A Ripple Across the Month

This post was written by contributor Rae Fox (MC’23). The post was edited by N. Locklin.

The morning of November 7, 1921 was met with fear and sorrow. The newspapers of the following day announced four possible homes that had been invaded or attempted to be. All four homes were off of West View Ave. in Lonsdale, Knoxville within 150 yards of one another. The residents of the first home, the Gladson family, heard someone attempting to enter through the front door around 1 a.m. Being unable to open the door, the perpetrator left. An hour later, Mrs. Carmichael was awoken by a man standing beside her bed who left without attacking either her or her husband. The Houk family found signs of tampering outside the windows of their home the following morning, leading them to believe that someone had also attempted to enter the house. The first three incidents ended with the perpetrator leaving without doing any harm, but the final was fatal.

In a small house of three rooms, Bertie Huskey Dooley was startled at 1 a.m. by a sound at her window. To ease his wife’s fears, Lester Dooley put down the windows and retrieved an ax to leave by their bed. About an hour and 45 minutes later, they were awakened once again to find a man holding a light standing at the end of their bed. The man asked them for any guns they might have as well as any money. While Mr. Dooley said that he did not have a gun, the marauder would steal $17 that night. After that, the marauder advanced on Mrs. Dooley in an attempt to assault her. Mrs. Dooley’s screams spurred Mr. Dooley to act in her defense. He quickly arose from the bed to position himself between his wife and her assailant. Though the Marauder warned him to lie back down, Mr. Dooley remained protecting his wife. The night marauder is quoted to have said, “you are trying to get your gun are you?” when a gunshot erupted in the room. The bullet entered the right side of Mr. Dooley’s body, doing irreparable damage. In shock, Mrs. Dooley’s continued screams compelled the intruder to flee from the house. It was found that the marauder exited through the front door which was not locked that night.

Mrs. Dooley sprung from the bedroom and into an adjoining room of the house. She took a moment to compose herself before she made her way to a neighbor’s house to alert the authorities. Mrs. Dooley did not originally ride in the ambulance with her husband, but after receiving word that he was in critical condition, she made her way to the hospital to be at his side. While in the hospital, Mr. Dooley was reported to be very coherent and gave a description of the man who had entered their house. The Dooleys as well as the Carmichaels, who’s house had also been invaded, shared similar details. The description was of a white man who had used something to blacken his face. From there the two families noted different attributes of the invader. Mrs. Carmichael noted that the man was, “heavy set and had on a cap,” while Mr. Dooley detailed a fake black mustache.

Lester Dooley was a thirty-year-old twice honorably discharged veteran that had served in World War I. Before he came to Knoxville, Mr. Dooley had been married once before and had children that lived in Georgia.  He worked at the Appalachian Marble Mills that the couple lived rather close to. Bertie Huskey Dooley had also worked at the Mills before their marriage two months prior to the murder. At 9:15 a.m., Lester Dooley was pronounced dead. He was laid to rest in the National Cemetery on November 9, 1921.

Dooley’s headstone in the National Cemetery in Knoxville, TN.

That same day as the murder, Mayor E.W. Neal announced an increase in the amount to the reward that existed prior. The original reward to anyone who could provide information that would lead to the arrested of the person or people involved in the home invasions and murders was $1,000. After the murder of Lester Dooley, the value increased by $2,500 for a total of $3,500. In reaction to the morning of November 7, the police increased their patrol officers. Under normal circumstances, the city of Knoxville had 57 officers that would be split into 13 “beats” over three shifts. This averages to around 19 officers to each section. The beat where the murders occurred was number 13 which was spanned a large area but did not have many inhabitants. The night shift from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. was given an additional 6 patrolmen in hopes of catching the “midnight invader”.

The month after the death of Lester Dooley’s death saw a series of noteworthy events that were both odd and related back to the case. The first began the day after Dooley’s passing when the newspaper printed several articles on the Dooleys’ personal lives. The first of the articles mentions that the Dooleys had only been married for two month when the murder occurred and for nearly half the time Bertie Huskey Dooley had been staying with family in Server County. It is reported that in the month before the home invasion, October, the Dooleys had taken out a life insurance policy that Mrs. Dooley had filed to claim the day after his death. Mrs. Dooley told the papers that the before the murder, Mr. Dooley had revealed to her that he had been married previously and had children that lived in Georgia. Lester Dooley’s two brothers who had arrived from out of state collaborated her story and added that they did not know whether Mr. Dooley had ever received a divorce from his first wife. At the end of each article on these matters, the newspapers had added disclaimers that the police did not think these coincidences had anything to do with the murder. Yet the writing gives the feel that the authors did not agree with the police’s conclusion. This only lasted only for a few days after the murder before the family could grieve in peace.

The next major event was reported to the public on November 18, 1921. Rev. C. C. Pardo, the officiator of Lester Dooley’s funeral, is said to have received a distressing call. The caller was male and began by affirming whom he was talking to. Once Rev. Pardo verified himself, the caller told him that the night marauder was not the one who killed Mr. Dooley. Rev. Pardo reported the chain of events to the police. Unable to identify the caller and having other evidence that connected the case to the others, since the unidentified informant came forward the Dooley Murder would continue to be connected to the Night Marauder.

Other such evidence was found in ballistics connecting the crime to others committed by the Midnight Invader. The actions of the perpetrator were similar to those of the previous crimes. As well, the bullet that had killed Lester Dooley was a lead, .38 caliber pistol round. The same bullet was found in the Ida Tilson case and a crime that occurred later on November 26, 1921 outside the Young house on 125 Webster Street. The crime at the Young house resulted in a nonfatal injury of police captain, J. J. Schneider. The end of 1921 saw an end to the attacks in Knoxville, but for the neighboring Blount County and the city of Maryville, the Night Marauder had only just begun.

Published by Nancy Locklin

I am a professor of history at Maryville College in east Tennessee.

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