron Creel, 40, guarding the prisoners.

            The four inmates and two deputies were waiting in one room for further treatment when Weaver asked if he could go to the bathroom and Deputy Finch agreed to take him down the hall. When they turned a corner, Weaver overpowered the deputy, took his pistol, and shot him in the abdomen. As Deputy Finch lay dying, Weaver rushed back to the room where the other inmates were and shot Deputy Creel twice in the head killing him instantly. The other inmates declined his invitation to escape with him. A man named Hubert Mayo, who was visiting his sick father, heard the commotion and left his father’s room to see what was going on. Weaver shot him in the head. Mayo lived until about 9:30 that morning. The killer ran from the hospital in view of many eyewitnesses, who described him as a “big, husky-looking man” who was shirtless and carrying a gun when he disappeared behind some houses. It is fortunate there were not more lives lost that morning. Deputy Ball was only a few minutes away from reporting to relieve Deputy Finch, and Deputy McCrary was supposed to be there but he received a call that delayed him about ten minutes. Deputy Hughes was also on his way to the hospital but still about five blocks short when the shootings happened. On the other hand, more deputies may have prevented the escape attempt.

            The word of the killings spread quickly and Sheriff Gause had bloodhounds brought to the scene to try to pick up a scent. The dogs were able to follow the trail through the yards of nearby homes but lost the scent about a block west of the hospital on Sixth Avenue.

            The Sheriff remembered that Judge McCrary lived nearby and since he was the one who just put a life sentence on Weaver, Sheriff Gause figured he should go check on the Judge’s well-being. Finding the Judge in his bathrobe and not in danger, he left a deputy there and resumed his search for Weaver.

            The Sheriff received a report that Weaver may have been spotted by a night watchman near the train yard. The dogs were dispatched to see if they could pick up a scent. Highway Patrolman Lt. E. B. Jordan joined the Sheriff and asked about roadblocks in case Weaver had been able to obtain a vehicle. Sheriff Gause showed him on a map of where roadblocks were and ran down the cooperation he was receiving from surrounding counties. The Sheriff had also spread the word of possible hostages. Another report from the rail yard said that the man being sought there was not Weaver.

            A deputy soon approached Sheriff Gause with the suspicion that C.V. “Dick” Sangaree, a local oil distributor, his wife Jane, and 8-year-old daughter Georganne may have been kidnapped. Someone had discovered the door to the Sangaree house open, no one home, and their car missing. A neighbor told the police that she had seen them drive off shortly after 6 am. There was a stranger with them who sat in the back seat. The Sangaree car was described as a light blue 1963 Chevrolet. It had been last seen traveling north. The description of the car and the family was then dispatched throughout the search area, which now included Alabama and Georgia. A few false leads were reported to the Sheriff from surrounding communities the Gause had to filter through, but the Sangaree situation seemed legitimate.

            Two Georgia Bureau of Investigation, (GBI), Lt. W.T. Beauchamp and Sgt. W.D. Cochran were cruising in a patrol car on Highway 19, a few miles north of Albany, Georgia when they spotted a car fitting the description of the Sangaree vehicle. They were able to verify that it had a Florida license plate starting with a prefix of 25 which at the time indicated that it was registered in Jackson County. Through binoculars, they could see that there was a lone occupant of the car. They began pursuit and soon both cars were exceeding 100 mph with Weaver’s car close to wrecking more than once. As they approached the small town of Smithville, Weaver began shooting at them through his back window. Just inside city limits, he turned down a dead-end street that ended at a schoolyard.

            Weaver came to a stop near three teen-aged boys and leaving the car he threatened them with his gun using them as a shield between him and the pursuing cops. The three young men were cousins, Ronnie Knott, David Moore, and the smallest Ricky Hale. They had decided to begin their July fourth by walking over to the baseball field for a little while. Ricky, whose full name was Charles Richard Hale, had experienced a tough couple of years. His family was living in Dade County, Florida when a brother died in September 1961. His mother had passed away from cancer in July 1962. After she died, what remained of the family moved to Smithville, where his family was originally from. His father then had a heart attack and died in April 1963. Ricky and his remaining siblings now lived with his grandmother, Mrs. C.C. Ansley. Ricky was fourteen years old.

The two GBI agents approached Weaver and the boys but stopped when Weaver put his gun against the head of one of the teenagers and demanded they drop their weapons and car keys. Seeing the desperation in Weaver and feeling they had no choice, the two officers did as they were told. Taking the guns, keys, and Ricky as hostage, Weaver said, “I’ll kill this kid if anyone tries to stop me.” and quickly left the scene in the GBI car. Lt. Beauchamp learned Ricky’s name from the other two boys and dispatched Cochran to a nearby store to call in the incident. Cochran soon returned from the store with the news that the highway patrol was setting up roadblocks near Americus and sending a car to pick them up.

            Farther north near the intersection of Highways 27, and 19, Highway Patrolmen Cpl. C.H. Bentley and Trooper Robert Benson received the alert to look out for a four-door chocolate-colored 1962 Ford, along with a description of Weaver and his 14-year-old hostage. They had just entered Highway 19 when they saw the car.

            They pursued Weaver into Americus but lost him when he suddenly turned onto a dirt road. They were looking for the car when they heard a gunshot and located the car near a pecan grove and a small shack. Weaver had tried to enter the small house but the door was locked. Hearing a baby crying inside he demanded someone open the door and when no one answered he shot through the door. (No one inside was hit.) Grabbing Ricky by the arm they started running to the pecan trees. Weaver saw the two cops who had gotten out of their car and fired his pistol at them. Cpl. Bentley was about 25 yards from the house when his head was grazed by the bullet fired by Weaver. Bentley decided to return to their car for the first aid kit, but Benson was determined to continue the chase with no backup.

            Benson was a U.S. Army-trained marksman who had fought in the Korean War. He carefully used trees and brush for cover and when he saw that Weaver had stopped and was digging a hole for cover, he was about 200 yards away when he quickly sighted his 30-30 lever action rifle and dropped Weaver with a shot to the chest. Fourteen-year-old Ricky Hale saw Weaver drop and picking up one of the weapons on the ground shot Weaver at least four times. He then started running in a zig-zag pattern away from Weaver until Benson was able to get his attention and let him know that it was ok. He later said Weaver was still moving when he started running so he was trying to make himself a difficult target. Melvin Weaver died where he fell. The shot Benson hit him with probably was fatal, but young Ricky did what he thought was necessary to survive. Who can blame him?

            Meanwhile, the Sangaree family was all right.  Weaver had let Mrs. Sangaree and her daughter out of the car near the Georgia state line. He then let Mr. Sangaree out about three miles south of Colquitt, Ga. They were unharmed. Mr. Sangaree later told authorities that Weaver stated that everything happening was the Judge’s fault for sentencing him to a life term.

            Melvin Weaver’s dad, Homer didn’t know about the events of July 3rd and 4th until he heard a report of it on the radio. Melvin’s family and neighbors were stunned when they heard the news. They described him as quiet, good-natured, and hard-working. He lived on Farm Avenue in Franklin, Ohio, and would cut lawns in his neighborhood. He had left home about four years before to join the Air Force.

            Weaver was also identified as being the man who robbed another Mo-Jo station in Dothan, Alabama at 2:00 am on April 21, assaulting B.F. Trawick and taking $105.

            One more sad event that is connected to the escape. Hubert Mayo’s wife Irene had a stillborn daughter in the same hospital where Hubert was killed a week after his death. In May 1965, Irene was granted $12,000 by the state legislature.

Ricky Hale was interviewed by reporters and was hailed a hero for his actions during his ordeal. He stated, “There was a pistol on the ground and when this convict slumped down on his knees, I picked it up and started shooting. He seemed to be still alive when I started running away. I had never shot a pistol except for one time before. I sure was scared.”

            Ricky joined the Marine Corps and served in Viet Nam from July 1969 to March 1971. I haven’t been able to find out about the rest of his short life other than he died in Dougherty County, Georgia in 1981 at 32 years old.


            Something to consider: Weaver was sentenced to a life term at Raiford for robbery according to court documents. There is no charge for car theft or assault. A life term for a robbery of $19 seems excessive. Was Weaver offered a deal where all charges would be dropped except for the robbery if he would plead guilty? If so, the sentence passed down by Judge McCrary must have stunned him to the core. Weaver was obviously on a path of destruction considering he was later identified as the perpetrator of the Dothan robbery on April 21. At 23 years of age, a life sentence must have seemed like the end of the world. Was the cell fire an attempt at suicide or a carefully laid plan to move to a less secure facility? I found a couple of articles that claimed Weaver was unofficially considered dead and it took 90 minutes of resuscitating effort to get him fully conscious.

            The shift change activity at the hospital was reported by The Dothan Eagle in a very detailed account of the events of July 4. 

            Mostly, this account was taken from contemporary newspaper accounts. I met Randy Creel, the son of Deputy Creel, working in the museum on Church Street in Bagdad, Florida. He is the one who first told me of this case, and let me borrow some case material including the October 1963 issue of Official Detective magazine which covered the story.


Tallahassee Democrat 5 July 1963

Pensacola Journal 5 July 1963

Sunday, February 12, 2023

Mr. Mapoles, Mr. Pooley, and the FCC


    Clayton Mapoles debuted his new AM radio station WEBY on September 1, 1954. He was a former newspaper publisher in both Crestview and Milton. Initially, the station broadcasted with 1000 watts, but in 1958 the FCC approved an increase to 5000 watts.

    Eventually, near the end of his involvement with WEBY, events on this station’s airwaves changed the broadcast rules for stations nationwide.

    Ben Henry Pooley, who broadcast a morning show on WEBY from 1957 to 1968, showed up for his morning show at about 6 am. He read in the Milton Times a political ad for State Senate candidate, John Boles. In this ad, Boles attacked his opponent, John Broxson for his association with Mapoles when Broxson’s father Bart Broxson had been a political adversary of Mapoles. 

    Pooley was incensed when he saw this. Putting aside his planned editorial for his 6:45 show, he quickly wrote some notes for a reaction to what he just read.

    There is no actual record of what Pooley said on the air. Though he usually would leave a copy of his script to be filed at the station, he was seen folding up his notes and putting them in his pocket as he immediately left the station after his 15-minute show. John Boles, the subject of Pooley’s ire, claimed later that he took notes while listening and he said that he was referred to as “the black sheep of his family”, and even his mother wouldn’t vote for him.

    Boles also later claimed that he called the station and demanded equal time for a response and was refused. A couple of weeks later he filed a complaint with the FCC.

    This was not the first time WEBY, and Pooley was the target of shutdown by their political opponents. In November of 1959, a petition was filed with the FCC by Clifford Wilson, Albert Golden, Richard Finlay, Bart Broxson, Morrison Kimbrough, and Newman Brackin. The petition was for revoking the station license for personal attacks in a political editorial.

    During broadcasts, Pooley would refer to public officials with colorful nicknames such as, “The Bald Eagle from Pollard”, “Super Octane – the Gas-Guzzlin’ Commissioner from Harold”, Little Sir Echo, Prince Albert, and others.

    In May 1959, Pooley had been pulled over on the way to the radio station one morning by two police officers, and two alcohol revenue agents. Searching his car, a container of illegal whiskey was confiscated and Pooley was arrested. A grand jury cleared Pooley of charges and it was believed the booze had been planted.

    Other intimidation tactics included three threats that the station was going to be dynamited unless it stopped criticizing Sheriff Broxson, and removed Pooley from the air. These attempts failed and in November the station was sued for slander by Wilson for $50,000 for claiming he used county gasoline for his private and business vehicles.

    The FCC refused the petition since the station license was not up for renewal at the time.

    Incidentally, a thief stole 4000 records from the station, and a Women’s apparel store Mapoles owned by Milton High School was burglarized. There was an arrest in these cases in May 1961.

    In 1961 when Wilson’s slander case was dismissed, he challenged WEBY’s license renewal. He also lost this challenge. The license was renewed in 1962.

    Through all this process, however, the FCC updated the “Fairness Doctrine” and this along with the later Boles case is now referred to in legal publications as the “Mapoles Decision”.

    So, back to the Boles incident, in July 1967, the FCC voted to designate the license renewal of WEBY for a hearing, after the commission received complaints against the Milton Broadcasting Company, for potential violations of the fairness doctrine for the Pooley editorial broadcast on April 22, 1966. This was due to Boles’ claim that the station would not give him equal time.

    Mapoles attempted to sell the station to Lawrence Hankins Locklin, (aka, singer, Hank Locklin), in early 1968 and terminate the renewal proceeding, but the FCC denied the request.

    During this period Mapoles started claiming poor health to avoid appearing at the hearings. A whole group of doctors including Dr. Rufus Thames, Dr. Enzor, Dr. West from Jay, a doctor from Duke University, and the Rev. Bamburg gave their opinions on the health of Mapoles. Another group of witnesses gave statements alluding to the apparent good health including Albert Golden.

    The hearings concluded with the decision to just renew the license for one year. The FCC Broadcast Bureau disagreed with the decision of the hearing examiner, Herbert Sharfman, and appealed. After oral arguments in Jan 1972, the commission denied renewal for WEBY, who claimed that Mapoles showed an “unpardonable lack of candor” in supplying a purported copy of the editorial that was considerably milder than the one that actually aired and inconsistencies in his medical status. Mapoles appealed allowing the station to remain on the air past the July 3 shutdown date. WEBY finally shut down on March 30, 1973, with much of its programming moving to WXBM-FM.

    There were four known attempts on the life of Ben Henry Pooley. In April 1979, Pooley’s trailer was destroyed by dynamite while he slept. He was lucky to survive due to the blast being absorbed by a closet packed with overcoats, and other clothing. One of his dogs was killed in the blast and the toilet, or bathtub blew through the roof and landed in the yard of the next-door rest home that was owned by Annette Pooley.

    In August 1984, Leroy Johnson was arrested for allegedly participating in a murder-for-hire plot to kill Pooley. This was known as the “ketchup killing”. The FDLE, through an informant, learned of the plot and took Pooley and his family to an undisclosed location. Pictures of Pooley with ketchup on his head were taken to simulate a gunshot wound. The picture was then used as “proof” of the killing. The informant showed the picture to Johnson who then made a trip to Harold. After his return to Milton, he was pulled over by the police, and just under $10,000 was found under his seat. He was taken into custody but died of a heart attack 6 days later. There were no further arrests.

    In September 1987 Chester Cole was sentenced to 35 years for his role in another murder-for-hire plot. Cole was recently paroled and was harboring an escaped convict and convicted murderer named Boo Adams. Adams was supposed to kill Pooley, but backed out and turned the whole thing over to the Sheriff’s department. Chester Cole was on the FBI’s most-wanted list in the early 1960s for armed robberies. Supposedly, Chester Cole was the second choice of the “money man” who wanted Pooley dead. His first choice was William Sanders. Sanders was too sick and died soon after.  Interestingly, Sanders had once been a teacher at Milton High School. He was actually voted “Most Popular Teacher” by the students in 1960. He owned a sporting goods store in Milton, where the downtown parking lot is now, across from the old Florida CafĂ©.

    A fourth and final attempt was made in 1988. It didn’t go very far when the man contracted went to the police instead. Ex-County Commissioner Clifford Wilson of Harold was arrested and ultimately was acquitted at trial in December 1988.

    Pooley returned to the radio in 1991 on WECM 1490-AM.

Pensacola News Journal, 16 Sept 1991

Pensacola News Journal 2 April 1973

Sunday, January 22, 2023

Lester and George

 Lester Pooley and George Wallace

Lester Pooley, older brother of Ben Henry Pooley of Bagdad, Florida had more than 300 pro, and amateur fights. He lost only 9. He fought as a 112-pound flyweight. It was said that he was, “Quick on his legs, fast with his fists.” And “rugged, cunning, and tough.”

In 1935 he won the southeast AAU championship at 16 years old. While still an amateur he would use a false identity to fight professional bouts. The sawmill in Bagdad had shut down so he fought against professionals to support himself.

He defeated Joe Dan Trotman who later became a Judge in DeFuniak Springs. He also knocked out Lew Jenkins, a future lightweight world champ in a Bogalusa, Louisiana fight.

On Feb. 12, 1936 in a Golden Gloves semi-final bout in Nashville, Tenn., he fought future Alabama Governor George C. Wallace and won by unanimous decision.

Many years later at an airport press conference during his presidential campaign Wallace said, “I’m sure glad to see this outpouring of support for my campaign and I’m certainly glad to see my old friend Lester Pooley. You know, Lester whipped me once in a Golden Gloves competition, and he did a pretty good job of it. I’m glad to see he’s on my side now.”

On more than one occasion, Wallace asked Pooley to join his staff as a bodyguard. Pooley always refused. He told the Governor he had a drinking problem, “I might stay sober for a time, but if I took the notion to get juiced-up, I’d do it.” I told him I might help him, but I believe I’d hurt him.

Nov. 30, 1975, Pensacola News-Journal


                                                                          Feb. 23, 1936, Pensacola Journal

Monday, January 9, 2023

Death in a Turnip Field


             Mrs. Estelle Phillips, a 32-year-old mother of six children, was working in a 40-acre turnup field one day near Robertsdale, Alabama in late March 1941, when an airplane swooped down and sliced her head off. The aircraft left a 6-inch-deep furrow in the ground from a wingtip and a small boy was also injured. Later folks in an adjoining field reported that the aircraft had made dives at them too.

            The police were called to the scene and took eyewitness reports and it wasn’t long before their investigation crossed paths with an investigation out of Corry Field in Pensacola concerning a Boeing Stearman trainer aircraft that had returned to base with damage. Two Naval Ensigns who had just recently graduated flight training and were named instructor pilots were taken into custody.

            Ensign Paul C. Brown, from Chicago, who was the pilot that day, and Ensign Joseph C. Thompson, from Healdsburg California, were court-martialed. They were convicted of Involuntary Manslaughter. Brown was sentenced to 24 months, and Thompson got a 12-month sentence. Both were to be served at the prison in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

            The Federal Government gave $5000 to Mrs. Phillips’s husband and six children for compensation which even though it was 1941, doesn’t seem nearly enough.

            The two culprits in this case only served 5 months and Brown got married four days after he was released in New York City. In a newspaper from December 1942, I found an article saying that Thompson had a job instructing Naval Cadets at Plumas County airport near Beckwith, California.

            Hopefully, Mr. Thompson taught the young cadets about the fatal consequences of childish displays of bravado when your ego outweighs your talent. 

Friday, November 18, 2022

The Killing of 2nd Lt. Allman

     Second Lt. Willis T. Allman was a veteran of the Omaha Beach landing during the D-Day invasion of Normandy. By December 1949 he had served thirteen years in service. On December 26, while his wife and two sons were in Rocky Mount, NC, visiting her family, Allman was playing shuffleboard at the Oriental Gardens in Norfolk with his friend Lt. Robert Buchanan. They were joined there by a guy they didn't know who was also playing shuffleboard in the club named Michael R. "Buddy" Green. After playing a few games Green left for a short time and upon his return to the club, he asked the two if they would take him to another club to play some more shuffleboard. 

    While riding in the backseat, Green produced a revolver and ordered them to pull the car over. He took their wallets with the $4.85 they had between them and made them lie down in a muddy field. Buchanan later testified that he said, "Don't shoot us, Buddy", and Green replied, "Too bad for you because you know my name". With that, Allman lunged at the gunman, and Buchanan ran to find help. He heard two gunshots and not finding anyone to help, returned to the field and saw Green driving away and Allman with a fatal chest wound. Allman died soon after, and in a very short time, Green was arrested at his home in Ocean View. Ironically, the two victims had no idea Green's nickname was Buddy. It was just what Buchanan used because he didn't know his name. 

    Green was found guilty of murder with Buchanan returning from his assignment in Korea to testify. He was sentenced to death, but on the eve of his execution, Governor John Battle commuted his sentence to life. The Governor consulted with mental health experts and felt Green was temporarily insane due to his combat experience in WWII. Green spent the rest of his life in prison.

    Willis T. Allman left a legacy, however. His two sons were Duane, and Gregg Allman of the Southern Rock, and Blues band, The Allman Brothers. They had no memory of their father and were raised by their mother Geraldine Allman. Their father was robbed and murdered by a fellow veteran for $4.85. Sometimes this world just makes no sense.