|Brooksie van Pelt 1950's Private Investigator|
Photo by Dave Haworth: davesphotoexploration.wordpress.com
Welcome ya’ll to installment twenty four of Devil at Dusk!
One June 1st 1955 we got a call letting us know another body had been found. Another young lady had fallen victim to this cruel insatiable beast that had been lurking around these parts of Laurel Mississippi yet again. The call came in to the Sheriff’s Office a few minutes after 8 a.m. Walt Renfro the owner of the hardware store came in early that day to do paperwork (he does this twice a month and has for years). The hardware store is kitty corner from the diner on Main Street. He said he parked his car in the back of the store and came in through the back door. He went right into his office and he worked on his paperwork for about 45 minutes. About 15 minutes before 8 a.m. he started to get the store ready for the day, he opened up the till and got the cash out. He took a look around at everything and it looked good to go, next he turned on the lights and now that it was finally 8 a.m. he went up to the front to turn on the neon open sign and unlock the door. He looked through the glass door and down at the sidewalk at a large black garbage bag that was split down the center. He stepped outside to have a closer look and he realized that the body of a dead girl was in the bag, right there on the sidewalk on their main street in small town America! He goes back into the store and picks up the phone and calls the Sheriff as soon as possible.
The Sheriff’s Office calls me next, to let me know there was another body to go and take a look at and to try to glean evidence off of. I had just walked in my office right when Charlotte my office girl was answering the phone. She handed the phone over to me and I agreed to meet with Deputy Sheriff Jerry Hill at the crime scene as soon as I could get there. I finally arrived and Jerry was already there. Right away I pull out my camera and note pad, I start to take some notes and take pictures. In the mean time Jerry is chalking around the body in the bag and putting up the yellow caution crime scene tape. While Jerry is working away, I mention that our killer is getting quite ballsy, just tossing the body out on the sidewalk right in front of the store fronts. Jerry agreed with me and the he adds, maybe he is getting tired of keeping up with the killing spree and maybe he wants to get caught. You have to admit that dumping off a body in a big black bag in the middle of town will raise some eyebrows and will cause everybody to be even more on alert from now on.
Jerry and I had to work with both accuracy and speed to try to get the body out of there since having a body hanging out in a bag on your main street in town was not the best for business. In the mean time Walt turned off his neon open sign for the time being and set out to do some cleaning and organizing. As soon as we were done with our work we had to add some post haste to things, so instead of going back to the office to make the call to the coroner to pick up the body we caught Walt’s attention in the hardware store and asked him if he could let us in to use his phone, he said yes. Luckily the coroner got the phone right away and said he would be down in 10 min.
The coroner picked up the body and took it away where he would examine it, make some calls and then proceed to identify it. In the mean time we asked Walt the store owner some questions (just to make sure he was not a suspect). We asked him where he was last night when he got off work at 5 p.m. and this morning prior to when he made the call at 8:00 a.m. He told us he got off work and went straight home, had dinner with his wife Ava. After dinner they read the paper and listened to the radio. Then before bed they went on a night walk and came home and went to bed. Walt said he woke up at 6 a.m. got ready for work, had breakfast with his wife and then left for work at 6:45 a.m. and made it to work right about 7 a.m. After that we thanked him for his time and we went back to our offices. Walt turned his open sign back on and unlocked his doors and was ready for business. Once I got to my office I called Ava Renfro, Walt’s wife and asked her a few questions, everything checked out and Walt was definitely not a suspect.
Later on that day I got a call from the coroner and he said he had an identity for our victim; Hazel Anne Montgomery, 19 year old female, unemployed, single and 3 months pregnant. She had been living with her aunt and uncle here in Laurel for the past two weeks. Her aunt and uncle described her as being shy, young and naive. She left her small town in Alabama where she lived with her ultra religious parents, they pretty much shunned her and did not want anything to do with her now that she was pregnant. The coroner said her body was found in the exact same condition as all of the rest of the bodies, large gaping knife wound in the back, black plastic garbage bag, stockings missing. I made a file folder for Hazel Anne Montgomery and put all of my notes in it. Then I picked up the phone to set up a time to talk to Hazel’s aunt and uncle.
To be continued….