Part 7…Criminal in the Family

Welcome back to the Hogue Connection and Part 7 of Criminal in the Family! At the end of Part 6, Marion Larner was proceeding with plans to get his life back to normal, not realizing that local law enforcement was building a murder case against him.

The Hammer is Found Along SH41.

Sheriff Doran and his deputies were able to round up a few volunteers to help them look for the hammer along the highway. They believed that this hammer was, based on Bertie Larner’s injuries, the actual murder weapon. It only took the men a couple of hours. Homer Neeley and Pete Thiessen of Cordell, astute helpers, found a hammer about ¾ of a mile from the crash site, on the opposite side of the road. They yelled and the deputies came running. The head of the hammer was stained a dark color and had pieces of glass embedded in it. There was also what looked like skin wedged in between the head and the handle, along with a few hairs.

Dr. Duncan processed the hammer and matched the hair and blood samples. The law enforcement team organized and analyzed their evidence, then went to the District Attorney with their case. They had also received a phone call from Lloyd Judd, the VP of National Aid Life Insurance Company. He had read about the accident in the papers and checked the policy Marion had purchased in August. After comparing it to other documents, he determined that Larner had forged his wife’s name on the policy application. D.A. Plumlee decided they had enough and asked the sheriff to bring Marion in for questioning.

Larner Sticks to His Story. For a Bit, Anyway.

On 5 April 1938, Philo Lambert drove out to Dill and found Larner at home. He had taken the day off to be with his kids after Bertie’s funeral. She was buried in Page Cemetery, Burns Flat, not too far from the grave of her grandfather John Wesley Bewley, who was buried there in 1921. Larner went along peacefully at first, but once Marion arrived at the police station, he was indignant about the interruption to his new normal life. He went into a tirade about the invasion of his privacy and the injustice of the sheriff questioning his innocence.

After explaining to him that they just wanted to talk about things, Plumlee and his assistant D.A., Elba “Dutch” Sasseen, asked Larner his version of what happened that night. He said he “remembered nothing” after his automobile “struck something ” and lunged into the shallow ditch. All along, Larner denied having anything to do with killing his wife, and that he was involved in a tragic accident. Soon, the attorneys began to present their theories of the case as they saw it. Minimal damage to the car. Lack of skidding in the tire tracks. Glass on the floorboard and not on the hood. Bertie’s injuries inconsistent with that type of accident. The pine trees and the glove at the first stop. The believed forgery of the insurance application. The possible motive involving the affair with the widow. Finally, they unwrapped the hammer and showed it to him.

Larner’s confident demeanor and appearance suddenly and outwardly vanished.

Marion Larner Confesses to it All.

The produce dealer broke into sobs and admitted his part in the slaying. “I’m guilty. l beat her but she wouldn’t die. She just kept pleading, ‘Why are you doing this to me?’ But even that wouldn’t stop me. l had made up my mind to kill her. I did it. I thought I could get away with it,” said Larner. “We always quarreled, and I just decided to get rid of her. It was horrible and I wanted to get it over with. I didn’t think I could ever do it. I hit her one time in the back of the head. She started screaming. She talked to me the entire time. That is how I came to drive into the ditch. I was not mad. I knew what I was doing.”

Plumlee took Larner’s full statement and read the charges against him, locking him up in the Washita County Jail. The next day 6 Apr 1938, Larner was arraigned before Justice M. B. Brown, and said, “I killed my wife by striking her about the head and face. I am guilty. There’s no use going on like this. All night in jail I was chilly and afraid. It was horrible.” Larner waived a preliminary hearing, refused counsel, and expressed desire for a swift sentencing. 

Next week in Part 8, Marion Larner finds a second career. In prison.

Thanks for reading Part 7 of 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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