Let’s look at just one of The Phantom of Texarkana’s attacks. This is his attack on the two kids Paul Martin and Betty Jo Booker in Spring Lake Park. If all the facts that have been released on this case are accurate, as recounted by James Presley, then the boy gave us a valuable clue.
The re-creation below follows the facts as presented.
It was April 14, 1946, late night. Paul Martin (16) picked up Betty Jo Booker (15) after her gig playing her sax at the local VFW with the band. They went to “park” at Spring Lake Park. This is where kids went. Spring Lake Park was on the Texas side, but all the kids about Texarkana went to park there. Even from the Arkansas side of Texarkana.
He parked in the parking lot, right by the bushes on one side. They probably weren’t there long when a man came up to them, flashlight in one hand, gun in the other. Whatever excuse he made, this gunman made it plain he was going with them and Martin was driving.
Whether they thought this was the killer of Griffin-Moore we do not know. Locals had not yet even connected the Hollis-Larey attack to the same perp. So far as Texarkanans suspected there had only been one brutal double murder.
Martin realizes this is at least a kidnapping. As the thug is getting in the back, Martin stealthily tosses his address book into the bushes by his driver’s side window. A wise move. He has left a clue.
Now firmly in the back seat, gun pointed at Martin, they back out and Martin takes them north on North Park, following the gunman’s demands.
They turn left on North Park on the north perimeter of the park. This is country area.
What happens next? It depends. Either this guy in back is too aggressive in his manner and Martin realizes this is not just auto theft, or the gunman tells him to pull over. If the first, Martin might have fought with him. If the second, the gunman tells him to get out. Then it becomes obvious the gunman is going to kill him.
Martin is shot 3 or 4 times. Once through the right hand– he was shielding himself– and once in the face (same bullet?). Once in the back at the shoulder. Was he staggering across the street? His body was found on the opposite side of the road from patches of blood. So we know he crossed the street. The Phantom must have shot him in the back when he was crossing the road to escape. And we know he was shot once at the back of the neck near the base of the skull. The bullet to the back of the neck had to be last. It was lodged in his skull. Thus The Phantom had walked across the street and finished him off with a shot to the base of the skull. The Phantom had executed Griffin and Moore that same way.
The Phantom takes the driver’s position and drives off with Betty Jo Booker and her saxophone.
Re-creation is now quite problematic. We know nothing of the time element involved in the rest of the night’s crime.
The next day Martin’s body is found alongside the road. Much later the search party finds Booker’s body north of Morris Lane (Moores) in the woods. Her saxophone in its case is not found (for months anyway). She lay on her back, her coat still buttoned, right hand in the right pocket, left one on her chest. She had been shot through the face to the left of the nose and shot in the heart. Later testing would prove she had been partially undressed, raped, and then dressed again. (A leaf had been found between her coat and blouse.) Clearly the shot to the face had been first. Then the heart. Macabre. Disgusting. Cowardly killer. But curious.
Long before Booker had been found, the search found Paul Martin’s car parked abandoned on North Park Road near the entrance to the park. It was facing south. This began a search around the area.
Due to Martin’s cleverness, The Phantom has made a terrible mistake.
This is how I can say the above. Sheriff Presley (or some other officer) found Martin’s address book in the bushes by the parking lot. This was concealed from the public and therefore from the killer. Martin’s act to leave a trace was a trump! The killer didn’t know that Martin had marked the spot from whence they were abducted. When The Phantom brought the car back to the general vicinity, he didn’t realize he was telling all and sundry he was essentially returning to the scene. As far as The Phantom had planned, it should have been a complete mystery as to where Martin and Booker had been abducted. Their car was to be found abandoned here, their bodies miles away. An unsolvable phantom-like mystery. There could be no link between this location and where the kids had been abducted. Yet now we know that this is where The Phantom had first stalked and parked.
From this we also know that The Phantom did not pull up to “parking” areas. He staked them out. Somewhere along here he had parked and felt safe that his car would not be recognized for hours.
There was back then a path that led from North Park Road over the railroad tracks and to the elementary school on the other side. Had he parked around the school? He need only cross the narrow road and walk the game trail over the tracks.
The Phantom of Texarkana made a great mistake. Thanks to Paul Martin’s clever toss, The Moonlight Murderer is less phantom like. We can begin to understand his MO in the other killings much better now in light of this.
Where did The Phantom go after he got in his car? Back down North Park to New Boston Road and from there Highway 67? Or did he live nearby? We must explore this in future Phantom Phact posts.