Part 8…Criminal in the Family

Welcome back to the Hogue Connection and Part 8 of Criminal in the Family! At the end of Part 7, the Washita County Sheriff’s Office confronts Marion Larner. Their evidence all but proves he murdered his wife Bertie. Larner confesses to the crime.

Larner Sentenced.

My great grandmother, Ida, quoted in the paper on April 7th “I’ve been looking at things, and I know Marion didn’t do this.” Ida’s husband, William, went around town talking to friends and merchants. He gathered up a petition to urge Marion to plead not guilty by reason of insanity. Larner told his father, “I’m not insane. I’m guilty and I’m going to take my punishment.”

On 14 April 1938, Larner appeared in the county courthouse in front of Judge W.P. Keen to receive his sentence. The courtroom, packed with an overflow crowd of about 800, waited to hear the judge’s decision. Larner was stoic and clean-shaven, dressed in a pressed blue suit. He was led in front of the judge by Sheriff Doran and eight deputies. Judge Keen asked Larner if there was any reason he should delay the sentencing and Larner replied “No.” The judge said that he had considered the fact that Larner had served his country in the military and that his life had been exemplary until this crime. “I hereby sentence you to life in the Oklahoma State Penitentiary,” said Judge Keen.

Tears filled Larner’s eyes as he said, “Thank you, thank you very much. I wouldn’t be satisfied if I didn’t get what I deserved.”

On 17 April 1938, Larner (Prisoner #37673) entered into the state prison in McAlester, OK, known to locals as “Big Mac”. Construction on the prison began in 1909 and ready for prisoners by 1911. A new cell block “F” was built in 1935. Big Mac was famous for its electric chair nicknamed “Old Sparky”, used in many executions until 1966. Larner’s first years were uneventful as he adjusted to prison life. He kept his nose clean and earned the respect of the warden and guards.

Larner Becomes a Trusty.

Back in 1924, a progressive warden established a canteen system at O.S.P. The canteen allowed prisoners to buy coupons to use for the purchase of cold drinks, snacks, toiletry items, cigarettes, comic books, etc. The money bought sporting equipment and other things relating to the betterment of the prisoners. The canteen became remarkably successful and grew into something no one could imagine, generating thousands of dollars in profit. On 4 April 1944, Marion Larner became a trusty of the O.S.P. and named clerk-cashier of the canteen. This, only six years after clubbing his pregnant wife to death with a claw hammer.

Larner’s main responsibility was to receive all cash and coupons from the canteens. He would then transmit it to the chief clerk-cashier of the O.S.P. The chief clerk was a state employee and worked in the same building and on the same floor. Larner was to keep all of the books of the canteen and generate a monthly report. He had a key to the cash box and prepared weekly deposits for the chief clerk to take to a McAlester bank. Larner held this position for over two years. The current warden, Dick Conner, said “I would trust Larner with my own money”.

Larner’s Health Becomes An Issue.

Larner’s successful second career as a clerk-cashier for the Oklahoma State Penitentiary ended on 31 May 1946. Larner had been complaining of stomach pains for the last few weeks. An armed guard took him to the hospital for an examination. I’m sure there was an infirmary at O.S.P., but it probably didn’t have the expertise needed for more serious cases. One of the two hospitals in McAlester at that time, Saint Mary’s, or Albert Pike, likely had an arrangement with the prison.

Next week, in Part 9, we’ll look at Larner’s diagnosis and investigate some more shady dealings of the guy whose mother said, as most mothers do, “Marion’s a good boy. I can’t believe he would do something like this.”

Thanks for reading Part 8 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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