Butler County Times Gazette
  • Tales of Butler County: 1961 double murder on Highway 54

  • Part 1 of three part series.
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  • Editor’s note: This is part one of a three part series.  Part two will be published in Thursday’s edition and part three in Saturday’s.
    It was early morning Dec. 28, 1961, the temperature hovered near zero and the Kansas wind blew hard across the busy stretch of Highway 54 east of Augusta.  A young couple was dead.  There was no mystery in how they died or who killed them.
    Ewell “Jack” Bohannan, 32, and his wife Grace, 36, were shot and killed at a combination gas station and cafe located approximately 2 1/2 miles east of Augusta.  
    Frank Hoover, 57, operator of the service station, gave himself up voluntarily when law enforcement officers, Capt. John Watkins and Lt. Bob Sprague of the Augusta Department of Safety arrived on the scene.  They were met by Hoover, his wife and son. The Hoovers lived in the area.
    Lt. Sprague went inside and located the .22 caliber revolver which was believed to be the murder weapon. Sheriff officers arrived soon thereafter.
    Butler County Sheriff Dallas Babcock reported Hoover had admitted to shooting the couple, and verified there had been an argument about rest room supplies.  Hoover operated the gas station and Mrs. Bohannan operated the cafe.
    Mrs. Bohannan was killed with a single shot from the revolver and was found lying in a pool of blood, dead on the scene.  Her husband, Mr. Bohannan, found on the floor of a storage area in the kitchen, was rushed to Wichita by ambulance, wounded by four bullets.  He was pronounced dead on arrival at a Wichita hospital.
    News of the slayings spread quickly as residents went about their daily routines that frigid Thursday morning.
    Hoover was  handcuffed and sitting in the Sheriff’s car while officers, along with Butler County Attorney Warren Ralston, continued investigating at the scene before noon.
    In addition to Sheriff Babcock and County Attorney Ralston, Undersheriff Forrest Richards; Deputies Harold Taylor, Don McGinnis and Jim Peffley; and Assistant County Attorney Ervin Grant all were at the scene.  
    Officers of the Augusta Police Department and the Kansas Highway Patrol also assisted.  District court reporter Raymond Krutsinger was taken to the restaurant to aid in receiving statements given by Hoover.
    Dr. Dale Anderson, Butler County coroner, performed his examination at Dunsford Funeral Home in Augusta and had not made any public report by that evening.
    The Department of Safety reported received several phone calls around 8:20 that morning about a “shooting” at the station east of Augusta, but it was believed there had been no witnesses to the shooting.  Two patrol cars had been immediately dispatched and along the way, a man was seen running west from the scene.
    Page 2 of 2 -  The initial report indicated an argument between the Bohannans and Hoover started over supplies in the facility’s shared rest room. The report further stated Hoover had complained about the lack of toilet tissue and the Bohannans advised him it was his week for being in charge of the rest room.  An argument ensued.
    Hoover shot Mr. Bohannan first and when his wife came to his aid, Hoover turned and fired one shot at her as she reached the door of the cafe.  She reportedly turned and started running back to their panel truck, but fell to the ground about 12 feet away, fatally wounded.  Hoover turned again to Mr. Bohannan, firing more shots after Mrs. Bohannan was down.
    After the shooting, the sheriff said, Hoover entered the office of the service station, placed the gun on a shelf, and called the police, using the only telephone in the building, which was located there in the office.
    Hoover was taken to the Butler County Jail in El Dorado. Although no charges had been filed that afternoon, Sheriff Babcock was sure Hoover would be charged with murder.  Babcock advised the hearing would probably be the next morning.
    The Bohannans had one young child together and Mrs. Bohannan had two others by a previous marriage.
    Autopsies were to be performed in Wichita by a pathologist with the Kansas Bureau of Investigation.
    Was there a witness to the violent argument that led to a double shooting and who was the man officers saw running from the scene?  Find out in Thursday’s part two of a three-part series.
    Sources: Augusta Daily Gazette and The El Dorado Times, Regional Archives, Kansas City, Mo., Ancestry.com.
    Belinda Larsen can be reached at blarsen@butlercountytimesgazette.com.

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