By M.P. Pellicer | Stranger Than Fiction Stories
Mardi Gras, French for Fat Tuesday, has spawned worldwide carnivals and revelries. Historically it was the last day before Lent according to the Catholic calendar. Here are a few stories of those who sought mirth and debauchery and instead found death.
James V. Glynn 38 a switchman was arrested and charged with the murder of Miss Mamie Herbert, who died from burns received Mardi Gras night during a dance at Moose Hall. He was charged with having set fire to the paper costume worn by the poor woman, inflicting wounds from which she died. Identification of Glynn was made by Bessie Maund, a policewoman. Glynn is alleged to have thrown liquid from a bottle on the dress of the woman after lighting a cigarette and throwing the match at her. She burst into flames and Deputy Alfred Kippers was severely burned in an attempt to aid the young woman.
There are records of him being arrested and convicted in 1936.
What the outcome of the murder trial if there was one for the death of Mamie Herbert remained unknown. James V. Glynn died in 1939.
Joseph Adair "Tiny" Lawrence former Tulane university football player from Oklahoma, was shot in the forehead and wounded fatally in the Mardi Gras Festival. He measured 6'7" and was a medical student at the university when he was killed during a riot at the celebrations. He was 28 years old.
His family hailed from the Cherokee Nation in Oklahoma. His slayer was convicted in Aug. 1930 and sentenced to life in prison.
Feb 25 1936
Estelle Hughes, 29, from Panama City had been in New Orleans only two months. She was found with a bullet hole in her temple in a remote grassy spot behind the Louisiana & Arkansas railway station, by a railroad worker who was doing his rounds at 6 a.m.
A few hours after her body was found, Jack O’Day came to the station claiming he was attacked and robbed of $200. He was a 26-year-old jockey who worked at the fair. When asked about the murdered woman he told police, "I was too drunk to know anything" about what happened and said "I might have shot the woman for all I know." O'Day's car was found by police a short distance away. A .38 caliber revolver with a spent cartridge lay on the front seat.
His wife was in the hospital giving birth to their child, but her condition was complicated because she had a ruptured appendix.
Otho W. Gray 25, a cook aboard the USS Arkansas and Ethel Bernard, 29, were questioned since they all accompanied Mrs. Hughes the night before. They described how they had all come separately to the cabaret where Estelle worked as a hostess. Some time during the night, they decided to leave together to continue celebrations. They told police that shortly after midnight they were forced from the car at gun-point by the jockey.
Estelle Hughes appeared she'd been shot some distance from where her body was found. She was dragged dead or dying to the secluded spot. Her 9 year old daughter Jenelle, had come from Panama City to visit her mother for the weekend. Her two little brothers had stayed in Panama City with their father, Benjamin. The girl said her father Benjamin sent her mother money regularly and was soon to join them in New Orleans. Estelle was working as a cabaret hostess.
By Feb. 26, O'Day was arrested charged with murder.
Within two days, New Orleans police were asked to send a picture of jockey Jack O'Day to police in Texas. They were reopening a 5-year old mystery surrounding the death of Thomas L. Gray. The man was shot with his own gun and robbed of his money and automobile. He was found dead in a clump of brush near Henly in Blanco County in August 1931. He was traveling from Arizona to Austin, and he picked up a hitchhiker at El Paso. They stopped at a family home in Kimble County where the hitchhiker made a comment that he was a jockey.
O'Day denied his involvement with the slaying of Mr. Gray, but did admit he traveled through Travis County, and that he had served jail terms for robbery in Salem, Oregon and in Prince Albert Saskatchewan.
Eventually he was cleared of the Texas murder after a witness brought from Texas, could not identify him as the man that traveled with Gray.
On March 18, he was charged with murdering Estelle Hughes. He went to trial in November and was convicted of manslaughter. His wife with the baby, sat in the courtroom during the trial. His wife was planning to return to Montana their home state.
He was sentenced to serve 40 to 80 years at hard labor in the Louisiana penitentiary; however in May 1938 the case was set aside on a technicality. The Supreme Court held that the State of Louisiana did not show that a crime for which O'Day was convicted in Canada would have been a felony in Louisiana. His sentence was changed to the charge of manslaughter, and the state court decided on a flat 20 year prison term. Every year thereafter he applied for clemency to the state.
It's apparent Jack didn't serve his entire sentence because in 1948 he was killed while riding a horse at Ruidoso's Hollywood Park in New Mexico. The horse he was riding somersaulted, fell on him and crushed him. His wife lived at Big Sandy, Montana.
He was buried in an unmarked grave in Roswell, New Mexico.
Estelle Hughes' murder wasn't the only one that year of 1936, during Mardi Gras. Lillian McDowell 36, was fatally stabbed near a French Quarter saloon after drinking with a party of men, and police were seeking a man named "Slim" for questioning. Eventually the Slim turned out be Joseph McQuillo aka Slim Sebro, who was released a few days later even though Estelle told the saloon keeper that "Slim cut me." She died two hours later in Charity Hospital.
It was a busy if macabre New Orlean's Mardi Gras celebration of 1936. Lillian Alexander Rodwell shot her policeman husband Thomas Rodwell on Mardi Gras. She claimed it was self defense. He was beating her and accusing her of being unfaithful. He struck her several times, and she went to his patrol car where his pistol was at, went back in and shot him 4 times. They had been married 17 years. She was acquitted based on self defense.
James A. Mahoney, 56, a millionaire from Virginia was killed in cold blood. He was staying at the Monteleone Hotel, and a bell boy found his body. He was seen drinking with another man about two hours before he was murdered. He was brutally beaten in his Vieux Carre hotel room. His slight, nude body was lying on a blood-soaked bed. A blood-drenched towel was knotted around his neck which had been broken. The killer had washed the blood from his hands after the crime. A wallet and gold watch were missing.
The police were looking for a powerfully built middle-aged man, over 6 feet tall and weighing 200 pounds. He was very broad-shoulder with iron gray hair and a ruddy complexion.
On March 1, police arrested Lewis Hoover, 25, who said he ate dinner with Mahoney a few hours before the murder. He admitted himself to a veteran hospital’s psych ward the morning of the murder. He served with the U. S. Army in WWII.
Hoover fainted several times when questioned about his whereabouts between 11 pm and 1:30 am. He told police he didn't remember anything after having dinner with the millionaire until he woke up in a different hotel the next morning. He said he "bumped into" Mahoney on a downtown street and window shopped with him. The millionaire asked him if there was anything he could buy for him. Later they dined at a French Quarter cafe, and after this he claimed he "blacked out". He had bloody bruises on his hands and bloodstains on his trousers.
Louisville police, where Hoover once lived, told New Orleans authorities the suspect been arrested seven times, ranging from disorderly conduct to grand larceny. Some of the arrests dated back to 1939. He was once hospitalized at the veteran's hospital in Topeka, Kansas.
Hoover's wife came to see him at the police station. She said, "He definitely was a mental case." They had married in her hometown of Yates Center, Kansas and came to New Orleans on their honeymoon. She would go on to divorce while he was in jail. She testified as a state witness, stating she was afraid of her husband.
In his youth Hoover lived at the Louisville and Jefferson County Children's Home. It was known as Ormsby Village, which served as a reform school.
By mid-March Hoover was indicted in the murder of Mahoney. He said he'd engaged in a fight with Mahoney with the millionaire called his 19-year-old bride "a name." Later it came out Mahoney had made homosexual advances.
In July a lunacy commission reported he was sane and able to tell right from wrong. After told of the report he said, "Oh, thank God. I know I am not insane. I'd rather go to the electric chair than to have them find me insane. I know I'm innocent."
In December he was found guilty, and knew he would be facing execution in the electric chair.
In May 1951, he was granted a new trial, and he entered a new plea of innocent by reason of insanity.
During the trial a neuro-psychiatrist testified that Hoover was a psychopathic personality and passed through period of mental derangement.
Alberta Stroh, Hoover's wife said after their marriage they came to New Orleans where he persuaded her to become a "B drink" in a Canal Street bar. She explained she was supposed to entice male customers to buy drinks and once they were drunk to obtain their money. She said she quit because she was too softhearted to "roll" the customer. When she left the job, Hoover hit her in the stomach, so she walked out on him. One of the articles stated she was pregnant at the time, but this was never verified one way or another.
In October 1952, a second jury found Hoover guilty with a verdict that carried an automatic penalty of life imprisonment at hard labor. The day after his arrival at the Louisiana State Prison at Angola he was confined to solitary after he staged a one-man rebellion for refusing to enter a camp to which he was assigned.
In August 1953, he had to be taken to the East Louisiana Mental Hospital at Jackson after slashing his arm with a piece of glass and shouting hysterically, "I'm being persecuted." He died in 1969.
Stranger Than Fiction Stories by M.P. Pellicer