December 24


Amarillo Officer Berry Joe McQuire
After media attention, demonstrations, and the resulting outright assassination of police officers recently, one might think the much-publicized police shooting in Missouri and the death of a resisting suspect on the streets of New York have spawned an unprecedented attack on police. That, however, is not necessarily correct. A segment of American society has always viewed law enforcement as the symbol of repression by government. Officers have been assaulted, spit upon, called “pigs” or worse, and murdered since the inception of organized law enforcement in the U.S, yet little boys and girls still grow up wanting to be cops!
Peace officers’ willingness to risk their lives to perform the duties they swore to carry out never takes a break. Whether activist are demonstrating or civic clubs are bestowing honors on law enforcement, there are thousands of officers patrolling the streets while the rest of us sleep, some of them just seconds away from giving their lives for the values Americans have asked them to uphold.
Even Christmas Day is no exception to the danger inherent in the law enforcement profession. According to the Officer Down Memorial Page, a total of ninety-one officers have lost their lives in the line-of-duty on this, one of the most sacred of American holidays. At least fifty-four of those deaths were the result of violence perpetrated by some other person, most from gunfire, three from stabbing, two from assault.
Fort Worth Officer Marvin Elton Wills
Texas has suffered the most line-of-duty deaths. Eight Texas officers have lost their lives on Christmas, the first being Officer Absalom Kyle McCarty, a Denison, Texas police officer, who was shot and killed while attempting to arrest a man. The suspect fled and it is not known if he was ever arrested. Other Texas officers kill by gunfire on Christmas are Falls County Deputy Constable Tom H. Loftin (1894) Dallas police officer William McDuff (1896) Fort Worth police officer Marvin Elton Wills (1955) Tulia Assistant Police Chief Robert Henry Potter (1960) and Amarillo police officer Berry Joe McGuire (1980).

As the news media and demonstrators are sensationalizing anti-police sentiments, appealing to that segment of society, including the mentally unstable, the threat is even greater this holiday season. So in the words of Sergeant Bill Esterhaus of the 1980’s television series, Hill Street Blues, Hey, let’s be careful out there!

December 10


The Black Widow
She was known as La Madrina, the Black Widow, and the Queen of Narco-trafficking, but her name was Griselda Blanco. She was born in Columbia and grew up in the infamous city of Medellin, once considered the most violent city in the world. The city’s name is most recognizable as the home of Pablo Escobar, the leader of the Medellin Drug Cartel.
One former lover claimed that Griselda was only eleven years old when she kidnapped a child from a wealthy neighborhood not far from her own home and attempted to ransom the child. She was a pickpocket, a prostitute and a drug dealer. Though she was openly bi-sexual, at age twenty she married her first husband and bore three sons.
Blanco brought her violence and drug-running to the U.S. in the mid 1970’s. She operated in New York, California, and Miami. Griselda had a fourth son by a Columbian lover while in Miami and named him Michael Corleone Blanco. By 2012, he was under house arrest for distribution of cocaine and his three half-brothers had been assassinated in drug related wars.

Griselda Blanco was a violent woman with an explosive temper. She had her lover, the father of Michael, murdered when he argued with her about who would raise their son. While in Miami, one of her enforcers, Chucho Castro, fell into disfavor with Griselda because of a dispute with her son during which he embarrassed the son by kicking him in the rear-end. She ordered that Chucho be murdered, but the assassins fired on Castro while he was driving with a two-year old son, Johnny Castro, missing the target and murdering the child.
One of the assassins, who later testified against Blanco, said at first she was angry that they had failed to kill the elder Castro, but upon learning they had killed the two-year old son, she was happy. She declared that she was now even with Chucho Castro. Charged with only three murders, law enforcement estimated that she was responsible for as many as forty. She is sometimes credited as the person who invented the motorcycle drive-by shooting in the late ‘70’s as she used such murders to strike fear into her competitors and to control her cocaine empire in Florida.
After a plea agreement on the murder charges, Griselda spent time in U.S. prisons before being deported back to Columbia. She had hundreds of enemies, some legitimate citizens such as law enforcement and others rival criminals who knew that she was an unrepentant murderer who would kill a person for nothing more than an insult.
At the age of sixty-nine, as she walked out of a meat market in her hometown of Medellin with her pregnant daughter-in-law, she was gunned down. A motorcycle riding assassin, no doubt exacting revenge for one of her many exhibits of bad behavior, double-cross, or thievery, accomplished the task by shooting her twice in the head. And so ended the life of one of the most despicable women in world history.
November 24


Sam the Sailor
USS Robley D. Evans
Samuel Volpendesto was a young sailor in the U.S. Navy, when on May 11, 1945, Japanese kamikaze pilots attacked the destroyer, USS Robley D. Evans. According to Volpendesto’s lawyer, and undisputed by federal prosecutors, he volunteered to risk his life by diving under water into the sinking ship to make repairs so that it could be towed to shallow water. Other sailors were trapped in the bowels of the ship, but had found air pockets where they survived until the ship could be towed. The lawyer said numerous sailors owed their lives to his client. Sam was awarded several medals for his service, including the Bronze Star, which is awarded for acts of heroism.

But Sam Volpendesto came home and apparently failed in several career attempts. Finally, he found a profession at which he succeeded. He associated himself with the Chicago Outfit. He became close to mobster Michael “The Large Guy” Sarno. Although arrested numerous times, he was, according to defense court filings, never convicted of a crime. That came to an end when he was eighty-seven years old.

The U.S. Attorney was investigating the Chicago mob and as a result recorded several of Sam’s conversations with other mobsters. He told of watching another target of the investigation, Sam DeStefano, grind up human body parts in a meat grinder and bounce the severed head of the victim against a wall. He was convicted of bombing a competitor’s video poker business, driving a get-away car in a robbery, and organized criminal activity.

At the age of eighty-seven, Sam stood before the Judge, beside his walker, and pleaded that he wanted to die with honor. He asked that he be allowed to return home, die, and be buried in Arlington National Cemetery. The Judge was not amused. The sentence was thirty-five years and he pointed out that he expected Sam to die in prison.

Sam’s attorney swore to fight for his right to be buried at Arlington National Cemetery, after a question arose as to whether he still qualified after being sent to prison. There would likely have been no question prior to the Oklahoma City Federal Building bombing by Timothy McVey. In 1997, Congress passed a law to prevent those convicted of capital murder from being buried in a national cemetery because McVey was otherwise eligible to be buried there.

Sam Volpendesto died in 2013 while in federal prison. My research did not reveal whether the lawyer pursued internment of Sam’s remains at Arlington National Cemetery, but the mobster was buried at Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery in Elwood, Illinois. The heroic acts of a young sailor apparently overshadowed the sordid criminal career of Sam the mobster in the eyes of the Federal Government. 
November 10


Ronnie Beck
Ronnie Beck was a friend, killed in the line of duty in Houston, Texas in 1971. He was run over by a drunk after he stopped another car on Houston’s Southwest Freeway. He was a hero for how he lived.

Ronnie was a character! Although he was only twenty-three years old when his life ended, everyone at the Houston Police Department had a story to tell. I related a few of those tales in a fictional short story published in my book, The Park Place Rangers. A more in-depth look at Ronnie’s life can be found in Fallen Heroes of the Bayou City by Nelson J. Zoch.

He was a hard-charging cop, who worked the night shift and never waited for crime to come to him. He sought it out. But that was just part of his life. He worked an extra-job at a low-income housing project. When he realized many of the young boys with long shaggy hair couldn’t afford haircuts, he bought a pair of clippers and became a part-time barber, albeit one dressed in a police uniform. He volunteered in the Big Brothers Program, becoming a mentor for some of these same kids. Ronnie donated much of his earnings from this extra work to programs designed to keep kids off the streets through athletic and other programs.

Maybe the best compliment was written by Nelson Zoch in his book. He wrote, “In his own way, he (Ronnie) was geared toward the community-oriented approach, which many police administrators have unsuccessfully tried to imitate in later decades.”

Ronnie Beck was from Fordyce, Arkansas. He moved to Houston to become a cop.  A tall and affable country boy with a big smile, Ronnie soon earned the nickname Jethro. The name was bestowed upon him because of his enormous appetite and uncanny resemblance to the lovable character by that name on the television show, The Beverly Hillbillies. He’d been married less than three weeks when he was killed. His widow became a Houston officer for a time after his death.

There’s an old saying that a police career can be described as years of pure boredom accentuated by a few moments, interspersed throughout that career, of sheer terror. But Ronnie Beck’s career wasn’t boring, nor was his life to be defined by those moments of terror that took it. 

Had he lived to complete his career, he would have been a legend within the Houston Police community and probably in the lives of underprivileged young people whose lives he impacted. To those who knew him, he is a legend. 

We overuse the term hero. Ronnie was a hero, not because he was a policeman, nor because he was killed in the line of duty. He was a hero because of who he was as a man. He would have been a hero, no matter what vocation he had chosen.
October 27


Charles R. Forbes
In 2014 a scandal erupted within the Department of Veterans Affairs. It was learned that veterans had died while awaiting treatment at Veteran Health Administration facilities. But scandal in the administration of veterans’ benefits is not a surprise. The predecessor to the Department, first known as the Veterans Bureau, was steeped in corruption and scandal from its very beginning.
President Warren G. Harding recognized the need for such an agency in 1921. That’s when he created the Bureau and appointed a former Army deserter to lead it. Charles Forbes was in the U.S. Army in 1900 when he was charged with desertion. Captured, but mysteriously never prosecuted for the offense, he went on to become a decorated soldier in World War I. When the war was over, he ended up in Hawaii, where he played a part in the construction of Pearl Harbor.
Characterized as a playboy, gambler, and glib-tongued shyster, it was in Hawaii where he first met the future President Harding. The two became close friends, apparently sharing the interests in women not their wives and gambling. When he created the Veterans Bureau, Harding appointed Forbes its first Director.
Never committed to providing services to those who served in World War I or previous conflicts, Forbes set about stealing an estimated two million dollars from the Bureau in the two years he served as  its Director. Though over 300,000 wounded veterans returned, Forbes allowed less than 50,000 disability claims. His interest was focused on taking bribes from contractors and selling hospital supplies to private businesses at a fraction of their value. One corrupt contractor, E.H. Mortimer, paid a $5,000.00 bribe and made his wife available for an affair with Forbes.
Once rumors of Forbes illegal activities reached the White House, President Harding was forced to take action. In keeping with his style of never making a hard decision, Harding allowed Forbes to resign. That might have been the end of the scandal, except that prior to the resignation, the embattled Veterans Bureau Director left on a trip to Europe in a pre-arranged deal with Harding. Forbes mistake was taking the wife of the contractor Mortimer with him.
The Congress, amidst the rumors of corruption, began an investigation. Mortimer, either insulted at the audacity of Forbes taking his wife to Europe, or maybe just smart enough to be the first crook to turn on the other, agreed to testify before the Congressional Committee. Other testimony revealed that more than 200,000 letters from veterans were left unopened by Forbes and his scandal-ridden Veterans Bureau.
Charles Forbes was indicted and convicted of conspiracy to defraud the U.S. Government. He was sentenced to two years in federal prison and served most of the term at Leavenworth. After his release, he continued to seek the limelight, casting allegations of corruption at other Harding appointees, but never at the President himself.

Forbes died at Walter Reed Hospital in 1952 and was buried at Arlington National Cemetery. One might wonder, how many of those WWI veterans who were denied benefits by Charles Forbes’ Veterans Bureau, received treatment at Walter Reed or were buried at Arlington? 
September 17


Mickey Cohen’s telegram
In the early 1950’s the Texas legislature convened a Special Crime Investigation Committee, which soon became known as the James Committee referring to its vice-chairman, Tom James, of Dallas. Many people know this piece of Texas history, but mistakenly believe it was limited to an investigation of organized crime in Galveston, Beaumont and Port Arthur, Texas. While Galveston’s gambling, liquor laws, and prostitution were a part of the investigation, the Committee subpoenaed witnesses regarding crime in El Paso, Lubbock, Amarillo, Dallas, and other locations. In fact, well-known mobster Mickey Cohen, of Chicago and Los Angeles, was even subpoenaed. On the left is his Western Union response to the subpoena.

James was interviewed in 2005 by the Beaumont Enterprise and said the Committee had been investigating for some time, when a mid-day shooting in downtown Beaumont, between two numbers-running racketeers caused the Committee to turn its attention to Beaumont and Jefferson County. On a hot July afternoon in 1958, Banjo Red Marshall shot Jake Giles four times in the back, killing him. The Committee heard rumors that it was a hit ordered by New Orleans mobsters. So began a colonoscopy of Jefferson County law enforcement.

Sergeant Bauer on right
Today’s story focuses on a police chief who was appointed as the Crime Committee’s work was winding down in Beaumont, Texas. Willie Bauer became a Beaumont police officer in 1938. He was promoted to sergeant in 1941, detective in 1943, and captain in 1949. A year later he went to the FBI National Academy for local law enforcement training. Just months after completing the training, Bauer became Beaumont’s Assistant Chief of Police.
A dapper Detective Bauer

In January of 1961 three days of hearings began. The testimony was at time frightening and comical. As related in an article in the Beaumont Enterprise by Brooke Crum in June, 2014, a numbers racketeer by the name of Russell Bond testified the cops didn’t bother his operation because he paid them three thousand dollars a month. Savannah Godeaux ran a bordello featuring black whores for white men only. Her lawyer told the Committee she couldn’t understand their questions because she only spoke French.

The County Sheriff, Charles Meyers, Port Arthur Police Chief Garland Douglas, Beaumont Police Chief Jim Mulligan, and Assistant Chief Willie Bauer were among the many officers subpoenaed to testify. Most admitted that gambling, prostitution, and illegal liquor sales ran rampant in their jurisdictions. The Sheriff admitted to taking over $56,000 in what he characterized as “campaign contributions”. It must have sounded believable to Port Arthur Chief Douglas because he also testified to receiving over $65,000 in “campaign contributions” even though his position was appointed and he wasn’t an elected official. There was testimony that these gallant enforcers of America’s laws found brown envelopes full of cash laying on the seats of their cars. They apparently never questioned how it got there.

Some were fired from their positions, others lost elections, but Willie Bauer was the beneficiary of the uproar about corruption. In 1961 Chief Mulligan was fired and Willie Bauer became Beaumont’s police chief. It was a position he would retain until his retirement in 1984.

So was he a reformer or a bag-man? One person interviewed for this article said that he was told by an old-time Beaumont officer who worked there during the corruption that Bauer was the bag-man for the Chief, but that he was smart enough to see the tide turning. He embraced the public perception of a changing society. One of his first acts was to fire the Chief of Detectives, Jim Stafford, who was directly implicated in collecting the bribes. That firing may well have been a condition for Bauer getting the job.

Others, who grew up in Beaumont and knew Bauer and his family, remember him as just another police officer, family man, well-respected. They don’t associate his name to the gambling and prostitution scandal of the 50’s and 60’s, although he served as Assistant Chief for nearly all of that era.

Ron DeLord, became a Beaumont police officer in 1969. He said that even then, Beaumont had no formal training for new officers. He was instructed to buy a pistol and holster, find a uniform from a stack of used uniforms previously worn by other officers, and to report to work on the evening shift.

I was given a copy of the justifiable homicide statute from the penal code and advised not to use the word “Nigger” on the radio. We had one black patrolman serving warrants on black people and one black detective who worked with a white detective handling what was termed ‘misdemeanors murders’ (black on black),” said DeLord.

For months after going to work, he never met Bauer, but that changed in 1970. A friend was fired when a citizen complained. The Chief never asked the officer what happened before firing him. DeLord thought it was unfair and expressed his opinion to fellow officers.

Soon after, he was called to the Chief’s office. The Chief sat behind a desk eating sunflower seeds and spitting the shells into a trash can. When DeLord was seated, Chief Bauer said, “Boy, I heard you were unhappy with my decision to fire your buddy. Look around this room and see if you see anyone backing you up. Now shut up and go back to work or I will fire you.

DeLord said, “There were rumors that Willie had profited from the bad old days and was rich. He had a beach house at Bolivar. A city custodian was alleged to have dragged the sack all over town whenever Willie wanted stuff for his beach house. One story went the chief wanted some railroad ties and the custodian went to the railroad and they donated some. Willie found out they were used and sent them back and requested new ones.

His reflections, forty-five years after that stint working for Chief Bauer, “Willie was smarter than those before him and understood that he needed civic support when the hammer fell with the “James” investigation. He became entrenched and outlasted numerous mayors, councils and managers and had the goods on many people.”

It’s hard to believe that the man who served as assistant police chief during all the years of police corruption in Beaumont was squeaky clean. And if he was still with us, I’m not sure he would pretend to have been. But one thing we know. Banjo Red shot Jake in broad daylight over a gambling turf war in downtown Beaumont. If not for that event, the investigation of police corruption, elevation of Bauer to Chief, and speculation about his integrity might never have occurred. 
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September 8


Before Galveston had a Sheriff J.B. Kline or Joe Max Taylor, there was a man named Frank Biaggne. He had been a Galveston police officer for eleven years before being elected sheriff and taking office on January 1, 1933. He was to serve in that position for the next twenty-four years at which time he was defeated for re-election by Paul Hopkins.  He ran again in 1960, but time had passed him by and he retired from seeking political office.
Biaggne’s twenty-four year stint as sheriff is most remembered for a comment he made while testifying before a legislative committee in Austin and which was published in newspapers throughout the nation. He was asked why he allowed the Balinese Room, an infamous gambling establishment in Galveston, to remain open. He responded, “The Balinese Room is a private club. I’m not a member. When I went there and knocked on the door, they wouldn’t let me in.”

In reality, Sheriff Biaggne was exactly the kind of sheriff Galveston County residents wanted. Many Galveston residents have always maintained somewhat of the pirate mentality of Jean LaFitte, a one-time Galvestonian. There is a rich history of rogues, crooks, and local business owners cooperating to offer the illicit gambling, liquor, and prostitution services that other communities frown upon publicly while often sneaking over the causeway into Galveston in the dark of night to partake of these activities on the sly.

As early in his tenure as April of 1938, after Governor James Allred ordered Texas Rangers into Galveston to close down illegal gambling operations, Sheriff Biaggne made clear his feelings about his job. He cooperated in closing the gambling houses and seizing gaming equipment. But he told the news media that he closed the businesses and seized the equipment reluctantly because he estimated that it could put as many as 500 workers and their families on county relief when they lost their jobs providing these services.

One article published in The Texas Ranger Dispatch claims that Police Commissioner Walter Johnson bragged about being on the payroll of 46 whorehouses and that Sheriff Biaggne went around to the clubs and demanded money if the clubs wanted to stay open. While this may be accurate, it begs the question, if true, why didn’t the Texas Rangers have him prosecuted. The article, in my opinion, tends to glorify the honor and integrity of the Texas Rangers, possibly at the expense of other agencies. In any event, the Sheriff was apparently never charged with crimes and continued to be re-elected to office.

One indication of what the locals thought of the sheriff, gambling, prostitution and illegal liquor can be found in statements made in 1951 by then Galveston Mayor Herbert Cartwright. When subpoenas were served on the Sheriff and other prominent residents of the County by the legislative committee that Biaggne later testified before, the Mayor called their investigation a witch burning. He also said that when he testified it would be embarrassing to “some state officials”. One might surmise that the Mayor knew of some of these state officials who secretly partook of Galveston’s easily obtained vice activity while publicly expressing their false moral outrage.

The sociology of law enforcement work can be intriguing. Police agencies usually provide the kind of law enforcement that leaders of local communities want. When politics change, law enforcement must read the political mood of the community and make adjustments to the way laws are enforced. 

A great example of this is the civil rights era of the 1960’s. For years, agencies throughout the country did the bidding of primarily white business and community leaders by helping to keep black residents “in their place” by using a variety of policing tactics. Yet when the civil rights movement was successful in convincing the establishment leaders that they must change, there was no “memo” sent to law enforcement. Suddenly state and federal prosecutors were charging law enforcement officers with crimes of civil rights violations that only a few years previously were considered to be nothing more than “good police work.” As a result some officers lost their jobs or went to prison because they failed to read the “tea leaves” of public opinion quickly enough.
Sheriff Frank Biagnne was a man of his time for the citizens of Galveston County. With the exception of his final bid to retake the office of Galveston County Sheriff, he read the tea leaves well. The history of Galveston County is rich and those who identify with it often find humorous pride in that ribald era of pirate morality. The Sheriff died on January 12, 1964 and is buried in the Calvary Catholic Cemetery in Galveston.

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August 11

Herman Short – A Police Chief during times of change

Criminals and their crimes are often the most interesting stories, but I am fascinated by some of the leaders of law enforcement, especially in the South, during the 1960’s. This was a time when society was facing fast-paced change regarding race relations and how law enforcement was expected to dealt with this change. Of course, Bull Conner, Birmingham, Alabama’s police commissioner, became the most infamous, when his use of police dogs and fire hoses to break up civil rights demonstrations were captured by news camera and broadcast for all the world to see. But there are others.

Herman Short, Houston’s police chief during that era, was another of those larger than life characters.  Described by some as a racist and others as a highly respected crime fighting hero; he probably would not have adopted either of those descriptions as his own.
He was born in West Virginia in 1918. In the 1920’s his family moved to Houston, where his father worked for the Hughes Tool Company. After becoming a Houston police officer and being promoted up the ranks, Short was appointed to Chief of Police in 1964, by then mayor, Louie Welch.

By 1967, like most other cities, Houston was embroiled in racial conflict that poured into the streets. Although some civil rights leaders believed he was a racist, another former Houston Chief, Harry Caldwell, probably gave a more accurate assessment. Quoted in an article by former newspaper reporter Tom Kennedy, Caldwell said,
“….. He (Short) was a product of the thirties. Herman had many good qualities and many qualities that had been bypassed by society. The biggest problem was that society placed the police department at the forefront of enforcing Jim Crow laws.

“That created the perception that police were racists…. Unfortunately, we had persons in the department that were….. Herman was a big friend of George Wallace. That didn’t help the department’s image much in the black community…”
But Caldwell also pointed to evidence that might debunk the racist theory as well, saying,“Herman integrated the police cafeteria without anybody telling him he had to.”

There is little, if any, dispute, that Short was a law and order cop who did not engage in public relations. The news media, as well as the officers who worked for him, recognized the “no nonsense” approach he took to running the department. This attitude was evident when media representatives interviewed him. Some did all they could to avoid such encounters.

Black activists, under the banner of the Peoples’ Party II, took over a building at 2800 Dowling Street in 1970 and barricaded themselves in it.  When an outspoken critic of the Department proclaimed publicly at a City Council meeting that Houston police should stay away from the Peoples’ Party headquarters, Chief Short simply said,

“The law will be enforced in the 2800 block of Dowling as it is everywhere else. There is no place in this city where a policeman can’t go.”
Soon, police took over the building, killing one of the leaders, Carl Hampton, in the process. Officers and the public saw that Short was a man of his word.
During George Wallace’s run for the Presidency, it was whispered that Short might be in line to replace J. Edgar Hoover as the Director of the F.B.I. Of course, that never happened, but as Caldwell pointed out, his relationship with Wallace reinforced the opinion of some that he was a racist.

Within the ranks of the police department, he was respected, if not always loved.  His management style was dictatorial and it was abundantly clear that he ran the department. He won praise and loyalty from officers when he would publicly defend their actions, which he did often. On one occasion, when a minority-owned newspaper published an article calling an officer a “mad dog killer”, it was rumored that Short called the officer to his office and encouraged him to file suit against the newspaper, even suggesting an attorney who would take the case.
Was Herman Short a hero or a racist? We know that he was a man charged with running one of the largest U.S. police departments at a time when society’s values and racial standards were changing rapidly. To some he was a real “John Wayne” like figure, strong, silent, and intimidating. To others, Short was little better than former Klansman and Birmingham Police Commissioner, Bull Conner. In reality he was just a man with traditional values, running a big city police department during an era when a change in those traditional values was inevitable.
May 12

Juanita Dale Slusher, aka CANDY BARR

This has been the most read story I have posted here. An average of three people read it every day, so here’s Candy Barr’s encore appearance! 

She was sentenced to 15 years in Texas for possession of four-fifths of an ounce of marijuana.  But, the severity of the punishment, even in Texas, is not what makes her an interesting subject for my blog stories. Consider these tidbits from her life.

Born in the small town of Edna, Texas and ran away from home at the age of either 13 or 14

Identified as the “first porn star” for her role in the 1951 underground pornographic movie “Smart Alec”
At the age of 14, married a “safe-cracker” in Dallas

Mobster Mickey Cohen’s girlfriend and mentioned in his autobiography

A friend of Jack Ruby, the man who murdered Lee Harvey Oswald

Charged with shooting her second husband four times; charges were dropped

In 1957 performed on the legitimate stage of the Dallas Little Theater

With Mickey Cohen, attended the Saints and Sinners testimonial for Milton Berle in 1959

Taught Joan Collins how to dance as a stripper for the movie Seven Thieves (1960)

Texas Monthlymagazine, in 1984, listed her as one of history’s “perfect Texans”, where she was among the good company of fellow Texan, Lady Bird Johnson

She wrote a book of poems while in prison

A book of her life is available on Amazon

This is a remarkable set of life experiences for a girl who could have ended up just another statistic, as many other 14 year old runaways have. Instead, she went on to make a name for herself as an exotic dancer, a movie consultant, a government witness against a mobster, and one of Texas’ “Perfect Texans”. She was known as “Candy Barr”, a stage name given her by Barney Weinstein, a Dallas strip club owner.  He tagged her with the stage name while she was working at his club, because of the still under-aged girl’s love of Snickers candy bars.  

In interviews after becoming (in)famous, she said that shortly after arriving in Dallas, she was drugged and forced to participate in the 1951 pornographic movie, Smart Alec; a claim that may be true.  In any event, it gave her notoriety when the 1976 book, Dirty Movies: An Illustrated History of the Stag Film, called the movie “the single most popular film of the genre”. Although never shown in theaters, the movie was a hit at the popular bachelor party and smoker circuit of the period. She stayed in Dallas, surviving as a stripper and prostitute.

Shortly after her only legitimate theater appearance (1957) in Dallas, playing the part of Rita Marlowe in Dallas Little Theater’s production of Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter  she was arrested for possessing a small amount of marijuana.  It is speculated that the arrest and harsh sentence for the marijuana possession were the result of indignation by Dallas’ society wives after she received publicity when charges were dropped against her for shooting her then husband. The indignation probably also resulted when some learned of their husbands’ familiarity with her in a professional capacity, either as a stripper or a prostitute. In any event, the Dallas Vice Squad searched her apartment and found the marijuana. Some believed the warrant was blank and that the dope was a planted by a friend and police snitch shortly before the police arrived.
As the case wound its way through the appeal process, she may have benefited from the notoriety of Texas’ tough new drug laws.  She was soon performing as a stripper in Las Vegas for $2000 a week. That’s also about the time she began dating mobster Mickey Cohen. (She later testified for the government in Cohen’s tax evasion trial.)

Candy Barr was hired by 20thCentury Fox studios as a consultant on the movie, Seven Thieves, in which Joan Collins played a stripper.  She taught Collins how to perform for the role.  Collins said, She taught me more about sensuality than I had learned in all my years under contract,

In 1959, with all her appeals exhausted on the marijuana conviction, she reported to the Goree State Farm for Women in Huntsville, Texas to serve her prison sentence.  She was released after three years, during which time she wrote a book of poems titled A Gentle Mind…Confused, a copy of which was available at Amazon on the day of this writing for $637.50. Later pardoned by Texas Governor John Connally, she appeared to have no clue as to why he did so, when she was asked about the pardon.

When Lee Harvey Oswald was killed by Jack Ruby, the feds knocked on her door again.  She was a friend of Ruby’s whom she met while a stripper in Dallas.  She never worked for him at his clubs, but the two were friends for years.  When she moved back to Edna, Texas upon her release from prison, Ruby gave her two dachshund breeding dogs to help her in an attempt to make a living by becoming a dog breeder. Although rumored to know much more than she ever revealed about Oswald’s murder, she always denied it.

A life filled with many twists and turns, ups and downs, successes and failures. That was Juanita Slusher’s story.  One of the most interesting subjects I’ve researched for this blog. When interviewed by Texas Monthly at the age of 66, she responded to a question about the porno movie and life as a prostitute with,

“I was a poor girl with no education. I thought I could save my money to go to college someday, but sometimes things just don’t work out like you’d planned.”

She died at the age of 70 in Victoria, Texas from pneumonia.
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May 5


Star Telegram headlines 80 years ago
The headline for a story written by Bud Kennedy in the Fort Worth Star Telegram April, 2014 is headlined  Easter of Tears. Kennedy begins his article with “That bloody Easter is eighty years past now and almost nobody talks about the two law officers killed on Dove Road. Maybe Doris Brown Edwards was right. We’ve forgotten her husband, state patrol officer Ed Wheeler of Fort Worth and rookie partner, H.D. Murphy, shot dead 12 days short of his wedding.”

There have been at least eleven movies made about the criminals who killed those two Texas State Troopers, but most people don’t have a clue of the Troopers’ names. Even worse, there were a total of nine law enforcement officers killed by the gang as they traveled through Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Missouri. It is doubtful most readers can name even one of those men who gave their lives. Eighty years after Wheeler and Murphy were killed on Easter morning, here are the names of the other seven murdered officers. 

Deputy Eugene Clyde Moore, Atoka County, Oklahoma, Deputy Malcolm Davis, Tarrant County, Texas, Detective Harry L. McGinnis, Joplin, Missouri, Constable John Wesley Harryman, Newton County, Missouri, Marshal Henry D. Humphrey, Alma, Arkansas, Major Joe Crowson, Texas Department of Corrections, Constable William Calvin Campbell, Commerce, Oklahoma.

H.D. Murphy
But back to Ed Wheeler and H.D. Murphy who stopped that Easter morning to help an apparently stranded motorist on what is now Texas Highway 114, in the Dallas area. They were ambushed and murdered without even pulling their weapons.   It was Murphy’s first day out of training as a motorcycle officer. He remains the youngest Texas DPS officer to have lost his life in the line of duty.Their lives and those of their wife and fiancée are more worthy subjects of movies than that of their murderers.
A recent article in the Tyler Morning Telegraph by Faith Harper noted that H.D. Murphy and Maree Tullis were high school sweethearts who graduated from Alto (Texas) High School. He was accepted into the Texas Department of Public Safety and the two planned to marry and move to Fort Worth. On Easter morning, April 1, 1934, he met his death at the hands of the infamous criminals. Maree Tullis wore her white wedding dress to his funeral. She never married and died in 1978.
Ed Wheeler
Ed Wheeler had been married for two years. That Easter morning his wife, Doris, became a widow at the age of 23. There were no benefits for families of officers killed in the line of duty, but she landed a job with the State Department of Transportation. Later she did some undercover work with the Texas Rangers. She was sworn in as a Ranger and would enter gambling establishments throughout the state to witness the gaming before other officers would enter and close the places down.
She met Ed Wheeler when he stopped her for having a tail light burned out. She said in an interview years later that her car’s lights were just fine. Ed had stopped her to introduce himself and to get her name. It worked! Doris died in 2007, outspoken in her belief that the murderers should never have been glorified in movies.

History is often kinder to the bad guys than to the good. This is one of those cases. Maybe someday a movie producer will decide to tell the story of the heroes instead of the vicious and destructive lives of Bonnie and Clyde and their gang.