The Serial Homicide Case of the Day, from "Hunting Humans, the Encyclopedia of 20th Century Serial Killers" , by Michael Newton
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On May 7, 1922, William Driskell, a cotton buyer and part-time deputy constable in Waco, Texas, was axed to death in his own garage, robbed of his pistol, his watch, and a ring. It seemed to be a clear-cut case of robbery gone wrong, but homicide investigators had no clues, and they were getting nowhere when the killer struck again.
Harvey Bolton, 21 years old, was parking with his girlfriend outside Waco, on May 25, when a black man emerged from some nearby bushes, brandishing a pistol. The gunman shot Bolton three times, killing him instantly, then dragged the woman out and raped her on the ground. Next day, the victim fingered Jesse Thomas as her rapist, and he was shot to death by the young woman's father, his body carried downtown and publicly burned by a Iynch mob. Unfortunately for Thomas - and for Waco - the woman had made a mistake, deceived by her own hysteria and a conviction that "all blacks look alike."
On November 20, 19-year-old Grady Skipworth was parked near "Lover's Leap," in Cameron Park, with his girlfriend, Naomi Boucher. Suddenly, a black man rushed at their car from the darkness, killing Skipworth with a shotgun blast to the head, dragging his body out of the car and tossing it over the cliff. The killer returned, wrestling Naomi from the vehicle and pushing her over the precipice, but a tree broke her fall, and she survived with only superficial injuries. Once more, an innocent black was accused, but Waco had learned its lesson. An all-white jury acquitted the suspect, despite Boucher's identification, and he was released in a storm of applause from the court.
On January 10, 1923, a black gunman leaped onto the running board of a car passing through Cameron Park, jabbing a shotgun through the passenger's window, but he was knocked to the ground without firing a shot. He left behind a checkered cap, delivered to police as evidence , but nearly three weeks would elapse before its owner was identified.
Meanwhile, on January 20, W.E. Holt and Ethel Denecamp were parked five miles from Waco when a gunman materialized out of the shadows, killing Holt with a shot to the head, beating Denecamp to death and dumping her body in a nearby field. Their car was recovered in Waco next morning, abandoned by the killer on a city street.
Detectives got their break when a witness identified the checkered cap's owner as 30-year-old Roy Mitchell, a Louisiana native currently living in Waco. Mitchell was arrested January 30, on a gambling charge, and a search of his home turned up William Driskell's handgun and holster, along with a watch fob stolen from Grady Skipworth. After three days in jail, Mitchell confessed to five murders, recanting the statement before his trial in March 1923. Convicted on all counts and sentenced to die, he was hanged on July 30, 1923, before a cheering crowd of 8,000 spectators.
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