Death in the Desert

On June 18, 1977, the body of 39-year-old businessman Charles Morgan was found in the desert approximately 40 miles west of his Tucson, Arizona, home. He had been shot once in the back of his head. The investigation into his death would prove one of the most complicated in Arizona history. Morgan himself emerged as a murky figure who may have literally been running for his life.

The life and death of Charles Morgan and the investigation into his murder sounds like a story concocted by Hollywood screenwriters. But this movie does not yet have an ending.

Who was Charles Morgan is a hard question to answer. Who killed Charles Morgan is a question that may never be answered.

Tourism is one of Arizona’s biggest industries as it attracts some of America’s wealthiest people. It is important for the economy, but it also brings some unsavory characters.

During the 1970s, Tucson became a favorite mafia haven as more than five-hundred racketeers moved to “The Old Pueblo,” including former New York crime boss Joseph Bonanno. The warm climate was pleasant, but for the dons, the best feature of the Grand Canyon State was its criminal justice system. One particular state law allowed the mafia leaders to buy land through numbered blind trust accounts, allowing them to remain anonymous as they laundered money.

Charles Morgan was the President of his own real estate escrow agency in Tucson. He is known to have done escrow work for at least one Mafia “family,” and he was a potential witness in a land fraud case involving an organized crime boss.

After driving two of his daughters to school on March 22, 1977, Morgan disappeared. At 2:00 a.m. on March 25, he stumbled into his home, discombobulated and unable to speak. He was missing one shoe, had one plastic handcuff around his ankle, and both hands cuffed. He could not talk but managed to write a note to his wife, Ruth, saying his throat had been doused with a hallucinogenic drug.

Morgan wrote if the drug didn’t kill him, it could drive him terminally insane or destroy his central nervous system. He adamantly conveyed to Ruth that she was not to call the police because, he said, if she did, “they” would kill them both, along with their four daughters. Morgan refused to say who “they” were.

For the next week, Ruth nursed her husband back to health. Before his voice returned, he alluded to a secret identity. Ruth said her husband wrote, “They took my treasury identification.”

Morgan explained that he had been secretly working for the United States Treasury Department for 2-3 years.

Two months later, in May, Charles Morgan disappeared again. Nine days later, Ruth received a phone call from a woman who said Charles was all right and would be home soon. The woman, who refused to identify herself, quoted the Bible passage Ecclesiastics 12: 1-8.

12 Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth, while the evil days come not, nor the years draw nigh, when thou shalt say, I have no pleasure in them;

While the sun, or the light, or the moon, or the stars, be not darkened, nor the clouds return after the rain:

In the day when the keepers of the house shall tremble, and the strong men shall bow themselves, and the grinders cease because they are few, and those that look out of the windows be darkened,

And the doors shall be shut in the streets, when the sound of the grinding is low, and he shall rise up at the voice of the bird, and all the daughters of musick shall be brought low;

Also when they shall be afraid of that which is high, and fears shall be in the way, and the almond tree shall flourish, and the grasshopper shall be a burden, and desire shall fail: because man goeth to his long home, and the mourners go about the streets:

Or ever the silver cord be loosed, or the golden bowl be broken, or the pitcher be broken at the fountain, or the wheel broken at the cistern.

Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it.

Vanity of vanities, saith the preacher; all is vanity.

Three days later, Morgan again returned home, this time he was uninjured. He refused to say where he had been and insisted the authorities not be contacted.

Three weeks later, Charles Morgan disappeared for the last time. He came home in a coffin.

On June 18, 1977, Morgan was found shot to death in the desert approximately 40 miles west of Tucson. He had died from one gunshot wound to the back of his head. The bullet had come from his own .357 magnum, which was beside him. No fingerprints were found on the gun. Morgan was also wearing a bulletproof vest and a belt buckle, which concealed a knife and holster.

Items found inside Morgan’s car indicated the businessman was preparing for war. Besides containing a cache of ammunition and weapons, Morgan’s car had been modified so it could be unlocked from the fender. Also found inside the vehicle were several CB radios and a pair of sunglasses not owned by Morgan.

The crime scene had the appearance of suicide. Still, investigators had a hard time fathoming that a successful businessman and happily married father of four would have put on a bulletproof vest to drive 50 miles from his home to the Arizona desert in the middle of the night and, once there, shoot himself in the back of the head. The Pima County Medical Examiner’s Office ruled Morgan’s death a murder.

As the medical examiner removed the clothing to conduct an autopsy, he found a $2 bill clipped inside Morgan’s underwear. Seven Spanish names, numbered 1-7, were written on the front of the bill.

Written above the names was the same Ecclesiastics biblical reference the unknown female had quoted to Ruth.

On the back of the bill, the Declaration of Independence’s signers were numbered 1-7.

On the back of the bill was a crudely drawn map of several roads between Tucson and the Mexican border. All roads led to a place called Robles Junction. From there, they headed south to the town of Sasabe and ultimately to a ranch with landing strips likely used for drug smuggling.

On June 20, two days after Morgan’s body was found, an anonymous woman calling herself “Green Eyes” phoned the Pima County Sheriff’s Department. She told them Morgan had met her at a motel shortly before his death and that she was the same woman who had contacted his wife, Ruth. “Green Eyes” claimed Morgan had shown her a briefcase containing what she guessed was between $50,000-$100,000. Morgan told her the cash would buy him out of a contract that had been put on his life.

“Green Eyes” has never been identified, and her relationship with Charles Morgan has never been learned.

Phoenix investigative journalist Don Devereux began investigating the Morgan murder in 1986. He found Morgan lived a double life as he was on the edges of a couple of large crime families at his death.

Morgan was known to have done real estate escrow work for at least one mafia family, but Devereux believes that was only the tip of an illicit iceberg. Devereux concluded the Mafia was using Morgan for escrow work for gold bullion purchases and platinum, convenient means to launder money. These transactions existed only on paper. The money changed hands by changing escrow accounts in Los Angeles and Atlanta banks.

Devereux believes organized crime, worried about Morgan’s testifying against them in an upcoming trial, put out a contract on his life. Devereux theorizes a hitman told Morgan about the deal referenced by “Green Eyes,” and Morgan acquired the money to pay him off. However, when the two men met in the desert, the hitman double-crossed Morgan by killing him and taking the money. In a perverse way, Devereux believes Morgan paid for his own death.

Devereux concluded Morgan was working for someone in the government who blew his cover. Using the Freedom of Information Act, Devereux contacted the FBI to get more information on the Morgan case. He said the FBI denied knowing who Morgan was, even though agents had interviewed his lawyer.

Devereux’s investigation determined Morgan was extensively involved in money laundering activities through his escrow company. From 1973 until his murder in 1977, Devereux says Morgan facilitated illegal gold and platinum transactions in excess of $1 billion. Much of the loot appeared to be coming from southeast Asia, beginning at the end of the Vietnam War.

Devereux contends many intelligence community operatives appear to have been involved, including renegades in the CIA and Defense Department. Perhaps they were operating undercover for the agency, but they were more likely lining their own pockets. Devereux says exiled Vietnamese officials may also have been involved.

The case of Charles Morgan was profiled on Unsolved Mysteries on February 7, 1990. Don Devereux was interviewed in the segment, and his articles about his investigation into Morgan’s death were soon published.

Three months later, just after midnight on May 15, Doug Johnston of Phoenix was found dead in his car in the company parking lot of ICM Inc., the computer graphics company where he worked. He had been shot once behind his left ear.

Similar to the Charles Morgan crime scene, Doug’s death appeared to be a suicide at first glance. However, no gun was found, and his hands contained no residue. The only evidence at the scene was a .25 caliber bullet casing. The murder weapon has never been found. Johnston’s death, ruled a homicide, is still unsolved.

Devereux’s office was across the street from ICM Inc. He was struck by several similarities between Doug Johnston and himself. The men resembled each other, and they drove similar Toyotas. Devereux’s home and Doug’s work address differed by only one number.

Six months later, in November of 1990, Devereux was contacted by a fellow investigative journalist who told him he had heard from a “high place” CIA source that Devereux’s suspicions were correct; the bullet that killed Doug Johnston was meant for him. According to the journalist, the “source” said there was still a contract out on Devereux’s life because of his investigations involving the CIA and organized crime, i.e., the Charles Morgan case.

Devereux says two other sources, one from the CIA and the other from Israeli intelligence, later confirmed the death threats. He has the warnings from the sources on tape.

In August 1991, Devereux was contacted by Washington, D.C. investigative journalist Dan Casolaro. Casolaro told Devereux that he had uncovered information about Charles Morgan’s illegal gold transactions while researching another story. Casolaro agreed to share the information with Devereux. Shortly after that, Casolaro was found dead under strange circumstances.

Devereux believes the same network of people, including the mob and the renegade intelligence community officials involved in the 1970s money laundering transactions, killed Dan Casolaro and tried to kill him for his investigation into Charles Morgan’s murder.

Charles Morgan claimed he was working against organized crime, but it appears he was instead involved with the mob. He probably started legitimately but could not resist the bribes and temptations. Perhaps he tried to go straight but was coerced into staying in the Mafia’s pocket. By the time he tried to get out, it was too late.

Charles Morgan was in way over his head, and for that, he got a bullet in his head. Forty-three years later, his murder remains unsolved, and no suspects have been named.


Further Reading:
Unsolved Mysteries

Verses taken from Bible Gateway

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More About Our Wonderful Guest Blogger:

Ian Granstra is a writer and a native Iowan now living in  Arkansas.Growing up, he enjoyed watching real-life crime shows and further researching the stories featured. He wrote about many of them on his personal Facebook page, and several people suggested he should start a group featuring his writings. Ian founded the Facebook group “Murders, Missing People and More Mysteries” in August of 2018 he writes about many cold cases. The group also features many current criminal cases in the news. When Ian isn’t writing, he enjoys exercising, traveling and collecting sports cards. He’s also a big animal lover (his Facebook nickname is “beagle lover.”)


The CIA’s Fall Guy


“The most efficient accident, in simple assassination, is a fall of 75 feet or more onto a hard surface.” So reads a passage in the first manual of assassination developed by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA.) This passage was designed to eliminate individuals considered enemies of the United States. Some, however, believe the CIA used its most simple assassination tactic to kill one of its own.

On the evening of November 28, 1953, CIA scientist Frank Olson was found barely alive on the sidewalk in front of New York City’s Statler Hotel. He had fallen from a window from the hotel’s 10th floor and died a few hours later. Foul play was ruled out in his death, which was determined to be either an accident or suicide.

Twenty-two-years after the fall, an investigation chaired by the second most powerful person in America questioned the official ruling of Frank Olson’s death.

Frank Olson had a brilliant mind, and it is believed the CIA sought to control his thoughts. Many contend that when he expressed resistance, he was eliminated by the agency he served.

Frank Olson graduated with a B.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Bacteriology from the University of Wisconsin. He and his wife Alice had three children, sons Nils and Eric, and a daughter Lisa.

Image may contain: 5 people, people smiling, people sitting and indoor, possible text that says 'THE OLSON FAMILY'

For several years, Frank headed the military’s biological warfare research and development program at Fort Detrick, Maryland. The 43-year-old was an expert in aerobiology, the delivery of deadly viruses, and infectious microorganisms via spray and aerosol cans.

In addition to his military position, Frank was also on the CIA’s payroll as the covert agency was involved in germ warfare in association with the Special Operations Division, the most top-secret research being conducted at Fort Detrick. Frank was the CIA’s Deputy Acting Head of Special Operations.

In November of 1953, Frank went to a three-day conference with some of his colleagues. He told Alice the men would be discussing research and development projects but that he could not tell her where the event was being held. Upon his return home, Alice noticed a pronounced change in her husband’s demeanor. Frank had become severely depressed and withdrawn.

Frank told Alice he had done something wrong. The tone in his voice and body language made Alice suspect it was something severe. Frank told her he could not tell her what he had done, but he had not broken national security.

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Olson’s boss, Vincent Ruwett, told Alice he believed Frank was near a nervous breakdown. Shortly before Thanksgiving of 1953, Ruwett took Frank to New York for treatment.

Alice did not hear from her husband for a week. When Frank did call on the evening of November 18, 1953, he said he was exhausted but feeling better. He told Alice he loved her, to kiss the children good night for him, and to tell them Daddy would be home soon.

The phone call, however, was the last time Alice spoke to her husband, and Frank’s children never saw their dad again.

Image may contain: 1 person, possible text that says 'VINCENT RUWET'

That evening, Olson and fellow CIA scientist Robert Lashbrook shared room 1018A on the tenth floor of New York City’s Statler Hotel, now known as the Pennsylvania Hotel. Lashbrook said both he and Frank went to bed at approximately 11:00 p.m. He said the room’s window was closed.

Lashbrook said the next thing he remembered was being awakened by the sound of breaking glass shortly before midnight. As he looked outside the broken window, he saw Frank lying on the sidewalk, clothed only his underwear and a T-shirt. Several people were gathered around him.

Image may contain: sky and outdoor, possible text that says 'THE STATLER HOTEL IN 1953'

The police investigating the incident found no evidence of foul play.

Alice was told her husband had suffered a nervous breakdown and had either committed suicide by jumping through a closed window or had accidentally fallen through the closed window to his death. She and many others were skeptical of the determination.  Suicide victims who leap to their deaths don’t usually jump through closed windows, and it seemed unlikely a person could generate enough force on his own to fall through a closed window accidentally.

Nevertheless, the official ruling of suicide stood for over two decades.

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In 1975, twenty-two-years after Frank Olson’s fatal fall, the Rockefeller Commission was formed to investigate charges of past abuses carried out by the CIA.

Various reports mentioned a government scientist who had plunged to his death from a hotel window ten days after being dosed with the hallucinogenic drug (LSD). The scientist was not mentioned by name, but it was later confirmed to be Frank Olson.

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After learning of the report’s findings, Alice Olson and her three children announced they planned to sue the CIA over Frank’s “wrongful death.” The government offered them an out-of-court settlement of $1,250,000, which was later reduced to $750,000. The Olsons accepted and received formal apologies from President Gerald Ford and CIA director William Colby. They were also given what was said to be a complete set of documents relating to the last nine days of Frank’s life.

After reading the documents, the Olsons were convinced the CIA, either intentionally or indirectly, was responsible for Frank’s death.

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The CIA reports said Frank was among ten scientists who had gone to a retreat in Deep Creek Lake in western Maryland in November of 1953. The stated purpose of the meeting was to discuss ongoing research, but in reality, the men were to be used as guinea pigs in testing the effects of LSD.

The Cold War was rapidly heating up, and the Soviet Union was viewed as the most dangerous threat to America. The CIA feared the Russians would use LSD and other hallucinogenic drugs to produce anxiety and fear in captured CIA agents. The agency sought to test the effects of LSD to prepare its American operatives for that possibility. Officials chose their own scientists as the unwitting subjects of their experiment.

The documents revealed eight of the ten men drank Couitreau after having dinner. Unbeknownst to them, the French liqueur was spiked with doses of LSD. The effects were visible within an hour as the men became delusional, dizzy, and discombobulated.

The LSD was said to have been put into the drinks either by Sidney Gottlieb, head of the CIA’s technical services staff or by his deputy, Lashbrook. When Gottlieb told the scientists the drinks had been spiked with LSD, the men became agitated.

Frank Olson was said to be the angriest. The documents say he told his bosses he no longer wished to work for the CIA or have any involvement in germ warfare programs.

Image may contain: 1 person, possible text that says 'SIDNEY GOTTLIEB ROBERT LASHBROOK'

Later that week, the documents went on to say, Frank was taken to New York, supposedly suffering from a nervous breakdown as Vincent Ruwet had told Alice in 1953. Frank was treated by Dr. Harold Abramson, an allergist-pediatrician and LSD expert who worked with the CIA in researching the drug’s psychotropic effects.

Over the next few days, Frank made several more visits to Dr. Abramson, always accompanied by Lashbrook and Ruwet. The documents released to the Olson family, however, do not say what occurred during these sessions.

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The documents do state that while he was in New York, Frank experienced delusions and, in one instance, threw away all his identification and money.

After reading the report and going public with its findings, the Olsons were contacted by Armand Pastore, the night manager at the Statler Hotel at the time. He said shortly afterward Frank was found have fallen from the window, that the hotel’s telephone operator told him she heard the man calling from room 1018A (Lashbrook) say, “Well, he’s gone.” and the man on the other end reply, “Well, that’s too bad.”. Then they both hung up.

After reading the report and hearing Pastore’s account, the Olson family believes that Frank told his superiors of his intention to leave the CIA and end his involvement in germ warfare research. The agency had determined he was a security risk and decided to have him eliminated. Author Ed Regis concurs, saying Frank told Ruwet he wanted to quit the biological program after the LSD experiment.

Image may contain: 1 person, possible text that says 'KILLED BY HIS COLLEAGUES?'

When Alice Olson died in 1993, Nils, Eric, and Lisa had their father’s body exhumed to rest beside hers. Before Frank Olson was reburied, however, the children had an autopsy performed on him.

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George Washington University Professor and renowned forensic scientist James Starrs performed Olson’s autopsy forty years after his death. Dr. Starrs was pleasantly surprised and amazed that the remains were in excellent condition.

After completing his examination of Frank’s remains, Dr. Starrs criticized the original autopsy performed by the New York Medical Examiner in 1953, saying the report was incomplete as the examiner had not checked for foreign substances or accurately charted Frank’s physical injuries. The New York Medical Examiner had stated that there were multiple lacerations on Olson’s face and neck, but Dr. Starrs found no such injuries.

Dr. Starss said that if Frank had fallen out of a closed window, he would have incurred numerous cuts and abrasions. He found no such wounds.

What Dr. Starrs did find was a large hematoma on the left side of Olson’s head and a significant injury on his chest. The forensic team concluded injuries likely occurred in the room before the fall. He believes the window was broken after Frank fell to his death.

Dr. Starrs concluded the police and CIA ruling of Frank Olson’s death as either suicide or accident was, “rankly and starkly suggestive of homicide.”

After the findings were made public, Lashbrook, who was in the room with Frank before he plunged to his death, changed his story and said he could not remember if the window had been opened or closed.

Robert Lashbrook died in 2002 at age 84.

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In 2012, Eric and Nils Olson filed suit in the United States District Court in Washington, D.C., seeking unspecified compensatory damages and access to additional documents related to their father’s death, which they claim the CIA had withheld from them.

The lawsuit was dismissed in July of 2013 because of the 1976 settlement between the family and government.  U.S. District Judge James Boasberg wrote, “While the court must limit its analysis to the four corners of the complaint, the skeptical reader may wish to know that the public record supports many of the allegations [in the family’s suit], far fetched as they may sound.”

In 2017, Netflix released “Wormwood,” a documentary detailing the controversy surrounding Frank Olson’s death.

In the six-part miniseries directed by Errol Morris, journalist Seymour Hersh says high ranking sources told him that during the height of the Cold War, the government had a security process to identify and execute domestic dissidents perceived as a risk to the United States. He said that Frank Olson was viewed as such a dissident and that his death was covered up by his CIA colleagues. Hersh, however, says he cannot elaborate or publish on the facts because it would compromise his source.

The Wormwood documentary is still available for viewing on Netflix.

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Frank’s death was not the only tragedy the Olson family endured. Another untimely family death also occurred in New York.

Lisa Olson Hayward was only seven-years-old when her father died. On March 19, 1978, she, her husband Greg, and their one-and-a-half-year-old son perished in a plane crash. As a result of intensely high winds, the twin-engine Beechcraft crashed into the Katy Mountain in the Adirondack Mountains near Lake Clear, New York. The pilot and one other passenger were also killed. Lisa was 32-years-old.


• Associated Press
Frederick (Maryland) News Post
Los Angeles Times
New York Times
Newark Advocate
The Telegraph
Unsolved Mysteries
Washington Post
• Washington Times 

Recommended Reading:

More About Our Wonderful Guest Blogger:

Ian Granstra is a writer and a native Iowan now living in  Arkansas.Growing up, he enjoyed watching real-life crime shows and further researching the stories featured. He wrote about many of them on his personal Facebook page, and several people suggested he should start a group featuring his writings. Ian founded the Facebook group “Murders, Missing People and More Mysteries” in August of 2018 he writes about many cold cases. The group also features many current criminal cases in the news. When Ian isn’t writing, he enjoys exercising, traveling and collecting sports cards. He’s also a big animal lover (his Facebook nickname is “beagle lover.”)

Support Synova’s Cause:


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If you’d like to check out Synova’s true crime books follow this link to her Amazon Author Page.


Powelifter’s Death Shockingly Attributed to Inability to Roll Over

tanner barton.png

Photo courtesy of the In Memory of Tanner Barton‘s Facebook group

He could deadlift 500 lbs but couldn’t roll over?

I shouldn’t be writing about this case. Writing this story is like playing with lit sticks of dynamite. The drama, chaos, and lawsuits surrounding this story have destroyed the case. Touching it could cause third-degree burns, but I believe this teenager needs the adults investigating his death to grow up, observe the facts, avoid the opinions, and bring him Justice.

Tanner Barton, 19 was a freshman at Marion University, an excellent student honored with being named on the Dean’s list, and was playing college football as an offensive lineman. He wasn’t just any football player, he was one of the best in the state and was one of the few who could continue the game into college. In 2010, Tanner was selected to be a part of the All-State Football team.
The Marion Star reported his accomplishments in Track & Field on May 5, 2011. The 6′ 3″ 290lb giant of a lineman was also an excellent discus thrower. Despite his size, Tanner was very active and physically powerful. During his high school wrestling days, he broke all the school weight lifting records and was an accomplished wrestler. If that wasn’t enough, he was a start football player and powerlifter. That’s right. Tanner Barton could deadlift over 500 lbs!
On the field, Tanner Barton was a giant powerhouse, but off the field, he was a loveable teddy bear. He was well-liked by all who knew him, and it seemed he had a great future ahead of him. No one realized his life would end on April 22, 2012. How could it end so soon? Why would it end? Seven years later, his mother is still asking the same questions.

On the night of his death, Tanner went to the movies with a friend and then stayed the night at a friend’s house. Around 3 am he collapsed in the basement. A young girl witnessed him on the floor and said he was making a funny noise. She thought perhaps he was snoring. For some odd reason, she said she checked his pulse, stepped over him, and went to bed. By the next morning, the football star was dead. The events of the following day have been disputed throughout the community, across the nation and even on the Dr. Oz show. Now after all the drama, the original questions remain, but somehow the case has been closed. Yes, you heard that right. The case was closed by the police department in 2018. So, why am I still writing about this case? Read on to find out.
At first, the coroner’s report said they couldn’t get a urine sample and then a short time later, a sample appears out of nowhere, and toxicology reports are made from it. This is only one of many discrepancies in this report and throughout the entire case file, but I have one primary objection to this whole deal.
The official ruling on the case says that Tanner had an enlarged heart, was morbidly obese, had a short neck, and died due to positional asphyxia. Basically, the big man falls down. Big man suffocates because he is unable to reposition his body to get oxygen. Here is my objection. There was NO EVIDENCE that his heart had anything to do with his collapse. If you study the causes and effects of an enlarged heart, you will find that if it had caused his collapse, there would have been evidence of heart failure of some sort in the autopsy, but there wasn’t any. So, it wasn’t his big heart that caused him to collapse. What then?
Some say he was drinking and smoking marijuana. This powerful man’s blood alcohol levels were a mere 0.06%. That would have in no way caused him to pass out. Here come the messed up toxicology reports. One report said there wasn’t any marijuana in his system, then, later on, another test came back positive for the drug. Hum. Ok then. We will leave that right there and move on.
There was a rumor mill report saying that “Special K” may have been passed around that night, but again that’s not been proven either. One particular person, who we won’t name because of all the needless drama, was in the the house and had access to the drug known in the medical world as Ketamine. This drug is a hallucinogenic, tranquilizing effect and could have been the reason why the powerlifter was unable to move his head enough to get oxygen, but again there isn’t any official evidence to support that either.
How does a beloved football player slump to the floor at the bottom of the staircase, lay there for hours until he suffocates, and no one notice? That’s my question. Sure it was in the early morning hours, and some of the people were asleep, but one person claimed he had foam coming out of his mouth and another claimed he had made a strange snoring sound. Why then, didn’t someone turn him over on his side so he could breathe? Why did it take several hours before 911 was called and why were calls to several other people made first? It doesn’t make sense.
To make a bigger mess, this case had gotten nationwide attention when Tanner’s mother made a public plea on the Dr. Oz show. Unfortunately, the investigation wasn’t complete, and some of the people involved were overly eager to get the show aired. This caused some major chaos when some other people threatened to sue. More drama unfolded, and many have tried to discredit Tanner’s mother. I have plenty to say about that!

You cannot expect an untrained, emotionally drained, grieving mother to conduct an investigation.

Of course, she’s going to have a lot to say. Of course, she’s going to keep calling investigators. Of course, she’s going to get frustrated when the case takes longer to solve than she thinks it should. If everyone would grow up, do their jobs, drop the high-school drama crap, and focus on the case, this case would be solved by now. Instead, the case is closed with a half-thrown together conclusion, the mother has gone through Hades, and now it’s going to take a major breakthrough to re-open the case of the Powerlifter Who Was Too Weak To Roll Over. Can we just get back to the facts? What made him collapse, and more importantly, what kept him from turning his head to get oxygent. Some say it could have taken him up to two hours to die. Why couldn’t he move? THAT IS THE QUESTION that should re-open this case.
If you can help get this case re-investigated and re-opened please contact Tanner’s Voice on Facebook. Tanner needs some justice, and his grieving family needs answers.


Further Reading:

mayo clinic: Enlarged Heart

Youtube: Tanner’s Football Memories

Youtube: Northwestern High School Team Intro

Facebook Video: Justice 4 Tanner

This week’s Recommended Reading:

Scoreboard, Baby: A Story of College Football, Crime, and Complicity

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All information used to create this content is a matter of public record and can be easily found online or can be verified by the guest blogger. Any participation or alleged involvement of any party mentioned within this site is purely speculation. As the law states, an individual is innocent until PROVEN guilty. I do not own the photos used in this post. All photos are used under the fair use act. No copyright infringement intended. Any and all opinions are that of the guest blogger and don’t necessarily reflect the views of Synova Ink©2017-2019. All rights reserved.

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tanner barton

Do Legends Really Die? The Death of Buford Pusser


Do legends die, or do they get distorted over time until no truth remains? The legendary lawmen Buford Pusser was killed in a fiery crash on August 21st, 1974. Although everyone in town knew he had a price on his head, the case was closed quickly and the records were sealed by court order. Why?

In Buford Pusser case, the controversy surrounding his life was insane enough, but now his detractors are pouring manufactured facts, rumor mill stories, and manipulated truths into the story trying to defame a rough-and-tumble lawman.

On August 20th, 1974, Buford Pusser and his daughter Dwana went to the McNairy County Fair. Earlier that day, Pusser had announced he had just signed a contract with Bing Crosby Productions to portray himself in the next Walking Tall movie.

Many locals saw him at the fair. He played basketball with some of them and seemed fine around 7 p.m. However, by 10 o’clock that night, some people noticed he began to slur his words a little bit and wondered if he had been drinking. The people at the food stand remember him ordering two BBQ sandwiches and a fish sandwich along with two glasses of water. He was seen carrying around this disposable cup most of the evening, but the only thing he was known to order was water.

Another witness claimed he saw Buford Pusser leave that evening and he tore out of the parking lot like some rowdy teenager. Although Buford Pusser drove his souped-up Corvette at high rates of speed, he was never that reckless. Others notice at the fair that Buford seemed a little off the longer the evening wore on. These witness statements and others lead people to believe that perhaps Buford Pusser had been poisoned.

One investigator who later would be completely discredited claimed to have proof he had been poisoned with a rare South American Indian poison called Cuare. Like with everyone else who went up against the Dixie Mafia, this investigator was publicly discredited and humiliated. Strangely, this investigator would wind up being shot execution-style a short time later. Everyone was quick to point out that it had nothing to do with the Pusser investigation. I think otherwise.

Just after midnight, Dwana and Buford decide to leave the fair. Dwana gets a ride with a friend and leaves shortly before her father. A few miles down the road Buford Pusser caught up with them and passed them at a high rate of speed. It took a few miles to catch up to the Corvette, but by then it was too late.

Some reports say the car was already on fire, but others say it started a few minutes later underneath the hood. The legendary lawmen lay on the ground near his beloved Corvette with a broken neck. Could he really be gone? It didn’t seem possible.

Rumors began immediately after his death. The tie rods had been sawed in two. The brake lines had been cut. He was poisoned. Investigators say Buford Pusser was drunk and driving to fast he wasn’t wearing a seat belt and he was ejected from the car no foul play, but no one in the town believed it several stateliners had contracts out on Buford Pusser and this was a well-known fact.

Some estimated car was traveling close to 100 mph others say it was a 120 mph. Whatever the case, why would he fly past the car he knew his daughter was in like a maniac? Wouldn’t that put his child in danger? It didn’t seem like Buford Pusser was really in his right mind that night.

This was the argument many people claimed proved poison theory. At the time of his death, Buford Pusser’s blood-alcohol level was 1.8. For a giant of a man 6 ft 6 in tall 250 lb that would not have affected him very much.

Rumor had it the brake lines had been cut on his car but if this was the case why were there 545 feet of skid marks left down the highway?


photo courtsey of

The manufacturing company investigated the wreckage and said there was no manufacturing default, and it didn’t look like it had been tampered with. Of course, if there had been a default, would they have admitted it? I doubt it. They would have to take responsibility for killing a legend. Besides all of that, if you look at pictures, there isn’t anything left of this vehicle. How could they tell if it had been tampered with? They said the tie rods were broken, but they think they were broken upon impact.

The accident was reconstructed and mapped out using photographs. The low flying machine had crossed into the opposite lane, crossed the grassy ditch, and passed an old gas station. Then it crossed the side road and slammed into an embankment. The big man was ejected from the vehicle and broke his neck upon impact. The legend had just enough strength left to whisper his daughter’s name.

Was Buford Pusser murdered? We may never know. Many have fought and spent thousands of dollars trying to find the truth, but this secret is buried deep in the Tennessee dirt.

What is the purpose of mankind? Humanity’s purpose is to serve others and leave a mark on this world. Whatever your opinion of this great lawman you must agree on one point. He definitely left a mark in history. He inspired thousands of people to stand up for what they believe in. Many people credit their law enforcement careers to his inspiration. What can you say? Have you done anything remarkable with your life? Walk on Buford the Bull.

I cannot possibly fit the entirety of this story in a blog post, so be watching out for a book. I will be writing about this famous lawman, his family, his enemies, and the stories that shaped McNairy County, Tennessee. When reading about this man’s exploits, an old Elvis Presley song came to mind. I would like to quote the lyrics here.

When you walk through a storm
Hold your head up high
And don’t be afraid
Of the dark
At the end of a storm
Is a golden sky
And the sweet silver song
Of a lark
Walk on through the wind
Walk on through the rain
Though your dreams be tossed
And blown
Walk on, walk on
With hope in your heart
And you’ll never walk alone
You’ll never
Ever walk alone
Walk on, walk on
With hope in your heart
And you’ll never walk alone
You’ll never
Ever walk alone

Listen to the song here:

(Wikipedia says The single “You’ll Never Walk Alone” was an adaptation of the Oscar Hammerstein II and Richard Rodgers standard.)

Synova’s YouTube Video:

The Death of Buford Pusser – Was it an Accident or Murder?
Don’t forget to like, subscribe and share!

All information used to create this content is a matter of public record and can be easily found online. Any participation or alleged involvement of any party mentioned within this site is purely speculation. As the law states, an individual is Innocent until PROVEN guilty. I do not own the photos used in this post. All photos are used under the fair use act. No copyright infringement intended.©2017-2019. All rights reserved.

If you enjoy this content don’t forget to sign up for Synova’s Weekly True Crime Newsletter. You will receive exclusive content directly in your inbox. As a gift for joining you will also receive the Grim Justice ebook free.




Further Reading:

WMC Action News

This week’s recommended Dixie Mafia Books include:

Walking On: A Daughter’s Journey with Legendary Sheriff Buford Pusser

Ghost Tales of The State Line Mob: Novel Based on Actual Events


Mobster Monday – Ambushed


Photo courtesy of The Tennessean
Nashville, Tennessee
07 Sep 1969, Sun  •  Page 195

The sheriff was a controversial character from the moment he pinned the badge to his shirt. Some people loved him and thought he was a hero and others demonized him. Whatever your view of the legendary man, the following story is fact.

The Dixie Mafia was known as the State Line Mob and was led by Carl Douglas “Towhead” White. White was in prison when his lover, Louise Hathcock pulled a gun on Sheriff Pusser and was killed. A grand jury would find the sheriff had acted in self defense and no charges were filed. Upon hearing the news, White called his friend Kirksey Nix, Jr and ordered the hit on Sheriff Pusser and his wife, Pauline, or so we’re told. I will leave the speculation up to you.

August 12, 1967:

Sherriff Pusser received a drunk & disorderly disturbance call at his home in the wee hours before dawn. Pauline Pusser decided to ride along with her husband as she had done on many occasions. This time that decision would be fatal. The pair drove out to New Hope Road to check it out. In reality, the disturbance was a ruse to ambush the young sheriff and his wife.
Pusser passed the New Hope Methodist church looking for the reported disturbance but continued driving when he found the place quiet. A dark colored Cadillac pulled out from behind the church and followed the sheriff with its lights off. As the two cars reached a narrow bridge, the Cadillac flashed on its headlights and came racing up beside the officer’s car. (Some accounts claim there were two cars following the sheriff.)
The Cadillac’s passenger opened fire hitting Pauline in the head. The sheriff ducked and stepped on the gas. The engine roared to life, and the car lurched ahead of the assassins. He sped up the road a couple of miles until he was sure he had lost his tail, and then pulled over to check on Pauline. Moments later the assassins again found their mark and gunshots rang out hitting Sherriff Pusser in the face and jaw blowing it apart. Somehow the sheriff would survive the attack, but Pauline was killed.
At first, Pusser declared he knew precisely who was responsible and named Towhead White, George McGann, Gary McDaniel, and Kirksey Nix. A few others were involved in the ambush but the proof wouldn’t come out for decades. After 18 days in the hospital and a dozen surgeries to repair his face, Pusser declared he couldn’t tell who had shot him. Perhaps he had a temporary bout of amnesia, or perhaps the sheriff was planning to go rogue. Pauline Pusser was laid to rest while the sheriff was in the hospital. Some of his critics claim that he refused to attend the funeral, but I haven’t seen any official documentation to prove it.

Rumor Mill Alert:

Some claim that Pusser had girlfriends on the side and Pauline was about to divorce him. Again, I have no official proof of that. The man’s main critic claims that he talked to a bunch of the locals who told him this story. So, it must be true, right? Wrong! What kind of…never mind. Of course if you talk to all the locals they are going to repeat the rumor mill. Many locals had family members that were bootleggers, so their view of the authorities was automatically negative. I reached out to the man, but he wouldn’t respond to my interview request.

Did Sheriff Pusser blow off his own face to avoid getting a divorce?

I would never claim the sheriff was a saint, but to claim that he staged the ambush so he could kill his wife is a bit ludicrous. If this was the case, he would have taken a high powered rifle, put it in his non-dominant hand, and shot himself in the face. I don’t know very many people willing to blow their own face off to avoid getting a divorce.

A more reasonable explanation:

Although I am not about to dispute Sheriff Pusser’s marriage troubles, I am a little skeptical when it comes to a man blowing off half of his face. Here’s a theory that makes more sense. Whatever the state of his home life, Buford Pusser had just killed the girlfriend of a very prominent member of the Dixie Mafia. Towhead White was furious and ordered a hit. Now here’s another rumor that might ring true if you think about it.

Some people say that the target was actually Pauline. I cannot explain it in this post, but I will tell you about it in the next one.

The Bloodbath:

Time would witness the deaths of three of the conspirators, but Kirksey Nix would remain on the loose. Allegedly, there were three others involved in the ambush and the purpose was to kill Buford Pusser’s wife. Those conspirators planned to send the sheriff off on a wild goose chase, then return to the house. The plan was to lure Pauline out with a innocent crippled boy. The other men would kill her in revenge of Louis Hathcock.

The best laid plans go awry and they see Pauline in the car with Buford as they pass by. This would lead to the ambush on New Hope Rd. The crippled boy was along for the ride of his life whether he wanted to go or not. This night would lead to much blood shed and the death of a boy. While the newspapers would go on to hail Sheriff Pusser as a hero and Hollywood would make movies about him, the death of the boy gets lost in the shuffle.

Next week we will dive into the aftermath of the ambush and lay out the cover ups that would condemn the death of Ronnie Anderson to the cold case file.

The following links are for the benefit of Synova’s readers and are not an all-inclusive source listing.

Further Reading:

Jackson Sun 

Youtube Video of Ambush Site

Synova’s Youtube Video

Dixie Mafia Book Recommendation:

The State Line Mob: A True Story of Murder and Intrigue

All information used to create this content is a matter of public record and can be easily found online. Any participation or alleged involvement of any party mentioned within this site is purely speculation. As the law states, an individual is Innocent until PROVEN guilty. ©2017-2019. All rights reserved.

If you enjoy this content don’t forget to sign up for Synova’s Weekly True Crime Newsletter. You will receive exclusive content directly in your inbox. As a gift for joining you will also receive the Grim Justice e-book free.





Black Gold Runs Blood Red In Texas: Part 3



For those of you who haven’t been keeping up with the series, here is a quick rundown. The family patriarch, Morris Robeson is found dead from a single gunshot wound to the back of the head. (Date of Death: 11/20/2000) Oil will be discovered on Morris’ property in the future. Who will cash in? That will depend on who survives.


Morris’ neighbor is a highway patrol officer who stopped by the crime scene. Joe Weaver was off-duty and told the family the other officers were surprised to see him. He immediately noticed the scene wasn’t being handled as a homicide, but rather a suicide. Weaver was suspicious and began his own separate investigation.

Morris and his wife Mable had raised their grandson, Wayne Robeson as their own and would treat him as their third child. Weaver spoke with Wayne and wanted to know the whereabouts of one Gerald Willhelm. Gerald has a strange story to tell, but his story will be coming later.

Morris Robeson was a veteran of WWII and had been struggling with neck and upper back pain associated with degenerative disks in his spine. This had reached the point to where he was no longer able to trim his own hair with an ear/nose trimmer. This trimmer was weighed recently to give the reader a reference point. The trimmer weighed less than 2 ounces. Yet, despite the V.A. records to prove Morris Robeson’s disability, the authorities continue to label this case a suicide. To further plant doubt in your mind, the gun used to kill Robeson was a .38 Colt revolver with a 6-inch barrel. This weapon was weighed as well. Its weight was just under 1lb.

If a man cannot lift 2 ounces, how can he lift a 1lb-object, twist it up behind his head, and pull the trigger?


After the death of his neighbor, Joe Weaver continues his investigation over the course of several months, but his truth-seeking venture was cut short late in September 2001. If the Morris Robeson case wasn’t strange enough, here are the facts of the alleged suicide of Joseph Weaver.

On the day before his death, Joe’s wife picked up her daughter and their son from school. Joe’s step-daughter reported to her guidance counselor that Joe had molested her. (There has never been any proof of this claim, and it seems to just come out of the blue.) The wife tells her son to call Joe and ask him to leave the barn and go into the house. Yes, this is what it states in the report. Why was he in the barn? Why were these allegations brought up just now? Why was Joe’s young son the one who had to call his dad and tell him to leave the barn? Could Joe not decide to walk to the house on his own?

Why was he “holed-up” in his barn in the first place?

If that wasn’t unusual enough, the wife then calls Sherriff Price to go to the house and check on Joe. Price states he arrives just in time to see Joe Weaver walk slowly out of his barn and toward the house. He supposedly stopped before getting to the house, pulled out his service revolver, and killed himself. To this day the authorities have denied all FOIA requests stating there wasn’t a police report written. No crime scene photos were taken.

This is proven false, however, when an anonymous witness sends a picture of the first page of the police report on Joe Weaver’s death to the family.

Why did Joe Weaver want to talk to Gerald Wilhelm? Why would all of this occur just a few years before the big oil boom in Centerville, Texas? Who has the farm now? How would Wilhelm con his way into the Robeson family? Why would his father-in-law be killed less than a year later? Hold on, guys. Chaos has settled down upon the Robeson farm like a tornado.


Silenced by the Dixie Mafia: Final curtain

Dixie Mafia

He had held their secrets close for decades to protect his loved ones, but now the man who killed his son was sitting right behind his lovely bright-eyed daughter. At the age of 80, Lt. Dan Anderson was tired of keeping secrets. Phyllis watched her father’s demeanor change rapidly. Anger seeped from every pore until “that son of a &$#@” fell from his lips. Shocked she turned to look at the man who caused such a reaction but was quickly reprimanded by her father.

“Don’t you look at that son of a $@#% Phyllis.”

Phyllis did what she was told and stared down at her plate until the man got up to leave. He seemed to slowly pass her table on purpose. A menacing smirk was plastered across his face. Phyllis analyzed the stranger as he walked out the door. Dan refused to mutter a word about the man until he was well out of the parking lot. He knew his feisty daughter would tear after the man if she could.

“Do you know who that was?”

“No, but I can tell you don’t like him Daddy,” was her innocent reply.

“That’s the Son of a %$@&$ that killed Ronnie.”


Phyllis sat there shocked. This admission came from the very man who had spent the last 36 years telling her that Ronnie’s death was suicide. Every time she called the police department, she would get a call from her father demanding that she “cease and desist.”

She tried to get more details from her father, but he wouldn’t speak another word. Frustrated, she let the conversation slip onto other topics, but when they stood to leave Phyllis stayed behind to get a refill on her drink. After her father walked outside, Phyllis went to Trudy. Trudy had worked there for decades and was up on all the town gossip. Trudy told her the man’s name was Jeffery Bass. She even went as far as to give Phyllis the directions to his house.

Four months later, Lt. Dan Anderson was dead in his driveway from a gunshot wound to the head. The coroner immediately ruled the death suicide. I am here to dispute otherwise, but let’s back up a couple weeks before this tragedy and see what happens.

Phyllis gets a call from her father one evening asking for her help. A woman named Cherry Learn had moved in with him as a housekeeper, but she wasn’t doing anything around the house, and he wanted her to leave. Phyllis was recovering from surgery and was in a cast but promised to throw her out as soon as she could. Phyllis wouldn’t get the opportunity.

April 18, 2003:

Around 4:30 pm, Lt. Dan Anderson supposedly walked out to his driveway and shot himself in the head with his service revolver. Anderson lived on a busy street, yet there weren’t any witnesses during rush hour traffic. Years later the police somehow drag up two people who say they heard a gunshot sometime in the afternoon, but no one can find these witnesses to re-question them. It seemed they appeared just in time for the FOIA request but disappeared again afterward. Who knows? All of that is merely speculation. I will let you speculate on your own time. Here are the facts of this case as I can prove from interviewing the victim’s family and working through the official autopsy.

Cherry Learn told the police that Dan had sent her to the store to buy cigarettes and when she returned she found him in the driveway. The FOIA documents clearly state what she told the police. Cherry told the investigator that she parked right behind Dan Anderson’s Cadillac and she confirmed that this car was still there when she moved out of the house later that day after the death of Anderson. I will tell you why that is significant later.

Around midnight Phyllis received a phone call from her father’s attorney stating that Dan Anderson had committed suicide. She fell to the floor devastated and screamed, “not again.” She packed up and went to Gulfport. When she got there the coroner, Gary Hargrove wouldn’t allow her to see her father’s body. Instead of showing some compassion for the grieving family, he chose to be rude and arrogant. Since she wasn’t getting anywhere with the coroner, Phyllis drove over to her father’s house. She expected to see some evidence of a crime. Instead, the house looked like nothing had happened. There wasn’t any crime scene tape, the driveway was clean, and there weren’t any blood stains. She walked into the house looking for evidence but found no evidence of violence. It was as if time had stopped and this was a bad dream.

Dan liked to keep everything neat and tidy, but the house looked as if it had been detailed. There wasn’t a speck of dust in the place. To make matters worse, Cherry Learn had lived there for a month, and there wasn’t any evidence of her left. Phyllis said she couldn’t even find a bobby pin. In the FOIA papers Cherry Learn said she only lived there four days, but Phyllis had received a phone call about her two weeks before her father’s death, so we know that’s a lie.

As Phyllis slowly took in her surroundings, she noticed something odd. On the nightstand by her father’s bed was a carton of cigarettes with four packs in it. She walked into the den where her father spent a lot of time, and there were two more packs on the end table. One pack was full, and the other was only missing four cigarettes. Why had Cherry Learn gone out for cigarettes when there were so many packs laying around the house?

She also noticed that her father’s valuables had been taken. He was a 33rd degree Mason and had beautiful rings, but they were nowhere to be found. All the china and crystal in the house had been thinned out and the remaining pieces spaced out on the shelves so their removal wouldn’t be obvious. The more she looked, the more she noticed things missing. Also, the Cadillac wasn’t in the driveway anymore. Police would later claim that it had been sold months before her father’s death but remember the FOIA papers said that it was IN THE DRIVEWAY on the day of Anderson’s death.

Now let’s move on to the autopsy report. If you aren’t already questioning this case and its suicide ruling the first few lines of the autopsy report will force you to question it.

The autopsy diagnoses dated 4-19-2003 states the following:

  1. One recent gunshot wound of the head entering the right temple, contact, exiting the left temple through the brain (no bullet in the wound)
  2. blood spatter and powder particles on BOTH HANDS

Ok. It also states that his pants were unbuttoned and the zipper down. His socks were covered in dry plant material. It also states that his fingernails and toenails were neatly clipped and clean.

Ok. Here goes the rant…

Dan Anderson was a tidy person, and I’ve been told that wouldn’t go outside in his sock feet. If he wanted to, there was a driveway and a sidewalk to walk on. He was particular enough to have nice nails, but he ran outside with his pants undone?

The documents say one hammerless Smith & Wesson 38 service revolver, 4 bullets, 1 shell casing, and one leather holster was recovered from the scene. No one recovered the spent bullet. The autopsy said it was a through and through wound, so why wasn’t it recovered in the grass? No ballistics testing was done to prove that this gun was the weapon used to kill Anderson. To make it even worse, the FOIA request shows the police department destroyed the bullets and shell casing four days after Anderson’s death. They sent Phyllis a copy of this release that she supposedly had signed. Phyllis swears she has never seen the paper before and the signature on the bottom of it was not hers. Who signed Phyllis’ name?

Dan Anderson was 80, but he was a strong man and didn’t suffer from Parkinson’s disease. Why then would he have to use both hands to fire his service revolver? Remember the autopsy said there was gunshot residue and blood spatter on BOTH hands. Anderson showed no signs of suicidal tendencies.

Now here comes the outline of the wounds found on Dan Anderson’s body, excluding the gunshot wound. To reconstruct these wounds I got help from my son. I drew all the markings on his hands and legs with a washable marker and photographed them. This is what I found.

Left index fingertip anteriorly (meaning the palm side) there was a fresh wound. The left middle finger dorsally (meaning the back side of the hand) over the proximal phalanx was another wound. Proximal Phalanx means the back side of the hand down between the base of the finger and the first knuckle.

The autopsy also states he had a large wound on the FRONT of his RIGHT shin and on the top of the right big toe. Lastly, it states he had an abrasion on the back of the left-hand side of his head just above the hairline. Dan Anderson had male pattern baldness.

If Lt. Anderson somehow shot himself with both hands and fell BACKWARD that would account for the wound on the back of his head. If this is the case, then why the scrape down his right shin and his right toe? If he fell FORWARD, he might receive a small abrasion on his knee, but not a large scrape, and he wouldn’t have a wound on the back of his head.

My armchair conclusion is Lt. Anderson’s death should not be ruled suicide. It is highly unlikely that this man would suddenly decide to send off his housekeeper, undo his pants, walk out in his front yard and shoot himself using both hands on his snub-nosed revolver. He wasn’t drunk. He wasn’t suicidal, and he cared about neatness enough to keep both his fingernails and toenails groomed.

The officials would like to make you believe this is what happened, and to add to the fairytale, he must have shot, then fell forward, dragged himself around the yard scrapping his leg up, then dropped down upon his back hitting the back of his head. If all of that makes sense to you, then I must add all the details of the missing items and the missing Cadillac. If you believe all of that, then I have some ocean front property in Kansas that I would like to sell to you.

Phyllis’ 50-year battle:


If this wasn’t enough to concern you, then one must also add in the battle Phyllis Cook had fought over the last half a century. She has continued to call trying to get help for her brother’s case and her father’s case. It took fifty years for someone to tell the poor woman that there wasn’t an autopsy performed on her brother. All these years she had been calling asking for an autopsy report and information on her brother, and it took a true crime writer to point out the truth. When I received a copy of the death certificate, it clearly stated there wasn’t an autopsy. Why couldn’t they tell the grieving family this?

The FOIA documents outline the police department’s investigation to verify Phyllis’ claims. You read this document and find the investigator ties up the story with a pretty little bow, but half of it is untrue, and the other half is conjecture. If I went into every discrepancy within this report, I would need another entire blog post, but I will relate one more incident with you.

February 5, 2013:

Phyllis again calls the Gulfport police department and speaks with a cold case investigator that I will leave nameless. When she starts relating the story to this man, he tells her that he is 99.99% sure that her dad and brother were killed by members of the Dixie Mafia. Up until this point, Phyllis had never heard about the Dixie Mafia. Now as she looked back over the years, things were starting to make more sense. All of these cases weren’t random acts of violence. They were all connected to one organization. Her brother was murdered six weeks after the Dixie Mafia ambushed Sherriff Pusser on New Hope Road. Did Ronnie overhear something he shouldn’t have from his roommate? Police say they finally found Jeffery Bass and he was only 15 at the time of Ronnie’s death. I went on and found a Jeff Bass that fit the age, and he has a son name Jeff Bass JR.

There’s another entire story around Bass. Police gave Phyllis a photo lineup, and she pointed out the man she seen in the restaurant. The police say that the man couldn’t be Jeffery Bass and has tried to convince her to pick another picture of a man named Jimmy Johnson. Phyllis even went back to Trudy who firmly states that she said his name was Jimmy Johnson and then tells Phyllis to leave it alone before she gets hurt.

It’s hard to fit this entire story into a blog but believe me, if Phyllis ever decides to write a book about this case she could fill it with all the discrepancies, and it could make a series.

Four months after Dan Anderson’s death the Dixie Mafia’s hitman John Ransom was released from prison and former mayor Pete Halat would be released in October 2012. Phyllis believes her dad was killed because he was starting to talk. If all the secrets were out, Halat and Ransom might have to spend life in prison along with their buddy Kirksey Nix. Is this why Lt. Anderson was killed? We may never know for sure since all the evidence was destroyed and everyone refuses to look into this case. How deep are the Dixie Mafia ties? I believe they are as long as the Mississippi River and twice as dirty.


Silenced by the Dixie Mafia Part 3: A Judge is Murdered

Dixie Mafia

According to an article on the FBI’s website, in 1983, federal authorities designated the entire Harrison County Sherriff’s office as a criminal enterprise. Sheriff Leroy Hobbs was hand in hand with the Dixie Mafia. In 1987, a prominent judge and his wife were murdered in their home and some of the local corruption would be exposed. Now 30 years later the rest of this story will be told. Judge Vincent Sherry and his wife Margret were murdered in their home on the evening of September 14, 1987. The official report states that Pete Halat and Charles Lager “discovered” the bodies on the morning of September 16th. The popular tv show “The FBI Files” even states this as fact. This, however, is merely another coverup perpetrated by this group of people. One lone woman knew the truth for decades and now everyone will know. Pete Halat had been to the house the day before with one honest cop bound by a gambling addiction and his name is Lt. Dan Anderson.

Can someone be honest and be a gambler? Yes. Can someone be bound by an addiction to gambling? Of course. We see this every day. Is it too far-fetched to assume this man could be forced into silence because of his addiction? What if his son had already died of suspicious circumstances? I will let you ponder those questions as I relate to you the story of September 15, 1987.

Lt. Dan Anderson worked as a court bailiff for Judge Vincent Sherry and considered him a friend. On the morning of September 15th, Anderson arrived early to the courthouse to get the building ready for the day’s legal wranglings. He turned on all the lights and adjusted the thermostat and made the coffee. Strangely, the judge never arrived. Judge Sherry hadn’t missed one court date in his entire career. As the clocked ticked past his first appointment his bailiff began to worry. Anderson made a phone call to the judge’s house but there wasn’t any answer. Finally, Anderson called the judge’s legal partner Pete Halat and asked if the judge happened to be in the office with him. The answer was negative. Concerned, Anderson told Halat that he wasn’t waiting any longer. He was going to drive over to the judge’s house and see what was going on. Halat immediately told the bailiff that he would meet him at the judge’s house.

Together they approached the door of the house and Dan Anderson noticed it was partially opened. He called out “Sherry,” a nickname for the judge and there wasn’t a response. Anderson carefully pushed open the door and found the body of the 58-year-old man lying on the floor. Continuing through the house, Anderson found the body of Mrs. Margret Sherry in the bedroom.

Struggling to keep his emotions in check, Dan Anderson told Pete Halat what he found. This is where the case gets even stranger. Instead of calling for backup, Pete Halat sends the bailiff home claiming that he would handle the situation. Supposedly, he didn’t want the media to find out about this until he could get the police on site and figure out what happened to the judge.

Lt. Anderson returns home distraught after seeing the corpses of his friends. Before he could get himself together, his daughter Phyllis happened to call. On this rare occasion, Dan Anderson poured out his emotional story to his daughter giving details of the crime scene. Phyllis listened and tried to console her father and promised to call and check on him later that evening. When evening came, her father was back to his tight-lipped self and refused to speak of it again. Phyllis had no way of knowing that her father was being forced into silence. She assumed it was his quiet way of dealing with trauma.

The next day Pete Halat makes a big deal of the judge being late for court and persuades his junior law partner, Charles Lager into driving out the judge’s house with him. This is where the “official” report begins. Halat barely steps into the house and steps back out onto the porch to report the two were dead. Later in trial Lager would confess that Halat didn’t seem shocked by their death. Also, he stated that Halat didn’t go all the way into the back of the house where Margret’s body lay. How did he know they were both dead? Well, you and I know the truth.

An investigation was launched and eventually, a partial truth came out. Pete Halat and a few others had been in league with the infamous Kirksey Nix, Jr on a big money-making scam. The FBI labeled it “The Lonely Hearts” scam. Basically, Nix had found a way to con hundreds of thousands of dollars out of the local gay community. He would post pictures of good-looking men in the paper along with a tear-jerking ad. This poor handsome gay man was looking for love, was being wrongfully accused, and needed money to help with his legal fees. Trying to help out, these victims would send in their money and their love letters. Then the criminal scumbags would turn around and blackmail these good-hearted men. In the 1980’s most of these men weren’t open about their sexuality and Nix found it easy to blackmail them.  By September they were raking in six figures. This is when Halat begins to get greedy. Why did he have to put all the money back in a safe deposit box for Nix? Instead, he transferred $100,000 to a safe deposit box he shared with Judge Sherry. When Nix found out about the theft, Halat blames it on the judge. Nix hires a hitman to kill the couple and Halat wins all the way around. You see, Halat wanted to run for mayor and one of his biggest political rivals was Margret Sherry. Now Halat had the money, the Sherrys were gone, and two years after their death he becomes the mayor.

The FBI investigators had to keep the case close to the chest for fear of tipping off the corrupt mayor, but in October 1996 Halat’s charade was over when he was arrested and tried for his involvement in the murder of Judge Sherry. Nix and the hitman would get life in prison, but Halat only received 18 years.

Phyllis knew about the case, but her father tried to keep her from paying too much attention to the news. Living two states away in Georgia, it was easy to get distracted by her own life and not follow the case too closely. It would take a chance meeting in a restaurant before Phyllis would get her father to speak of the case again.

Fast forward to 1997. Phyllis and her husband were having dinner when she overheard the people behind her say something about the Sherry murders. Phyllis being a good ‘ole southern gal has never met a stranger and can talk to anyone. She turns around and innocently asks the man if he were talking about the murder of Judge Vincent Sherry and his wife Margret. To her surprise, the man glared at her and without saying a word he stood up with his woman and left the restaurant. Phyllis was taken aback and glanced at the table and noticed they hadn’t even eaten their dinner. When she returned home she phoned her dad and told him about the strange encounter.

Dan exploded on the phone demanding to know what the man looked like. Phyllis described him not understanding her father’s outburst.

“That was John Ransom. He’s the S.O.B. who killed Sherry and Margret.” Dan also told of Pete Halat’s involvement and then demanded that she never speak of this case to anyone again.

I wish I could say that this is the end of this story, but we have one more murder to cover next week. Lt. Dan Anderson would be killed. Guess what? His death was ruled suicide. Surely, by this point in this story, you won’t believe that for a moment. Below I have listed a few links to more information about the case of Judge Sherry and his wife.

More info:

Silenced by the Dixie Mafia – Part 2: Crippled Innocence – Murder of Ronnie Anderson


Six weeks after the ambush of Sherriff Pusser and his wife on New Hope Rd another death was reported to police in Gulfport, Mississippi. 17-yr-old Ronald Anderson was said to have committed suicide in an apartment he shared with the teenager, Jeffery D. Bass. Anderson’s body was transported to the Lang Funeral Home in Gulfport, then transferred to Faith Chapel in Pensacola, before being taken to Vernon, Florida for burial. No Autopsy was performed, and no one in law enforcement questioned the suicide ruling by local coroner Frank Hightower. This life-shattering event for the family barely caused a stir amongst the locals and only generated one small article about the death inquest. No one seemed to care that this crippled teenager could have been gunned down. It was more convenient to label it suicide and go on.

What I’m about to relate is highly controversial. I have researched and studied this case trying to provide evidence. I have uncovered some compelling facts and some disturbing theories. In the 25-page Sherriff’s Investigation report into this case, I have discovered a few more tidbits of questionable behavior by law enforcement. I have struggled to remain unemotional in this case, but I will try to relate the story to you with logic and reason. I will let you decide what happened to Ronald Anderson for yourself.

Before getting into the case, I must explain to you that I was raised with extreme respect for law enforcement. As far as I’m concerned anyone who is willing to put their life on the line to protect someone else is a hero in my book. I am currently running a Blue Lives Matter too campaign with my events. So, when I mention something derogatory in this article, please don’t think I’m attributing the actions of a few shady officials to the entire law enforcement community. I bleed blue for our guys and gals in uniform and don’t wish anyone to think otherwise. Like every position in any organization, there are a few shady characters, but that doesn’t mean the entire system is corrupt.

Ronald “Ronnie” Anderson had a rough life from the start. He contracted Polio at the age of three and would have to wear a leg brace for the entirety of his life. One leg was smaller than the other, so buying shoes was a difficult task. He would need two different sizes, and one shoe must be mounted onto his braces. Ronnie was a beautiful, sweet child with large brown eyes. His sister remembers how he would cry when his friends would go play and leave him behind. He wanted so desperately to fit in, and family members think that’s what led to his death.

September 26, 1967:

Ronnie had gotten a job working at McDonald’s and decided to move out of his father’s house with an older boy named Jeffery Bass. He was so excited to be starting out on his own and had even gotten a little “friend” named Cathy. Ronnie finally felt like he belonged, but this wouldn’t last. Two months after moving out he started having trouble with Bass. Bass was older and rowdy and is rumored to run with a shady crowd. On this morning, Ronnie’s sister Phyllis offered to let him come to visit her for a while. Ronnie was excited to go. His parents had divorced when he was quite young. Phyllis had practically been a segregate mother while their own mother was working trying to provide for four children.

Ronnie’s father, Lt. Dan Anderson went to see the teenager that morning and to take him some new shoes. The teenager was busy packing some clothes and ironing his shirt. His sister would arrive from Pensacola, Florida in a few hours and he wanted to be ready. Dan Anderson returned home only to receive a phone call within the hour. Ronnie was dead.

The distraught father raced to the hospital only to be met by his ex-wife Rose Moore. Rose was also Jeffery Bass’ aunt. Instead of calling the ambulance, Jeff had called his aunt since she was supposedly a registered nurse. Rose cleaned up Ronnie and changed his clothes before calling the ambulance. Why? No one could give an answer to that question.

So, what happened to Ronnie?

Bass told the police that he was sitting on the bed playing with a .410 shotgun and it accidentally went off shooting him under the chin. According to Bass, it was a shock because they thought the gun didn’t have a firing pin. Could Ronnie have been toying with the weapon thinking it was inoperable and accidentally shot himself? If so, why would the aunt come racing in and wash the teenager and change his clothes?

If that wasn’t unusual enough to cause investigators to question this case, the other witness had a different story to tell. Cathy claimed that she and Ronnie had argued and then he went upstairs and shot himself. That’s what she told the police, but that’s not what she said in her frantic phone call to Phyllis the night before Ronnie was buried.

The inconsolable sister had been given sleeping pills by her doctor and had turned in for the night. The phone rang with a frantic woman insisting on talking to Phyllis. Her husband assured the woman that Phyllis was out cold and couldn’t come to the phone and asked to take a message.

“He killed him. We killed him,” was all Cathy said before disconnecting.

Phyllis took all these discrepancies to the police and tried to get her brother’s case re-classified, but she couldn’t find anyone who would help her. Every time she decided to call and ask questions she would receive a call from her father telling her to let it alone. Phyllis couldn’t leave it alone and wondered how her father could. She didn’t realize the trouble she was causing by asking questions. Phyllis was an innocent sister grieving the loss of her precious crippled little brother. So she kept digging.

More discrepancies:

The funeral director for Faith Chapel Home in Pensacola was friends with Ronnie’s stepdad and mother.  This gentleman confided in the family saying he didn’t think it was suicide because there wasn’t any gunshot residue around the wound. Could that just be because Rose washed him, or could it mean that he was shot from a distance by someone else?

Rumors say that Ronnie’s relationship with Cathy was one-sided. If this is true, could Cathy’s real boyfriend have shot Ronnie?

The local coroner has come under some scrutiny after many claims he rules cases as suicide too quickly and too often. Some locals even referred to him as “Suicide Hightower.” After researching, I couldn’t find any official charges brought against the coroner. Could they be just rumors, or could those stories be based in facts? Who knows?

Little did Phyllis know that some of her local law enforcement officials and government officials were arm and arm with the Dixie Mafia. This wouldn’t come out publicly for decades. Did Ronnie hear something he shouldn’t have? Could Bass and his friends have silenced the boy forever?

Phyllis continued to press the police department for answers until one day her father called.

“Leave it alone before you get someone else killed,” he demanded.

Shocked, Phyllis backed off and tried to investigate a little more quietly. This inner turmoil wondering what happened to her brother and why her father wasn’t pushing the issue continued for 36 long years.

It was November 2002, and Phyllis always came into town to visit her father to celebrate Thanksgiving and her father’s birthday. The two went to the local Waffle House as usual. During their meal, Dan Anderson’s entire persona changed, and he mumbled “That Son of a $&*&^” under his breath. Surprised, Phyllis turned to see who he was referring to only to be reprimanded by her father.

Dan waited until the man was out the door and his car pulled out onto the road before he said anything else to his daughter.

“Do you know who that was?”

“No, but I can tell you don’t like him Daddy.”

“That’s the old boy who killed Ronnie.”

Phyllis about fell out of her chair. For thirty-six years her father had reprimanded her for saying the very same thing. He claimed his son’s death as suicide for nearly four decades, and now he just pointed out the man who killed his son. Of course, Phyllis had questions, but her father clammed up about the subject and wouldn’t speak another word of it.

After her father went out to his car, Phyllis hung back and talked to the waitress that knew all the local gossip. That’s when she was given the name Jeffery Bass. Unfortunately, years later during the Sherriff’s investigation this waitress and the other surviving witnesses would change their stories or conveniently forget it entirely. Were they intimidated into silence or did they really forget?

Sadly, Lt. Dan Anderson would be dead a short time after pointing out his son’s killer. Surely the police would stand up and take notice. Nope. I’ll get into that and the revelation of the Dixie Mafia in the famous case of Judge Sherry’s murder. Can all these cases be linked by an unlikely string of coincidences or are they tied together by the Dixie Mafia? I will leave it up to you to decide.

You can listen to Phyllis’ interview on Stitcher’s Crime & Scandal podcast here: