Criminal Activities

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Taylor Sisters (Lynching of)

Two African-American women known only as the Taylor sisters were killed on Sunday, March 17, 1907, in McKamie (Lafayette County) while they were detained on charges of murderous assault against Ella Roton and her married daughter, Nora Ogelsby. According to some counts, there were only eight women ever lynched in Arkansas, all of them African American, and so this case constitutes a quarter of all such murders in the state. According to the Arkansas Gazette, the two sisters were aged twenty and fifteen. The likeliest pair of women in the area are sisters Suffronia and Lela Taylor, born in 1885 and 1890, respectively. They appear on the 1900 census, living in Steele Township, but not thereafter. The Roton family (the …

Texarkana Moonlight Murders

An unidentified assailant often known as the Texarkana Phantom Killer committed a number of murders and assaults in Texarkana (Miller County, Arkansas, and Bowie County, Texas) through the spring of 1946. Five people were killed, and three were wounded. While there was one major suspect, he was never convicted of these crimes. The attacks served partially as the basis for a motion picture, The Town that Dreaded Sundown. On February 22, 1946, two young people, Jimmy Hollis and Mary Jeanne Larey, were parked on a secluded Bowie County road outside Texarkana. They were forced out of the car by an armed man, his face hidden by a burlap sack with two slits for eyes. The assailant beat Hollis with the …

Thomas, Wade (Lynching of)

On December 26, 1920, a gambler and petty thief named Wade Thomas was lynched in Jonesboro (Craighead County) for the alleged shooting of Elmer “Snookums” Ragland, a white police officer. Thomas, also known as “Boll Weevil,” was a Jonesboro native but had recently returned from “up North.” According to the Arkansas Gazette, he was known as a “‘bad’ and impudent negro,” who had formerly served time in the Arkansas penitentiary for highway robbery. According to Jonesboro historian Lee A. Dew, Thomas made his living by playing craps and engaging in petty thievery. Dew recounts that Ragland had arrived in Jonesboro from Pine Bluff (Jefferson County) not long before he was killed. The Gazette reported that he was an “efficient and …

Thompson, Alex (Lynching of)

On April 23, 1903, a young African-American man named Alex Thompson was hanged in Gurdon (Clark County) for allegedly attacking a local doctor (named Cuffman) with a knife. There is no record of a man named Alex Thompson living in Clark County during this period. The 1900 census, however, does list a doctor named Cuffman who was living there. He is listed in the census as George A. Cuffman, but subsequent marriage and census records indicate that he was probably John Henry Cuffman. At the time of the census, he was thirty-six, single, and living in a boarding house. Later that year, on June 28, he married Mary Euella Littlejohn in Gurdon. The Arkansas Gazette reported that trouble had been …

Tillman, John Arthur

John Arthur Tillman was the last person executed by hanging in the state of Arkansas. Accused of murdering a girlfriend, Tillman insisted upon his innocence to the day of his death. John Arthur Tillman was born in January 1891, the third oldest of nine children of John Franklin Tillman, a farmer and cattle breeder, and Lennie Belle Townsell Tillman of Delaware (Logan County). His arrest in 1913 was connected to the March 10 disappearance of Amanda Stephens, age nineteen, who lived north of Delaware. Friends and neighbors said that the two were “seeing each other,” and Stephens left behind a note pinned to her pillow suggesting that she was running away. According to later newspaper reports, she had told friends …

Toll (Lynching of)

The only documented lynching recorded in Saline County occurred on October 23, 1854, when a slave known only as “Toll” was murdered by a mob. He was hanged on a hill near the second Saline County Courthouse in Benton. Recent scholarship has argued that the Toll lynching was not a spontaneous event but was instead an organized act of vengeance. The man known as Toll—spelled “Tol” in the Arkansas Gazette—was a slave owned by Scottish-born Samuel McMorrin, who, at the time, was living in Fourche Township in Pulaski County. Reportedly, in 1853, Toll sneaked up on and shot two white men, Jessup McHenry and John Douglas, who were deer hunting about fifteen miles outside of Little Rock (Pulaski County). Toll …

Tucker Unit

aka: Tucker Prison Farm
Tucker Unit, often referred to simply as Tucker or Tucker prison farm, is a 4,500-acre maximum security prison and working farm located in Tucker (Jefferson County), roughly twenty-five miles northeast of Pine Bluff (Jefferson County). It is one of thirteen prison units in the Arkansas Department of Correction. Tucker Unit is not to be confused with the Maximum Security Unit, which was built in 1983 and is also located in Tucker. Tucker is the second-oldest prison in Arkansas (Cummins Unit is the oldest). Tucker was accredited by the American Correctional Association in 1983, but for many years, the prison had a tarnished reputation and was at the center of the prison scandals of the 1960s and subsequent reform efforts of …

Tucker-Parnell Feud

The Tucker-Parnell Feud (or Parnell-Tucker Feud) refers to a series of assaults and shootings in the Union County area between 1902 and 1905, stemming from a shootout in downtown El Dorado (Union County) that left three dead in October 1902. The repercussions of the downtown shootings led to an estimated thirty to forty deaths in Union County over the three-year period. The dispute began not between the Parnells and the Tuckers, two Union County families, but between two other men over which would marry an El Dorado woman. William Puckett of Texarkana (Miller County) had arranged to marry Jessie Stevenson and arrived in El Dorado on September 17, 1902, to meet her. Stevenson worked for local photographer Bob Mullens, who …

Turner, William (Lynching of)

Nineteen-year-old William Turner was lynched in Helena (Phillips County) on November 18, 1921, for allegedly attacking a young white girl. According to newspaper accounts, it was the first lynching in Helena. Early on the morning of November 18, Turner allegedly attacked a teenaged girl as she was walking to her job at the telephone exchange. He was arrested and placed in the jail, which adjoined the courthouse. According to the Arkansas Gazette, local citizens, in a state of “suppressed excitement,” began to gather near the courthouse during the afternoon. In an attempt to protect Turner from harm, two deputy sheriffs put him into a car shortly after dark to take him to jail in nearby Marianna (Lee County). They were …