Stephenville, Texas 1974

Another story of murder and mayhem from Stephenville, Texas. Stay turned for more on Footprints in the Dew….

Welcome back. This week I’m taking you back in time again. It’s late August 1974, the year in which Patty Hearst was kidnapped and Oklahoma was NCAA Football Champions. 1974 was also the year in which Richard Nixon became the first President in our history to resign. Chub was dodging subpoenas and living in rural Caney, Kansas.

In Stephenville, Texas one of the largest manhunts in the history of the state was underway. Residents in the area had been in a state of terror ever since Richard Mangum, Dalton Williams and Jerry Ulmer escaped from the Colorado State Penitentiary in Canon City, a small town just over the border from Oklahoma.

According to the Stephenville Empire Tribune, after the trio had stuffed pillows under the covers of their beds to make them look occupied, they had hidden in a tool shed, climbed over three prison walls and stolen a car. They planned to rob a bank and flee to Mexico but first they had a few scores to settle.

First the escapees went to Roswell, New Mexico where they stole two rifles and a gas station and robbed a gas station. They hid during the day and then headed out for Las Vegas, New Mexico. Along the way they kidnapped two young women whom they raped repeatedly during their travels. In Rotan, New Mexico they murdered rancher R.L. Baker whose testimony had put Williams in prison.

The three then came to the Stephenville area hunting for Mrs. Ray Ott who had testified against Ulmer. When they found Mrs. Ott they killed her also.  After both murders there were wounded witnesses left alive and instructed to tell everyone in the country that they were back.

Over the next two days the three convicts engaged in running gun battles with over 200 state police, Texas Rangers and local authorities when it was discovered that they were just right outside of town. Investigators assumed that their next target would be D.A. Bob Glasgow who had prosecuted them. Jury members and other local officials were also considered to be in danger.

On Wednesday August 26th, the three stole another car and then wrecked it, leaving them on foot. Residents throughout the county were either evacuated or told to barricade themselves in their homes as the manhunt intensified.

After raping the two young women several more times, in a rare act of humanity the convicts released them. The three made their way to a nearby creek bed where they attempted to elude law enforcement and shot several dogs who barked as they crawled by. Now they were literally running from hedgerow to hedgerow, crossing through yards as the police closed in. It was then that Officers Richard Trail, Jim Ellmore, Freddie McDonald and Larry Brandenburg fired several times at the fleeing men. Richard Magnum was shot once in the jaw and died on the scene. The other two men threw themselves to the ground in surrender and their vendetta was over. Hundreds of residents came back to their homes and normalcy returned to this quiet community which had been in the national spotlight for several tense days in 1974.

Stephenville, Texas faded from national awareness until two years ago when Chris Kyle and Chad Littlefield were murdered there. The town has remained the focus of attention again throughout the arrest and trial of their now convicted murderer, Eddie Ray Routh.

Moving forward, this past Sunday marked the end of my experiment in social media, namely my kickstarter campaign. This has been an interesting experience which I will be writing more about soon.

Thank you all very much for your great support and interest in my project.

Till next week I’ll see ya down the road……