The Crime Wave shifts to Blount County

Based on a piece written by Nancy Locklin, edited by Cooper Harrison (’22).

The Blount Country crimewave began on June 15, 1922, when Miss Mary McCampbell awoke to a man with a pistol and a flashlight in hand. She was the matron of the Blount County Children’s Home and was checking on the residents. The intruder struck her with the pistol and then left. When police questioned Mary, she was unable to describe the intruder, and all the intruder had left behind was a pair of muddy footprints. That same night, three or four other cases of break-ins were reported but no one saw the man’s face. Were these break-ins the work of the Night Marauder or were they simply attempted burglary? The private investigator hired by V. J. Hultquist in 1924 seemed to think they were connected. These homes, like those in the Knoxville attacks, lacked electric light and were therefore easy targets. But aside from that, the June 15 break-ins were different.

The targets are not the same at all. It’s one thing to sneak into a room where a young couple or pair of sisters are sleeping and quite another to break into a children’s home where potentially a dozen residents are sleeping. The intruder’s actions at the children’s home also did not match the behavior of the Night Marauder.  In no account does Mary McCampbell indicate she awoke to find someone touching her. She simply states she saw the man, then he struck her, and took off. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter if the attack on Mary McCampbell was at the hands of the serial killer. The people of Maryville and Alcoa were terrified. They had yet to see the likes of the murders and assaults that had plagued Knoxville, but the possibility was very real that such attacks were coming.

Historic downtown Maryville. Links to Preservation Plaza.com..

The widespread fear was justified. The next series of attacks left no doubt that it was the work of the same criminal. On March 23, 1923, in the early hours of the morning, perhaps 2:30, Ressie Allison awoke because a man’s cold hands were on her body as she slept. A man’s hand grasped her ankle. As she roused herself, she asked, “Is that you, Daddy?” The reply she got shocked her. He told her to “be quiet” or he’d kill her. She saw then the intruder had a flashlight and a pistol. She tried to scream for a boarder named Mr. Walker who slept in an adjoining room, but the strange man prevented her from calling out. He assaulted her and then fled the house.

On April 27, 1923, Grace Martin Walker was attacked in her home. The intruder attempted to assault her, dragging her from the bed. She stated it was clearly a Black man she fought with, and he ran off when she screamed for her family sleeping upstairs. Her assailant fled. Like others before her, Miss Walker later told the private investigator that said she was sure she could identify the voice of her attacker.

A couple of nights later, in April 1923, the Night Marauder entered the home of a woman while her husband worked a night shift. Myrtle Cook was assaulted around 2 a.m. in her home on Hannum Ave, on Parham Hill. She confirmed that he had a pistol and a flashlight and that she believed she could identify the attacker’s voice.

On July 5, 1923, the Night Marauder visited a series of homes. We now know it is not unusual for a serial killer to attack multiple victims in a single night, especially if he was left unsatisfied by the first attack. On this night, the Marauder targeted homes at the back of Babcock Lumber Mills near the South Rail yard. Mr. and Mrs. Sam Lawson were awoken by the sounds of an intruder, but the man never got close. They both cried out and the intruder fled.

The next target was the Reagan home. Sam Reagan and his wife, Lizzie, slept in one room and Sam’s brother, Allen Reagan, and his wife Martha slept in another. Lizzie would prove to be a useful witness in the investigation because she saw everything clearly and had a lot to say about that night. By chance, Lizzie woke up to see a man with a flashlight enter the house from the door on the front porch.  She saw the pistol and flashlight and, in dismay, woke her husband because she believed Sam’s brother was pointing a gun at his own wife. Turning back to the figure in the dark, she said she got a really good look at him and realized it was not Allen holding the gun. She clearly described him to the police, and she would later select his photo out of a set of suspects.  That night, Lizzie saw the man and heard him threaten to shoot Allen if he moved before fleeing the house.

Foiled in the Reagan home, the Night Marauder went directly to the Roberts home on Wrights Ferry Road. Carter Roberts was the first to wake when a man entered their home holding a flashlight and a pistol. When Carter challenged the intruder and advanced toward him, he fled.

Having been chased away from two homes in a row, the Night Marauder was becoming frustrated. That’s when he entered the home of Lon Bible. It was 3 a.m. and the storm was still raging. Lon’s mother-in-law, Mrs. J. A. Sharp, awoke to find a man standing over her with a gun and a flashlight. The intruder warned her to “keep quiet” and that he would shoot her if she hollered. She screamed for Lon to get a gun as there was a man in the house. Lon scrambled to light a lamp but found someone had hidden the matches and moved the lamp. The marauder may have been frustrated but he was still attentive to detail. Giving up on the light, Lon turned to chase the man out of his house. Just as Lon reached his front porch, the intruder turned and fired a shot that narrowly missed him.

In spite of his many failures that night, the Night Marauder would take pride in his attack on Lon Bible’s house and carefully describe it in a letter to the sheriff.

John Honeycutt–A Killer or a Star-Crossed Lover?

This post was written by contributor Allie Maynard (MC’24). The post was edited by N. Locklin.

John Honeycutt was a local man of the Knoxville area. A simpleton if you will, he had the simple everyday life of the 1915 era he’d go to work, come home, drink a little and repeat. He was a mill worker in the area, there wasn’t very much that was unique to the man. In November 1921 police officers volunteered to help with a curfew in the area since the Night Marauder was still at large. The Night Marauder had been taking advantage of this area for months and had still not been caught. The Night Marauder was causing terror and fright to the people of the Knoxville area.

On the night of November 25, 1921, into the morning of the 26th John Honeycutt was out and about. During this time, a curfew was still in effect. It was known you needed to be in your house during these times. However, John Honeycutt claims that he needed some whiskey and he was just making a trip to the store. It was also claimed by John Honeycutt that he was working in the mill around midnight that night. While going to the store Honeycutt says he heard shots and he feared that he would be connected with it. At the same time, a man was trying to break and enter into Arthur Young’s house and that man fled when discovered. The man shot at Captain Schneider and then fired at patrolman Clifton and escaped. Captain J.J Schneider volunteered to be on patrol that night in the mill district with patrolman officer Clifton. Captain Schneider was shot in the lung but fortunately Schneider survived and would live a long life.

John Honeycutt, worried that he was the one that would be blamed for the shooting, asked his lover Nettie Myers to flee with him back to her home in Alabama. The day after Christmas, Nettie Myers told her husband that she was leaving. Nettie Myers and John Honeycutt left for Alabama and eloped, changing their names so that John could continue to work at a mill. Nettie testified to cops that it was John’s idea to change their name to Murray. In early February 1922, John Honeycutt was found at the mill in Alabama by the police. Patrolman Clifton claims that he could pick Honeycutt out of 500 men. When John was caught, the patrolman said that John asked not to be hanged. The police took Honeycutt and his lover back up to Tennessee where they were held in jail. Nettie Myers was released while John Honeycutt was Kept in custody. Myers was able to go back home to her husband Robert and live without any consequences.

On April 16, 1922, John Honeycutt was officially convicted on one count of shooting a police officer, Captain JJ Schneider. Honeycutt was sentenced to one to five years in jail. It took the jury 45 minutes to decide a verdict. At 6:10 pm they announced the verdict of Honeycutt being guilty. He was taken to jail and was ready to await further charges for the Night Marauder cases. His case was especially easy to be convicted of shooting a police officer since his Star-crossed lover and her husband testified against him in court. Captain Schneider also came to court and identified John Honeycutt as the one who had shot him on the night of November 25th.

Sadly in December 1922, John was found dead in his cell. Reporters were told that Honeycutt was not believed to be seriously ill and police had thought he would be fine. The next morning, they found him lying still, not breathing. They said he took his secrets to the grave because the courts never had the chance to try him for the Night Marauder cases. Reporters at the time implied Honeycutt had been the prime suspect for all of the recent attacks. They declared that the victims would never get the justice they deserve. He possibly could’ve taken very many secrets to the grave on things like; was he actually going to get whiskey or working in the mill that night? The world will never know because John Honeycutt took those secrets to the grave, literally.

When we look at the case of John Honeycutt now, it is hard to believe he was the Night Marauder. The marauder attacks continued while Honeycutt was in jail and long after his death. It is possible that someone else continued his work but it seems more likely he was not the killer. John Honeycutt’s death is another mystery. His illness was never quite explained and it was strange that he was not found until morning because the officers patrolled the jailhouse during the night.

The story is a classic tale of star-crossed lovers, crime, tragic death, and murder. This has seemed to become like something out of a good book. Almost seems that it was a story too good to be true. If the shots weren’t fired and Honeycutt wasn’t out and about he never would have been a suspect in the night marauder case. The trials of love and death were too much for Honeycutt and his lover. In the end, Nettie betrayed Honeycutt, going back to the man she didn’t love and then served as a witness at his trial. Maybe it wasn’t love yet fear. Fear of danger and consequences. Her fear to leave or do something wrong, Fear of the world. Luckily it seems her life was able to calm down like an ocean after a storm. No rough waves or breaking of ships, only peace, and nothing but silence. Nettie Myers seems to disappear after the trial. It is just assumed that she lived her life out with her husband after John was dead.

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.

Rookie Mistake, or, Why It’s a Bad Idea to Surprise a Woman Holding a Hatchet

The Night Marauder project was recently honored by a visit from criminologist Lee Mellor, and he had so much to teach us about the killer. Dr. Mellor made reference to the frantic events in which the intruder ran from one unsuccessful attack to another within a neighborhood. Sometimes, the event wouldn’t end until the Marauder managed to assault or shoot someone. This is the pattern of a “disorganized” criminal.  His brutality might seem practiced and carefully planned at times, but he was more likely acting on impulse and taking great risk. In some of the attacks, the marauder seems to have had knowledge that the men of the house would be on the night shift in the city’s mills. In other cases, like the sloppy encounter with Maude Maples and the deadly attack on Alice Burnett and Eula Henry, the intruder had preyed on women who happened to be guests in someone else’s home. He approached them in places where they usually would not have slept, making it seem like pure chance or whim. In the deadly attack on Ida Tilson and the deep traumatization of her little sister, Georgia, he seems to have targeted the home regularly, intending to assault Georgia and her even younger sister who usually slept in that room. His attacks were all over the place.

Imagine his surprise when, on August 3rd, just two days after Ida Tilson’s murder, the marauder slipped into a home where the young woman in the room happened to be cutting kindling for the wood stove. Blanche Raby lived at 1220 Marion Street with her mother, Mrs. Victory Riggs. At the time, Blanche was a 17-year-old cotton mill worker living with her mom and stepdad. She could read and write, but the 1920 census confirms she had never attended school. It was quite early for a Night Marauder attack—just 7:40 pm and on a warm August evening, Blanche was probably getting the stove ready to cook supper. The hatchet appears to have been an effective deterrent, though she dropped it not long after they began to struggle. The intruder ran away after shooting at her.  A neighbor of Raby’s, a jeweler named Mr. James Groseclose, told reporters he had just come home after closing his shop. He happened to be standing on his front porch when he heard screams from the Raby house and rounded the corner in time to see a man climbing over a fence. It was not yet very dark, but Groseclose never saw the stranger’s face. He lamented he’d had no idea he witnessed a prowler’s escape because he had his .35 Smith & Wesson on him and would have shot the man. Raby confirmed that this was a white man with “a dark complexion”, but, like many other victims she could offer no more detail than that.

The newspapers commented on the “orgy of crime” since the attack on the Tilson home and reported that police were frustrated. In spite of the curfew and dragnet, there were persistent sightings of random people out in the streets with no justification. One promising report came from a witness, Rose Turner, who was returning from a show in the company of other women as they crossed a pasture on the way home. As they did so, a man ran past at “a dead run” away from the homes and towards the railway line. Turner said she knew the man, and he had once entered her home to try and assault her, cutting her arm before he gave up. She also noted he visited from out of town and that the assaults all seemed to be happening when he came to Knoxville. However, police said they had trouble believing Blanch Raby’s account. She said the man had a dark coat on when Groseclose and Turner both said the man was in his shirtsleeves. He might have shed his coat somewhere, but no such coat was ever found.

Miss Ruby Walker, later Mrs. Ruby Mitchell, spoke to the private investigator in 1925. She told him that on September 20th, 1921, an intruder entered her home on Lyde Alley, where she lived with her parents and four younger siblings. At the time, she was 17 and working as a telephone operator.  She recalled that the stranger tried to assault her and, when she resisted, he shot at her, missed, and fled.  Newspapers from 1921 do not report any of this event. The news in those days was dominated by the trial of silent film star Fatty Arbunkle for the rape and murder of actress Virgina Rappe. Other headlines followed the fight to bring the national Kiwanis Convention to Knoxville, and preparation for the upcoming Agricultural Fair at Chilhowee Park.

On October 25th, after midnight on a Monday, Mrs. William Bailey awoke to find the Night Marauder in her home at 1210 Euclid Avenue. He threatened her with his pistol and succeeded in sexually assaulting her. She claimed that he threatened her husband, who did not dare move during the attack. She insisted that she could see his face from the reflected rays of the flashlight and that it was definitely a Black man. A man named Luther Saffel was arrested for this crime and he admitted to being in the neighborhood that morning. The owner of the building at 318 Marble Alley in which Saffell rented a room testified that he was sure Saffel had to gone to bed around 9 p.m. and that the building is locked up every night at 11 p.m. Doors remained locked until the owner opened them at 4:30 a.m. Other boarders swore that they heard Saffell leave for work around 5:30 a.m., which would have been after the assault on Mrs. Bailey was complete. Saffell said he was walking to work that morning and happened to see a hunting party returning to the neighborhood. Several of the hunters, all of whom were also Black, confirmed that they had seen him on the corner of Vine and Central Aves. Interviewed separately, the men described their actions that morning as they loaded their hounds into a car. Saffell was able to describe all he had seen, and all the stories matched. Neverthless, Saffell would be tried for the crime because Mrs. Bailey was unshaken in her certainty. Other neighbors who had reported break-ins committed by a Black man between 2 and 3:30 a.m. said they were not sure at all that Saffell was the man they encountered in their homes. On November 19, 1921, the media reported that Saffell was likely to be freed since so few witnesses were able to positively identify him.

Other homes entered that night included the home of Robert Schubert on W. Baxter Ave, where a marauder stood at the foot of the bed with a pistol and flashlight. Mrs. Schubert felt someone’s hands on her ankle as she slept. When Mr. Schubert attempted to stand to confront him, the stranger fired a shot towards the bed, where an infant slept between his parents, and fled. The next home invaded was at 44 Knox St., where the home of Margaret Lane stood. Mrs. Lane was a widow who shared her home with her son William, his wife and their baby boy. In this case, it was Mrs. Lane who first stirred and interrupted the marauder’s plans. Nevertheless, none of these witnesses were able to furnish a description and none were prepared to identify even the race of the intruder.

On October 31st, 1921, Mrs. R. S. Schultz was awakened by a marauder in her home at 704 Baxter Avenue. He attempted to assault her, but she fought him off. He shot at her and missed and fled the scene. As in the case for Ruby Walker, this incident is reported years after the fact to a private investigator, but the press of the day made no mention of the many break-ins in the city. That is, until the next deadly attack.

The Purpose of Terror

Even if most of Knoxville was no longer interested in the Night Marauder, he did not need to terrorize the whole city to achieve his aims. He really only needed his victims to be terrified. His next attack, however, would revive the city’s attention while also traumatizing the only witness for the rest of her life.

On August 1st, 1921, the Tilson home at 420 W. Baxter Ave was invaded by the Night Marauder. It was a house with three rooms in a row and one room, the kitchen, off to the side where a door opened onto the backyard. Ida (21) and her sister Georgia (15) shared a bed in the front room, where a door opened onto the front porch. It turns out, Georgia normally slept with her sister Ruby in that room, but Ida joined her that night because Ruby had fallen asleep in Ida’s usual bed. Newspapers would say it was her “kindness of heart” towards her little sister that put her in the room where the marauder would kill her. Just after 1:30 a.m., the sisters awoke to find a man in their room, holding a pistol and shining the light of a flashlight into their eyes. He told them to be quiet and tried to climb into bed with them, making “indecent proposals” all the while. Ida fought with the man, telling him she would rather die than give in to his demands. He whispered fiercely that he would not hesitate to kill her, but she continued to resist. He indicated he would simply take her younger sister, and, at that, she redoubled her efforts. He struck her several times with the gun but even then, she did not stop. Finally, he shot her and left the house. Their father, James Tilson, got to the room to see Georgia holding her bloody sister and crying. Ida died a few hours later at the hospital.

Knoxville Sentinel, August 3, 1921

Georgia was spared. He did not stay to assault her, and she was not physically injured at all. But she remained damaged by the encounter. On the day after the attack, newspapers reported Georgia suffered from “nervous prostration” and was unable to give any account of what had happened. Georgia remained in “a state of collapse” for quite some time. She was under a doctor’s care and was medicated but could not sleep and had fainting spells during the day. The rest of the family—their father, grandparents, younger siblings and two uncles who lived nearby—came running only as Ida lay dying and the intruder had fled out the front door. No one but Georgia could have said what the man looked like. Even days later, the courts postponed the inquest twice because Georgia was still in shock and was sent out to the countryside to recover. In the meantime, some in the family said Ida whispered it was a Black man who had fought with her while others disputed that. Police and the courts held out hope that Georgia would recover enough to testify and asked reporters to leave her alone.

Rufus Tilson, one of her uncles, said they were close and that she trusted him. She was willing to tell him all that had happened, and he claimed at first that her statement would shed no more light on the matter. He told the Knoxville Sentinel that he went to see her and found her “troubled, disorganized, and almost frantic.” He was the one to recommend she be taken away from the city for some peace and quiet. He said she also told him she trusted him to protect her if the marauder came back. Georgia said the intruder had warned her that he would kill her if she ever identified him, and she took that threat to heart.

By August 16, 1921, Georgia was recovered enough to testify at the inquest. She stated with absolute certainty that it had been a white man who attacked her and her sister and she named him. She said it was someone she had never spoken to but who was often around their neighborhood.  The newspaper did not print the name of the man, and the coroner and the judge decided her word was not enough for them to arrest the man. They do not explain why they decided this when they had not not hesitated to name, arrest, and then have to release other white men in the previous week. (Ernest Connor, who worked with Ida at the Brookside Mill and had paid attention to her and Edmund Dowling, who had been to church with Ida the evening of her murder.)  Chief of police Haynes offered to arrest the man anyway if the girls’ father wanted them to do so. It appears he did not request the man’s arrest at that time.

During the first dragnet of the city, rumors circulated that the police had given a free pass to some well-respected, unnamed man. He had been found armed and dressed like the intruder on a night during which someone had been killed. And now, once again, someone identified by the only possible witness was going to be ignored. And the attacks would continue.

Years later, with the private investigator hired in Alcoa, TN, Georgia would pick the killer out of a photo of 20 men and confirm that he was the one who had shot her sister. The investigator was thrilled because she had picked out his number-one suspect and he was building a case against the man.

Georgia said that the marauder had entered their home three weeks before August 1, perhaps as part of his July rampage, and had threatened her. However, others in the house heard him and he ran away. They found a mark on her temple where the stranger had pressed the muzzle of his pistol. She believed he returned on August 1 to finish what had been interrupted in July. Furthermore, three weeks after Ida was murdered, Georgia and her uncle were returning to the house, and they saw a man hiding in nearby woods. She was sure it was the same man, returned to get her. Her uncle sent her into the house and went to find the man, but he was gone. Georgia’s whole family was very careful of her, but she never felt safe again. She said she could never forget his eyes, his face, or his voice and she shuddered every time she remembered him. And, having named him in court in 1921, only to have him hunting her a week after that, confirmed that the Night Marauder meant it when he said he would return.

When the investigator went to see her in February 1925, Georgia was a married woman with a child. Nevertheless, she would only speak to the detective with her whole family present. She was willing to look at the photo and the investigator instructed her to take it to her room and take her time before speaking. Her mother objected, saying Georgia might have a panic attack if she even saw a likeness of the murderer. That is how fragile Georgia had been since the attack. But Georgia insisted she could do it and she picked him out of a group photo. She was even willing to sign an affidavit confirming her identification. However, Georgia said with some regret that she could not possibly testify in court. He had said he would kill her if she did and so she could not help build a case against him. That was the extent of her involvement in the case and the investigator noted his frustration. He was worried that the signed affidavit would not be enough to arrest the suspect and hold him for very long.

Georgia Tilson Hill lived a full life but a descendent told me “Great Aunt Georgie” went to her grave having never identified the Night Marauder to anyone else.

The World Goes On

If there was tension in Knoxville after the Night Marauder attacks in May 1921, you couldn’t tell so from the Knoxville Sentinel.  As in all good urban papers, every issue included a mix of international, national, and local news alongside advice and pop culture gossip. There was a good amount of farm-related news, acknowledging that several family farms still operated within the city limits, and a lot of ads for local stores and dubious cures for a variety of ailments.

A series of reports in the first part of the summer dealt with a “mysterious howl” many had heard coming from an abandoned house, widely believed to be the work of a ghost. It was common to see society posts, such as “Miss Louise Johnston, the attractive daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Thos. H. Johnston, will return from New York, where she is attending school, the first week in June.” (May 21, 1921) Post-WW I European recovery reports dominated, alongside sports news about Jack Dempsey’s incredible feats in the ring and Mary Pickford’s role in the latest film “Through the Back Door.”

The Knoxville Sentinel, July 4, 1921

More serious headlines throughout June 1921 followed the Tulsa race massacre as the story unfolded. The front pages of city papers for weeks featured the scandalous trial of a rich woman in Cleveland, Ohio, for the attempted murder of her husband. The Kaber case was a scandal that made the news nationwide. The biggest local story involving violence concerned a posse trying to find four white men who had murdered a man in Harriman, TN, leaving his bound and gagged body in the woods. The killers evaded arrest until June 16th. Meanwhile, Marion Wilson, the police chief of Johnson City, TN, was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter in an arrest gone wrong. An 11-year-old girl was found murdered in a baseball park in Kingston on June 6, her body “outraged” after her death. While the suspect in Kingston went on trial, that city enacted a strict curfew. The only reports in Knoxville related to the Night Marauder were updates on Maurice May’s ongoing appeal of his conviction and capital sentence for the Murder of Bertie Lindsey.

The Night Marauder went on a bit of a rampage in July, breaking into five homes over two nights. First hit was the home of John Condon at 207 Laurens Avenue: in the early hours of Tuesday, July 5, Condon interrupted an intruder attempting to assault his young daughter. The stranger fled and later entered the home of Mrs. Lonas Yates at 915 North Central, who was threatened with death if she screamed: she screamed anyway and ran out of the house and the marauder left quickly leaving Mrs. Yates unharmed. It would have been a 47-minute walk from Laurens Ave (now Laurans) to North Central, but this brings the Marauder back to his favorite neighborhoods. The next home, somewhere on Jackson Ave, was located in what is now known as the Old City. Miss Donna Daniels, the third person to find an intruder at her home that night, lived only 17 minutes from Mrs. Yates. Miss Daniels screamed and jumped out a window as a shot was fired at her, but neither she nor her roommate Annie Haynes were ultimately harmed.

The three failures must have frustrated the marauder because he returned later Tuesday to try again. Around 8 p.m., unusually early for the Marauder attacks, J. T. Leidenhammer found a man in his house at 2727 Jefferson Avenue and shouted at him. The man fired a shot, striking Leidenhammer in the arm, and then left. Leidenhammer called the police immediately, convinced the shooter was still hiding in the space under his house. Police found no one there, but Leidenhammer crawled under the house himself and found his own pistol with one round missing. He didn’t remember when he last used his gun but clearly it was stolen by the intruder and then discarded. Just after 2 a.m. on Wednesday morning, Miss Ethel Wilson awoke to an intruder in her home at 603 Chamberlain Street. She was instructed to remain silent and go to the kitchen, where the man assaulted her on the floor. Wilson’s mother was a deep sleeper and never heard a thing and there were very few clues left behind. Nevertheless, Chief Detective O’Conner told reporters that he felt sure they were on the verge of an arrest, and he credited the recent lack of attacks on the vigilance of the night patrolmen. Chamberlain St. no longer exists but it was not far from W. Fifth Ave near the Old City. Jefferson Ave is not very close by, but of course the Night Marauder had all night to get there from Leidenhammer’s place and needed to be careful to select a target where the patrolmen did not pass frequently. Chamberlain ran alongside a rail line and Second Creek so it was isolated in spite of its proximity to busy urban areas.

The Night Marauders activities in Knoxville were far from over. However, the strangest thing about his attacks in the summer of 1921 was the waning interest of the public. Only a few months earlier, headlines screamed of a populace in terror, armed to the teeth. The report of July’s incidents were on page 14 of the Knoxville Sentinel and the Journal and Tribune didn’t carry the story at all. The Night Marauder was becoming boring.

Changing the Pattern or Inspiring Copycats?

In preparation for a case in Blount County in 1924, a private investigator attempted to create the definitive list of every Night Marauder attack since 1919. We have alluded to him before, especially when the original reports of an incident did not line up with what witnesses later told the P.I. In some of these cases, break-ins and attacks were often similar enough to the typical pattern that one could chalk up the differences to trauma and the power of suggestion. In such cases, the attacks could have been the work of the Night Marauder. Other cases in 1921 included details that suggest someone different was to blame for the violence.

Hazel Giffin told the investigator in 1924 that on the night of April 20, 1921, someone broke into her family’s home at 510 Clinch Ave. Hazel told the private investigator that a man had attacked her during the night as she came out of the bathroom in her home. The P. I.’s report says simply that the intruder “assaulted her and accomplished his task” before fleeing from the house she shared with her parents and siblings.

However, the Knoxville Sentinel reported a very different kind of attack on that night. On Wednesday the 20th, the Sentinel reported that the daughter of Robert Giffin was accosted by two Black men as she passed an alleyway near the First M. E. Church. Hazel was 15 at the time and on her way home in the evening. She told the police one of the men grabbed her and tried to clamp a hand over her mouth while the other seemed to be reaching to open a nearby car door. She managed to scream, and the two men fled. On that night, she was left uninjured though she was hysterical while talking to the police. Her dress was torn. The Knoxville Journal and Tribune did not even report the attack.

The unfortunate Hazel, however, seems to have conflated two attacks into one. On May 12, 1921, the Knoxville Sentinel reported that “a fifth attempt” had been made to break into the Giffin home.  Someone attempted to open a window from outside the small house around 2:30 a.m. and the noise awoke the teenager, who shared a bed with her little sister, Eva. Hazel ran to her parents’ bedroom and that movement was enough to dissuade the intruder from entering. Police found tracks outside the window, but a hard rain made it difficult for the bloodhounds to get a scent. Selma Giffin, the girls’ mother, said that similar attempts had been made over the last year.

In either case, there was no report of sexual assault within the house. It’s possible a sixth attempt was made successfully and that all these memories ran together in Hazel’s mind. The attempt at breaking into a teenaged girl’s bedroom certainly matches the Night Marauder’s usual pattern. However, in this case the intruder had targeted the home of a married couple, their six kids, a son-in-law, and a boarder. The possibility of confronting three grown man would have been a risky proposition for the Night Marauder. If there had been multiple attempts to enter the Giffin home, the would-be intruder had to be familiar with how many people lived there. The attack in this case would have been in the early hours of a Thursday when the most recent attacks had all been on Tuesdays. Finally, Clinch Ave is downtown and therefore also a bit outside the Marauder’s usual hunting grounds. That could reflect the increased vigilance in neighborhoods where he’d already been active, but it could indicate the work of a copycat.

The next case actually took place prior to the attempt to break into the Giffin home, but the investigator listed it as having happened after, accepting Hazel’s statement about being attacked in the month of April. W. B. Davenport told the private investigator in 1924 that during the early hours of Friday, May 6, 1921, someone broke into his home at 647 Dandridge Pike and attempted to assault his two daughters. He claimed the man fled after the girls began to scream and he jumped out of bed.  On a modern map of Knoxville, E. Summit Hill Dr SE is what used to be the beginning of the Dandridge Pike, so depending on how houses were numbered at the time, this could have been walking distance from the Old City. That would mark a return of the Night Marauder to his usual grounds. However, today 647 Dandridge Ave is now somewhat remote. If that is where the attack actually happened, it might signal that the intruder was taking pains to avoid areas prepared for his attacks.

Image taken from Pitner’s 1930 map of Knoxville (Calvin M. McClung Historical Collection) https://cmdc.knoxlib.org/digital/collection/p15136coll4/id/3331

In a strange reversal of Hazel Giffin’s tale, the newspaper reports at the time of the attack state that both Rose (18) and Josie (15) Davenport were sexually assaulted multiple times before their father woke up. Oddly enough, the Knoxville Sentinel report connected this assault to two others in which arrests had already been made. A white man with bright red hair named John West had been arrested on charges he had broken into a home on Clyde St. and attempted to assault some house guests. But, the guests were acquainted with West and had positively identified him. In addition, bloodhounds had led police from the Clyde St. home to the house where White was staying. The very next day, an African American man was arrested following an attempt to enter a Lonsdale home just before sunup.  Chief O’Conner took advantage of the opportunity to remind everyone to remain vigilant and protect their homes and families.

On May 9, 1921, The Knoxville Sentinel reported that Robert Huskey had been arrested in conjunction with the assault of Rose and Josie Davenport. Huskey had formerly boarded with the Davenports and knew the home well. In fact, Mrs. Davenport’s maiden name was Huskey and Robert may have been a relative of the family. Huskey and West were in jail awaiting trial, but the newspaper reported that the African American who had been detained earlier had been released when the witnesses agreed he was not the man they saw.  Huskey’s trial was set for Tuesday, May 10, and he claimed he would be able to furnish a solid alibi.

On May 11, the Sentinel reported that Huskey had given proof that he was in Sevierville the night the Davenport girls were assaulted. Huskey then turned to the girls and told them if he had been guilty, he understood why they would have turned him in. At that point, in the courtroom, the girls broke down and exonerated Huskey, saying he was not the man in their room that night. Their father then threatened them, right in the courtroom, saying he would withdraw all financial support of the girls and kick them out if they did not admit who had been with them. No one else was ever tried for the crime committed in the Davenport home and both women were still living with their parents in 1930.

Rose Davenport went on to marry Randolph Pace. Josie was briefly married but divorced and returned to the home of her parents. She died of tuberculosis in 1935. Their father was the one who met with the investigator three years after the attack, still hoping for closure.

Knoxville remained on alert but the nights would remain quiet until July, when the Night Marauder would outdo himself.

The Lull Between Storms

The situation in Knoxville was getting too hot for the Night Marauder. If the city truly had become, as the papers reported, an “armed camp”, it would explain why three months passed before another attack was attempted. In September, KPD had begun their dragnet of the streets each night and special detachments of night Patrolmen were assigned to the neighborhoods frequented by the Night Marauder.

Law enforcement was certainly kept busy. Following the murder of Alice Burnett, police made good on their promise to arrest every “dope fiend” they could to clear the streets. Dozens of vagrants and drug users were arrested and sent to the county workhouse. Some citizens criticized the dragnet, saying some men had become addicted following treatment for illnesses and were too feeble to face the strain of working. Psychiatrists and physicians repeated their statements that morphine and cocaine addicts were generally physically weaker and only likely to steal, not attack like the Night Marauder did. Nevertheless, dozens of drug users were arrested and some were desperate when captured. On September 26, the Knoxville Journal and Tribune reported that John Vanderbeck, an awning maker, had been picked up for loitering and would soon be charged with a federal narcotics violation. Upon hearing this in the city court, Vanderbeck ran past other prisoners in the dock and leapt out a window. He fell 20 feet to the ground and took off across Market Square, where he ran through one store and then through another store on Gay St. before he was intercepted by Patrolmen Hatcher, Lee, and Tyree. Venderbeck was well-known around Knoxville for his drug use, though he was well liked and always nattily dressed. Police found “a considerable quantity of cocaine” in Venderbeck’s hotel room. The Chief of police made it clear that Vanderbeck was not a suspect in the Marauder case but they wanted to increase pressure on all known criminals. Emergency vehicles and squad cars were even kept with their engines running between midnight and 4 a.m. most nights in case they needed to respond quickly.  However, he also had to admit they had no clues to follow and were nowhere near a solution.

There was a cryptic note in the Knoxville Sentinel reporting a rumor that on September 24 “a prominent young man” had been stopped on the Washington Pike the night of the murder. The young man had matched a description of the intruder from witnesses in the Cox and Key cases and had a flashlight in his pocket. Police released him and did not reveal his name. Chief of Police Haynes insisted that no such thing occurred. “If such a person had been under arrest, his name as well as the names of all others taken up in the dragnet would be announced to the public.”

Police followed up on every report or complaint, responding in person every time someone spotted a stranger. They did not, however, take seriously an anonymous letter threatening violence on behalf of Bolsheviks. It was printed in pencil in all capital letters, and it said, “Chief of Police Haynes, Between September 23 and 25 will be Knoxville’s Red Days. Remember Wall Street! Chief, a tip to the wise, they say is sufficient. Better put a few extras on at some of the more important places. Remember Wall Street!” Police turned the letters over to federal authorities.

Police maintained the high alert for several weeks. They arrested vagrants, prowlers, drug users, and thieves but they never found the Marauder. And the Night Marauder stayed away, biding his time. Perhaps, in the dead of winter, the streets were bare enough to risk venturing out. Perhaps the police had let their guards down.

Mrs. Lillian Bales lived at 204 Bearden Place with her two daughters, Ada, aged 19, and Cleo, aged 16. On the 4th of January, 1921, a man entered their home in the early hours of a Tuesday morning. Bales woke up because someone with a flashlight tried to pull back the blankets that covered her and her sleeping daughters. Mrs. Bales cried out and woke her daughters. The intruder shined a flashlight in Mrs. Bales’ face and ordered her to stop crying. However, by then, all three women were screaming. This frightened the Marauder enough that he ran out of the house, leaving them unhurt. Bales was the widow of Fred Bales, a former Deputy Sheriff, and their two daughters were described as “responsibly employed.” Chief O’Conner assigned Detectives Day and Swaggerty to investigate the break-in.

Detectives traced footsteps from the Bales home to two other homes on Bearden Place, with no signs of entry, and then to the home of Clay Henry at 815 Irwin Street. The Henry home was entered through a locked door, leading police to suspect he had a skeleton key. No one was awakened in the Henry home, but some money was taken. The police were puzzled, however, because the Henry home was the same house where Maude Maples was disturbed on August 10. They could not make sense of it. However, it does suggest that the same man was responsible for all these attacks. Maude Maples was the woman who had been drinking and almost willingly left with the intruder. On that night, the Marauder left 815 Irwin and killed Lula Robinson while assaulting her sister-in-law. Perhaps, then, Maples had lingered in the mind of the Night Marauder as the one who got away. When he entered the home where Clay Henry slept, the intruder realized she was not there and left.

An African American man named Leonard Wilson was shot as he tried to enter a home at 617 Randolph St. at 5:30 a.m. on January 4. The homeowner, Mrs. Maloney, did not hear anything. Her son-in-law, Robert Zoloman, was the first to notice anything and fired as soon as he saw someone trying to get in. Chief O’Conner sent his detectives to interrogate Wilson as soon as he was able to talk. While awaiting their report O’Conner told reporters that he did not believe all the crimes to be committed by the same person. Rather, he thought there was a crime wave returning to Knoxville after months of quiet. As he had done in September, O’Conner said his officers have orders to “shoot to kill” and he advised the citizens to follow the same policy. “That is the only way such criminals can be eradicated and the homes of the city made safe from the depredations of these criminals. Citizens should have firearms in their homes for protection against such a dangerous and daring menace.”

Southern Honor Culture: The Backdrop of the Night Marauder Mystery

This post was written by contributor Eleanor Forester (MC’21). The post was edited by N. Locklin.

Knoxville Sentinel article, “East Knoxville Woman is Shot” Sept. 21, 1920

In her study on the culture of violence and homicide in the US South, Pauline Grosjean of the University of New South Wales reported that there is a correlation in regions with a large percentage of Scots Irish ancestry to higher rates of homicide.(Journal of the European Economic Association, October 2014) Grosjean claimed that in the US South, settlements made by 18th century Scots-Irish herders and Scottish Highlanders continued traditions of violence as emboldened by honor culture in Britain. She attributes this trend to agrarian customs surrounding land protection in the homeland. Grosjean’s academic background is in economics rather than history or sociology, and we may or may not find her thesis ultimately convincing. The study does, however, provide a useful starting point for an exploration of honor culture as the backdrop of our grand tragedy: the Night Marauder murders.

Bertram Wyatt-Brown provides an extensive definition of honor culture which is relevant to early 20th century East Tennessee. His book Honor and Violence in the Old South begins, “Under honor’s law those who have power to demand, and to hold, esteem and authority are able to do so because the entire social order has sanctioned their rule and called it moral.” Wyatt-Brown continues to describe the “cultural matrix” of honor culture which consists of binary oppositions such as the protection of Southern hospitality in the domestic sphere paired with the public performance of strength and brutality. Bertram Wyatt-Brown argues that the white South developed a system of honor that depended heavily on these factors of opposition at play with one another.

In the Modern South of the 1900’s, honor culture took on a new dimension. Influencing the Progressive Era of social, political and industrial reforms, the social purity movement in evangelical spheres placed much weight on Christian morality. In this age of modernism, honor culture set the stage for masculine aggression rooted in evangelicalism because men were viewed as either protectors of women’s virtue or detriments to their purity. Women were viewed as natural, inherent possessors of purity and morality; there was a supposed moral superiority of women over men.

Thus, the crimes of sexual nature against women by the Night Marauder are all the more socially transgressive. While Knox and Blount Counties rest in the foothills of Appalachia rather than the Deep South, the history of Protestant Christian culture still influences social customs. Honor culture, which may excuse (and even promote) public displays of masculine aggression and violence between men, vehemently condemns sexual violence against women because of their supposed purity and morality. The terror caused by the Night Marauder and the public response is perhaps more interesting in light of this context. The relevance of honor culture extends into language and community relationships, which becomes clearer when we look at how a community responds to violent crime. A victim summary composed by police detectives and local newspaper accounts reflect what the community members believed were most sinister.

Many news articles related to the series of crimes recalled that the Night Marauder “attempted to commit criminal assault” upon various women but fail to specify the nature of the assault; readers understood the implication of sexual assault. At other times, euphemisms such as “outrage” communicated what was attempted without going into any detail. “Marauder always sought to prey on women,” states a police summary. The victims in these East Tennessee crimes are described as prey to carnal, animalistic, and impure acts of brutality. Later attacks in which the shooting victim is a woman’s husband offer up another way of promoting the values of honor. The husbands of assaulted women are reported to have died protecting the virtue and lives of their wives – the highest praise in honor culture.

While the purpose of journalistic and police summaries was to help investigators distinguish victims and keep track of their experiences and personal information, there is evidence to suggest that the record keepers struggled to remain objective. Throughout the summary, the acts of nonsexual physical violence are described in greater detail: “while grappling he pulled the trigger of the gun which he had three times the cartridges failed to explode,” “the murderer had a flashlight and pistol a 38 caliber,” “the marauder entered this home and assaulted (the woman) by striking her upon the head and causing a scalp wound.” The violence caused by the perpetrator’s gun clearly were considered separately from the sexual offences which are described only as “unspeakable demands,” “lustful desires,” and “indecent proposals.” While the intent of the police and media summaries was not originally to make moral judgements on the crimes themselves, the language used in this victim summary certainly displays some subjectivity. The summaries were a way to track the pattern of attacks, perhaps with a goal to assist in the investigation and provide fodder for a future prosecution.

Honor culture permeated the U.S. South for centuries, and East Tennessee was not spared. Honor culture places great significance on an individual’s reputation and creates unspoken rules for public behavior according to gender-based and racial binaries (to name a couple). After transgressive acts against socially respected women, men could restore familial honor by engaging in community action to defend feminine virtues of purity and hospitality. The violation of these feminine virtues, in addition to the sexual violence itself, can explain why details of the Night Marauder’s rapes, the “unspeakable acts,” are excluded from reports. We know that defending public honor was important to the citizens of East Tennessee when the attacks took place.

Additionally, these sources were compiled at a time when Protestant Christianity held a tight grip on Southern culture. This deep connection to Protestantism generated a belief in divine control and religious determinism among Southerners. Reporters and investigators, then, would not only have been concerned with the physical safety of residents in Blount and Knox counties — the Night Marauder’s concentrated acts of sexual and fatal brutality pointed to a loss of this divine control and posed a threat to the system of religious determinism that was sovereign over religious and social life for many Protestant Southerners.

Police Desperate After Triple Event

Exactly six weeks after the intruder accosted Maude Maples and then killed Lula Robinson while assaulting her sister-in-law, the killer struck again. Many elements were the same—it was the early hours of a Tuesday in Knoxville when an intruder entered a home and attempted to assault a sleeping young woman.

On September 21, 1920, at around 2:15 a.m. 16-year-old Ruth Cox awoke to find a man by her bed, shining a flashlight in her eyes. Miss Cox lived with her father, J. M. Cox, at 2003 Linden Ave in East Knoxville. Police say the attacker had put a chair from the neighbor’s porch under Ruth’s window and entered the room. Ruth, who slept beside her little sister, cried out to her father and the intruder immediately shot her and fled. The bullet entered her shoulder, but surgeons were able to remove it and she recovered. To the best of her memory, it was a white man, and he wore a felt hat. Mr. Cox ran out in pursuit of the attacker who, realizing that the streetlights on Linden Ave would allow Cox to see him clearly, escaped through the back yard. Mr. Cox told reporters that he believed the motive for the intruder must have been robbery because he couldn’t imagine any other motive.

Just after 2:30 a.m. an intruder threatened Annie Key in her home on the corner of Luther Ave and Kellar St., barely a block away from the Cox home. Her father, J. R. Key, was home at the time of the attack. Annie woke up because of a flashlight being shined on her face, and she immediately jumped to her feet. That’s when the intruder showed her the pistol and threatened to shoot her. She screamed for her father, who came running. The marauder ran to a door to escape, though it appeared he had entered the house through a window. Mr. Key wondered how long the man had been in their home since he was certain he had locked the door before going to bed. However, the intruder was able to open the door very quickly as he fled meaning he must have unlocked it before waking the girl. They did not see where the man went after he got out of the house.

At about 3:30 a.m., the intruder moved on to a Nelson Ave home where Alice Burnett and Eula Henry were staying as guests of a friend, Mrs. R. C. Hamilton. Miss Henry woke up when she felt hands on her body and was immediately blinded by a flashlight. The intruder said “Be quiet, be quiet” in a hoarse voice end showed her a pistol as he climbed into bed with her. He told the two women he would kill them if they did not do as he said. Miss Henry, looking up at him, tried to grab the gun out of his hand and struggled with him. The two rolled out of the bed onto the floor. Miss Burnett leaped on top of the pair and got hold of the gun herself briefly. The two women tried to overwhelm the man and force him back onto the floor, but he was too strong. Two shots were fired in the struggle—one passed through the sleeve of Burnett’s nightgown and the second hit her in the side. The intruder broke loose and fled out the back door which had been left open when the women retired, with only a hook holding a screen door closed. He had easily lifted the hook with use of a knife blade. After the man left, Burnett stumbled into the other bedroom and said “I’m shot” before collapsing on the floor. She was rushed to the hospital where doctors discovered the bullet had entered her left side, tore through her body, and was lodged in her right hip. The shot seriously damaged her intestines and surgeons did the best they could to save her, operating for three hours. Alice Burnett hung on for two days before she died.

Mrs. Hamilton was deeply affected by the attack that took place in her home. Alice Burnett had been engaged to marry Ross Hamilton, Mrs. Hamilton’s son. However, the young man had been killed in a work accident at the L & N Rail yards several months earlier. He was working as a switchman and was caught between colliding cars at the depot and crushed. United in their grief, Miss Burnett and Mrs. Hamilton remained close friends and that is why Alice Burnett and her friend Eula were visiting that night. Mrs. Hamilton had lost her husband in 1912 and her daughter Effie in 1914. And now, in quick succession, she had lost her son and then his bride.  Hamilton had been helpless to stop the intruder even though she entered the room before the shot was fired.  She caught a quick glimpse and said he had a dark complexion and possibly a mustache but nothing else. Eula Henry could not give a clear description of the man who had attacked them even though they had been close together during the struggle. It was a tragedy in every way and the police were desperate for information.

The intruder left behind the knife he had used to open the screen door of Mrs. Hamilton’s house. Chief O’Conner of the KPD Detectives brought the knife from the Hamiltons’ to the Keys’ residence. The Keys said it matched the remains of a set that was still in the kitchen, with one missing. Chief O’Conner was certain the same man carried out all three attacks that night and was responsible for earlier attacks as well. He reasoned that the length of time between the second and third attacks on September 21st was not simply a matter of the distance between the homes. He thought the delay suggested the Marauder had paused to think out a better plan. Having failed to complete an assault twice in a short time, the attacker was frustrated and determined to succeed. As in the August 10 attacks, frustration at having been interrupted led the Marauder to greater violence.

Alice Burnett’s brother offered $100 reward to anyone who could provide information about the man who had killed his daughter. The city of Knoxville added an additional $500. Others donated funds so that the amount reached $1200. In 2021, that amount is equal to a reward of more than $16 thousand dollars.

Police were frustrated by the lack of clues in this string of attacks and particularly by the inability of victims to provide a clear description of the intruder. Though all the victims and survivors described identical tactics and behaviors, none could agree on skin color or build. Police were growing more certain every day that one man was guilty of all these attacks but could not identify a suspect. A day after the triple event on September 21st, Commissioner of Public Safety N. B. Kuhlman issued a statement to Police Chief Ed M. Haynes. It read, “Be advised and instruct the police department as follows: Beginning this date at midnight, I want the police department to dragnet the city of Knoxville and search for, arrest, and lock up in the city jail any and all persons found on streets and in alleys, unless they have credentials and show good reasons why they are on the streets at that time of night.”

Knoxville Mayor E. W. Neal oversaw a vote on the proposed curfew during a city commission meeting. The dragnet and reward were unanimously supported. After the meeting, Commissioner Kuhlman remarked that the city had been criticized in the past for having too large a police force. On the contrary, he continued, “It is plain that our police force is not large enough to cope with the situation.”

By September 23, the city was in turmoil. Newspapers described the city as an “armed camp” with few out and about after dark. There was a boom in gun sales and most families saw a trend of men staying up all night to remain vigilant. Law enforcement was shifted almost entirely to night shift so there were few officers available during the day. The county Sheriff’s office and KPD both decided to target drug addicts, though medical and psychiatric experts claimed drug addiction had little to do with the kind of thrill sought by the Night Marauder. Nevertheless, law enforcement struggled to make sense of the Marauder’s motives. They settled on “dope fiends” because those people might be acting under a drug-induced hallucination. It would be years before criminal profilers would sort out the domination fetish that might drive a serial rapist.

Officials also feared that even if they did catch a meaningful suspect, it would simply lead to the kind of mob violence that had rocked the city when Maurice Mays was arrested. They were willing to round up every drunk and vagrant they encountered on the streets and pursue suspects in even the least violent robberies. Somehow, the Marauder had evaded them at every step, and catching him would require heavy-handed action.