109 Yr Old Triple Murder Mystery – The Murder of Janie Sharp

Photo courtesy of Find A Grave

She was slaughtered while walking home along a country road in Rural Hill, Mississippi. Her murder leads to an overturned conviction, an acquittal, two more murders, and a trial that would divide the community. The local paper bred chaos and sensationalism, the truth was forgotten and 109 years later we still don’t know who killed Janie Sharp.


Peninnah Janie Sharp was born on April 14, 1892, to William and Martha Sharp. They had a large family with eight children. Janie was well-liked in the rural farming community and was an excellent dressmaker. On July 21, 1910, Janie helped her mother clean up the dishes from the noon meal before setting out to town. She walked the mile and a half to the local post office and then continued to the general store. She was seen leaving the store around 3 pm, but she never made it home.

By nightfall, the entire community was worried about the 18-year-old and several local men created a search party. Armed with torches they searched well up into the night until they finally broke up with a promise to resume searching in the morning.

Along the way home, Janie’s brother, Lee continued his search. He looked along the west side of the road and followed the ravine that leads down to the water. Around 2 am, a gruesome sight confronted him. There laying half-submerged in the muddy water was his sister. Her throat had been slashed from ear to ear. Several stab wounds were under her chin and she had suffered severe blunt force trauma to the head. The sight caused her brother to faint. I can’t imagine how horror-stricken the poor brother was after witnessing such a sight flickering in the light of his torch.

Lee Sharp began to scream for help and ran to find his father. William came and removed his daughter from the desolate site and carried her home. William Sharp suffered from palsy. The thought of this disabled father stumbling through the darkness trying to carry his child home is heart-wrenching, but this story is just beginning.

The next morning a crowd gathered including Sheriff Hull. The crime scene was examined and told a terrible tale. According to the footprints in the area and the strewn belongings of Ms. Sharp it appeared she put up quite a fight. Two to three areas looked as if a terrible scuffle had taken place and it looked like poor Janie had escaped her captor more than once. Who could have such a thing?

No one had noticed any strangers in the area and suspicions immediately fell on a local boy named Swinton Parmenter. Some say he was acting strangely during the search. Others say he had a thing for Janie, but nothing could be proven. Did that matter? No. Before nightfall, Permenter would be surrounded by a lynch mob. 

This tale is far from over. There will be a trial, actually two trials, a conviction, and an acquittal. Two more suspects will be named, and the investigator who found them will be brutally murdered. Swinton’s brother will be killed, and all the while a local paper will stir up a lynch mob. Unfortunately during all of this, the truth will be lost in t


THIS LIST OF LINKS IS NOT AN ALL-ENCOMPASSING SOURCE CITING. ALL OF THE INFORMATION USED IN THIS ARTICLE CAN BE EASILY FOUND ONLINE. LINKS BELOW WERE USED AS SOURCES AND ARE RECOMMENDED READING FOR SYNOVA’S READERS. SYNOVA STRIVES TO CITE ALL THE SOURCES USED DURING HER CASE STUDY, BUT OCCASIONALLY A SOURCE MAY BE MISSED BY MISTAKE. IT IS NOT INTENTIONAL, AND NO COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT IS INTENDED.

Further Reading:

Find A Grave

Reddit

Winston Web News Article (There is a series of eight articles on this site. Only the first article has been linked. I encourage you to read them all if you have time)


Recommended Reading:

You can read more about this case in Murder in Rural Hill by W. McCulley.


Support Synova’s Cause:

EACH WEEK SYNOVA HIGHLIGHTS OBSCURE COLD CASES ON HER BLOG AS A VICTIMS’ ADVOCATE WITH MISSOURI MISSING ORGANIZATION. SHE NEVER CHARGES FOR HER SERVICES. IF YOU’D LIKE TO SUPPORT HER IN THIS WORTHY CAUSE, PLEASE CHECK OUT THE AFFILIATE LINKS ON THIS PAGE. BY PURCHASING ONE OF HER BOOKS, OR USING THESE LINKS YOU WILL BE SUPPORTING SYNOVA’S WORK ON COLD CASES AND WILL ENSURE HER ABILITY TO CONTINUE TO GIVE A VOICE TO THE VICTIM’S FAMILY.


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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Guest Post Thursday – The Death of Dana Stidham

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Photos courtesy of Guest Blogger

Larry Stidham was feeling a bit under the weather on Tuesday, July 25, 1989. He was home sick, and his wife Georgia was at work. When his 18-year-old daughter Dana came home to do her laundry, Larry asked her to go to the store to get him some Alka-Seltzer. Dana was glad to help her ailing dad.

The following day, Larry felt much worse. He had not received his medicine, but a new ailment was weighing far more heavily on him. He was sick with worry as Dana had failed to return. Larry eventually recovered from his original illness, but his worry worsened with each passing day as Dana remained missing. The illness was contagious; it spread to family and friends.

On September 16, nearly two months after she left on the errand, the worry turned to grief, heartbreak and devastation as most of Dana’s remains were found in a wooded area.

Dana had most likely been stabbed to death. Thirty years later, no one has been charged with her murder.

Dana had recently graduated from Gravette High School in northwest Arkansas, only a few miles from the Missouri border. She lived in an apartment with her older brother, Larry, and another roommate in Centerton, seven miles north of her parents’ home in Hiawese.

At approximately 3:00 p.m., Dana drove her gray Dodge Omni to get her father’s medicine at the Phillips Foods store in Bella Vista, four miles away. She had previously worked there and several store employees and customers she knew recalled seeing her. She chatted a few minutes with some of them before purchasing the medicine and a couple of other small items. Nothing appeared amiss.

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When the door swung open at the Stidhman home shortly after 4:00 p.m., Larry was hoping it was Dana. It was, however, Georgia coming arriving home from work. It was the only time in his life Larry was disappointed to see his wife, as his concern for his daughter was growing.

When told of the situation, Georgia said she would go look for Dana. Larry, despite not feeling well, insisted on going with her, thinking Dana may have encountered car trouble. After searching the entire afternoon and mid-evening, the Stidhams found no trace of their daughter or her car. Calls to Dana’s friends yielded no clues as well.

Larry and Georgia reported Dana missing at 9:15 p.m.

At 6:30 a.m. the following day, July 26, a policeman making her rounds found Dana’s car in the southbound lane of U.S. Highway 71 just north of the Bella Vista Town Centre.

The keys were still in the ignition and the driver’s side window was halfway down. The left-rear tire of the car was marginally deflated but the vehicle was still operable. The driver’s side seat was pushed far back, indicating someone much taller than the 5’2″ Dana was the last person to drive the car. Dana’s purse and its contents were missing. A receipt from Phillips Foods in the back of the car, time-stamped 3:17 p.m., was consistent with the time store employees remembered seeing Dana. Some of Dana’s laundry was discovered 1,700 feet from her car.

Larry and Georgia had searched that section of Highway 71 the previous evening but found no sign of Dana’s car. In addition, Arkansas State Troopers were running radar in the area until midnight and they, too, did not come across the car. Dana’s Omni had been abandoned along Highway 71 sometime in the early morning hours of July 26.

On August 5, one-and-a-half weeks after Dana’s abandoned car was located, a dog returned to his owner’s Bella Vista home carrying a treasure in his mouth. It was not a bone or an animal, but a woman’s purse. When the dog’s owner opened the purse, he was shocked by what he found. Several items bore the name of Dana Stidham.

Investigators searched the wooded area the dog frequented, just over a mile north of where Dana’s car was found. Strewn into the weeds alongside the road they found her driver’s license, checkbook, and several photos. Authorities believe the items had been thrown from a moving car.

Fearing the worst, volunteers joined police in combing the lakes and woods surrounding Bella Vista.

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On September 16, seven weeks after she was last seen, a hunter’s grisly discovery brought the search for Dana Stidham to a devastating end. Most of her skeletal remains were found scattered along a creek bed in far eastern Bella Vista, close to the Missouri border. Her skull was intact, as was most of her jaw. Several pieces of her jewelry and the clothes she was wearing on the day she disappeared were found. The t-shirt she wore was plastered with several pieces of duct tape.

Evidence of stab nicks was found on Dana’s left shoulder blade and neck, but it could not be definitively determined how she had died because her sternum was never found, probably having been devoured by animals.

Dana had also likely been sexually assaulted, but her body was too decomposed to say for certain.

Though it had taken nearly two months to find Dana’s remains, it took authorities less than two minutes to develop a suspect in her murder.

Police were initially confused by why Dana had driven four miles to Bella Vista to get her father’s medicine when she could have gotten it at the Hiawese Dairy Freeze convenience store only a few blocks from the Stidham home in Hiawase. It was soon clear, however, why she bypassed the quicker option.

The Hiawese store was owned by the parents of Michael McMillan who was often at the store. He and Dana had gone to high school together and McMillan had asked her out multiple times. Dana was not interested in such a relationship and rejected him each time. She felt uncomfortable in his presence.

Even though it meant driving a few miles, Dana was more at ease picking up OTC medicine at the Bella Vista store.

In December of 1989, three months after Dana was buried, McMillan was arrested for stealing the temporary headstone on her grave. He admitted doing so, paid a fine, and said he committed the act because he wanted the marker as a memory of Dana.

Seven years later, investigators tracked down the truck McMillan had been driving on the night Dana disappeared. Its new owner allowed them to search the vehicle, and, despite the passage of several years, hair samples were found which closely matched Dana’s. They were, however, not enough to make a definitive match.

McMillan agreed to an interview with police and submitted to a polygraph test. He failed the polygraph test and during the interview, McMillan made a seemingly cryptic statement. He seemed devastated by Dana’s murder and said, “Sometimes I think I did kill Dana, but I know I didn’t.”

The court ordered McMillan to submit his hair samples to be tested against those found on Dana’s clothing. McMillan’s samples bore similarities to those found on the clothing, but, again, could not be deemed a 100% match.

The Benton County Prosecutor declined to charge McMillan with Dana’s murder, saying the evidence was not strong enough.

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Another person of interest in Dana’s murder is Orville Goodwin. In 2013, he was convicted of attempted murder after shooting a woman in the face. Police have not confirmed if Goodwin knew Dana, only saying advancements in technology have led them to investigate him.

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 Thirty years after her brutal murder, no one has been charged with the murder of Dana Stidham.


THIS LIST OF LINKS IS NOT AN ALL-ENCOMPASSING SOURCE CITING. ALL OF THE INFORMATION USED IN THIS ARTICLE CAN BE EASILY FOUND ONLINE. LINKS BELOW WERE USED AS SOURCES AND ARE RECOMMENDED READING FOR SYNOVA’S READERS. SYNOVA STRIVES TO CITE ALL THE SOURCES USED DURING HER CASE STUDY, BUT OCCASIONALLY A SOURCE MAY BE MISSED BY MISTAKE. IT IS NOT INTENTIONAL, AND NO COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT IS INTENDED.


Further Reading:

Dateline NBC

Yourtango

Reddit


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.


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.”)

Recommended Reading: 


Support Synova’s Cause:

EACH WEEK SYNOVA HIGHLIGHTS OBSCURE COLD CASES ON HER BLOG AS A VICTIMS’ ADVOCATE WITH MISSOURI MISSING ORGANIZATION. SHE NEVER CHARGES FOR HER SERVICES. IF YOU’D LIKE TO SUPPORT HER IN THIS WORTHY CAUSE, PLEASE CHECK OUT THE AFFILIATE LINKS ON THIS PAGE. BY PURCHASING ONE OF HER BOOKS, OR USING THESE LINKS YOU WILL BE SUPPORTING SYNOVA’S WORK ON COLD CASES AND WILL ENSURE HER ABILITY TO CONTINUE TO GIVE A VOICE TO THE VICTIM’S FAMILY.


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.

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

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Murder Mystery – Room 1046 – Part 2

 

room-1046

 

Roland T. Owen walked into the Kansas City hotel carrying a comb, a brush, and a tube of toothpaste. After several strange encounters with hotel staff, Owen would be carried out on a gurney a few days later. Blood covered the walls and bed in room 1046, and investigators say it was already solidified leading them to assume Owen had been bleeding for over six hours. Who tortured and killed this man? Why was his door always locked from the outside? Who were the anonymous benefactors that paid for his burial?

 

Last week I quickly highlighted this Alfred Hitchcock style murder mystery for my readers. This story was so strange and mysterious; I knew it would take more than one post to cover it. If you haven’t seen that post, you can follow this link to read Part One of the mystery.

 

Strange Sighting: (Thursday, January 3, 1935 – 11 PM)

Robert Lane was driving down 13th Street when he saw a man dressed in trousers and an undershirt. The man’s attire seemed strange in the cold winter weather of January. He was running and waving frantically. Robert Lane pulled over, and the stranger ran up to the door. He looked surprised.

“I’m sorry. I thought this was a taxi. Can you take me to where I can find a cab?”

Lane agreed, and the man climbed into his back seat. The man looked as if he’d been in a scuffle and Lane made a remark about this. The man mumbled, “I’ll kill that__________ in the morning.”

While all the newspapers were too proper to write the actual word that was uttered, 84 years later it could have helped investigators if there was some sort of record of this remark. Was the stranger talking about a male or a female? Who knows?

Lane noticed the man had a large cut down his arm and was cupping his hands trying to catch the blood. As the car reached a nearby intersection, the passenger jumped out and ran across to a parked cab. Seeing the driver wasn’t with his car, the stranger honked the horn. Presently, the cab driver rushed out of a nearby, and that was the end of Robert Lane’s interaction with the stranger.

Police disputed this story since no one noticed Owen leaving his room. Police would discount this and take the investigation in different directions. I find this odd because no one ever saw Owen coming or going from his room. Who was locking the door from the outside if Owen was still sitting inside? At one point the housekeeping staff walked into the room thinking it was empty to find Owen laying across the bed fully clothed and staring into the darkness.

To understand this story, you must understand the hotel’s door locking mechanism. The door could be locked from the inside and could not be opened externally. It could also be locked from the outside with a key, and the hotel staff could use the passkey to open the door and clean. On more than one occasion this outer lock was used while Owen was still inside the room.

By Friday morning the staff noticed the phone was off the hook in Owen’s room. The first contact that was made by the hotel staff was around 7 am. Evidence would later show that Owen was already beaten, stabbed and bloody by this time. That’s when the bellboy heard a voice call through the door and say, “Come in. Turn on the light.” Was this Owen trying to get the man to come in and help him? We’ll never know.

To make the story, even more, perplexing the second time a bell boy was sent to the room that morning, he opened the door with the hotel passkey. This, of course, means that between the bell boy’s first contact and second contact someone had left that room and locked it from the outside. The attendant used his key and opened the darkened room. He noticed the side table was knocked over, and the phone was on the floor. A shadowy figure of a naked man lay sprawled across the bed. The bellboy would later note that there were dark shadows on the sheets around the man, but he didn’t turn on the light. Instead, the bellboy replaced the phone, closed the door, and reported that the guest was drunk on the bed. Could this man have saved Ronald T. Owen if he had taken a moment to check on him?

An hour and a half later the phone was still off the hook, and finally, the bellboy had lost his patience. He opened the door and switched on the lights to discover a horrific scene. Owen was two foot from the door and naked with a rope tied around his neck, wrists, and ankles. He was on his knees and elbows. His bloody head was in his hands. When police asked who did this Owen replied, “Nobody.” He would slip into a coma on the way to the hospital and die shortly after midnight on January 5th.

Strange Clues:

The police immediately began searching for evidence in Room 1046 but found it had been stripped. Owen’s clothes, all of his belongings, even the hotel’s shampoo and soap were missing. The only things found in the room were: a hairpin, a safety pin, a label from a tie, a bottle of undiluted sulfuric acid, and two glasses. One broken glass was in the bathroom sink and was missing a shard of glass. Four little fingerprints were found on the lampshade leading the investigators to believe they could have been from a woman.

Anonymous Benefactor:

Investigators quickly realized the name Roland T. Owen was an alias and began digging for the man’s identity. In the meantime, the body was transported to the local morgue where it was placed for public viewing in hopes of getting a definite identification on the man. Many people came forward thinking they knew the victim, but all were dismissed. This is when Robert Lane came forward and confirmed the man in the morgue was the man he had picked up on that Thursday night. Authorities claim they can’t prove this, but I find it the most credible. Owen didn’t look overly normal. With his height and scars, he was a rather imposing figure which would make him hard to forget.

After much ado, the papers announced the unknown victim with the alias Roland Owen would be buried in a pauper’s grave since no one claimed him. This prompted another series of strange events. Before the body could be buried the funeral director received an anonymous call from an unknown male. He asked them two wait a little longer in burying Owen and he would send money for a proper burial. A few days later the funeral home received an envelope filled with cash wrapped in newspaper. The donor requested the body to be buried in Memorial Park Cemetary so he could be next to the donor’s sister.

“Love Forever, Louise”:

The florist received an anonymous phone call around the same time from an unknown male. He requested 13 roses to be sent to the grave of Ronald T. Owen and the card should be signed, “Love forever, Louise.” The florist tried to ask a few questions, but the man simply stated that he was just doing this for his sister.

Another phone call:

After the newspaper article about this case was printed, the editor received a phone call from a woman. She said the report was wrong and Roland’s funeral arrangements were paid.

Searching for Don:

During one of the interchanges with the hotel staff, Owen was heard speaking on the phone to a man he called “Don.” Another time the housekeeper saw a note with the same name. Was Don a friend? Was he a Mafia Don? Investigators searched for years and couldn’t find the true identity of Don.

Artemus Ogletree:

Eighteen months after the newspaper article about this mystery a woman saw the pictures and claimed Roland T. Owen was her son Artemus Ogletree. Although original reports claimed he was in his mid-20’s, Ogletree was 17 at the time of his death. To make matters more mysterious, Mrs. Ogletree had received three separate letters from her son. They were all typewritten which she thought was strange since her son didn’t know how to type. Also, these notes used a lot of slang terms Mrs. Ogletree had never heard her son use. After researching this story, she realized those three letters could not have been from her son. Someone out there not only knew what happened Roland T. Owen in that hotel room, but they also knew his real name and his mother’s address.

One More Mysterious Caller:

If that wasn’t enough of a mystery for you, there was a new chapter to this tale that happened to a Kansas City Librarian in 2003. John Horner spent a lot of time researching this case and writing it up for the library’s blog. One day he too received a strange phone call. It was an out of state caller claiming to be going through a deceased relative’s belongings. They found a large box of newspaper articles from about the Roland T. Owen case and in the box was a specific object that had been referenced in the original newspaper article. Then, the line went dead. What was in the box? Who were the mysterious caller and their relative? Was it the woman Louise? Was it Don? Like all good mysteries. We may never know the truth in this strange tale.

Despite spreading this case across two blog posts, there are even more details I couldn’t include here. Below are some links for further reading on this strange tale.

Reddit
KC Library Archives