EXCERPT: Massacre on Prospect Hill

A Presumption of Insanity

cover01Francis Lloyd Russell arrived at the jail gasping for breath, holding his hand over the wound in his chest. Sheriff Luther Epperson took charge of the prisoner. Russell begged for a glass of water and drank it in big gulps. Within minutes he had recovered his composure and gave the sheriff a clear story of the tragedy. Sheriff department detectives took down the confession as Russell repeatedly asked for water.

“I had the best brother in the world,” he told the sheriff. He spoke of his mother and recalled that she was born in 1866. His father, Wellington Russell dropped dead a few years earlier while at work in the Champion Coated Paper Company mill. Russell knew the exact ages of his nieces and nephews–and every birthday.

Cincinnati Post illustration
Cincinnati Post illustration

Russell told the Sheriff that he had a $1,600 mortgage due on his home that day and that being forced to move weighed heavily on his mind. The intense heat of the early summer wasn’t helping matters any.

He said that he at first had intended to only kill himself. The interview was interrupted by the visit of Dr. M. F. Vereker, in lieu of taking the prisoner to a hospital. After the examination, Dr. Vereker said that the wound was not fatal. He probed but was unable to find the bullet, believing that the ball struck a bone and became lodged in the left side of Russell’s chest, barely missing his heart.

“The doctor told me that if I fired a little to one side, I would have made it,” was Russell’s only comment. By “made it,” he meant his suicide.

Later, the doctor would ask him why he didn’t shoot himself in the head.

“I was always told the heart was the weakest place for a man of my stature,” he said, “and that any little shock would cause the heart to fail.”

 What prompted Lloyd Russell to get out of his bed in the middle of the night and shoot his mother, his brother and his brother’s entire family in their sleep? Find out in A Two Dollar Terror #8, Massacre on Prospect Hill: The True Crime of Francis Lloyd Russell. Available now at Smashwords.com.

1925 0608 Page 12 photo clip

A Pig’s Tale

Here’s a strange story. Fourteen years after Lorel Wardlow made the newspaper because his pigs were eating each other’s tails, he was murdered by his wife and farmhand. Makes you wonder….

1903 0317 pigsThe Arsenic Affair A Two-Dollar Terror #2You can read the sad story of Lorel Wardlow’s murder in A Two-Dollar Terror #2: The Arsenic Affair: The True Crime of Belle Wardlow and Harry Cowdry.

The Arsenic Affair
A Two-Dollar Terror #2

EXCERPT: “Man Beheaded; Dentist Sought”

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coverWhen Deputy Frank “Two-Gun” Hopkins went to take the padlock off of his cell and release Dr. Richard M. Brumfield to the bullpen, he found the dentist in a rage, pacing like a wild animal and cursing violently, raging about his father being too old to “do that kind of work.”

“If you unlock that door I’ll kill you,” Brumfield cried as Hopkins started to unwrap the chain, and picked up the heavy wooden chair.

“All right, Doc,” Hopkins said, apparently up for the challenge.
“You’ll have the chance.” He swung the door wide open and stepped inside the cage. Brumfield hurled the chair at him, but Hopkins dodged it with a simple side-step. When Brumfield struck a pose as if to lunge, the deputy showed the prisoner why they called him “Two-Gun” and made a quick draw.

“One more move and you’re a dead man, Doc,” he said.

Brumfield reconsidered his position and withdrew to his cot. Hopkins replaced his gun in its holster and retrieved the basket of food he had set down outside the cell door while Brumfield hurled profane, vindictive epithets at him.

“He is my father and you can’t work him so hard,” he told Hopkins. “You know he can’t do that kind of work, and I’ll not stand for it.”

It finally dawned on Hopkins what Brumfield was rambling on about. The old man Pops Cobb had just been sentenced to the county jail for three months at hard labor, but was prone to laying off sick rather than to go out and grub stumps with the younger men under labor sentences. When he laid in the previous day, he complained constantly to Doc Brumfield about the abuse heaped upon him by the county officials and begged off the second day in a row just before Hopkins delivered breakfast.

“You can’t make him work like that,” Brumfield scolded the deputy as he led him to the bullpen. The other prisoners backed into their solitary cells at the approach of the raving dentist.

Hopkins alerted Brumfield’s attorneys, and Rice said he’d come straight over. When he and Orcutt entered the jail, Brumfield didn’t seem to recognize them.

“Have you come to take my father out?” he asked.

“Where is your father?” Rice asked, trying to figure this out.

“He’s in that cell there,” Brumfield said. “They’re working him too hard. He’s sick.”

As he spoke he resumed his pacing. Orcutt and Rice were at a loss. One of them offered Brumfield the morning newspaper. He snatched it away and hurled it to the floor. After other attempts to distract and quiet him, the attorneys left frankly puzzled by his attitude.

“He appears to be insane,” Rice said. “Of course the officers will say that he is shamming, but it appears to me that such a decision should be reserved at least until he can he given an examination, and his condition accurately determined. He appears to be a mad as a March hare.”

When Mrs. Brumfield appeared at the jail a few minutes later the officers told the dentist that his wife was waiting to see him.

“Why, I have no wife,” he said, surprised, and the jailers did not let Mrs. Brumfield in, the first time she had been denied visitation.

Brumfield continued his pacing, but offered no more violence, except that he once kicked a coal bucket in the direction of a deputy who entered the cell. The jail deputies kept a close eye on him, but he would not look up at them and they were not especially amused by his clever bit of acting.

“He is apparently in the same condition as we found him in at Calgary following his arrest there,” said Sheriff Starmer. “I believe he was acting then and I believe he is acting now. He is too consistent in his actions and he can’t convince me he is insane. It may, however, help out his defense some and I think that is his purpose.”

Was Dr. Richard Brumfield faking insanity? Or did he really believe the old moonshiner was his father? Explore the mystery of the 1921 murder of Roseburg, Oregon, hermit Dennis Russell in A Two-Dollar Terror #7, “Man Beheaded; Dentist Sought”…..