The Attacks Begin

Click on Links below for more information


Click here to read more about the Lawmen involvedClick here to learn more about the Suspects in this case

The Timeline

February 22, 1946; Jimmy Hollis / Mary Jeanne Larey

March 24, 1946; Richard L. Griffin / Polly Ann Moore

April 14, 1946; Paul Martin / Betty Jo Booker

After the Martin-Booker murders, the famous Texas Ranger investigator, Capt. Manuel (Lone Wolf) Gonzaullas was called in to help with the investigation along with a Company of Rangers.

 

May 3, 1946; Virgil & Kate Starks


Interesting Facts

  • Most of the women victims were raped or sexually abused but in the 1940s that was a subject not mentioned in the newspapers.
  • Many years after the murders, blood stained clothing was found in the attic of the Old Spring Lake Park School which was scheduled to be demolished
  • Ballistics report on .32 caliber pistol used in murders:
    "Six Lands and Grooves with left hand twist"
  • All files and evidence kept by both Arkansas and Texas Law enforcement agencies has long since disappeared. (?)
  • After the death of Betty Jo Booker, the Rhythmaires band never played again
  • The identity of the suspected Phantom Killer was rumored to be from a "well to do" Texarkana family


Killer's Profile

Dr. Anthony Lapolla, a psychiatrist at the Texarkana Federal Correctional Institution, says that the killer is a sadist driven by an overpowering sex urge. He says that these type persons are often very shrewd and intelligent and usually escape capture. Dr Lapolla added that this person is probably between the ages of 35 and 50 and never been confined to a mental institution. He could appear to lead a very normal life and probably was never in the military service. He believes the killer is a white man who has a habit of striking every 21 days.

The City fights back

As over 150 police units patrolled to streets of Texarkana, the youth of the city were fighting back but officials said they were going too far. Many students who were especially incensed by the killing of 2 students by the Phantom, were conducting their own search. Many armed young couples were parking on lonely roads hoping the mad killer would try an attack on them. Appeals to the public for help in the capture of the Phantom Killer were sent out by Law Enforcement Officials. Texarkana was now said to be the most Guarded city in the United States. Suspicious persons were hauled in by police for questioning and at least 12 suspects were in custody for questioning in the murders. Other suspects were detained all the way to the West Coast for these murders.

 

Close Encounter

Arkansas State Trooper, Max Tackett had noticed that before each murder, a car was reported stolen and later abandoned. One of these cars was tracked down in a local parking lot on June 28, 1946 and a stakeout lead to the arrest of a woman whose husband would become and remain the prime suspect in this case. The suspect who already had a long arrest record, attempted to sell a stolen car in Atlanta, Texas in July of 1946. Max Tackett arrested the suspect at the bus station on Front Street near Union Station. After being placed in the patrol car with Tackett and Tillman Johnson (Chief Deputy, Miller Co.), the suspect turned to Johnson and said "Hell, I know what you want me for. You want me for more than stealing cars"

In the meantime, the suspects wife began to tell police things about the murders that only police knew. She even knew about a datebook found at the scene of the Martin-Booker murders that only Sheriff Bill Presley knew about. While the wife talked, the suspect himself clammed up and refused to talk. Police took the man to Little Rock for a shot of sodium-pentathol (truth serum) but they gave him too much and he passed out. Johnson says this was had been a big mistake. He believes they should have kept him in Texarkana and would have eventually been able to get the truth out of him. The suspect's wife refused to testify against him in court and she could not be forced to do so under law.

The wife was jailed for accessory to car theft and her husband was sent to prison for life for car theft and being a habitual offender but later in 1973 the Appeals court overturned his conviction saying he was not adequately represented by an attorney during his initial arraignment in 1941. The man was released and died in a Dallas, Texas nursing home in 1993.

False Alarm

Several nights after the "Starks Murders", editor Mahaffey of the Texarkana Gazette was waiting around in the Arkansas police station with Chief Max Tackett when they received a telephone call from a neighbor of the Mr. and Mrs. Starks. The neighbor had seen lights in the Stark's house so the editor, along with Max Tackett and several deputies rush to the scene. Chief Tackett yelled out that the house was surrounded and for the intruder to come out. Out comes "Lone Wolf Gonzaullas" along with a woman photographer from "Life Magazine"!! Chief Tackett turned to editor Mahaffey and shouted at the top of his voice: "Mahaffey, you can quote me as saying that the Phantom murders will never be solved until Texarkana gets rid of the big city press and the Texas Rangers."

Cooperation between the Rangers and local police was extremely bad and Capt. Gonzaullas, being a tan, good looking Spanish man, was very popular with the lady reporters and spent a good deal of his time being photographed and interviewed.



A movie was made about The Phantom Killer in 1976 called "The Town That Dreaded Sundown" It is also available at Blockbuster Video. A 24 page Special Edition of these events is also available for $3.00 at the Texarkana Gazette. A 2 page article about these events was printed in LIFE Magazine (June 10, 1946 - Donna Reed on the cover ) which can be seen at most public libraries.

Read a well written Short Story about these murders at: 

by Joe Geringer at www.crimelibrary.com

 

Newspaper Articles & Ranger Files

   Film Trailer - "Town that dreaded sundown"
        Remembering James Hollis by his family < - Opens in New Window
  Tillman Johnson Interview   YouTube <- Opens in New Window


Started.... 07/20/1998

Updated 06/04/2013

Email me at becksweb@gmail.com


Web Hosting