By M.P. Pellicer | Stranger Than Fiction Stories
On a warm, spring night in 1961, a 20-year-old student shot a taxi driver on the outskirts of Tallahassee. She said she believed he was about to attack her, but it turned out that wasn't exactly accurate.
Una Catherine Byrd had attended FSU in the summer and fall of 1959. She was unemployed on that fateful day of April 13, 1961. She once worked at the W. T. Edwards Tuberculosis Hospital, and the Florida Industrial Commission. She lived in a rooming house, and was a member of the local bowling team which was set to participate in a tournament a week later.
Don Carmen later told the courts, he and three other friends had spoken to Uma shortly before the crimes took place. He said she looked cheerful, and was driving a motorcycle. Her only comments were that she was looking for a job, but she wasn't in a hurry since she planned on traveling to Indiana for the bowling tournament.
She called Victory Cabs around 8 p.m. Adam "Bud" Jenkins, 36, was the cab driver. They were traveling northbound on U.S. 27 when three miles out, she told him to pull over close to a church. It turned out he was being robbed. The young lady demanded he put his money on the hood of the car. Suddenly shots rang out and Jenkins slumped to the ground.
Later Byrd would claim he'd made a sudden move, and she thought he was about to attack her.
She left his body where it lay, masked her face with adhesive tape and took his car. She arrived at the J. C. Bland service station on U.S. 90, and with gun in hand forced the attendant Hosie Barnes to give her $187. Byrd shot at him as she was leaving. During the trial she claimed it was an accidental discharge.
A state trooper stopped the cab after she committed the robbery, and she gave up meekly. She then told the trooper, "I'm going to give up. You'd better check out around the church, there's a man there who may be dead."
Trooper Ralph Moore who arrested Byrd, went back to the churchyard, where Jenkins' lay dead; he had been shot twice. Later the revolver used by Byrd turned out to have been reported stolen three months before.
Only $50 were recovered from Miss Byrd when she was arrested, what happened to the difference remained unknown. She was charged with the fatal shooting of Jenkins by the grand jury. She pled innocent.
Jenkins's services were held on April 16, 1961, at the Aenon Church.
In June 1961, the court requested a mental examination for Byrd. Her attorney Wilfred Varn filed a motion to quash the indictment charging Miss Byrd with murder and armed robbery. He alleged that her arrest was illegal, and the affidavit on which the arrest warrant was issued failed to show probable cause for the arrest as required by Florida and the U.S. Constitution.
During the trial Byrd tried to present an insanity plea, but two state psychiatrists testified as expert witnesses that she was sane.
By October, she'd been convicted of first degree murder. She faced life in prison, but the jury recommended mercy. The judge imposed the life sentence.
Then in December 1961 the robbery charge pending against Byrd was dropped, however by then she had been convicted of the murder charge.
Byrd did not serve a life sentence, why and when she was granted her freedom is unknown.
The question begs to be asked. What went wrong?
Stranger Than Fiction Stories by M.P. Pellicer