John Hash of Huntington emailed the following to me.
So good to hear from you. I am pleased that you are interested in my theory regarding the murder of Juliet Staunton Clark. Your book took me back to memories of my yute (youth) (as Cousin Vinny said).
I remember watching from the river bank as the diver searched for the murder weapon. I knew several people who were characters in the book. Buffy Merrill Wallace and I went to Jefferson Junior High a year or two apart.
We had played football in Platt Staunton’s side yard when I lived in South Ruffner.
There is so much to say that I don’t know where to start. The last time you and I visited was in Charleston and I was working for DuPont at the time. I returned to WVU shortly thereafter and graduated from Law School in 1968. I worked for Westinghouse in Labor Relations for a year and a half and left to return to West Virginia. I took a job with a law firm in Huntington in 1969.
In 1976, I was asked to take a case for a widow whose Huntington Policeman husband had been shot to death just outside of the city limits. Pursuing that case, which the Sheriff and virtually all the law enforcement community wrote off as a suicide, was an uphill battle all the way, until we settled the lawsuit in Federal Court with a jury in the box.
Two years or so after that settlement against the insurance company, a drifter named Henry Lee Lucas was arrested in Texas on a firearms charge. About two weeks after being incarcerated, he began to confess to murders at several locations around the country. One of those was the murder of my client’s late husband.
Henry was thoroughly interrogated by the Texas Rangers who established a task force to follow up on all the confessions. Ranger Sergeant Bob Prince was put in charge.
I remember well the day my client called me to ask me to be present when she met with Ranger Prince and Bob Boutwell, the Sheriff of Bexar County Texas, in her home.
The West Virginia State Police sent their top forensic expert, too, and we all sat down at my client’s dining room table while they reviewed the information they had and told her that Henry Lee Lucas had killed her husband. It was a very emotional event.
The lesson learned in the investigation is that one should never rule out a remote possibility in such a case. I theorized from the beginning that he was murdered because the evidence of suicide was not very convincing, but we searched for a motive.
I thought, early on that he had stumbled onto a crooked cop who was involved in the drug trade and was killed to keep his mouth shut, along with other theories. The Lucas involvement led to a cornucopia of mysteries.
Henry spent part of his early years, including his teenage years, in Huntington. His mother was a prostitute and his father was a double amputee who sold Herald Dispatch newspapers in the lobby of the First Huntington National Bank building and elsewhere down town.
I remember him clearly. The only time I saw Henry was when he was brought back to Huntington from Texas to plead guilty to first-degree murder. That session in the Circuit Court of Cabell County was vivid and eerie.
I read your book with substantial curiosity. No sooner had I begun than I began to feel included in the book. So many characters were known and familiar.
Shortly after the murder, my family moved to Norwood Road in Charleston, just a bit up the hill from Staunton Road. The murder was talked about a good bit, but as a fourteen year old, I did not get involved in that much.
An employee of the Daily Mail and his wife and daughter were our next-door neighbors on Cherokee Avenue. My mother (whom you might remember, Beulah Hash) jokingly complained to the neighbors that she had to take both papers in Charleston because she had a Daily Mail employee on one side and a Gazette employee on the other side.
My mother was told that the Daily Mail employee was fired because he was embezzling funds. In retrospect, it is surprising that my mother trusted me with that information at my then age of thirteen.
The Daily Mail employee was a congenial man in his early forties, about six feet tall, and probably weighed close to two hundred pounds. Once the paper fired him, he packed up his family and left town and I never saw him or his family members again.
I believe that the paper kept the matter quiet to avoid its own embarrassment and, possibly to let the individual to leave quietly, since he was not prosecuted.
Criminologists look for motive, means and opportunity when focusing on a suspect. This person would have had a motive because of the firing and the humiliation based on the discovery of his embezzling. I do not think, however, that it was common knowledge that that was the reason he left the paper.
The “means” here means the murder weapon as well as the knowledge of where Mrs. Clark lived and his ability to access it. Clearly, because of her close attention to the newspaper, she would have known him and why he was fired.
Many theories abounded concerning the murder weapon, but it was clearly some sort of a club or another similar object. Opportunity coincides with means here, since he lived only about a mile and a half from the Clark home.
He could have taken the pathway down to the railroad tracks and walked home up McCorkle Avenue without anyone thinking it was unusual.
Family neighbors said that they heard rather loud conversations that evening coming from Mrs. Clark’s house. Since he knew her and she knew him, perhaps he went to her home to ask her for help in getting another job or something and the conversation grew heated and, in a fit of rage, he beat her to death.
Since the murder probably took place between nine PM and midnight, he could have used the cover of darkness to make his escape and dispose of the weapon. Based on the viciousness of the attack, he may have been spattered with her blood, too.
He could have easily thrown a wooden club into the river and it would have floated away like any other piece of floating debris. The river’s waters would have soon obliterated the blood.
What I cannot recall with precision is the timing of his exit from the newspaper. I remember clearly helping him and the family pack up the freight truck he hired to move them. That had to have been in or about 1953. However, even if he left before the murder, he could have easily returned and committed the act.
So, basically, I have left you with just a spark of an idea. You may be able to access the information as to when the individual left the Daily Mail and Charleston, but even if you can, there are wide gaps in what needs to be known in order to make a case.
I would be very interested in what you might find upon further examination of your resources.
I wish you all the best, Charlie,