Tulsa’s 1940’s Serial Murders

16 03 2010

Vicinity of the 1940’s Serial Killings

Beginning in 1942, this area near downtown Tulsa was the scene of at least five homicides of women and at least three other attacks. In 1943 the killer was described as a “sex maniac.” And in 1948 a clinical psychologist described The Tulsa Northside Killer as a “a victim of the most dangerous and vicious type of sex abnormality and insanity.”

1942

On July 16, 1942 Mrs. Helen Brown was beaten to death in her apartment. Mrs. Brown was a 20 year old expectant mother. Following the murder, the killer went to the kitchen and cooked himself breakfast. Police detective chief J. D. Bills stated a chemist’s report showed Mrs. Brown’s blood was not the same type as that found in the kitchen after the slaying. A blood stained hammer was found in the apartment. Mrs. Brown had defended herself with the hammer and injured her attacker.

1943 Double Murder

A mother and daughter were beaten to death in their apartment on North Cheyenne avenue, five blocks from the location of the Brown homicide. Mrs. Luzilla Stewart, age 50, and her daughter, Mrs. Georgia Green, age 31, had been beaten with an ax or hatchet. After they were murdered, they were raped. Then the killer went to their kitchen and cooked a meal.

1945

In May 1945, another woman living on North Cheyenne Avenue was murdered. Mrs. Panta Lou Liles was found dead “under similar circumstances.” She had been a twenty year old war plant worker.

1948

On July 2nd, 1948 the killer struck a total of four victims at two locations. The first three victims survived after their screams awoke neighbors and the killer fled. Nearby, the murderer struck again.

Mrs. J. B. Cole, age 38, lived on West Easton Street with her daughter Doris Cole, age 13. A friend of Doris, Levon Gabbard, age 14, was spending the night with the Cole’s. Each victim was beaten on the head with an ax. The three victims suffered severe skull fractures. The killer was frightened away by their screams, and neighbors saw him flee into the dark.

Later that morning, another murder victim was found a few blocks away on East Cameron Street. Mrs. Ruth Norton, age 42, had been beaten on the head with an ax and then raped.

Chronology

Investigation

The five homicide victims and the three assault victims each had “crescent shaped wounds” on their heads from the ax used in the attacks. In 1942 and 1943, the killer committed murder and then took time to cook a meal in the victims kitchen.

Chief of police J. W. “Bud” Hollingsworth stated “this man is a cold blooded killer who plans every step carefully.” Police rounded up over 200 suspects in their investigation. A polygraph machine (lie detector) was used in the investigation. The Tulsa County district attorney assigned an investigator to work full time with Tulsa police on the case. Police also consulted with “experts from the State Crime Bureau.” In 1948 the director of the State Crime Bureau was veteran lawman Jake Sims.

Editor: my research has not turned up additional information and it is not known if this case was ever resolved.


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2 responses

12 03 2014
James Lawrence

My grandfather, J. Fred Lawrence became a TPD detective after the war (and later the Tulsa Police & Fire Commissioner from 1948-50) – and investigated some of these crimes. He said that they found a certain type of oil residue at several of the scenes…one similar to that used in Catholic churches. They went to the local diocese and questioned them. He said after that, there were no more of these crimes. All he told me was that ‘they take care of their own’. I have a crime scene photo of the Stewart/Green homicides. It’s pretty gruesome.

14 08 2017
Tim Stanley

Hey James, I’d like to talk to you about what your granddad remembered about this case. How do I reach you? You can email me at tim.stanley@tulsaworld.com.

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