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Guest Feature Story: Murder and Masonry, 1890, by Dr. Barry Morton

Home | Feature Stories | Guest Feature Story: Murder and Masonry, 1890, by Dr. Barry Morton

Special Guest Feature Story by: Dr. Barry Morton:

rev-wf-pettitAt few times in its history has the small town of Crawfordsville, Indiana ever been more regularly in the spotlight than it was between the autumn of 1889 through November 1890. The Pettit murder trial, “the most publicized case in this period,” began with published rumors of the Reverend William F Pettit’s suspicious conduct around the time of his wife’s death in August 1889, continuing through grand jury deliberations and his arrest in early 1890. His lengthy and dramatic trial, held in Crawfordsville between October and November 1890, “attracted attention throughout the Midwest because of the prominence of the families involved in it.”

The Pettit murder attracted widespread attention for two good reasons. On the one hand it was the lurid nature of the case: “the murder for which Pettit stands convicted was one of the most deliberate, cruel, and cold-blooded crimes ever committed in the state of Indiana.” The courtroom was packed daily and local spectators lined up every morning with their own chairs. Even Lew Wallace, the author of Ben Hur and the town’s most famous resident, was in regular attendance (and said to be writing a novel based on the case), as were journalists from Indianapolis and Lafayette—whose stories were reprinted widely.

In addition, the prominent social position of the murderer and his accomplice made it equally dramatic. Not only was Pettit the minister of one of Indiana’s wealthiest Methodist congregations, but he was also one of the highest-ranking Freemasons in the state. His accomplice, the widowed Clemmie Whitehead, came from an upstanding family—the Meharrys—that was easily the wealthiest in the Montgomery and Tippecanoe County area that its landholdings straddled.

The entire Pettit affair also illustrates the tension that existed in America’s evolving justice system. As the legal scholar Elizabeth Dale has so deftly shown, America’s justice system was an evolving, contested arena well into the twentieth century. Even late into the nineteenth century, local notions of popular justice coexisted with the distant, bureaucratic arm of the state. For instance, in western Indiana, the vigilante Horse Thief Detective Agency had a far greater presence than the various county sheriffs and local police. While the vigilantes did not get involved in the Pettit affair, the actions of ordinary citizens were decisive in first obtaining official prosecution and then conviction. Gossip and shaming were central to the affair, and these were classic forms of popular justice. The people of Shawnee Mound were convinced of Pettit’s guilt, but believed his station would enable him to get away scot-free. Their actions, which he sought to counter, led to his demise.

Continue Reading…




Mug Shot Monday! Lemuel Hawkins, veteran, baseball player, federal prisoner, & accidental gunshot victim, 1895-1934

Home | Mug Shot Monday | Mug Shot Monday! Lemuel Hawkins, veteran, baseball player, federal prisoner, & accidental gunshot victim, 1895-1934



Lemuel Hawkins, Auto Theft (Federal), 1931

Lemuel Hawkins (October 2, 1895 – August 10, 1934) was an American first baseman in Negro league baseball. He played for the Kansas City Monarchs, Chicago Giants and Chicago American Giants from 1921 to 1928. He was 5’10” and weighed 185 pounds. In 1931 he was arrested for stealing a car (which was a federal crime at that time) and sentenced to serve two  years in prison


Hawkins was born in Macon, Georgia, in 1895. He served in World War I and was also the first baseman for the successful 25th Infantry Regiment baseball team posted at Ft. Huachuca, Arizona. He, along with teammates Oscar Johnson, Dobie Moore, Bullet Rogan, and Bob Fagin, joined the Kansas City Monarchs in the early 1920s.

Hawkins during the 1924 "Colored World Series."

Hawkins during the 1924 “Colored World Series.”

Hawkins was the Monarchs’ everyday first baseman from 1921 to 1927 and played for the Monarchs team which won the 1924 Colored World Series.

According to George Sweatt, Hawkins and teammate Bill “Plunk” Drake were good friends. “[They] were the craziest guys,” Sweatt recalled. “When we’d go to a different town, they’d just walk through the halls all night, fooling around. That’s all they did!”

Hawkins played for the Chicago American Giants in 1928. He finished his career in the Negro National League with a .265 batting average, three home runs, and 268 runs scored in 2,126 plate appearances.

Between the 1923 and 1924 baseball seasons, it was reported that Hawkins spent the Winter driving a taxicab.

In July 1931, Hawkins was with three other men in a car when they were searched by police in connection with a holdup. One of the other men pulled a gun and was shot to death by the officers, and Hawkins was held on an automobile theft charge. He was sentenced to serve two years in Fort Leavenworth Federal Prison. The mugshot photo above is from his time in Leavenworth.

On the night of August 10, 1934, Hawkins and a partner attempted to hold up a beer truck in Chicago. A scuffle took place, and Hawkins was accidentally shot to death by his partner. The bullet that killed him entered his left ear and pierced his brain. Hawkins’ body was taken to the morgue where it went unidentified for approximately one month.

“Identity of Hawkins was made through his war record and finger prints sent to Washington,” reported the September 15, 1934, edition of The Afro American, a national weekly newspaper for African Americans. “It was disclosed that he had served in the Twenty-Fourth 25th U. S. Infantry (Regiment) and in the World War. The body was shipped to Macon, Ga., at the request of his mother, Mrs. Carrie Hawkins, of that city.”


New Book: Suburban Nightmares: Australian True Crime Stories, by Emily Webb

Home | New Books | New Book: Suburban Nightmares: Australian True Crime Stories, by Emily Webb

Australian journalist and true crime author, Emily Webb, has recently released her third true crime book with Suburban Nightmares: Australian True Crime Stories, which features 28 incredible true crime stories most Americans have never heard about. And, of course, the very first chapter is about an American who killed a girl with a crossbow.

Yes, a crossbow. More about him in a moment.

Author Emily Webb

Emily-WebbYou might remember Webb from her last book I reviewed, Murder in Suburbia, which had 20 great stories about some of Australia’s most horrific, gruesome, and terrifying crimes. (There were some in there I will never forget. Really, really, messed up killers.)

Besides being a true crime author and journalist, Webb is also a busy mum of two, and runs the highly respected blog — TrueCrimeReader.com True Crime Book Reviews, News & Views — which is where I go when I’m looking for a good, contemporary TC read.

You should follow her on Facebook. Seriously. She posts reviews on books I didn’t even know were out yet. If you’re an avid TC reader, click on that link and press like to get info on new books, as well as info about crimes happening a half-a-world away.

Here’s the short but tantalizing description of Suburban Nightmares.

Book Description:

Suburban-NightmaresThink nothing ever happens where you live?

Suburban Nightmare is a collection of stories that are hard to believe, except they really happened – and all in the streets and homes of the Australia many of us know and live. The suburbs.

These cases range from recent murders to some historical stories that will shock and surprise.

One of Australia’s best young true crime writers, Emily Webb probes the black underbelly of our towns and suburbs, and exposes the darkness at the heart of Australian life.

  • An afternoon of random violence by a nursing student armed with a shovel
  • 18-year-old Annette Morgan, murdered in the grounds of Sydney University and still unsolved
  • The sad tale of 60 animals slaughtered at the Adelaide Zoo by two 18-year-olds on a murderous rampage
  • A series of cases about men who kill their families – sadly, there was no shortage of cases
  • The main suspect for the Tynong North and Frankston murders is now in his 80s – will there be justice for the victims of these 1980-81 murders?

Kurt “Crossbow” Dumas

Now, back to that American in Australia. His name is Kurt Dumas and he is doing time in California right now thanks to lenient sentencing laws down under. We had them here, too, up until the mid 1980s when Americans finally got fed up with it.

Here’s an excerpt from the chapter on Kurt Dumas.


Kurt “Crossbow” Dumas

Kurt Michael Dumas and Lyndell Martin were friends. The pair, aged 20 and 19 respectively had met each other around three years before when they were both patients at the Parkville Adolescent Unit in Melbourne in 1982 and kept in sporadic contact.

On 18 November 1985 Dumas popped around to Lyndell’s flat in inner-city Melbourne and arrangements were made for her to come to his place that night for dinner.  It had been several months since they had seen each other.

What went on in the flat that evening is not known for sure but Lyndell never made it home.

She was found dead in the bathroom of Dumas’s flat four days later. It was Dumas’s mother Gail who found her body. There was a 14cm steel-tipped arrow embedded in the victim’s abdomen.

From court records and newspaper archives the picture emerged of Dumas as an extremely dangerous young man. Mrs Dumas told the coroner’s court that her son had suffered severe head injuries after falling from a table at the age of three months. She said that since that accident Dumas had several brain operations.

Mrs. Dumas said he became violent, unpredictable and had been asked to leave three schools because of this behavior.  He also spent some years as an inpatient in mental hospitals including the one where he met Lyndell.

Dumas was born in Michigan, USA, on 12 December 1965. The family emigrated to Australia in 1972. He returned to the United States for short time in 1978 and came back to Australia in 1979.

On 19 December 1986 Dumas was sentenced to life imprisonment but Justice Hampel fixed a minimum term of 18 years before the young killer could be considered for parole.

Justice Hampel said: “The evidence and all the surrounding circumstances, in my view, plainly demonstrate that there is a real likelihood that a crime of the kind committed on Lyndell Martin may be again committed by you”.

Dumas’s sentence was lengthy but he was released after his minimum term, which would have been around 2003.

Dumas ended up back in America, renting a room from a woman called Denise Ann Howes in Redford, Wayne County.

She had no idea how dangerous he was.

When Denise’s partner Todd could not get in contact with her on December 7, 2004 he held grave concerns for her safety. He’d spotted her car – a 2000 Jeep Cherokee – but it was Dumas who was in the driver’s seat.

When police attended the address they found Denise dead in her bedroom. She’d been shot. There was duct tape over her mouth.  At that point The Redford Police didn’t know of the arrestee’s violent past and how he’d committed an almost identical crime almost 20 years ago.

Dumas was arrested and he told police he’d served time in an Australian jail for killing a woman in “similar circumstances”.

He pleaded guilty to second-degree homicide and felony firearms. He was sentenced on 8 April 2005 to a minimum of 43 years (maximum 80 years) for the homicide charge and two years for firearms offense.



Rediscovered News: Grandpa’s Hammer, 1955

Home | Rediscovered Crime News | Rediscovered News: Grandpa’s Hammer, 1955

A sad, stupid, senseless crime.  Horrible.


Child is Slain by her Grandfather: Singing Kept him Awake

August 25, 1955, TEXAS CITY , United Press— A preliminary hearing was scheduled Thursday for Robert J. Wallace, 78, who is charged with beating his blonde, nine-year-old granddaughter to death with a ball-peen hammer because her singing kept him from taking a nap.

Wallace, charged with murder with malice aforethought, was being held in the Texas City jail.

The victim, Frances Jean Wallace, died in her home Wednesday from numerous blows on the head with the heavy hammer.

Her father, G. W. Wallace, was at work at a Texas City refinery and her mother was working at a supermarket when Frances was killed. Wallace, who had lived with his son and his family for 14 years, was calmly rocking in a chair three or four feet from the body when police arrived.

Child Was Coloring

Wallace told Assistant District Attorney Archie Alexander he was trying to take a nap but Frances’ singing kept him from going to sleep. Police said she was sitting at a table coloring a paint book when she was attacked. The book was open and her colors were scattered about it.

In a statement made to police, Wallace said he went into the kitchen, drank a glass of milk, and got the three-quarter pound hammer from a tool box. He said he returned to the living room and started hitting Frances on the head. She fell to the floor after several blows and Wallace said he dragged her body to the center of the room “so I could get a full swing.”

Sister Heard Noise

“I hit her in the head with a hammer about 20 times,” Wallace said.

Frances’ sister, Linda Faye Wallace, 13, was outside the house playing when she heard the commotion and ran into the house. She saw her little sister lying on the floor, her head covered with blood.

Linda Faye ran screaming from the house and across the street to the home of a neighbor. Mrs. Gay Archer, and told her: “Grandpa has hurt Frances.”

Mrs. Archer ran across to the house and found the grandfather rocking in his chair near the body. She asked him what happened and he replied:

“Nothing, I just killed her.”

The little girl’s mother had to be hospitalized for shock when she learned of the slaying.


The story below is the last one I could find about Wallace. A sanity hearing before a trial was his next step and if the story thread drops off here, he was either committed to a mental hospital, or, less likely, he accepted a plea deal.


Waives Hearing On Charge of Murder

TEXAS CITY, Aug. 30 (UP)

Robert J. Wallace, 78-year-old hammer-slayer of his nine-year-old granddaughter, has waived preliminary hearing on a charge of murder.

Examining trial for the aged man who has been kept. in a padded cell in Galveston county jail since the slaying last week was to have been held before Justice of the Peace O. P. Redell Monday. Assistant Dist. Attorney Andrew Baker asked Wallace if he was willing to waive the hearing to send the case directly to the grand jury. Wallace agreed with a nod of his head.

District Attorney Marsene Johnson. Jr., said Wallace will be given a sanity hearing before October, in time for the murder easy to go to the October term grand jury if Wallace is found sane.

Wallace has admitted killing the child because her singing and childish pratter irritated him while he was trying to take a nap.


Mug Shot Monday! Woodrow Wilson Clark, 1944

Home | Mug Shot Monday, Short Feature Story | Mug Shot Monday! Woodrow Wilson Clark, 1944


Woodrow Wilson “Whitey” Clark

On the morning of Jan. 15, 1944, in a small shack at the back of the Dillon Sign Shop at E1806 Sprague, police inspected a gruesome murder scene.

Four people hacked and mutilated by a hatchet. Two victims, T.P. Dillon and Jane Staples, were dead. Flora Dillon died a few days later. Despite horrible head wounds, Frank Winnett survived, but could never recall what happened.


The Victims. Opens larger in new window. Photo Credit: The Spokane Chronicle, 1944


At first, authorities focused their attention on Staples’ husband, Charles. There was evidence she frequently had been unfaithful to him. He was identified by County Prosecuting Attorney Leslie Carroll as “the coldest-blooded man I have ever met in my years in the prosecutor’s office.”

Carroll also said Charles Staples was known to authorities as a communist. And when police picked up Staples to question him, the county attorney said he had blood on his shoes.

Carroll said it was the opinion of everyone investigating the case that “this was the crime of an outraged husband.”

But all other suspects were forgotten after Whitey Clark was arrested and signed a confession. Clark later said he had signed the confession only after a grueling all-night interrogation session in which the prosecutor and police threatened him.

The prosecution’s account was that Clark met the Dillons and Jane Staples at a tavern the evening before the murders. The Dillons and Staples had been drinking heavily, and T P. Dillion invited everyone in the place to his house for a party.

Clark was among the crowd who went along.

The party broke up a little before 4 a.m., with everyone leaving except the Dillons, Staples, Winnett, and Clark. Earlier in the evening, angered by advances made toward his wife, Dillon had threatened Clark with a pistol.

So, the prosecution said, Clark turned his attentions to Jane Staples who had passed out on a bed next to Mr. and Mrs. Dillon. When Dillon objected, the prosecution said Clark picked up a hatchet and attacked his four companions.


Death Scene of the Spokane Hatchet Slayer, Photo Credit: The Spokane Chronicle, 1944


1943-Mugshot-Woodrow-ClarkBefore the trial, Clark’s defense attorneys pointed out that even if the prosecution’s scenario was true, it was a crime of passion, not premeditation, and was not a capital offense.

But in 1944, the law prescribed that anyone who compiled murder during a rape could be sentenced to death. Although no medical evidence of rape was introduced, the prosecution sought the death penalty saying Clark a advances toward the unconscious Jane Staples constituted a rape attempt.

Clark’s story was that when he left the party at 9 30 a.m., everyone was sleeping. He said the assault must have taken place after he left.

Two newspaper boys testified they saw Clark near the Dillon home at about 4 30 a.m., and said he asked them directions downtown. They said Clark had blood on the white shirt he was wearing.

When police found Clark, there was only a small spot of blood on the pants he had been wearing that night and none on his shirt. His roommate said Clark had borrowed the pants from him, and the blood stain was caused by his own nosebleed {the roommate’s] days earlier.

Police found a bloody white shirt on a chair at the murder scene, and the prosecution said Clark, after seeing the news boys, must have realized he had to get rid of the bloody shirt, so he returned to the shack and left it there.

Jurors later admitted they had doubts about the prosecution’s case, but they said Clark’s own testimony and demeanor finally swayed them.

“It was the little things that convinced the jury of the guilt of the defendant. The members all agreed,” a newspaper account said. “Actions of the defendant in the courtroom, his demeanor and many meaningless denials upon the stand convinced the jurors of the verity of the state’s charge that Clark committed the murders in a rage because Dillon thwarted his attempt to rape Mrs. Staples, one juror said.

“The jury noticed Clark’s roving eye when a pretty woman entered the courtroom, (the juror) said.”


Above, Woodrow Clark is escorted to one of his trial appearances. Photo Credit: The Spokesman Review

Clark was sentenced to die on Oct. 5, 1945.

At 4 p.m. on Oct. 4, he was taken from his cell on death row and placed in the single cell in the execution chamber. There were guards present to “observe him constantly,” and a chaplain, who would remain throughout the night.

But seven hours before the hanging was scheduled. Lt. Gov. Victor A. Meyers, acting as governor, called the warden on the line which was kept open between the governor’s office and the prison in the eight hours prior to any execution. Whitey was granted a 90-day stay of execution.

Meyers said he granted the stay as the result of a “deluge” of petitions, letters and phone calls from Spokane objecting to the hanging and from his own review of the record, which left ‘”some question in his mind because the conviction was based on circumstantial evidence.”


While awaiting execution in Walla Walla in January 1946, Clark enjoys one of his last meals. Photo Credit: The Spokesman Review


Governor Monrad Wallgren appointed a man to look into the case, and a citizens’ committee in Spokane led by L. Lore Wartes, was formed to convince the governor to commute Clark’s sentence to life imprisonment.

But they could only prolong Clark’s life. They could not save him.

On Feb. 4, 1946, at 4 p.m., Clark, the chaplain and the guards reconvened.

He was fed a meal of his choice.

At 11:30 p m., the warden read the death warrant to Clark. At 12:05 a.m., Feb. 5, his arms were strapped to his sides, and he mounted the gallows. As he stood over the trap door, his legs were strapped tightly together. The noose was placed over his head and “adjusted by an individual expert in such matters who is kept on a retainer by the state for this purpose, and who has become thoroughly familiar with the physical attributes of the condemned to ensure a quick and painless death.”

There is no record of whether Whitey Clark requested a hood.

In an adjacent room, three volunteers pressed three buttons, one of which sprung the trap door.

About fifteen minutes later, a physician and a coroner pronounced Clark dead, and his body was cut down.



New Book: Terror in Ypsilanti : John Norman Collins Unmasked

Home | New Books | New Book: Terror in Ypsilanti : John Norman Collins Unmasked

Terror in Ypsilanti:John Norman Collins Unmasked (TIY) is a true crime account of the sex-slayings of seven young women in Washtenaw County, Michigan. Between the summers of 1967 through 1969, a predatory killer stalked the campuses of Eastern Michigan University and the University of Michigan looking for prey, until he made the arrogant mistake of killing his last victim in the basement of his uncle’s home—a Michigan State Police Trooper. All-American boy John Norman Collins was arrested, tried, and convicted of the strangulation murder of Karen Sue Beineman.

TerrorInYpsilanti_FrontCoverF_300x450The media frenzy over the arrest of a prime suspect—a handsome, clean-cut Eastern Michigan University student—held the nation’s attention until a week into the trial. Over that weekend, the words Helter Skelter blazed across the headlines and drew the national and international press to California to report on Charles Manson and his Family. John Norman Collins and his victims were left to fall through the cracks of time.

Collins was convicted of only one of the murders he was widely suspected of committing. His trial was the most contentious, longest, and expensive in Washtenaw County history. The prosecutor decided to hold the other six cases in abeyance against the day Collins would attempt to circumvent his life sentence.

Collins’s lawyer Neil Fink exhausted every appeal leading to the United State Supreme Court refusing to hear the case. Every appeal was denied. After being implicated in several thwarted prison escapes, Collins took a different approach to shortening his life sentence without parole. He changed his last name back to Chapman—his Canadian birth father’s name.

Armed with a new identity, Collins [Chapman] tried to engineer an international Canadian prison exchange by claiming he had Canadian citizenship and was one signature away from transferring to Canada where the sentencing laws are more lenient. In Michigan, only a pardon signed by a sitting Michigan governor could free Collins. In Canada, Collins would qualify for a work release program only three years after time served. For the first time in print, TIY tells the story of the Marquette prison inmate who blew the whistle on Collins ruining his chances at freedom.

Part One of TIY tells the stories of the other victims as a stealthy, unknown sexual predator stalks the Ypsilanti and Ann Arbor countryside. As the body count rises, the interval between the sex slayings shortens. After four unsolved murders, the Ypsilanti community when into shock when one of their own—a thirteen-year-old eighth-grader—was found nude by the side of a country road strangled with a length of electrical cord. Two more local university women perished and another teenager in California was strangled to death before an arrest was made.

Part Two reconstitutes the infamous trial of The People of Washtenaw County vs. John Norman Collins. After Collins’s several appeals were exhausted and the Supreme Court returned the trial transcripts to the Washtenaw County Building, the court records for this case were “purged” from county records. Nobody in authority has any further information about these records. Invoking the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) produced no result.

Using hundreds of newspaper clippings from the era and some related government documents, I was able to piece together the details of a case that would otherwise be lost to history. With the benefit of fifty years of hindsight and many FOIA requests from government and police agencies, TIY compiles an array of facts and circumstantial evidence drawing an unmistakable portrait of the killer.

Part Three recounts Collins’s years in Michigan prisons and his adjustment to prison culture. For the first time, his words are expressed without the filter of a lawyer and his true personality takes shape. He challenges authority at every turn, fights a California extradition request from Governor Ronald Reagan, and does his best to manipulate public opinion through the media.

This section goes behind the scenes of Kelly & Company—a Detroit morning show that interviewed Collins in Marquette prison. Using television for his first and only time, Collins tries his best to rationalize away the evidence but fails miserably. Part Three also tells the story of the film company that came to town in 1978 to make Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep—a movie version of the Washtenaw County murders which was never completed.

The only previous book length treatment of this story is The Michigan Murders published in 1976. It is a cozy mystery that changed the names of the victims and their killer, serving to conceal their identities and confound the history. My true crime treatment uses real names and hews closely to the facts. The style is journalistic rather than narrative. The story is never lurid but nonetheless graphic. Included for the first time will be a map of the body drop sites, a photo gallery, a timeline, lists of people and places named in the book, and an index to aid readers.

Via Amazon

About Author Gregory A. Fournier

Gregory A. FournierWhile attending Eastern Michigan, I lived one block up the street from John Norman Collins while these murders were going on and had several brushes with him. As with many other people in Ypsilanti, it was not until Collins was arrested and his photograph ran on the front pages that I recognized him and learned his name. After graduation, I became a high school English teacher in Ypsilanti where most of these tragedies occurred. I have firsthand knowledge of the area and interviewed many people connected with these cases.

Since April 2011, I have been writing my Fornology blog to build an audience for my writing. In May 2013—on the strength of my posts—I was asked to appear on the Investigation Discovery Channel as a guest expert on John Norman Collins in their series A Crime to Remember. The episode is entitled “A New Kind of Monster.” It is available On Demand and on YouTube.

I have a bachelor and master’s degree in English Language and Literature from Eastern Michigan University and have taught high school in Ypsilanti, Michigan and San Diego, California. For ten years, I also worked as an adjunct professor at Cuyamaca College in Rancho San Diego before retiring. My first writing effort was Zug Island: A Detroit Riot Novel published in 2011 by Wheatmark, Inc., now available in a newly revised 2nd edition.

Question & Answer with Terror in Ypsilanti author, Gregory A. Fournier

Tell us about John Norman Collins. JNC was the prime suspect in the murders of seven young women in the Ypsilanti/Ann Arbor, Michigan between the summers of 1967-1969. Washtenaw County prosecutors tried and convicted Collins of his last murder—the sex slaying of Karen Sue Beineman. The other murders became cold cases.

Why isn’t Collins better known? The week the Beineman case came to trial, the Helter Skelter [Tate/LaBianca] murders happened in the Hollywood Hills of Los Angeles. Overnight, Charles Manson and his family drew national attention to Southern California. The Collins trial became a war of attrition; the Manson trial became a three ring media circus.

What genre is your book and who is your target audience? It is true crime. Terror in Ypsilanti strives to restore the lost history of these cases. The trial transcripts were purged from the Washtenaw County files shortly after all of Collins’s appeals ran out in the mid-1970s. I initially wrote this book for the people of Ypsilanti to pay a debt to history, but young people going away to college will find the story instructive and cautionary.

Can you briefly summarize the content of Terror in Ypsilanti? Part one tells the story of the murders as the details unfolded before the police and the public. Much of this information has never been made public before. Part two reconstitutes the most infamous criminal trial in Michigan history from hundreds of vintage newspaper articles. Part three tells the story of Collins’s years in prison, his efforts to circumvent his life sentence, and his attempts to manipulate public opinion through the media.

What qualifies you to tell this story? While these murders were happening, I lived one block up the street from Collins and had several negative encounters with him. It wasn’t until I saw his face plastered across the front pages that I realized I recognized him. I knew people he knew, and I knew friends who knew some of the victims. Going to Eastern Michigan University and teaching at Ypsilanti High School gives me a detailed knowledge of the area and its people. The non-fiction story of what actually happened needed to be told before these events become lost in the fog of time. I’m uniquely positioned to do that.

Has this story ever been told before? Brief surveys of the Collins story have appeared in crime magazines and internet articles—usually with faulty information and without the benefit of hindsight. Five years after these events occurred in 1976, Edward Keyes published a cozy mystery called The Michigan Murders, which used pseudonyms for the victims, the witnesses, and the convicted murderer. Keyes wrote his book as a novel, but it did more to obscure the real history than add any insight. Terror in Ypsilanti is a very different treatment of the subject matter. I take a terse journalistic approach.

What was your biggest challenge writing Terror in Ypsilanti? Getting official information on the trial. The Washtenaw County Court files were purged in the mid-1970s, and nobody in authority would comment on that. I had to create a patchwork of facts from hundreds of local newspaper articles to tell the broad outline of the trial.

Does your book leave readers with a message? Yes, if something doesn’t feel right about a person, trust your instincts. Don’t place yourself in a compromised position and recognize danger before it’s too late.

What else have you written? My first writing effort after I retired from teaching was Zug Island: A Detroit Riot Novel. It tells a multicultural story of the clash between urban and suburban cultures. Main character Jake Malone gets a crash course in race relations and learns that the face of racism comes in every shade of color. I also write a weekly blog entitled Fornology about my news and views.

How can readers find out more about your books? Readers can go to my author website  for more information. Discounted bulk purchases of my books can be made through Wheatmark.com, and paperbacks are available through Amazon.com, as well as a Kindle edition.


Mug Shot Monday! Michael Wayne Evans, 1977

Home | Mug Shot Monday, Short Feature Story | Mug Shot Monday! Michael Wayne Evans, 1977



During the summer of 1977, Elvira Guerrero, 36, and Mario Alvarado Garza, 28, were deeply in love with plans to soon get married. After attending services at the Second Mexican Baptist Church in the Oak Cliff section of Dallas–where Elvira played the piano, and Mario, a Mexican national, had just been baptized earlier that day– the two drove to a local park to discuss their upcoming nuptials.

As they sat talking in Elvira’s car that warm afternoon on June 26, two men spotted the pair and selected them as their victims that day. Michael Wayne Evans, 20, and Earl Stanley Smith, 23, walked to the park from Smith’s apartment with plans to mug someone. They had been planning all morning to rob and kill someone and their arrival at the small city park was no accident.

They were hunting.

Smith was the first to reach the car, where he shoved his pistol in the open window and ordered the pair to take him and Evans across town. The two climbed into the car, and directed Guerrero and Garza to drive to a remote area in South Dallas where they were robbed of $40 in church donations and $12 from Garza’s wallet.

Then, they shot Guerrero and Garza with a .22 caliber pistol. Garza was hit five times and Guerrero was shot twice in the head.

Somehow, Guerrero survived and prayed out loud to ask God to forgive the two men, Evans later confessed to police.

“She was holding my hand and looking into my eyes. Then she said, ‘God, help him, God help him,’” Evans’ stated in his confession. “I cut the lady (with a carpet knife) from the bottom of her chin to her hairline above her forehead. I also think I cut her eyes.

“I was trying to get her to quit talking.”

..think I cut her eyes?

That’s a watered-down way to describe how he had slashed and gouged them with a knife.

After a haul of just $52 and Guerrero’s watch, Evans and Smith dumped the bodies in a south Dallas hay field, covering them with bushes and leaves. Evans gave the watch to his girlfriend and kept Guerroro’s car for his personal use.

The bodies were discovered four days later. At the scene, investigators found a cylinder rod (used for ejecting bullets), to a .22 caliber revolver.

Eleven days after the victims were discovered, on July 11, Evans was spotted driving Guerroro’s car by one of one of her relatives who recognized the vehicle. He tailed the car which resulted in a high-speed chase. During the pursuit, the relative flagged down a police officer and the two followed it to an apartment complex in Dallas.

Evans was able to park the car, and enter his apartment before the officer arrived.

By questioning area tenants, police determined the car may have belonged to a woman named Belinda Key, whose apartment was fifteen feet from where the car was parked. With Key’s consent, officers entered the apartment but missed Evans, who fled through a back window.

Inside, a snub-nosed .22 caliber revolver, the type often referred to as a “Saturday Night Special,” was found inside a dresser drawer in a bedroom where Evans and his girlfriend, Juanita Ingram, slept. The ejector rod was missing.

Key, who was roommates with Evans, said it belonged to him. When police questioned her further, they learned that on the morning after the double homicide, Evans had returned with blood on his hands and clothing. Later that day, Key’s boyfriend helped Evans clean “blood and flesh” from inside Guerrero’s car.

Knowing he didn’t have money to buy a car, Key asked Evans where he got it. He replied that he and Smith “had jacked some people and hit them in the head and tied them up and covered them with bushes.”

Uniformed officers and marked police cruisers were ordered to leave the area, and plain-clothed officers moved in to stakeout Key’s apartment. Around 4:30 that afternoon, Evans returned to the area and was arrested.

Over the next few days, Evans readily gave several confessions, putting most of the blame on Smith. He also confessed to the June 15 robbery and murder of Daniel Potts, and said Smith participated with him in that crime as well.

Later, Evans recanted his confession claiming police beat him. At trial, Evans’ girlfriend, Juanita Ingram, testified that she was also at Key’s apartment when Evans returned covered in blood. She said that Evans told her that he had killed “some Mexicans,” and gave her a watch from “the Mexican lady that he had killed.”

Evans was found guilty and sentenced to death. His partner, Earl Stanley Smith, received three life sentences.

In 1980, the criminal court of appeals overturned Evans’ conviction, citing improper cross-representation of jurors. He was tried and convicted of capital murder a second time in October 1981, and again received the death sentence. In 1983, the appeals court upheld his conviction and the United States Supreme Court declined to review the case in March 1984.

With an execution date for set for December 4, 1986, Evans’ lawyer appealed to the US Supreme Court for of a stay of execution but was turned down in a 5-4 decision that came on December 2.

When told of the Supreme Court action, Evans said, “OK” and returned to his bunk in a holding cell adjacent to the Texas death chamber. Earlier that day, he had spoken with his mother by telephone.

The thirty-year-old former plumber and auto-mechanic spent most of his final day sleeping and rejected a last meal. Shortly after midnight, he was strapped to the gurney and was asked if he’d like to make a final statement. With tears in his eyes, Evans said: “I want to say I’m sorry for the things I’ve done and I hope I’m forgiven. I don’t hold nothing against no one. – Everyone has treated me well and I know it’s not easy for them. That’s all, I’m sorry.”

The lethal combination of chemicals was then injected into his body through an intravenous tube. He was pronounced dead at 12:21 a.m.

According to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice Online Offender search page, Smith is sixty-two-years-old and is serving out his time at the O.B. Ellis Unit, in Huntsville, Texas. Oddly, his inmate file shows that on November 22, 1994, he received an additional ten-year sentence for the aggravated sexual assault of a child which occurred on September 27 of that year. I could not find any information related to the 1994 sexual assault case through my usual sources before today’s deadline.


Best New True Crime Website of 2016

Home | Uncategorized | Best New True Crime Website of 2016

The Rabbit Hole

The term “rabbit hole” has several definitions, but #3 in the Urban Dictionary describes the internet’s best new true crime website.

To go down a never ending tunnel with many twists and turns on the internet, never truly arriving at a final destination, yet just finding more tunnels. Clicking one link, then finding another on that page, then clicking another link on that page, which gives you the idea to search for something, and the process repeats. – Urban Dictionary.

For hardcore true crime addicts, a recently released true crime website could be the entrance to an internet rabbit hole where they could truly get lost consuming the genre every waking hour for several months.

Imagine if there was one place [cue dramatic music] where 600 800+ true crime documentaries and true crime television episodes on the internet could be viewed on one platform devoted to true crime stories.

What? Did he say 600? That’s just crazy talk. (Update: On 8-29-2016 the count is 800+)

Best New True Crime Website of 2016

CrimeDocumentaryFrontPageThat’s not crazy talk, that’s how many there are on CrimeDocumentary.com, and approximately 25 to 100 more episodes and films are being added each week. With an attractive, sleek design, rigorous attention to collating, as well as adjunctive information about each video, CrimeDocumentary.com is easily, by far, the best new true crime website of 2016. And 2015. And maybe next year, too.

According to the founder, Chanel, she describes her watch-them-all in one place website as: “An attractive and easy to navigate crime / true crime documentary website which searches, identifies, describes and catalogues free crime related documentaries for people to watch all in one place, with currently over 600+ documentaries available.”

See, even she said it could be done all in one place. It’s like a Roku streaming channel devoted to true crime documentaries and television shows—and it’s free.


The site is broken down into thirteen different categories which include:

  1. Drugs,
  2. Gangs,
  3. Historical,
  4. Kidnap & Hostage,
  5. Miscellaneous,
  6. Murder,
  7. Organized Crime,
  8. Prison,
  9. Scam & Fraud,
  10. Sexual,
  11. Technological,
  12. Theft & Robbery,
  13. War & Terror

According the founders, two more categories, “Serial Killers” and “Forensic & Profiling,” are coming soon.

To clarify, they have programs about serial killers, but for now, they’re categorized under “Murder,” their largest category. The murder category, as well as others, does include foreign true crime films and shows, but all come with English subtitles.

The Process

A cynic might believe that the creators just took videos from youtube and copy/pasted the share code on a web page—but it’s not that simple. They dug a lot deeper into the material by adding additional, helpful information.

“We gather the videos from video sources like youtube, dailymotion, vimeo, archive.org, etc. and from TV providers like Russia Today, Al Jazeera, Vice or PBS. [When a video is inducted into our collection], we try [to include the following information:]

  • What is the correct full Title
  • Does it belong to a TV-Show – We put that in the subtitle shown below the main title.
  • Publish Year / Year of first airing – Put in brackets behind the Title
  • IMDB Link (a movie database)
  • Wikipedia Links to the Case and/or Film itself.
  • Murderpedia Links in case it is about a murder.
  • We look for a cover-image, if we don’t find one, we create one ourselves.
  • Add a proper Synopsis.”

True Crime Television Shows

Right now, they have complete coverage, that means every episode, of 30+ true crime television shows. Shows like Gangland (80 episodes), America’s Serial Killers: Portrait in Evil (this show includes many historical serial killers), and Deadly Women. Of course, they also have incomplete seasons and series with many of your favorite true crime TV shows.

You can check out all of them here: http://crimedocumentary.com/tag/series/ . Unfortunately, the episodes visible via that link, are not alphabetized and instead, are organized by date added, which produces a random style organizational feel. Another issue here is that the televisions shows are mixed in with everything else, but in my belief, should be separated into another category – similar to how it is done on Netflix.

To be fair, I know the developers are working very hard on their website, and building new websites are time consuming. Constructing a separate category for “Television Series” would be a massive undertaking since there are, as of July 25, 2016, more than 300 TV episodes listed on the site.

True Crime Documentaries

Getting to the best part, the documentaries, CrimeDocumentary.com has an estimated 250 to 300, true-form documentaries on the site as of July 26, 2016. This includes some of the most famous films of the last twenty years, as well two of the most talked about documentaries of 2015:

Making a Murderer (2015)

The Jinx (2015)

The Staircase (2004)

Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father (2008)

Paradise Lost (1996)

Besides the popular and well-known, you can get lost searching and watching:

A Checklist for Murder, 2016

3 ½ Minutes: Ten Bullets, 2015

A Taste for Murder, 2016

Angel of Death: The Beverly Allit Story, 2005,

Bazaar Bizarre, 2004, and

Born to Kill: Richard Trenton Chase, 2006

Historical True Crime

As mentioned in the category list above, CrimeDocumentary.com does have a historical section, a decent one, which includes two of the oldest true crime documentaries ever made: How Fred Burke Was Captured, 1931 and You Can’t Get Away with It, 1936.

Additionally, the historical category also offers, The Police Tapes, a 90 minute documentary from 1976, (released in 1977), that invented the gathering and presentation methods that would later be adapted for the long-running television show COPS, which debuted twelve years later in 1989. This ride-along-with-officers and film the type of calls they go out on every night is a time machine that takes you back to South Bronx, New York, 1976. Here is a synopsis provided by CrimeDocumentary.com which was borrowed from Wikipedia.

the-police-tapes-210x300Filmmakers Alan Raymond and Susan Raymond spent three months in 1976 riding along with patrol officers in the 44th Precinct of the South Bronx, which had the highest crime rate in New York City. They produced about 40 hours of videotape that they edited into a 90-minute documentary.

The result was what New York Times TV critic John J. O’Connor called a “startlingly graphic and convincing survey of urban crime, violence, brutality and cynical despair”. Cases followed include the discovery of a dead body on the street, the rescue of a mother trapped in her apartment by a mentally ill son, an attempt to negotiate with a woman armed with an improvised flail who refuses to stop threatening her neighbor, and the arrest of a 70-year-old woman accused of hitting her daughter in the face with an axe.

There is some introductory narration at the beginning describing the neighborhood and the time the documentary was filmed, but some unifying commentary is provided by an interview with Bronx Borough Commander Anthony Bouza, who ascribes the crime rate in the 44th Precinct to poverty, describes the hardening effects of urban violence on idealistic police officers, and likens himself to the commander of an occupying army, saying “We are manufacturing criminals… we are manufacturing brutality”.

No Fee, All Free

Before writing this article, I went through the website myself, and grilled the founders on one important aspect: that none of the documentaries, or TV episodes, will take you to a paid service. This is not a bait-and-switch website that attempts to manipulate you into paying a subscription, or a rental fee. Everything you can watch on this website is absolutely free.

Great, but Dangerous

CrimeDocumentary.com is definitely, in my opinion, The Best New True Crime Website of 2016, but it could also be the most dangerous—dangerous because a real true crime lover could get lost for six months watching all the content that is available.

These videos may have been “out there,” but I never would have found them all and certainly not organized them in the way Chanel and her colleagues have done it. And let’s face it, Youtube’s search functions aren’t that great. I usually have to poke around for 10 to 30 minutes before I find exactly what I’m looking for. Now, if I want to watch old episodes of American Justice, I just go to CrimeDocumentary.com and type it in the search box.

Congratulations to Chanel and her colleagues on a job well-done.


New Book: Memphis Vice, 1863: An Untold Story of the Civil War

Home | New Books | New Book: Memphis Vice, 1863: An Untold Story of the Civil War

Not all crime books are about murder or serial killers. Some of the most intriguing ones are about other subjects like gambling, Ocean 11 type heists, bank robbers, con men, spies, and other non-violent crimes.

And there is also prostitution. Veteran historical true crime writer, Tobin Buhk, author of eight books including the popular, True Crime in the Civil War, has just written a new book about the world’s second oldest profession–with a twist. His new book is about prostitution in Memphis during the civil war and it’s fascinating look at guilty pleasure type subject matter from an era in which we know very little about the sex lives, purchased or otherwise, of the common man, as well as the higher-ups.


—Free with Kindle Unlimited, or $2.99 for Kindle.—

Here is a fascinating synopsis from the author.

A long time ago, in a place not so far away, a battle raged. This conflict didn’t make it into the history books, and your history teacher never told you about it (or he likely would have been sent to the principal’s office). It didn’t occur on a battlefield peopled with men in blue and gray.

It took place on the mean streets of Memphis during the turbulent, third year of the Civil War, when the city’s demimonde controlled the vice world’s commerce. They spread joy to the boys in blue who were headed to an uncertain future…and venereal disease, which posed a clear threat to the army. Billy Yank already had a hard time fighting the tenacious rebel army, but now he had to do it with a burning sensation between his legs.

Something had to be done, so the Memphis provost marshal declared war on the prostitutes by closing the brothels, threatening to exile them upriver.

But business was so good, many of them didn’t listen, which led to a clandestine game of pussycat and mouse between the prostitutes and the provost marshal detectives.

Enter William M. Cherry, a married father of four from Illinois. Left with a debilitating and painful injury following the battle of Shiloh, Cherry went back into action by going undercover in the brothels to gather evidence for the provost marshal. Except Cherry, who liked to tip the bottle, slipped a little too deep under the covers of Kate Stoner’s brothel, which made for an interesting scene when Cherry and his straight-laced partner raided the place.

The result was a highly unusual and embarrassing trial during which all of the key players appeared in front of a military commission who had the dubious task of figuring out who had been naughty and who had been nice.


If you have Kindle Unlimited, the book is free. If not, the Kindle version is only $2.99.

Unfortunately, there are no Nook or epub versions available. The author is currently working on the print version, which could be out later this year.




Mug Shot Monday! Azel D. Galbraith, 1904

Home | Mug Shot Monday, Short Feature Story | Mug Shot Monday! Azel D. Galbraith, 1904

 Azel-D-GalbraithAzel D. Galbraith

Between the years of 1898 and 1904, Azel D. Galbraith was working his way up the ladder in Colorado’s mining industry as a bookkeeper and manager. He was held in high esteem and his name occasionally appeared in Colorado newspapers. Although he was married with a young son, his success went to his head and he began to think he was entitled to more. As the business manager of a mine in Russell Gulch in Gilpin County, he traveled often to Denver and on one occasion in 1902, he met Mrs. Lottie Russell, a single woman despite her prefix (honorific). The two began a wild love affair and to enhance his sexual pleasure, or to ease his guilt, Galbraith also began drinking heavily for the first time in his life.

Predictably, the affair turned into an expensive one as Galbraith spent his life savings to keep his lover happy with new dresses, jewelry, dining out in Denver’s best restaurants, tickets to the best shows in town, as well as expensive trips back east.

When his savings ran out, Galbraith began embezzling money from his company. In early March 1904, he was fired by his employer, AJ Richards, who owned the Topeka Mine in Russell Gulch, a now abandoned mining town with an ironic name. Before or immediately after he was fired, Galbraith stole a large number of blank company checks.

[Note: The house in which he murdered his wife and son is still standing and is said to be haunted by a local team of “paranormal investigators.”]


Jennie (Lamb) Galbraith seen here with her half-brother, James Casper Morger. Photo Courtesy of Sharon Morger Jones, great-grand niece of Jennie.

Rather than tell his wife, Galbraith pretended he was still employed at the mine for several days until he could figure out his next move. On the morning of March 9, he and his wife were lying in bed together discussing their future. With no knowledge her husband had been fired, Mrs. Jennie Galbraith chatted freely about various personal objectives she had for their son and the family. Around nine o’clock, Galbraith distracted his wife and when she turned away from him, he shot her in the head with a .32 caliber pistol.


Donald Galbraith as an infant. Photo courtesy of Sharon Morger Jones, great-grand niece of Jennie (Lamb) Galbraith.

Galbraith placed his wife back in the bed and covered her up as if she were sleeping. He then went outside and called for his eight-year-old son. Donald, who was playing nearby with some other children, obeyed his father and ran home. Galbraith then persuaded him to lie down between him and his mother on the bed so they could talk. While pointing at the window, Galbraith remarked “Look at that little bird.” When Donald turned to look, Galbraith shot him in the head.

Galbraith arranged the bodies of his dead wife and son by folding their arms across their chests and crossing their legs at the ankles. He then pulled the quilt over their heads and left for Denver.

For the next month, Galbraith stayed in Denver, visiting his lover as often as he could. He also began drinking heavily and whenever he was low on funds, he would cash one of the company checks. During his time there, he burned through $1,000, the 2016 equivalent of $24,000.

On April 8, he was apprehended by two Denver detectives who had a warrant for his arrest for theft from his former employer. The next day, authorities in Russell Gulch searched his home and found the bodies of his wife and son exactly where he had left them thirty-one days earlier.

Galbraith was interrogated and at first, denied any involvement. Eventually, he faltered and confessed, claiming he killed them because he had lost his job, and wanted to save them from a life of poverty. He said he was going to kill himself too, but lost the nerve, and hadn’t completed his task, yet.

After they grilled him some more, Galbraith told them the real reason he killed his family: he wanted to be with Lottie Russell.

Galbraith was taken to the county seat, Central City, and held in the local jail for trial. When he arrived, twenty armed deputies had to surround the building to prevent a lynch mob from killing him. Although he pled guilty, Galbraith was given a jury trial which began on June 15, and ended thirty-six hours later. After forty minutes of deliberation, the jury found him guilty of first degree murder and recommended the death penalty. On July 7, the judge pronounced sentence with a death date set for October 16, to be carried in the Colorado State Prison in Canon City.

However, two days before he was to be executed, he was granted a thirty day reprieve. Over the next six months, he received three more reprieves as the state considered its capital punishment laws. It had been eight years since the state had carried out an execution, and the laws needed to be dusted off and re-examined. After various legal considerations by the state supreme court, his final date was set for March 6, 1905, at 8:00 p.m.

In his final hours, Galbraith ate a light dinner, and then dressed himself in a new black suit, with white shirt and black tie. After the death warrant was read, he was asked if he would like a drink of whisky.

“No more of that for me,” he answered. “That is what put me where I am.”

Standing before Colorado’s hanging platform[1], with his ankles, knees and wrists bound, he stood quietly as a Presbyterian minister prayed for his soul. When the word, “Amen,” came, he responded with a simple “Good-bye,” and then the black hood was placed over his head. He was lifted on to the weight sensitive platform and ninety seconds later (see explanation below), he was jerked five feet into the air, and then fell back three feet, breaking his neck. His body twitched two times, and was then motionless as his body swayed back and forth, eventually coming to a stop. He remained there for ten minutes before they cut him down, placed him in a coffin and buried him on nearby Woodpecker Hill, which is the name for the prisoner section of Greenwood Pioneer Cemetery, a public cemetery for Canon City residents.

According to the proprietor of the Facebook page, Cemeteries of Colorado, the prisoner section is separate from the area for civilian graves. All prisoners executed by the state, whose bodies went unclaimed by family members, are buried in the prisoner section. As you can see from these photos shared by Cemeteries of Colorado, their graves are marked by an aluminum plate on a steel post. These are nothing more than license plates made in the prison factory. Most of the plates are covered in rust. Beneath that rust, most of them read only: “CSP Inmate.” A small number of them contain the prisoner’s name. Here is a story about the cemetery in the Denver Post website. In one of their photos, you can see the name Louis Monge. I’ll be posting about him later on.

Woodpecker Hill Photo Gallery, courtesy of Cemeteries of Colorado.

Rusted aluminum markers on steel posts identify the grave sites of prisoners executed long ago at the Colorado State Prison in Canon City.
"CSP Inmate" is how most of the markers are labeled. The man buried here is nameless and forgotten.
A barren landscape is the final resting place for executed prisoners, and those who died while serving out their sentences.
The prison can be seen from the cemetery.
A pitiful reminder of a life wasted.

P.S. If someone ever gets the chance, please search the April 1904 editions of the Rocky Mountain News or Denver Post to see if there is a sketch or image of Lottie Russell. I would really like to include her image with this story.


[1] It operated by counterweight (water filling a tank) that sent the body upward, dislocating the vertebrae, followed by a sharp drop which snapped the neck. It was dubbed “the automatic suicide machine.”