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AUTHENTIC STORIES OF CRI

M~

E DETECTION

ALABAMA'S MYSTERY OF THE BURNED BEAUTY


In just 7 days, investigators performed "the impossible" to solve the
riddle of a faithless wife who met a fiery death far from home

AN INDIANA GAME WARDEN'S LAST REPORT


Pieced together, torn f rag ts of the missing page provided
vital evidence-in the shotgunned man's own handwriting

D..AD BLONDE AT CAMP FORREST


Pr.etty Anna vanished without a trace, until shrewd
Tennessee sleuths turned up an astonishing clue

250

Riddle
of the
Shotgunned
Sisters
BY STAN REDDING

Sheri1f EvllDll bad doubts a woman would use a heavy ehotgun

The deaths of the wealthy spinsters at Thousand Pines Ranch


had all the earmarks of murder and suicide, hut Sheriff Evans
clung stubbornly to his hunch, that it was a double murder
38

~S IS NOT ONE of Texas' fabled cattle

J_

spreads. No huge _..herds graze across vast


prairies, as they do in the western part of the
state. The Ranch of the Thousand Pines does not
encompass entire counties, as do some ranches on
the Pecos and Concho. There is no bunkhouse
full of cowboys; there are no strings of cow ponies,
no pretentious adobe or stone ranch house occupied by a strong-jawed cattleman.
.
The Ranch of the Thousand Pines is tucked away in a
corner. of Trinity County, in East Texas' Piney Woods. Its
main ranch house is a frame a1fair, painted white and set
on concrete blocks. Only 70 head of cows, a flock of chickens, and two saddle horses are supported on its 1,100 acres.
The outfit was owned and operated by two spinsters, 72year-old Hattie Bauer an~ her 67-year:..Old sister, Lillie
Bauer.
But the Ranch of the Thousand Pines was worthy of its
name. It had tremendous potential as a livestock operation.
In West Texas, ranches have to be big to be profitable.
Twenty thousand acres is a minimum necessary for even a
small herd. Forage west of the Black Praries is thin, mesquite and native grasses mostly. Water is a precious commodity. Five to ten dollars an acre is a good price for West
Texas ranch land.
Each acre of the Bauer sisters' ranch was worth ten times
as much. Its lush meadows, cut by small streams of good
water, further aided by frequent rains; could have supported flve tinles as many cattle.
The Bauer sisters had paid $110,000 in cash for the ranch
three years before. They didn't offer to explain why they
operated it on a small scale. As a matter o f fact, the elderly
women had little contact with their neighbors, the nearest
of whom lived. three miles distant; they were seen only
rarely in Groveton, the seat of Trinity County. They were
not recluses, or unfriendly; they just seemed to prefer living quietly on their ranch. Folks in Trinity County didn't
regard this as unusual Piney Woods people are inclined to
live and let live.
As a matter of fact, most of them admired the Bauer
sisters. They were women, but they were as self-reliant as
men. One man, a grocer in Groveton, had permission to fish
a lake on the Bauer ranch. Usually, when he went to the
lake to fish, he saw the elderly women, dressed in overalls
or khakis, working around the banis, or pitching hay to
feed their cattle.
The sisters weren't alone on the ranch. Their nephew,
Marvin Bauer, 30, was employed as foreman-manager. He
lived with his wife and teenage stepson in a smaller house

100 yards from the main ranch house. Marvin did.the heavier chores and the other work not suited for women.
It was Marvin who brought the shocking news to Groveton the afternoon of December 27, 1960. The big ranchman
walked into the Trinity County ~herif!'s office and confronted Deputy Sheriff F. M. Brown. Bauer's face, under .
his big Stetson, was pale.
"Both my aunts are dead," he blurted out. "I found them
when. I returned from Houston today."
Deputy Brown quickly contacted Sheriff Lynn Evans,
who sped immediately to his office to talk to Bauer. The
handsome, hawk-faced lawman listened intently while
Bauer told his story.
Bauer said his wife and stepson had left the Ranch of the
Thousand Pines the past Thursday to spend a week with
her family. He had stayed on the ranch until Christmas
Day, and then left in the pre-dawn hours for his mother's
home in Katy, a few miles west of Houston.
On his return, about an hour or so ago, Bauer continued,
he went to his aunts' house to inquire how they had fared
in his absence--and he found both women shot to death.
Miss Lillie's body lay on the enclosed front porch of the
home; Miss Hattie's body in a back bedroom.
"What did it look like to you?" Sheriff Evans asked.
"Sheriff, I don't know what it looked like," said Bauer.
"I was so upset, I came straight here."
"Let's get out there," said Sheriff.Evans to Deputy Brown
and Deputy Sheriff Lloyd Pruitt.
The Ranch of the Thousand Pines was nine miles north
of Groveton. The three officers arrived at the death scene
in less than 30 minutes. They found the situation quite as
Bauer had described it.
Miss Lillie Bauer, clad in a cotton nightgown, lay in a
pool of blood on the enclosed front porch of the ranch
house. A double-barreled 20-gauge shotgun lay at her feet.
In a rear bedroom, Miss aattie Bauer lay beside her bed.
Her body also was clothed in a nightgown.
Justice of the Peace Hanis Johnson, summoned to the
ranch in his capacity as coroner, found both women had
died from a shotgun wound in the chest. It appeared obvious that the shotgun which lay near Miss Lillie's body was
the death weapon.

"Killed instantly, both of them,'' Justice Johnson stated.


Sheriff Evans and his two deputies prowled through the
house, their trained eyes missing nothing in the arrangement of the home. All seemed in order.
''It looks like Miss Lillie shot Miss Hattie to death, then
killed herself,'' observed one deputy.
Sheriff Evans did not answer. Apparently, that was what
had happened here-but why? And when?
Marvin Bauer said he had last seen his aunts on Christ-

Ranch home (below) held secret of two mysterious deaths. Nephew who Jiyed in 8Dlall house (r.) coald offer

no clue to tragedy

Lab expert Queen found no helpful printa on this shotgun

mas Eve, when he went to their house to present them with


cartons of cigarettes as Christmas gifts. The sisters, in return, had given him a $5 check. It was a family practice to
exchange only small gifts, he explained.
Bauer told the officers he had noticed nothing unusual in
his aunts' behavior when be last saw them, nor had be
beard or seen anything unusual around their home before
he~t. He bad heard no shots before he left the ranch, and
the tWin blasts of the shotgun would surely have carried to
his home, would even have awakened him, had he been
asleep.
Sheriff Evans had been the chief lawman of Trinity
County for 11 years. He had had several years of law en-
forcement experience prior to being elected sheritf. His
ability as an investigator was respected over a wide area
of the state. And because he lived and worked in an agricultural community, Sheriff Evans had a pretty good
knowledge of farming and ranchllm operations.
He knew a nitrate test, a routine aid in most homicide or
suicide cases, would be useless in this instance. Working as
they did in the soil, the hands of both Lillie and Hattie
Bauer would probably yield positive nitrate traces. Such a
test in this instance, therefore, would not prove conclusively
that Lillie Bauer had fired the shotgun now lying near her
b<>dy,

Nevertheless, Sheriff Evans ordered a dermal nitrate test


performed on the hands of the younger Sister; he also ordered autopsies performed to determine the time of death
as closely as possible.
Marvin Bauer told the sheriff that the elderly sisters
sometimes disagreed over details of the ranch operations,
but be never had expected these sisterly spats to end in
violence.
Sheriff Evans learned that a third sister lived in Houston.
Making inquiries, he learned that the three sisters and a
brother had all been born on their father's ranch near Addicks, west of Houston. The father, Albert Bauer, had been
a partner with George Hermann, one of Houston's wealthiest men, until his death many years before.
.
On Albert Bauer's death, his property was divided be-

40

tween his three daughters and one son. None of the sisters
married. All led meticulous lives, quiet and unassuming,
and over the years liquidated the property their father had
left them. Only the women themselves knew the extent of
their wealth. The brother married, and Marvin was his so~
The surviving sister in Houston told the sheriff the Bauer
children had chosen to go their separate ~ys, with the exception of Lillie and Hattie, who in 1958 had joined to buy
the Ranch of the Thousand Pines. Since then there had
been little contact between them and their sister in Houston,
but the manner of their death shocked her deeply.
"It's hard to believe," she said.
Sheriff Evans also found it hard to believe, and when his
deputies suggested they mark the case closed as a ''murder
and suicide," he vetoed the idea. Although there was nothing on the surface to indicate the double death was other
than an uncomplex murder-suicide, Sheriff Evans was
bothered by a nagging doubt he couldn't shake.
He now put it into blunt words. "I think someone murdered the. Bauer sisters," he said. "And I'm going to prove
it if I can."
The sheriff was perturbed by three questions that could
not be answered to his satisfaction.
First, why should two sisters who bad lived together for
years with only an occasional family spat suddenly become involved in a quarrel that resulted in the death of
both?
Second, even assuming such a quarrel had actually occurred, why should Lillie Bauer choose a man's weapona heavy shotgun-for the dreadful deed?
Third, why should such a violent issue arise in the middle
of the night, or in the pre-dawn hours, when both women
were in their nightclothes?
Sheriff Evans did not even consider the possibility Of a
death pact. Both women had been in excellent health. The
energy and efforts they had put into their ranch was tangi. ble proof that they found life an.. exciting challenge.
"Murder and suicide just don't add up, in my opinion,"
said Sheritf Evans firmly.
But if it was a double murder, who had committed the
terrible crime? And why?
The Bauer sisters had kept little cash around the house,
and no effects valuable enough to kill for. Despite their
affiuence, they had practised economy. Even their car was
an over-age, low-priced model:
Trinity County had its share of thieves, crooks and men
who would resort to the gun for robbery or other purpose5,
but Sheriff Evans could not think of a man in his bailiwick
despicable enough to blast down two aged women.
He sent the shotgun to the Houston Police Department
laboratory for intensive examination by identification expert R .. 0 . Queen, since his small department afforded no
extensive crime laboratory facilities.
Then Sheritf Evans contacted his good friend, Captain
Eddie Oliver, commahding Ranger C-ompany A in Houston,
and asked for Rangers to assist him in his probe. Captain
Oliver instructed Ranger Mart Jones, a grizzled veteran
stationed in Huntsville, and Ranger Harvey Phillip5, a seasoned officer assigned to Woodsville, to proceed to Groveton.
Sheriff Evans, the two Rangers, and Deputies Brown and
Pruitt zealously began seeking clues that might not exist as
they looked for the trail of a killer who likewise might not
exist. All they had to go on was Sheriff Evans' hunch, which
he clung to tenaciously.
In an effort to uncover some motive for the two deaths,
the officers questioned all of those who had known the
Bauer sisters. None could shed any light on a possible
motive for the murders, if indeed it was murder.
The autopsies disclosed the sisters had died on Christmas
day, probably early in the morning. The death weapon had
been the shotgun.
Identifications Expert Queen's examination of the shotgun yielded little. "I was able to find only a few fingerprints, and they weren't in very good shape," he reported.
"None can be classified."

Sheriff Evans was suddenly struck by a thought. Who


had owned the shotgun? It wasn't the kind of weapon
women usually kept around the- home. A pistol, yes. A
small-bore ri1le, possibly. But a double-barreled shotgun? .
"It's my gun," Marvin Bauer told the sheri1J. "But how
it got over there, I don't know. One of them must have
taken it from my house, although I would have loaned it to
either of them, had they asked for it."
Bauer said he couldn't remember when he had last seen
the gun, although he was sure it had been no more than a
couple of days or so before Christmas Eve.
Pressing Bauer, Sheriff Evans learned he had not been.
the .only man working on the ranch. The sisters had employed a young cowboy for several months, but the ranch
hand had quit a few weeks before. It was not known whether he had had a falling out with either of the women and
quit as a result.
Sheri1J Evans ordered tbe cowboy brought in for questioning.

Officers learned he had gone to work for another rancher,


but when the Rangers visited this ranch, the owner told
them the hand had drawn his pay and left without saying
why.

The officers traced the youth to Houston, to Huntsville,


and back to Trinity County. He was finally located at a relative's home. He readily agreed to talk to Sheriff Evans.
"I haven't seen the Bauer sisters since a week or more
before Christmas," he told the sheriff. "I quit because they
weren't paying me enough money, I thought. But they
always treated me nice, and there sure wasn't any hard
feelings when I left, Sheriff."
The cowboy gave a detailed account of his activities and
movements since leaving the Ranch of the Thousand Pines,
and investigators were able to corroborate his story exactly.
He had been in Huntsville with relatives at the time of the
slayings. He could think of no one who might have had reason to kill the sisters.

Famed criminal lawyer Perey Foreman (I.) aaserted Marvin

Bau~r

Sheri1J Evans thanked him for his cooperation and the


cowboy left, completely exonerated of any knowledge of,
or connection with the deaths.
The probers were left without a shred of hope of breaking
the case, although Sheriff Evans clung stubbornly to his
belief that a double murderer somewhere walked the soil
of the Piney Woods country.
A famed Southwestern lawman once replied, when asked
the secret of his success at cracking baffling murder cases:
"Son, the formula for breaki.J)g any puzzling crime is just
10 percent brains and 90 percent walkin' and talkin'."
Sheriff Evans and his small band of investigators concentrated first on "walkin' and talkin'." And they unearthed a
lead that Sheriff Evans thought might vindicate his dogged
insistence that the deaths of the Bauer sisters constituted a
double murder.
A cowman, out of the county at the time the slayings
were discovered, recalled on his return that he had seen a
local man named Will Jones in the vicinity of the Bauer
ranch on Christmas Eve.
Sheriff Evans knew Jones as a shiftless, mean and harddrinking man who walked the borderline between the law
and the underworld. Jones' brushes with the law had been
minor; in fact, he had no record, but Sheriff Evans suspected he resorted more to illicit means than to honest
work to _g ain funds to satisfy his whiskey craving.
It was common knowledge that the Bauer sisters were
financially well off. Some folks probably ~ed the women kept large amounts of cash at the ranch.
Had Jones been one of these people? Had he gone to the
ranch, bent on burglary, only to be surprised by the sisters?
And had he killed them with the shotgun, then placed the
weapon near Lillie Bauer's hands so it would look like a
murder and suicide?
Sheriff Evans' examination of the ranch house had disclosed no evidence of ransacking, but it was possible their
assailant had been surprised (Continued on page 87)

(c.), aeeused of the crimes hy D.A. Lanier (r.), was innocent

Riddle of the ShotCunned Sisters


l Conti1med from page 41)
immediately upon his entry; then, having
killed in panic or anger, he may have fled
without carrying out his original mission.
Sheriff Evans ordered Jones' arrest for
further questioning.
But Will Jones had - mysteriously disappeared from Trinity County. The officers
checked his usual haunts. They knocked on
the doors of his friends and relatives. They
combed the bars, taverns and night spots
in Trinity, Groveton, and Crockett. No one
had seen Will Jones for several days, not
since Christmas Eve, in fact. He had told
no one he was leaving the county, officers
learned. He just dropped out of sight, leaving no trail
" It may be just coincidence, and again he
might be running," said Sheriff Evans. "We
need to find him to determine which."
A description of Jones was compiled and
an APB (all points bulletin) was flashed
to police agencies throughout East Texas.
Within hours, scores of police officers,
sheriff's deputies, Rangers, constables and
marshals were on the alert for Jones.
As the search for the missing man was
pressed Sheriff Evans sat down at his desk
and reviewed the case. Despite the lack of
tangible clues, concrete leads, with the
exception of Jones' possible connection, or
real evidence that he was dealing with
murder, Sheriff E vans' opinion remained
u nchanged.
He felt more strongly than ever that
someone had callously and coldly blasted
out the life of the Bauer sisters. He would
not entertain the thought that Lillie Bauer
had killed her sister and then took her own
life.
Somewhere, Sheriff Evans felt, there was
a key to the whole mystery, something that
would serve as a catalyst to dissolve the
baffling fog shrouding the deaths of the
w omen. Somehow, Sheriff Evans felt the

DOUBLE TROUBLE
In a Dallas, Texas, cou rtroom o defendant was about to face trial on a
charge of robbery-murder. But the
judge , looking at the two attorneys ret ained as defense counsel, wore a troubled frown. Both were dressed in
identica l suits.
"Before we proceed with this case,"
he told the attorneys, "I wont you two
gentlemen to wear different-colored
suits- so I may know whom I'm talking
ta."
The lawyers for the defense-who
we re identical twi ns-promptly agreed.
-Dwight Evans

solution to the enigma w as at the Ranch of


the Thousand Pines.
H is single-minded pursuit of his theory
had attracted the attention of Trinity
County Attorney Albert Hutson, who
joined in the investigation. Hutson accom panied Sheriff Evans and the Rangers to
the ranch for another examination of the
premises.
The ranch was now deserted. Marvin
Bauer had gone to Houston to await and
attend funeral services for bis two dead
aunts. Only the soft whisper of the wind
moving through the legion of tall pines
greeted the officers. Taking their time, they
prowled through the barns, sheds and holding pens, looking over the equipment and
stock.
Texas Ranger Ed Gooding said later,
"There wasn't a cow in the herd worth
marketing. Scrub stock, most all of it. Whoever had bought that herd didn't know
much about cow ranching. A lot of the
cows were smooth-mouthed from age."
The investigators entered the house.
They delved into every corner of the room,
opened every closet, searched every chest.
bureau and receptacle.
It was County Attorney Hutson who
found the legal-looking document, bundled
together with other papers in a dresser
drawer. The prosecutor scanned it, then
handed it to Sheriff Evans. "Look at that,"
he said.
Sheriff Evans read the document, and his
jaw tightened. "Let's go back t o town," he
said shortly.
Back in Groveton, Sheriff Evans called
in his deputies and handed them each a
picture of a man. Then he gave them explicit instructions.
The officers divided Groveton into sections and went to work. They visited every
hardware store in the city. They showed
the picture to each proprietor. "Do you
know this man?" t hey asked.
In most
instances, the answ er was "Yes."
"Has he bought anything in here lately?"
was the second question . In every instance,
the answer w as " No."
The officers visited every general store
in and around Groveton. Again they
received many positive answ ers to their
first query. always a negative answer to
their second. The deputies t urned to canvassing sporting goods stores and service
stations. The results w ere the same. The
officers reported back to Sheriff Evans.
"Try Trinity," he instructed.
In Trinity, smaller than Groveton, the
officers repeated their questions in every
store known to han dle cert ain merchandise.
" Not a bit of luck," they reported back
to Evans.
"Try Crockett," said Sheriff Evans, unrelenting.
The squad of officers fanned out over
Crockett, repeating the process for the third
time. And in Crockett, one hardware store
operator scanned the picture, then looked
at the deputy making the inquiry.
"I don't know his name, but a man who
looks just like that fellow was in here last
Friday or Saturday morning," the man said.
"Did he buy anything?" the officer asked.
" Sure, he bought a box of 20-gauge bu ckshot shells."
"I think w e can proceed on th.is," said
Sheriff Evans, when handed the information.
At 5 p.rn. on Saturday , December 31, 1960,
following the funeral of the Bauer sisters,
Sheriff Ev ans, accompanied by Texas
Rangers and Houston homicide detectives,
approached Marvin Bauer in Houston .
"You are under arrest, Bauer-the charge
is murder," said Sheriff Evans.
Since Sheriff Evans was technically out
of his jurisdiction, a Ranger served the
warrant issued by Justice Johnson. Bauer
was taken to Ranger headquarters in Houston, where Sheriff Evans and the Rangers

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87

"questioned him for several hours. Late on


New Year's Eve, Sheriff Evans told newsmen that Bauer had confessed to slaying
his two aunts.
"We found a will in their house, showing
they had left the ranch, and their other
properties, to Marvin Bauer," Sheriff Evans
disclosed.
"And we have established that Marvin
Bauer drove all the way to Crockett to buy
,shells for the shotgun used in the murders.
He didn't buy them in Groveton or Trinity,
where he was well known in both communities.
"At first he denied the murders, but afterwards he confessed to me that he had killed
his aunts. and he gave me a detailed, written
statement."
Sheriff Evans said he woulrl not show the
statement to newsmen, "because I don't
want to jeopardize the case against Bauer
in any way."
Bauer was taken to Groveton, where he
was arraigned before Justice Johnson.
"You are charged with two counts of
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Songwriters, with publisher contacts,
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NO FEES. Send poems:
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you are to be remanded to jail, and an exStudio O , 1650 Broadway, New York 19, N. Y.
amining trial on these charges will be held
~==:======::::'::':::::::=======-' I Tuesday."
Bauer was not allowed to talk to news men. However, he was permitted to retain
STOPS FOOT ITCH
and confer with an attorney. Bauer selected
as his defense counsel one of the most
IUllS ATHLTFS FOOT FUNGI
formidable barristers in the Southwest, if
Dr. Scholl's SOLVEX re.not the nation, Percy Foreman, of Houston.
lieves itching of Athlete"s
Foot kills fungi of the
Foreman drove to Groveton, and coninfection on contact helps heal red, raw, cracked,
ferred with the suspected slayer. The colorpeeling skin between toes and on feet. Liquid, Oint.
'ful criminal lawyer called a press confermentor Powder. Imiat on D r. Scholl'e SOLVEx.
ence immediately after his 45-minute talk
with the accused man.
"My client is innocent," Foreman stated
0
firmly. "That boy did not kill those two
PAYS BJG l SEND FOR FREE, BIC, ILLUSwomen, and I intend to prove it. He was
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bulldozed into confessing." Re added that
r::nbu:!~~ q~~~l.; ~~i;r: 0sJ~s?' ~~! mu
he would demand bail for Bauer and, if
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::,a~~ ~bf~~fu:T~l~i~s~T J\~~~.!'r a~~-:t
Write TODAY for free book! No obJigatton,
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Apprm.ed for World War II and Korean Veterans
District Attorney Gus Lanier, sworn in
WEAVER SCHOOL OF REAL ESTATE (Kot. 19381
2020L GRAND AVENUE
KANSAS CITY, MO.
January ~. 1961, as Trinity County's chief
prosecutor, ;promptly retorted: "Mr. Foreman's chqges are absolute nonsense. I discussed ..tlte -entire matter wit)l the officers.
Opportunities everywhere for trained

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SONG IDEAS

REtE:e i l9TE

They did not mistreat Bauer in any way.


His confession was free and voluntary."
Foreman did not file a writ of habeas
corpus. He didn't have to. In a strategic
maneuver, District Attorney Lanier decided
against an examining trial and agreed to
Bauer's release on $20,000 bail.
"This action was taken so we would not
have to reveal our evidence in a preliminary hearing,'' said Sheriff Evans.
He denied the defense counsel's charges
categorically and stated: "No one threatened Bauer in any manner, and at no tim.e
was he struck or mistreated."
On the basis of Bauer's arrest, the pickup
order for Will Jones as a suspect in the
slaying was canceled.
The shocking murders of the spinster
ranch owners had received wide publicity
in the press throughout Texas, but more
headlines were yet to come. On February
14th, in Lufkin, R. C. Musselwhite, one of
the most prominent attorneys in East Texas,
announced that the relatives of the slain
sisters had retained him to try to seek the
electric chair for Marvin Bauer.
'Members of the victims' family hired me
in the case as a special prosecutor,'' Musselwhite told reporters. "I have been doing
investigative work on the case. I am helping
prepare it for trial, and I will participate in
the trial."
The lawyer declined to name the parties
who had engaged his special l!Elrvices, nor
would he disclose what relation they were
to Marvin Bauer, the accused man.
At this writing, Marvin Bauer is free on
bond, awaiting the due process of law. He
has not been indicted as yet, and until he
is, he cannot be brought to trial on the
charges against him.
At that trial, if and when it is h1;?ld, -perhaps the inysterY of the Ranch of the
Thousand Pines will finally be fully
resolved.

+++

EDITOR'S NOTE:

The name, Win Jones, as used in the


foregoing story, is not the reai name of
the person concerned. This person has
been given a fictitious name to protect
his identity.

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