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  • Writer's pictureDennis McCaslin

Our Arklahoma Heritage: The day that two lawmen died in rural McCurtain County

Idabel, Oklahoma -1934

On Wednesday, August 8, 1934, in the Little River community of Oak Hill just north of Idabel, Deputy Emery Jasper Whitten and Constable William Wilmoth along with Sheriff F.O. “Bud” Stewart entered the home of Mrs. Lecy Rogers in search of the teenage daughter of a local farmer, J. M. Leonard.

Sadie, a pretty, slender girl of sixteen, had been missing for three days. Leonard had not seen his daughter since the close of church services on Sunday, August 5.

Leonard told Sheriff Stewart that Sadie had gotten into a car with someone named Paul who was supposed to take her straight home.

Paul Jones and Barney Jones, with Jones’ wife and children were reportedly staying at the Rogers place because Barney’s wife had taken ill.

Paul never brought Sadie home.

When the three officers reached the Rogers home, Ben Rogers, young son of Lecy, was playing in the yard. Ben said the two women were down by the spring washing clothes.

Sheriff Stewart went down to the spring to question the women about Paul and Sadie’s whereabouts, while the two deputies went into the house to question Barney.

Barney became very nervous when questioned stating he was not aware of their whereabouts. Whitten told him that he would have to come with them for further questioning.

Barney pulled a revolver and shot pointblank hitting Whitten in the abdomen. A stunned Wilmoth reach for his six-shooter but was too late.

Jones shot Wilmoth in the right leg, in the right side below the shoulder and in the neck. Jones grabbed the young Ben Rogers and made him lead him through the woods.

Both Whitten and Wilmoth were taken to a hospital in Paris, Texas where they died from their wounds.

It would be discovered later that Barney Jones and Paul Jones were actually Julius Bohannon and Lee Custer and were not brothers at all.

They had robbed a Texas bank before coming to Oklahoma.  

Lee Custer and Sadie Leonard had gone to Texas and gotten married and were not aware of the shootings by Bohannon.  

They were located in a local motel where Custer was arrested for Bank robbery.  

Bohannon was not located and arrested until June 12, 1935, when he tried to reunite with his family.

Bohannon was sentenced to 99 years for first degree manslaughter in the case of Constable Wilmoth and to life imprisonment for the murder of Deputy Whitten.

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