Part 5…Criminal in the Family

Welcome back to The Hogue Connection for Part 5 of this series! We left off in Part 4 with our couple, Marion, and Bertie Larner, trying to save their marriage by confronting Marion’s affair with a neighbor in a direct meeting between the three. Unfortunately, this approach didn’t seem to work. Bertie nagged Marion constantly, and when Marion asked for a divorce, Bertie refused. Despite all the domestic turmoil, Bertie discovered she was pregnant, with baby number four due in September.

Marion Plans a Night Out to Celebrate.

Bertie agreed to go along, too. She always claimed she loved Marion. A night out on the town would them both good, she probably thought. It was 31 March 1938, their 15th wedding anniversary. After Marion came home from work, the couple got ready for a night out on the town. Marion talked to his daughters and told them that they may be out late and not to expect them anytime soon. He told them just to go to bed and not to worry. They got into the family two-door coupe and headed to their first destination, a visit to Bertie’s doctor for a prenatal checkup, in Cordell.

Next stop, the town of Clinton, north of Cordell, about 25 miles from Dill. Here they met some friends for dinner and a show. The friend was a produce vendor of Marion’s, and he had previously arranged a meeting on the side. Marion had told this man he was hard pressed for funds at the moment. The vendor advanced him $200. On the way back to Cordell, the Larners stopped at a furniture store before going to another show at the theater. It was getting late by now, the traffic thinning out as they headed back to Dill.

The Celebration Turns Bloody.

Marion began heading west on State Highway 41, which at the time was graded gravel, not paved. About three and a half miles out of Cordell, he abruptly pulled off the road next to a large pine tree and stopped the car. Before leaving the house, he had spread out his leather tool roll on the back seat behind the driver’s seat. He reached behind him and grabbed the claw hammer, and with one quick swing, connected to the base of Bertie’s skull, just above her neck.

She shrieked, “What are you doing to me!” and fell forward. The blow did not make her lose consciousness, however, and she kept screaming. Marion hit her four more times with the hammer, Bertie crying out with each strike. She tried to get out of the car, but Marion ran around to her side and hit her once more, shoving her back in. He smashed the hammer into her side of the windshield a few times, then got back in on the driver’s side.

Marion started up the car again and pulled back out on the highway. He had carefully planned out each stop in his plan. The next one was about a half mile west from the pine tree. Marion tossed the hammer to the other side of the road as he drove away. Soon, he came upon a road grader (go here) next to the road and purposefully drove over it, launching the sedan into the shallow ditch below. He braced for impact, but managed to hit his head, making him more disoriented than he had planned.

Good Samaritans to the Rescue.

Two young Cordell men, Clifton McKee and Hollis Davis soon came upon the wrecked sedan, after noticing lights shining off the road at a weird angle. They pulled up behind the wreck, lit it up with their headlights and got out to help. The first thing they saw was Bertie Larner, her head bloodied, stumbling from the car crying, “Oh lordy, I wish you’d see what’s the matter with my husband!” They found Marion dazed in the driver’s seat. The pair assisted both Larners out of the wreck and into their car. Bertie was with it enough to refuse to sit in the back seat with her husband. They drove them back to Cordell and to Florence Hospital.

The tragic tale continues next week in Part 6.

Thanks for reading Part 5…Criminal in the Family on my blog! See you back at The Hogue Connection soon! You can return to the Home Page here.

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