McCurtain County, Oklahoma
Crime News


Idabel, Okla., Jan. 9 - Ainsworth Moore, a Choctaw Indian, is being pursued by a posse in McCurtain County for the alleged killing of his step-mother at this place Monday. Moore was charged with killing his father three years ago, and was free on bond.

It is believed that the quarrel which resulted in Mrs. Moore's death arose over the old case. Feeling is running high, and many fear for Moore's life should he be caught. (The Daily Ardmoreite, (Ardmore, OK), January 10, 1911)

Negro Lynches at Valliant

Attempted to Assault White Girl - Mob Does Quick Work

Idabel, Okla., Dec. 6 - An unknown negro who assaulted the 12 year old daughter of Lee Saunders, was hanged to a tree in the fair grounds at Valliant, twenty miles west of Idabel, Monday night.

The little girl was walking along the railway track near her home at about 4 o'clock in the evening, three miles west of Valliant, when she met the negro, who seized her without a word of warning and carried her to a secluded spot near by.

After being denuded the girl struggled with the black brute and escaped, running to her home which was not far away.

Upon hearing the girl's story her mother seized a gun and started in pursuit of the negro, who had followed his victim to a point near the home. The negro ran. The woman fired at him several times, but her excitement rendered her aim poor, and none of the shots took effect.

Three neighbors were attracted by the sound of the shots, however, and they started in pursuit of the fleeing negro, soon overtaking him. The negro was sullen and taciturn, refusing to give his name or say anything about himself. He appeared to be about 17 years old.

The men took him to a railway water tank not far from the Saunders home and boarded the first eastbound train that came along. The negro was taken to Valliant and there placed in the town lock-up.

As soon as the news had spread about the town and surrounding country a crowd began to gather and excitement ran high. Toward midnight sentiment chrystalized, the mob formed and marched to the lace where the negro was confined.

The town marshal made a show of resistance, but he was quickly over powered. A rope was secured, placed around the black's neck and he was taken to the fair ground. A suitable tree was found, the rope thrown over a convenient limb and the negro was soon swinging in midair. The swaying body was fairly riddled with bullets.

The work of the mob was done with quiet determination. Its members were thoroughly armed and a company of militia could not have prevented them from hanging the negro.  (Ada Evening News, December 6, 1911, front page)

Held Without Bail - Examining Trial in Strawn Murder Case Conducted at Valliant

Paris, Texas, July 12 - The examining trial of three defendants in connection with the killing of M. C. Strawn, which occurred a week ago today, at Idabel, Okla., resulted in all of them being remanded without bail. One of the defendants was held as principal and the other two as accessories.

On account of the Idabel justice of the peace having been an eye witness to the tragedy, he was disqualified from conducting the preliminary examination. It was held before the justice of the peace at Valliant and lasted two days, concluding Thursday evening. The dead man had just moved to Idabel from Dallas, where a sister Mrs. Emma Johnston, still resides. Another sister, Mrs. R. M. Branch lives in Paris. (Ardmore Daily Ardmoreite, July 12, 1915)  

Melton New was Killed by Dave Porten Tuesday

Near Pleasant Hill - Men were Neighbors and Fell Out over a Ditch - McCurtain county has another notch for murder on her good name. This time two neighbors, Melton New and Dave Porten, living near Pleasant Hill on Red River, fell out over the cutting of a ditch last Tuesday morning and Porten shot New from the effects of which he died several hours later.

The question has repeatedly been asked when will murder cease in McCurtain county? McCurtain Gazette, Wednesday, November 5, 1919, front page)

A. O. Whala Killed by Alvin Odum Saturday

At Bokhoma - The Examining Trial is in Progress at Bokhoma Today

A. O. Whala, a barber at Bokhoma, was shot last Saturday afternoon by Alvin Odum, a 19 year old boy. Whala was started to Texarkana but died at Hope before reaching Texarkan. The boy used a 30-30 Winchester and shot Whala three times. The trouble is said to have come up over a pair of pants. Whala conducted a barber shop and a tailor shop at Bokhoma and the boy owed Whala for some work he had one the pants.

The Gazette regrets to mention the frequency of these murders in our county. (McCurtain Gazette, Wednesday, November 26, 1919, front page)


M. Betterton Executed for Murder of Wife

At McAlester Penitentiary Last Friday Morning at 12:45 O’clock

McAlester, July 10, - At about a quarter to 1 o’clock Friday morning, the death penalty was assessed against Monroe Betterton, for the murder of his wife at Vinita on July 9, 1919. His electrocution took place in the death chamber of the state prison here just a year from the date he killed his wife.

Betterton held up well throughout the ordeal until he was being strapped in the electric chair, when he suddenly collapsed. The first application of the 2300 volts of electric current from the prison dynamo produced death, but a second and third application of the current with short intervention of time was applied to make sure that life was extinct.

The execution took place in the presence of prison officials, County Attorney Monk and others specified by law to witness such execution, and also by  number of outside witnesses admitted by special request.

Betterton was attended by the prison chaplain who had been with him during his last hours. He stoutly maintained his innocence to the end declaring that he did not kill his wife, but that she was murdered by another and he was charged with the crime because of his record in Missouri. He had killed a woman in that state, and had served a portion of a life sentence for the crime but had been paroled.

His case in this state had been given a careful review by the courts. He admitted that he had had a fair trial before the district judge, and the sentence had been affirmed by the highest state court. A commission of expert physicians sent to the state prison by Governor Robertson to examine into the sanity of Betterton and they reported him sane so that Governor Robertson declined to interfere in any manner with the judgment of the court.

In his trial in the district court, Betterton’s own daughter appeared as a witness against him, the evidence being that he killed his wife while she was on her knees appealing to him for money.

Betterton is the second white man to be executed at the prison. (McCurtain Gazette, Wednesday, July 14, 1920, front page)

Three are Tried for Lashing Man

Idabel, July 11 – E. E. McDonald, Marion Acton and J. C. Thornton were placed on trial before Justice Williams of this city Monday, charged with rioting.

The charge was dismissed as to Acton and continued as to the other two for further evidence.

It seems that on or before June 5, James Acard, postmaster at Ida, a town about forty miles north of Idabel, was charged with attacking a woman and placed under bond.

He swore on the stand that the three men above named and six others intercepted him at night on his way home, carried him to a secluded spot in the woods, tied his feet and hands, struck him ten licks each with a whip, and told him not to let the sun go down on him in McCurtain county the next day. (Drumright Evening Derrick, Tuesday, July 11, 1922, page 3)

Pope and Harvey Pay Penalty

Slayers of Five Meet Doom with Bolt From Chair

Pope First to Pa Penalty for the Murder of His Family

Harvey Takes Bolt

Pope’s Execution Timed at 12:14; Harvey Meets Doom Few Minutes Later

McAlester, Jan. 12 – Jack Pope and Aaron Harvey, confessed murderers of five persons, were electrocuted in the state penitentiary here shortly after midnight this (Sunday) morning.

Pope went to the chair first and was pronounced dead at 12:14 a.m. Harvey the younger of the two, went to his doom at 12:25.

McAlester, Jan. 12 – Attired in the black prison suits which adorn only the condemned, Jack Pope and Aaron Harvey at nine o’clock tonight were ready to march to their doom at midnight for the murder of five persons near Hayworth last April.

As the stroke of the clock announces the birth of another Sabbath morning they will be led from their death cells in the state penitentiary here to the electric chair only a few feet down the corridor. One will be electrocuted at 12:05 a.m. and the other as soon as the first is pronounced dead.

Harvey, they younger of the two probably will be the first to die.

Both men shook hands again late tonight and forgave each other for the influences that led to their conspiracy against Mrs. Pope and the subsequent slaying of Mrs. Pope, her two children, and her mother and father, in order that they collect her insurance.

Later in the evening Pope dictated his final confession, reiterating almost word for word a verbal statement which he made two weeks ago to Warden Townsend in which he declared that both he and Harvey did the killing. Pope maintained that it was Harvey who entered the house and there shot and killed Mrs. Pope and her suckling baby, declaring that he (Pope) stood outside the house and shot his mother-in-law and possibly one or two others of the victims.

Fifty-two persons, including half a dozen physicians were admitted to the death chamber as the hour for the execution drew near.

Harvey Near Collapse

Harvey was reported to be near a nervous collapse and fear was expressed that this mind might give way under the strain. Several times during the day he asked for quieting drugs but these were denied him.

Pope was calm and apparently in better spirits for the first time since he was taken to the death cell. He said he was happy in the knowledge that his son, serving a life sentence in another part of the penitentiary for participation in the killings, has been converted.

He broke down and wept in bidding the seventeen year old lad a last farewell. Gripping his hand, he sobbed:

Son forgive me for the great wrong I did you in getting you into trouble. Take an example in the remembrance of what sin has done for your father and live an upright life.

This afternoon just before prison barbers shaved their heads both men posed for photographs and requested newspaper men to publish illustrated stories of their execution as a moral lesson.

Harvey asked that he be allowed to go to his death wearing a red necktie and black shirt instead of the usual white shirt and dark tie and the change in his appearance was allowed.

Earlier in the day Harvey repudiated a previous confession that he had agreed to kill Pope’s wife for $500, declaring in a signed statement that he contracted to kill only a watchdog at the farmhouse where her parents lived in order that Pope might carry out the murders himself.

Five persons – one of a boy of four years and one an infant – were shot to death by Aaron (Red) Harvey, 21, and John Pope, 45, on the night of April 26, 1923 in a small farm house near Haworth, McCurtain County. Pope had promised to pay Harvey $700 of the $2,000 life insurance which he expected to collect after his wife’s death. Harvey confessed during the trial of the two men.

Stays of execution by J. C. Walton, deposed governor, twice saved the men from the electric chair. The original date of execution was July 13, 1923.

John Pope, 19 year old son of the slayer admitted riding with the men to the home where the crime was committed and holding the horses while the shooting took place. He was sentenced to life imprisonment.

On the night of the killing Harvey and Pope stole up to the home of Tom Hansell, Pope’s father-in-law, where his wife Mrs. Lydia B. Pope and her infant son, Hubert were staying. Through a window and a barred door Harvey and Pope fired into the room where five persons were sleeping, killing Mrs. Pope, Tom Hansell, Mrs. Tom Hansell and Hubert Pope. Aubrey Hansell, 4, was mortally wounded. Battering down the door the gunmen entered the room where their victims lay dying and according to Harvey’s confession, deliberately completed their mission by firing into the prostrate bodies. Mrs. Pope died clutching her baby to her breast. Harvey testified they fired eleven shots from an automatic pistol and shotgun.

The three were arrested several days later and after confessing to the crime, on May 10 were sentenced by Judge George T. Arnutt in district court. Harvey and Pope were condemned to expiate their crime in the electric chair at the state penitentiary and the younger Pope was sentenced to life imprisonment.

Governor Walton’s opposition to capital punishment twice saved the men from execution. He first advanced the date to October 13, 1923, and later to January 13, 1923 and later to January 13, 1924. Governor Trapp refused to interfere with the sentence. Pope and Harvey are the first to die in the chair since Sam Watkins was electrocuted May 5, 1922 for a murder he committed in Atoka County.

Pope on December 27 in a confession to Harry Townsend, warden of the penitentiary, and a representative of the Associated Press reiterated that he had conspired with Harvey to “do away” with Mrs. Pope, and declared it was Harvey who actually killed the woman and her infant son in her arms. He said his first shot killed Hansell and that he did not know who was struck by the second shot from his gun.

During the trial Harvey nonchalantly related how he previously had approached the Hansell home with the intention of killing Mrs. Pope but “lost his nerve.” When they started forth on the fateful night, Harvey said they bolstered up their courage with liquor.

The elder Pope in confessing to the crime pleaded for mercy for his son, who he said had no part in the murders and was forced to go with the gunmen. (The Ada Evening News, Sunday, January 13, 1924, front page and page 7)


Posse is Hunting Negro as Slayer

Bloodhounds Used to Track Frank Clark in Texas

Texarkana, Texas, Feb. 13 (AP) – A posse of 300 men headed by bloodhounds tonight was believed to be closing in on Frank Clark, Negro, in Red river bottoms north of Clarksvile, Texas, where he fled following the slaying early today of Mr. and Mrs. Dan Stiles near Idabel, Okla.

Bloodhounds were rushed to Red River County, Texas, from here late today after word was received by the sheriff’s department that Clark had obtained passage across Red River on a fisherman’s boat about noon.

Reports here from Idabel tonight were that practically every man in Idabel had started for the scene of the manhunt. They were leaving Idabel by carloads.

Mrs. Stiles who lived about two hours after being shot through the chest, revealed that an argument over land had caused the shooting. (Macon Telegraph (Macon, Georgia), Wednesday, February 14, 1934, page 10)

Negro Electrocuted at Oklahoma Prison

McAlester, Okla., Oct. 19 (AP) – Frank Clark, 55 year old Negro was electrocuted in the state penitentiary here early today for the murder of Mrs. Anna Stiles, who with her husband, Dan Stiles, was killed near Idabel last February.

The Negro said he killed the farm couple because they rented land to another tenant. (Aberdeen Daily News, Aberdeen, South Dakota, October 19, 1934, Friday, front page)


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