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Serial Killer Index Short List
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Serial Killer Index
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  MOONLIGHT Murderer of TEXARKANA USA ... ... ... 5+
aka 1946 1946 TX
 : ... ... ... ...
America was still recovering from the trauma of World War II and the euphoria of V-J Day when headlines focused national attention on the town of Texarkana, straddling the Texas-Arkansas border. There, between March 23 and May 4, 1946, an unknown slayer claimed at least five victims , surfacing at three-week intervals to murder when the moon was, full. His rampage brought hysteria to Texarkana and environs, causing citizens to fortify their homes or flee the town entirely, sparking incidents of violence when a paperboy or salesman were mistaken for a lethal prowler in the night. Despite four decades of investigation and production of a feature film about the case, it stands officially unsolved today, the so-called "phantom gunman" still at large. The killer's first attack, unrecognized for several weeks, took place on February 23. Jimmy Hollis, age 24, was parked with his 19-year-old girlfriend, Mary Larey, on a lonely road near Texarkana, when a tall masked man approached their car with gun in hand. He ordered Hollis from the car and clubbed him to the ground, next turning on Larey and raping her with his gun barrel to the point that she begged him to kill her. Instead, he slugged her with the gun and turned back toward Hollis, allowing the young woman to escape on foot. Both victims managed to survive their ordeal, but the gunman would not be so lax a second time. On March 23, 1946, 29-year-old Richard Griffin and 17-year-old Polly Ann Moore were killed on a lonely Texarkana lover's lane. Both victims were shot in the back of the head, Griffin kneeling underneath the dash board while his girlfriend sprawled in the back seat, but a blood-soaked patch of earth some 20 feet away suggested they had died outside the car. Both bodies were fully clothed, and recent reports deny any evidence of sexual assault, but contemporary rumors featured mention of sexual abuse, torture, and mutilation inflicted on Polly Moore. Precisely three weeks later, on April 13, 17-year-old Paul Martin and 15-year-old Betty Jo Booker were ambushed in Spring Lake Park, following a late dance at the local VFW hall. Martin's lifeless body, shot four times, was found beside a rural highway on the morning of April 14, Booker's corpse discovered six hours later and a mile away, shot in the face and heart. Again, the tales of fiendish torture spread through Texarkana, though a crop of modern journalists reject them as untrue. The fanfare of publicity, complete with Texas Rangers on patrol and homicide detectives staked out in the guise of teenage lovers, caused the killer to adopt a new technique for what was said to be his last attack. On May 4, 1946, 36-year-old Virgil Starks was shot through the window of his farmhouse, ten miles from Texarkana, as he read his evening paper after supper. Emerging from a bedroom at the sound of breaking glass, his wife was wounded twice before she managed to escape and summon help from neighbors. In her absence, the intruder prowled from room to room, leaving bloody footprints behind as he fled, dropping an untraceable flashlight in the bushes outside. Tracking dogs were hurried to the scene, but they lost their man at the point where he entered his car and drove off. Two days after the Starks attack, with Texarkana living in a state of siege, a man's mangled body was found on the railroad†.à ÷Dà Ô à tracks north of town. While some reporters have suggested that he may have been the killer, capping off his murder spree with suicide, a coroner's report from May 7, 1946, reveals that victim Earl McSpadden had been stabbed to death before his body was dumped on the tracks, suffering further mutilation when a train passed over at 5:30 a.m. Today, it seems more likely that McSpadden was another victim of the "Moonlight Murderer," dispatched in an attempt to end the manhunt with a simulated suicide. Arkansas state trooper Max Tackett claiming to have captured the killer in the summer of 1946, basing his case on disjointed remarks from a convicted car thief and an inadmissible statement from the suspect's wife. At least one FBI agent also fingered the thief, later sentenced to life on unrelated charges, as a prime suspect in the murders, but he was never charged. If he was the killer, that fact somehow managed to elude Captain M.T. Gonzaullas, in charge of the Texas Rangers' investigation at Texarkana. As late as 1973, Gonzaullas listed the "moonlight" murders as his most baffling case, vowing that he would never stop hunting the killer as long as he lived. Today, the ranger captain is no longer with us, and the case remains unsolved.
Copyright 1995-2005 by Elisabeth Wetsch
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