Two decades after the double murder of St. Clair farmer Jacob Lutes and his second wife, Marcella, rocked northeast Alabama, the case again became front-page news with an alleged deathbed confession. John McLemore, the state's star witness against the three men charged with and later convicted of the horrific crime, admitted in his final hours that he and his father-in-law, Thomas Knight, actually killed the elderly couple, according to several affidavits. Whether three innocent men spent decades in prison for a crime they did not commit and whether McLemore actually confessed on his deathbed are still debated in the hills and hollows of Chandler Mountain.
Some reporters dubbed her “The Giggling Granny.” Others in the media gave her the nickname “The Jolly Widow.” Her given name was Nancy Hazle, and she was probably Alabama's most prolific female serial killer. History knows her as Nannie Doss.
On a warm evening in August 1934, Faye New, a coed at Birmingham’s Howard College, now Samford University, and her friend, Bessie Reaves, were driving along First Avenue when a tire on Reave’s car was punctured. Searching for help, New walked to a nearby filling station. There she met a young man named Harold Taylor and, later in the evening, agreed to take a ride alone with him. When New did not return home that night, her mother and Reaves drove to Taylor’s house to question him. He explained that he had not seen New since she left his car the night before, and they notified the authorities. Within hours, several hundred Boy Scouts, law enforcement officials, and volunteers began combing the area where she had been seen last. Their search ended the next afternoon when the nineteen-year-old was discovered with her throat slit in a clay ditch at the edge of an isolated cornfield outside the city. Although the family had found its daughter, the search for clues to her murder was just beginning.
Federal Revenue Agent Holman Leatherwood ate his last meal with the wife of a whiskey still owner in the backwoods of Etowah County. After finishing dinner, Leatherwood told his hostess he was going to “see the boys” down at her husband’s still house. He saddled his horse and slowly began the long trek on the treacherous path that led to Marion Neugen’s government-sanctioned still. He was never seen again.
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