A New Suspect

This post was based on a chapter written by N. Locklin and edited by Katie Leming (MC ’23)

On Saturday, February 6, 1926, a new suspect was being held in connection with the Night Marauder attacks. The Knoxville Sentinel does not name him in their initial report, though he is later identified as Luther Jones. The paper reported that a private investigator from Cincinnati named Herman L. Glaze had been working the case and had identified the real perpetrator. Will Sheffey was still in custody in Loudon County, awaiting his third trial. The article stated that Glaze was working with Sheffey’s defense in the interest of freeing him and indicated that the Aluminum Co. of America (ALCOA) was funding his work.

The story prompted a reply to the Maryville Times from A. D. Huddleston, Assistant Superintendent of ALCOA. On Thursday, February 11, he wrote that in spite of what the Knoxville paper had claimed, the company had nothing to do with the case “for or against Will D. Sheffey now held for the crimes in question” and that they had no intention of taking an interest in any case on the docket. Huddleston’s letter concluded by thanking the newspaper for giving their complaint “prominent space,” explaining perhaps why a letter to the editor appeared on the first page of the issue. The public statement seemed to quiet any further speculation.

Rightly or wrongly, ALCOA had been thrust into the very heart of the trial of Will Sheffey. Representatives from among the company’s management and employees served as witnesses both for and against the accused. Former superintendent B. L. Glasscock was a character witness in Sheffey’s defense while a number of co-workers were witness for the state. Sheffey was a longtime employee in the plant’s store and samples of his writing from work were compared to the handwritten anonymous Emery letter. Some of those who would have regularly seen Sheffey’s handwriting at the plant said that it matched that of the letter-writer, but others claimed it did not. As far as the court and the public was concerned, ALCOA was neutral. Most people had no idea that V. J. Hultquist, construction division manager of the Aluminum Co. and city manager of Alcoa, had been the one to hire the detective known as “Ed Jones.” Ed Jones, of course, was the alias for Frederick Hinrichsen, former head of plant security at the company’s East St. Louis location. Hultquist was never involved personally with the investigations or the Sheffey trial, so the company was never publicly implicated in the case against Sheffey.

As for the new suspect, Robert Luther Jones, his life had been a somewhat tragic tale. He first appeared in local news stories on March 28, 1922, when the Knoxville Journal and Tribune reported that Jones, “One of the War’s Human Wrecks” was released from custody following a Habeas Corpus writ. He had long suffered from exposure to gas and from shell shock dating back to his service in Siberia and then the Philippines. The Knoxville Sentinel called him “living evidence of the grim tragedy of war.” Luther was the son of Mrs. Addie Jones of Maryville and had been arrested in 1922 by Sheriff M. H. Edmundson of Blount County.  The newspaper reported that his mother and young wife trembled and wept in the courtroom as their attorney plead for his freedom due to insanity. Meanwhile, the Sheriff insisted that Jones was faking his mental illness and should be held accountable for attempted grand larceny of a car and a previous charge of “wrongful disposition of a number of bathing suits.”  Jones had been sent to an army hospital for evaluation in Augusta, then in Nashville, and finally in Atlanta, but he escaped from each place.  In light of his erratic behavior, in general and in the courtroom, the judge decided that all previous charges were to be nullified and he should be released.

When Jones was arrested in 1926 during an attempted robbery of the Fincannon Radiator Co. and a drug store on N. Central St, detective Glaze jumped at the chance to prove Jones was the Night Marauder. Glaze contacted all of the law enforcement witnesses connected to the Sheffey case and invited them to see if Jones was their man. Alcoa police officer Sam Walker went to visit Jones in the Knoxville jail to see if he might have been the man he saw one night in Alcoa in 1923. On that occasion, Walker had encountered a man passing through people’s backyards with a flashlight, climbing onto porches and trying to open doors. The man ran when the officer called out to him, so Walker fired his pistol at him and thought he’d made contact. But, at the 1926 trial, Walker stated he was certain that Jones was not the man he had shot at years earlier. Jones bore the scars of a shotgun wound from a hunting accident involving his brother-in-law and not a pistol gunshot. Knoxville Chief of Detectives A. L. Wells said he had allowed Glaze to talk to the suspect but had no idea at the time what had passed between them.  It seems pretty clear that Glaze left the interview convinced of Jones’ guilt, persuaded Walker to see for himself, and Walker had come to a different conclusion.

The crimes that Luther Jones had committed or attempted since returning from the war were very different from the Night Marauder attacks. He was often confused and unpredictable, but he was mostly a thief. There had been one occasion, reported by the Knoxville papers, when Jones had approached a young woman from Maryville who was working in Knoxville. He tried to get the woman to leave with him, claiming her family was sick and had sent for her. Feeling suspicious, the woman called home and found that her family was fine. She told him to leave, and he did. Coworkers trailed Jones and later turned him over to the police. Once again, Jones was released to his family, who agreed to get him some professional help. In 1926, the family would tell reporters that Luther was often in trouble with the law but did not seem capable of doing the sort of crimes attributed to the Night Marauder.

Glaze was featured with some fanfare at the start of the April 1926 trial as someone brought on by the defense team after the December 1925 trial. The Knoxville papers reported that the detective had been hard at work for several weeks and that he had evidence that would vindicate Sheffey completely. Headlines across the region spread excitement about the upcoming trial and the groundbreaking new evidence that would finally clear Sheffey’s name. However, Glaze never made an appearance in the actual trial. After all of that anticipation, he disappeared from the record once the trial began.

The name Luther Jones would appear again in the news over the next several years. In 1929 his wife, Josephine Mason Davenport, petitioned to claim property owned by her husband. The Knoxville court declared that, since Jones was a resident at a home for the mentally insane in Lansing, Michigan, her marriage was null and void. Attorney D. S. Kramer represented Jones’ guardian, W. E. Parham, in safeguarding Jones’ property while he was held at the hospital. The marriage of Luther and Josephine had already been annulled by the courts years earlier but the two remarried not long after that. Later that year, when Jones was being sought for information regarding another case, Sheriff Pate was quoted as saying Luther Jones could not be located immediately but would probably show up eventually. The man was “incompetent” and liked to wander. In 1934, Robert L. Jones was arrested for the robbery of the Tom Wells grocery store on Broadway in Knoxville. This time, Jones was convicted and sentenced to 10 years in the state penitentiary.

Announcement in the Knoxville News Sentinel June 19, 1930.

It isn’t entirely clear what Sheffey’s defense team had in mind when they promoted Herman Glaze’s questionable work as a private investigator. Honestly, Glaze had been listed in the Cincinnati city directory as a “traveling salesman” up until 1926 when he was listed as head of a “Detective Agency.” Perhaps the plausibility that the real predator was still out there would be enough to muddy the waters and introduce reasonable doubt in the minds of the jurors. Heaven knows there were many vulnerable and suspicious figures on the streets who might be blamed for these crimes. Maybe any one of them would be a more likely suspect than the hardworking family man who still had one more trial to endure.

Published by Nancy Locklin

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

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