Roland T. Owen walked into the Kansas City hotel carrying a comb, a brush, and a tube of toothpaste. After several strange encounters with hotel staff, Owen would be carried out on a gurney a few days later. Blood covered the walls and bed in room 1046, and investigators say it was already solidified leading them to assume Owen had been bleeding for over six hours. Who tortured and killed this man? Why was his door always locked from the outside? Who were the anonymous benefactors that paid for his burial?
Last week I quickly highlighted this Alfred Hitchcock style murder mystery for my readers. This story was so strange and mysterious; I knew it would take more than one post to cover it. If you haven’t seen that post, you can follow this link to read Part One of the mystery.
Strange Sighting: (Thursday, January 3, 1935 – 11 PM)
Robert Lane was driving down 13th Street when he saw a man dressed in trousers and an undershirt. The man’s attire seemed strange in the cold winter weather of January. He was running and waving frantically. Robert Lane pulled over, and the stranger ran up to the door. He looked surprised.
“I’m sorry. I thought this was a taxi. Can you take me to where I can find a cab?”
Lane agreed, and the man climbed into his back seat. The man looked as if he’d been in a scuffle and Lane made a remark about this. The man mumbled, “I’ll kill that__________ in the morning.”
While all the newspapers were too proper to write the actual word that was uttered, 84 years later it could have helped investigators if there was some sort of record of this remark. Was the stranger talking about a male or a female? Who knows?
Lane noticed the man had a large cut down his arm and was cupping his hands trying to catch the blood. As the car reached a nearby intersection, the passenger jumped out and ran across to a parked cab. Seeing the driver wasn’t with his car, the stranger honked the horn. Presently, the cab driver rushed out of a nearby, and that was the end of Robert Lane’s interaction with the stranger.
Police disputed this story since no one noticed Owen leaving his room. Police would discount this and take the investigation in different directions. I find this odd because no one ever saw Owen coming or going from his room. Who was locking the door from the outside if Owen was still sitting inside? At one point the housekeeping staff walked into the room thinking it was empty to find Owen laying across the bed fully clothed and staring into the darkness.
To understand this story, you must understand the hotel’s door locking mechanism. The door could be locked from the inside and could not be opened externally. It could also be locked from the outside with a key, and the hotel staff could use the passkey to open the door and clean. On more than one occasion this outer lock was used while Owen was still inside the room.
By Friday morning the staff noticed the phone was off the hook in Owen’s room. The first contact that was made by the hotel staff was around 7 am. Evidence would later show that Owen was already beaten, stabbed and bloody by this time. That’s when the bellboy heard a voice call through the door and say, “Come in. Turn on the light.” Was this Owen trying to get the man to come in and help him? We’ll never know.
To make the story, even more, perplexing the second time a bell boy was sent to the room that morning, he opened the door with the hotel passkey. This, of course, means that between the bell boy’s first contact and second contact someone had left that room and locked it from the outside. The attendant used his key and opened the darkened room. He noticed the side table was knocked over, and the phone was on the floor. A shadowy figure of a naked man lay sprawled across the bed. The bellboy would later note that there were dark shadows on the sheets around the man, but he didn’t turn on the light. Instead, the bellboy replaced the phone, closed the door, and reported that the guest was drunk on the bed. Could this man have saved Ronald T. Owen if he had taken a moment to check on him?
An hour and a half later the phone was still off the hook, and finally, the bellboy had lost his patience. He opened the door and switched on the lights to discover a horrific scene. Owen was two foot from the door and naked with a rope tied around his neck, wrists, and ankles. He was on his knees and elbows. His bloody head was in his hands. When police asked who did this Owen replied, “Nobody.” He would slip into a coma on the way to the hospital and die shortly after midnight on January 5th.
The police immediately began searching for evidence in Room 1046 but found it had been stripped. Owen’s clothes, all of his belongings, even the hotel’s shampoo and soap were missing. The only things found in the room were: a hairpin, a safety pin, a label from a tie, a bottle of undiluted sulfuric acid, and two glasses. One broken glass was in the bathroom sink and was missing a shard of glass. Four little fingerprints were found on the lampshade leading the investigators to believe they could have been from a woman.
Investigators quickly realized the name Roland T. Owen was an alias and began digging for the man’s identity. In the meantime, the body was transported to the local morgue where it was placed for public viewing in hopes of getting a definite identification on the man. Many people came forward thinking they knew the victim, but all were dismissed. This is when Robert Lane came forward and confirmed the man in the morgue was the man he had picked up on that Thursday night. Authorities claim they can’t prove this, but I find it the most credible. Owen didn’t look overly normal. With his height and scars, he was a rather imposing figure which would make him hard to forget.
After much ado, the papers announced the unknown victim with the alias Roland Owen would be buried in a pauper’s grave since no one claimed him. This prompted another series of strange events. Before the body could be buried the funeral director received an anonymous call from an unknown male. He asked them two wait a little longer in burying Owen and he would send money for a proper burial. A few days later the funeral home received an envelope filled with cash wrapped in newspaper. The donor requested the body to be buried in Memorial Park Cemetary so he could be next to the donor’s sister.
“Love Forever, Louise”:
The florist received an anonymous phone call around the same time from an unknown male. He requested 13 roses to be sent to the grave of Ronald T. Owen and the card should be signed, “Love forever, Louise.” The florist tried to ask a few questions, but the man simply stated that he was just doing this for his sister.
Another phone call:
After the newspaper article about this case was printed, the editor received a phone call from a woman. She said the report was wrong and Roland’s funeral arrangements were paid.
Searching for Don:
During one of the interchanges with the hotel staff, Owen was heard speaking on the phone to a man he called “Don.” Another time the housekeeper saw a note with the same name. Was Don a friend? Was he a Mafia Don? Investigators searched for years and couldn’t find the true identity of Don.
Eighteen months after the newspaper article about this mystery a woman saw the pictures and claimed Roland T. Owen was her son Artemus Ogletree. Although original reports claimed he was in his mid-20’s, Ogletree was 17 at the time of his death. To make matters more mysterious, Mrs. Ogletree had received three separate letters from her son. They were all typewritten which she thought was strange since her son didn’t know how to type. Also, these notes used a lot of slang terms Mrs. Ogletree had never heard her son use. After researching this story, she realized those three letters could not have been from her son. Someone out there not only knew what happened Roland T. Owen in that hotel room, but they also knew his real name and his mother’s address.
One More Mysterious Caller:
If that wasn’t enough of a mystery for you, there was a new chapter to this tale that happened to a Kansas City Librarian in 2003. John Horner spent a lot of time researching this case and writing it up for the library’s blog. One day he too received a strange phone call. It was an out of state caller claiming to be going through a deceased relative’s belongings. They found a large box of newspaper articles from about the Roland T. Owen case and in the box was a specific object that had been referenced in the original newspaper article. Then, the line went dead. What was in the box? Who were the mysterious caller and their relative? Was it the woman Louise? Was it Don? Like all good mysteries. We may never know the truth in this strange tale.
Despite spreading this case across two blog posts, there are even more details I couldn’t include here. Below are some links for further reading on this strange tale.
Last week we left wondering who in the world owns Janice Willhelm’s 7-acre farm just outside of Centerville, Texas. Her husband, Gerald Willhelm, had died mysteriously less than a week after he gave an interview to the media. While there is no one left to contest his sudden heart attack and cremation, Janice’s family still fights for justice in this greedy land grab.
Although, the lawsuits were still pending Gerald’s will was quickly probated and pushed through the system. He left his wife’s farm to a blond banker from town and one of the witnesses that signed off on Janice’s forged will. While the banker’s mother swears her daughter just had a “Father/Daughter” type relationship with Gerald Wilhelm, Janice’s family refuse to believe such a thing. It will be proven in court one way or another, but in the meantime, Janice’s children are still fighting.
Janice Willhelm’s will was a blatant forgery, and this has been verified by two different handwriting experts. The will was pushed through without the children’s knowledge. This is one battle for the Robeson family, but sadly, there is more.
Morris and his wife Mable raised their grandson as their own child and treated him accordingly. Unfortunately, this seems to have driven a wedge between their eldest son and their unofficially adopted one. Before Morris’ murder, the uncle began to wage war on the grandson, and it continues to this day. After the death, Mable sold her grandson a part of the property on the contingency that she could live out her days in the home. Of course, he agreed. This, unfortunately, drove the wedge deeper causing the uncle to file lawsuit after lawsuit trying to pry the property from his nephew’s hands. The vindictive man even used his own mother’s name to file a lawsuit. When contacted, however, Mable was shocked by it and demanded that it be dropped. If I went into every detail of this family feud, this blog series would last for another year. After reviewing all the evidence, I am left with one question that I will relate to you.
Was this uncle so greedy that he would cause, or allow the murders of his own father and his sister?
When his daughter was caught talking, she was suddenly found dead in her home from an overdose. Yes, she was an addict, but it seems strange nonetheless. Everyone that crosses the uncle seems to end up in endless litigation or six feet under the Texas dirt.
This case continues and continues to fight for justice. This case has been appealed all the way up to the Texas Rangers only to hit a brick wall there as well. The only hope at this point may be the FBI and the media. If you have been a victim of corruption in Leon County, Texas, you can visit http://texaspubliccorruption.com/ and submit your story anonymously.
Don’t let the saying “Texas Justice” stand for bullying by corrupt officials. Let Texas Justice stand for truth and the good ole’ American way.
According to an article on the FBI’s website, in 1983, federal authorities designated the entire Harrison County Sherriff’s office as a criminal enterprise. Sheriff Leroy Hobbs was hand in hand with the Dixie Mafia. In 1987, a prominent judge and his wife were murdered in their home and some of the local corruption would be exposed. Now 30 years later the rest of this story will be told. Judge Vincent Sherry and his wife Margret were murdered in their home on the evening of September 14, 1987. The official report states that Pete Halat and Charles Lager “discovered” the bodies on the morning of September 16th. The popular tv show “The FBI Files” even states this as fact. This, however, is merely another coverup perpetrated by this group of people. One lone woman knew the truth for decades and now everyone will know. Pete Halat had been to the house the day before with one honest cop bound by a gambling addiction and his name is Lt. Dan Anderson.
Can someone be honest and be a gambler? Yes. Can someone be bound by an addiction to gambling? Of course. We see this every day. Is it too far-fetched to assume this man could be forced into silence because of his addiction? What if his son had already died of suspicious circumstances? I will let you ponder those questions as I relate to you the story of September 15, 1987.
Lt. Dan Anderson worked as a court bailiff for Judge Vincent Sherry and considered him a friend. On the morning of September 15th, Anderson arrived early to the courthouse to get the building ready for the day’s legal wranglings. He turned on all the lights and adjusted the thermostat and made the coffee. Strangely, the judge never arrived. Judge Sherry hadn’t missed one court date in his entire career. As the clocked ticked past his first appointment his bailiff began to worry. Anderson made a phone call to the judge’s house but there wasn’t any answer. Finally, Anderson called the judge’s legal partner Pete Halat and asked if the judge happened to be in the office with him. The answer was negative. Concerned, Anderson told Halat that he wasn’t waiting any longer. He was going to drive over to the judge’s house and see what was going on. Halat immediately told the bailiff that he would meet him at the judge’s house.
Together they approached the door of the house and Dan Anderson noticed it was partially opened. He called out “Sherry,” a nickname for the judge and there wasn’t a response. Anderson carefully pushed open the door and found the body of the 58-year-old man lying on the floor. Continuing through the house, Anderson found the body of Mrs. Margret Sherry in the bedroom.
Struggling to keep his emotions in check, Dan Anderson told Pete Halat what he found. This is where the case gets even stranger. Instead of calling for backup, Pete Halat sends the bailiff home claiming that he would handle the situation. Supposedly, he didn’t want the media to find out about this until he could get the police on site and figure out what happened to the judge.
Lt. Anderson returns home distraught after seeing the corpses of his friends. Before he could get himself together, his daughter Phyllis happened to call. On this rare occasion, Dan Anderson poured out his emotional story to his daughter giving details of the crime scene. Phyllis listened and tried to console her father and promised to call and check on him later that evening. When evening came, her father was back to his tight-lipped self and refused to speak of it again. Phyllis had no way of knowing that her father was being forced into silence. She assumed it was his quiet way of dealing with trauma.
The next day Pete Halat makes a big deal of the judge being late for court and persuades his junior law partner, Charles Lager into driving out the judge’s house with him. This is where the “official” report begins. Halat barely steps into the house and steps back out onto the porch to report the two were dead. Later in trial Lager would confess that Halat didn’t seem shocked by their death. Also, he stated that Halat didn’t go all the way into the back of the house where Margret’s body lay. How did he know they were both dead? Well, you and I know the truth.
An investigation was launched and eventually, a partial truth came out. Pete Halat and a few others had been in league with the infamous Kirksey Nix, Jr on a big money-making scam. The FBI labeled it “The Lonely Hearts” scam. Basically, Nix had found a way to con hundreds of thousands of dollars out of the local gay community. He would post pictures of good-looking men in the paper along with a tear-jerking ad. This poor handsome gay man was looking for love, was being wrongfully accused, and needed money to help with his legal fees. Trying to help out, these victims would send in their money and their love letters. Then the criminal scumbags would turn around and blackmail these good-hearted men. In the 1980’s most of these men weren’t open about their sexuality and Nix found it easy to blackmail them. By September they were raking in six figures. This is when Halat begins to get greedy. Why did he have to put all the money back in a safe deposit box for Nix? Instead, he transferred $100,000 to a safe deposit box he shared with Judge Sherry. When Nix found out about the theft, Halat blames it on the judge. Nix hires a hitman to kill the couple and Halat wins all the way around. You see, Halat wanted to run for mayor and one of his biggest political rivals was Margret Sherry. Now Halat had the money, the Sherrys were gone, and two years after their death he becomes the mayor.
The FBI investigators had to keep the case close to the chest for fear of tipping off the corrupt mayor, but in October 1996 Halat’s charade was over when he was arrested and tried for his involvement in the murder of Judge Sherry. Nix and the hitman would get life in prison, but Halat only received 18 years.
Phyllis knew about the case, but her father tried to keep her from paying too much attention to the news. Living two states away in Georgia, it was easy to get distracted by her own life and not follow the case too closely. It would take a chance meeting in a restaurant before Phyllis would get her father to speak of the case again.
Fast forward to 1997. Phyllis and her husband were having dinner when she overheard the people behind her say something about the Sherry murders. Phyllis being a good ‘ole southern gal has never met a stranger and can talk to anyone. She turns around and innocently asks the man if he were talking about the murder of Judge Vincent Sherry and his wife Margret. To her surprise, the man glared at her and without saying a word he stood up with his woman and left the restaurant. Phyllis was taken aback and glanced at the table and noticed they hadn’t even eaten their dinner. When she returned home she phoned her dad and told him about the strange encounter.
Dan exploded on the phone demanding to know what the man looked like. Phyllis described him not understanding her father’s outburst.
“That was John Ransom. He’s the S.O.B. who killed Sherry and Margret.” Dan also told of Pete Halat’s involvement and then demanded that she never speak of this case to anyone again.
I wish I could say that this is the end of this story, but we have one more murder to cover next week. Lt. Dan Anderson would be killed. Guess what? His death was ruled suicide. Surely, by this point in this story, you won’t believe that for a moment. Below I have listed a few links to more information about the case of Judge Sherry and his wife.