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 2. You can check out part one here.
The First Attack (Continued)
Last week we left off with Hollis and Larey unsure of who their attacker was and Sheriff Bill Presley faced with an unknown, violent assailant. The following day, the local newspaper, the Texarkana Gazette, ran a headline proclaiming “Masked Man Beats Texarkanian and Girl” and described the following events that Sheriff Presley and the other officers put together the previous evening.
Mary Jeanne Larey, a 19 year old, attractive, petite, dark-eyed brunette, and her boyfriend James Hollis, a 24 year old male insurance agent, wanted to end their date night with some private time. After catching a film at a popular movie theater, they parked on a secluded road known locally as Lover’s Lane. Sometime during the evening, the couple was blinded by a stranger’s flashlight.
They assumed it was a police officer making his nightly rounds, but instead they were confronted by an armed, masked man with a flashlight and a gun. The couple was told to get out the car and they followed the stranger’s instructions, believing that if they did, they would not be killed. Larey promised the attacker that Hollis did not have any cash on him and even opened his wallet for proof, but the suspect kept on telling her that she was lying. Once they were ordered out of the car, Hollis was ordered to take off his pants, but after he did, the Phantom proceeded to bash Hollis in the head with the butt of his gun causing two deep fractures in Hollis’s skull.
Then, for unknown reasons, after Hollis collapsed from his injuries, the stranger told Larey to run. Once she got some distance from him, he caught up and asked her why she ran. When she answered that he told her to, he calls her a liar, punches her in the face, and proceeded to vaginally penetrate her with his gun. He probably would have killed Larey, but luckily, some headlights appeared in the distance, which scared him off. However, before he escaped in the night he punched Larey in the face one last time.
The sheriff’s initial reaction was that this attack was conducted by Larey’s estranged husband, but the ex-lover was able to provide an alibi that placed him nowhere near the crime scene. Also, the police did not believe the victims at first and thought they were hiding the identity of the gunman, but pieces of evidence corroborated their story.
For one, Hollis’s pants were found approximately 100 yards from the crime scene, which would indicate that he abandoned his garments under the instruction of his attacker. Also, although Larey was not properly examined for rape at the hospital, there were reported signs of vaginal bruising.
Despite this, little was done, in the days following the attack, to find the suspect. The sheriff did not want to strain the already fragile town and create further racial tension based on Larey’s seemingly unfounded claims that the attacker was an African American man. A few days prior to February 22nd, an innocent black man was lynched and this stirred the town. The sheriff believed that the attack on Larey and Hollis was just a part of the normal criminal activity in Texarkana, or even an isolated event, so the police department did not believe that an active, involved search of the suspect was necessary.
Thirty days after Larey and Hollis’s attack, on the morning of March 24th, a father and son discovered two bodies shot in a car that was parked on a quiet street. As soon as they saw the blood in the car and the bodies of a young couple slumped in the seats, they phoned the police. When first responders arrived to process the scene, the ambulance and law enforcement vehicles attracted a lot of attention from nearby citizens. Soon after, police appeared and a relatively large crowd subsequently formed to see what had happened.
Unfortunately, since Sheriff Presley and the Texarkana police department were not properly trained in collecting evidence, the crime scene was not adequately preserved and what evidence could have been collected was destroyed due to mishandling. For example, when the tow truck came to take the car away, officers failed to wear gloves and, in the process, muddled the possibility of collecting fingerprints of the suspect by adding their own.
Also, one of the spectators of the crime scene that lingered dangerously close to the parked car found the keys about 100 yards away and picked them up with his bare hands to turn them into the police. This would unfortunately be one of the many blunders that would occur in the course of this investigation.
Check out part three of our Cold Case Analysis, on The Texarkana Murders, next week only on Wicked Horror.