“After thirteen months on the run, a former small-town police chief wanted for murder and armed robbery was captured in Tennessee on September 27, 1929.”
That’s the attention grabbing beginning to the “This Week in Texas History” column for Wednesday, September 24 through Tuesday, September 30. If you haven’t read it, you’re missing out on a fascinating and rarely told story.
After a nine-month extradition fight, Charles “Tex” Watson was taken from his cell in the Collin County jail at McKinney on September 11, 1970 and returned under armed guard to Los Angeles to stand trial separately for his part in the Manson Family killing spree.
The Farmersville native was convicted of multiple counts of murder and condemned to die in the gas chamber, but the sentence was commuted to life imprisonment when the death penalty was declared unconstitutional. At age 68, Watson is still behind bars and waiting for his fifteenth parole hearing in 2016.
On July 9, 1943, Alfred de Marigny was charged with the murder in the Bahamas of his father-in-law, Sir Harry Oakes .
In his role as royal governor, the Duke of Windsor, who had abdicated the throne to marry a divorced American, oversaw the trial that mesmerized the world. De Marigny was acquitted but exiled from the island as an “undesirable alien.” The Frenchman spent the last forty years of his life as a rich but rarely seen recluse in Houston.
Sidney “Pete” Welk, a popular Dallas bootlegger, made history on April 3, 1925, when he became the first white man executed in Texas’ new electric chair.
There was no hard evidence connecting Welk to the death of a deputy during a raid on his moonshine still nor the murder of a guard during a bloody bid for freedom from the Dallas County Jail. But that did not stop a jury from condemning him to die by electrocution.
James P. Hamilton, Republic of Texas minister to Great Britain, wrote a letter to Monroe Edwards on November 23, 1840 informing the swindler that he knew his letters of introduction from famous Americans were forgeries and that he was a fugitive from Lone Star justice.
Rather than return to Texas where a prison cell was waiting for him, Edwards went to New York. Convicted of forgery in a sensational trial, he was sentenced to a long stretch in Sing Sing. Beaten by guards for an escape attempt, Edwards soon died of his injuries.
Drunk as a skunk and in a jealous rage, Judge John W. Brady stabbed Lehlia HIghsmith to death in front of her rooming house on the night of November 9, 1929.
This sensational Roaring Twenties murder case is the subject of “This Week in Texas History” for the week of Wednesday, November 6 through Tuesday, November 12. Read all about it in your local newspaper or on-line with a private email subscription available on this web site.
The New York City coroner confirmed on October 27, 1900 what many had suspected, that multi-millionaire William Marsh Rice had been murdered for his money.
Valet Charlie Jones promptly confessed to poisoning the Texas tycoon and implicated Rice’s attorney Albert Patrick, who had forged a will to profit from the premature passing of his client. Jones went free in a plea bargain and stayed out of sight until his 1954 suicide in Baytown. One New York governor commuted Patrick’s death sentence and another granted him a full pardon.
On September 5, 1954, a Dallas federal judge set a trial date later that month for two brothers accused of a vicious extortion scheme against a score of prominent Jewish families. This is the subject of the Wednesday, Sepember 4 through Tuesday, September 10 installment of “This Week in Texas History.”
A bizarre letter mailed four months before threatened death for the targets unless a $200,000 payment was made. The Dallas office of the FBI jumped into the case with both feet and worked around the clock to catch the men behind the plot.
Twenty-four year old Bobby Fuller of Goose Creek (now Baytown) had it all: good looks, great voice, a talent for writing songs and the Top 40 hit “I Fought the Law and the Law Won.” But on the night of July 18, 1966 he was found dead in his car on a Hollywood street.
The official cause of death was accidental asphyxiation from sniffing gasoline fumes, an odd way to get high for a rising star with plenty of cash. To this day, many of Fuller’s friends and fans believe he was murdered. One of them, a man in East Texas, accused organized crime in an anonymous letter he wrote to me after my column on the mystery appeared in papers a few years ago.
On June 19, 1945, a first lieutenant wrote the folks back home in North Texas to ask if they had received the packages he mailed from Germany.
The fascinating story of Joe Tom Meador and the Quedlinburg treasure is, as you might have guessed, the subject of my column for the week of Wednesday, June 19 thru Tuesday, June 25. You can read it in your local paper, if it carries “This Week in Texas History,” or on-line as a private email subscriber.