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photo: cy2k

  SLED agents load the bodies of two motorcycle club members into a hearse after a 1971 dispute in North Augusta with a rival biker gang. Aiken County said the deaths of Thomas Bolin and William Martin Wolf Jr. centered around a dispute over fancy models.
FILE

Killings just as violent in past

Web posted April 19, 1999

  High-profile killings

By Meghan Gourley
Staff Writer

Daunting tales of murder-for-hire, grisly accounts of violent scuffles, eerie details of heinous hate crimes -- the killings that grabbed headlines throughout the last century were just as sensational as those today.

An angry lynch mob hunts down a black man suspected of killing a white man in an Augusta streetcar shooting just after the turn of the 20th century. The crowd swiftly acts as judge, jury and executioner.

A 7-year-old's discarded body surfaces in Augusta Canal in 1951 after a weeklong hunt for the missing girl. She has been cut, choked and her left ear sliced off -- all at the hands of her grandmother hoping to collect insurance money.

Two members of a motorcycle club in North Augusta in 1971 are strangled and stabbed and their two young female companions are assaulted. Five rival motorcyclists are arrested and charged in the dispute over a motorcycle.

Many of the same issues -- race, money, power and rage -- underlie today's fatal confrontations and often serve as a backdrop to high-profile slayings.

Aleck Whitney was regarded as one of Augusta's brightest up-and-coming businessmen in 1900 and had been described as cordial, admired and lighthearted.

A time that predated some of the segregation laws, Whitney's killing spawned immediate passage of a city ordinance designating the back of public transportation as the more appropriate place for blacks.

When a black couple boarded a streetcar on Broad Street on May 13, 1900, the man asked Whitney to ``get up and give this lady a seat.''

When Whitney would not, the couple squeezed next to him in the seat and an argument began.

William Wilson, a black man sitting in front of Whitney, stepped in and began arguing with Whitney and pulled a pistol and shot him.

People scurried from the streetcar along with Wilson, who tried to escape, but was caught by a fire official riding the car.

Although immediately taken into custody, Wilson was in danger from a lynch mob formed from outraged white Augustans.

Members of the group reportedly demanded that Sheriff P.J. O'Connor hand over the ``young negro'' who ruthlessly shot an esteemed white gentleman.

``The idea that such a man had been ruthlessly shot down by an insolent negro while peacefully riding on a car on a Sunday afternoon filled the community with indignation,'' The Augusta Chronicle reported.

The sheriff, who faced re-election in only two days, was pressured to give the mob what it wanted for fear of losing the election.

But still, he publicly denounced the lynch mob and insisted Wilson should be given his right to due process.

To hide Wilson from the mob, the sheriff had him sent to Atlanta by train for his protection.

But the mob caught up to Wilson, pulling him from the train, interrogating him for hours and finally hanging and shooting him.

A Superior Court judge denounced the vigilante actions of the lynching mob and ordered a grand jury to investigate the death of Wilson and to indict his killers. After a brief investigation, the grand jury concluded there was not enough evidence to charge anyone with Wilson's death.

The sheriff was re-elected.

Less than a year before the streetcar shooting, a Thomson killing of a black man also went unpunished.

A black preacher, identified only as the Rev. Battle, was shot to death in a cornfield just outside Thomson on Sept. 13, 1899, after he said during a sermon that black women are as virtuous as white women.

Several white women at the sermon left while word of the preaching incensed the white community.

While race often was an underlying issue to killings in the early part of the century, family disputes were just as common and often in name of money.

Touted as one of the most heinous and brutal murders in Richmond County, 7-year-old Lois Janes' body surfaced in Augusta Canal in April 1951 after her family reported her missing.

More than 200 police officers and Fort Gordon soldiers spent a week searching for the girl's body. The governor's office posted a $300 reward, the Georgia-Carolina chapter of the Ku Klux Klan offered $200 and the city of Augusta offered $100.

When fisherman Lovey Ivey found the girl's body, not only had she been strangled, but her ear had been sliced off.

A search for the killer intensified. Finally, Ivey broke his silence, telling police the girl's grandmother, Mamie Price, 54, gave him $75 to kill the girl and hide her body so that she could cash in a $3,500 life insurance policy on the her.

Ivey and Price -- along with Price's son, Elmer Price -- were charged with murder.

At Price's trial two months later, despite her claims of innocence, a jury found her guilty and recommended mercy. She received a sentence of life in prison.

Twenty years later, the headquarters of the Dixie Dragons, a North Augusta motorcycle club, became murdering ground for five out-of-town cyclists.

Thomas Bolin, 25, of Springfield, S.C., and William Martin Wolf Jr., 26, of Chesapeake, Va., were bound, gagged and strangled, then stabbed, at the headquarters on Ascauga Lake near U.S. Highway 25 in Aiken County.

Two women who were with the men at the time of the killings, Faye Cato, 24, of Aiken, and Connie Young of North Augusta, also were bound and stabbed.

Charged with the murders within days were five members of a Charleston, S.C., bike club known as the Tribulators. The five were Gary Vernon Faust, Richard Lee Richards, Bruce Poe, Osgood M. Leland and William Holland.

Police first said the double slaying was part of the Tribulators' efforts to force people into their gang.

But Aiken County officials later said the dispute was over high-powered motorcycles with fancy equipment.

One requirement to be a Tribulator was to own one of the custom-built bikes, such as those ridden by the Dixie Dragons.

At the Tribulators run-down headquarters in Charleston, police found a room filled with motorcycle parts.

Meghan Gourley covers crime for The Augusta Chronicle. She can be reached at (706) 823-3227 or mgourley@augustachronicle.com.

High-profile killings

December 1940: Joe Frank Logue, a former Spartanburg, S.C., police officer, hired someone for $500 to kill Edgefield County storekeeper Davis Timmerman.

Also charged in the slaying was Mr. Logue's uncle, George Logue; Sue Logue, the widow of another uncle; and Clarence Bagwell. The three were executed after being convicted of complicity.

Mr. Timmerman's death was believed to be retaliation for the death of Mrs. Logue's husband, who was killed when he and Mr. Timmerman argued over a yearling calf. Two months after he was acquitted in that case, Mr. Timmerman was killed.

Officers arrested Bagwell and Joe Frank Logue without incident. But when officers tried to arrest the aunt and uncle, a gun battle ensued. Edgefield County Sheriff Ward D. Allen, Deputy Doc Clark and Fred Dorn, a Logue farm sharecropper, were killed.

Mr. Logue was scheduled for execution in 1944. But seven hours before he was to die, South Carolina Gov. Olin D. Johnston commuted the death sentence to life in prison. Mr. Logue was paroled in 1960 with a job with the State Law Enforcement Division.

Jan. 24, 1979: Richmond County sheriff's Investigator Larry D. Stevens was gunned down by William Stephens, who has been convicted and twice sentenced to death. But his mental competence is at issue. A Richmond County jury will decide this summer what Mr. Stephens' punishment should be.

Aug. 19, 1983: Johnston, S.C., Postmaster Charles McGee was shot and killed by Perry B. Smith, a disgruntled postal worker who was distraught over his postman son's suicide. Mr. Smith forced open a storage room door from an adjoining convenience store to the post office. Declaring ``I told you I would get even,'' he opened fire. It was Mr. McGee's last day at the office before he was to be transferred to a new post in Hartwell, Ga.

In June 1985, a jury found Mr. Smith guilty but the conviction was overturned. During a second trial in October 1987, a mistrial was declared after a jury couldn't reach a verdict. In a third trial a month later, Mr. Smith was convicted and sentenced to life in prison.

Jan. 9, 1987: Mary Edna Griffin, 54, was found by her husband dead in their Augusta home. A distant relative, Ernest Ulysses Morrison, 38, pleaded guilty to strangling and raping the woman. Superior Court Judge Albert M. Pickett sentenced him to death. Mr. Morrison later appealed and his mental competence was an issue for the next decade. Last month, a Richmond County jury ruled Mr. Morrison is not mentally retarded and he was resentenced to death.

December 1989: Jean Taylor McCrea, 15, of Irmo, S.C., who had been kidnapped in 1989, was believed to have been killed in Richard Daniel Starrett's Martinez home before her body was dumped in a creek in Newberry County, S.C.

Mr. Starrett, a convicted serial rapist and sex offender, had already been sentenced to two consecutive life sentences for kidnapping Shari Dawn Teets, 17, of Lexington, S.C., and kidnapping a 12-year-old Irmo girl in June 1988. He had received a previous sentence of life plus 20 years in prison when he pleaded guilty but mentally ill to kidnapping and sodomizing a Columbia girl in December 1987.

Mr. Starrett also faced charges in Charleston, S.C., in the kidnapping and sexual assault of a 22-year-old woman.

He was captured in Texas after a manhunt and led police to Miss McCrea's body. He blamed his behavior on pornography. Investigators confiscated from his Martinez home more than 1,000 books and magazines depicting nudity, horror, sexual violence and posters depicting bondage.

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