On May 7, 1922, William Driskell, a cotton buyer and part-time deputy constable in Waco, Texas, was axed to death in his own garage, robbed of his pistol, his watch, and a ring.
It seemed to be a clear-cut case of robbery gone wrong, but homicide investigators had no clues, and they were getting nowhere when the killer struck again. Harvey Bolton, 21 years old, was parking with his girlfriend outside Waco, on May 25, when a black man emerged from some nearby bushes, brandishing a pistol.
The gunman shot Bolton three times, killing him instantly, then dragged the woman out and raped her on the ground. Next day, the victim fingered Jesse Thomas as her rapist, and he was shot to death by the young woman's father, his body carried downtown and publicly burned by a
Unfortunately for Thomas - and for Waco - the woman had made a mistake, deceived by her own hysteria and a conviction that "all blacks look alike."
On November 20, 19-year-old Grady Skipworth was parked near "Lover's Leap," in Cameron Park, with his girlfriend, Naomi Boucher. Suddenly, a black man rushed at their car from the darkness, killing Skipworth with a shotgun blast to the head, dragging his body out of the car and tossing it over the cliff.
The killer returned, wrestling Naomi from the vehicle and pushing her over the precipice, but a tree broke her fall, and she survived with only superficial injuries. Once more, an innocent black was accused, but Waco had learned its lesson. An all-white jury acquitted the suspect, despite Boucher's identification, and he was released in a storm of applause from the court.
On January 10, 1923, a black gunman leaped onto the running board of a car passing through Cameron Park, jabbing a shotgun through the passenger's window, but he was knocked to the ground without firing a shot. He left behind a checkered cap, delivered to police as evidence, but nearly three weeks would elapse before its owner was identified.
Meanwhile, on January 20, W.E. Holt and Ethel Denecamp were parked five miles from Waco when a gunman materialized out of the shadows, killing Holt with a shot to the head, beating Denecamp to death and dumping her body in a nearby field.
Their car was recovered in Waco next morning, abandoned by the killer on a city street. Detectives got their break when a witness identified the checkered cap's owner as 30-year-old Roy Mitchell, a Louisiana native currently living in Waco.
Mitchell was arrested January 30, on a gambling charge, and a search of his home turned up William Driskell's handgun and holster, along with a watch fob stolen from Grady Skipworth. After three days in jail, Mitchell confessed to five murders, recanting the statement before his trial in March 1923.
Convicted on all counts and sentenced to die, he was hanged on July 30, 1923, before a cheering crowd of 8,000 spectators.
Michael Newton - An Encyclopedia
of Modern Serial Killers - Hunting Humans
Mitchell murder trial of 1923 ended with last Texas
By Lori Lenarduzzi - Staff Writer for The Baylor Lariat
Sept. 25, 1997
In 1923, the last legal hanging in
Texas took place, but what many people don't know is that it occurred
right in the heart of downtown Waco.
Roy Mitchell, a black man, was arrested at his home
on March 6, 1923 for gambling. While the police were making the arrest,
they found evidence that led them to believe he was responsible for five
murders in Cameron Park. He was taken to the Hillsboro jail and three
days later, he confessed. He was tried, convicted and sentenced to be
hung on a scaffold.
The hanging took place behind the Waco jail, which
was located on Sixth Street next to the courthouse. It was estimated
that 5,000 to 7,000 people came to see the event on July 30, 1923.
Mitchell's last words were 'Goodbye everybody.'
Dr. Patricia Wallace, a professor of history, said
this was said to be a very racist case.
'There was considerable doubt about whether he had a
fair trial because of the prominence of the Ku Klux Klan in town,'
'There was some controversy about the speed of the
trial and on whether he was innocent,' Bob Davis, a Waco resident said.
'He could have been innocent, but it's been said that Mitchell was good
friends with the police chief, so I think he was probably guilty.'
Davis said if Mitchell hadn't been guilty, the police
chief probably would have done something to stop the hanging.
'In those days, there were a lot of innocent black
men hanged,' Davis said.
'It was unfortunate, but it happened.'
The Mitchell trial has been the subject of many books
pertaining to the history of Waco, according to Kent Keeth, associate
professor and director of the Texas Collection.
'Roger even had a piece of the rope that was used to
hang Mitchell,' Davis said. 'I saw it many times.'
M RACE: B TYPE: T MOTIVE: CE/Sex.
MO: Killed constable with an ax;
attacked couples in lover's lane; at least one rape.
July 30, 1923.