The Murder of Dora Davis

This post is based on a piece written by N. Locklin. It was edited by Katelyn Compton (MC ’24).

Dora Davis and Will Sheffey spent most of their teens living a mere few houses away from one another near Seymour, Tennessee. The two were known to be close acquaintances; they went to high school together and Sheffey even came to the Davis house to help with farm work, with some accounts noting that he had stayed over at their house on occasion.

Dora and Will both went to Carson-Newman College; however, Will had to leave the school for having improper relations with young women. One such relation was with a disabled 14-year-old girl, whom a friend of Sheffey said that he got pregnant. Despite this, it is believed that Sheffey wanted to settle down and in 1913, proposed to Dora. She rejected Will and eventually had to get her father, James Davis, involved when Will persisted. For months after Mr. Davis made clear that he did not want Will around, but nothing happened. When witnesses looked back on this, they felt that the last time Will saw Dora he left her with a threat: “I’ll see you another day.”

On the fateful night of September 1, 1915, Dora Davis was murdered while sleeping in her bed. The murderer stood on a chair outside of Dora’s window and fired at her through the open window, while her mother and siblings slept in the room with her. The first bullet struck Dora in the chest just below her throat. She was badly wounded but managed to scream. The second and third shots came after her mother attempted to close the window, and the shots shattered the glass and part of the sill.

According to the September 2, 1915 issue of the Knoxville Sentinel, police brought in bloodhounds to track the scent from the chair the murderer used. Hundreds of spectators followed the dogs as they went through a dense thicket where police thought the murderer could have hidden for a while. That night, the bloodhounds lost the scent and the search had to be postponed until the next day. The next day, the bloodhounds picked up the scent and followed it to Will Sheffey’s house.

Will Sheffey had been expecting police because of his ties to Dora. and it was no surprise when he was arrested later that day. Many in the town were shocked by the arrest because Sheffey was from a good family. Locals thought it to be more likely that it was a random drifter who committed the murder. Others were not so sure. Suspicion of Sheffey went beyond the rejected marriage proposal. The day before the murder, Will asked Mr. Davis if he could borrow a revolver for target practice and told him he’d return it the next day. He inquired about any other guns, possibly to ensure there would be no other weapons in the house.

Knoxville Sentinel, September 2, 1915

Sheffey was brought to the jail in Knoxville, where he immediately began to try and charm reporters. He mentioned his inexperience with how “these things work.” He told them he was not surprised to be arrested because he had heard the rumors surrounding his request to borrow the revolver from Mr. Davis. One of the deputies that went to arrest Sheffey recalled that he said he did not care what happened to him, but he “hated it on account of his mother and sisters.”

Will Sheffey’s preliminary hearing began on September 17, 1915. His defense team at the preliminary hearing included his uncle, Judge S. L. Chestnut, along with other judges from Knoxville and Maryville, making it clear that the Sheffey’s were well-connected to the legal community of East Tennessee. Mr. Davis was the first witness called. He recalled the events of the night of the murder; how he heard Dora’s screams and the gunshots, and the moment she took her last breaths. He went on to talk about the conversation he had with Sheffey in 1913 when he made it clear that he was not to be around Dora anymore. Mr. Davis said this tense conversation ended with Sheffey saying he’d regret keeping him away from Dora. Sheffey stopped coming around Dora in person, but would still send her letters and cards. In his testimony, he confirmed that the house the murder took place in was not the same one Will used to visit. The family had moved and Sheffey had no way of knowing specifically where everyone slept. However, later reports suggest that Sheffey, upon seeing the diagram of the bedroom published in the papers, commented to a friend: “That’s not where Dora’s bed was located.”

The prosecution called a number of witnesses, including, Sheffey’s friend, Ben Clark, Clark said Sheffey was showing off a Colt .32 after the murder took place, and it was clear the gun had been discharged. Clark noted that when Sheffey joined in the search party later he oddly enough asked to borrow a gun from him, because for some reason he was not able to use the Colt he had shown off earlier.

Dr. Cusick said he was asked to come to the Davis house after Dora was shot and that as he made his way he passed by an unknown man riding a horse. When he asked the stranger his name, the man replied that his name was Joe Emery. Some other witness testimonies from neighbors mention seeing flashlights and hearing gunshots.

There were no witnesses in the defense of Will Sheffey at the hearing. Defense attorneys pointed out that there was two and a half years between the murder and Dora’s rejection of his proposal, during which, Will had become friendly enough again with the Davis family so much so that he felt he could ask to borrow a gun from Mr. Davis. The defense suggested it was most likely a robbery and that Dora had been shot because she tried to fight off the burglar. Still, Sheffey was sent to Sevierville jail where he was to await the murder trial. It was there that he made his first formal statement, where he denied any guilt:

“On the night in question, I was at home all the time, and slept with my younger brother, in the room where my mother was also sleeping. While it is surely hard luck to be locked up this way, especially since I am guiltless, it is particularly hard on my mother and sisters, and I am worried much more on their account than on my one, but everything will come out all right, I am sure, My past life, I think, does not warrant the making of such a charge against me. I am a church member, and although I have made some mistakes, as perhaps nearly everyone else has, I have never committed any crime, and most assuredly am not guilty of the one with which I am now charged. I could look any person in the world squarely in the eye and tell him that I did not kill Dora Davis. I could tell J. R. Davis, the father, that, and would like to do so, for I have heard that he believes me guilty.”

Sheffey believed that the only reason people suspected him was due to the interaction he’d had with Mr. Davis in 1913. Sheffey opened the defense case on October 6 stating that he and Dora had loved each other and he was hurt when her father came between them. He denied that she had ever rejected him, and produced letters written after 1913 between them. Will said that a year later her parents discovered they were corresponding and he decided they should put the relationship behind them. He said he moved on and considered Dora to be a friend, wishing her well with her teaching career and her potential marriage to someone else.

A couple of items introduced by the defense undermined the state’s case against Sheffey. The deputy sheriffs now stated that they were not sure that the revolver in Sheffey’s possession had been recently fired. Under cross-examination, Dr. Cusick revealed he was well acquainted with Will Sheffey, meaning if it was Will on the horse that night Dr. Cusick would have known it. He said that a few minutes after the stranger revealed his name to be Joe Emery he thought he could hear the stranger talking to Sheffey outside of his house. Sheffey corroborated this by saying that on the night of the murder he was woken up by the commotion in the neighborhood, when the stranger on the horse happened to pass by. The two exchanged a few words and then the stranger left.

Ida Sheffey, Will’s mother, and his siblings provided the biggest win for the defense. She stated that Will had gone to sleep next to his brother and that she had gone to bed in the same room not long after. She was woken up by a phone call at one in the morning from their neighbor who informed Ida of the tragedy. She woke Will to tell him what happened and claimed it was she that stood on the back porch and saw the man on horse approach and then ride back into the darkness. Will’s siblings supported her testimony.

On the morning of Saturday, October 16, 1915, Will Sheffey was acquitted of murder charges. In the October 18, 1915 issue of the Knoxville Sentinel, Will said, “Words cannot express how I feel at having my liberty again. It is a terrible ordeal to undergo a trial such as I did, and it is especially harrowing when one is entirely innocent of the charges against him. No more prison cells for me.” Sadly, for Sheffey, he would be proven wrong on that last count.

Who was Will Sheffey?

Written by Scotty Leach (MC ’23) based on research compiled by N. Locklin.

Within the quiet, peaceful town of Maryville lay the College Hill Historic District. From Goddard to Waller Avenue, this humble area of Blount County lies along with all of its historic memories of its past. The land across from the district is occupied by Maryville College, which was established in 1819. The close proximity of the college and the district allowed for close connections to form, and the neighborhood became the home to several members of the faculty and quite a few alumni. This modest district became home to the Sheffey family sometime during the first World War. The tight-knit Sheffey family was originally from Hawkins County, TN, but had moved to Seymour in Sevier County by 1910. Ida Sheffey, the hardworking mother of the family, had four children – Josie, Maggie, Thomas Phillip, and Will. Will Sheffey shared his mother’s hardworking nature and spent a lot of time at home and within his neighborhood, doing what he could do to help. Will even spent time helping on the Davis farm, who were neighbors to the Sheffeys and lived in the same district. Young Dora Davis was close friends with Will Sheffey and for a time, they were romantically connected. That fact was what made him a suspect when Dora was murdered in 1915. Will would be arrested, tried, and finally acquitted.

In 1914, World War I began, and the world was thrown into chaos. Eventually, the United States entered WWI in 1917, becoming a part of the international conflicts of Europe. It was during this time that Will Sheffey was drafted. He had enough of an education to decide how he would serve in the military to support his nation and their involvement in the war during this tumultuous time. Sheffey specifically served in the Medical Corps of the United States of America. Will excelled during his service as a year later, he was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant within the Sanitary Corps and was assigned to Camp Green in North Carolina. It was here that Will met Carol Sykes, his future wife. Will was drawn to Carol, yet the pair were quite different in many ways. Unlike Will, Carol was raised in the busy New York State in a city called Binghamton. Carol later went on to attend the Mechanics Institute of Rochester. Will’s educational experience was more limited. He attended Chilhowee Institute for his secondary education and later was accepted into the Carson-Newman College in East Tennessee, but Will never finished his degree there. It appears he completed his studies at Murphy College, which closed in 1935, and he entertained hopes he would be able to teach after the war was over. After Carol graduated, she became a dietician at the Scranton State Hospital in Pennsylvania. This connection to the hospital was what drove Carol toward military service when the American Red Cross requested her aid in the Sanitary Corps in 1918. Carol later found her way to Camp Greene and became acquainted with Will Sheffey. Despite their differences and their unique backgrounds, Will and Carol were drawn to each other and were married that same year. The marriage was held in Camp Green in the home of Reverend Pressley on August 28th.

The newly-weds were only able to spend a few months together as the war called Will away from Camp Greene. Will, who was now a prominent lieutenant, traveled to New York where he was to sail on the Mauretania to England. Will anticipated being able to aid in the battles in France but, by the time Will arrived, the war was over. The Armistice of November 11th had been signed before Will had reached his destination and all major warfare had ceased. Despite this fact, Will still tried to do what he could to perform the noble duty of serving in the Sanitary Corps. Will even continued to serve in the Corps for another year in France even after the official conclusion of WWI. Local newspapers of Blount County heard of his military career in the war and painted him as a war hero and thanked him for his service. Having completed his service, Will departed from France and travelled to New Jersey on the Leviathan, arriving on August 6, 1919. At this point, Will Sheffey resigned from his service in the military and was reunited with his wife Carol. The two decided to settle down but were undecided on where they should live. Sheffey decided to bring Carol to Maryville, TN where his beloved mother Ida had settled on a quiet, tree-lined avenue surrounded by neighbors and friends. Will soon began searching for a new job and was hired as a store manager at the Aluminum Company of America. For two years, the Sheffeys lived in their peaceful abode in the quiet landscape of Blount County. This peaceful moment only briefly lasted as tragedy hit the Sheffey family.

On February 8th 1921, Carol Sheffey gave birth to a son named William. This joyous moment was shadowed by the health complications that Carol was dealing with after the birth. That same day, Carol passed away. Will’s son would be later sent to live with Will’s mother at her home nearby. The incident impacted Sheffey and the life he had started to build. Two months later, Will met and quickly married a woman named Ruby G. McNutt. Considering Will’s status as a single parent with a newborn child, this was not an unusual event. Such occurrences tended to happen during this era in order to establish security for the child and the widower. Will was in desperate need of such aid. Ruby was an established local resident who lived on Court Street. Her family had been a part of the Blount County community for quite a bit of time and Ruby’s father rose to become a well-known real estate agent of Maryville. Ruby had just gotten out of a divorce of her own a month or two before she married Will. The fate of Will and Ruby’s relationship was not bright as Ruby left Maryville and Will in order to search for a home in Florida. In 1925, Ruby filed for a divorce from Will. Following these events, Will lost possession of his home and was forced to find shelter elsewhere for a period of time. Most of the time, Will resided at his mother’s home on College Hill, where his son had also come to live. Will attempted to continue moving forward in his life and remained as a store manager of the  Aluminum Company of America for a few years.

Suddenly, on a peaceful Saturday evening in downtown Knoxville in 1925, Will Sheffey was approached by the local police force on the streets of Knoxville. The Blount County officers Gus Davis and Charlie Hamon as well as the Knoxville detectives Day and Fogerty were on the scene and shortly after the encounter, they arrested Will Sheffey. Since 1922, the city of Maryville had been plagued with a large crime wave. The events that had started to occur in Maryville resembled the crime phenomena of Knoxville which had occurred a few years earlier. Rumors of a so-called Night Marauder had spread throughout Blount County and fear started to grow among the citizens of Maryville. Was Will Sheffey’s arrest related to these recent crimes? The police officers and investigators were given a tip from a private investigator from St. Louis claiming that there was a link between Sheffey and the crime incidents in Maryville. From this moment, Will’s life drastically transformed and the situation looked grim.

Sheffey’s portrait in the Knoxville News-Sentinel, April 14, 1925.

The Emery Letter

Based on a piece written by N. Locklin. Edited by Luke Nelson (MC ’24).

John M. McCampbell was the Sheriff of Blount County, TN, from September 1922 to 1924 in his first term in office. During those years, the Sheriff maintained something approaching an obsession with the Night Marauder, determined to catch the fiend and bring an end to his terror. McCampbell used every resource at his disposal but could not seem to get any closer to his quarry and it seems the Marauder knew this and decided to have a little fun at the Sheriff’s expense.  Around August 6th of 1923, McCampbell received a mysterious letter in his post office box – handwritten and in pencil – its author claimed to be the killer. The letter carried all the signs we now associate with a serial killer’s ego and his glee over getting away with murder. The letter taunted the Sheriff for his inability to outsmart him and promised to keep at his trade.

The entire letter was released to the public during the first trial in 1925 as it would serve as a central piece of evidence. However, in terms of our timeline, it predates the criminal trials that would take place in Maryville so we will examine it here:

Dear John—
	I can tell you a thing or so when it comes to having a good time with your men over there I was over there Sat night and it rained and I did not leave there till daylight but your rumey’s could not see a bloke if it was on his nose, I have tried to find a woman who would holler so I could get to shot her but they would none of your Maryville women holler, so I don’t get the fun out of it.
	I wish you could tell some of those girls to holler so I can have the fun shooting them. Can’t shoot a woman unless she give me an excuse.
	I am tired of coming over there you can’t catch me and every n***** you catch for me you turn loose. So you can rest till I get ready to come again, I have not been in Maryville yet but in Alcoa I went into a fellow’s house near the bridge where the concrete pike begins, he and a child were in the front room his wife and 2 or 3 children were in the back room I told her if she screamed I’d shoot but when I looked at her I thought she was too old to shoot that way but when she did holler I shot at her old man but don’t know if I got him I then walked to Alcoa or up the pike toward Maryville, I went to a house up that St found a woman but she would not holler so I could not shoot her, I just love to shoot if they scream can get away just as easy when I shoot as if I did not, Good bye John I am going away for a while you are about as wise as Ed. Haynes & Bill Cates.
Mimeographed version of the letter handed out at the first trial. Courtesy of the V. J. Hultquist estate.

Unfortunately, the handwritten version of the letter is long gone. As it is, the Sheriff would testify that he carried it with him in his pocket for years and it became worn down; he’d lost the envelope with no other information about the letter or its author.

The improper grammar and lack of punctuation in the printed copy, handed out to the press at the trial, were reproduced as closely as possible in case there were clues to the mindset of the criminal. It resembles the marks of an educated person trying to appear uneducated, the investigator would note how uneven the writing and spelling were, switching back and forth from proper to improper grammar.  The letter’s author explicitly targeted Sheriff McCampbell, possibly to challenge and enrage him. At the same time, he manages to express his disdain for Sheriff Bill Cates of Knox County and Knoxville Chief of Police Haines. The writer goes on to ridicule the deputies who have tried to track him down, proudly boasts of all the mayhem he has committed, and promises more to come. He doesn’t seem to care about getting caught, though he clearly doubts the Sheriff and his men have the capacity to catch him. He also delights in hearing women scream so he can shoot them, it’s no fun otherwise. He has also sexualized his victims, even though he makes no direct references to sexual assault. He merely observes that one particular woman in Alcoa looked “too old to shoot in that way.” He signs with the name that an unknown horseman in the dark gave to Dr. Cusick in Seymour right after Dora Davis was murdered there in 1915. Finally, he lists some of his past victims, most notably Dora herself and Bertie Lindsey.

The Sheriff would later testify that he shared the letter with multiple people, including the postmaster and a few others involved in law enforcement and the justice system.  We also know, from the Sheriff’s descendants, that he shared it with his wife and sister-in-law, Georgia, after dinner one night.  Georgia is said to have been the one to have spotted the name Dora Davis on the letter and connected her to Will Sheffey. Georgia reminded the Sheriff that “They used to go together,” referring to Davis and Sheffey, who now lived in Maryville.

McCampbell told the story a bit differently to the investigator in 1925. He told the P.I. that, after receiving the Emery letter, McCampbell chanced to meet old Dr. Cusick who had retired to Maryville. Upon learning that Cusick had lived in Sevierville, he asked him what he knew about the Dora Davis murder and was shocked to find that he was speaking with a key witness for the prosecution. McCampbell learned in the conversation that, no matter what was reported about the Davis trial, Cusick had always believed that Sheffey killed Dora. Cusick would later inform the investigator that he felt the Davis case had been rushed because of Sheffey’s relatives who were in legal professions; the prosecution never got a shot at firming up their case, in his opinion. McCampbell was more and more convinced that the good people of Maryville had a seasoned murderer in their midst.

If the writer of the letter liked screaming, he would soon get his wish as the first attack in the heart of Maryville would earn both a lot of screaming and a woman to shoot. However, it would also open the door to more serious investigations and launch a series of trials that had to have made life a lot less fun for him.

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.