A cold case is an unsolved criminal investigation that remains open indefinitely pending the discovery of new evidence. There have been numerous unique cases throughout history, some of which still remained unsolved to this day, such as the Jack the Ripper killings, the Zodiac murders, and the Black Dahlia slaying. In this new, regular series, Wicked Horror’s resident true crime expert April Bennett takes a look at one of these cases in an attempt to better understand why it remains open. In this installment, April will be revisiting the infamous Tekarkana murders. This installment will unfold over several weeks. This week, we bring you Part 3. You can check out Part 2 here.
Coming back to March 1946, on the horrifying scene of a couple being shot at close range in their car, and the police unable to control the crowd gathered at the scene from interfering. However, in spite of this, there was some evidence found at the scene of the crime that came in handy. Both of the victims were shot in the back of the head twice with a .32 caliber gun executioner style. The bodies were identified as young couple Richard Griffin and Polly Ann Moore after law enforcement officers found the female’s class ring that had both the high school name and her initials on it.
Griffin was found on his knees behind the front seat, his pants pulled down to his ankles with the pockets turned out and his head resting on his hands, as if he were asleep. Moore was found face down in the backseat, her purse opened as if the perpetrator sifted through it for cash and valuables. Additionally, there was a lot of blood found outside of the vehicle, which led to speculation that both Griffin and Moore were outside of their car when they were shot.
Also, even though Griffin’s wallet and Moore’s class ring were found at the crime scene, the police suspected that this crime was a fatal robbery due to Griffin’s pockets being inside out and Moore’s purse being open. Future analysis by the FBI and the Rangers suggested that Moore could have possibly been raped that night, but there were conflicting reports and this information was never released to the public.
The following day, the Texarkana Gazette ran the headline, “Couple Shot Dead in Auto.” Based on the evidence that was preserved and the accounts of witnesses who had spotted Polly Ann Moore and Richard Griffin the previous night, a basic account of events was placed together. Moore, a 29 year old veteran, and Griffin, a 17 year old high school graduate, had been dating about a month and a half by that point and were on a date that fateful night. They had been on a double date with Griffin’s sister and her boyfriend, but after they dropped off the other couple, Griffin and Moore decided to go park on a street alone.
It was at this point that Sheriff Presley decided to call on the help of the Texas Rangers in order to identify the type of gun used in the murder from the casings that were left at the scene. Although the Rangers did not have specific educational requirements, they were trained in the latest techniques of navigating a crime scene, which included analyzing ballistics and fingerprints, communicating, and record keeping.
They also had access to a crime lab in Austin, that could handle evidence collected at the crime scene. The first Texas Ranger to arrive in Texarkana was Jimmy Greer. His first action was to scold the local police department for not securing the scene. However, when he did send the bullets extracted from Griffin to the Texas Ranger lab, it was concluded that both victims were shot with a .32 automatic pistol that was most likely to be a Colt model.
While Hollis and Larey’s attack had quickly left the minds of Texarkana residents, the murders of Griffin and Moore shocked the town and incited a thorough investigation that did not reveal anything–at least not before the killer struck again.
Bessie Brown’s motherly intuition had woken her up, on the morning of April 14th, 1946, with a start. Her daughter from her first marriage, her beloved Betty Jo Booker, had not returned from her Saturday night gig playing saxophone at the VFW. Nor had she left the instrument behind, which would usually indicate that she would be staying with friends.
After her husband, and Booker’s stepfather, Clark Brown, dismissed Bessie’s anxiety as over-exaggeration, Bessie insisted that Clark start making phone calls in order to find her daughter. Clark humored his worrying wife and called Janann Gleason, the friend that Betty Jo was supposed to be staying with that night. The phone call not only gave legitimacy to Bessie’s suspicions, but also alarmed Clark when he learned that Betty Jo had never made it to the slumber party. Further to this, she had not been heard from all night.
That same morning, fellow residents of Texarkana and their young son found the crumpled body of a young man on the side of North Park Road at 6 a.m. Mortified, the family did not leave their car, but instead drove to the closest home to the crime scene, where the residents called the authorities.
Sheriff Presley and the Chief of Police of the Texas side of Texarkana received the call and were the first to respond to the scene. Presley arrived to a gruesome scene of a collapsed body which was reportedly “lying on its left side, his head and the trunk of his body on the leaves and grass. His feet and legs jutted onto the dirt road. He was wearing a light-colored long-sleeved shirt, with his arms and hands in front of him” (Presley, p. 52, 2014).
Check out part four of our Cold Case Analysis, on The Texarkana Murders, next week only on Wicked Horror.