1939 murder mystery
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.
For George E. King, the deserted stretch of Highway 54 was a lonely place to die. The El Dorado oil worker was victim of a shooting on a cold January night in 1939, east of Augusta.
Authorities were baffled and events unclear the next morning. They looked to his wife for help in solving the mystery.
King, 42, was an employee of the Sinclair-Prairie Oil Company on the Adams lease west of El Dorado. He had been with his wife, Venezuela, 27, and his 22 month-old child while returning from Wichita late that night to their apartment on South Atchison Street in El Dorado. The Kings had moved months before from Tulsa, Okla.
Police officers found a .25 caliber automatic pistol in a ditch near the King car, where it was parked on the highway. A baby’s nursing bottle was found in the weeds and a set of footprints were also found near the parked car.
Mrs. King was questioned several hours by authorities and she held to her story.
She explained she and her husband and their child had been in Wichita that night to visit her sister. She said her husband picked up a young man at the east Wichita city limits on Kellogg. She also advised she had fallen asleep and was in the front seat with her husband while the stranger and her baby were in the back seat. Sometime later she said she was awakened and asked her husband to stop the car so she could get out for a few minutes. While away from the car, she said she heard two shots and saw the young hitchhiker going through the pockets of her unconcious husband. She then said he took $40 from her and on seeing the gun she fainted.
When regaining consciousness, Mrs. King got in the car, turned it around and started back toward Wichita.
“I thought of only one thing,” she told officers, “and that was getting him back to my sister’s house in Wichita.”
She also said she faintly remembered driving through Augusta and running a red light there, but was uanble to say why she hadn’t stopped.
“I didn’t know what I was doing,” she sobbed.
She was forced to stop about five miles east of Wichita when a rear tire on the car went flat and several times she tried to hail cars passing on the highway, but none would stop. Finally, two motorists did stop and took her to a telephone at the edge of Wichita.
Searching for clues
Mrs. King’s description of the youth was vague. She advised she did not pay any particular attention to him after he entered the car and she could not describe his features.
Officers were speculating that the youth was attempting to catch a ride with the express purpose of holding up a motorist. There was a bandit who had recently held up a couple and who had committed other armed robberies in the Wichita area recently.
Mrs. King said they had left her sister’s home around 9:30 and the officers estimated the time of the shooting at around 10:15.
The next morning finger prints on the gun were being checked and it was expected some decision on them would be announced later in the day.
Mrs. King was still being questioned at the sheriff’s office. The body of her husband was at a Wichita mortuary, but no funeral plans had been made.
Sheriff and police officers had secured a search warrant for the couple’s apartment and they intended to search the entire apartment for some clue that might lead to the identity of the killer.
A neigbor of the couple advised the Kings had been at home as late as 5:20 p.m. the day before. He had seen Mr. King sitting in a chair in the living room with their child in his lap. The neighbor was most likely the last El Doradoan who saw the Kings before they left for Wichita.
Find out in Thursday’s edition where the clues led authorities and who would be charged with the murder of George King.
Sources: The Augusta Daily Gazette, January, 1939; The El Dorado Times, January, 1939; The San Antonio Light, January, 1939.
Belinda Larsen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.