On September 1, 1921, armed bands of citizens from Bienville Parish, along with armed citizens from Lincoln and Claiborne Parishes, searched for the murderer of William Murrell.
At about 1:00 a.m. on September 1, 1921, the train crew on the Vicksburg, Shreveport & Pacific Railroad were startled by a shotgun blast on what had otherwise been a quiet trip. The crew stopped the freight train near Dubberly and searched for the cause of the blast. The crew opened each boxcar in succession for inspection. As they neared one of the boxcars, a man jumped from the car holding a shotgun in one hand and a package in the other. He ran away from the train and the surprised crew was unable to catch him. In the boxcar, they located the body of William Murrell, a former oil contractor from Homer. He had been shot with a shotgun. Murrell was surrounded by his household possession because he was moving from Homer to Longview, Texas.
The suspect was described as being a black male, about 5’6″ tall, clean shaven, and “when last seen, was without hat, coat or shoes.” The search party learned that the suspect had circled back to Gibsland where he jumped on a Louisiana & Northwest train which was heading north towards Athens. Railroad workers at Gibsland sent a telegram to Athens and reported that the suspect was on the train. When the train pulled into the station at Athens, railroad workers tried to capture the suspect. The suspect dropped the shotgun and attempted to stab one of the railroad workers with a knife. The suspect fled and was chased by the railroad workers and a small crowd which had gathered. The suspect disappeared into the night once again.
Armed citizens from Arcadia, Gibsland and Taylor, along with several posses from Minden, Athens, and other towns in the vicinity, searched in every swamp, creek, and other isolated area for the suspect but found no trace of him. Authorities feared that the suspect would be lynched if caught and took efforts to deter mob violence. Several people reported seeing a man who fit the suspect’s description. One person reported that the suspect broke into his home and forced the homeowner to fix him a sandwich. When the man fled, the homeowner reported the sighting to police, however, they were unable to pick up the suspect’s trail.
On September 5, police arrested a man who fit the suspect’s description except for his clothing. He was released after he provided a solid alibi. The case went cold. No one was ever charged with William Murrell’s murder.
- The Shreveport Times, September 2, 1921, p.1.
- The Shreveport Times, September 4, 1921, p.5.
- The Alexandria Town Talk, September 5, 1921, p.3.
- The Shreveport Times, September 6, 1921, p.12.
- The Monroe News-Star, September 8, 1921, p.1.
- The Shreveport Times, September 8, 1921, p.7.
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