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           Hooded Wraith
               The First Victims

It was a brisk late night February 22, 1946. Jimmy Hollis was driving down New Boston Road with his date Mary Jeanne Larey. They had been at Texarkana’s Paramount theater watching a movie and now they were leaving behind them the lights of the city. Their destination?-- A rural road just on the fringes of the new subdivisions.

     Texarkana was expanding westward and would soon experience the post war boom, in which cracker box wood frame houses would go up in new gridline communities. Only one grid was in place west of the Swampdoodle River. It could be accessed only by New Boston or West 23rd. West 23rd was an arboreal lane crossing the Swampdoodle on a narrow bridge by Holly Chapel. But New Boston was now the main road west. It was wider and passed south of the new community.

   There were a couple of old buildings on New Boston. A garage. A receiving station for farm goods. A few scattered homes. The wood frame houses here were small and most painted white. Small garages were attached or stood separate. This new section was a small community, still rural but obviously expanding.

   Hollis turned right up a street. His headlights swept a couple of the plank-on-frame houses and cars parked in front. He headed northwest and followed the road as it merged into Richmond Road.

   This was one of Texarkana’s old rural roads. Old farm houses with a lot of land around them flitted past in Hollis’ headlights as he continued on. Soon only the thick underwood gleamed in his headlights, this and the bare talon-like tree branches hanging over the old country road.

     He slowed and turned onto a dirt road; a ditch was on one side, a plowed field on the other. They were going to park. The dirt road, not too distant from the scattered houses, was a favorite petting spot for Texarkana youth. Despite both being divorcées, they still qualified. Hollis was only 26, and Mary Jeanne was only 19. She was still in divorce proceedings, but neither felt ill about dating during the process.

     Since this is not merely a journalistic endeavor but a preliminary report to place in order the events of that night, it is necessary to break the narrative and insert the map below with pop-up pictures (and captions) to illustrate what has been written already. Context is crucial. Within it the victims and perpetrator lived and acted.

     The topograph below is from 1942, but it illustrates the area of Texarkana in question well enough when accompanied by the photo essay. For conveying accuracy, both visual and accuracy of mood, most photos are of other areas of Texarkana, places that mimic in appearance what the areas in question looked like 70 years ago. These have not been lost to progress and still reflect Texarkana 1946. The actual crimes scenes and surrounding topography are largely lost to progress, but eventually photos at the bottom of this page will contain the true areas with captions explaining crime scene reconstruction.

Maple-old church-icon
King-near tracks-icon
Paramount Theater2-icon

     1. The new community west of the Swampdoodle River. 2. New Boston Road. 3. West 23rd Street Bridge. 4. Richmond Road. 5. Summerhill Road. Star marks probable location of lovers’ lane.

     After they parked down the lane, they billed and cooed. It was pitch dark out, a country night, making the lights of the stars inviting. Jimmy looked out his window, then he got out and stood by the car, staring at the starlit sky. He was soon jolted. A powerful flashlight beam from behind his car caught him. He spun and faced it. He shielded its bright, spiking beams with his hand. They glittered off his glasses. He squinted.
     Standing by the rear of his car was a man blurred behind the bright splatter of a powerful flashlight. Judging by the level of the beam, the man seemed to be tall. He also held something in his other hand that looked like a long barrel pistol or pipe. Between the spikes of the flashlight beams, Hollis could see little more. The man took form only through a mean, commanding voice.
     The man’s voice growled: “Take off your fucking pants!”
     Hollis’ first thought was a vengeful lover. After all, this was a known petting spot. “Fellow, you’ve got me mixed up with someone else. You’ve got the wrong man!”
     The man stepped toward him. He snarled: “I don’t want to kill you, fellow, so you better do what I told you! Take off your goddammed pants now!”
       Hollis remained frozen.
     Mary Jeanne had heard it all from inside the car. She had been craning her neck around trying to see the man out the back window. She assumed this was a robbery. “Jimmy, please take them off,” she finally begged.
     Hollis barely got his first leg out, now losing balance, when the man stepped forward and hit him over the head. A loud crack jolted Mary Jeanne inside the car. Hollis had fallen quickly to the ground; and Mary now watched horrified as the villain stomped and kicked him repeatedly. She didn’t know what to do, but she had little time to think, for the creep bent over and looked in the car window. My God, he had some kind of grain sack on his head! It was gray or white and had two little round holes for his eyes and one for his mouth.
     “Get out!”
     She slid out the driver’s side and stood shakily before him. She quickly bent down and pulled Hollis’ wallet from his pants while Jimmy groaned nearby on the ground. “Look, he doesn’t have any money.”
     The man growled back: “You’re lying!”
     She pushed the open wallet at him and fretfully cried: “No, look, you can see!”
     This seemed to do the trick. The hooded attacker bent over and felt Hollis’ pants.
     Mary Jeanne noticed his hands. They were dark, like he was a light-skinned Negro.
     He stood up now and his dark, mean eyes glared at her through those beady holes. “Where’s your purse?” he demanded.
     “I don’t have one,” she replied.
     He growled and hit her on the head with the barrel of his pistol (or pipe). She fell to the ground. Dazed, she sat there.
     The predator had stepped over by Hollis.
     She slowly stood up, blood dripping from the cut in her scalp.
     The hooded villain snarled: “Take off!  . . . Run!”
     She darted toward the ditch on the side of the dirt road.
   “Not that way,” he barked. “Go up the road!”
     Mary Jeanne stumbled up the dirt road in her high heels. Behind her there were thuds. The hooded villain was stomping and kicking poor Jimmy to death. Crazed with fear, she ran faster.
     Toward the end of the dirt road, she came to an old model car, parked in the field right by the road. It was facing in, meaning that since neither of them had seen headlights turn down the road after them, the villain must have had his lights off when he pulled in. She was gasping and hadn’t heard the villain approach.
     Suddenly, his mean voice jolted her:
   “What the hell are you running for?”
   “You told me to run!”
   “You’re a goddamned liar,” he snarled back.
     Whatever it was he carried— be it pipe or pistol— his dark hand swung it down and hit her head harder than before. She fell to the ground.
     From this point she was too dazed to recall anything too coherent. But she felt her underwear ripped away and then she was groped by what she believed was the end of a long gun barrel. She did not know how long the horrifying ordeal lasted, but she eventually staggered to her feet, anticipating the worst was still to come. “Go ahead and kill me,” she declared.
     The assailant’s blurry form turned. She fell into a pool of ink after this. Things went black. When she came to, she was alone.

     This is the essence of the attack on this lovers’ lane off Richmond Road, on the western approaches to Texarkana, February 22, 1946.

     Both Jimmy Hollis and Mary Jeanne Larey had survived the pointless attack. Mary Jeanne had run down Richmond Road to one of the homes. Hollis had stumbled to his feet, bleeding and aching, his glasses somewhere in the dirt. He finally groped to Richmond Road and flagged down a passing car. The driver rushed to a phone and called an ambulance.

     When both were compis mentis, they gave stories that only slightly conflicted but did not, strangely, overlap. Hollis thought the man had a gun. Mary Jeanne thought it was a pipe. Mary Jeanne had seen the hood, but Hollis had not. The sheriffs found this suspicious. There had also been no robbery, and the sequence of events as Mary Jeanne relayed them sounded peculiar. In fact, Jimmy’s words to the assailant about having “the wrong man” stuck with them. Plainly put, the sheriffs didn’t think the attacker had the wrong man.

     Mary Jeanne had in their eyes basically John Doe’d her husband while he was in the Service, and was now dating during divorce proceedings. The sheriffs tended to think the attack was vengeance on the part of Larey’s soon-to-be ex-hubby. They were especially suspicious of Larey insisting their attacker wore a white hood. That was too dramatic to be believable, and why would a black guy wear a white hood so he could stand out at night? They suspected Larey was lying to cover having recognized the attacker.

     It was also remarkable that their stories did not overlap. Hollis never heard any request for money. He had heard the man order him to take off his pants. Then he started getting beaten. Theft was Mary Jeanne’s excuse for the villain’s motive, and it didn’t match with the severe beating of Hollis and then her getting groped. Their stories agreed and overlapped only in that a man approached them behind a flashlight and ordered Hollis’ pants off before he started beating him.

     They also disagreed about the description of their attacker in more than just something as dramatic as the existence of the hood. Hollis thought his attacker was a tanned white man, but Mary Jeanne had said a light-skinned black man. This was another cover, they felt, for the fact she knew the attacker. Her bravado that she’d rather die than be raped by a Negro didn’t impress them. It was only her claim. Hollis had not come across a parked car on the dirt road, so obviously the car Larey claimed to have come across had belonged to the attacker and he had driven off, but it seemed too convenient that Mary Jeanne couldn’t remember what type of car it was, nor how the attacker just disappeared and drove away. Why would the attacker tell her to go up the road to his car? If she saw the license plate, it could only give him away.

     The attack was written off as “jealousy/revenge.”


The Phantom of Texarkana

The Website of Gian J. Quasar