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Ambush and Betrayal, Satterfield & Grice, 1933

Home | Short Feature Story | Ambush and Betrayal, Satterfield & Grice, 1933


Sunday, October 22, 1933, 8:30 p.m.
Goldsboro, North Carolina

Herbert Grice was in the middle of untying his shoes when he was stopped by the frantic barking of his dogs. They often barked at everything and anything they didn’t approve of, and Grice quickly dismissed their clamor as insignificant. But before he could get his shoes off, their yapping turned into a threatening growl and Grice knew their warning was to be taken serious. As he had done many times before in such instances, the machine shop foreman turned on the outside light, walked out onto his front porch, and called out to the darkness.Ruby-Grice

The reply to his inquiry was a shotgun blast that sent lead buckshot tearing through him, ripping holes into the screen door, and biting into the walls of the living room. A cloud of plaster dust and wood splinters showered down on his wife, Ruby. The shot missed hitting her and his three children who were in their beds in a nearby room. With a puzzled look on his face, Herbert sank down to the porch floor and died seconds later.

Ten feet in front of the house, Wayne County Sheriff Paul Garrison and other lawmen, found a flattened spot where the killer had sat or knelt as he waited to ambush Grice when he walked outside. Scattered on the ground in that same spot, lawmen found several wooden matchsticks that had been chewed down by the killer—still moist from his saliva.

Using the headlights from their cars to illuminate the area, lawmen discovered the path the killer had used to approach the house.

“The trail led to a ditch, turned right, then crossed through a pine thicket and merged with a dirt road called Linwood Avenue,” crime writer Sam Cohen would later report. At the end of the trail, Garrison’s deputies could make out tire tracks in the soft grass. The killer had parked his car in that spot, and then made his way to the Grice house where he probably counted on the dogs to bark and draw out his victim.

As deputies explored the tracks further, they noticed that the killer walked pigeon-toed, with the toes pointed inward. In one footprint made into the damp soil, they could make out the word “Cushion” on a heel mark.

Among the many friends and neighbors who were brought in for questioning that night and the following day was Herbert Grice’s close friend and Sunday school teacher, Rufus Satterfield. While Satterfield waited patiently at the sheriff’s department to be questioned, he began to chew on wooden match sticks which he disposed in a nearby ash tray. After he was grilled for one hour and recounted his movements that day, he was released as Sheriff Garrison and his men investigated his alibi.

During a two-week investigation, authorities were able to tear down Satterfield’s alibi, link him to a borrowed shotgun, and had an eye witness who saw a man, matching Satterfield’s description, exit a car parked in the same spot the night of the murder. That man, the female witness reported, carried a shotgun and walked along the same path found in the tall grass and soil that investigators discovered.

During his trial held in late February 1934, Satterfield claimed he was innocent and directed all the blame toward Herbert’s wife, Ruby, and her younger brother, Donald Sasser, 21. Satterfield claimed Ruby was his lover, and she and her brother wanted Herbert killed so she could collect on his $5,000 insurance. The prosecutor introduced witnesses who gave testimony that loosely supported Satterfield’s claims. Despite his denials that he was ever involved, Satterfield was found guilty on March 1 and sentenced to death.

Just prior to his trial, Ruby and her brother, Donald, were arrested for complicity to murder. Their trial was held in December and Ruby’s alleged lover, Rufus, was the star witness. Satterfield admitted to the packed courtroom of 1,200 people that he shot Herbert Grice to death but that Donald Sasser was the one who drove him that night. He also toward authorities that Ruby told him “to get Don and go and kill Herbert Grice.” He further alleged that he killed Herbert because he had beaten Ruby on several occasions.

On December 12, 1934, Ruby and Donald were found not guilty. The following day, Rufus Satterfield was strapped into the electric chair and executed. Authorities were never able to conclusively determine who else was in the car that night.


The Sensational Murder of Alexander Crittenden by his Mistress, Laura D. Fair, 1870

Home | Uncategorized | The Sensational Murder of Alexander Crittenden by his Mistress, Laura D. Fair, 1870

Article by Thomas S. Duke, Celebrated Criminal Cases of America


Laura Fair, Courtesy University of Nevada at Reno Special Collections.

Alexander Crittenden was born in Lexington, Ky., on, January 14, 1816. Andrew Jackson was a close friend of his family, and it was through Jackson’s influence that Alexander was sent to West Point. He graduated from this military college with Sherman and remained in the army about one year. At the age of twenty-two he married and went to Texas, where he was admitted to the bar. In 1852 he came to San Francisco and associated himself with S. M. Wilson. Under the firm name of Crittenden & Wilson, they became one of the most prominent law firms in San Francisco.

Laura D. Fair was a native of Mississippi, and at the age of sixteen she married a man named Stone, who died about one year afterward. She then married a Thomas Gracien of New Orleans, but a divorce was obtained six months afterward. In 1859 she married Colonel W. B. Fair, who was at that time Sheriff of Shasta County, California, but who subsequently moved to San Francisco with his wife. Owing to family troubles he committed suicide in December, 1861. After the death of her husband, Mrs. Fair conducted the Tahoe House in Virginia City.

During the war her sympathies were with the South to such an extent that she took a shot at a Northern soldier, but as her aim was very bad she was never punished for her action. On another occasion she shot a man at the Russ House in San Francisco, whom she claimed had made a disparaging remark concerning her, but again her aim was bad and again she escaped prosecution.

Mrs. Fair had some ability as an actress and appeared at the Metropolitan Theatre in Sacramento on March 5, 1863, as Lady Teazle in the “School for Scandal.” In August, 1870, a young man named Jesse Snyder married her, but on October 8 of the same year they were divorced.

In September, 1870, Crittenden sent his wife and seven children East for a pleasure trip, and on the afternoon of November 3 he went to Oakland to greet them on their return. He met his family at the Oakland pier and accompanied them aboard the ferry El Capitan. From the time of the family reunion, Mr. Crittenden’s son, Parker, noticed a woman dressed in black and heavily veiled, who seemed to be watching their actions very closely, and when the family were seated on the boat she hurried toward them and suddenly whipping out a pistol, shot Crittenden Senior in the chest. The wounded man fell unconscious and the woman hurried away and took a seat, but Captain Kentzel of the Harbor Police, who was on the boat at the time, disarmed her and placed her under arrest. It was subsequently learned that she was Mrs. Laura D. Fair. Immediately after being arrested she began to act in a peculiar manner, and when a stimulant was handed to her in a glass of water, she bit a piece out of the glass.

At 6 p. m., November 5, Crittenden died, and on the day of his funeral the Federal, State and municipal courts adjourned. His funeral was one of the largest ever held in San Francisco up to that time.

Mrs. Fair was charged with murder, and during the trial, which occurred in San Francisco, she testified that she and Crittenden had been intimate for seven years past. The defense offered was that Crittenden’s perfidities had wrought havoc with Mrs. Fair’s mind and that she was in a blind frenzy when she shot him.

On April 26, 1871, the jury after a short deliberation brought in a verdict of guilty of murder, and on June 3, 1871, Mrs. Fair was sentenced to be hanged on July 28.

On July 11 the Supreme Court granted her a stay of execution and finally granted her a new trial, at which she was acquitted, because of her attorney’s plea to the jury that the defendant was a victim of emotional insanity.

For many years after her acquittal Mrs. Fair made a living as a book agent in San Francisco.

You can read more online about Laura Fair including her trial transcript.


Mug Shot Monday! Pvt. James Stine, 1912

Home | Uncategorized | Mug Shot Monday! Pvt. James Stine, 1912


In 1912, forty-two-year-old Private James Stine was sentenced to life in prison for the first degree murder of Corporal David Austin who he shot and killed on the parade grounds of Fort George Wright in Spokane, Washington. Stine said he killed Austin because of his harsh methods of disciplining soldiers of the all black 25th Infantry Regiment. Stine was later transferred to Leavenworth where, according to the 1930 US Census, he was still a prisoner there at the age of fifty-nine. There is no record of him from the 1940 US Census.


The Murdering Postal Woman, Lena Clarke, 1921

Home | Short Feature Story | The Murdering Postal Woman, Lena Clarke, 1921


In early July of 1921, West Palm Beach Postmistress Lena Clarke embezzled $41,000 from two registered money bags that were being sent to the Federal Reserve by a local bank. On July 26, the money was discovered missing and one week later, Miss Clarke appeared at an Orlando, Florida, police station and told officers that the man who embezzled the money could be found at the San Juan Hotel. There, they discovered the body of Fred Miltmore who had been drugged and then shot in the head. They also found the two empty money bags which had been slashed open with a knife.Lena-Clarke

The Orlando officers then telephoned back to the police station that Miltmore had been murdered. The chief of police interrogated Clarke and after she made several bizarre statements regarding her predicament, she finally confessed to both the murder and the theft.

Her embezzlement of the money, she explained, was part of her effort to cover up her theft of registered bank money she had stolen in 1918, while she was then the assistant postmistress. During the investigation into that incident, Clarke had tried to cast suspicion Miltmore, who was also in line to become the postmaster. She eventually got the job instead. By then, Miltmore had already quit the post office and opened a restaurant. Before he left, he accused Clarke of stealing the money.

After many confessions which were all recanted, Clarke finally stated that she had followed Miltmore from West Palm Beach to Orlando and lured him up to her hotel room.

“I shot Miltmore—I did it after attempting to make him sign a statement that he had committed the robbery. He wouldn’t sign and in desperation, I shot him,” she told police.

During her time in jail, Clarke wrote poetry and letters to her many supporters on a small typewriter she had been given by a friend. Although police investigated several prominent men from Florida to New York as possible accomplices, no connection could be established. In their early 20th Century minds, a woman could not pull-off a crime like this by herself. There had to have been a man helping her.

While in jail, Miss Clarke’s physical appearance and odd behavior as a “feminine Jekyll and Hyde” were noted by a newspaper writer.

Lena Mary Thankful Clarke, if you please, is a queer combination —a bundle of contradictions. In personal appearance and dress she is far from attractive. Her figure is heavy and uncorseted and her clothes smack of the backwoods.

Her shoes are generally without heels and her stockings of cotton. Her skin is very fine in texture but covered with large, disfiguring freckless. Miss Clarke’s only assets in appearance are her hair, which is decidedly Titian and naturally wavy, and her eyes, deep blue in color and absolutely straight and unwavering in their gaze.

She has cultivated a habit of a straight and steady look, believing a directness of gaze to a psychological winner in dealing with human nature.

Miss Clarke is a firm believer in the power of will. She informed the post office inspector when he confronted her with supposed knowledge that her shortage was known to him, that it was a question of his will against hers and that hers was the master mind, defying him to place the blame on her.

When asked about his daughter, Rev. T.A. Clarke of Atlanta, Georgio, declared: “The law of man may declare our daughter a robber and murderess. But in the sight of God and her aged father and mother, she is as innocent as a new-born babe.”

On December 3, 1921, after deliberating for just two hours, a Florida jury found Lena Mary Thankful Clarke not guilty of murder by reason of insanity and she was committed to an insane asylum. Her stay there appears to have been brief and by 1930, she was living with her sister, Maude, and eighty-eight-year-old mother, Marietta, at 414 Banyan Boulevard in West Palm Beach. Her occupation at that time appears to have been “nurse,” although the handwriting of the census official is barely legible. By 1940, Lena and Maude, both unmarried spinsters, were still living at the same address. By then, Lena’s occupation was listed as “writer.”

You can read more about Lena Clarke’s case by clicking on the links below:



Mug Shot Monday! Clyde Edward Laws, 1967

Home | Mug Shot Monday | Mug Shot Monday! Clyde Edward Laws, 1967



Clyde Edward Laws

Clyde Edward Laws was placed on the FBI’s Most Wanted List on February 28, 1967, and was captured on May 20, 1967. The following article is from the FBI’s booklet, Ten Most Wanted 60th Anniversary, 1950-2010.

Clyde Edward Laws and an associate, while escaping from the armed robbery of a supermarket in Montgomery County, Maryland, on February 8, 1967, were stopped by two Montgomery County police officers. A gun battle ensued and one officer was seriously wounded in the stomach with a shot fired by Laws. Laws was also believed to have been wounded in the thigh by one of the officer’s bullets.

Laws and his associate then carjacked a car driven by a soldier, abducted him, and drove to an amusement park where the soldier was released. The soldier’s car was abandoned a short distance away and the robbers continued their flight. They were known to have stayed in a motel in Fredericksburg, Virginia. Laws was believed to have lost a significant amount of blood, and investigation at the motel revealed that a large quantity of linens were taken, possibly used as bandages. Investigators also found a blood-soaked makeshift bandage and a bloody tourniquet at the motel.

On February 28, 1967, the FBI placed Laws on the “Top Ten” list. Laws’ associate was captured on May 20, 1967.

Laws, who was from Missouri, was in frequent telephonic contact with former employers, associates, and relatives. In his telephone conversations, Laws would never indicate the location he was calling from, and there was no real purpose to the telephone calls other than just “small talk.” The person he most frequently contacted was a relative in Missouri, who was cooperating with the FBI.

On the evening of May 18, 1967, while there was a thunderstorm in the Kansas City, Missouri, area, Laws called his relative. He again declined to indicate his whereabouts, but the person could hear thunder over the telephone at the same time could hear thunder outside and confronted Laws with the fact he must be in the Kansas City area.

Laws acknowledged that he, in fact, was in the area, so his relative expressed the desire to see him. Laws agreed to come to the house that evening at 10:00 p.m. He requested that all doors be locked with the exception of the back door to the house and that the lights be turned off. Prior to ending the call, the relative told Laws about his fear of weapons and asked that Laws come unarmed.

Laws’ relative immediately notified the FBI. Agents secured the house and moved the occupants to safety. At promptly 10:00 p.m., the back door of the house opened and Laws slipped into the dining room. He was immediately placed under arrest. Laws commented, “The one time I need my gun I don’t have it.”

He was tried for kidnapping in state court in Easton, Maryland, and on May 9, 1968, was found guilty and sentenced to 20 years in prison.

Mug Shot Monday! Charlie Johnson, 1949

Home | Mug Shot Monday | Mug Shot Monday! Charlie Johnson, 1949

Mug shot Charlie Johnson, 1949

Charlie Johnson was a career criminal who was arrested in Washington D.C. on January 11, 1949, for pick-pocketing. He was sentenced to one year in prison and fined $200. He was born in 1895 in Kansas City, Missouri, and his criminal record dates from 1917. His record states he was living in New York City when he was arrested in Washington D.C.

No further information could be found.


Triple-Slayer Curtis Shedd, 1950

Home | Short Feature Story | Triple-Slayer Curtis Shedd, 1950

On August 3, 1950, Curtis Shedd stopped by the Walhalla, South Carolina, home of his trade school pal, John Boyter, to pick-up Boyter’s two daughters for an afternoon of cruising around the countryside. Earlier that day, Boyter was seen in Shedd’s car as the two drove around town. He was never seen alive after that morning.

Triple Slayer Curtis Shedd

Triple Slayer Curtis Shedd

Six days later, John Boyter’s body was found near a logging road in a heavily wooded area just across the South Carolina/Georgia state line. The thirty-eight-year-old had been beaten with rifle butts to the bead, and murdered with a shotgun blast to the chest.

Shedd was arrested on Saturday, August 12, after he returned to attending trade school classes where he pretended like nothing had happened.

He initially denied murdering his friend, and claimed he did not know the whereabouts of Boyter’s two daughters, Jonnie Mae, 14, and Jo Ann, 8. However, the girls’ grandmother reported they were last seen getting in Shedd’s car.

Thirty-year-old Shedd turned out to be a recently released convict who had twice served two-year sentences for robbery in separate cases. Shedd eventually cracked under a grueling interrogation and told officers that he had raped and strangled the two girls, and left their bodies in a lonely, wooded ravine near Highlands, North Carolina.

After his confession, a crowd of an estimated 4,000 people gathered in Walhalla, where Shedd was being held in the local jail. Although most of them were just curious about the man who had committed the worst local crime in decades, shouts of “We want Shedd. . . we’ll kill him!” were heard. Fearing a lynching, which hadn’t occurred in that county in twenty-years, the sheriff requested and received fifty armed soldiers from the South Carolina National Guard. They surrounded the jail and stood as buffer between the angry throng of revenge seekers and Curtis Shedd.

The local sheriff told the crowd to “go on home and let law and order take its course.” He added that he begged the men to “pray and head your Bibles” and then come back if they thought it was God’s way. They moved off slowly after the appeal and Shedd was slipped out of town and moved to a jail in Georgia where a murder warrant for the death of John Boyter had been filed. This charge was later dropped in favor of putting Shedd on trial for the rape and murder of the two girls in North Carolina.

Shedd was tried in December 1950 in Franklin, South Carolina, where a jury found him guilty and sentenced him to death. He was then executed on March 23, 1951, seven months and three weeks after he kidnapped, raped and murdered Jonnie Mae and Jo Ann Boyter.

You can read more about Curtis Shedd from Google Newspaper Archives.


Mug Shot Monday! Carrie Sang Sing, 1911

Home | Mug Shot Monday | Mug Shot Monday! Carrie Sang Sing, 1911


Carrie Sang Sing

On August 1, 1911, seventeen-year-old Carrie Sang Sing was arrested near Nome, Alaska, for slashing an unnamed person with a knife. Since Alaska was a territory at the time, her case fell to federal court where she was tried, convicted, and sentenced to two years in prison—with the option of only serving eighteen months for good time. All Alaskan prisoners were sent to McNeil Island Federal Penitentiary but since the prison had no facilities for women, female prisoners were transferred to Leavenworth prison in Kansas. However, since Leavenworth didn’t have facilities for women either, they were sent to the Kansas State Penitentiary.

When she arrived in Kansas, the beautiful, exotic looking Carrie, whose last name came from her Chinese husband, was a source of amazement and amusement to nearly everyone who had never seen an Eskimo before. Her transfer to Kansas was a source of news for several area newspapers. Two of the articles are posted below.

Article #1

“An Eskimo Woman Begins Sentence in Lansing Prison,” The Leavenworth Times, Leavenworth, Kansas, October 29, 1911, page 1.

A full-blooded Eskimo woman, Carrie Sang Sing, arrived here last night in the custody of a United States Marshal B. J. Doten, and his wife on her way to the [Kansas State] Penitentiary at Lansing to serve two years for assault with a deadly weapon. She is the first Eskimo to be imprisoned there.

Carrie Sang Sing may not ring like a true Eskimo name. It is because Carrie was married to a Chinaman in Nome. The marshal said he had heard her maiden name, but he couldn’t remember it, and Carrie could not spell it.

Carrie’s step-mother died in prison at McNeil Island a little more than a year ago and her father, who has been imprisoned at McNeil Island, Lives in Nome, Alaska.  His name is Ableruk. Both her father and step-mother were convicted of the same offense for which Carrie was brought all the way from Nome.

Carrie didn’t restrict her [debauchery, indulgence] to eating gumdrops and tallow candies, and that is why she is at Lansing. While under the influence of strong drink, an earmark of civilization that she readily adopted, Carrie slashed a fellow native with a knife.

Two years at Lansing may mean a life sentence to Carrie. Eskimos do not live long in temperate climate and, the next summer may kill her. This gave her little worry last night as she stood at the window of the Kansas City Western Railway Company’s office, where she was waiting for the car to Lansing, and gaped at the crowd that gaped at her. Carrie is young and probably was an Alaskan belle.

Article #2

“Eskimo in the Kansas Pen,” Lincoln County Leader, Toledo, Oregon, February 23, 1912, page seven.

Leavenworth. Kan.—Brought nearly 5,000 miles to serve a sentence In the United States penitentiary hero, Carrie Sang Sing, an Eskimo woman, was refused admission and had to be taken to the Kansas penitentiary at Lansing, where all women Federal prisoners are kept now.

Carrie canto front Cape Nome. Alaska, and is the first Eskimo woman ever a prisoner in the Kansas penitentiary. She was sentenced for two years for an attack with a deadly weapon. While under the influence of whiskey she took the warpath in Nome and severely wounded several persons with a pistol.  [Not true, she slashed one person with a knife.]

Carrie’s name doesn’t sound very much Eskimo, and it isn’t. She is the wife of a Chinese. The marshal who brought her said he couldn’t pronounce her maiden name and had forgotten it, anyway, so that part of the prison record is a blank. Her father and mother have been in prison at McNell’s Island, Wash., for similar offenses. The mother died there and the prison officials fear that Carrie will not be able to survive the heat in the Kansas prison neat summer.


My New Book Deadly Hero
Available May 20 on Amazon

Home | New Books | My New Book Deadly Hero
Available May 20 on Amazon


What can you buy for $1.99? Eighteen months of hard work for my latest book, Deadly Hero: The High Society Murder that Created Hysteria in the Heartland, which will go on sale on Amazon on May 20. It is available for preorder now. The $1.99 sale will last until May 31.

Here is the synopsis. I will be posting excerpts for the next week.

eCover-smallOn the night of Thanksgiving, 1934, the son of a prominent Tulsa doctor was shot to death in his car in the wealthiest neighborhood of the oil-rich city. Two days later, the son of one of the most powerful men in the state walked into the sheriff’s office with his lawyer and surrendered.

The killer’s name, and who his father was, would shock the entire nation and make news around the world.

In a convoluted story, the mentally unstable genius claimed he killed in self-defense and to protect wealthy debutante Virginia Wilcox—the object of his unrequited love. But prosecutors claimed their star prisoner was the actual mastermind of a diabolical plot in which he would emerge as the hero, win Virginia’s heart, and gain acceptance into the Wilcox family by her mega-rich father.

Tulsa’s high-society murder scandalized the Oil Capitol of the World when the investigation churned up unsubstantiated reports of rich kids wildly out of control. Looking out over their Christian, conservative city, adults imagined sex-mad teens driving dangerously over their streets to get to hole-in-the-wall gambling joints and breast-bouncing dance parties where they would plan big crimes—all while high on marijuana and drunk on 3.2 beer. A tornado of rumors and gossip tore through town, stirring up mass hysteria and igniting a moral crusade to save the souls of Tulsa’s youth. When a key witness was found dead in his car under similar circumstances, it only confirmed their worst fears.

In a notable year for famous criminals, this case from the Oklahoma heartland received nationwide coverage each step of the way. This true story is not a “whodunit,” but rather, a “will he get away with it?” The answer to that question is still up for debate after the killer did something only the bravest of men would ever do.



Mug Shot Monday Isaie Beausoleil,
FBI Most Wanted, 1952-1953

Home | Mug Shot Monday | Mug Shot Monday Isaie Beausoleil,
FBI Most Wanted, 1952-1953


Isaie Beausoleil was a fugitive who was placed on the FBI’s Most Wanted List in 1952 and was captured one year later dressed as a woman-a disguise he had been using to escape detection. The following article is from the FBI’s booklet, Ten Most Wanted 60th Anniversary, 1950-2010.

Although investigators described “Top Ten Fugitive” Isaie Beausoleil as a tough-to-track “lone wolf” because he kept a low profile, they captured him because of his not-so-subtle disguise. Dressed in a black satin bathing suit, covered up with a blue blouse and a green skirt, Chicago Park Police searched him following reports of suspicious behavior in the women’s restroom.

Initially searched by a female officer, Beausoleil was turned over to another Chicago Park Police officer once it was determined the woman was in fact a male. He was handcuffed bearing painted fingernails and taken into custody. Once fingerprinted, he was identified as a “Top Ten Fugitive.”

Already possessing a lengthy arrest record, he acquired a spot on the “Top Ten” on March 3, 1952, a few years after he was charged with first degree murder. On August 17, 1949, a bludgeoned woman’s body was discovered in a ditch alongside a Michigan road; two weeks later, police were on the hunt for Beausoleil. Police ultimately named Beausoleil, the bludgeoned woman’s companion, as the “logical suspect” because his car was spotted fleeing the murder scene and was later recovered in Boston, Massachusetts.

Suspicion mounted when he visited North Avenue Beach in Chicago, Illinois, dressed as a woman and was observed acting peculiar in the women’s restroom.

In September of 1953, after deportation back to Canada because of violations of immigration laws, he was sentenced to five years’ probation for unlawful entry into the United States. A month later, Beausoleil stood trial for earlier crimes and received five-to-ten years and one-to-three years for attempted robbery and escape, in addition to a parole violation.